The Best Fire Protection

Baked Alaska dessert set alight. Image by Vxla on Flickr. CC BY-2.0

Baked Alaska is one of those desserts that seems like it will end in disaster.

This dessert involves covering a core of ice cream and cake with meringue and baking it at 450-500 degrees Fahrenheit. Really.

Who puts ice cream in a hot oven anyway?

Surely it will result in a melted mess, and you’ll be spending the next hour resentfully scrubbing out your oven.

But Baked Alaska will surprise and amaze you.

When you take this dessert out of the oven after a few minutes, you find that the meringue has cooked and slightly browned, but the ice cream underneath it is still cold and has retained its firm shape. The ice cream inside the “igloo” has remained untouched by the intense heat.

It seems miraculous, because you’d think that ice cream would melt when it came anywhere near temperatures that high. It’s not actually a miracle, however, but rather a clever application of physics. The dessert was invented in the 1800s by American physicist Benjamin Thompson, who was investigating the insulating properties of whipped egg whites.

If you want a genuine example of miraculous protection from a hot oven, you need to go the book of Daniel in the Old Testament.

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The Law of the Universe

Newton’s cradle, a device which illustrates conservation of momentum and conservation of energy. Image by 3D Animation Production Company from Pixabay

If you were paying attention during physics class in high school, you’ll know that there are certain laws that the natural world abides by.

The Law of Gravity, for instance. Legend has it that this principle was discovered by a young Isaac Newton when he was hit on the head by an apple which fell from the tree he was sitting under.

Or the Law of Inertia, which states that an object at rest or in motion will continue in that state unless acted upon by an external force. So when I’m sitting in my easy chair and don’t want to get up to do any housework, I’m not being lazy. I’m simply obeying the law of inertia.

I recently heard a wag rephrase Newton’s Third Law of Motion (“For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction”). He dubbed it the Law of Emotion: for every male action there is a female overreaction!

Then there’s the Law of Conservation of Energy, which says that energy can’t be created or destroyed, but can be altered from one form to another. For instance, our bodies transform the chemical energy in food into kinetic energy to help us move around.

I think sin has a principle attached to it which is similar to the Law of Conservation of Energy.

Sin can’t just disappear. It has to be dealt with in some way.

But it can be transformed.

As author Dorothy Sayers said, “There is only one real law—the law of the universe. It may be fulfilled either by way of judgement or by the way of grace, but it must be fulfilled one way or the other.”

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God, the Ultimate Multi-tasker

Multi-tasking has been described as the art of messing up several things at once.

Like trying to apply makeup and drive on the freeway at the same time. Or using power tools while texting.

Much of the time when we try to do several things at once, we wind up doing each of them poorly.

God, on the other hand, is a master at multi-tasking, and He does everything perfectly.

When we think God is doing one thing in our lives, He’s actually doing many things at once. And much of what God is accomplishing is completely off our radar screens.

As theologian John Piper says, “In EVERY situation and EVERY circumstance of your life, God is always doing a thousand different things that you cannot see and you do not know.” And, “God is always doing 10,000 things in your life, and you may be aware of 3 of them.” (I invite you to read Piper’s excellent post on this topic.)

Take Joseph in the Old Testament, for example.

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Bring Out The Big Guns

The Tsar Cannon, the Kremlin, Moscow.
Image by Tatyana Kazakova from Pixabay

Have you ever had a day when you simply needed chocolate?

Maybe you faced some problems, and needed a pick-me-up. Or you were dealing with a heartbreak and needed a balm for your ragged emotions.

And you knew that milk chocolate just wouldn’t cut it, let alone white chocolate.

It required the stronger stuff. You needed to bring out the big guns to help you cope with your challenges:

Dark chocolate.

Only the intense flavour and strength of chocolate with over 80% cocoa solids would do the trick. Nothing else would suffice.

Sometimes we reach a similar point in our spiritual lives, too.

The Christian life isn’t all a bed of roses. Oftentimes we face desperate circumstances, and we may find ourselves in a heap on the floor, crying our eyes out.

Maybe we’ve received a scary diagnosis from the doctor. We might have been let go from our job. Or our family might be in crisis: our marriage is in tatters or our children have gone astray.

We need help that is grounded in the gritty reality of what we’re facing. Sunny bromides like “Don’t worry, be happy” just won’t cut it.

We need to bring out the big guns.

We need the Psalms.

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Easier to Destroy Than Create

It’s a truism that it’s easier to destroy than to create.

I saw this in action recently in my own neighbourhood.

A two-storey house had been damaged internally by fire, although it looked salvageable from the outside. Nonetheless, the owners and insurers agreed that it should be demolished and a new house built in its stead.

I imagine the original house had taken months to build. It probably involved scores of people in its construction: contractors, carpenters, bricklayers, roofers, electricians, plumbers, and the like.

But it only took one man with one large backhoe a few hours to raze that building to the ground.

It was shocking how quickly the structure was destroyed. What could have lasted for decades was levelled in the space of a morning.

A cautionary tale, don’t you think?

If we’re not careful, we can see the same thing happen in our own lives.

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We Must Experience Christ Firsthand

What’s your favourite floral fragrance?

If you said rose or lavender, you’re in luck.

These flowers are among those from which we can easily extract essential oils. These substances can then be used in products ranging from perfumes to scented soaps. If you love the smell of these flowers, you have all manner of ways to experience the scent. You can do so directly, by smelling the flower, or secondhand, as it were, through items made from their oils.

But some flowers don’t produce enough usable essential oils.

My favourite floral scent, lilac, is one of them.

Unfortunately for me, the aromatic compounds in lilacs are nearly impossible to acquire. Trying to extract the fragrance through steam distillation can end up destroying the scent profile. And the tiny amount of essential oils that may result are so expensive to produce that it’s not economically worthwhile to bother.

The end result is that you can’t buy true lilac essential oil. Perfumers may be able to mimic the scent of lilacs through synthesis, but the resulting fragrance hasn’t been distilled solely from the actual flower itself; it’s merely an approximation, a blend of other floral notes. No chemist can authentically capture the unique scent of the lilac.

If you want to experience the true fragrance of lilacs, there’s only one way to do it. You have to experience it “live,” by smelling an actual cluster of flowers.

Likewise, if we want to experience Jesus, it has to be “live.”

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Weeding, Like Forgiving, Never Ends

Weeding the garden, like forgiving, is a task that’s never-ending.

We can’t simply say, “I weeded last week, so I’m done now. I won’t need to weed for the rest of the season.”

Every gardener know that the weeds will keep cropping up. The job of weeding is one that lasts for as long as you have a garden.

So it is with forgiving those who have offended or hurt us. Forgiving is not optional for believers: we are to forgive others as God has forgiven us.

But sometimes we think that it’s a “one-and-done” effort. We grudgingly forgive someone once, and assume we’re done with it.

Inevitably, though, we learn that it doesn’t work that way. The next week, we might ruminate about what they did to us and get mad all over again. We find there’s still a root of bitterness in our heart, and we have to forgive them once more.

Like weeding, the duty to forgive is ongoing. It may require more “rinse and repeat” cycles than you might imagine.

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Don’t Let Fear Get The Better Of You

Image by mohamed Hassan from Pixabay

Do you have a fear of bugs?

Many of us do, and I don’t mind admitting that I’m one of them.

Finding a bug in the house instills terror in me. I’m convinced the bug is out to get me, lying in wait to murder me.

I’m tempted to have armed police arrive at my door to deal with the “intruder.” It takes all the self-control I can muster to refrain from dialling 911.

People tell me I’m being irrational. After all, humans are thousands of times bigger than bugs. Insects are probably more afraid of us than we are of them, right?

But I don’t see it that way, so I’m afraid to confront them.

I’ve fallen into the trap of letting my fear get out of proportion to the problem.

Many of us make this mistake. We let fear get the better of us, and it hobbles our responses to life’s challenges.

In ancient times, the children of Israel were no exception.

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Allow God to Prune You

Fruit tree espaliered against wall. Image by Andrew Martin from Pixabay

If I were a young apple tree, I probably wouldn’t like being pruned very much.

If I saw the gardener heading my way with secateurs or pruning shears, I’d probably flinch. I would hope that he would just give me a little trim, and leave most of my luxuriant growth intact.

But the gardener invariably has other ideas.

I’d watch in horror as one branch after another was lopped off. They seemed perfectly good to me, but the gardener thought otherwise.

Why has the gardener cut me back so severely?

To make me more fruitful.

God does the same with us, and we find it just as uncomfortable.

The truth is, pruning hurts, and it seems to involve so much wastage.

But our loving Heavenly Father knows that it’s for our own good. Scripture says that it’s for His glory that we bear much fruit.

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The Secret Is Out

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Do you know people who are secretive about their best recipes?

Perhaps they have a killer brownie recipe that everyone covets. Or a special formula for making lasagna that is simply to die for.

But they won’t share the recipe with anyone, not even their best friends. Their famous dishes are their hallmark, and they’re quite proprietary about them.

Many companies are the same. They have closely guarded recipes for their top products, whether it’s the ingredients for Coca-Cola or the coating mixture for Kentucky Fried Chicken.

I can understand them wanting to keep the recipe under wraps: after all, it’s the secret to their success.

But Christians have a recipe that we want to share with everyone:

It’s the recipe for a fulfilling life through belief in Jesus.

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