On Franks Hot Sauce, Cathead Biscuits and the Kindness of God

BiscuitsFar be it from me to contradict Stonewall Jackson on anything.  An iconic Confederate General and educator, few characters in American history command more respect.  150 years removed from his tragic death at Chancellorsville, Thomas Jonathan Jackson remains immortalized as one of the finest military tacticians our country has ever produced.  History tells us that he was a sharp theologian as well.  He was brilliant, influential, admirable and much-revered.
But he was wrong about butter.
Maybe you’ve heard that as a young man, Jackson first tasted butter on a biscuit.  And he liked it.  A lot.  As the story goes, Stonewall Jackson was so concerned that he might like butter on his biscuits too much (and consequently make it an idol) that he resolved then and there to eat his biscuits dry.  Which is very, very sad.  For the rest of his sad life, Stonewall Jackson abstained from butter, eating his biscuits dry.  Can you imagine anything more pitiful?  A hot biscuit with lots of melted butter is one of life’s great joys!  (Someone has said that the first bite is a half-moon.  The second bite, a total eclipse!)
Remarkably, God designed our bodies to be sustained and nourished by the good things we eat.  Isn’t that wonderful?  How very kind of God!  Surely, it is for this reason that we are meant to eat food in a way that amplifies and exposes the excellencies of God’s character.  “Whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31).  If your table is typical, good food will be featured in a special way tomorrow.  I wonder: will you give thought during the meal to the miracle of taste?  Will you slow down long enough to consider the sweetness of God in giving such wonderful gifts?  It’s noteworthy that Scripture uses the language of taste to speak of our Lord, His Word and His ways.  God, it appears, equipped the human tongue with papillae containing thousands of little receptors that allow us to discern sweet from bitter or sour from savory.  Why did He do this, do you suppose?  Perhaps, He did this, in part, to provide a window through which we might experience delight in Him!  David certainly did.
“. . . how sweet are Your words to my taste . . .”  Psalm 119:103
” . . . my soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food . . .” Psalm 63:5
Concerning the Words of God, he said, “. . . sweeter than honey . . .”  Psalm 19:10
” . . . O, taste and see that the Lord is good . . .” Psalm 34:8 
God made us to taste!  Christians have always flourished in the tension between epicurean indulgence and ascetic deprivation.  Paul told Timothy that it was God Who has given “all things richly to enjoy” (1 Timothy 6:17)  This morning, a friend made a pithy observation.  “Christians fast”, he said, “but they also feast.”  True.  So, glorify God as you eat.  Practice restraint, but don’t fail to enjoy the kindnesses of God.  Experience it all as a gift.  
Solomon advised us to “eat joyfully”.  It could be that what makes gluttony so grievous is that it amounts to unconsidered and immoderate consumption.  How much better that we enjoy nice long meals with friends and family, pausing often to relish particular tastes.  God meant it that way.  
I have long contended that a hot Krispy Kreme doughnut is ironclad evidence for the existence of a benevolent God.  How else would you propose that we account for such gifts?  
A cup of strong black coffee?
Or a South Carolina peach?  
Or Franks Hot Sauce?  
Or chocolate?  
Or a good steak?  
Or jalapenos stuffed with bacon and cream cheese?  
Or those little weenies in barbecue sauce?
 Or warm oatmeal cookies?
Or Kalamata olives?  
Or hot cider?  
God is kind and gracious.
So Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!  Eat your meat “with glad and generous hearts” (Acts 2:46).  And by all means, in light of God’s goodness and for the sake of His glory, butter your biscuit!

On Nehemiah 8 and the Public Reading of Scripture.

Sunday, we will read Nehemiah 8.  And that should excite you.
In 2010, our church embraced the practice that Paul commended in 1 Timothy 4:13. 
“. . . devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture . . .”  
Over these years, our pattern has been to simply read a passage from the Bible — generally one chapter a week.  We have explored Ezra Reading the Lawdifferent genres of Scripture including historical narrative, poetry, epistles and — over recent weeks — lists of names and numbers.  It is all profitable.  Since we began this practice, we have read through the following books, alternating Old and New Testaments, in this order:  Ephesians, Malachi, Galatians, Ecclesiastes, Mark, Psalms 120-134, Philippians, Micah, Colossians, Joel, Acts, Ruth, Hebrews, Psalm 119, 1 & 2 Peter, Hosea, Jude, Obadiah, 1 Corinthians, Ezra, 2 Corinthians and Nehemiah.  Each week, it is a particularly reverent time.  We love hearing the simple reading of the Word of God over the people of God.
A similar scene is in view this Sunday when we arrive at the eighth chapter of Nehemiah.  The city is secure.  The people of God are gathered.  A wooden platform is constructed and set out in the open near the southeastern entrance to Jerusalem.  Then Ezra the priest mounts the platform, carrying the scroll which contains the book of Deuteronomy and begins to read.  
Can you imagine the excitement?  It seems that the impulse of the people, upon hearing the Scripture, was to stand, which they did for hour after hour.  As Ezra read, the Levites circulated through the crowd insuring that everyone understood.  Scripture says that Ezra blessed the LORD and all the people answered, “Amen, Amen”, lifting their hands.  Then they bowed their heads and worshiped with their faces to the ground.  This passage says they wept when the Word of God was read.  Then, Ezra, Nehemiah and the Levites comfort the people, telling them not to weep.  Rather, they are urged to fix a big meal, eat good food, drink good wine and share it all with others, for “the joy of the LORD is your strength!”  Then, Nehemiah tells us that there was great rejoicing that day because ” . . . they had understood the words that were declared to them.” (8:12)
I’m told that there are 4300 different languages globally that have no Scripture.  None.  This represents 615,000,000 speakers who have never read or heard a single paragraph from the Bible in their own language.  Not once.  Suppose you were a tribal herdsman in Cameroon with no Bible.  Yet, word reaches you that years ago, God spoke and that His Words were contained in a book.  What would you give for that book?  Would you sell your cattle and land?  Would you give up your home in exchange for the book of God?  Would you sell yourself into indentured servitude to obtain a copy of that book?  Could there be a possession more valuable than the book of God?  
As I type this, I have 17 copies of this book within arm’s reach (not including the digital versions contained on my computer and phone).  Should I not be overwhelmed at this grace?  It seems right that each Sunday, as the offertory ends and the reader approaches the platform, that a low, rumbling murmur of anticipation should sweep across the room.  We have the book of God.  May God grant that His Word never fail to thrill us!  
So, I say again: Sunday, we will read Nehemiah 8.  And that should excite you.

Beloved Thomasville: Encouragement to love your Future Home

Downtown ThomasvilleWhen Caleb was a year old, our family moved to Thomasville, Georgia.  I had taken a job on staff at a church there and became immediately enamored by this charming Southern town — her sweet people, rich history and stately Old South architecture.  

I loved Thomasville.  

Still do.  

In the weeks leading up to our move, I began poring over maps and articles about Thomasville.  I picked up every piece of free promotional literature the Chamber of Commerce offered and read them all, front to back.  An insufferable know-it-all, I felt obligated to share what I learned with Bridget and my, was she grateful! 

I bet you didn’t know that Joanne Woodward, Bailey White and Heisman Trophy Winner Charlie Ward were all born in Thomasville.

Bridget would cock her head with interest, no doubt grateful to be married to such an informed man (and one so willing to share!)

 After we moved there, I continued to fascinate her with all that I knew about our new home.  In the evenings, if we were walking Downtown, I might casually gesture at one of the buildings,

Mamie Eisenhower used to get her prescriptions filled at Thomas Drug Store.  You know, the Eisenhowers visited here often.  That Ike was quite a quail hunter!  Yes Sirree.

She’d smile.  

You know what else?  You’ll be interested to learn that Jackie Kennedy’s first public appearance after JFK’s assassination was right there at All Saints Episcopal Church.  She used to take mass there whenever she visited the plantation.

As you might expect, Bridget was just riveted.  I became an obnoxious fan of Thomasville; the mayor could not have been prouder! 

I laugh about it now, but it somehow seemed important to me to know all that I could about the place that would be my home!  Which leads me to ask, how well do you know your future home?  

Paul challenged his Colossian friends:

If you have been raised with Christ, seek [keep on seeking] the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.  Set your minds [direct your fixed attention] on things above, not on things that are on the earth. 

I wonder:  Does your mind ever drift to the place that will be your home in 75-100 years?  Do you ever think about it?  Does heaven occupy your thoughts at all?  Do you love it?  How long would it take to exhaust all you know about your heart’s true home?  A young woman in our church, a 19-year-old, will often remind her struggling friends of our hope.  “Ah”, she’ll say with a bright countenance, “but heaven’s coming!”

It is interesting to me how little attention is given to that place that Paul describes as “far better” (Philippians 1:23).  If you’re typical, you will expend more mental energy this week considering how to make life comfortable or how you might delay your departure through diet and exercise than to considering the glories of eternity.  How much better that we grow in our affections for a place and condition that is (according to Paul in Romans 8) incomparable?  

Consider heaven.  Can you imagine what it will be like open your eyes in place unaffected by sin?   Can you even fathom the experience of seeing our Beloved Lord Jesus, face to face?  

Imagine your future home.  John describes its capital city as a place of incredible natural beauty with rivers and streams and fruit-bearing trees and mountains!  As I write this, East Tennessee is showing off her Fall color and it is spectacular!  Heaven is better.  John said that in this restored earth there is a “river . . .  bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb, through the middle of the street of the city.”  The dimensions are massive (Revelation 21:15-16).  Were the New Jerusalem positioned over the lower 48, it would extend from the Appalachian Mountains where we live to the Sierra Nevada mountains out West and from the southern border of Texas up into Canada!  What a wonderful place our Bridegroom has gone to prepare!

It might do your soul good to think a little bit today about your future home!  Randy Alcorn can help you get started here.