Starvation Diet – Pastor Greg

I just finished a reading a book about the life of an American POW during WWII. He had been captured during the Battle of the Bulge in December of 1944 and held until liberation in 1945. His story is one of incredible survival and bravery while standing up for what was right. During his time in captivity he defended fellow Jewish solders from the Nazi’s who would have separated and killed them. Though there were many lessons that I took away from the book, I would like to focus on one.

During the time of his captivity and that of thousands of other POW’s, food was in very short supply. It was part of a systematic plan of deprivation that was intended to break down the will and physical strength of the prisoners. It is estimated that the food intake of each soldier amounted to around 500 calories per day. These men were then subjected to heavy labor and freezing temperatures. This resulted in many cases of death by starvation and the POWs who survived lost between 50 and 80 pounds each. By the time of their liberation in early April 1945, when Patton’s  4th armored division broke into Germany, most of the POW’s were barely hanging on. 

This particular aspect of the ordeal stood out to me: the minimal amount of food that was provided, slowly starved those who ate it. Not only was the food low in quantity, it was low in quality. Much of the food provided was a kind of black bread that had as its main filler sawdust. This “bread” was eaten but not much, if any, nutritional value was found in it. I find in this a parallel to our spiritual lives and the food of the Word of God we consume. 

In Matthew 4, Jesus was at the beginning of His earthly ministry and was in the desert alone. After 40 days and nights of fasting, scripture says that He became very hungry. It was at this time that Satan came to tempt our Savior to sin. The temptation was for Jesus to take care of His situation without guidance from or reliance on His Father. Jesus responds to the devil with scripture: “It is written man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.” Jesus’s physical need was great, and His spiritual need was just as great and could only be provided by His Father. If Christ needed the Word of God to sustain Him how much more do we? 

In 1 Timothy 4, Paul is instructing Timothy regarding how things will be in the latter times. These last days will be marked by those who will fall away or walk away from the faith and will pay attention to false teaching. In a way these people were eating but the nutritional value was zero and thus led to lives that were wasting away. Paul tells Timothy to teach sound doctrine (teaching) to the believers, then they would be receiving good nourishment. Paul also says that it would need to be consistent and often. If the quantity of good food is low, then the results are the same as eating poor quality food. Paul encouraged Timothy that those under his responsibility must have good teaching and have it often. 1 Timothy 4:6, “In pointing out these things to the brethren, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, constantly nourished on the words of the faith and of the sound doctrine which you have been following.” This would give the strength and vitality that their spiritual lives needed. 

Another question we might ask is what kind of food are we eating? It’s so easy for us to be eating junk food. It tastes great at first, but it does not really have much value. If our diet consists of only the fluffy cotton candy of the world, then we will begin to suffer for want of better nutrition. We must be nourishing ourselves on the Word of God consistently. Otherwise we will look like the emaciated half skeletons that were liberated from the POW camps, spiritually speaking. 

Not only may what we eat be of low quality, the amount we consume can also be an issue. If we are subsisting on what we hear just on Sunday or maybe a scattering of quick statements on the internet or radio, then it will not be long before we begin to suffer the effects. As Paul states in 1 Timothy 4, we must “constantly” be nourished on the Word. This is where our discipline comes in. We must regularly feed on God’s Word, daily even. So, the question for me is, am I subsisting on a starvation diet? Or am I regularly feasting on the good food the Lord has provided in His word?

Some Good News – Pastor Greg

Seems like all we hear these days is bad news. Riots, pandemic stats, violence, etc.… Makes us want to shut it all off and just go away for a while. We long for some good news, something that lets us know that it is not all doom and gloom. We want to hear that someone is building up rather than tearing down, that progress is being made in something that matters. Well, do you realize that God is doing a thing on this earth that defies the very gates of hell? That lives are being saved and that the enemy of our souls is losing ground? Here is an example:

“Friday, August 7th, the Amdu missionaries (Ethnos360 in Papua New Guinea) completed the chronological teaching (Creation to Christ) for the very first time in the Amdu language. Since then, a good number of the people have shared clear testimonies about God forgiving their sin and giving them eternal life because of their faith in Jesus. From an older lady, ‘I can’t stop thinking about all you have taught us. My heart is just so light!… Jesus came and died and his blood took away my sin.’

Then, a few days later the Wantakia (Ethnos360 in Papua New Guinea) team wrapped up the teaching and presented the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus. As a result of meeting with folks who attended the lessons, the missionaries are hearing new believers express their delight in and thanksgiving for what God has done through Jesus Christ.” 

– Rex Schaffner

Also, August 23rd, we witnessed the baptism of Noah, a Chinese exchange student, at Dave and Mary Lou’s pool. He has come to know Christ through the faithful witness of believers here in Jackson County! He is now a brother in the Lord and will be heading back to China as an ambassador of Christ. We also have sent out our first Cornerstone Community Church missionaries, the Bellers! They are now in the DR serving with Freedom International. I am excited to see what God does through Riley and Margaret! 

You see, it’s easy to focus on the bad news (it does sell better than good news after all), but God is not done with His work on this planet. God is still building His church. The following verses are examples of the purpose and plan of God. 

(Isiah 55:11) So is my word that goes out from my mouth It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.

(Matthew 16:18) And I tell you that you are Peter and on this rock I will build my church and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.

These verses and many others give us hope. Hope that the evil and darkness of this world will not overcome the light and beauty that God desires to bring to a fallen humanity. We have hope because He IS building His church, and His word WILL NOT return to Him empty. The awesome thing is that we get to participate with Him. We have been given that message of hope and reconciliation. We are to be bearers of the light in this dark place and as things get harder our light will shine brighter.

What is the goal?  Read this:

God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them.  They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.  “He will wipe every tear from their eyes.  There will be no more death” or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.  Revelation 21:3-4

Amen?! What good news. These are words of hope and expectation as we move forward in time. So let’s not grow weary in doing good. God has promised that we will reap a harvest at the right time if we don’t give up (Gal. 6:9). I just thought we could all use some good news in the middle of a lot of bad news. 

Cheap Replacement – by Pastor Greg

After I graduated from college, I worked in the family jewelry business. We sold, along with a variety of jewelry, Rolex watches. These timepieces were works of art – the precision and detail were stunning. Most were made of gold and steel and some were diamond encrusted. One day a man walked into the store and requested a new battery for his Rolex. The moment he made his request I knew we had a problem. You see, a “real” Rolex uses the motion of a person’s hand to move a perpetual rotor that winds a mainspring in the watch. No batteries. I informed the gentleman that his watch was not a Rolex. He was not happy and in fact didn’t believe me until I showed him a real Rolex and a comparison could be made. He had bought what he thought was genuine, only to find out it was a fake (he had spent good money, too!) He had been fooled by a deceiver and had lived with that lie until the batteries had run out and the truth was revealed.

There have been times I have been deceived and have “bought” the lie of an untrustworthy source. Sometimes it happens without me being aware that I am being duped. But sometimes I like the lie better than the truth. Either way I am relying on something that is not reliable.

The Oxford Dictionary states that idolatry is extreme admiration, love, or reverence for something or someone (other than God). The apostle John writes at the very end of his first epistle a warning: “Dear children, keep away from anything that might take God’s place in your hearts.” (1 John 5:21, NLT)

Why would John write that at the end of his letter? Seems like an afterthought or an “oh by the way…” When we think of idols, we often imagine some figure of stone with a pagan bowing before it. But what is idolatry anyway? Do we see it today? Aren’t we much more sophisticated than that? Well, not really. Romans chapter one shows us the pattern of idolatry. God has made some basic things evident about Himself in creation but man (that’s us) did not honor God or give thanks to Him, but came up with some really dumb ideas and exchanged these ideas in the place of God. We removed God from His rightful place and put something else in that place. In other words, a cheap replacement. So, God allows us to go our own way with all the corresponding repercussions, the spiral downward in both our minds and our morality. We see this played out in our own society where God has been replaced by a natural worldview. God is banned from our institutions of learning and government. The downward spiral of the mind and morality is on display as we move further and further away.

But this is just for those who do not know Christ, right? Unfortunately, no – this is still possible for the Christian, hence the word of admonition from the Apostle John at the end of his letter. There are many things that exist which clamor for our affections, trust and adoration. Many times, these things are not wrong in and of themselves but can take on an idolatrous form. Praise and worship belong to God; idolatry is stealing that which belongs to Him and giving it to another.

How do I know if something is an idol in my life? Well, what happens to my world when the batteries run out? I.e. when the job is lost, my team loses, or my health is threatened. On what do I depend for my security? How far do I go to maintain and control my world? What am I willing to sacrifice to keep things running well? What gets most of my attention, time and energy? I think we get the idea.

Jesus Christ is due all my trust, dedication and love. Anything that takes the place of what is rightly due Him is an idol, dear friends. May we guard ourselves from them.