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the Manna | January 2011


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the Manna | January 2011

Columns

18 | Impeccable Timing

07 | Signals 09 | On the Air

20 | What’s Wrong with the World

Features

Stay in Touch

Your definition of gluttony might be wrong.

Well, to be blunt, we are.

22 | Calling a Glutton a Glutton Sometimes is just that simple.

10 | That’s Too Much! Don’t we all tend to overdo it?

12 | Gluttons for Punishment Are Christians supposed to be passive?

Extras 24 | Unfiltered

14 | Full Having you fill of sin isn’t pretty.

wolc.org | readthemanna.org | January 2011

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the Manna | A Publication of Maranatha, Inc. Editor-In-Chief: Debbie Byrd Contributing Editor: Randy Walter Creative Director: Joe Willey Contributing Writers: Josh Millwood, Brittney Switala, Brent Timmons, Karen Tull Media Client Liaisons: Janet Beckett, Mary Kinnikin

Frequently Asked Questions Who We Are The Manna is published by Maranatha, Inc., a Christcentered ministry called to proclaim the Good News of faith and life in Jesus Christ through various forms of media, as God directs, until He returns. “Maranatha” (mer-a-nath´-a) is an Aramaic word found in I Corinthians 16:22. It is translated, “Our Lord, come!” Joy! 102.5 WOLC is also part of Maranatha, Inc. Its call letters stand for “Watch, Our Lord Cometh.” Maranatha!

Disclaimer Non-ministry advertisers are not required to subscribe to the “Statement of Faith” printed at right; nor are their businesses and products necessarily endorsed by the Manna, Joy! 102.5 WOLC, or Maranatha, Inc., whose viewpoints are not necessarily represented by the opinions or statements of persons interviewed in this magazine; nor are the viewpoints of its advertisers.

Statement of Faith We Believe… that the Holy Bible is the inspired, infallible and authoritative source of Christian doctrine and precept; that there is one God, eternally existent in three persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; that the only hope for man is to believe in Jesus Christ, the virgin-born Son of God, who died to take upon Himself the punishment for the sin of mankind, and who rose from the dead so that by receiving Him as Savior and Lord, man is redeemed by His blood; that Jesus Christ in person will return to Earth in power and glory; that the Holy Spirit indwells those who have received Christ, for the purpose of enabling them to live righteous and godly lives; and that the Church is the Body of Christ and is comprised of all those who, through belief in Christ, have been spiritually regenerated by the indwelling Holy Spirit. The twin mission of the Church is worldwide evangelization, and nurture and discipline of Christians.

Manna and Joy! 102.5 WOLC P. O. Box 130, Princess Anne, MD 21853 Voice: 410-543-9652 Fax: 410-651-9652 Manna e-mail: manna@wolc.org Joy! 102.5 e-mail: wolc@wolc.org ©2011 Maranatha, Inc. May not be reproduced without written consent of Maranatha, Inc. Photos: iStockphoto and Big Stock Photo

Maranatha Media | Home of Joy! 102.5 and the Manna


Signals Gluttony The issue of gluttony goes beyond the fact that most of us eat simply eat too much. It goes to the heart of how we spend our time, our money, our energy. I love food. Especially bread. My desire for bread supposedly isn’t because bread is just so good. And, while I’ve listened to a lot of psychobabble about the possible causes, I have to admit, I just don’t really get it. We ate well as children, so it’s not overcompensation for some perceived deprivation. Bread doesn’t represent a release valve for stress or anger or depression for me. I think the bottom line is just poor judgment. And a bad habit. And selfishness As Americans, even in our poverty, we are rich compared to many areas of the world. When we have bread, it is part of a meal. In some places around the world, a loaf of bread might represent a family’s meals for a whole week. As children, we were often encouraged to clean our plates, as some starving child in another country was going hungry. But there seems something basically wrong with that logic. If we are really concerned about the starving child in another country, or even down the street, why would we prepare and consume excess food? Why wouldn’t we make do with less and find a way to see that our surplus filled someone else’s need? So maybe your problem isn’t bread. Let’s say it’s sodas, or candy bars, or bags of potato chips. What if each of us struggling with overeating were to withstand the urge to fill our bodies with, well, basically, garbage, and sponsor a child’s meals at a local shelter – or through a reputable organization like Compassion Internation-

al? Wouldn’t that be a more logical solution for the starving children – not cleaning our plates? Gluttony is about excess. And we can experience excess in many areas of our life beyond food. Gluttony is about covetousness. It’s a mindset that says, “I want that piece of cake more than I want you to have it” – and taking it. It’s a mindset that says, “I’m the first person in the buffet line, I better get all I can now regardless of how many people are behind me.” Gluttony is about disobedience. It’s a mindset that says, “I don’t trust God to provide for me.” There are certain basic Christian disciplines that, in today’s culture, are often ignored. Inwardly, they include meditation, prayer, fasting and study. Outwardly, they include simplicity, solitude, submission and service. Corporately they include confession, worship, guidance and celebration. It’s difficult to entertain a spirit of gluttony if one’s life is balanced by Christian disciplines. The disciplines allow us to fully focus on Christ – the Provider – the Bread of Life – rather than self. And it is in that Christocentric perspective that we may be freed from the grip of poor judgments and unhealthy habits, whatever they may be, that hold us back from being all that we are intended to be in Christ. Debbie Byrd is General Manager of Maranatha, Inc., a ministry that includes Joy! 102.5 and the Manna.

wolc.org | readthemanna.org | January 2011

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On the Air Leaving Eden Since his 2006 debut, Christian music’s beloved and twice-honored Male Vocalist of the Year (2009 and 2010) Brandon Heath has been nominated for two Grammys, an American Music Award, and has won multiple GMA Dove Awards. On January 18th, he will release his third studio project titled Leaving Eden. Brandon has, in my opinion, an incredible gift for songwriting as proven by his 2009 Song of the Year hit “Give Me Your Eyes,” in which he challenges listeners to see the world as God sees it. Teaming once again with acclaimed co-writing partner Jason Ingram, Brandon continues that theme with his new 11-song record. In a recent interview, Brandon commented on the new album: “It starts with the title track ‘Leaving Eden’ stating the obvious pain in the world by just reading the headlines, but turns towards reconciliation despite the hate and frightening things that happen in life. I want to celebrate the goodness in the world, and that’s what the rest of

the songs on the project talk about. I feel like I have a choice to protect what little innocence is still left in my life, because I think that’s what attaches me to God. It doesn’t mean other things can’t be healed, but why do I have to feel like I’m completely ruined, when I’m not?”

Be sure to listen for Brandon’s latest single “Your Love” playing all month long on Joy! 102.5 and online at wolc.org, along with other songs we’ll be adding from the new project. Plus, we’ll be giving away copies of the new CD on air throughout the month. To learn more about Brandon Heath and to preview the new album, visit www. brandonheath.net. Rodney Baylous is Program Director of Joy! 102.5. Visit www.wolc.org.

Listen Now! Check out our Program Guide at wolc.org

wolc.org | readthemanna.org | January 2011

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f you ever watch the game show The Price is Right, you may have seen a particular game by the name of “That’s Too Much.” It’s pretty simple. The contestant is playing to win a car, and he or she is shown ten prices for the car, one by one, lowest to highest. As soon as the contestant sees the first figure that is more than the actual cost, the player has to exclaim, “That’s too much!” But you can’t just say the phrase – you have to yell it. With certain contestants, this can be kind of funny. I can think of times in my everyday life when it would be beneficial to have someone holler that very sentiment in my direction (maybe right in my ear?)... before I buy that thing I don’t need, reach for that extra slice of pizza, or say that comeback remark I’ll later regret. For me, there are many scenarios that can reach a “too much” level. But I doubt it’s just a personal issue. Don’t we as a society tend to

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hen Jesus said, “Whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also,” was He telling His followers to be passive gluttons for punishment? Far from it. Nothing about Jesus was passive. He endured punishment for the sin of the entire world intentionally, not passively. In fact, He pursued it. He said this was the reason He came to Earth. Think about how Jesus confronted others – not only the religious leaders but ordinary people – with the truth. He paid a great price to tell the truth when, for many of us, it would have been easier to wimp out. Jesus’ instruction to offer the other cheek came after He declared, “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I tell you not to resist an evil person.” Similarly, the apostle Paul wrote, “Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord.”

This says to give up the right to get even, but it is not a directive to be passive. It means to purposefully trust God to enforce justice. The expression “glutton for punishment” means someone who eagerly adopts a heavy burden or accepts a difficult task in order to please others. That idiom also has spiritual implications. But just because Jesus is calling us to do something hard, we aren’t supposed to be doormats. Neither should we become proud. In an attempt to live as Christ, some of His followers deliberately attract abuse by being abrasive. They think they are persecuted for their faith rather than because of their attitude. Whether consciously or not, they develop a martyr complex – a victim mentality which may seem humble but is actually egotistical. The self-proclaimed martyr seeks to vindicate himself by enduring hardship as Jesus did. He receives attention by suffering. Spiritually, he becomes a glutton for punishment. Jesus said His followers would be


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persecuted for believing in Him, not for trying to try to take His place with a martyr complex. Rather than attempting to duplicate Christ’s atonement, we are told to be Christlike. This means to emulate His nature. “Learn from Me,” Jesus said, “for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” Bearing Jesus’ spiritual likeness, wrote Paul, entails love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Gluttony is described as a lack of self-control. Being a glutton for punishment is the opposite of being Christlike. It takes greater discipline to be merciful than it does to suffer. Jesus’ ministry was all about mercy. He wanted people to show it and receive it. In fact, He taught that God will not forgive us unless we first forgive others. Mercy is more than making a statement of forgiveness. It is loving our enemies, doing good to those who hate us, blessing those who curse us, praying for those who

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Full by Josh Millwood

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here is a threshold. It’s the moment where I am no longer hungry, and my body says “That’s good enough.” I am a master of ignoring that warning. Somewhere in my past full came to mean can’t physically fit another bite in here. Instead of enjoying in moderation, I redefined enjoyment to somehow mean “more than I need.” And you know what? That’s sin. We have a love/hate relationship with the word sin, don’t we? We overuse it when talking about the struggles of others, but if it gets tossed out aimed at ourselves, well that is just straight up offensive. But I’m confessing to you, I am guilty of regularly being gluttonous. In God’s eye that is exactly the same as lying, murdering, living as a homosexual, taking the Lord’s name in vain, stealing, doing drugs … It’s a long list, I think I’ll stop (for Sins: Greatest Hits, check out Deuteronomy). The point is that my over-eating is one of the reasons that Christ had to die on the cross. I am baffled at how stupidly selfish I can be. I’m overweight because of this lifestyle of excess – trashing the Temple of the Holy Spirit simply because I do not discipline myself. By disciplining myself, I don’t mean punishing myself. I do that, for sure. I wrack myself with guilt, make promises to God to never sin again and live life as a completely defeated person. Guess what? Another sin! According to God, I’m His child, so to behave like Satan has any authority over me is just wrong. What I need to do – what I attempt to do time and again – is discipline my behavior. Paul describes life as a race. He says we are to run to win – to train to run – to be disciplined. I envy my friends in the military sometimes. Not so much the living overseas away from family to fight in wars part, but the discipline that they have. They know self control. They know how to train to be a winner. All disciplines take time to master. They take effort and commitment. I recall hearing someone say that to make a habit permanent you must repeat it for 21 days straight. I don’t know if that is scientific or urban legend, but I’d be willing to put it to the test.

Pick a discipline; whether it be physical, spiritual, or mental (maybe all three) and practice that discipline for three straight weeks. I bet it would stick. Then again, I’ve done the 40 Days of Purpose several times, and as soon as that book is over, my quiet time seems to go on vacation for a while. It’s not like I try to sin. It is still second nature – even if my first nature is now the Mind of Christ. I exercise regularly (three to five times a week). I have cut back on fast food, desserts, unhealthy practices, and I’ve gone to the doctor many times to find medicines to help me control myself. But then I’ll go out to dinner with friends, and just eat and eat and eat. In my head I’ll say “I’m paying outrageous prices for this meal, so it would be wrong for me to not overindulge!” Lie. “Well I don’t eat McDonald’s often, so a large fry is warranted.” Lie. “You deserve that 4000 calorie brownie sundae; after all you worked hard this week.” Lie. Jesus said that if your hand (even your good hand!) causes you to sin, lop it off at the nub. It’s better to have one hand than to suffer the consequence of sin. That consequence is death. And more than just a physical death. When I sin, I take my eyes off of Jesus. He never leaves me, but I turn away from Him. And when your heart belongs to Christ and you are not looking at Him, it’s empty. Something is wrong – it is scary and it hurts. I don’t know how to cut off my insatiable sweet tooth, but I bet I can discipline myself better. So, for a New Years resolution, I’m not aiming for the impossible goals or spending a bunch of money on pre-owned P90X DVDs. I’m committing myself to work on discipline. It helps to have some accountability so that the list of disciplines doesn’t get trashed like last year’s resolutions. Each New Year, well really each new day, it is not a bad idea to write down ways that we can work to become more like Christ and less like ourselves. For me, a good place to start is by stopping when I’m full.

wolc.org | readthemanna.org | January 2011

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Owners and Caretakers By Randy Walter

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n this country, where fully two-thirds of the people are considered overweight, the obvious inference when writing about “gluttony” is overeating. But I like to break down words and take them to their origins. When you consider “gluttony” as a derivative of “glut,” meaning overabundance, it is obvious that gluttony does not happen unless there is excess. But excess is not its cause. The true root of gluttony is a misplaced sense of ownership. The best way to learn God’s perspective on ownership is to first be a trustworthy caretaker. Jesus spoke many parables to show how good stewards are rewarded while irresponsible ones are punished. He said, “Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much. So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches? And if you have not been trustworthy with someone else’s property, who will give you property of your own?” From a biblical perspective, what really belongs to us? The Bible says everything we have, we’ve been given. We don’t even belong to ourselves. King David wrote, “The earth is the Lord’s, and all its fullness, the world and those who dwell therein.” The wisest people I know view themselves as custodians of wealth rather than owners of empires. They see fortune as an assignment, not an entitlement. They are acutely aware of what the Bible says about stewarding wealth rather than squandering it. Jesus’ oft-quoted parable of the talents serves as their example— A man entrusted his goods to his servants, then left on a journey. The wise servants invested what they were given and produced an increase, but the lazy one kept what he was given as though it belonged to him. When they gave an accounting, those who invested as stewards were commended, but he who acted as an owner was chastised. Wealthy people I admire are those who can’t be distinguished from regular folks. They don’t flaunt their advantage with indulgent living. Instead, they are approachable, chari-

table, normal. They see themselves as servants because of the wealth rather than due to it. That’s a real departure from “He who dies with the most toys wins.” How many tales have you read about heirs to fortunes or lottery winners whose lives changed for the worse rather than the better? They were unprepared to steward riches. Instead, they spent everything they received. And spending becomes an addiction. What was sufficient yesterday is not enough today. That is gluttony beyond fattening one’s stomach. It is insatiable avarice. The parable of the prodigal (meaning wasteful) son is a great illustration. Not content to wait for his inheritance, he demanded it from his father, then left and squandered it on “riotous living.” Soon he had nothing left and hired himself out to slop pigs, who ate better than he did. Common sense told him it was better to be a servant in his father’s household than to starve. He returned and admitted his folly, and his father showed mercy and restored him to the family. For generations, the majority of us have been accustomed to possessing enough – and more. Yet when we become aware of the plight of the world’s truly poor, it’s easy to recoil and feel like we’re being manipulated when asked to carve into our comfort and share. Sure, we are also a generous nation – because we can afford to be. When we give out of our excess, God sees it differently than we do. The Bible records an incident where Jesus watched people bring money to the temple treasury, and many of them gave large amounts. Then a poor widow put in two mites, small copper coins which together were worth the equivalent of about a quarter-cent. “Truly I say to you that this poor widow has put in more than all; for all these out of their abundance have put in offerings for God, but she out of her poverty put in all the livelihood that she had,” Jesus declared. “From him to whom much has been given, much is required,” Jesus said. Just as we can’t worship God and Mammon (the god of wealth and greed) at the same time, we can’t be both givers and gluttons. wolc.org | readthemanna.org | January 2011

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Impeccable Timing By Brittney Switala

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mpeccable timing… It is possible that you came to read this issue of the Manna after a hard work-out and you’re now relaxing with a bowl of celery sticks that are a part of your new January health plan, but for me it’s completely different. I am writing this article with the Christmas fudge still on the counter, a buffet spread still to come and a relative urging me to try her new recipe. In some twisted way, it is appropriate. I am facing the choice of gluttony, while you may be on the other side of it. It seems as though that’s what January is for – undoing the damage that we knowingly did to ourselves in December. I once read an article about the humble beginnings of a now national Christian weight loss movement. It started as a group of gals who wanted to gain control over their weight, but didn’t know where to start. As the group was deciding on a leader, one woman stood out, because she was thin. Her words stuck with me, “Just because I’m thin doesn’t mean I have self-control.” I think we have a tendency to be automatically critical of those who are overweight and praise those who are lighter on the scales. Weight is not a true indication of whether someone struggles with gluttony. As that woman in the basement said, self-control is the root issue. With many sins it is easy to recognize lack of self-control. If I am drunk, I did not properly put limits on my drinking. If I lash out in anger and a relationship is damaged, then I have not shown self-control with my tongue. If I lack self-control in my eating, how do I know? How do I know if it is sinful? A friend of mine is a tri-athlete and needs a huge number of calories to fuel his activity each day. An older female friend gains weight when she eats very little because weight gain is a side effect of her medication. Wedding parties in biblical times lasted for days. Christ’s first miracle was to turn water into wine at one of these events where one would expect to see plenty of gluttony. At the same time, the book of Proverbs gives us clear warnings about excessive eating. Proverbs 23:20-21 warns us, “Do not join those who drink too much wine or gorge themselves on meat, for drunkards and gluttons become poor, and drowsiness clothes them in rags.” While you and I might define gluttony as a general lack of self control in the area of eating, early theologians had much broader definitions. In his Summa Theologica (Part 2-2, Question 148, Article 4), Thomas Aquinas defined a list of five ways to commit gluttony:

Laute - eating food that is too luxurious, exotic, or costly Nimis - eating food that is excessive in quantity Studiose - eating food that is too daintily or elaborately prepared Praepropere - eating too soon, or at an inappropriate time Ardenter - eating too eagerly.

Does that mean eating between meals, fine dining and eating fresh pineapple instead of canned is gluttonous? I don’t think so. Actually, much of this is a matter of perspective. If lobster does not fit in the budget, don’t eat it. This is not a matter of gluttony; it’s a matter of poor stewardship of resources. Food can be beautifully “plated” (as the Food Channel would say) and that is not sinful. However, if you cannot afford that type of food or overeat it, it is sinful for you. Eating at inappropriate times may show lack of self-control in a child, but eating those small, frequent meals as prescribed by your doctor may actually show tremendous self-control. The problem with the “eager eating” Thomas Aquinas discussed is overeating. When we eat too eagerly and shovel food into our faces, we overeat because we aren’t thinking about the amount of food we have already devoured. Since it is still mealtime, we think that means we have to eat for the same length of time as those around us. Honestly, “thinking” seems to be the answer when it comes to gluttony. For some reason we tend to turn off our brains when it comes to food. We live stressful lives with jobs that require too many hours and families that require our undivided attention. Food tends to be the place where we can unwind and avoid thinking. If we go to a restaurant, we simply look at a menu to decide what looks good and eat what we feel we need to eat on our plate to get our money’s worth. “Getting our money’s worth” usually means gluttony. One thought is to simply have the waiter box up half of a meal before it is served. That removes one temptation. (If it were only that easy at the next church potluck!) God’s impeccable timing strikes me personally. I have seen all too well how eating foods I love (especially to excess) can make me sick. I discovered this week that I have several food allergies which will require a life change. I didn’t really want to think about gluttony at the holidays, but now I’m glad a have!

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n a world of finger-pointing, Tetsuya Ishikawa paused instead to confess guilt.  After seven years at the forefront of the credit markets, he took the idea of a friend to write a book called How I Caused the Credit Crunch because, in the friend’s analysis, “it sounds like you did.” In the form of a novel that discredits the notion of the financial sector as a collaboration of remote, unthinking forces, he admits in flesh and blood that he believes he is guilty, too.  Though reviewers note Ishikawa does not remain long with his admission of responsibility, he succeeds in showing the financial markets as a reflection of human choices with moral dimensions and, ultimately, the futility of our ongoing attempts at finding a better scapegoat.  Whenever the subject of blame or fault comes about in any sector of life, whether economic, societal, or individual, scapegoating is a far more common reaction than confessing.  Most of us are most comfortable when blame is placed as far away from us as possible.  Even the word “confession,” the definition of which is concerned with owning a fault or belief, is now often associated with the sins of others, which an outspoken soul just happens to be willing to share with the world.  We are interested in the confessions of a former investment banker/warlord/baseball wife because the ‘owning up’ has nothing to do with owning anything. 

Perhaps like many of us in our own confessing, Charles Templeton’s 1996 book, Farewell to God, and the confessions of a former Christian leader, is filled with moments of confession in both senses of word – honest commentary and easy scapegoating.  In his thoughts that deal with the Christian church, it is particularly apparent.  Pointing at every sector of the world, Templeton observes that the church indeed has a speckled past.  “Across the centuries and on every continent, Christians – the followers of the Prince of Peace – have been the cause of and involved in strife.  The church during the Middle Ages was like a terrorist organization.”  He admits that some good has come from Christian belief, but that there is altogether too much bad that has come from it.  He then cites the church’s declining numbers as evidence that the world is in agreement; people are losing interest because the church is failing to be relevant.  Pews are empty; denominations oppose one another; the church is floundering, its influence waning – except perhaps among those who persuade by slinging guilt. Many of these confessions regarding the church are indeed riddled with difficult truths that someone somewhere must indeed own.  Other assertions are not only difficult to posit as germane, but are simply dishonest attempts to point blame and escape the more personal, consistent answer. 


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As Templeton determinedly points out the steady decline of attendance in the church, it is unclear how this supports his personal confession that Christian beliefs are untrue.  Does the claim of the church’s decline (the veracity of which is debated) say anything about whether Christianity is based on lies, lunacy, or fact?  Jesus spoke of those who would turn away, churches that would grow cold, faith that would be abandoned.  Moreover, if one is truly convinced that Christianity is an outlandish hoax, isn’t odd that so much energy is taken in criticizing the church in the first place—as if one had a vision of what the people of God should look like.    Of course, responding to Templeton’s darker admissions regarding the church, I am at times tempted to make a scapegoating confession of my own.  Specifically, if I could reasonably judge God by some of God’s followers, I would surely say farewell as well.  Like Templeton, I have seen so many lives badly wounded by the pulpit, people trampled by those who call themselves Christians.  I have been more disillusioned within the church than I ever have outside of it.  Templeton confesses in his book that the church “has seldom been at its best,” and on this point, I couldn’t agree more.  But I would add a critical addendum; namely, that I am rarely at my best.  I am a part of this church who fails to love well, who says things that hurt, and

falls short of its best on a regular basis.  But if the church is truly meant to be the place where followers learn to become more like Christ, then I also can’t imagine a better place to be.  Failings and all, it is the community that communes with the one who longs most for us to be at our best.  Of he who meets us in this place, it was once confessed: “The righteous one shall make many righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities” (Isaiah 53:12).  It was with such a conviction that G.K. Chesterton responded to a newspaper seeking opinions on the question “What’s wrong with the world?” in one sentence.   “Dear Sirs,” he replied, “I am.”  In any confession of dark realities, can our own hearts really be excluded?  It was with visions of war and brokenness around him that David prayed, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me” (Psalm 51:10).  This, I believe, is humanity’s best confession. Jill Carattini is managing editor of A Slice of Infinity at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Atlanta, Georgia.   What’s Wrong with the World by Jill Carattini, A Slice of Infinity, No. 2292, orignally printed September 20, 2010 (www.rzim.org). Used by permission of Ravi Zacharias International Ministries.

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Calling a Glutton a Glutton By Diana Pletts


C

hristmas is past. The tree is out on the curb, or safely boxed away for another year. Leftover cookies have been frozen or scarfed, and crumbs swept away with crumpled wrappings and torn ribbons. We have reached now that time of year where the calendar begins anew, and we pause to contemplate the changes that we are certain, or hopeful, or maybe, doubtful, that we will actually accomplish in this new year. Following a time of excess, typically “losing weight” is on many a list of New Year’s Resolutions. But, possibly, thinking about the backstory, beyond the desire to look good, might get us to actually lose the weight this year, and keep the resolution off the list for next year. So what might this backstory be? Over the years, we have become a more politically correct population. This has run the gamut from no longer telling ethnic or religious jokes, to referring in ever-changing euphemisms to, among a host of others, the unborn, the unwed, and the un-working. We are expected to politely overlook all manner of hedonistic or barbaric “life-style choices.” Further, our scandalously over-psychologized society permits excuses for these life-style choices. Politicians and media celebrities get caught in heinous acts, but a public apology and a swift trip to a rehab makes everything alright. And let no one call what they’ve done a sin, because, well, we don’t use that term anymore. We have “issues” and “problems,” but not sins. There’s a problem with that, however. Not only is it not true, it keeps us from arriving at a solution to our “problem.” Jesus’ disciple John, said, in 1John 1: 9, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” It’s only by confessing our sin that we can move on, and get the help that we need, but that requires a truth- telling that

we seem to find difficult to manage, these days, even to ourselves. I once explored the possibility of joining a pay-to-join weight loss group, and attended the initial meeting with an acquaintance. On our way in, she ducked her head, and said, with shame, “Now everyone will know we’re fat.” Bemused by her comment, as I assumed that if others were not blind then they already recognized that fact, I responded, “Everyone already knows it. Now we’re just doing something about it.” Somehow, the reality of our appearance had escaped her! Apparently she hoped that the truth of how we looked was not evident to others! Like the villagers in The Emperor’s New Clothes, we lie. We lie to others and we lie to ourselves, and pretend things aren’t as they truly are. But pretending doesn’t make it so. And, until we as individuals and as a people take the blinders off our eyes and agree to call sin what it is, and refuse to excuse it in ourselves, we are stuck in our issues and problems. So, in the hopes that next year you and I will have one less item on our list of New Year’s Resolutions, let us call gluttony for what it is: a sin of self-indulgence, of over-eating another tasty morsel to the point of a bursting belly. Let us begin to be honest with ourselves and with others, and stop soft pedaling our sins as “issues” and psychological problems. In Revelation 3:17, Jesus says of the Church in Laodicea, “You say, ‘I am rich; I …do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind, and naked.” It is only in the church’s agreement with Christ’s assessment that they have a chance at overcoming their pitiful state. In the same way, maybe it’s time to start calling a spade, a spade, and a glutton, a glutton. When that happens we’ll have an actual solution.

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America’s Prophet: Bruce Feller

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New York Times bestselling author Bruce Feiler traces Moses – the prophet, deliverer and lawgiver – as a cornerstone of this nation’s legacy. Moses is more than a relief figure on the portico of the U.S. Supreme Court building. He is more than a reference for our legal and social values. He is the reluctant emancipator, the savior without a desire to promote himself. He is God’s agent of redemption for a grumbling, ungrateful people. Feiler reflects on interviews and revelation, family traditions and American history to connect the dots between this ancient figure and the mold in which America was formed. From the Plymouth Pilgrims who sailed in 1620 to found a New Israel, to the Patriots who freed the colonies from British oppression, to current politicians who cast themselves as types of Moses, Feiler weaves a saga of founders, heroes and leaders who invoked Moses’ name as they saw themselves guiding a nation out of its wilderness and into its destiny. “Why did these leaders choose this 3,000-year-old story?” Feiler asks. He cites America’s establishment after the deprivation, starvation and decimation of the early settlers to answer to his question: “God hears His children when they suffer and helps deliver them to safety.”.

A reasonably understandable explanation of why Jesus came to earth, The Divine Visitor uses modern day examples to explain God’s love for his creation – mankind – and His intent to ransom us from the powers of sin. These real life examples help give shape to the difficult questions of a God who could, literally, condescend Himself to become one of us; how He, as a man, could endure the physical pain of crucifixion; how God Himself could stand the indefinable experience of His Son on the cross. One of the big mistakes of this book, however, is in its effort to “one up” the Passion. Had Hayford stuck to the deeper theological components of his mission, he may have been better off than to have tried so hard to demonstrate those truths with examples from human life – in doing so, he may have contradicted his very purpose.

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Boys and Their Trucks By B. A. Timmons

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he last words from the nurse before I left the medical center were “don’t make any important decisions today.” The anesthesia tended to leave one in a fog for some period of time. I failed to follow her advice, and by 6:30 that evening, we had a new truck. I have been driving a ‘93 Chevy S-10 4x4 for the past 7 1/2 years. With 175,000 miles, and showing signs of old age, it seemed prudent to begin looking for a re-

placement. That process began roughly six months ago. No sense in rushing. It was apparent that the truck I wanted with the parameters I had set would be difficult to come by. So I diligently looked, checking the crucial internet sights almost daily. I had just told my wife that my patience was reaching an end. I returned home from my medical procedure confined to light duty. Wanting to make the most of the time, I went on a local dealer’s web site and looked at their


CROPPER inventory. Finding nothing, I filled out a form to alert them of the vehicle I desired, and got my first call within a few hours. The salesman did not have anything like what I wanted, but would let me know if anything turned up. Within the hour, he called back. A truck had been traded that day. I should come take a look. Since this salesman was only doing what I had requested, it was only fit to respond. I took my whole family down to investigate. It was, in fact, everything he had described, and what I had been searching for. The price was a little higher than what I had hoped to pay, but we made the decision that it was worth it. The following morning, my wife jokingly/somewhat seriously told me she was hoping I wasn’t worried I had made a poor decision under the after-effects of anesthesia. No, I was pretty confident my head was clear by 6:30 p.m. But I did confess that something was nagging me. So I had to walk through all the possibilities to try to determine what that might be. Were we being good stewards with that money? I may have gotten another year or two out of my old S-10. I had wanted to move to a full sized extended cab 4x4 to have the room to take our four kids to the beach fishing. I suppose I could have made due with another S-10, and abandoned the fishing idea. And of course there was that irksome thought of the possibility of the whole U.S economy crashing again, this time even worse. Then there are the unemployed who would be perfectly content in my shoes to keep driving the Chevy while just trying to feed their families. Oh, and what about saving for college and retirement? But this “new” truck was ten years old with 100,000 miles. The four wheel drive was practically a necessity. Moving to the full size would accommodate more tools and materials. To no great surprise, I was approaching the problem with my typical analysis. The best my logical mind could do was to create a burden that caused my brain to hurt. I could see both sides of the mental argument, and neither outweighed the other. The following day, I was pondering on Jacob. We had been studying the stealing of the birthright and blessing stories. The Lord always meant to bless Jacob, even from the time he was in the womb, but Jacob worked his hardest anyway to try to gain that blessing. It would appear that

he just didn’t trust God to do what He was planning to do anyway. Or perhaps he was missing the main point. Somehow, the Lord is able to take what you are reading and apply it to your own life, often unexpectedly. Ugh. You don’t suppose I had an issue of trust here? I believe the Lord has provided for us in the past. I believe that He is providing for us right now. But apparently it was my trust that He would provide for us in the future which was at issue. Money in the bank represents security to the eyes of flesh. Certainly it is prudent to save for the future; but fear of actually using those funds for a need now because we might need them in the future, well, that has doubt written all over it. In my mind, Jacob seemed unclear about what the blessing actually was, and how it would come about. So he worked feverishly to make sure it happened. He could not rest in the promise that God would bring it to pass. I found myself almost unwittingly wrestling with a concern about future provision. I would have to decide if I could continue to trust the Lord and rest, despite an unseen future, or fret. The Lord needed to do a work in my fretting department. After coming to this conclusion, I spoke about it with one of the friends with whom I was studying Jacob. He gently reminded me of one of the key points we had been discussing. I was neglecting the heart of the Jacob story. The real substance of the blessing which the Lord intended for Jacob was Himself. And He would ultimately be manifested through Jacob and his descendants in the person of Christ. The world would be blessed through Christ. The bottom line of my truck purchase quandary is this – I don’t know what the material provision will look like for my family in the future. But there is no need to fret about it, because I do know we are blessed beyond our expectations in the person of Christ. This doesn’t mean we can handle our finances irresponsibly, and it doesn’t mean we won’t go through slim times - more than likely we will. But Christ has been given to us freely, therefore we have all we need. What our future holds is simply a fuller understanding of what we already have now in Him. And that will sustain us through whatever the future brings.

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The Manna January 2011