Tag Archives: James

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.

You’re Not A 2nd Class Christian…And Why I Came Forward

stinking-thinkingSunday’s sermon was about “Stinking Thinking.” At times, we all suffer this malady. But Romans 12:1-2 teaches us that, rather than being conformed to this world, we must be transformed by a renewed mind. Oddly, though, my sermon had the most unusual effect…it made the preacher come forward!

I don’t suppose I am the first to ever answer my own invitation, but there are a few good lessons that I learned from it, and I’d like to share them for this week’s article.

“Stinking Thinking” had 3 different examples: Elijah had wrong thinking about the lack of faith in others, and he was corrected by God; David had wrong thinking in his desires and needs, and Nathan rebuked him; and we are all rebuked by James if we have stinking, double-minded, thinking – of this world and the next.

But during the invitation, I realized that I had just confessed having the same hard-heartedness as Elijah. It is a preacher’s disease, isn’t it? Elijah was overly concerned with numbers, and his self-righteous attitude told him that he was the only one who served God. I have publicly bemoaned the lack of attendance on Sunday night and Wednesday night attendance, and it had begun to cause “stinking thinking” in me.

So I owned my confession and publicly repented. I had gotten caught up in what others were doing (or not doing). I had allowed it to poison my kindness toward some in the family of God. So here are a few take-away items I gained:

#1, I was reminded that it isn’t easy to go forward. But it shouldn’t be so hard! Please know, if you come forward, “You are NOT a 2nd Class Christian!” You aren’t a worse Christian. We all need help and encouragement. An unfortunate stigma has petrified people in the pew rather than helped them move their feet. Praise God that some overcome the stigma and ask for the love and prayers of others!

#2, I was reminded that those who can’t be with us on Sunday or Wednesday nights feel persecuted by some of the comments we make. I realize that many people, for reasons beyond their ability, cannot be back with us all the time. And to those folks, who desire to be with the saints but cannot, let me say, “You are NOT 2nd Class Christians!” If we, as the church, have made you feel sub-Christian, it is our mistake, not yours. We love and miss you when you cannot be with us.

#3, Those with “stinking thinking,” who refuse to return Sunday nights or Wednesdays, even if they easily could, need our love, not condemnation. They must answer for their hearts and minds, not me. But I will gently call: do you not desire to grow closer to God and His family, the church? Or have you become so worldly that you would rather do anything than meet with the saints? Just give it some thought, please.

May we all be transformed by renewed minds! Will you step forward? Ask for the love and prayers of the congregation. You are not a 2nd Class Christian if you do. And who knows?…there might be others who thought they were the only ones who felt that way. It might just start a movement…let’s call it Christianity.

If you want to hear the sermon, you may do so Sermon Link

“Belief-less” Christianity? Don’t buy it!

John Shuck believes that religion was invented by humans; he believes that faith is a product of evolution; he believes that Jesus might have been a historical figure, but stories about Him are legend; he believes that God isn’t real; and he believes that there is no afterlife. Up until now there was a name for that, “atheist.” But Shuck has made news lately for demanding another name, ”Christian.” 

The reason this is news is because Shuck is a Minister with the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A), yet he doesn’t believe in God. And while a minister losing faith is nothing new, Shuck has an interesting twist. Losing faith didn’t cause him to leave the ministry. Rather, he glorifies a new gospel that he calls, “Belief-less Christianity!”

Now, at its root, this is just the logical conclusion of what C.S. Lewis bemoaned when he said that the word “Christian” had become meaningless – merely a “good person.” But there is something far more sinister at work here. Can one be a Christian and have no faith in Jesus? No faith in God? No belief in the afterlife?

Most Christians realize that the Bible exclusively teaches a faith-based religion. It always has been and always will be. There is no other way to practice it; and there is certainly no other way to be saved by it.

In the New Testament (ie., Romans 4, Galatians 3:6, Hebrews 11:19, and James 2:23), physical lineage is shown to mean nothing without faith. It is by faith that Israel has always been Israel. It is by faith that Israel was pleasing to God. It is by BELIEF in ACTION.

Christians are believers. Peter spoke among those who believed (Acts 1:15). At Antioch, believers were first called Christians (Acts 11:26). Salvation, belief, and Christianity are intertwined (Acts 15:11, 16:31; Romans 10:9). There simply is no such thing (in scripture) as an acceptable and “belief-less” Christianity.

Yet, Shuck doesn’t appreciate being told that he isn’t a Christian. He doesn’t appreciate that “Christianity has placed all of its eggs in the belief basket.” In his congregation, people are encouraged to “bring your own God” or “none at all.” But he insists it is still “Christianity!”

Friends, I hope you see that the two positions are incompatible. The clearest teaching in scripture is that salvation is based on belief in Jesus, joining in his death, burial, and resurrection through baptism, and living a life in enduring faith. Shuck claims that “belief-less” Christianity is thriving, but don’t be duped. “Belief-less” Christianity…it is no Christianity at all.

I’ll keep my “eggs in the belief basket” over Shuck’s new gospel any day!

Judge vs James: Faith Without Works is…Legal, But Dead?

flowers-gavAt first glance, it might just seem like the same old news: another florist, another same-sex couple, and another ruling. But what may seem to some as a simple judgment might just be the most important thing that you read today.

It isn’t Barronelle Stutzman’s plea that she is being forced to celebrate same-sex unions against her rights and faith. It isn’t the fact that she was sued. And it certainly isn’t the fact that a judge ruled against her. All of that is par for the course these days.

But what should grab your attention is Benton County Superior Court Judge Alex Ekstrom’s reasoning for ruling against Stutzman: you can believe, but you can’t necessarily practice, religion!

Now on the face of things, that might sound almost reasonable. After all, we live in jihadist times. And we certainly don’t want militant jihadists following the parts of the Koran that tell Muslims to kill all infidels (ie., Quran 2:191-193).

But religious freedom has always carried with it elements of a practiced faith, not just a believing faith.

So if a Christian won’t sell flowers to someone for the purpose of celebrating something that their faith teaches is an abomination, are they to be treated as the jihadist? After all, the same-sex couple had many other flower shops that gladly offered to serve them – some that even offered to give them the flowers for free. Won’t the marketplace take care of this by itself?

But what if the flowers weren’t the goal? What if compliance with the law isn’t even the goal? What if faith without works is the goal – an empty belief? And until the practice of the Christian faith is dead, persecution will continue.

Christians who thought they could “coexist” and practice their faith, in this legal environment, are in for a rude awakening.

You see, Ekstrom’s ruling violates a fundamental principle that has been “on the books” for almost 2,000 years. James, the half-brother of Jesus, explained, “Faith, if it has no works, is dead” (James 2:17). In fact, James has harsh words for one who would take Ekstrom’s position: “But are you willing to recognize, you foolish fellow, that faith without works is useless?”

Of course, I preach James, not Ekstrom. And I tell a congregation every Sunday that we need to put our faith into action. We need to have a living, working faith to be a church that is pleasing to God. But if we put those words into practice, have we violated the law? And am I inciting others to violate the law?

Perhaps. But that is no surprise. And James still says, “For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead” (James 2:26).