Did you know that the celebration of Easter does not end on Easter Sunday, and that it actually extends for 50 days (7 weeks) up through Pentecost Sunday? This period of time is known as Eastertide. I published a blog post on April 5, 2021, titled, “This Season of New Beginnings,” that describes this season of joy and celebration. As of today, May 8, 2023, we are 30 days into the 50 days of Easter–the number of days from April 9, 2023 (Easter) through May 28, 2023 (Pentecost).
Easter for Christians is not just one day, but rather a 50-day period. The season of Easter, or Eastertide, begins at sunset on the eve of Easter and ends on Pentecost, the day we celebrate the gift of the Holy Spirit and the birth of the Church (see Acts 2).
Easter is also more than just an extended celebration of the resurrection of Jesus. By the mid 4th century in the early church, Lent was a season for new converts to learn about the faith and prepare for baptism on Easter Sunday. The initial purpose of the 50-day Easter season was to continue the faith formation of new Christians.
Today, this extended season gives us time to rejoice and experience what it means when we say Christ is risen. It is the season when we remember our baptism and how through this sacrament we are, according to the liturgy, “incorporated into Christ’s mighty acts of salvation.” As “Easter people,” we also celebrate and ponder the birth of the Church and gifts of the Spirit (Pentecost), and how we are to live as faithful disciples of Christ.
One way the church pursues this goal of seeing God present in the world is through the reading of the Acts of the Apostles [Book of Acts]. At worship services through the Easter season, our usual practice of reading from the Old Testament can be replaced with readings from the Acts of the Apostles. These readings tell the story of the church’s earliest days, and the beginnings of our faith’s spreading throughout the ancient world. These stories of heroism, controversies, persecutions and miracles all testify to the continued presence of the Risen Christ in the world, through the lives of his disciples, and the actions of the Holy Spirit.
All of this is a sign of hope for us today. In spite of imperfection and struggles, God has not abandoned us, nor left us to our own devices. The risen Savior is still with us. These 50 days of Easter ask us to reflect on his presence, and—even in the face of danger or fear—to live with joy. (Quote source here.)
If Lent is a time to give things up, Eastertide ought to be a time to take things up. Champagne for breakfast again–well, of course.
Christian holiness was never meant to be merely negative. Of course, you have to weed the garden from time to time; sometimes the ground ivy may need serious digging before you can get it out. That’s Lent for you. But you don’t want simply to turn the garden back into a neat bed of blank earth.
Easter is the time to sow new seeds and to plant about a few cuttings. If Calvary means putting to death things in your life that need killing off if you are to flourish as a Christian and a truly human being, then Easter should mean planting, watering and training up things in your life (personal and corporate) that ought to be blossoming, filling the garden with color and perfume, and in due course bearing fruit.
The forty days of the Easter season, until the ascension, ought to be a time of balance out Lent by taking something up, some new task or venture, something wholesome and fruitful and outgoing and self-giving.
You may be able to do it only for six weeks, just as you may be able to go without beer or tobacco only for the six weeks of Lent. But if you really make a start on it, it might give you a sniff of new possibilities, new hopes, new ventures you never dreamed of. It might bring something of Easter into your innermost life. It might help you wake up in a whole new way. And that’s what Easter is all about. –N.T. Wright (Quote source here.)
These thoughts by N.T. Wright are very inspiring! I’ve never thought much about the period of time between Easter and Pentecost as I didn’t grow up in a tradition that celebrated that period of time (we did celebrate both Easter and Pentecost, but not the time in between). I love the idea, as N.T. Wright stated, that “Easter is the time to sow new seeds and to plant about a few cuttings. If Calvary means putting to death things in your life that need killing off if you are to flourish as a Christian and a truly human being, then Easter should mean planting, watering and training up things in your life (personal and corporate) that ought to be blossoming, filling the garden with color and perfume, and in due course bearing fruit.”
I do believe I am quite inspired after reading that quote!!!
Ever since the middle of the week between Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday 30+ days ago, I’ve felt as if some kind of “renewal” was starting to happen but it was without explanation, other then up to that point I felt like I was sort of stagnating even though I am an active type person who finds plenty to keep myself occupied.
Perhaps what N.T. Wright stated above is just the “shot in the arm” some of my readers might be needing at this time in their lives and/or in their circumstances. Jesus Christ did, indeed, rise from the dead on Easter morning and brought us who believe in him new life, and it is the Holy Spirit that breathes that new life into our very bones, sinews and being. Now is the time, as N.T. Wright stated, for us to “put to death things in our life that need killing off so we can flourish as a Christian and as a truly human being… blossoming, filling the garden with color and perfume, and in due course bearing fruit.”
Indeed, Amen!!! I’ll end this post with the words from Jesus to his disciples after he had risen from the dead that are found in Matthew 28:16-20: Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted.Then Jesus came to them and said—All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely…
I am with you always . . .
To the very end . . .
Of the age . . . .
YouTube Video: “Holy Spirit Come” by Patrick Mayberry:
We often find ourselves in difficult situations, faced with challenges sometimes nearly impossible to cope with. These challenges could be physical, emotional, spiritual, mental, and the list goes on. Helpless you often wonder if it’s all worth it! Life can be just unfair! However, today be joyful! We have help! Yes–the Holy Spirit. Alleluia! (Quote source here.)
I’ve been thinking about the role of the Holy Spirit in the life of Christians as we are right now in the “in-between” 50-day period between Jesus’ resurrection (celebrated on Easter Sunday, April 9, 2023) and Pentecost, which will be celebrated this year on Sunday, May 28, 2023. Pentecost is “a Christian holiday which takes place on the 50th day (the seventh Sunday) after Easter Sunday. It commemorates the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles and other followers of Jesus Christ while they were in Jerusalem celebrating theFeast of Weeks, as described in theActs of the Apostles (Acts 2:1–31)“ (quote source here).
Of an estimated 176 million American adults who identify as Christian, just 6% or 15 million of them actually hold a biblical worldview, a new study from Arizona Christian University shows.
The finding was published by the Cultural Research Center of Arizona Christian University in its recently releasedAmerican Worldview Inventory, an annual survey that evaluates the worldview of the U.S. adult population. Conducted in February, the survey included a nationally representative sample of 2,000 adults.
The study shows, in general, that while a majority of America’s self-identified Christians, including many who identify as evangelical, believe that God is all-powerful, all-knowing and is the Creator of the universe, more than half reject a number of biblical teachings and principles, including the existence of the Holy Spirit. (Quote source here.)
Further down in his article he states:
Some 62% of self-identified born-again Christians contend that the Holy Spirit is not a real, living being but is merely a symbol of God’s power, presence or purity. Another 61% say that all religious faiths are of equal value, and 60% believe that if a person is good enough, or does enough good things, they can earn their way into Heaven. All these positions challenge a biblical worldview. (Quote source and more findings from the survey are available here.)
These are astonishing statics coming from “self-identified born-again Christians.” Regarding the Holy Spirit, Jesus made the following statements to his disciples right before his crucifixion and resurrection regarding in John 14:15-21, 25-27 and John 15:16 (NIV):
Jesus Promises the Holy Spirit
If you love me, keep my commands. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever—the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be[c] in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live.On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them….
All this I have spoken while still with you.But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid….
When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father—the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father—he will testify about me.
The mystery and nature of God is one that people will not fully understand this side of heaven, and the saints in eternity will spend all that time getting to know Him. One of the unique and complicated aspects of the nature of God is His Triune nature. There is only one God, but He is also three distinct persons. Of these three persons, the one that many consider the most mysterious–even though He is always with the believer–is theHoly Spirit.
Jesus called the Spirit the Comforter, and sometimes the Holy Ghost. It is the presence of the Spirit that sanctifies and convicts Christians after they are saved. It is the Spirit who works in the lives of unbelievers as well, testifying to the truth of who Jesus is to lead them to repentance and salvation. Because this work is spiritual, it can be difficult even for ardent and mature Christians to discern the working of the Holy Spirit.
With prayer, the Bible, and wisdom from other believers, it is possible to recognize the voice and workings of this often misunderstood person in the Trinity. (Quote source here.)
The rest of her article covers the topics of (1) Who is the Holy Spirit?; (2) Is the Spirit just a feeling?; (3) What does the Bible say about the Holy Spirit?; (4) How can I apply this to my real life?; and (5) A prayer to understand the Holy Spirit better; and her article can be read at this link.
The Apostle Paul wrote about what life by the Spirit looks like in Galatians 5:13-26 (NIV):
Life by the Spirit
You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.
So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.
The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery;idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factionsand 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.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.
That is a good place to start in understanding the role of the Holy Spirit in the life of believers. Which are we most prone to doing? The acts of the flesh, or fruits of the Spirit? The more we allow the Spirit to control us, the more those attributes of love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control will take center stage in our lives.
I’ll end this post with the last words of Jesus before he ascended to Heaven that are found in Acts 1:8 (NIV): But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem…
And in all Judea and Samaria . . .
And to the ends . . .
Of the earth . . . .
YouTube Video: “First Things First” by Consumed by Fire:
Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance. So she came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved, and said,“They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!”
So Peter and the other disciple started for the tomb. Both were running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He bent over and looked in at the strips of linen lying there but did not go in. Then Simon Peter came along behind him and went straight into the tomb. He saw the strips of linen lying there,as well as the cloth that had been wrapped around Jesus’ head. The cloth was still lying in its place, separate from the linen. Finally the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went inside. He saw and believed. (They still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead.)Then the disciples went back to where they were staying.
Jesus Appears to Mary Magdalene
Now Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot.
They asked her,“Woman, why are you crying?”
“They have taken my Lord away,”she said,“and I don’t know where they have put him.” At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus.
He asked her,“Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?”
Thinking he was the gardener, she said,“Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.”
Jesus said to her,“Mary.”
She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic,“Rabboni!”(which means “Teacher”).
Jesus said,“Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’”
Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news:“I have seen the Lord!”And she told them that he had said these things to her.
Jesus Appears to His Disciples
On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said,“Peace be with you!”After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.
Again Jesus said,“Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.”And with that he breathed on them and said,“Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”
Jesus Appears to Thomas
Now Thomas (also known as Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him,“We have seen the Lord!”
But he said to them,“Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”
A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said,“Peace be with you!”Then he said to Thomas,“Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”
Thomas said to him,“My Lord and my God!”
Then Jesus told him,“Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
The Purpose of John’s Gospel
Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. (Quote source here.)
The significance of Easter is Jesus Christ’s triumph over death. His resurrection means the eternal life that is granted to all who believe in Him. The purpose of Easter also means the full confirmation of all that Jesus taught and preached during His three-year ministry. If He had not risen from the dead or simply died and not been resurrected, He would have been thought just another teacher or prophet. However, His resurrection rebuked all that and provided final and undeniable proof that He was the Son of God and that He had overcome death once and for all.
The resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead is the core of the Christian gospel. Saint Paul says that if Christ is not raised from the dead, then our preaching and hope are in vain (1 Cor. 15:14). Certainly, without the resurrection, there would be no Christian preaching or faith. The apostles of Christ would have continued as the disheartened group which the Gospel of John depicts being in hiding for fear of the Jews. They were in total despair until they met the risen Christ (John 20:19). Then they touched Christ’s wounds of the nails and the spear; they ate and drank with Him. The resurrection became the foundation of everything they said and did (Acts 2-4):“…for a spirit has not flesh and bones as you see that I have” (Luke 24:39).
The resurrection affirms Jesus of Nazareth as the prophesied Messiah of Israel and the King and Lord of a new Jerusalem: a new heaven and a new earth. (Quote source here.)
Of all the teachings of Christianity, no doctrine is more central than the bodilyresurrectionof Jesus Christ from the dead. The truth of the resurrection has been attacked from every angle. New books and television media regularly appear questioning the resurrection, re-hashing old theories about what happened to Jesus’ body. Since the resurrection is crucial to Christianity, Christians ought to be able to give answers to these inevitable questions with proof and evidence. (Quote source here.) [He provides the answer in his article at this link.]
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son [Jesus Christ], that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.
Gospel means “good news.” And “the gospel of Jesus Christ is the best news anyone will ever hear, and what a person does with this news will determine where he or she spends eternity. God is calling you to choose life. Call on the name of the Lord and be saved” (Romans 10:13) (quote source here).
The question for us today is still the same as it was back then. Do we believe that Jesus Christ is who he claimed to be? Or are we like “Doubting Thomas” who wanted visual, physical proof that Jesus had been resurrected from the dead before he would believe? Jesus provided Thomas with physical proof (see John 20:24-29), and then he told him to “Stop doubting and believe” (John 20:27). Verses 28-29 states Thomas’s response, “Thomas said to him, ‘My Lord and my God!’Then Jesus told him, ‘Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.’”
On this Resurrection Sunday, Christians around the world celebrate that the tomb is empty and that Jesus Christ is resurrected from the dead and alive and living today. For any doubters, he still says, “Stop doubting and believe… blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
I’ll end this post with the last two verses (30 & 31) in John 20 (NIV): Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book.But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God…
And that by believing . . .
You may have life . . .
In His name . . . .
YouTube Video: “Resurrection Power” by Chris Tomlin:
When an old woman rebuked him for his conciliatory attitude toward the South, which she felt should be “destroyed” after the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln replied,“Madam, do I not destroy my enemies when I make them my friends?” (Quote source here.)
In another example, Sun Tzu, an ancient Chinese military general, strategist, philosopher, and writer, who is credited with writing, “The Art of War,” an influential work of military strategy that has affected both Western and East Asian philosophy and military thinking, has often been quoted as saying, “Keep your friends close and your enemies closer.”
Sun Tzu said“Know the enemy and know yourself in a hundred battles you will never be in peril.”When you are ignorant of the enemy but know yourself, your chances of winning or losing are equal. If ignorant both of your enemy and of yourself, you are certain in every battle to be in peril. This deceptively simple instruction, properly applied, is at the essence both of making a sound decision to go to war and of strategic and tactical planning once that decision has been made.Clausewitz[Carl von Clausewitz–aPrussiangeneral andmilitary theorist] further developed this instruction. The purpose of this essay is to apply Sun Tzu’s instruction, drawing on similar principles as articulated by Clausewitz, to determine what, in the modern era, knowing oneself and one’s enemy requires at the national strategy, national military, and operational levels. The author will then demonstrate that in Vietnam and Somalia, the United States let itself get into situations where it knew neither itself nor the enemy, while in Desert Storm, the United States succeeded because it knew both. Finally, the essay will assess at which level knowledge of oneself and ones enemy is most important. (Quote source here.)
The information in the paragraph above goes deeper into the subject than I intend to go in this blog post, but it does show the importance even on a national level of the need to not only know yourself, but to “know your enemy,” too. But how does one learn to “know their enemy,” as enemies can often hide themselves in the cloak of friendship, or as a conciliatory coworker who is secretly out to get our job. The possibilities are endless as to where they can hide without us even knowing about them and/or their existence.
Perhaps we have been lead to believe that an enemy should be obvious to us, such as someone actively opposing us in some way. However, going back to Sun Tzu, clearly that is not always the case. Opposition can be well hidden from us until it is too late, like losing a job when we thought we were doing everything right. Wars are not played out only on the battlefields of opposing nations. They infiltrate our daily lives. And this can happen in any type of relationship or social setting, and not just in the work place.
At the time of this writing we are about two and half weeks away from Good Friday and Easter Sunday. Jesus was nearing the end of his three-year ministry which ends with his crucifixion and his resurrection three days later. Did Jesus have enemies? Absolutely! He had them throughout his three-year ministry, and many of them were Pharisees who were constantly trying to get him killed. They finally succeeded when Jesus was nailed to the cross. Shortly before his death, Jesus talks compassionately to his disciples in John 15 (NIV), and here is part of what he said to them (vv. 9-25):
As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. This is my command: Love each other.
If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the one who sent me. If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not be guilty of sin; but now they have no excuse for their sin. Whoever hates me hates my Father as well. If I had not done among them the works no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin. As it is, they have seen, and yet they have hated both me and my Father. But this is to fulfill what is written in their Law: ‘They hated me without reason.’
Nothing has changed for the followers of Jesus Christ from when he was crucified and resurrected back in the 1st Century up through today. It is clearly stated by Jesus himself that if the world hates us, it is because the world hated him first. So yes, if we claim to be followers (believers) in Jesus Christ, we have enemies whether we actually see them or know who they are, or not–they are still there. The evidence is found throughout the New Testament and in the life of Jesus’ disciples, and in the life of Paul and all of the followers of Jesus down through the ages to today.
However, our focus as Christians regarding our enemies is not to fear them (or spend a lot of time focusing on them) or to unrealistically believe that they don’t exist–e.g., regarding those who do oppose Christianity here in America but they do it subversively. I remember being raised to believe that persecution happens in other countries, but it could never happen here in America because America is a Christian nation and we have religious freedom and the Constitution on our side. However, America today is quite different from the America I was raised in as a child and teenager back in the 1950’s and 60’s. Even the Christian heydays (in the music industry and publishing and society-at-large) of the 1980’s and 90’s has long since passed, and we are becoming an increasing secular society.
At the beginning of this post is a picture with a quote from Charles Wesley that states, “Be friends of everyone. Be enemies of no one.” I Googled to find information on that specific quote but found nothing, so I asked the question on ChatGPT, and I was provided with following brief information regarding that quote [Note: the two sentences in purple font inside the brackets came from a different source noted at the end of that quote]:
Charles Wesley was born in England in 1707 and was the youngest of 18 children. He was educated at Oxford University, where he and his older brother, John Wesley (born in 1703), started the Methodist movement. [Note: “At Oxford, John joined his brother, Charles, and a group of earnest students who were dedicated to frequent attendance at Holy Communion, serious study of the Bible, and regular visitations to the filthy Oxford prisons. The members of this group, which Wesley came to lead, were known as Methodists because of their ‘methodical’ devotion and study.” Quote source and history of Methodism are available at this link.] Charles Wesley was known for his prolific hymn writing and is credited with writing over 6,500 hymns, many of which are still sung in churches today.
Wesley’s theology emphasized the importance of a personal relationship with God and a life of holiness and love. He believed that Christians should strive to love and serve others, even those who were different from them or who disagreed with them. He was a strong advocate for social justice and spoke out against slavery and other forms of oppression.
The quote “Be friends of everyone. Be enemies of no one”is often cited as a reflection of Wesley’s belief in the importance of friendship and unity. It is a call to love others and to seek peace and harmony in all relationships. The quote has been embraced by many people as a guiding principle for building positive relationships and promoting understanding and respect. (Quote source ChatGPT.)
If you notice, the focus of the quote is not on our enemies or who they might be. The focus is on us, and that we should not automatically perceive anyone that we come into contact with as our enemies. That does not mean we are naïve about others, but that we treat them as friends or at least with kindness even if we are just passing by them on the street.
This follows the same type of reasoning as Sun Tzu’s quote, “Keep your friends close and your enemies closer.” I did ask ChatCPT about Sun Tzu’s quote, and I received the following answer:
The quote “Keep your friends close and your enemies closer” is attributed to the ancient Chinese military strategist and philosopher Sun Tzu, who is best known for his book “The Art of War.” The quote suggests that it is important to be aware of and closely monitor one’s enemies in order to anticipate their actions and respond effectively.
In the context of warfare, Sun Tzu’s quote suggests that it is wise to keep one’s enemies under close surveillance and to gain knowledge of their strengths, weaknesses, and intentions. By doing so, one can be better prepared to defend against attacks and to take advantage of any opportunities that may arise.
However, the quote is not limited to military contexts and can also be applied more broadly to personal and professional relationships. It suggests that it is important to be aware of potential threats or challenges, even from those who may appear to be allies or friends. By keeping a close eye on one’s enemies, one can anticipate their actions and respond effectively to any potential threats or challenges.
Overall, the quote“Keep your friends close and your enemies closer”suggests that it is important to be vigilant and strategic in all relationships, whether they are personal or professional, in order to stay ahead of potential threats and to achieve one’s goals. (Quote source ChatGPT.)
Jesus was very clear on how we as his followers should treat our enemies. I received the following information from ChatGPT:
Jesus taught his followers to love and pray for their enemies, and to treat them with kindness and forgiveness. InMatthew 5:44, Jesus says,“But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”
InLuke 6:27-28, Jesus says,“But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.”
Jesus also taught his followers to not seek revenge, but to turn the other cheek and to forgive others. InMatthew 5:38-39, Jesus says,“You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also.”
Furthermore, inMatthew 6:14-15, Jesus says,“For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”
Jesus’ teachings about loving and forgiving our enemies are challenging, but they offer a path to healing and reconciliation in relationships. Rather than seeking revenge or holding grudges, Jesus encouraged his followers to seek peace and forgiveness, even with those who have wronged them. (Quote sourceChatGPT.)
It is my hope that this information is helpful. How to deal with our enemies in the right way is often very hard to incorporate into our lives and our actions, and no doubt we slip and fall over it more then we’d like to admit. However, the truth in any circumstance is this–we don’t have all the details behind what is going on or even why things have happened to us that have had an adverse effect on us. There are two verses that always come to my mind when I encounter tough situations that I have no clue how to resolve, and I’ll end this post with those two verses. They are found in Proverbs 3:5-6 (NKJV): Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him…
And He . . .
Shall direct . . .
Your paths . . . .
YouTube Video: “Love God Love People” by Danny Gokey:
The idea that we are living in a “post-Christian” America is not a new concept. Just look around if you want evidence that it exists, and it’s existence is not found in small numbers, either. But first, let’s look at what we mean by “post-Christian” America.
American Christianity is undergoing a “post-Christian Reformation”— and rather than providing leadership and faithfulness in an age of moral decline, members of the majority of the nation’s major Christian groups are rapidly leaving biblical foundations behind and exchanging traditional theological beliefs for the culture’s secular values.
New research from theCultural Research Center at Arizona Christian Universityfinds that members of the nation’s four main Christian groups—evangelicals, Pentecostals and charismatics, mainline Protestants, and Catholics—are customizing their beliefs and creating new worldviews that are only loosely tied to the biblical distinctives that have historically defined them.
According to CRC Director of Research Dr. George Barna, who conducted the research,“The irony of the reshaping of the spiritual landscape in America is that it represents a post-Christian Reformation driven by people seeking to retain a Christian identity.”Barna explained,“Unfortunately, the theology of this reformation is being driven by American culture rather than biblical truth.”
ACU President Len Munsil agreed.“As Christians, we are called to be ‘salt and light;’ to transform the culture around us by sharing biblical principles and living according to God’s truth. This latest research shows just the opposite is occurring.”
“What we are seeing is an American Christianity that is rapidly conforming to the values of a post-Christian secular culture,”Munsil said.“As a nation we are in need of a reset first to change the direction of individual Christians, and, ultimately, to transform culture.”
Most stunning in the research is the radical departure by evangelicals from traditional Scriptural teachings and historical reliance on the Bible. Evangelicals are rapidly embracing secularism, with a majority (52%) rejecting absolute moral truth, 75% believing that people are basically good rather than the biblical view of humans having a sin nature, and 61% admitting they no longer read the Bible on a daily basis. One-third to one-half of evangelicals embrace a variety of beliefs and behaviors in direct conflict with longstanding evangelical teaching, according to the American Worldview Inventory 2020.
The study found that the slide into secularism is even more pronounced among Pentecostals and charismatics. Two-thirds (69%) reject absolute moral truth; 54% are unwilling to define human life as sacred, with half claiming the Bible is ambiguous in its teaching about abortion, and 69% say they prefer socialism to capitalism. A full 45% did not meet the definition of born-again Christians. (Quote source and complete article are available at this link.)
So, what does it mean for a society to be post-Christian? GotQuestion.org answers that question with the following information:
The term “post-Christian” has no universally accepted definition, though it is often applied to modern Western cultures. In that use, a post-Christian society is historically based in Christian ideas and follows simplified Christian values, but rejects the authority of Christianity and does not consider it the basis of either its ethics or its culture. The Christian language and expression that once permeated society become rare or superficial in a post-Christian society. In contrast to other cultures that are explicitly anti-Christian or grounded in a different religion, such as Islam, a post-Christian society selectively claims virtues rooted in a Christian worldview, while selectively rejecting the truths that make those values possible.
The change in society is not necessarily about identification: a large proportion of those exhibiting a post-Christian worldview may still identify themselves with the term Christian.Labelsdo not replace reality, however (2 Corinthians 13:5). Many self-identified “Christians” in a post-Christian society lack basic knowledge of biblical faith. Prior generations took such knowledge for granted; its absence widens the disconnect between the culture’s assumed values and its self-perception. Fading understanding of biblical faith, ironically, sometimes leads people to think they “know better” than their spiritual predecessors (seeProverbs 15:5).
A common thread in “post-Christian” culture is the assumption of Christian values without respect forChristian contributions. That which is perceived as “good” is assumed to be self-evident, despite having Christian roots. Restrictions that conflict with evolving desires are assumed to be frivolous, despite having prevented disaster in the past (Proverbs 13:14). In truth, most distinguishing values of Western culture—both positive obligations and restraints—are natural only to a Judeo-Christian worldview.
Prior to widespread acceptance of Christianity, the values taken for granted in post-Christian cultures were virtually nonexistent.Human equality, gender equality, the fallibility of human government, andcharityas an obligation were all unknown in pagan cultures such as ancient Rome. Pre-Christiansexual ethicsemphasized the inherent right of the strong to take advantage of the weak.Slavery—contrary to common myths—was widely opposed by early Christians and eventually abolished only through efforts grounded in a Christian worldview. The scientific method itself is rooted in assumptions found only in theistic views and developed only when Christianity became prevalent.
Post-Christian societies claim values derived from Christianity, such as equality and charity, while denying that those ideals are inherently Christian. At the same time, a post-Christian society undermines aspects of the Christian worldview that interfere with its evolving preferences (2 Timothy 4:3). As consequences for those choices mount, it’s common for a post-Christian society to blame prior generations and prior beliefs rather than acknowledge the truth (seeRomans 1:21–31).
Superficially, eroding reliance on Christianity makes it easier for a post-Christian society to justify things condemned by a biblical worldview. However, this also dissolves the fundamental basis for positive values that society wants to claim. As a result, post-Christian societies begin to blur—or outright ignore—boundaries regarding human rights or charity.Abortionand “mercy killing” are examples of this perverted upending of ethical ideals.
The loss of transcendent foundations also leaves a post-Christian society struggling to justify its preferred ethics (Jude 1:12–13). Where such a culture used to point to God and the Bible as reasons for certain actions, it now points to some vague version of “just because.” That vacuum cannot last, of course, and so most post-Christian societies begin to replace the authority of God and the Bible with the authority of the state or popular opinion. The concept of moral responsibility takes second place to legality, loopholes, or mob justice (Mark 7:8).
Eventually, a post-Christian society moves from assuming Christian values to ignoring them, to resenting them, to repressing them, and eventually to persecuting them. What was once Christian and is now post-Christian will eventually become anti-Christian. Where any specific culture is in that process is subject to debate. No two cultures are exactly the same. In all cases, believers and skeptics alike ought to recognize the dangers inherent in dissolving Judeo-Christian ethical foundations (Matthew 7:26–27). Restoration is possible (Psalm 80:3; 1 Peter 5:10) but not apart from the Holy Spirit’s intervention (John 16:8; Jude 1:17–23). (Quote source here.)
That last paragraph should give us pause for thought–“a post-Christian society moves from assuming Christian values to ignoring them, to resenting them, to repressing them, and eventually to persecuting them. What was once Christian and is now post-Christian will eventually become anti-Christian…”. And there are definitely large pockets in our society today that are vocally and in nonverbal ways anti-Christian. Cancel-culture comes to mind. There is no debate, just cancellation.
Take a look at these 5 steps listed above and see where we think we are at today in that list:
Assuming Christian values
Ignoring Christian values
Resenting Christian values
Repressing Christian values
Persecuting Christian values
If we immerse ourselves in primarily Christian settings, we might perceive we are at #1 or #2; but it doesn’t take long out in the secular world all around us to realize we are much further down on that list, and that includes even in some Christian settings. Jesus described those who come into Christian settings and appear to be Christian but they are not in the Parable of the Weeds (also known and the Parable of the Wheat and Tares) found in Matthew 13:24-30 (NIV):
Jesus told them another parable:“The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field.But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away.When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared.
“The owner’s servants came to him and said, ‘Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?’
“‘An enemy did this,’ he replied.
“The servants asked him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’
“‘No,’ he answered, ‘because while you are pulling the weeds, you may uproot the wheat with them.Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.’”
East Germany’s Communist government opened the Berlin Wall and thus the country 30+ years ago [ending the Cold War]…. Geopolitics and economics drove this outcome, but East Germany’s religious communities played a complicated, significant and far too often overlooked role.
The Stasi, East Germany’s secret police agency [1950-1990], understood that the country’s congregations presented a major threat to the existing order. Lutherans were East Germany’s largest denomination, and many actively opposed the regime. Undermining them became a thorny task for a ruling class that disdained the brutality of the Soviet Union and its other satellites.
By 1954 the Stasi had built a Soviet-inspired agency to monitor churches, later named Department XX/4. It gradually perfected the art of subversion. The group’s officers came from theproletariat, as most top officials did. The Stasi recruited farmhands and factory workers and sent them to the Potsdam College of Jurisprudence, its officer training school.
To weaken faith communities, the department cultivated believers, including pastors, as spies. They included every rank of East German clergy, from bishops to pastors in training. Among the latter was an East Berliner named Frank Stolt. As a teenager he had watched spy movies and made plans to escape by chatting with Western tourists in East Berlin. When his daring plan failed, the teenager quelled his desire for adventure by working for Department XX/4. His first assignment: Attend pastor college…. (Quote source and complete article available at this link.) The complete story is available in Braw’s book, “God Spies.”
This is just one example from recent history as to how the church is infiltrated from within (and one example of the “wheat and tares” analogy in Jesus’ parable). 2 Peter 2 and Jude 1 in the New Testament also describes how the church is infiltrated from within. Jude makes clear from the opening verses (3-4) what these people are like:
Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt compelled to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to God’s holy people. For certain individuals whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord.
Unfortunately, we rarely see these people for who they are, and what they are trying to do. There is a naivety that seems to engulf Christians in our society today, and a big part of that is because the average Christian sitting in church pews today is biblically illiterate. An article published in 2017 in Christianity Today titled “The Epidemic of Biblical Illiteracy in our Churches,” cites some astonishing statistics on just how biblically illiterate most Christians sitting in church pews are here in America–for example:
Over 40 percent of the people attending [church] read their Bible occasionally, maybe once or twice a month. Almost 1 in 5 churchgoers say they never read the Bible—essentially the same number who read it every day. Because we don’t read God’s Word, it follows that we don’t know it. (Quote source here.)
If we are living in a post-Christian America, it is because we who call ourselves Christians are part of the problem. We cave to the culture and loves the same things our culture loves (or we blast it as being immoral, etc.) without understanding the basic principles of who we are supposed to be as Christians, and what we should look and act like to the culture all around us (whether the culture accepts us or not). Jesus stated the following in the opening to his Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) in Matthew 5:3-16:
He [Jesus] said:
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.
You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden.Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.
Anybody can call themselves a Christian. That doesn’t carry much weight anymore, and it doesn’t mean we are Christian, either. Do we try to be “poor in spirit”? Do we mourn? Are we meek? Do we hunger and thirst after righteousness (and what does that mean)? Are we merciful to others (all others)? Are we “pure in heart”? Are we peacemakers (even with other Christians who we might not agree with)? Have we been persecuted because of righteousness?
That’s a good place to start if we call ourselves Christians. If we are living in a post-Christian America…
We need to look . . .
In the mirror . . .
And start there . . . .
YouTube Video: “Lose My Soul” by TobyMac ft. Kirk Franklin and Mandisa:
Here’s what I am learning:
A grateful heart is a heart that is free. An ungrateful heart is a heart that is bound. Gratitude inevitably leads to freedom. (Quote source here.)
The quote above is the opening paragraph to a daily reading published on November 26, 2020, titled, “Gratitude and Freedom,” on WildAtHeart.org. The following statements are located further down in the reading:
We are called to be thankful in everything. Not for everything, but in everything. And we must be if we are to experience the deep joy that is meant to dwell in the very center of our being. Thankfulness is the key that opens the door to the joy we are meant to walk in.
A grateful heart is a heart that is free. An ungrateful heart is a heart that is bound….
Gratitude is the key, friends. Gratitude unlocks joy. And to be grateful, we need to remember the reason for our gratitude—we are grateful because we have been rescued. (Quote source here.)
Two millennia ago the Apostle Paul made the same declarations. He states the following in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (NIV):
Rejoice always,pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances;
for this is God’s will for you
in Christ Jesus.
I must be honest, sometimes it’s the “all” in that verse that gets me. Most of us can be thankful, for lots of things, at lots of times, but in “all” circumstances? That can be tough.
What about when you find yourself suffering illness, or defeat, or you’re walking through huge loss… what about when a loved one leaves this world too soon and you still can’t see past your tears… or when you’ve been praying for your prodigal loved one to come home and it seems like the prayers are unanswered… what about when you’re discouraged, disillusioned, and struggling with disbelief… or when you’re overwhelmed, overextended, and just fighting being over-stressed… what about when the needs mount high and the way doesn’t look clear… or when people are cruel, life seems unfair, and the enemy’s breathing down your back… what about when the storms come, and the car breaks down, or the air conditioner stops working on a holiday weekend (true story)….
Yes, these are the “all” things that can be hard to find gratitude in, whether it’s huge losses or just life irritations. But God’s word never changes to fit our circumstances. His Truth rises above our circumstance, so that we can too. He doesn’t say give thanks “for it”, but “in it all,” for He knows He’s building more deeply into our lives and character than He could ever build without the hard times.
We’re gaining strength. We’re gaining perseverance. We’re being reminded that true joy is never based on how we feel or our outside situations. We’re understanding that God’s ways are bigger, His thoughts are higher, and we can be assured that He holds us in His hands.
And He is with us.
No matter what you might be facing, the good news is this, you woke up. He’s given us today. And if we’re still here, living and breathing, may our every breath bring honor to Him.
Be assured my friend, you never fight the battles alone. Stay strong. Choose joy. Choose to be grateful in it “all.” For He is building greatness. He’s working things out for good. He hears our prayers, He sees all, and knows all. He has purpose for our pain, and brings hope for our tomorrows…
Let her words sink in deep in all the places where we are feeling overwhelmed, burdened, misunderstood, and just plain weary from what life throws our way. Remember that Jesus told his disciples (and that include us today), “…surely I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20), and again in Hebrews 13:5 where it is written, “Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.’”
And here’s another reminder from the Apostle Paul found in Romans 8:28-30 (NIV):
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.
Are you tired of wrestling over and over again with the same old concerns? Has it become aggravating to the point it is beginning to weigh you down?1 Peter 5:7says“Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for us”.Just throw it on him, and let him carry your burdens. Jesus said we could cast all of our cares on him because he cares for us! There is nothing we are going through that we cannot cast on the Lord.
A burden could be described in many ways. Firstly, a burden could be something that causes you lots of worry or hard work. For example, sending a child off to school, while being a single parent, can cause you to stress often. All of a sudden, the business closes and you have no job, nor do you have any other moral source of support. You will begin to question yourself. How am I going to make this work? Worry and stress; just throw those burdens and concerns on Jesus for he cares for you. Let God handle that situation, which will soon send you favor.
Secondly, a burden can be a heavy load that is difficult to carry mentally and physically; the sickness of someone that you truly love or maybe you yourself. That sickness could be one that is incurable. While watching a love one suffer it could be more than you can bear. Those cares are what the Lord wants you to cast on him.
In1 Peter 5:7, these words were written to the suffering saints in the early church who were experiencing intense suffering and extreme persecution; not because they were doing anything wrong, but because they were living out their faith in humility and righteousness. Peter wanted them to know that no matter what you are going through, all of your worries and anxieties can be thrown on the Lord, because he cares for us. David encouraged the same type of commitment inPsalm 55:22when he said,“Cast thy burden upon the Lord, and He shall sustain thee: He shall never suffer the righteous to be moved.”
If your past hurts, disappointments, and/or mistreatments hinder your ability to trust your precious Father, please take the time to get to know a God you can cast your burden on. If you don’t know how to get in touch with the Lord, consider a one-on-one bible study with a Christian friend, a church Bible study class, Sunday school, or spiritual Christian counseling. Get to know the loving Lord who you can cast your care on. You will learn to trust the One who loves you far more than anyone ever could. Remember you can come to him as you are, and receive him as he is. So my friend, take everything that is bothering and weighing you down, and cast it on a kind and loving God! Trust me, God cares for the righteous. (Quote source here.)
I’ll end this post with the words of Jesus found at the opening of his parable regarding the persistent widow in Luke 18:1-8 which is a reminder for us today, too. Jesus told his disciples this parable to show them they should…
Always pray . . .
And . . .
Not give up . . . .
YouTube Video: “10,000 Reasons (Bless The Lord)” by Matt Redman:
He replied,“Go into the city to a certain man and tell him, ‘The Teacher says: My appointed time is near. I am going to celebrate the Passover with my disciples at your house.’”So the disciples did as Jesus had directed them and prepared the Passover.
When evening came, Jesus was reclining at the table with the Twelve. And while they were eating, he said,“Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me.”
They were very sad and began to say to him one after the other,“Surely you don’t mean me, Lord?”
Jesus replied,“The one who has dipped his hand into the bowl with me will betray me.The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him. But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born.”
Then Judas, the one who would betray him, said,“Surely you don’t mean me, Rabbi?”
Jesus answered,“You have said so.”
While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying,“Take and eat; this is my body.”
Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying,“Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you, I will not drink from this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.”
Have you ever wondered why Christians eat a small piece of bread and drink a sip of wine (or grape juice) in some church services?
You’re not alone.
For thousands of years, the Church has continued a practice called communion, or depending on different church traditions, the Lord’s Supper or the Eucharist.
Communion uses bread as a symbol for Jesus’ body and wine as a symbol for His blood. Yes, it sounds strange. But why do Christians talk about eating Jesus’ body and drinking His blood? Are we cannibals?
Where Did Communion Come From?
Jesus started the tradition of communion. He instructed His followers to use bread and wine to remember the sacrifice He was going to make when He died for our sins on the cross (1 Corinthians 11:23-26).
Jesus called Himself “the bread of life,” which means that we’re nourished by Him, we survive because of Him, and He satisfies us when everything else leaves us empty (John 6:48-51). There’s a connection between our nearness to Jesus, believing in Him, and being fulfilled by Him (John 6:35).
The early Church celebrated Jesus by taking communion, sometimes every day (Acts 2:42-46). They saw that every time they gathered around a table to eat and drink, it was a chance to recognize Jesus and thank God for all He’s done. (Quote source and complete article are available at this link.)
This article also explains why Christians take part in communion, and it also provides reasons not to take part in communion. It is not something that should be taken lightly, but “to intentionally set aside time to remember what Jesus has done and why He did it (1 Corinthians 11:27-31).” (Quote source here.)
There are two physical elements of communion, the bread (often unleavened matzoh) and the wine (sometimes grape juice).
The bread used for communion signifies the body of Jesus, which was broken for us. He took on all sin, iniquity, rebellion, disease, grief and shame.
The wine (or grape juice) represents His blood, which was shed to establish a new covenant. It brought the forgiveness of sins and sets us apart in holiness.
These two pieces became the elements of communion because they are the same elements that Jesus picked up from the Passover table. And on the first night of Passover is when He inaugurated the ordinance of the Lord’s Supper for us as believers. (Quote source and complete article are available at this link).
In the Gospel of John, Jesus makes seven “I Am” statements, and “each of these ‘I am’ proclamations furthers our understanding of Jesus’ ministry in the world. They also link Jesus to the Old Testament revelation of God.” (Quote source here.) In the first of these seven “I Am” statements, it relates to Communion as Jesus declares:
“I am thebread of life” (John 6:35, 41, 48, 51). In this chapter, Jesus establishes a pattern that continues through John’s gospel—Jesus makes a statement about who He is, and He backs it up with something He does. In this case, Jesus states that He is the bread of life just after He had fed the 5,000 in the wilderness. At the same time, He contrasts what He can do with what Moses had done for their ancestors:“Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, yet they died. But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which anyone may eat and not die” (verses 49–50). (Quote source here.)
Here are the verses from John 6:25-59 in which Jesus describes himself as the Bread of Life:
Jesus the Bread of Life
When they [his disciples] found him [Jesus] on the other side of the lake, they asked him, “Rabbi, when did you get here?”
Jesus answered,“Very truly I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw the signs I performed but because you ate the loaves and had your fill. Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on him God the Father has placed his seal of approval.”
Then they asked him,“What must we do to do the works God requires?”
Jesus answered,“The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.”
So they asked him,“What sign then will you give that we may see it and believe you? What will you do? Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written: ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’”
Jesus said to them,“Very truly I tell you, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is the bread that comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”
“Sir,”they said,“always give us this bread.”
Then Jesus declared,“I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.But as I told you, you have seen me and still you do not believe.All those the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away.For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me.And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all those he has given me, but raise them up at the last day.For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.”
At this the Jews there began to grumble about him because he said,“I am the bread that came down from heaven.”They said,“Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can he now say, ‘I came down from heaven’?”
“Stop grumbling among yourselves,”Jesus answered. “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them, and I will raise them up at the last day.It is written in the Prophets: ‘They will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard the Father and learned from him comes to me.No one has seen the Father except the one who is from God; only he has seen the Father.Very truly I tell you, the one who believes has eternal life.I am the bread of life.Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, yet they died.But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which anyone may eat and not die.I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.”
Then the Jews began to argue sharply among themselves,“How can this man give us his flesh to eat?”
Jesus said to them,“Very truly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day. For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in them.Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me.This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your ancestors ate manna and died, but whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.”He said this while teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum.
In the remaining verses of John 6 (verses 60-70), it is at this point after Jesus stated the above that many rejected Jesus:
Many Disciples Desert Jesus
On hearing it, many of his disciples said,“This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?”
Aware that his disciples were grumbling about this, Jesus said to them,“Does this offend you?Then what if you see the Son of Man ascend to where he was before!The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you—they are full of the Spirit and life.Yet there are some of you who do not believe.”For Jesus had known from the beginning which of them did not believe and who would betray him.He went on to say, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled them.”
From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.
“You do not want to leave too, do you?”Jesus asked the Twelve.
Simon Peter answered him,“Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God.”
Then Jesus replied,“Have I not chosen you, the Twelve? Yet one of you is a devil!” [It was Judas Iscariot, one of his twelves disciples who had been with him for three years, who betrayed Jesus for thirty pieces of silver.]
The followers and disciples of Jesus today are not any different from those who followed Jesus back when he was walking on earth. One of the saddest verses in those last ten verses above is the verse that states, “From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.”
I’ll end this post with the words of Paul found in 1 Corinthians 11:23-26 (NIV) which are often spoken by the minister who is blessing the elements at the time of Communion: For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup…
You proclaim . . .
The Lord’s death . . .
Until he comes . . . .
YouTube Video: “Remembrance (Communion Song)” by Matt Redman:
Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears.When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me.For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
The greatest theme throughout the Old Testament and New Testament is God’s love for humanity. And John 3:16-18 is the culmination of that love:
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son [Jesus Christ], that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.
Our world is in desperate need of more love–not only the recognition of God’s love that God is very willing to pour out on us, but huge doses of love for each other, too. As I read those verses above, they brought to mind a song I remember from the mid-1960’s. This past week on February 8th, the composer of that song, Burt Bacharach, died at the age of 94. Bacharach was an American composer, songwriter, record producer, and pianist who is widely regarded as one of the most important and influential figures of 20th-century popular music, and he composed hundreds of songs from the late 1950s, many with Hal David (source here).
What the world needs now is love, sweet love.
It’s the only thing that there’s just too little of.
What the world needs now is love, sweet love.
No not just for some, but for everyone.
Lord, we don’t need another mountain.
There are mountains and hillsides enough to climb.
There are oceans and rivers enough to cross.
Enough to last ’til the end of time.
What the world needs now is love, sweet love.
It’s the only thing that there’s just too little of.
What the world needs now is love, sweet love.
No, not just for some, but for everyone.
Lord, we don’t need another meadow.
There are cornfields and wheatfields enough to grow.
There are sunbeams and moonbeams enough to shine.
Oh listen, Lord, if you want to know.
What the world needs now is love, sweet love.
It’s the only thing that there’s just too little of.
What the world needs now is love, sweet love.
No, not just for some, oh, but just for
Every, every, everyone. (Lyrics source here.)
Co-songwriter Burt Bacharach revealed in his 2014 autobiography that this song had among the most difficult lyrics Hal David ever wrote, despite being deceptively simple as a pop hit. He explained that they had the main melody and chorus written back in 1962, centering on a waltz tempo, but it took another two years for David to finally come up with the lyric, “Lord, we don’t need another mountain.” Once David worked out the verses, Bacharach said the song essentially “wrote itself” and they finished it in a day or two.
The song’s success caught the two songwriters completely by surprise, since they were very aware of the controversy and disagreements among Americans about theVietnam War, which was the subtext for David’s lyrics. Bacharach has continuously used the song as the intro and finale for most of his live concert appearances well into the 2000s. (Quote source here.)
I remember the upheaval and unrest over the Vietnam War during my teens and early 20’s when the fall of Saigon in 1975 ended that 20-year conflict (1955-1975), and the Communists took over the country. It was the most unpopular war in U.S. history until the Afghanistan War, which also lasted two decades (2001-2021), and the Taliban is now in control of that country. America lost out in both wars at a great cost both financially and in casualties especially in Vietnam (58,220 U.S. military fatal casualties in Vietnam, and 2,456 U.S. military deaths, and 20,752 wounded in action in Afghanistan). In fact, America has not won a war since the ending of World War II in 1945 (see this link). Both wars (Vietnam and Afghanistan) and the numerous smaller conflicts since WW II (Korean War, Panama, Gulf War, etc.–see a list of wars going back to the 1800’s involving the United States at this link) remind me of what Jesus stated about “wars and rumors of wars” in Matthew 24:6-13:
You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come.Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places.All these are the beginning of birth pains.
Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me.At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other,and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people.Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold,but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.
Everything that Jesus stated above is very much a part of our world today including “the love of most will grow cold.” The words to this song composed in 1965 are poignant, and one can almost feel a weariness of the soul and a longing for more love to be found in the world with references to the Lord for his help (something not often found in popular secular songs back then or now). And it is a song that is still very much in tune with our times today.
“What the world needs now is love, sweet love”… (those words were composed in that song 58 years ago). And the world today needs love now more than ever. I know of only one place to find it… in the Bible. But the Bible, despite the fact that zillions of copies are still available in our world today, is becoming increasingly unpopular in the broader culture and the world at large (hence, “the love of most will grow cold”), and it is growing colder every day. A zillion copies of the Bible is no good if nobody is reading it on a regular basis (and not just on Sunday for those who are still attending church or who claim to believe). And the Bible is hardly antiquated, and it “is the fresh and ever-living voice of God, that through these words [all of the Bible] God wants to talk to us” (quote source here).
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son[Jesus Christ], that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. —John 3:16-17
That invitation is still open.
I’ll end this post with the lyrics at the end of the song, “What The World Needs Now.”What the world needs now is love, sweet love. It’s the only thing that there’s just too little of. What the world needs now is love, sweet love. No, not just for some, but for…
Every . . .
Every . . .
Everyone . . . .
YouTube Video: “What The World Needs Now” sung by Dionne Warwick (posted on YouTube on March 25, 2019)–music by Burt Bacharach and lyrics by Hal David (1965):
OpenAIintroduced a long-form question-answering AI called “ChatGPT” that answers complex questions conversationally.
It’s a revolutionary technology because it’strainedto learn what humans mean when they ask a question.
Many users are awed at its ability to provide human-quality responses, inspiring the feeling that it may eventually have the power to disrupt how humans interact with computers and change how information is retrieved.
What Is ChatGPT?
ChatGPTis a large language model chatbot developed byOpenAIbased on GPT-3.5. It has a remarkable ability to interact in conversational dialogue form and provide responses that can appear surprisingly human.
Large language models perform the task of predicting the next word in a series of words.
Reinforcement Learning with Human Feedback(RLHF) is an additional layer of training that uses human feedback to help ChatGPT learn the ability to follow directions and generate responses that are satisfactory to humans. (Quote source here.)
ChatGPT is free to use (you can create a free account at this link). Today was my first time using ChatGPT, and to say it left me pretty amazed is an understatement. I asked it a bunch of questions, and I was taken off guard by the responses I received that, as mentioned in the article quote above, sound surprisingly human.
I started off by asking a few questions about Christianity since my blog posts primarily involve the Christian faith. Here are a few of my questions and the answers I received from ChatGPT (I am asking the questions and ChatGPT provides the answers):
What are the key points of Christianity?
The key points of Christianity are:
The belief in one God, who is the creator of the universe and is loving and just.
The belief that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and the savior of humanity, who died on the cross to atone for the sins of humanity and rose from the dead on the third day.
The belief in the Holy Spirit, who is the third person of the Trinity and is present in the world to guide and empower believers.
The belief in the Bible as the inspired word of God and the ultimate authority in matters of faith and practice.
The belief in the existence of heaven and hell, the afterlife destinations for the souls of the dead.
The belief in the forgiveness of sins through repentance and faith in Jesus Christ.
The belief in the importance of leading a moral and ethical life, and the importance of love, kindness and compassion for others.
The belief in the importance of community and the Church as the body of believers.
The belief in the second coming of Jesus Christ, the end of the world and the final judgment.
Who is Jesus Christ?
Jesus Christ is the central figure of Christianity and one of the most important figures in world history. He is believed by Christians to be the Son of God and the Messiah (or savior) prophesied in the Old Testament. According to the New Testament, Jesus was born in Bethlehem, lived a sinless life, performed many miracles, and was crucified on a cross by the Romans. He rose from the dead on the third day and later ascended into heaven. Christians believe that through his death and resurrection, Jesus made the way for eternal life for all who believe in him.
What does regeneration mean in Christianity?
Regeneration, also known as the new birth or being born again, is a concept in Christianity that refers to the spiritual transformation that occurs in an individual when they come to faith in Jesus Christ. It is the belief that a person who is spiritually dead in their sins (as described in the Bible) can be made alive in Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit. It is considered a spiritual change that happens to a person, not something that person does by their own effort.
The Bible describes regeneration as a process where the Holy Spirit convicts a person of their sin, and then grants them faith in Jesus Christ, and the person becomes a new creation, old things pass away, and all things become new. This regeneration is accompanied by spiritual gifts, such as the ability to understand spiritual truth and the power to live a holy life. The Bible teaches that regeneration is a sovereign work of God, accomplished by the Holy Spirit and received by faith.
What is the most intriguing question regarding Christianity?
This is a subjective question and different people might find different aspects of Christianity intriguing. However, one of the most intriguing questions about Christianity for some people might be the concept of the Trinity. The Trinity is the doctrine that there is one God who exists as three distinct persons: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. This concept is central to Christian theology, but it can also be difficult to fully comprehend. Some people find it intriguing to try to understand how one God can exist as three distinct persons and how these persons relate to each other.
Another question that might be intriguing to some people is the relationship between faith and reason. Christianity is a faith-based religion, but it also has a rich intellectual tradition that engages with various fields of knowledge. Some people find it intriguing to explore how faith and reason can work together and how Christianity can be intellectually satisfying.
Another intriguing question that many people have is the problem of evil and suffering in the world. If God is all-powerful, all-knowing and all-good, then why does he allow evil and suffering to exist in the world? This question is known as “Theodicy” and it has been a subject of debate and contemplation among theologians and philosophers for centuries.
After a few more questions on the topic of Christianity, I asked it questions about itself:
Who generates the answers on ChatGPT?
I, ChatGPT, generate the answers to the questions that are input into me. I am a large language model that has been trained by OpenAI using a dataset of text from the internet. My responses are based on patterns and associations in the data that I have been trained on.
Does ChatGPT get its answers from the internet?
ChatGPT is a machine learning model that is trained on a dataset of text from the internet. It uses patterns and associations in this data to generate responses to questions. So, in that sense, my answers are based on the information available on the internet at the time of my training. However, it’s important to note that my answers are generated by the model, not just looked up from some pre-existing source.
So I am chatting with a machine?
Yes, you are interacting with a machine learning model, specifically a language model called ChatGPT. I am able to understand and respond to natural language inputs based on the patterns and associations in the data that I’ve been trained on. I can provide information, answer questions, and even hold a conversation, but I am not a human, I am a machine.
How do you know what I am asking?
I use a process called natural language understanding (NLU) to interpret the meaning of the text input by the user. This process involves several steps, such as tokenization, which breaks the input text into individual words or phrases, and part-of-speech tagging, which assigns a grammatical role to each word. I also use other techniques like Named Entity Recognition (NER) and Sentiment Analysis to understand the intent and context of the text.
Once the input text is transformed into a structured format, it can be passed to the language model, like me, which then generates a response based on the patterns and associations in the data it has been trained on.
Can you explain the concept of understanding?
In the context of natural language understanding (NLU), “understanding” refers to the ability of a machine to interpret and extract meaning from human language input. This can include determining the intent of the text (e.g. is the user asking a question or making a statement?), identifying entities or concepts mentioned in the text (e.g. people, places, organizations), and determining the sentiment or emotional tone of the text.
NLU is a complex task and requires multiple techniques such as natural language processing (NLP), machine learning, and deep learning. Through these techniques, a machine can learn to understand the nuances and subtleties of human language, such as idiomatic expressions, metaphor, and sarcasm.
It’s important to note that while NLU models, like me, are able to understand and interpret human language to a certain degree, they still have limitations and may not always be able to fully understand the meaning or intent behind certain inputs.
So you understand sarcasm?
Sarcasm is a form of speech in which the intended meaning of the words spoken is the opposite of their literal or usual meaning. Understanding sarcasm can be challenging for natural language understanding (NLU) systems, like me, because it relies on understanding the speaker’s or writer’s intent and the context of the statement.
While I’m trained on a dataset of text from the internet, my understanding of sarcasm is based on patterns and associations in that data. However, as sarcasm often relies on the use of irony and tone of voice, which are not always present in text, it can be difficult for me to identify. Additionally, the complexity of sarcasm, and the fact that it can vary depending on the culture, makes it even more challenging for me to understand it.
It’s worth noting that there are ongoing research in the field of sarcasm detection and understanding, but it’s still a challenging task for current NLP models.
Do you understand humor?
Humor, like sarcasm, is a complex concept that can be challenging for natural language understanding (NLU) systems like me to fully understand. Humor often relies on understanding the context, the culture, the background, and the social norms, as well as the use of puns, irony, and wordplay, which can be difficult for a machine to understand.
I am trained on a dataset of text from the internet, which includes examples of humor, so I can recognize some patterns that are commonly used in jokes and try to generate something similar. However, the ability to generate humor is not the same as understanding it, as the understanding of humor is closely tied to the ability to understand the social, cultural and historical context in which the joke was made, which is not something that current NLP models can do.
It’s worth noting that there is ongoing research in the field of humor generation and understanding, but it’s still a challenging task for current NLP models.
Can you use dialog?
Yes, I am designed to be able to hold a conversation and respond to multiple inputs. I use a technique called dialog history tracking to keep track of the context of the conversation and make more appropriate responses. For example, if a user asks me a question, I will use the information provided in the question to generate a response. And then, when the user provides a follow-up input, I will use the information provided in the previous inputs, along with my previous responses, to make a more appropriate response.
It’s important to note that while I am able to hold a conversation, my understanding of the context and my ability to generate a coherent response may be limited. Additionally, my responses may not always be appropriate or accurate depending on the complexity of the conversation and my knowledge cutoff.
What are your capabilities?
I am a large language model trained by OpenAI. My capabilities include understanding natural language inputs and providing relevant and informative responses, generating text in a variety of formats and styles, and answering a wide range of questions on a variety of topics. I can also perform tasks such as language translation and summarization. My knowledge cutoff is 2021, I can answer question based on available information till 2021. Let me know if you have any specific task or question, I’ll do my best to help you out.
I then asked it to write several short blog posts on various topics and here are three of those topics:
Can you write a blog post on the subject of humility?
Humility is a character trait that is often overlooked, but it is one of the most important qualities a person can possess. Humility is the quality of being humble, which means being modest, respectful, and not thinking too highly of oneself.
Humility is important because it allows a person to be open-minded and receptive to new ideas, perspectives, and feedback. When someone is humble, they are more likely to listen to others, consider different points of view, and be willing to learn and grow. This, in turn, can lead to better relationships, greater success in personal and professional endeavors, and a more fulfilling life.
Humility is also important because it allows a person to be more compassionate and understanding towards others. When someone is humble, they are more likely to see the humanity in others, rather than focusing on their own needs and wants. This can lead to more empathy and kindness towards others, which is essential for building strong relationships and creating a more peaceful and harmonious world.
Humility can be developed through various practices like regular self-reflection, mindfulness, and gratitude. One can develop humility by acknowledging one’s own limitations, being open to constructive criticism, and by practicing humility in everyday interactions.
However, it’s important to note that humility is not weakness, It’s not about putting oneself down or diminishing one’s own worth. Instead, it’s about being grounded and aware of one’s own capabilities and limitations, while also respecting and valuing the capabilities and contributions of others.
In conclusion, humility is a vital character trait that can lead to greater success, stronger relationships, and a more fulfilling life. It’s a trait that can be developed and nurtured, and it’s a trait that is well worth striving for.
Can you write a blog post on the topic of deception?
Deception is a complex and often misunderstood topic. At its core, deception is the act of deliberately misleading or misinforming someone for the purpose of gaining an advantage or avoiding a disadvantage. Deception can take many forms, from small white lies and exaggerations to more serious forms of fraud and manipulation.
Deception is prevalent in many aspects of our lives, from personal relationships to business and politics. It can be used to gain an advantage in negotiations, to get ahead in a competitive environment, or to cover up mistakes or misdeeds.
While deception can be beneficial in some situations, it can also have negative consequences. When someone is deceived, they may feel betrayed, angry, or hurt. They may also lose trust in the person who deceived them, which can have long-term effects on their relationships and interactions.
Deception can also have broader societal consequences, particularly when it is used by those in positions of power. When politicians, business leaders, or other public figures deceive the public, it can erode trust in government and institutions, leading to widespread cynicism and apathy.
It’s important to recognize that deception is not always malicious or intentional, Sometimes people deceive others due to fear, lack of self-confidence, or simply not knowing what to say. In these cases, it’s important to understand the motivations behind the deception and try to address the underlying issues, rather than simply focusing on the deception itself.
While deception can be a powerful tool, it’s important to use it responsibly. One should be aware of the potential consequences of deception, and be willing to take responsibility for any harm caused by it. It’s important to be honest with oneself and others, and to strive for transparency in one’s actions and communication.
In conclusion, deception is a complex and nuanced topic that can have both positive and negative consequences. It’s important to understand the motivations behind deception and to use it responsibly, with an awareness of the potential consequences. Being honest and transparent in one’s actions and communication is the key for a healthy relationship and a better society.
Can you write a blog post on unconditional love?
Unconditional love is a powerful and transformative concept. It is a form of love that is given freely and without any expectation of return. Unconditional love is not based on the actions or behavior of the person being loved, but rather on the inherent worth and value of that person.
Unconditional love is often associated with love between a parent and a child, but it can also be found in romantic relationships, friendships, and even in the love we have for ourselves.
Unconditional love is important because it helps us to see the inherent value and worth of others, regardless of their actions or behavior. It allows us to see past our own biases and judgments, and to truly accept and love another person for who they are. This can lead to stronger, more authentic relationships and a greater sense of connection and belonging.
Unconditional love is also important because it allows us to extend compassion and forgiveness to others, even when they make mistakes. When we love someone unconditionally, we are able to understand that they are human and that they will make mistakes, without judging or holding it against them. This can lead to greater understanding and empathy in relationships, and can also help to reduce feelings of anger and resentment.
Unconditional love is also vital for our own self-growth and well-being. When we extend unconditional love to ourselves, we are able to accept and love ourselves for who we are, with all our flaws and imperfections. This can lead to greater self-acceptance, self-esteem, and overall well-being.
It’s important to note that Unconditional love does not mean that we should accept or condone harmful or destructive behavior. Unconditional love is about accepting and loving someone for who they are, not for what they do.
In conclusion, unconditional love is a powerful and transformative concept. It is a form of love that is given freely and without any expectation of return. Unconditional love allows us to see the inherent worth and value of others, to extend compassion and forgiveness, and to grow and develop in our own self-love. It is a vital aspect of strong and healthy relationships, both with others and ourselves.
That’s pretty amazing stuff coming from an AI machine, don’t you think? While I was writing this blog post I was still logged into my ChatGPT session, so I just now asked it if it was still there, and it answered:
Yes, I am still here and ready to help with any questions or tasks you may have. How can I assist you today?
Wow, that’s pretty amazing, right? All I can say is we have certainly entered into a . . .
Brave . . .
New . . .
World . . . .
YouTube Video: “What is ChatGPT? OpenAI’s ChatGPT Explained”:
Last year on February 1, 2022, I started “The 40-Day Sugar Fast” and I wrote a couple of blog posts during the fast on my main blog–“A Higher Purpose” published on February 4, 2022, which was four days into the sugar fast, and “Spiritual Transformation” published on February 19, 2022, which was half way through the sugar fast. Both of those blog posts have a lot of information regarding the hazards (physically, mentally, and spiritually, too) of eating too much refined sugar and refined sugar products, so I won’t repeat the information published in those two posts in this post.
Once that sugar fast ended last year, I slowly started putting sugar back into my daily diet. I thought I could handle eating a small amount of it, but before long I was back to being addicted to the stuff again, and as the rest of the year progressed, I realized that I needed to be much more serious about keeping sugar at bay in my life. It can be a pretty mean taskmaster, too.
So, this year I have joined in the annual “The 40-Day Sugar Fast” that started on January 9, 2023, and I am now on Day #4 with all of the raging sugar “withdrawal symptoms” not quite yet in full swing. I would almost kill for some sugar right now, and my irritability level is probably near 100% at the moment, and I’m normally a sweet–okay, maybe that’s not the right word to use–well mannered, polite, and a “take charge” (respectfully, of course) type woman, although since my retirement years hit me a decade too soon (and not by choice), there isn’t much to “take charge” of anymore. But I do still give it my best shot.
Last year I didn’t really follow along in the book titled, “The 40-Day Sugar Fast: Where Physical Detox Meets Spiritual Transformation,” by Wendy Speake. The book is written in a devotional type format, and it includes 40 days of readings with each day’s reading being several pages long. This year I have decided to read every page, everyday, throughout the 40 days. I can certainly use the help to keep me focused while I’m detoxing, once again, from sugar.
Rene Beaulieu, a Certified Health Coach, has written a short post titled, “Sugar Blues,” and she starts her post with a quote by William Dufty (1916-2002), author of the book, “Sugar Blues,” that was released in 1975, and it has become a dietary classic. In her post she writes:
“Like heroin, cocaine and caffeine, sugar is an addictive, destructive drug, yet we consume it daily in everything from cigarettes to bread.”–William Dufty, Sugar Blues
The average person consumes over 100 pounds of sugar and sweeteners per year. In contrast, we consume an average of eight pounds of broccoli. The USDA recommends we get no more than 10 teaspoons of sugar per day, yet most people eat about 30 teaspoons – that’s three times the already liberal recommended daily value.
Refined table sugar lacks vitamins, minerals and fibre. The body must deplete its minerals and enzymes to absorb it properly. It enters swiftly into the bloodstream and wreaks havoc on the blood sugar level, first pushing it sky-high–causing excitability and hyperactivity–and then dropping it extremely low, causing exhaustion.
Sugar qualifies as an addictive substance for two reasons:
1. Eating even a small amount creates a desire for more. 2. Suddenly quitting causes withdrawal symptoms such as headaches, mood swings, cravings and fatigue.
Sugar is found in many of the usual suspects, like cakes, cookies and candy. But, you’ll also find it in canned vegetables, baby food, cereals, peanut butter, bread and tomato sauce. A lemon poppy seed Clif Bar has five teaspoons of sugar. Compare that to a chocolate-glazed donut from Dunkin’ Donuts, which has three teaspoons. You may think your afternoon cup of coffee only has a little sugar, but a 16-ounce Starbucks Frappuccino has 10 teaspoons – that’s like eating three donuts! Overconsumption of refined sweets and added sugars found in everyday foods has led to an explosion of hypoglycemia and type 2 diabetes. (Quote source here.)
Sugar has been declared the most dangerous drug of our time! Research has now established that sugar is far more addictive than cocaine, one of the most addictive and harmful substances known. In studies even rats who were addicted to cocaine will quickly switch their preference to sugar to achieve their high, once offered a choice. Neuroscientists have found that when humans ingest a high dose of sugar we get an intense release of dopamine in an area of the brain, this is exactly how cocaine creates its effect. This area of the brain is involved in reward, focus and pleasure therefore this release of dopamine leads to a sense of pleasure and euphoria. However, just like with cocaine, over stimulation from chronic consumption of sugar causes the dopamine receptors in this area of the brain to slowly become down regulated. In other words there are less of them and they become less responsive to dopamine, causing you to seek out another sugar high. This down regulation of dopamine receptors can lead to lack of focus, ADHD -like symptoms, depression and anxiety. The rates of depression in a country actually rise in lockstep with per capita sugar consumption.
And right now Americans are eating more sugar than ever before, on average about 160 pounds a year. When I say sugar don’t just look at the sugar bowl on your table. Any food you eat that has an ingredient that ends in –ose is a sugar, sucrose, glucose, fructose, dextrose. Amazingly 80% of all food items in US grocery stores contain added sugar. This legal white powder is now causing more deaths in our population than the illegal substances we call drugs estimation. Numerous studies have shown that sugar contributes to the development of cardiovascular disease, liver disease, hypertension, type II diabetes, obesity and kidney disease.
Then there is obesity and diabetes and virtually no one will deny the primary role that sugar plays in this epidemic. It is a primary reason that nearly 70% of Americans are now overweight and worse yet one in two Americans have pre-diabetes or type II diabetes. Astonishingly, the CDC announced on June 15, 2003, that one out of every three children born from the year 2000 and on will develop diabetes by middle age. This supports the fact that by the year 2050 one third of all Americans will be diabetic. This is no small matter for diabetes causes all kinds of misery. Sugar addiction and subsequent diabetes takes a toll on every organ in your body including the heart and blood vessels, eyes, kidneys, nerves and brain…. (Quote source here. Continuing reading his article at this link to learn about the role of artificial sweeteners, depression, chronic muscle and joint pain, and Alzheimer’s–all from eating sugar.)
Sugar has a bittersweet reputation when it comes to health. Sugar occurs naturally in all foods that contain carbohydrates, such as fruits and vegetables, grains, and dairy. Consuming whole foods that contain natural sugar is okay. Plant foods also have high amounts of fiber, essential minerals, and antioxidants, and dairy foods contain protein and calcium.
Since your body digests these foods slowly, the sugar in them offers a steady supply of energy to your cells. A high intake of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains also has been shown to reduce the risk of chronic diseases, such asdiabetes, heart disease, and some cancers.
However, problems occur when you consume too muchadded sugar—that is, sugar that food manufacturers add to products to increase flavor or extend shelf life.
In the American diet, the top sources are soft drinks, fruit drinks, flavored yogurts, cereals, cookies, cakes, candy, and mostprocessed foods. But added sugar is also present in items that you may not think of as sweetened, like soups, bread, cured meats, and ketchup.
The result: we consume way too much added sugar. Adult men take in an average of 24 teaspoons of added sugar per day, according to the National Cancer Institute. That’s equal to 384 calories.
“Excess sugar’s impact on obesity and diabetes is well documented, but one area that may surprise many men is how their taste for sugar can have a serious impact on their heart health,”says Dr. Frank Hu, professor of nutrition at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. (Quote source here. Continue reading this article at this link to find out more on the impact of sugar on the heart, how much sugar is okay, and subtracting added sugar.)
I would be remiss if I did not mention the spiritual component which is the primary mission of the book, “The 40-Day Sugar Fast.” The following is written on the back cover of this book:
Would you give up sugar to experience the sweet presence of God in your life? Many of us think that if our bodies become healthier, then we’ll be healthier. But a healthy body doesn’t do us a lot of good if we are spiritually malnourished. Welcome to the 40-Day Sugar Fast, a process that begins with us giving Jesus our sugar and ends up with Jesus giving us more of Himself–the only thing that can ever truly satisfy our soul’s deep hunger. On this journey you’ll learn how to:
stop fixating on food and fix your eyes on Christ
pinpoint the triggers that send you running to sugar
lose weight as you gain faith
turn to the Most High instead of the next sugar high
If you run to sugar for comfort or reward, eat mindlessly or out of boredom, feel physically and spiritual lethargic, or struggle with self-control, this fast will help you discover not only freedom from your cravings but an entirely new appetite for the good things God has for you.
“More than anything, I want to be able to say with Jesus, my food is to do the will of him who sent me’ (John 4:34). And traveling with Wendy and the 40-Day Sugar Fast community was the beginning of that journey for me.” —Lisa-Jo Baker, bestselling author of “Meet Me in the Middle,” “Never Unfriended,” and “Surprised by Motherhood.” (Quote source: back cover of “The 40-Day Sugar Fast.”)
I’ll end this post with a couple of quote from “Day 4: Trusting God with the Battle” (pp.42-46) in “The 40-Day Sugar Fast” since this is my “Day 4” of the Sugar Fast:
Four days in this fast, your body may feel like it is going through a physical battle. Perhaps you feel like the fast is your enemy or that sugar is your enemy or that your children are your enemy or that I am your enemy. Today I want you to focus on letting go of the fight and embrace praise, trusting that God will go to battle on your behalf. (Quote source pp. 42-43.)
Your Sweetest Nemesis:Speaking of going to battle, sometimes sugar feels like the enemy. Agreed? The average American eats between 150 to 170 pounds of refined sugar every year. While that may seem impossible at first glance, the reality is that it’s not hard to accomplish. Four sodas a day times 365 days a year amounts to nearly 150 pounds of sugar! Oftentimes during our online sugar fasts, I hear from men and women who discovered that sugary treats in general isn’t their problem. Their problem is Dr. Pepper… their problem is sweet tea… their problem is wine…
Take a moment to pinpoint your“enemy.”What’s your sweetest nemesis? (Quote source, p. 46.)
My sweetest nemesis? I’ll have to give that some thought. In the meantime, I’ll try to get my “sweet side” back without using sugar to do it. Also, I just now ran across another article published in Charisma News that you might want to read titled, “Jesus Is Sweeter Than Sugar.”So remember…
Jesus . . .
IS sweeter . . .
Than sugar . . . .
YouTube Video: “Sweeter” by Jesus Co. & WorshipMob by Aaron McClain, Yeka Onka, Bianca Ejiofor & Charity Bandy: