Candied Liver and Glazed Brussels Sprouts or Sugarcoating the Truth

cooked calf's liverbrussels sprouts

I told you how much I love bread in a previous entry. It doesn’t matter whether it’s fresh baked white bread, Italian, rye, sourdough, or naan—I’ll eat it! Flavor it, toast it, grill it with butter—I’ll be right there, big plate in hand, ready and waiting! This time I want to mention a couple of foods I don’t love—beef liver and brussels sprouts. Fry the liver, grill it, braise it, or smother it—it will still retain that flavor I’ve never loved. The bitter taste of brussels sprouts strikes a bad chord in me as well. But I don’t absolutely despise either one. Both are very nutritious and I’m certainly not against anyone else eating them. In fact, if you coat or infuse them with a very sweet sauce, I just might enjoy them as much as I do ground beef and green beans. Yes, their nutritional value would be greatly affected, and they’d likely be more detrimental to my health than in their original form. But here’s my theory—if the foods we like the least were covered with enough sweetener, most of us would eat them without hesitating. Coat some chipped wood liberally with a really sweet sauce or maybe rich milk chocolate—how many would readily devour it like candy? Now don’t feel insulted. I just want to point out how inclined we are to desire something just because it’s sugarcoated, whether it’s good or bad for us!

The reality of sin and truth fall into this category of being unpalatable too. Both have been, and still are, a problem to everyone on Earth. We don’t like to be told the truth about sin. We don’t want to be told it’s wrong, or that there will be eternal punishment if we don’t repent of it. But we don’t want to experience the ugly side of sin either.

Sin in its full glory is very enjoyable for the sinner. When we live in sin, life appears good and pleasurable. As long as we stay within our own sin-laden circles and don’t anger or upset others living in their sin, life functions pretty smoothly. The problem is that we slowly become desensitized to the sin that we’re actively involved in and begin to crave more. Our conscience warns us not to partake of any sin, but Satan is prepared for this. He’ll make sin even more appetizing by masking its putridness and the parts we don’t love with something else very appealing. He may redefine or sugarcoat it. Then it no longer seems questionable or repulsive to us. As a result, we embed ourselves even deeper and become thoroughly surrounded with sin. But it does not stop there. We soon tire of this sin too, and begin to desire some even deeper sin than this. Engaging in sin puts us on a slippery slope to destruction. Once we are on it, we can no longer leave it in our own strength and ability.

Meanwhile, sin takes its toll on us. Its byproducts, like disease, uncontrollable rage, or ultimately death, begin to surface. Sin always ultimately breaks down and destroys and is never of any benefit to us. It keeps us in bondage and brings us no real hope. It not only harms us individually, but also affects everything and everyone around us. The whole world is falling apart more each and every day because of sin. Divorces, wars, famines, health epidemics, poverty, greed, destruction of life and property, abuse of innocent children, etc.—all are derived from sin. But Satan will cover up and shift the blame for the problem to something completely the opposite of sin. He’ll sugarcoat the issue, thereby making it more palatable. He baits us with hopes and promises that will either partially or never come true, and keeps us locked in sin.

On the other hand, when we are steeped in sin, we don’t want to hear the truth. We don’t want to be told that sin is wrong and or that punishment will someday follow. We don’t want to know how ugly sin is, and that we have been deceived into believing that it is good. We don’t want to be robbed of the pleasure sin provides—even if it is destroying us.

two sugar donuts

Satan is happy to oblige us, once again. He’ll gladly sugarcoat the truth by disguising the painful or undesired areas that the truth discloses just as much as He sugarcoats sin. He’ll encourage us to pass by a church, or to give our Bible to a thrift shop. He’ll make sure we’re too tired or preoccupied to pray, or to even watch a religious program on TV. Of course, if we feel better by going to a church, then Satan will make sure we go to one with a real ‘sweet’ message. The pastor there won’t want to offend or drive anyone away. He’ll deliver (‘preach’ is too harsh a word) an inspiring message after some modern songs, all of which leave people feeling good about themselves when they leave. But when we are living in sin, the truth hurts. It quickly snaps us out of our sin-induced pleasure, so naturally, it is painful and undesirable. It convicts us and leaves us feeling awful.

How ironic—truth, the very thing that gives us freedom and victory over sin, is what we despise most.

The Bible says “And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32). Why hide what the truth reveals when it is so beneficial to us? And why do those who proclaim the truth make us feel so uncomfortable when it’s presented to us? Can’t we just accept the truth and go about our lives? The answer is that truth is not a concept, ideology, or philosophy. Truth is a person, and His name is Jesus Christ. He declared, “I am the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6 emphasis mine). When we hate hearing the truth, we actually hate or reject Christ and what He has done for us on the cross, because He is the Truth. He brings out in us the sin we’d rather not know about or let go of.

Jesus and sin don’t mix. We either live in sin and die eternally lost in perpetual judgment, or we completely yield ourselves to Jesus and live forever with Him with real joy and peace in Heaven. Disguising the truth and what it reveals by sugarcoating it is like a sick person who hates the taste or after-effects of the medicine given to cure him. Many prefer to thoroughly dilute medicine with something more enjoyable, instead of just taking it the way it is. The end result is better tasting—but completely ineffectual. Ultimately they consider the medicine useless and continue to be sick, hoping for a better cure while slowly dying each day.

This is the reason Jesus willingly came to Earth to offer His life as a sacrifice for us by dying on the cross. He knew that we could never be free from the bondage of sin by our own ability. He knew that without divine intervention, sin would destroy everything in time and life would cease to exist. God did not create this universe as one solitary act with everything in it designed to die off and never continue. He wants us to be with Him now and forever. That is the reason He sent His sinless Son to fulfill all of the laws or demands He set forth, since we could not fulfill them on our own because of sin. Now He wants us to come to Him and willingly love and obey Him. When we insist on living our lives without Him, we are living in sin, and are disobedient to Him and His Word, the Bible.

candy coated donuts

The inevitable is only delayed when we constantly refuse to know the truth because we have sugarcoated it or covered it up. The more we live for the pleasures of sin and fall for the ‘sweetness’ we are offered, the deeper we go in sin—until we die for all eternity, separated from the only cure. The Bible says, “…it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment” (Hebrews 9:27). After we die, there is no hope any longer. We don’t get another chance. There will be no more sugarcoating sin or anything else then, because we will have reached the bottom of that slippery slope—the point of no return. Here the real ugliness of sin rears its head and won’t let us go. The pain and repulsiveness of the truth no longer matter either, since it can no longer help us.

There is good news though! Jesus is fully able to pull us up from that slippery slope before we reach the bottom—if we will just cry out to Him and let Him. There is no depth of sin He cannot bring us out of. Throughout history, man has always been the one who left God. But (contrary to what we may have been told) God has never left us. No matter how sinful we may be, God is always ready to forgive our sin and allow us to be His children, if we ask Him to. We need to stop sweetening or covering up what the truth reveals in us and allow it to free us from the bondage of sin instead. We need to seek forgiveness from God for our sinful ways and repent of them. Then we can accept Jesus into our heart. When we feed on what has been heavily sweetened, it will only leave us dissatisfied in the end, longing for even more sweetening. But if we feed on the whole Truth, Jesus Christ and His Word, we will find complete satisfaction.

For more information on how to know God click here.


Savior or Swine?

pig close-up

“…they arrived at the country of the Gadarenes, which is over against Galilee. And when he went forth to land, there met him out of the city a certain man, which had devils long time, and ware no clothes, neither abode in any house, but in the tombs. When he saw Jesus, he cried out, and fell down before him, and with a loud voice said, What have I to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of God most high? I beseech [beg] thee, torment me not. (For he had commanded the unclean spirit to come out of the man. For oftentimes it had caught him: and he was kept bound with chains and in fetters; and he brake the bands, and was driven of the devil into the wilderness.) And Jesus asked him, saying, What is thy name? And he said, Legion: because many devils were entered into him. And they besought him that he would not command them to go out into the deep. And there was there an herd of many swine feeding on the mountain: and they besought [begged] him that he would suffer [command] them to enter into them. And he suffered them. Then went the devils out of the man, and entered into the swine: and the herd ran violently down a steep place into the lake, and were choked. When they that fed them saw what was done, they fled, and went and told it in the city and in the country. Then they went out to see what was done; and came to Jesus, and found the man, out of whom the devils were departed, sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed, and in his right mind: and they were afraid. They also which saw it told them by what means he that was possessed of the devils was healed. Then the whole multitude of the country of the Gadarenes round about besought him to depart from them; for they were taken with great fear: and he went up into the ship, and returned back again. Now the man out of whom the devils were departed besought him that he might be with him: but Jesus sent him away, saying, Return to thine own house, and shew how great things God hath done unto thee. And he went his way, and published throughout the whole city how great things Jesus had done unto him.” (Luke 8:26-39).

We have a two-sided situation here. One side leads to deliverance, victory, and a new life. The other leads to lust for material gain, bondage, and death for all eternity. Looking at the narrative in this manner can alter our overall viewpoint.

Jesus had just crossed over from the west side of the Sea of Galilee with His disciples. They had battled it out with a storm of near-hurricane proportions and Jesus had to rescue them because of their unbelief. No sooner had they come ashore than a man possessed by possibly six thousand demons (an incomprehensible amount, to say the least!) approached them in all of his devilish might.

evil eyes

This man was in real bondage. He had no home, no clothes, no control over his own body. He lived in a graveyard among the dead and was compelled by the devil to go into the wilderness, which was also devoid of any real life. He had been bound by demons a long time. Such are the results when we allow the devil to have his way in our lives. He will not take over just our left hand, nor will he be satisfied with just our left hand and our legs. He will not even quit with just our left hand, our legs and our stomach. If you let him into your life, he will take over all of you—from the hairs on your head to the soles of your feet. And he just might bring along a few thousand more of his devils to help keep you under his control.

The only human help this man received was chains and fetters. That primitive solution was rather useless in his day, nor has it improved in this age. We just give the “chains and fetters” more appealing names. The demons broke all of man’s physical restraints as if they were just made of paper.

Man’s help did no good, since he was suffering from a spiritual problem, not a physical one.

It takes a spiritual solution to solve a situation like this—which is why we must let Jesus take care of the problem. We cannot expect a physical solution to solve what is basically a spiritual problem, like addiction to drugs (legal or not), alcohol, lust, pornography, or pride, adultery, demon possession, etc. Man’s solutions try to control the problems; God’s solutions solve the problems.

Jesus was not deterred the least bit by these demons, because He had authority over the situation. In fact, they knew who He was before He opened His mouth. How sad when demon spirits acknowledge what the religious leaders would and could not! The leaders had studied the Bible most of their lives, yet they refused to acknowledge that Jesus was the promised Deliverer (even after His death and resurrection). The demons possessing this man were truly terrified when Jesus appeared on the scene. They thought He was going to order them to their prison in the bottomless pit. So they begged Him to send them into some swine nearby instead. Jesus granted their request, and then the whole herd rushed into a nearby lake and drowned.

Some may see this as odd and may even sympathize with the pigs. The reason Jesus allowed this lies in God’s laws given long ago when the children of Israel were in the wilderness. “And the swine, though he divide the hoof, and be clovenfooted, yet he cheweth not the cud; he is unclean to you” (Leviticus 11:7). Pigs were considered unclean for the Jews and were forbidden in the land.

These swine owners were violating God’s law, and even making a living off of it.

Now read the real irony: “…the whole multitude of the country of the Gadarenes round about besought him to depart from them; for they were taken with great fear: and he went up into the ship, and returned back again.” A man had just been delivered from thousands of demons by Jesus. Yet the locals wanted Jesus to leave, because their livelihood had been ruined! They cared not one bit about this man. As long as he remained in demonic bondage, no strangers would dare to venture through that area (and discover the illegal swine being raised there).

Are you like this demon-possessed man, struggling to be free, yet receiving nothing but more bondage? You may not have thousands of demons raging inside of you, but you may still be under the devil’s control. Or are you like the locals whose livelihood was derived from something directly against God’s law? They had no concern about the horrible agony, torture, and bondage the demon-possessed man was going through. But the locals reacted with great fear over what Jesus had done for him. They did not want their sinful livelihood exposed. They valued material gain more than victory over bondage, sin, and death. They rejected the Savior of the world for a multitude of swine. In the end, Jesus left. The Bible never mentions Him returning to that region.

person set free

When Jesus freed this man from all of those demons, he was truly set free. The next mention of him, he was “sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed, and in his right mind…” (v. 35). No follow-up treatment, no prescriptions, no therapy, and no long-term counseling. He went back to his home city eventually (the city of the swine owners), proclaiming what wonderful things Jesus had done for him. Jesus is also able to set you free, if you will only come to Him. And “If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed” (John 8:36).

cross silhouette

Jesus was led by His Father (through the Holy Spirit) to cross a raging sea in order to set one person in desperate need free. Jesus could have remained on the opposite shore and left him that way. But Jesus loved him so much that He was willing to endure a treacherous journey to deliver one man from demonic control. The swine owners and all who came with them to meet Jesus could have been set free from their bondages that day as well, but they refused, and told Jesus to leave.

Jesus also came to deliver you from the bondage of the devil. Which will you choose: the Savior, or the swine?

For more information about giving your life to Jesus, click here.

Does God Care?

anxiety graphic

Are you going through a situation where you feel like God doesn’t care about you? Does it seem like He doesn’t see what you are going through? Do you feel like you have to worry and fret over your situation, since God apparently is not interested in helping you with it? Maybe you think He does not even notice that you are having a hard time. What does God have to say about this?

“Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time: casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you” (1 Peter 5:6-7).

This verse actually says that we are to cast all our anxieties on Him. Most of what we fear or worry about never comes to pass. God is like a shepherd watching over his flock. He is ever scanning the field where the sheep are, looking for impending trouble, or for one who has gotten himself into a bad situation on his own.

Have you ever been with children as they tried so hard to help bring the groceries in the house when they were very small? One would pick up a gallon of milk and struggle with all his might to get it from the front door to the kitchen. You probably watched, amused, that this little one thought he could carry it all by himself. Then you most likely went over and took the gallon jug and carried it for the child. Or you might have put your hand on one side to steady and lift it some, while letting the child think he was doing it all himself.

But you were there all the time, watching over the child, making sure he could handle whatever he took upon himself without hurting himself or utterly failing in the task. If he tried to carry something far too big or heavy or dangerous, you would intervene. The child was sure he could handle the situation. But you knew all along that he had a lot more growing to do, and that it was far beyond his capabilities or experience at this point in his life. Yet you did not stop him from trying. All the time, he did not know it, but he was not alone.

Does our heavenly Father care any less about us? We often take on more in our walk with God than He intends for us to handle. Or else we hang back and don’t try to do anything beyond what we have been safely able to accomplish in the past. And how easy it is to worry ourselves into a state of anxiety, to the point where we convince ourselves that there is no solution to our situation!

Does our heavenly Father heap weights on us that are more than we can carry, and then stand back and laugh at us because we are crushed under the load? Don’t ever think that way of our loving Father!

Only unbelief thinks it is our responsibility to be weighed down, both inwardly and outwardly. Why don’t you roll the weight onto Him that burdens you so much? He loves to bear the burdens that are too much for His weak children.

Does God care? Isn’t His word plain enough to us? Who drowned the Egyptian army when they chased after His chosen people in order to bring them back into slavery? Who opened a jail cell and set Peter the Apostle free while everyone else in the prison slept? Who sent His Son to die for us, to take our sins upon Himself because we were incapable of dealing with them ourselves? God knows, and He cares about you and every single situation you are going through. With loving concern, He continually watches over you. He is with you right now, whether you sense His presence or not. What should you do? Cast “…all your care upon him; for he careth for you.”

–Alana Pangburn

Whose Shadow Are You Under?

leaf in shadowA shadow can mean different things to different people. They are beneficial to some, and ominous and oppressive to others. For example: A shadow of sickness moved across a country. A child lives under the shadow of his or her siblings, never able to achieve his own position of authority. A renowned scholar has become just a shadow of his former literate self. The eager young boy was the shadow of his big brother. The large building’s shadow provided welcome relief from the scorching sun.

In the Old Testament, Egypt was often used by God as a symbol of the world and its lavish yet oppressive systems—a world controlled by the Devil. If you followed the world’s ways, you could become quite successful (by its standards), but if you didn’t keep up, or didn’t want to follow any or all of this system, you were left behind and significantly oppressed. The Israelites (descendants of Jacob, who was renamed “Israel” by God) were just such people caught up in this system. They were brought into Egypt because of a severe famine, sustained by the storehouses of Egypt, and subsequently grew into a great body of people. But now they were stuck, because the leadership of Egypt changed. The new leadership was no longer favorable to them.

“And the Egyptians made the children of Israel to serve with rigour [harshness]: And they made their lives bitter with hard bondage, in morter, and in brick, and in all manner of service in the field: all their service, wherein they made them serve, was with rigour [harshness]” (Exodus 1:13, 14).

This is what happens when the world takes over our lives—we end up in bondage. We may try to get out ourselves, but, like a bungee cord or rubber band released at its fully stretched position, we snap right back.

God, in His infinite love, provided a way out of this system. For the Israelites, He provided a man named Moses. Through Moses, Israel was led out of this bondage of Egypt. The monarch of Egypt tried to detain the Israelites and almost succeeded, but God ultimately made it possible for their release and exodus out of the land of Egypt. The real problem, though, was that the shadow of Egypt continued to hang over most of the Israelites. Why? They would not let go of Egypt and put their trust in God. They regularly complained to Moses as he led them through the wilderness. They wanted the pleasures of Egypt (the world) and they wanted the freedom from bondage (to the world). The ultimate result of this continual complaining and unbelief was God denying entrance to the Promised Land for all of the unbelieving Israelites, the very land God had set aside as their ultimate inheritance. Had they let go of Egypt, their journey through the wilderness would have been significantly shorter, and they would all have been much more likely to have entered the Promised Land themselves.

For every man, woman and child (past, present and yet to be born), God provided His Son Jesus Christ, of whom Moses was a type or symbol as their deliverer. But Moses was only a human, sinful being, like we are. While he led the people of God out of the captivity of Egypt, and was very, very close in relationship to God, he could not remove the captivity of Egypt (the world) out of them.

That is why Jesus came to this earth over two thousand years ago—to fulfill all of the requirements God laid out in the Old Testament for our sins (or all aspects of the world’s system, in this case) to be removed.

Jesus can free anyone from the captivity of the world, if we allow Him to do so. He did what Moses, or anyone else, could never do. Sinful man could not eliminate his own, or anyone else’s sins. Only a sinless man, Jesus Christ, could do this.

If we continue to live under the shadow of the world, we have never truly escaped from the world. We must live instead in the shadow of Jesus the Almighty. “He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in him will I trust” (Psalm 91:1-2 emphasis mine). We must place all of our trust in Him and His complete, finished work, accomplished through His death as a sacrifice on the cross.

Under whose shadow do you abide—the shadow of Jesus, or shadow of the world? If you have put your trust in Christ, are you resting in His shadow, letting Him do the work in your life? Or is He in your shadow as you try to do His work yourself?

When the Plus Sign is too Religious

arithmetic symbols

A magazine I recently read had a humorous list with three strange requests on it that graphic designers have heard from their clients. One was a client who wanted his designer to use something besides the plus (+) sign, because he considered it too ‘religious’! While this is somewhat amusing, it also reflects the current state of our society. It ultimately demonstrates how far we have now digressed ‘religiously’ as a society. Another article I also read not long ago was about a church that discarded the cross from their building. It even showed a photo of a church leader throwing the cross in the dumpster!

When we remove God from our workplace, our homes, our schools, and ultimately even from our churches, we are left with a void that must be filled with something else.

For many, it’s another religion (which worships or acknowledges a god (or gods), but not the God of all gods). For others, it’s seeking pleasure, being entertained, playing or watching sports, getting more education or knowledge, etc. And for some, it’s a denial of any kind of god or divine being. Man eventually becomes sterile this way, when he has no affiliation with anything he considers offensive. Whatever is ‘religious’ becomes taboo, especially anything concerning God, the Bible, Jesus, or the Cross.

Yet society has not become happier, more peaceful, or more loving, with everyone equally prosperous, under this kind of approach.

Look at countries where God and all connected with Him have been either banned outright, or pushed into a corner—where worship becomes strictly an internal affair. Or countries where all forms of worship are state-controlled, and God is diluted to almost nothing. Its citizens are in a repressive state that way, with no true happiness.

The problem does not actually lie in the Cross, or the plus sign (which, by the way, was derived from a simplified form of the Latin et, meaning ‘and’), or any other variation. The Cross in itself means nothing; it serves only as a representation or reminder of what was accomplished there.

The real hatred is for the One who died on the Cross—Jesus Christ.

Many criminals in ancient Rome were sentenced to death on crosses all the time, but no one objected to the crosses for that purpose. When Jesus Christ died on the Cross for the sins of everyone, past, present, and future, when He completely fulfilled God’s Law and won the victory over sin and death, this brought on and fueled the hatred. It was foretold all the way back in the book of Genesis, in the Garden of Eden:

“And the Lord God said unto the serpent, Because thou hast done this, thou art cursed above all cattle, and above every beast of the field; upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life: And I will put enmity [hostility, opposition, hatred] between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel” (Genesis 3:14-15).

True believers in Jesus Christ are hated and despised, not so much because of what they believe as for Whom they believe. His victory at the Cross is the dividing line between eternal life and peace, and death with eternal torment. Without the Cross, without belief in the finished work of Christ (i.e., the complete fulfillment of all of God’s requirements up to the birth of Jesus) at the Cross, there is no hope for anyone. This is how the plus sign, or any other resemblance to the Cross, becomes offensive to some people. Their offense is at the One who died on that Cross, and that offense originates from the one who put Him there in the first place—the Devil (or Lucifer, Satan, Beelzebub, the Evil One, etc.). He has always been at odds with God and anything affiliated with Him, because he wanted to be God himself (not in addition to Him, but as the replacement for Him). Therefore, if you are not on the Devil’s side, his hatred will affect you too. Even if you are on his side, it doesn’t guarantee a hate-free life either!

This may appear to be just a war between good and evil, but it isn’t. That war has already been won through Jesus’ victory at the Cross! The victory He won through His sacrifice of His human life on the Cross took all the legal rights of the Devil away concerning his ownership over us. That is, if we give our hearts over to Jesus, accept in faith His sacrifice of Himself for all of our sins as our sacrifice, and submit our lives to Him. Then the Devil loses his control over us.

You can now be free in Christ because of what He did for you on the Cross. “If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed” (John 8:36). If you want to know more about this freedom, click here. But if we reject, or don’t completely accept, what Jesus has done for us on the Cross, then we continue to give the Devil the right to own and control us—even after we die. The choice is up to you.

Let’s keep the + sign in mathematics and the Cross in our lives and hearts!