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

Persevere in the New Year

For many people, including yours truly, 2021 has been a year of ongoing disappointments as earthly sources of pleasure and comfort and contentment have been systematically compromised or eliminated. As a follower of Jesus and, therefore, as a person with a God-centered worldview, I believe that the Lord is taking away the temporal comforts of this world and is withdrawing His common grace from the earth so that His people will long for their heavenly, eternal dwellings which will come when the Lord Jesus Christ returns on the clouds in power and glory. Yes, God is allowing the world to experience the ugliness of its sin so that God’s people will more eagerly await the coming of our King. And I think that this pattern will continue and actually intensify in 2022.

In light of this, how is a Christian to respond? How will we as Christians respond to the deteriorating moral climate and to the ongoing flood of disappointments?

I suggest that we respond with perseverance. In fact, I suggest that the key word for 2022 will be “PERSEVERE.” I am establishing the mindset that I will persevere in this new year. That is, that I will continue steadfastly along the path that God has given me to walk.

Can we be more specific in carrying out this goal of perseverance? That is, can we put a little more “shoe leather” on this objective? Here is my proposal:

Persevere in faithfulness, in hope, in fruitful labor, and in joy no matter the earthly, visible circumstances.

FAITHFULNESS: Continue to fulfill your roles and your responsibilities and your commitments. If you are an employee, continue to do your work heartily as to the Lord and not to men (Colossians 3:23). Be a light in your workplace (Matt. 5:16). Are you married? Then, love your wife as Christ loved the church (Ephesians 5:25) or submit to your husband as the church submits to Christ (Ephesians 5:24) and let your marriage be a picture of Jesus Christ and His church to the watching world (Ephesians 5:31-32). Are you single? Use your freedom as an unmarried person to serve Christ with undistracted devotion (1 Corinthians 7:32-35). In all things, act with integrity, honesty, and purity. Each day is another day to live for Christ and to shine your light for Christ, so be faithful with your days. Be a good steward of your money and especially of your time by spending both wisely. When spending your money, be sure that you could tell Jesus about that expenditure with a clear conscience. Time cannot be saved but only spent, so be careful how you spend your time. Walk intentionally through your days, fixing your eyes on the end goal of glorifying Jesus. In other words, persevere in faithfulness!

HOPE: There is a reward promised to the follower of Jesus. God has made promises to His children that He will certainly fulfill. It is these promises that have been cast together as our hope, “an anchor of the soul both sure and steadfast” (Hebrews 6:19). Our hope is that no matter the trials of this earthly life, God will certainly be faithful to His promises. God’s children await the certain fulfillment of God’s promises. So, when there is grief or sorrow or sadness, we remember that we have been promised a resurrection when we will receive a glorified body, and we persevere with hope. When confronted with disappointment or pain, we remember that these are temporary, but our home in heaven will last forever, so we persevere in hope. As we walk through “the sufferings of this present time,” our mind is fixed on the hope of the “glory that is to be revealed to us” (Romans 8:18). Persevering in hope means casting our minds out into the future when we will forever be with Christ in glory so that our anticipation of God’s promises overwhelms our concerns about today’s trials. So, in 2022, we will persevere in hope.

FRUITFUL LABOR: This term is taken from Philippians 1:22 when, after saying, “To live is Christ and to die is gain” (1:21), Paul declares that, even though he would prefer to depart and be with Christ (in other words, he would prefer to die), he remain because he has “fruitful labor” to do. It is evident that Paul is referring to kingdom work, to direct gospel ministry. Paul chose to persevere in fruitful ministry with its trials and pains rather than departing for his deserved heavenly reward. And so should we. So, during 2022, I urge you to find your place of “fruitful labor,” to discover your role in gospel ministry, and to persevere and “to spend and be expended” (2 Cor. 12:15) in that role for the glory of Christ.

JOY: This is that characteristic that most dramatically distinguishes the believer from the rest of the world. The follower of Jesus is not just happy when all his circumstances are favorable, and all his paths are clear. Rather, the believer has a persistent internal joy that beams out regardless of circumstances. Let 2022 be the year that we amp up our joy and persevere in obvious Christ-filled and Christ-honoring joy in all twelve months. Think of all that the Lord has done for us and all that awaits us in heaven when we are with the Lord forever, and let the joy pour out of you until the corners of your face start to break. “The joy of the LORD is our strength” (Nehemiah 8:10).

SUMMARY:

I anticipate that the future is going to be difficult for followers of Jesus. Paul told Timothy, “But realize this, that in the last days, difficult times will come” (2 Tim. 3:1). Judging by the signs we see in our world, there is reason to believe that our days are those days. But the follower of Jesus has no reason to be discouraged. The mission given to us by the Lord Jesus Himself goes on (Matt. 28:19-20; Acts 1:8), and we continue to proclaim the gospel. We accept whatever persecution may come, considering it an honor to suffer for Christ (Acts 5:41) and knowing that those who are persecuted are blessed (Matt. 5:10-12; 1 Peter 4:14). In a word, we PERSEVERE until our Lord calls us home or until He catches us up with Himself in the air (1 Thess. 4:17). The word for 2022 is persevere.

SDG                 rmb                 1/1/2022                     #478