Saturday, June 14, 2014

Artificial Sweetener

My family loves Chinese family, and I mean loves.  Anytime we travel, we are on the lookout for a good Chinese restaurant.  We've eaten in some great ones, and we've eaten in some H-O-R-R-I-B-L-E ones.  (We even ate in one that the health department shut down a few days after our visit for having rat, cat and dog in its freezer. Yum!)

One of my favorite Chinese restaurants is a tiny establishment in our local area.  The decor nor menu have changed in the last 25 years and the management is sometimes a little moody, but their won ton soup is delicious!  Their sauces have deep, slow-cooked flavor.  Their crawfish and lobster sauce on Fridays is divine.  And... we can eat there (all 7 of us) for under $40 at dinner.  

One problem though is that they don't have sweet tea.  I don't really understand how you can have a restaurant in the South and not have sweet tea, but this establishment does not.  Any good tea maker knows that the secret to good sweet tea is getting your sugar mixed in when the tea is hot enough to instantly dissolve your sugar.  If you wait until your tea is cool, or worse cold, your sugar is going to sink to the bottom and your tea will taste like water. The little pink, yellow, and blue packets are not going to make your tea sweet.

Artificial sweeteners. 

We're told that these little packets of sugar-like substances work as well as sugar.  That they are good for people who have diabetes.  That they provide less calories. That they're convenient.  That they replace sugar. 

But folks... nothing replaces sugar.

Sometimes in life, like in making tea, we try to find a short cut to make things sweet.  We look for artificial sweeteners in our everyday life.  And the society we live in is all to ready to provide us with all kinds of things to make us "happy."

Advertising tells us that we can find happiness if we just buy the right things.  Surely if you buy that $100 pair of jeans, you'll be happy.  Surely if you are able to eat at a certain restaurant, you will be happy.  Surely if you buy the right soda, eat the right snack, have the newest toy / gadget / computer... you are going to be happy!  

Thousands of self help books proclaim the secrets to being happy.

Talk shows provide organized, bullet point steps on how to find happiness.

Movies and television shows detail the kinds of relationships that will make us happy.

The tolerance movement tells us that if we just accept everyone and live with the motto of "anything goes" then everyone will be happy.

So why aren't we happy?

Why are we inundated with  commercials for prescription drugs to help us cope with depression? Why do we have kids walking into schools shooting other kids?  Why do we have marriages falling apart? Why do we have people using drugs and alcohol to escape from their problems? Why do we have people who have weekly counseling sessions? 

Why aren't we happy?

Could it be that the artificial sweeteners society provides for us sink to the bottom of us and fail to sweeten anything?

Society provides distractions that make us think life can be perfected through worldly things.  These distractions, however, can not live up to their promises. Artificial sweeteners cannot live up to sugar just as society's view of happiness cannot live up to the true happiness that we can find in Jesus Christ.

Believing in and trusting in Jesus is not a cure all that will bring immediate happiness.  We don't call out to Jesus and find that all of our problems have disappeared or that money has magically been deposited into our bank accounts or that the temptations of life will not taunt us.

As a matter of fact, as recorded in John 16:33, Jesus told us, "In this world you will have trouble.  But take heart! I have overcome the world."

We can expect to find troubles in life.  The "happiness" we see in the media is a myth.  Happiness does not come from having stuff.  It comes from being content with who you are and what you have.  And most importantly, it comes from trusting in Jesus and knowing that He has overcome the trials and tribulations of the world.  

If you seek Him, He will take away your sins and you will find forgiveness, peace, and freedom from the holds that society binds us with.

"A happy heart makes the face cheerful, but heartache crushes the spirit" 
                                                                                                Proverbs 15:13

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

I Have a Friend Who...

I have a friend who has told a lie.
I have a friend who is covetous of the materialistic things she sees that others have, 
    but she does not.
I have a friend who is a gossip.
I have a friend who is a constant worrier.
I have a friend who is divorced.
I have a friend who was pregnant before she got married.
I have a friend who slept around (a lot) when we were younger.
I have a friend who was raped and feels guilty for it though she shouldn't.
I have a friend who has been to jail.
I have a friend who is married to an alcoholic.
I have a friend who is  a drug addict.
I have a friend who is living with a man she is not married to.
I have a friend who used to openly live in a lesbian relationship.

None of these friends are perfect.  None of them have their acts all together. All of them are flawed.  

Would you like to know the most amazing thing about each and every one of these friends?

They are free!  Free and forgiven by the blood of Jesus Christ.

So many times we look at others and think that they have the "perfect" life. Everyone feels that they need to keep up with the Joneses -- and the Joneses are probably trying to keep up with their in-laws.  It's a constant, fruitless race.  My pastor spoke just last Sunday about how great it would be if our lives really were as picture perfect as we portray them to be on Facebook. 

But they aren't.  

Christians get this bad rap of being hypocrites when they do something wrong.  Christianity does not guarantee you a life of no hassles, no slip-ups, or no sin.  It "simply" guarantees that regardless of the hassles, the slip-ups, and the sins, you are FORGIVEN.  That, my friend, is what you call a lifetime guarantee -- an eternal guarantee.

God did not send His Son to die on the cross for a world of perfect goody two shoes who have everything together and do no wrong.  He died because each of us are flawed and sinful. It doesn't matter how bad or good we think we are. It doesn't matter how many items we can add to the grocery list of our wrongdoings. When we call out the name of Jesus and accept the sacrifice that He freely gave to us... all of our imperfections are forgotten.

Jesus died on the cross so that your past sins have been forgiven, your present sins are being forgiven, and your future sins will be forgiven.


"For He has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son He loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins."
                                       Colossians 1:14

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Out of the Mouths of Babes

Last night Abbie, my four-year-old, asked me to give her a "daddy's bubble bath."  This means that she wants LOTS of bubbles, and she wants to stay in there until all the bubbles are gone and the water is cool.  

So I loaded her in and watched as she was playing around.  Then she looked up at me and asked, "Can I tell you a story?"  I affirmed that she could.  She got very serious -- she has a special voice for her story times -- and this is what she said:

I have come to tell you the truth.  You may think you know the truth, but I must make sure that you do know the truth.

The past is in the past.  There is nothing you can do about the past.  The past must stay in the past because it is past.  The only ones who have the power to do anything with the past is God and Jesus.  We must leave the past alone.  

It is our job to tell everyone the truth.  The truth is that God lives in Heaven.  God wants us to live in Heaven with Him.  To do this, we must let go of the past and accept the truth.  Jesus lives with God.  And we should live with them.

There is an evil power who does not want us to know about the truth.  His name is the devil.  He is bad.  He came to me one time and bit my finger, and I told him to go away because he did not know the truth.  But he did not want to go.

I interrupted the story at this point to ask her if she knew how to get rid of the devil.  She did not.  So I told her that when she feels the devil is around her that she can simply pray out loud and say, "God, keep the devil away from me." and that the devil has no power that is greater than God.  She said, "Cool,"  and went back to her story...

The devil is bad.  He will not be able to live in Heaven with God because he does bad things like when he tried to bite my finger. The devil does not want us to tell people the truth.  He wants for people to live with him in the other place.  But, we must resist.   We must smash the devil's soul.  We know the truth and we must spread the truth.

And then story time was over and she got carried away with smashing bubbles.

I sat in amusement as she began her story because she is so serious about all of her stories -- most of them are about dolphins.  Then I began to actually focus on what she was saying. And then all I could say, was "amen little sister."