How NOT to Cook—or Live a Life

If I can get the Food Network interested, I want to do a cooking show. I will call it Kids, Don’t Try This at Home. For the first half of the show, I will regale viewers with stories of my attempts at creative cooking. The second half of the show will be turned over to my co-host, Martha Stewart, who will berate me and tell me I’m the one who should be in prison for my abusive treatment of taste buds.

At my house, I’m only allowed to microwave leftovers under adult supervision.

There’s a way to cook and a way not to cook. And we can thank Fannie Farmer for her contribution to the art of good cooking. She gave us measurements.

We celebrate Fannie Farmer this week who, on August 23, 1902, opened Miss Farmer’s School of Cookery in Boston. Her school was successful because she had already established a name for herself. She had earlier published a cookbook which revolutionized the way we approach cooking. She simply introduced precise measurements.

Before the days of clever measuring cups from Pampered Chef, people learned to cook more by watching others. Through experience, they developed good judgment on how much of an ingredient to add. But Miss Framer pushed for strict, level measurements. She put science in the art of cooking. Thanks to her, buffoons like me can actually whip up a decent meal if we stick to the measurements and instructions.

Most people approach life like I approach meal preparation.  They put in what they think will work and hope for the best. It doesn’t work with cooking—and it doesn’t work with life.

There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end it leads to death” (Prov. 16:25)

God expects us to use exact measurements with our life, and He has given us a standard to follow. It’s clearly written out for us in the Bible. No guesswork, hoping I get it right.

So be careful to do what the Lord your God has commanded you; do not turn aside to the right or to the left. Walk in obedience to all that the Lord your God has commanded you, so that you may live and prosper and prolong your days in the land that you will possess” (Deut. 5:32-33). 

Even though I know that’s the only path to success or a fruitful life, I still falter and return to putting in a pinch of this or that, whatever looks good to me. But God in His grace steps in. He rescues me from my own failures. And I choose to get right back in line with His standards. Thankfully, by His Spirit, He leads me and helps me get it right.

“The Lord makes firm the steps of the one who delights in him” (Ps. 37:23).

Life tastes better when I follow Christ and His instructions.

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Why I Don’t Like (Most) Christian Movies

I don’t like Christian movies.

There. I said it—and it feels good to finally say it publicly.

(What’s ironic about that statement is that I have a B.A. degree in film because I originally wanted to make Christian movies.)

So there I was—the Christian who doesn’t like Christian movies—watching The Case for Christ and I liked it. I really did. But wait a minute. I don’t like Christian movies! This led me to do an inventory of the Christian movies I’ve seen over the years, and I had to admit to myself that, yes, I liked some of them.

The Christian movies I liked were true stories about real people. For example:

  • The Case of Christ – Lee Strobel, the atheistic journalist who took a hard look at the resurrection of Christ and moved from skeptic to believer.
  • Hacksaw Ridge – Desmond Doss, whose Christian conviction kept him from  carrying a gun in WWII, yet he received the Medal of Honor for his actions in battle.
  • The Hiding Place – the ten Boom sisters hid Jews during WWII, yet they maintained a strong Christian faith even after being caught and sent to a concentration camp.

This doesn’t mean every Christian biopic is done well, but at least they’re starting in a better place: a real story about real people dealing with real struggles and faith.

This also doesn’t mean there’s no place for fiction in communicating faith. Ever heard of Pilgrim’s Progress? Then of course we have the catalog of works by C.S. Lewis.  When I came to the end of the whole Harry Potter series, I was moved by the subtle way it communicated the gospel.

But the majority of Christian movie storytelling is … well, the state of Wisconsin probably envies the output of cheese in these movies. The filmmakers mean well, but as a way to bring your friends to Christ, they fall short. They’re not believable.

For all my disdain of the genre, they do serve a purpose. Although the intent of so many of these movies is to be evangelistic, they serve well to encourage believers. They give many believers Christ-centered entertainment.

But if I want to use a movie as an on-ramp to talk about faith and spiritual matters, make-believe Christians in a make-believe world are no match for the real thing.  

Watch The Case for Christ (which releases on DVD August 15), then go for coffee with a friend and have a conversation.

Freely Sharing a Life-Saving Drug

Prescription drugs are usually expensive—and some of them seem outrageously so. Much of that is understandable since some companies have invested years and countless funds in research and development.

And then there are others, the most infamous being what Turing Pharmaceuticals did two years ago. They acquired the drug Daraprim, which had already been on the market for 62 years, and immediately raised its price from $13.50 to $750—for each tablet. Granted, many of the most expensive drugs are needed by only a small percentage of the population, but for those people, it can be life or death. Only one million people in the world suffer from familial lipoprotein lipase deficiency, but the drug to treat this cost $1.2 million a year.

Sure,  we could debate finding the balance between adequately funding a drug and charging obscene prices, but I’d like to take the opposite approach and highlight when a completely different tactic was taken.

I’m a Type I diabetic. I’ve been one since I was 21. Had I lived a hundred years ago, I would’ve only lived to age 22. But things changed in the 1920s that made a difference for me and millions of others.

Frederick Banting and Charles Best

Diabetes had been known for thousands of years, but it was only by the 1920s that researchers figured out the pancreas had something to do with it. On July 27, 1921, scientists at the University of Toronto isolated the culprit as insulin. They did research with dogs. They were able to cause the pancreas to malfunction, then they injected the dogs with insulin—and the dogs were able to chase cars, annoy the family cat, and shed on the furniture. Y’know, normal dog stuff.

Next, they isolated a reasonably pure form of insulin from cattle, and gave it in daily injections to a 14-year-old boy. He was about to chase girls, annoy his sister, and put his feet on the furniture. Y’know, normal teenage boy stuff.

Daily  insulin injections were the answer.  Now comes the fascinating part.

They gave this information away. The scientists gave the license to produce insulin to any and all pharmaceutical companies for free. No royalty was required.

Immediately, thousands of lives were extended.  And because about three million people suffer from Type i diabetes just in the US, these scientists could’ve made a killing, Instead they settled for receiving the Nobel Price for their work.

I am a beneficiary of the life-saving work done by Drs. Frederick Banting and Charles Best. I am also a beneficiary of another life-saving treatment. Sin, rebellion, and death controlled my life—and with them the symptoms of no peace, no joy, and no contentment. I needed blood. The innocent blood of Jesus Christ was shed to take the place of my sin-tainted blood. I was washed clean and purified by the blood of Christ.

I know that without one ounce of doubt. I know who I once was and who I am now, and it can only be explained by the life-saving, life-altering work Jesus Christ did for me.

This gift from Christ was costly, but He gave it away freely.

In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace” (Eph. 1:7).

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An Innovative Approach to Church Life … from 1916

The following tidbit from history surprised me. It just seems so natural to walk into the store, make my selections while I walk up and down the aisles, and check out. But there was a time …

Prior to 1916, you went to the local grocer and simply handed him your list. He went to the back, got the items, and brought them out to you. Every store did that, including the store Clarence Saunders operated in Memphis. By the process bugged Saunders. It was time consuming. He wanted a faster way to serve customers—and serve more customers.

This sounds so ordinary to us, but he rocked the shopper’s world when they walked into his new store and found all the products were out front—not in the back. He handed shoppers a basket and empowered them to pick up their own items!

Some people expected this approach to buying groceries to fail. The naysayers expected a negative reaction: I should be paying less since I’m doing the bulk of the work. (That was my attitude the first time I used a self-service gas station in the 70s. Gas prices were going up, yet I was the one now doing the work of pumping gas.)  But when Saunders opened his new store on September 6, 1916, his innovation took off. And here we are 100 years later, gladly standing in the chip aisle, trying to choose between Cool Ranch or Nacho Cheese Doritos.

And some of us still shop in the store bearing the same name as the 1916 original: Piggly Wiggly. (Or as I call it: Hoggly Woggly.)

I think it’s well past time for believers to approach the Christian life with the same attitude we have when we enter the grocery store. If you need something, you go get it. Instead, too many Christians go to church expecting others—in particular, the church staff—to do things for them.

  • Pastor, I need you to pray for my Uncle Murray. Because God listens more to pastors.
  • Pastor, you need to share the gospel with my neighbor. If he was saved, he’d keep his dog out of my yard. Because the message of salvation only has meaning when it comes from the pastor—and not from someone who has been yelling at the neighbor’s dog.
  • Pastor, you need to visit Martha. She’s upset because she’s been ill yet no one came to see her. Because only pastors are allowed to visit the sick.
  • Pastor, the restroom is out of paper towels—again.

Anyone who has ever pastored can tell you these are exactly the kinds of things many church members expect their leaders to do. And it never crosses their minds that they could do these things themselves!

Church members need to get out of 1915! Let’s move into 1916 with its innovative approach to grocery shopping and apply the same principle to church life. If you see something in life and ministry that needs to be done, do it. Don’t present your list to the pastor and expect him to do it.

Notice who does the work of ministry in this passage:

“So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service” (Eph. 4:11-12).

Don’t give your ministry shopping list to your pastor. Take care of it yourself—as God leads you and works through you.

“Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms” (1 Pet. 4:8-10).

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Too Many Christians Are Still Climbing

This photo captures the attitude of too many people in the church.

Just labeling something “wheelchair accessible” doesn’t make it so. Sure, the right set of stairs has fewer steps, and it is certainly an easier climb for those in good health. But for those who can’t navigate steps, a few steps can be just as insurmountable as many.

So what does that have to do with the church?

We in the evangelical church do well in saying salvation is all by faith in Christ. You can’t earn or work your way into heaven; just trust Christ.

So far, so good.

We’re not like those other groups with all their rituals and rules: Jews with their strict adherence to the law … Muslims with their rigid prayer five times a day and other requirements … cults with their requirements of giving, mission work, deeds that move you higher up the path. Instead, the Christian church is all about grace.

But Christians have a lot of unwritten rules.  These “rules” vary from congregation to congregation. Staunch fundamentalist groups preach grace while expecting church members not to listen to certain styles of music … put their kids in public schools … play the lottery … smoke.

Other churches can be more subtle in their expectations. To make a difference in the church and community you don’t drink (in public) … support liberal causes … hold to reformed theology … speak in tongues. The unwritten list varies as you drive down the street from church to church.

It’s a safe assessment that no pastor promotes this. (Well … most don’t.) But we have something ingrained in our old nature that says we still play a part in our salvation. That means after we come to Christ—after we’re saved and part of His church—we still have certain things we have to do to make the cut. Thirty-six percent of evangelicals believe their actions partly contribute to earning a place in heaven [State of Theology Research].

If there are twelve people on your pew next Sunday or in your Bible study group, odds are that four of them believe to some degree they’ve got to do their part to make it to heaven. That’s like saying, thanks to Jesus, Christians don’t have as many steps to climb. But to those of us disabled by our own faulty efforts, one step to climb is one too many steps.

Let me be clear: In Christ, there are no steps to climb. Zip. Zilch. Nada. Jesus climbed those steps for us and now He reaches back, holds out His hand, and says, “Trust Me.” And He lifts us up to be with Him.

And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus” (Eph. 2:6-7).

Stop climbing—just walk with Jesus. And stop expecting others to climb by your set of rules.

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What Would Your Friends Say You Smell Like?

Please don’t be offended, but I am about to compare you to whale vomit.

One of the nastiest odors known to the human nose is called ambergris. It is a secretion that comes from the intestines of a sperm whale. Apparently, when the sperm whale swallows something it can’t digest (I’m thinking Pinocchio’s raft), it secrets this stuff to cover the object and help it pass. If the object is too big, the whale pukes it up. Either way the ambergris comes out of the whale.


I know it sounds like I’ve reverted back to being a 12-year-old boy who likes grossing out his sisters by taking about stuff like whale poop and vomit, but I’ve found something fascinating about ambergris. As nasty and disgusting as it smells, as it ages  it changes to an incredibly pleasant smell. How pleasant? For years, it was highly valued for use in perfume.

That’s right. Men, the perfume that once drew you to your wife may have included eau de whale puke.

A foul odor becomes pleasant. What was once disgusting is transformed into something pleasing.

A life of sin stinks. We put off the stench of death. But when we come to Christ, we are transformed. A life that was once repulsive has been transformed by the grace of God into something sweet and pleasant. People can  look at us—even knowing the harsh and foul environment we came from—and be attracted by the aroma of Christ.

But thanks be to God, who always leads us as captives in Christ’s triumphal procession and uses us to spread the aroma of the knowledge of him everywhere. For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing” (2 Cor. 2: 14-15).

We are the aroma of Christ!

During the first century, a victorious army would march through the city with a parade of the prisoners of war.  The celebration included sweet fragrances that filled the air. To the victors, the sweet smell reminded them of what they had gained, but to the defeated—who were often being marched to their execution—that sweet aroma underscored their impending death.

Christ is the victor, and we—the aroma of Christ—cause different reactions in people. Those who choose to follow Christ are drawn to the sweet fragrance.  Those who reject Christ are repelled, and that sweet smell is the smell of death to them.

I haven’t worn cologne in years, but I do want people to pick up a scent from me: the aroma of Christ. Join me, and let’s fill the air with something wonderful—the sweet smell of grace.

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Lies Masquerading as Truth

What we think is true can be just as powerful as what really is true.

Just ask Hitler.

The First US Army Group played a pivotal role in the D-Day Invasion—and it wasn’t even real.

The Nazis knew the Allied forces would eventually try to step onto the continent, but where? The Allies had their sights on landing at Normandy, but they didn’t want the Germans to know that. So they created a fictitious army group, placed it in a British coastal area far from where the Allies were actually stationed, and gave the impression they were going to invade France at Pas de Calais, a good 200 miles up the coast.

  • They created tent cities, fake mess halls, hospitals, and even a sewage treatment facility.
  • They filled the area with rubber inflatable tanks and a massive inventory of jeeps and ambulances constructed of wood.
  • The British film industry stepped in and made dummy landing craft out of fabric, plywood, old pipe, and bailing wire.
  • At night, men would move this equipment around, giving the illusion of activity.
  • They transmitted fake reports of camp activity, preparation, and troop movements.

To German radio operators and reconnaissance planes, the enemy was gearing up for invasion at Pas de Calais. As a result, when the allied invasion occurred on June 6, 1944, the Germans military was not as fortified at Normandy as they could’ve been. Their units were spread thin with a large contingency waiting 200 miles north for an invasion that never happened.

Even three days after the invasion, Hitler ordered the units to stay at Calais instead of joining the others in Normandy. This allowed the Allies to gain the ground needed.

A ghost army won a real battle.

Don’t let a ghost army win any battles in your life.

Has anyone ever said one of these to you? Ever said them to yourself?

  • You failed—again. You will always be a failure.
  • You are inadequate. You’ll never measure up.
  • Sure, God loves you, but He can’t use you—not after what you’ve done.
  • You are who you are. You will never change.
  • You’re hopeless.

Stop listening to these. They are nothing but lies. Jesus Christ changes everything.

  • He removes your sin—no matter how bad it is.
  • His forgiveness and love sees no failure.
  • He comes into your life through His Holy Spirit. God Himself empowers you and overcomes any past or inadequacies.
  • He gives you hope and a future.

Lies rule our lives when we believe them. But if we see the truth of who Christ is and who we are in Him, those lies are nothing more than a pretend, ghost army. They might look threatening, but they have no real power.

So how can we recognize the lies? Focus on the truth. Focus on Christ and what He has done for you. The gospel—the salvation that comes through the death and resurrection of Christ—is not simply to secure your future in heaven; it is for now. The good news is that Christ has set you free now. You rest securely in Him.

  • I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all. No one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand” (John 10:28-29).
  • “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, and see, the new has come!” (2 Cor. 5:17).
  • “But now he has reconciled you by his physical body through his death, to present you holy, faultless, and blameless before him” (Col. 1:22).
  • “Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you believe so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Rom. 15:13).

Live in the truth of who you are in Christ.