Cinnamon whiskey

INTRODUCTION. A reflection on the emptiness of external satisfactions.

I noticed the object as I walked toward the coffee shop. From my own ill-spent youth, I recognized the object and knew its use. An empty liquor bottle, “Cinnamon Whiskey” by name, had been tossed beside the shrubs, its contents drained in the vain hope that ingesting mild poison would produce good results. I imagined the drunk who consumed the whiskey and hoped it was not some seventeen year-old trying to find meaning in a liquor bottle, not someone like me who believed that joy and hope and peace and purpose came from the outside and went in. For if purpose and joy came from the outside and went in, surely my teen years would certainly have been joyful.

But the sad reality is that there is no joy or hope or peace or purpose available from anything outside you and me, for these must come from within us. So, cinnamon whiskey going from outside me to inside me cannot change my inner joylessness. The contents of a bottle poured down my throat cannot affect my inner ocean of hopelessness. It is a lie to think that anything external to me can fundamentally change me and turn my darkness into light and my chaos into peace.

But then the question becomes, “What or who CAN change me?” If within my heart and soul is a contamination that produces an existence without joy or hope or peace, and I am unable to change myself, should I not accept abject despair as the logical response? “Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from this body of death?”

The Bible answers this question with “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 7:25). There is only one answer for all of man’s questions about joy or purpose, about hope and peace, and that one answer is Jesus Christ. When all the cinnamon whiskey bottles have been drained and tossed as useless upon the garbage heap of external satisfactions, Jesus Christ will remain as King of kings and as the only satisfaction for all of our deepest longings. Only Jesus Christ can give joy and hope and peace and purpose to satisfy man’s sin-sick soul. All of these and much more are given without measure to all those who know Jesus as Lord and Savior. “For as many as are the promises of God, in Him they are yes” (2 Cor. 1:20).

So, as I glanced down at the cinnamon whiskey bottle under the shrubs, I remembered with shame and pain the wasted years of my own “whiskey bottles.” But then I rejoiced that one day, for me, there was a final bottle. One day thirty years ago I met Jesus Christ and bowed my knee to Him as my Lord and Savior. At that moment, my search was over. No longer did I seek satisfaction via whiskey bottles, via any external means, for Jesus had filled me with His joy and with the hope of the resurrection and with the peace that passes understanding and with the purpose of being His ambassador to the ends of the earth. Let Jesus Christ be praised!

SDG                 rmb                 5/30/2022                   #537

Eager to obey the voice of the Master

While I was walking in my neighborhood, I passed a man sitting on a bench in his yard. About ten feet away from the man was his dog, a German Shepherd. To the casual observer, the dog appeared to be doing nothing at all, but I sensed that the dog was actually waiting for a command from the man, his master. Although apparently relaxed, the German Shepherd had its ears cocked and tuned to any utterance from its master, ready at any instant to do whatever was commanded. As I thought about that, I realized that the dog is made for no other purpose than to obey a master. This German Shepherd has no goal in life and, by itself, no inherent reason for existence. But when the dog has a master who commands the dog for the master’s pleasure, then the dog has a purpose.


As I contemplated these things, I began to see that the life of every person is similar to life of a dog in this sense, that as the dog seeks a master to give its life meaning, so the human being is adrift in the world until he submits to God to direct his life. We have been created to serve our great God and to obey His commands.


Now, to some, this sounds preposterous and maybe a little insulting. Man is the highest of the creatures on the earth, the only one created in God’s image. Man has intellect and volition and is able to comprehend both the future and the past. Man has been able to accomplish phenomenal things in every conceivable field of endeavor. And all of that is remarkable and certainly sets man apart from the rest of the creation.


But the fundamental difference between human beings and the rest of the created order is not man’s intellect but is man’s morality. Man is the only creature that is morally aware, so that man is responsible to God for his moral judgments and his actions. He has been created by a holy God to obey His Creator’s commandments and to live in harmony with his holy God and to enjoy fellowship with Him forever. When a man submits to God as his Master, then that man has peace and purpose.


Now, we know that most human beings do not submit to God as their Master. This is because man is a fallen creature and has rebelled against God. Man is born as a sinner and therefore refuses to submit to God. The natural man rejects God as his Master and instead chooses to do whatever he wants to do. In this sense, then, natural man is similar to the German Shepherd without a master. Both have a life without purpose.


But there is good news! For even though man is born into this world as a sinner and as a rebel against God, he can be born again and can be made into a new creation (2 Cor. 5:17). In the analogy with the German Shepherd, as the dog can find a master and be trained to obey him, so a human being can believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and can obey Him as Master. The person who submits to and obeys Jesus Christ is a person who has found meaning and usefulness in this life and eternal life in the world to come.

Here are some illustrations of how this analogy might work.

A dog who has submitted to a master and is well-trained does not evaluate the commands of the master. The dog simply obeys the master’s command as issued and leaves the reason for the command up to the master. In other words, the dog does not need to understand the reason for the command to obey it.

In the same way, the disciple of Jesus should not evaluate the commands of the Lord or delay obedience until they understand the reasons for the commands. They should be as Abraham when he was told to take Isaac to Moriah to sacrifice him there (Genesis 22:1). Abraham obeyed, even though he could not have understood why the LORD would give him such a command. The disciple of Jesus obeys by faith, even if they don’t understand.

As I have already argued, a dog’s life is relatively useless without a master to give it direction, but with a master who will train the dog, the dog can be very useful.

In the same way, a man is relatively useless until he is called to salvation. In fact, often without the Lord’s call a person’s life is destructive and negative and worse than useless. In Matthew 20:1-15, in the parable of the workers in the vineyard, the owner of the vineyard goes repeatedly to the marketplace where the workers are just standing around doing nothing. This is an illustration of our life before we know Jesus as Lord and Savior. No matter our labors before Christ, we are simply standing idle in the marketplace. But once we are figuratively hired and sent out to labor in the vineyard, then our lives are useful as we produce fruit for the Kingdom.

The dog who is properly trained by its master seeks only the approval of its master. It may be friendly to other people, but its primary motivation is to please its master.

In the same way, the disciple of Jesus who has submitted to Christ seeks the approval of Christ above all things. His primary aim is to hear from the Lord, “Well done, good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:21).

The trained German Shepherd waits for its master’s commands. Remember the dog on the lawn beside its master. Even though apparently at rest, the dog was actually in focused anticipation for any command from its master.

In the same way, the disciple of Jesus eagerly reads the word of God so that he may know the commands of the Lord. The trained disciple seeks the Lord’s commands so that he may eagerly obey.

When the trained dog hears the voice of its master, it goes from dead still to obedient action in a moment. Just so, when the trained disciple discerns the voice of the Lord, he moves into action without hesitation.

A dog that has been properly trained will attempt to obey the master’s command, even if that obedience results in the dog’s death. For the dog with a master, obeying its master is more important than life itself.

Likewise, the disciple of Jesus joyfully obeys the Lord regardless of the circumstances. This is captured in the words of the apostle Paul, “For to me to live is Christ and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21).

SDG                 rmb                 11/19/2021                 #457

A Purpose Worth Your Soul (Matthew 16:26)

What is the greatest satisfaction? What is that one thing that, if we find it, we will be content? Perhaps another way of asking the question is, “What is that endeavor that is worth the cost of my one God-given life?” Jesus stated the problem this way:

“For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul (Matthew 16:26)?”

This search for purpose has been a persistent theme in my life, especially since I trusted Christ as Lord and Savior over thirty years ago. Maybe I am unusual in this, but I think that many wrestle with these same thoughts: “What am I going to do with my life?” God has placed within us a desire for purpose. It may be our strongest human desire, the yearning to find that great work, that place where we feel the deepest sense of fulfillment. “This is the reason I exist!”

In a way, we are all exchanging our soul for something. When I was much younger, I was exchanging my soul for rock climbing. Although there were pleasures and accomplishments from my years of rock climbing, there was never any sense that clawing my way up crags was worth my soul. I felt a need for purpose but climbing was never going to get me there. Then I met the Lord Jesus and He changed everything. Now my life had a sense of purpose. When I was a new believer, I had not come close to finding THE PURPOSE, but I knew that now I was on the right road.


I imagine God as the Master Archer and my life as an arrow. The target is that place where I feel the deep satisfaction and contentment of living my life fully to the glory of God, of finding my unique purpose. Before Christ, I had placed my arrow in the hands of clumsy archers who were poor marksmen, and my life was being spent in dissipation to no purpose. But now I have placed my arrow in the hands of the Lord, the Master Archer, and the Lord has launched me from His bow. Like every one of my brothers and sisters in Christ, I am now either a contented arrow in flight, useful to the Master Archer as I fly toward His chosen target, or the greatest of all satisfactions, a fulfilled arrow which has found its target and is living out my purpose. I have found my great work (Nehemiah 6:3). My search is over. This, my purpose, is why I exist.


The Bible is full of examples of people who found their purpose. Nehemiah left Susa and the court of King Artaxerxes to find his purpose. He realized that the work of his life was rebuilding Jerusalem. “I am doing a great work and I cannot come down (Neh. 6:3).” Having found his life purpose, nothing was going to distract him.

The apostle Paul found his purpose in the dust of the Damascus road. He was a chosen instrument for Christ, and nothing was going to prevent him from fulfilling his purpose. “But I do not consider my life of any account as dear to myself, so that I may finish my course and the ministry I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify solemnly of the gospel of the grace of God (Acts 20:24).” He was a man who had found his purpose, and so he could say, “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain (Phil. 1:21).”

The Lord Jesus Himself was completely aware of the reason why He was sent by the Father and was focused on fulfilling His purpose. There has never been and there never will be a Person on earth who was more intent on His purpose. As He was preparing for the cross, Jesus said, “I glorified You (the Father) on the earth, having accomplished the work which You have given Me to do (John 17:4).” Even Jesus knew the joy and satisfaction of perfectly fulfilling His purpose.

In Isaiah 6, the prophet saw the LORD, lofty and exalted, and realized his own sinfulness (“Woe is me, for I am ruined!”), but he found his life purpose.

The Lord said, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?” Then I said, “Here am I! Send me!” – Isaiah 6:8

Jeremiah was given his life purpose when he was still a youth.

But the LORD said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am a youth,’ because everywhere I send you, you shall go, and all that I command you, you shall speak (Jeremiah 1:7).” “Now, gird up your loins and arise, and speak to them all which I command you (1:17).”

Many others knew the satisfaction and contentment which comes from fulfilling God’s purpose for their lives. Amos 7:15 – “But the LORD took me from following the flock and the LORD said to me, ‘Go prophesy to My people Israel.’” Peter was given his purpose one day on the Sea of Galilee. Jesus said to Simon (Peter), “Do not fear. From now on you will be catching men (Luke 5:11).” Moses was a washed-up shepherd in Midian when the LORD met him in a burning bush and gave him a life purpose, to lead Israel out of Egypt (Exodus 3). The LORD commanded Joshua to be strong and courageous and then gave him the life purpose of leading Israel in to conquer the land of Canaan (Joshua 1). Caleb demanded to be given the city of Hebron, because he knew that the LORD had called him to drive out the giants there (Joshua 14:6-15). Ezekiel was also given his assignment from the LORD: “Son of man, I am sending you to the sons of Israel, a rebellious people who have rebelled against Me (Ezekiel 2:3).” And thus was his life determined.  

But I have become convinced that the Lord intends for all His children to know the satisfaction and peace and contentment of finding their life purpose. “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them (Ephesians 2:10).” Now, if He has prepared our good works, he must also know the purpose for those good works.

I feel that, after a search of almost thirty years, I have now found my purpose; my great work. I am now writing full time and have never been more enthusiastic about my life. “Delight yourself in the LORD, and He will give you the desires of your heart (Psalm 37:4).” If the desires of your heart are to glorify God with your life and rejoice in Him, then He has promised to give you the desires of your heart. One of those desires should be finding His purpose for your life. “Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you (Matthew 6:33).” The world searches for riches and fame and power, but the believer seeks the Lord Himself and fellowship with Him. Seek righteousness (Matthew 5:6) and the Lord has promised to add all the other things. “You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart (Jeremiah 29:13).”

SDG                 rmb                 2/24/2021