Friday, February 7, 2014

Almond + Cranberry Oatmeal Cookies-------Quantity and Quality

Prep: Stretch! The dough is thick, if you're stirring by hand it might take a little effort. Preheat the oven to 350 and grease baking sheets. Also, fun fact: almonds are actually fruit.

-1 ½ cup flour
-¾ cup brown sugar
-½ tsp salt
-¼ teaspoon cinnamon
-A dash of nutmeg
-¾ teaspoon baking powder
-¾ cup sugar
-1 tsp vanilla
-1 cup butter
-2 eggs
-2 ½ cups cooking oats
-Crushed Almonds

1. Sift together the flour, brown sugar, salt, baking powder, cinnamon, and nutmeg.
2. In another bowl, blend together sugar and butter, adding the eggs and vanilla as well.
3. Mix together the dry and wet ingredients.
4. Add cooking oats, folding into the batter.
5. Fold in cranberries and crushed almonds.
6. Drop heaping tablespoons on a greased baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes or until lightly golden. Allow to rest on sheet two minutes before removing.

Thoughts on Quantity and Quality

Sometimes, in our thoughts and in the decisions we have to make, we come to that scary little question: is this the Lord, or is it...evil?

Do you know the moment? When you're thinking about, perhaps, taking on another project. You're thinking and just cannot grasp whether it is the Lord leading you to do it or Satan tricking you into believing that it's the right time. There are other scenarios, of course.

I've noticed recently that one difference between the Lord and Satan is that evil often pursues quantities while the Lord desires quality.

Consider these simple, juxtaposed examples:

-One bright light illuminates a room. Darkness must be widespread to cover it.
-The Lord speaks of producing "good" fruit. Satan encourages us to produce many fruits.
-The one way is narrow, but right. The pathways to hell are numerous.
-Individual people/families have often been saved, but whole cities destroyed due to evil.
-The apostles sought deep relationships with individuals. False teachers seek the masses.
-God wanted Job to speak rightly of Him. Satan wanted Job to lose everything.
-Joseph's (solitary) faith was invaluable. Ten brothers, together, chose evil against him.
-A single word from Christ could heal. Possessed people usually had many demons.
-One perfect Christ offered salvation to all; millions of people sin.

We so frequently find ourselves making decisions, big and small, based on what will please the most people, earn us the most points, or offer the most benefits. From the time we are children, we learn that weighing risks means counting the cost. Everything has a price in our world. All things revolve around quantity.

A wise man I know has often pointed out that it is in our nature to say "just one more." We never find anything to be enough. And Satan preys on that trait. Satan is all about using things in quantities.

Think about the threats we receive from the evil one: isolation, loss, debt, failure. Little things add up and plague us, and evil whispers the lists over and over in our minds. "You had this happen, and this happen, and then this, and how much more can you take??" We are trapped, overwhelmed, and burdened by all these amounts he imposes on us.

Several weeks ago, I heard a woman on the radio talking about how the Lord pointed out to her that she maintains damaging mental lists. This resonated with me because I do it. I have lists of what went wrong this week, of what I have to  accomplish this month, and I'm constantly adding it all up and counting the cost. Evil works its way in through those lists, making me feel the need to quantify everything to justify anything. 

Philippians 4:8 comes to mind:

"Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things."

The Lord does not say to keep a tab on what He did for us, or to keep a tab on what we judge as having gone well. We are not to maintain a checklist of things to do to get right with God. He reminds us of the qualities He values and tells us that those are what matter, that those things are what should consume our thoughts. 

How often evil uses numbers and quantities to ensnare us! Yet God's desire is never for "more". In fact, His response usually concerns "less" and is about character.

Less of you, of me, of worldly lives and desires. The Lord teaches us about qualities that can withstand all the forces of evil. He asks us for our hearts. We are not made to produce as many gifts as we can to sacrifice at the altar. No amount of anything we do or obtain can satisfy God!

In fact, the Lord promises us that we can do nothing of our own accord to earn salvation or righteousness or grace. We don't even have to be concerned with terms like "enough". His grace is sufficient (2 Cor 12:9). He provides all that we need (Matthew 6). He has complete plans (Jer 29). God values genuine faith above all (1 + 2 Peter). The Lord will bring all things to completion, and work them all according to His purposes (Romans 8; Philippians 1). 

All that we need more of is God. And all that requires of us is a change in our quality of self:

"He must increase; but I must decrease". -John 3:30

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