Monthly Archives: September 2016

Sin & Measles: A Danger, Even When Eradicated

measlesThe Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) has declared: “Endemic measles has been eliminated from the Americas.” Becoming measles free is an “extraordinary milestone,” according to Carissa Etienne, the director of PAHO. A region is considered to be free of a disease when there have been no reported cases within 3 years.

So the good news is: the Americas are considered “disease free” of measles. After three years of intense efforts and no news of measles, we have greater than 95% eradication. The bad news is: we have to remain vigilant against…you guessed it… more measles.

Wait, what? That doesn’t seem to make sense. If we have eliminated the problem, if vaccinations have worked, then why remain vigilant? Because, according to Susan Reef of the CDC, a new batch of measles is “just a plane ride away” from being reintroduced into the population. You see, even when you wipe out a disease, you have to remain vigilant against resurgence.

The Bible teaches us that our salvation includes a similar principle. Jesus died for our sins (Romans 4:25). He paid the price once and for all (1 Peter 3:18). His sacrifice is sufficient and there is not another one coming (Hebrews 10:25).

But that isn’t the end of the story. We have to remain vigilant. Just as God told Cain, “if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door; and its desire is for you, but you must master it” (Genesis 4:7).

When baptized, we are buried into the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus (Romans 6:4). We receive the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38). We receive the forgiveness of sin (Acts 22:16). His blood sufficiently eradicates the consequences of our sins.

But that isn’t the end. Baptism is a necessity, but baptism is only a beginning. We must continue to “walk in the light” that we might continue to be purified “from all sin” (1 John 1:7).

Unfortunately, we lack perfect vigilance. But if we remain in Him, He is “faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). One day, in Heaven, where there is no more death, pain, or sin, we will truly say: “eradicated”…forever.

Sweet Lies?

sweet-liesSo…sugar walked into a research lab one day and paid some researchers to blame saturated fat for weight gain and heart issues. The researchers took the money and said, “no problem.” Still waiting on the punch-line for this joke? Hmmm…sorry – there isn’t one; it isn’t a joke, and it isn’t funny.

Stanton Glantz, is a professor of medicine at U.C.S.F., and is one of the authors of a recent article in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA). The article brings to light an effort by the sugar industry to systematically hide the effects of sugar by blaming fat. The findings are clear: “They were able to derail the discussion about sugar for decades.”

In 1967, a group called the “Sugar Research Foundation” paid three Harvard scientists to publish papers with the instructions that saturated fat, not sugar, be blamed for weight gain and heart disease. Until 1984, researchers didn’t have to disclose their funding sources, so no one knew that sugar was paying the bill. One of those researchers, D. Mark Hegsted, became the head of nutrition for the US Department of Agriculture, drafting dietary guidelines that helped steer nutrition policies in this country for decades. So…no surprise, saturated fat, not sugar, has been public enemy #1.

Now, saturated fat isn’t blame free. And it probably doesn’t surprise anyone that sugar told “sweet lies.” Last year, for example, the NY Times disclosed that Coca-Cola had been paying millions of dollars to researchers who promised to downplay the link between sugary drinks and obesity. Candy makers have done the same…and worse.

But guess what? We are just as bad!

The truth is, people have been shifting blame since there were people! In the Garden of Eden, Adam blamed “the woman” and God rather than accepting the responsibility for his actions (Genesis 3:12). James tells us that our sin is our own. We must not blame God or say that He tempts us (James 1:13-18) “The devil made me do it,” is never an acceptable excuse.

We are responsible for our sins. Thankfully, though, God didn’t leave us without help. Because of Jesus’ sacrificial grace, we can be forgiven of our sins. By confession, we literally “say the same as” God – “guilty!” And if we confess our sins, He is just and faithful and will forgive us (1 John 1:9).

Are you still saying the devil made you do it? Still shifting blame on others? Admit your faults…and look to the forgiving grace God offers through Jesus today.

Bear-ing Comes “Naturally” To Christians

polar-bearPolar bears are cute, cuddly, and look like they want a big hug…or, not. In fact, polar bears are amazing killing machines. They can smell prey from miles away. They can run, swim, and attack with great power. And, for five scientists in an expedition on Russia’s Troynoy Island, polar bears posed a great risk.

For the last two weeks, 10 polar bears surrounded the research building of five meteorologists, holding them captive. The bears even camped against the building, near the windows. Their presence disrupted the research and forced the researchers to remain in the building at all times. Help, in the form of “pyrotechnics and guard dogs” finally arrived yesterday to scare the bears away.

Of course, we can’t blame the bears! If you are a Polar Bear, you hunt; it’s what you do. And if you are a polar bear living in a harsh environment of ever-shrinking ice, shorter hunting seasons, and less prey available, and catch a whiff of something to feed your family…you look for a meal.

I preached a sermon once about the 3 Bears in Galatians 6. Of course, I’m not the first, by any means, to see the connection or preach that lesson. But one thing I didn’t emphasize was that simple thought – bears can be expected to do what bears do.

Here’s a thought, though: “Can Christians be expected to do what Christians should do?” The 3 bears of Galatians 6 are: bear the burdens of others (6:2), bear our own burdens (6:5), and bear the marks of Jesus (6:17). So…is it natural? Is it instinctual?

It depends. Helping others, doing works of faith, and modeling Christ-likeness are not natural to the human condition. Consuming is our natural default. But, if we are Christians, raised to live in Christ, then our nature has been changed. In fact, the “bear-test” is a really good way to see if we are in Christ (2 Corinthians 13:5).

When you “sniff” a need, do you become a Galatians spiritual bear? Or do you revert back into something fleshly of this world? Just a little “food” for thought…

“What’s A Newspaper?” And a little about Bible study…

newspaper“What’s a newspaper?” Those words may very well be spoken in just a generation or two. Fewer and fewer people are getting news from newspapers. In fact, even a major group that represents newspapers (Newspaper Association of America) reported this week that it is dropping the word “newspaper” from their title! They will now be known as the News Media Alliance.

The Internet has significantly changed the news industry. But even the Internet is changing rapidly. For example, just this week, a study showed that 60% of online time is now spent on apps (phone & tablet) rather than traditional websites. Where and how we get our news may soon be something that hasn’t even been invented yet!

Technology can be exciting. But there are downsides too. For example, Facebook created an algorithm to eliminate human editors and let computers determine the headlines. It ended poorly: a false story about Megyn Kelly getting fired from Fox for supporting Hillary Clinton, and an absurd and inappropriate story about a man and a McChicken sandwich were the stories it selected.

When it comes to Bibles, like newspapers, the old, paper Bibles seem to be on the way out too. People often ask what I think of the electronic versions. Here are a few things to consider:

1) Apps are great. And, I really like technology. But before you get rid of your paper Bible, just remember that a paper Bible never needs rebooted, never crashes, never needs plugged in, and never changes. There is some comfort in knowing it always works when needed!

2) Don’t let an app choose your study. Facebook’s algorithm chose ridiculous news stories because those were the ones that were receiving the most clicks on the web. “Most clicks” is just as bad a way to determine Bible study, as it is to determine relevant, meaningful headlines. No algorithm can ever supplant time in consistent, orderly Bible study.

3) Myths, lies, and scandal may get more clicks, but sound doctrine provides the words of life. Heed Paul’s warnings in 1 Timothy 4:3-4. “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths.”