Oops! Here Is What I Mean

Quote from last week’s Epistle, “We must preach the Word with deeds of kindness, acts of mercy, gifts of grace, and work for justice and the peace of God for all.  To do that we must stay away from the spiritual junk food from conservatives, liberals, and secularists. We must step out and be Jesus to our world.”

   In reading a paraphrase of 2 Timothy 4:1-5, I found the phrase, “They will have no stomach for solid teaching but will fill up on spiritual junk food;” this just seemed to fit our times. 

   A little whipped cream on pumpkin pie won’t kill you, but it is smoke and mirrors when it comes to nourishment.  A candy bar or a Boston Cream Pie will not cause a heart attack.  But, if you bought them by the carton or made your meals of junk food everyday, you are on a downhill slide to the cardiac ward or worse.  Let me explain about spiritual junk food. 

   In the very early 1930s my mother and dad had just been married and were working on a wheat farm in western Kansas.  Mother was cooking and general house help, dad was a field hand harvester.  It was a bumper year and the wheat was tall and heavy headed.  The work day was way before sunup in the late summer to dark-thirty.  Supper was after quitting time.      

   Mother had baked a great big plate of fluffy biscuits along with the meal (bread in those days came from the oven, not the store).  That day, the lady of the house had provided makings for hand cranked ice cream, a real treat.

   Harvesting wheat with the crude gleamers of that day was hard work.  You didn’t set in an enclosed, air-conditioned cab as you whipped the grain into the transporters.  Dad was tired, and he was hungry. 

   As he passed his plate for extra helpings, the lady of the house said, “if you have more biscuits, you can’t have any ice cream.”  Dad didn’t pause in the reach for more biscuits saying, “I can’t harvest wheat on ice cream.”   Dad was a very wise man; he knew you cannot live by bread alone, but that your body will work harder when fed the staff of life, rather than the fluff and junk food.  The same is true of our spiritual life and our heart and mind work for the Lord. 

   No one will go to Hell for a snack of spiritual junk food, but there is a great danger when we “have no stomach for solid teaching, preferring spiritual junk food.  Let’s explore. 

   As babe’s in Christ, we needed milk, Paul stroked the Corinthians in I Cor. 3:1, 2, “you are mere infants in Christ. I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it.”  Babies need and want their mother’s milk or formula, but as they grow older they long for what is on mother’s plate,  reaching for it to see what mother is eating.  Paul wrote to the Hebrews (5:14), “But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.”  Paul again wrote to the Corinthians in ten-three and following, these words speaking of the children wandering in the wilderness, “They all ate the same spiritual food and drank the same spiritual drink, for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them; and that rock was Christ.  Nevertheless, God was not pleased with most of them, their bodies were scattered over the desert.  Now these things occurred as examples to keep us from setting our hearts on evil things as they did…”  Remember, the wanderings were the result of believing more in democracy than in God.  The vote was 2,999,997 to 3. A landslide in favor of not going into the land. It cost them their lives and forty years of wandering.  Still, under Moses they did not learn anything.  They continued to be rebellious, grumblers, and forgot the ordinance of God until Joshua took over.  They were fed and watered with good spiritual food from God, manna, quail, plenty of fresh water in the desert, but emotional spiritual junk food caused death and defeat; ask Korah.   

    I agree with Peterson in The Message, we have come to a time that a great number of church members that are under good teaching each Lord’s Day, that have three or four Bibles in their home, have Christian radio available to them, are more interested in getting “heated up” over spiritual junk food than they are over solid teachings.  It all sounds so Biblical. You can preach anything from Galatians 5:19-21, “The acts of sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; Idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambitions, dissensions, factions, and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like.  I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.”  To be honest in preaching from anyone of those subtopics of sin, you must go to the whole Bible and get the full picture from God. By using that scripture, you can condemn just about anyone to Hell.  Especially when it comes to the “AND THE LIKE.”  This is where Conservatives stack up the spiritual junk food and spoil the spiritual diet of Christian’s solid food that leads to maturity.  Let’s go to the obvious before us: Christmas.

   Anyone with a first grade Christian education knows that the odds are 365 to 1 that Jesus was not born on December 25th.  We also know that the early church that was dominated in the west by Rome after 375 AD moved the date to celebrate Christmas around a couple of times and in their culture settled on December 25th for various reasons.  In Western culture, that is a compromise date that for centuries has been accepted.  There are good Christian brothers and sisters that do not accept that date, and do not want to celebrate Christmas, and that is very acceptable because of Colossians the whole second chapter. Especially verse sixteen and seventeen, “Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day.  These are a shadow of things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.”

   I take from this that Christ is the center of all that we do, and we must keep him center, keep him foremost in our teaching, and judge all things by Christ.  Christmas, whatever day of the year, is about Emmanuel.  He is our all in all. I centered my Christmas postcards this year about three scriptures. Isaiah seven fourteen, Emmanuel was promised; John 1:14, Emmanuel came and camped with us.  And John 14:23, that if we love and obey God, that Emmanuel, all three of the Holy Ones, will come and dwell in us.   We then can say with Paul and the Galatians, “It is not I that lives but Christ that lives in me…” We are the temple of Emmanuel.  That is the meat of Christmas day.  That is the solid food that we can grow and mature on.  All the rest about Christmas is fluff, and spiritual junk food.  Just as I said in my sermon last Sunday, all the decorations of green in the sanctuary, the manger scenes, and the story about “God’s Christmas Tree, the Cross, is spiritual junk food.  Here is where careful balance comes in.  My family always celebrates our gift giving on the 24th in the evening to avoid the December 25th controversy. We have been quiet about this.  I have grown to the place that if it were left up to me, there would be very little special decorations. I can worship in the dark in a cave; I do not need externals to feel close to God.  But just like every Sunday School classroom is decorated with the theme of the stories being taught so the children get a visual of the story being told, so for their sake, we accentuate the positive of the main course with the fluff.  It will not take away the meaning.  UNLESS we become more concerned about the fluff, the junk food, than we are the main  course of Emmanuel. Then all that ultra-conservative Christian talk about Christmas being wrong is right, and talk from liberal promotion of culture of gift giving, and food and festivities become junk food.  The shouts of the secularists’, “Happy Holidays” and rejecting Christ in any form will not kill the Christmas spirit at my home or church, but it is not as bad as the Church that takes Jesus, Emmanuel, out of the center of the celebration, and the reason for the season.  Spiritual junk food from the right, left or secularists needs to be ignored to keep Emmanuel the center.   If Emmanuel is the center of Christmas, and the keeping of God’s promises is foremost, then a little whipped cream on the pumpkin pie will not be destructive unless you personally see it as “And The Like.”  In that case it is not of faith for you, and it would be a sin for you. But, you don’t have scriptural grounds for forcing your opinion on someone else.   

   Let me explore Conservative Junk food that is best ignored scripturally.  In the 1960s was the move to impeach Earl Warren and get America out of the United Nations and the United Nations out of the United States.  {Now with- out controversy, the United Nations; and I have followed them from grade school when my teacher brought a radio to the class room and we listened to the broadcast from San Francisco of the founding}, has made some terrible mistakes. They have had good leaders, as I believe we do now with a born again Christian from Korea in the driver’s seat, and some really bad ones.  I compare the UN to Roman citizenship in Paul’s time.  Paul didn’t fly the Roman flag from his “SUV” as he ministered, but when it was useful to getting ministry done, he raised the flag and scattered the opposition.  The UN is just as useful today for Christians.  When Egypt had incarcerated some Christian workers with IBM for having Bible study in their homes; IBM couldn’t get them released, leaders of conservative Christianity were against a solid Islamic wall, no deal, and they were staying locked up. President Bush the first picked up the phone, called the secretary-general of the UN and reminded him that President Mubaric of Egypt had signed the UN freedom of religion Pact that allowed freedom of religious expression as long as it was not involved in acts of trying to convert someone to your religion by force or coercion. The UN secretary-general called the President of Egypt and reminded him of his signature on the Pact, and the IBM employees were released that day.  It works; ask Paul in Philippi.  The UN is not Christian, and should not be; it is a tool in our toolbox of means and methods to get the main thing done, to make disciples in all the world.  The anger tossed at it by conservative Christians is just spiritual junk food.    God has been very cranky about sexual misbehavior of any kind since the beginning of human history.  It does not matter if it is homosexuality, or Solomon having 700 wives and three hundred “cucumber vines,”  or just looking on a woman with lust in your heart, quite often caused from burning lustful thoughts in your mind from media or pornography.  God is unapologetic about saying “no”.  Conservative junk food is around every corner. Be it the ultra conservative Baptist church in Kansas that pickets and makes “Bull-headed ‘burros”’ of themselves at the funerals of servicemen killed in our war on terror.  These ultra conservatives claim that the deaths are due to God’s displeasure of our not killing off all homosexuals in our country.  I really think that the government ought to turn loose the motorcycle clubs that have been running protection for the families of these soldier boys and girls.  Maybe a good rumble, a few links of chain to the head and body, (in a Christian sort of way, you understand) would knock some of the spiritual junk food out of their system.  But are the signs carried by otherwise intelligent Christians “God hates homosexuals” any better?  Homosexuals are a part of that vast array of  sinners that we are called to make disciples, and baptize in the name of the Father, the Son and the  Holy Spirit.  How on earth can we get a hearing if we are carrying a sign that says “God hates You?” Tossing the spiritual junk food, and keeping the main thing the main thing, means we get to know them, learn to love them, share the gospel from our heart as a means of escape for them, and bring them to Jesus.  The same with folks “shacked up,”  having an affair, messing sexually with their children or someone else’s children, or deep into the addiction of pornography. I know it doesn’t work 100% of the time, but I know that it works.  Let’s keep the main thing the main thing, and realize our assignment is to get as many across the finish line, to feel the breeze of the checkered flag, to get a crown of righteousness that will not fade.  There is no crown for sending and condemning the most  to Hell.  No bonus points for majoring in spiritual junk food. 

    Spiritual junk food is prevalent among those that insist on understanding prophetic time tables and events just as that person does.  Now, Christ is going to fulfill all of that Old and New Testament prophecy in his own good time, and he does not have to have our blessing to do so.  The one thing I know, your escatatology does not have to be right to get to go at the trumpet sound, but your life must be right, and you must be ready, to get to go.  Let’s keep the main thing the main thing, and realize there is a heaven to gain and a hell to shun, and make up our minds which way we want to go, and the way we want to take a train load with us.  Quit dividing into theological camps of end times, that is all conservative junk food. 

   Spiritual junk food on the right includes theology “proof texts” to support pet doctrines.  They add nothing to the main thing.  I would like a dollar for every time on Christian radio some preacher uses the thief on the cross as an example of why we do not need to be baptized today to get to go to heaven.  In Luke 23:39-43 we find the account of the vile thief and the pliant thief that sought Jesus to remember him when he comes into his kingdom.  His heart was sure right, he made no excuse for his judgment,  and he knew he deserved what he was getting.  Jesus promised him, “Today you will be with me in paradise.”  Now, the unscriptural assumption is that the thief was not baptized.  Yet that has nothing to do with his salvation.  Keeping the main thing the main thing let’s look at what is said.  First it is obvious that the thief knew who Jesus was, and that he had heard him speak.  Christ was speaking no lengthy sermons from the cross.  The thief also knew about a coming Kingdom that Jesus was involved in.  To say he was not baptized by Jesus or even John is a hypothesis contrary to fact. 

   In Matthew we read that everyone was coming to the river Jordan to be baptized of John.  In John 4:1 we read, “The Pharisees heard that Jesus was making and baptizing more disciples than John…”  Now that was within the first few months of his ministry.  How many do you suppose his disciples baptized over the three and a half year ministry?  Just being baptized did not guarantee that the thief had not backslid and returned to a life of sin; he was repentant and getting his just desserts.  To say the thief was not baptized for sure, you would need his name and the name of all those that Jesus’ disciples baptized.  But does that matter? “NO” while Jesus was alive and on earth he could forgive the sins of anyone that he wanted. Check out Mark 2:1-12 and the hole in the roof, and Jesus looking at the litter bound man on the floor in front of him and forgiving his sins.  Now that really frosted the legal-eagles on the back row.  To point out he had authority to forgive sins, remember Isaiah said only God could forgive sins, he had the man take up his bed and walk home.  Jesus was and is God; he can forgive sins anytime and any way He wants too.  However, upon his death at the cross a new covenant came into being. And sins are forgiven in acts of faith in response to grace that includes naming Jesus Lord of our life, confessing our sins, and confessing Christ, repenting that includes a change of heart, mind, and direction and being buried with him to die to sin and to break forth in a new life (Romans 6 and the rest of the New Testament.)  Jesus was alive and he could give a gift before his will was testated.  But, listen to Paul in Hebrews 9:15-22, once Jesus died on the cross, the law was finished, and forgiveness was by covenant.  The thief on the cross, baptized or not baptized, has nothing to do with that covenant under which we live.  There are tons of spiritual junk food coming from Christian radio and TV that most likely will not kill anyone spiritually, but sure can make them spiritually unhealthy and a bad example for sinners to follow or listen to. 

   Liberal Junk food is everywhere.  In fact most of what they do with the rejections of scripture, or cafeteria-style belief, believe some, leave some, leaves them with an over whelming lack of anything spiritually nutritional. 

   However, the spiritual junk food from the secularists is piling up, and is attracting way too much attention, and keeping Christians off balance of keeping the main thing the main thing.   Culturally and citizenship-wise we need to be concerned about the move to take the “Under God” from our pledge.  We need to be concerned about taking “in God we trust” off our money.  There are a number of congressmen that are all upset because, on the new Presidential coin dollars, the  “In God We Trust” is printed on the rim of the coin, and not on the face.   This should require no pulpit time on Sunday; it has nothing to do with our commission, or evangelizing souls for Christ.  You know we need to win even those that hate our government.  This is all secular spiritual junk food.  We can let our congressmen and senators know how we feel, but it is not to be our diet each day. 

   Our family’s way of fighting abortion and accepting women that are kicked out of their homes with nowhere to go, has been to move over, and find a place for her to sleep in our home, and to invite her to our table.  I remember in the 40s, one of mother and dad’s friends had a sister that was pregnant, and not married, with nowhere to go, she slept on our couch.   Patsy came to visit with us while pregnant; she was Navajo, had been married in a tribal cornmeal mush ceremony, had been abandoned and was ashamed to go home.  She stayed to be family. Marching in a protest against an abortuary may feel good, but it will not eternally satisfy as the main thing by taking a pregnant and abandoned girl into your home and loving her, exampling to her what Christ is all about as you house her and feed her and direct her as the child is born.  Again, spiritual junk food is not bad or evil; it just fills us up on the wrong thing, and we don’t desire the true food that comes down from heaven. 

   Now understand, I am very pro-life, I am against abortion, infanticide, patricide and matricide, I am against mercy killing, and capital punishment in most cases.  All it does is make lawyers wealthy, and delays any true punishment for decades.  Now if the government wants to have capital punishment that is okay with me; that decision has been given to them and is out of my hands.  I know all that the Old Testament says on the subject, blood for blood and all of that stuff in the old covenant that was nailed to the cross.  In the New Covenant we are simply told to obey our government in Romans 13.  Our job is not to petition for death, but to pray for salvation.  Let’s keep the main thing the main thing. 

   Over the past two and a half centuries since The Radical Disciples began to ride across Europe and America on the cobblestone streets with horses shod with steel, striking sparks everywhere they rode, things in the Christian world has taken off.  The cry against pedobaptism, Kings being the head of the church, the abandonment of national churches, and the priesthood of believers; the Church worldwide has taken off.  To take the nourishment away from a thriving and dynamic church Satan began to toss out spiritual junk food to slow the progress.  What should I say about the arguments over music instruments, songbooks, big screen, video clips, Sunday Schools, serving communion  on Saturday night, taking prayer out of the main service since it is so personal, arranging for communion in a side room for those that wanted to partake, and other tidbits of spiritual junk food to under nourish the church.? Let’s sit down to the main course, and leave the snacks for the secularists.