Wednesday, August 5, 2020

The Real Thing

Fourteen years ago, I was diagnosed as a Type-2 diabetic. You could have blown me over with a feather. Diabetes was not really prevalent in my family tree. My dad had been diagnosed at sixty-three years old, but I was forty-three! It was quite a shock. As was the class with the nutritionist that Renée and I attended later. I learned all about carbohydrates and how all carbohydrates turn to sugar, so I needed to severely limit my intake of carbs. Do you know what carbs are in? Everything! That means no sugar, sauces, sweet pickles, or salad dressings. No candy, milk, or soda. Anything that has flour has carbohydrates. That means no pasta, no breads, pizza, cakes, cookies, chips, crackers, or bagels! I loved bagels! No McDonalds, Burger King, Wendy’s, or Five Guys. All fast food is pretty much a no. It is not easy, but so many people struggle with far worse things. I truly am blessed that, at least in the 21st century, there are a myriad of sugar-free options, which diabetics did not have seventy or better years ago.

Renée, my wife of thirty-nine years this October, has been on this journey with me and has really been a trooper. She is constantly experimenting with alternatives like almond flour and coconut flour in order to make something close to what I used to enjoy. As a result, I have had cookies, cakes, and pies all made with almond flour and Truvia (a sweetener made from the Stevia plant). I so appreciate her effort and it all tastes good, but it is never the same as the original. It’s not her fault. Pizza crust made with almond flour or cauliflower is just not the same. I would not expect it to be. They are substitutes.               

Similarly, there is no substitute for Christ. Philippians 4:7 tells us that only in Christ Jesus can we experience God’s peace, which passes all understanding. Galatians 5 reminds us that when we walk with the Lord, “the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (Galatians 5:22). The list of ways people seek peace is endless. You can try to fill what is missing in your life with money, drugs, alcohol, or sex, but they are all substitutes. You will never find what you are seeking until you seek Jesus. You may think a bagel made with coconut flour tastes good, but eat one and then sink your teeth into a genuine Jewish New York bagel boiled in water for a couple of minutes to give it that flavorful, modestly sweet taste, with a chewy, soft, shiny crust. There is no comparison. You simply cannot fake real bagels any more than you can fake true peace, joy, kindness, patience, gentleness and love.

So, if you feel as if something is missing in your life, stop looking elsewhere. Come to Jesus. If you know someone else who feels that way, tell them about Jesus. He promises, “…everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened” (Matthew 7:8). Nothing will ever taste as good as the bread of life – Jesus Christ. He – not Coca Cola – is the real thing.

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Remember to email your praises and petitions to southchurchprayer@gmail.com. We lift them up every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, at 4:00 pm on Facebook Live.

No Substitute

Fourteen years ago, I was diagnosed as a Type-2 diabetic. You could have blown me over with a feather. Diabetes was not really prevalent in my family tree. My dad had been diagnosed at sixty-three years old, but I was forty-three! It was quite a shock. As was the class with the nutritionist, Renée and I attended later. I learned all about carbohydrates and how all carbohydrates turn to sugar, so I needed to severely limit my intake of carbs. Do you know what carbs are in? Everything! No carbs meant no sugar, sauces, sweet pickles, or salad dressings. No candy, milk, or soda. Anything that has flour has carbohydrates. That means no pasta, no breads, pizza, cakes, cookies, chips, crackers, or bagels! I love bagels! No McDonalds, Burger King, Wendy’s, or Five Guys. All fast food is pretty much a no. It is not easy, but so many people struggle with far worse things. I truly am blessed that, in the 21st century, there are a myriad of sugar-free options, which diabetics did not have seventy or better years ago.

Renée, my wife of thirty-nine years this October, has been on this journey with me and has really been a trooper. She is constantly experimenting with alternatives like almond flour and coconut flour in order to make something close to what I used to enjoy. As a result, I have had cookies, cakes, and pies all made with almond flour and Truvia (a sweetener made from the Stevia plant). I so appreciate her effort and it all tastes good, but it is never the same as the original. It’s not her fault. A cauliflower pizza crust or one made with almond flour is just not the same. I would not expect it to be. They are substitutes.               

Likewise, there is no substitute for Christ. Philippians 4:7 tells us that only in Christ Jesus can we experience God’s peace, which passes all understanding. Galatians 5 reminds us that when we walk with the Lord, “the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (Galatians 5:22). The list of ways people seek peace is endless. You can try to fill what is missing in your life with money, drugs, alcohol, or sex, but they are all substitutes. You will never find what you are seeking until you seek Jesus. You may think a bagel made with wheat protein isolates, tastes good, but eat one and then sink your teeth into a genuine Jewish New York bagel boiled in water for a couple of minutes to give it that flavorful, modestly sweet taste, with a chewy, soft, shiny crust. There is no comparison. You simply cannot fake real bagels any more than you can fake true peace, joy, kindness, patience, gentleness and love.

So, if you feel as if something is missing in your life, stop looking elsewhere. Come to Jesus. If you know someone else who is seeking, tell them about Jesus. He promises, “…everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened” (Matthew 7:8). Nothing will ever taste as good as the bread of life – Jesus Christ. He – not Coca Cola – is the real thing, and He is carb-free!  

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Remember to email your praises and petitions to southchurchprayer@gmail.com. We lift them up every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, at 4:00 pm on Facebook Live.

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

This Time I Understand

When I was young, I remember on the nightly news there would be a counter in the corner of the television screen showing the number of deaths that day in Vietnam as the war raged on. It was too abstract of a concept for a nine year old to really understand. It was just a number. I did not have the ability to fully comprehend that each digit represented a human life and a family that would be forever altered by the reality of what it meant. I mean, it did not affect me, really. Not personally, and it was on the other side of the world. Still, for some reason, I have never forgotten. I have thought about it often over the past almost fifty years since.

Today, I know there are people just as fixated on the daily numbers we get regarding the coronavirus. In the United States, as of yesterday, 148,056 people have died from Covid-19. This time it is not on the other side of the world. This time, right here in Connecticut 4,418 people have died. This time, several people I know have friends or relatives who are infected. I have older parents and church members who are a high-risk for serious issues if they get it. I have friends with compromised immune and respiratory systems who are in a very high-risk category if they were to be diagnosed positive. As someone in their late 50’s with Type-2 diabetes, I am at a higher risk myself. This time, I fully understand every number we see on the news represents a human life and a family that is be forever altered by the reality of what the numbers mean.

This reality we find ourselves in should make us think about the future. If Covid-19 were to be my end, am I confident of what comes next? Jesus says in John 14, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). That means if we hope for heaven, Jesus is our only hope. It is not a matter of what I do. I cannot do enough good things. It is not a matter of what I say. I cannot offer enough prayers. It is not about how good of a person I am. In Mark 10, Jesus is clear, “Only God is truly good” (Mark 10:18). The Bible is clear. We all fall short of God’s glorious standard. My only hope for eternal life in heaven with God is to repent of my sins, ask Him for forgiveness and put my trust in Jesus Christ. He is the only way, truth, and life. Have I done that? That is the question we should all be asking ourselves.

None of us know how long we have. It is only by God’s grace, I have not had a car accident, a cancer diagnoses, been caught in a mass shooting event, that terrorists or anarchists have not detonated a bomb in downtown Hartford. Such are the times we live in today. I am going to die from something, some day. Hey, six months ago, we had never even heard of Covid-19. I do not focus on it. I am not paralyzed with fear about it, but it is a reality. One day I will draw my final breath here on earth. So will you. The question is where will you draw your next one? Have you trusted in Jesus for your salvation? Truly? Just as importantly, have those you love done so? Is your family saved? Your friends? Co-workers? Neighbors? Do not wait. The Bible says, “Today is the day of salvation” (2 Corinthians 6:2).

Once I trusted in Jesus, it was not as if death is okay for me now. I still want to live a long, full, healthy life, but now, when the end comes, and it will come, I am not afraid. I eagerly look forward to eternity. I pray you do too. If you do not, call me here at the church – (860) 249-8627. Let’s talk. If you have trusted in Jesus and your fear is gone as well. How about your family, friends, co-workers, and neighbors? Are they okay? Do you know? Have you asked them? Do you care? If you do, Covid-19 is an opportunity to talk to them. “Hey, Jim, I was wondering. If you were diagnosed with the coronavirus and it did not look good, have you thought about what came next?” You see, Jim is not just a number on a screen. He is my friend and I care about him. If your family and friends are not just numbers – tell them about Jesus. Share the gospel with them. It truly is a matter of life and death. Eternal life or death. 

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Remember to email your praises and petitions to southchurchprayer@gmail.com. We lift them up every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, at 4:00 pm on Facebook Live.