I recently visited a local Chinese Restaurant, and as is customary, I received a cookie at the end of my meal. Of course the waitress bringing the cookie in one hand and the bill in the other served as the signal that it was time to pay and leave.
The cookie had a small piece of paper in it, which didn’t taste very pleasant. Come to think of it, the paper tasted a little better than the cookie itself. But seriously, I could’ve paper-cut my tongue!
Anyway, the paper I discovered in my mouth was like a message from my teeth. (I guess you have to imagine that I was completely oblivious to the ritual of the purpose of the Chinese cookie in question.) It instructed me to “Learn Chinese.”
What a profound thought. I should learn another language, perhaps Chinese. Not because a cookie told me to do so, but for the knowledge and ability to communicate with people from another country.
As I flipped the secret message from my teeth over, I discovered some words that could’ve come straight from a pastor’s sermon.
“Truth is an unpopular subject because it is unquestionably correct,” it read.
No I don’t put faith in fortune cookies, or their writers, but rice is good. And they give you a horrible tasting cookie to wash down the good rice, I guess.
But this statement (not a fortune, a statement) cookie made me think of some friends and family members I have recently tried to witness to and share with about what God has done for me and members of my immediate family. To some people, God’s Word and the mention of Jesus Christ is “unpopular” because God is “unquestionably correct.” And in being correct, mention of such topics, points out our faults and inadequacies. It shows that without God, we don’t have “truth” in us. The subject makes some people feel very uncomfortable, which as we all know, feeling uncomfortable is “unpopular.”
Now let me share some truth from my own life, or in the words of David: “Come and listen, all you who fear God, let me tell you what He has done for me,” – Psalms 66:16 (New International Version).
At this time last year, Valentine’s Day we’ll say, I was not near to God, but He was near to me, although I wasn’t aware. God was already working to draw me nearer to Him, even though I was trying to remain in control of my life. Jesus saved me at age 14, but as I graduated High School and was allegedly becoming a man roughly four years later, I quit talking to Him. I quit listening to Him. I stopped reading His Word and started making my own decisions.
I can tell you the truth, it was the stupidest thing I’ve ever done. The proof of that is in the very ignorant decision-making that followed that first asinine decision.
There were times I tried to return to God’s side, because I missed His embrace, His love, His grace. But I wanted to hold onto the control my control of my life.
“I cried out to Him with my mouth; His praise was on my tongue. If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened,” – Psalms 66:17, 18.
I did cherish my sin. I did want to hold onto my life and my ways, and had plenty of justifications for my sin. I even used those justifications to convince others to sin with me, and if they wouldn’t, I scoffed at them and made fun.
For thirteen years, I was in complete control of my life, and man, were those some rough times. Sure, I made some money; sure, I gained some awards and recognition, and I had some friends. But I made really bad decisions and committed terrible sins daily.
God’s first commandment, I broke on a daily, hourly and minutely basis: “Thou shalt have no other God’s before me,” –Exodus 20:3.
I put everything before God. My job, my car, my actions, my attitude, myself. Everything! It didn’t matter what it was, I put in between me and God.
But over a short period of time in 2011, I was reminded of the “truth.” The “truth” was always in front of me over these years. The “truth” is: I’m a terrible person without God. And I always make a mess of my life without His help.
I don’t remember what was preached that Sunday. But I could feel God pulling at me with every uttered word. During the invitation, I answered that call.
As I got to the front of the church and neared the altar, Bobby Ray Wilson, the Pastor at Cumberland View Baptist, asked me, “Is it sin in your life?”
It was as if God had told him exactly what I had done. It was as if the Pastor was Joshua and I was Achan, needing to confess that day. Bobby preached from Joshua this past week and it reminded me of how I felt that day.
The passage reads: “Then Joshua said to Achan, ‘My son, give glory to the Lord, the God of Israel, and give Him the praise. Tell me what you have done; do not hide it from me.’
Achan replied, ‘It is true! I have sinned against the Lord,” – Joshua 7:19. 20. (NIV)
The “truth” is that’s what I should’ve said. That’s what I needed to say. But part of me still wanted to hold on to my sin. I wasn’t ready to turn it all over to God.
“I just need to be closer to God,” I told the preacher. He prayed over me as I wept and prayed for myself.
God may not have heard my prayer, because even as I was praying to be closer to the one who made me, and you, and the world, I was thinking of sinning again. In fact, I thought to myself that I would sin again as soon as church was over.
But I know God heard Bobby’s prayer for me. And I know He heard the prayers of others in the church who were praying for me also. While I still wasn’t ready to confess to God, I could feel their prayers working in my life, as they prayed for me over the next couple of weeks.
The “truth” is I really wanted to be closer to God – I did not lie to the preacherman. But I honestly wanted to continue my favorite sin, too. The “truth” is you can’t have it both ways.
So over the next couple of weeks, as God heard the prayers being lifted up to Him for me, God really began to show me that the only way to be closer to Him, was to give up my sin and to trust Him to take care of it all: To take care of ALL of me!
As I prayed for forgiveness, and to be able to let go of my sin, He did just that. And when I gave up my sin, God gave me what I had prayed for; what I truly wanted: to be closer to Him!
“But God has surely listened and heard my voice in prayer. Praise be to God, who has not rejected my prayer, or withheld His love from me!” – Psalms 66:19, 20.
Father God, I thank you for hearing my prayers, but I especially thank you for hearing others in prayer for me. I thank you for the man who is so near to you, that he saw through me, as you allowed him to, and knew that I needed your forgiveness. I thank you for answering my prayer to be closer to you by first showing me what I needed to let go of. But most of all, I thank you for sending your son Jesus to die for my sins, that I could be forgiven for them and let go of them. Amen!
P.S. “Truth” for your life: Put your faith in Jesus Christ people, not in other silly things like horoscopes and fortune cookies. Everything and everyone will let you down except God.
A couple of weeks after my cookie reminded me that the “truth” of God is “unpopular,” I got another message from my teeth that said, “Some fortune cookies contain no fortune.”
For someone who believes in their fortune, that would’ve been a rip-off; a let down. I don’t have to believe in fortunes, because the “truth” is, Jesus Christ, and His Word, will never let me down! It won’t let you down either