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I am the bread of life.

I am the bread of life.

Cooking with Ingredients on Hand

My first all Mexican cuisine cookbook was created by a blind woman, Maria Zalayeta. She cooked by the sounds of the food. Her cookbook format included stories about her recipes. One story was about a group of nuns in a poor convent some years ago. Upon receiving an unexpected announcement about the imminent visit of their archbishop, the flustered nuns raced to their cupboard and discovered…very little. Sacrificing one of the few remaining chickens in their yard, they used what ingredients they had on hand: cocoa, peanut butter, tomato sauce, and Mexico’s ubiquitous cinnamon. The result? Mole poblano.

Now God is an amazing “cook.” What about his ingredients?

“None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. –Romans 3:10-12, 23

So God uses the “ingredients”–the people–he has on hand to accomplish his will and purpose. For example, a coward became the prophet-leader of a great nation–Moses. A poor shepherd boy became a king–David. Another passionate coward became the founder of the church–Peter. Saul the murderer became the great apostle Paul, and the fearful band of twelve, minus the traitor Judas, became the kernel of the greatest faith the world has ever seen.

Obviously, this story has a moral:  The secret of great cooking lies with the cook, not the ingredients. Don’t be afraid to give yourself to the Lord. He uses the people he has on hand to do great things.

In case you’re curious–the photos above show my breakfast omelette. Due to coronavirus, my shopping these days is limited to no more than once every two weeks. Also, I find it more frugal to eat what I have before buying more. So, this meal came when both my closet and refrigerator were on the skimpy side. The filling ingredients are: Ricotta cheese (which unfortunately doesn’t melt), olives, and fresh jalapeño peppers, which I’ve learned to purchase in copious quantities, and one of the last remaining slices of deli ham. I had recently cooked a pot of dry red beans–they went on top of the eggs, along with Greek nonfat yogurt (always nice and thick), and an olive leftover from some nachos I had recently made. A few drops of Sriracha hot sauce added color and a bit of spice. Admittedly, this was not the best tasting omelette I’ve ever made…

 

 

 

Wow! Arrowroot

Self Explanatory

After all these years I learned how to thicken a sauce with Arrowroot. Fantastic!

Cream Sauce Thickened with Arrowroot

Let There Be Light

Psalm 36:9

A Biblical Challenge to White Evangelical Christians

George Floyd and Police. Photographer Unknown

Jesus, Lord, help us to repent.

John 13:35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” 

Luke 10:30 Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead.
31 Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side.
32 So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.

In general, broadly speaking, knowing there are exceptions, but as a basic principle, hasn’t white evangelical America played the role of the priest and Levite in the story of the Good Samaritan? Ever since the very beginning when we pushed the native Americans to the driest, most barren parts of our country with a sigh of “Good riddance,” haven’t good, Christian, church-going white people been ignoring the plight of people of color in our country?

The priest and the Levite did nothing to harm the Samaritan who had been attacked, beaten, robbed, and left for dead by the side of the road. They didn’t throw a stone at him or kick him out of the path. Their sin was that they saw, they witnessed, they understood, and they chose to ignore. They probably said their prayers that night.

Perhaps Trump’s Christian base made an honest error in electing him the first time. But in the wake of all the violent murders, beatings, and oppression by rogue policemen in our country, not just now with the slaying of George Floyd, but the year before that, and the year before that, and the year before that…all the way back to the 1600’s, how can we possibly elect a man for a second term whose mouth spouts hatred, insults, and lies against our fellow human beings with every other tweet? We need to repent on our knees before God, confess our sin of indifference, and elect people at the national, state, and local levels who not only promise to change the culture of policing in America, but people who will actually do it.

And on a personal level, what can white evangelical Christians do? Just for starters, speak out. Call a spade a spade. Don’t tolerate the kind of language we hear from our President on a daily basis. Don’t vote for him. Vote for someone else. Don’t remain silent when you hear your neighbors disparage people of other colors, races, religion, nationality, and cultural mores. Jesus did not appoint us to judge others–he appointed us to love. Write letters to elected officials, including the chief of police in your community when you hear of atrocities. Don’t vote for offenders a second time. Require accountability from policemen.

And what about the aborted unborn? Don’t use them as a scapegoat to excuse our blind eye toward the unjust violence against entire races of people around us. Attend rallies, join a pro-life group, such as 40 Days for Life, buy tickets to movies such as, “Unplanned,” for all your neighbors and your church’s youth group, support your local charities with diapers, baby blankets, clothes, and words of encouragement and love for women without supportive homes for their newborns. Donate. We don’t need a foul-mouthed president in our fight against abortion. Especially when the world he espouses is dangerous for all children and adults not exactly like himself.

Don’t fall for the other excuse that says, “But most policemen are good people who do their jobs well.” That’s a cop-out. If a medical doctor intentionally murdered a patient, would you say, “We can’t discipline him and change the rules because most doctors are good people who do their jobs well?” If you happened to go to a sadist dentist who tricked you into a tooth extraction without medication, would you protect him from all accountability by saying, “Most dentists are great people who do their jobs well?” No, that particular doctor needs to be punished, that particular dentist needs to have his license stripped, and that particular policeman needs to be fired and held accountable in a just court of civil law.

To “love our neighbor” means we need to leave our zones of comfort and actually DO something. We need to stoop, bend, lift, carry, and pay for. Only then will America begin to heal.

Father, forgive ME, for I have sinned. I helped kill George Floyd. Help ME to do better.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sweet Peppers, Cashews, and Peaches Over Rice

Start with your white rice, reheated okay. Sauté with a small portion of cashews. Add sweet peppers you just steamed, and lastly, a generous amount of canned peaches with their juice. The peaches should be about 1/5 the total bulk. Serve on a plate with a tablespoon of spicy chili on top for a modest, low calorie, pick-me-up hot lunch.

This recipe reminds us that Christians should find that perfect balance of sweetness and spice.

Matthew 5:13 (ESV) “You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.”

OneSmallVoice.net

God Our Father

Photo by Jude Beck on Unsplash

Paul always opened his letters with a mention of God the Father or even “God our Father,” as in Colossians 1:3. Christians nowadays are so used to hearing about God as Father that we tend to just gloss over these references at the beginning of Paul’s letters as mere formalities. Paul, however, never wrote, “God our Father,” without great joy.

The Bible of Paul and all the early Christians was the Old Testament, since the New Testament was still in process of being written. In the Old Testament, God was rarely referred to as “Father.” Scholars have counted only fourteen such occurrences (1). Some of these were specifically about Christ the Messiah to come.

2 Samuel 7:12 When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. 13 He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. 14 I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son… (ESV)

Others were about Israel as a whole, but often showed God’s displeasure with his chosen people.

Jeremiah 3:2 Lift up your eyes to the bare heights, and see! Where have you not been ravished? By the waysides you have sat awaiting lovers like an Arab in the wilderness. You have polluted the land with your vile whoredom. 3 Therefore the showers have been withheld, and the spring rain has not come; yet you have the forehead of a whore; you refuse to be ashamed. 4 Have you not just now called to me, ‘My father, you are the friend of my youth–5 will he be angry forever, will he be indignant to the end?’ Behold, you have spoken, but you have done all the evil that you could.”
(ESV)

Gregory Brown writes,

When God delivered Israel out of Egypt, he adopted them as his “firstborn son” (Ex 4:22). Therefore, occasionally, Jewish prayers would reference this. But no Israelites personally called God, “Father”–ever. In fact, out of respect for God, they even stopped using his covenant name, Yahweh, and instead, would simply say Adonai or some other name of God. For a Jew to call God, “Father,” would have been considered irreverent and even blasphemous (2).

One of the most beautiful passages in all of Scripture is when Jesus spoke to Mary after his resurrection:

John 20:17 Jesus said to her, “Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.'” (ESV)

Far too infrequently do churchgoers hear their pastors teach about the great differences between the two testaments of Scripture, the big changes that occurred after the death, resurrection, and ascension of Christ. One of these changes is what Christ spoke in the quotation just above. Because Jesus Christ was God’s very own offspring, his Son, and because post-cross believers are joined to Christ–only for that reason can followers of Christ now call God their Father. This is huge. Paul never forgot this glorious outcome of Christ’s sacrifice. This is why he never tired of repeating, “God our Father,” in the greetings of his letters.

In church and in Christian music we often hear about, “The glory of the cross.” This is one reason why the cross is so glorious: Believers in Christ can now call God, “Father.” I pray that Christians everywhere will know how special they are to the heart of God, their own Father, and that they will never quit praising him, thanking him, and rejoicing in this marvelous outcome of what began as shameful tragedy–the cross of Christ.

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1 Brown, Gregory, “The Sermon on the Mount: Experiencing God’s Kingdom on Earth. 20. Our Father (Matthew 6:9a),” available at  https://bible.org/seriespage/20-our-father-matthew-69a#_ftnref3, accessed May 20, 2020.

2 Ibid.

Do I Need Angels to “Roll” My Prayers to God?

Angels are real; they are biblical; they are ministering servants of God who worship him and do his bidding. Googling “angels + Billy Graham” (1) or “angels + David Jeremiah” (2) will reveal articles these men have written that explore what the Bible says about angels. But do angels take my prayers and “roll” them into God’s presence for me?

Recently I read a blog post written by a friend who described a self-proclaimed “vision” she had received from (she said) God. In her “picture” she saw herself “rolling” her prayers to God. She could only roll them a short distance, however. Two angels then took over and rolled her needs over the vast expanses of the universe to the very laps of God the Father and Jesus, who were seated together in heaven. Although my friend did make some excellently comforting points in her post about negative feelings, worries, fears, and the like being dispelled in the presence of God’s love and peace, I couldn’t help but wonder, “Is her picture biblical? Do angels indeed intercede for us and transport our prayers into God’s presence?”

Actually, no, this is not what the Bible teaches. If I lived “back in the day,” I would even call this a Gnostic teaching. While God does send angels to watch over, guard, and protect his children, we do not ever need angels to “roll” our prayers to him.

What does the Bible say?

Romans 8:26-27 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. 27 And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. (ESV)

Romans 8:34 Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died– more than that, who was raised– who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. (ESV)

The above passages teach that God the Holy Spirit and God the Son intercede for us. I don’t know about you, but with two of the three persons of the Trinity interceding for me, I don’t think I need angels to pray as well. What else does the Bible teach?

Hebrews 7:25 Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them. (ESV)

The verse in Hebrews 7:25 and its surrounding context teach that Jesus Christ is the eternal high priest of the saints, who “always lives to make intercession for them.” The word “intercession” means to pray for someone else. Hebrews also teaches that Christ’s death, resurrection, and ascension into heaven have given Christians, those who believe in Christ, direct access to God the Father. Christians don’t need angels to “roll” their prayers into God’s presence–I myself can enter God’s presence in Christ who lives in me:

Hebrews 4:14 Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession … 16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (ESV)

Colossians 1:27 To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. (ESV)

Angels are created beings, just as humans have been created. Jesus Christ the Son of God is eternal co-creator with God the Father. He is God. The distance between us and angels is nothing compared to the distance between angels and God. Listen to these amazing verses about Christ alone from Colossians:

Colossians 1:15-20 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.

16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities– all things were created through him and for him. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. 19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. (ESV)

Colossians 2:2…Christ, 3 in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. (ESV)

Colossians 2:9 For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily,  10 and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority. (ESV)

The only verses in the New Testament connecting prayer with angels are found in Revelation. John’s writing in this letter is highly symbolic. In context with the verses from Romans and Hebrews the few Revelation verses, spoken as they are in symbolic pictures, cannot establish a theology of angels transporting prayers to Christ, as though without the angels the prayers could not traverse the distance. There is no distance between Christians and Christ.

John 17:21 … you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, 23 I in them and you in me, … (ESV)

Paul’s prayer for the Colossians is that they “may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding,” (Colossians 1:9). Part of spiritual wisdom is learning to discern between what is Scripture and what is not Scripture. It is scriptural to believe that the prayers of Christians are heard directly by the Father because of Christ. It is not scriptural to believe that Christians need the services of angels to carry their prayers a vast distance between themselves and the throne of grace. There is no distance. Spiritually, all Christians are united with the Father through Jesus Christ the Son. 

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1 “The Bible doesn’t say the angels pray for us — and the reason is because One far greater than the angels already is praying for us: the Lord Jesus Christ. He alone is the divine Son of God, who even now sits in heaven interceding for us (see Hebrews 7:25). Is your faith and trust in Him — both for today and for eternity?” Quotation from Billy Graham, available at https://billygraham.org/answer/do-the-angels-in-heaven-pray-for-us/, accessed May 18, 2020.

2 “We are never told to pray to angels. We pray to God, and He sends the help we need.” Quotation from David Jeremiah, available at https://davidjeremiah.blog/angels-in-the-bible/, accessed on May 18, 2020.

God Is Love

God Is Light

When seeking solutions, something to remember.

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