Since I want this blog to deal with things of deeper meaning and value I probably should go ahead and ask a profoundly deep philosophical question. Do you like ice cream? If so, what is your favorite flavor? Vanilla, chocolate (milk, or dark chocolate), strawberry, peach, spumoni, along with a plethora of other flavors are available to choose from. But which flavor is real ice cream? Well, let me answer the question for you right off the bat. I am from Texas and down here we have Blue Bell ice cream from the little dairy in Brenham whose signature ice cream flavor is homemade vanilla. That people is real ice cream and is what all others aspire to achieve.
In March of this year I attended the NCECA Ceramics conference in Houston. It is a premier national ceramics conference. One of the panel discussions related to cone 6 glazes. Now, without getting technical, firing at cone 10 (cone 10 is fired much hotter than cone 6) has been considered a defacto standard for a lot of work. This panel was composed for 4 highly acclaimed names in the ceramics world including Steven Hill, from Missouri, and John Britt who lives in North Carolina and who has published a well-regarded book on cone 10 glazes. The panel was talking about how it doesn’t matter what temperature a ceramic piece is fired, what is important is the final piece. So John put up a slide showing various ice cream containers and told the story of how a well renowned cooking magazine did a taste test on ice cream to determine the best flavor. Well in the taste test the cheapo house brand that every store chain sells beat out all the expensive, fancy names. Being from Texas, and being unable to resist cheap jokes, during the question and answer portion I raised my hand and very seriously addressed John Britt, “John, have you ever tried Blue Bell ice cream?” The entire auditorium erupted in laughter and John replied that he had not. I submit that John Britt, nor the other panel members from their laughter, had not eaten what I consider to be real ice cream. I am thinking about sending him a couple of half gallons.
“In accordance with the Nutrition Labeling and Education Act of 1990, the Food and Drug Administration enforces a set of standards which regulate the labeling of food products. Ice cream is defined as a frozen food made from a mixture of dairy products, containing at least 10% milkfat.” There you have it, there is a federal law that defines what ice cream is but can we trust our federal government? Have they ever tried Blue Bell ice cream? I know my congressmen have along with President’s Johnson (Lyndon, not Andrew) and Bush and Bush. Are we in a philosophical mood yet? Let’s get this show on the road.
Just like I asked if you like ice cream let me ask you if you are a Christian. Oh-Oh! But what flavor of Christian are you? Vanilla, chocolate, strawberry; which flavor is the real Christian? Just like ice cream has a definition let’s look at some of what people say.
1. Shorter Oxford English dictionary: A member of the religion of Christ; an adherent of Christianity. b A member of a particular sect using this name.
2. 1828 Webster’s dictionary: 1. A believer in the religion of Christ. 2. A real disciple of Christ; one who believes in the truth of the Christian religion, and studies to follow the example, and obey the precepts, of Christ; a believer in Christ who is characterized by real piety.
3. A follower of Jesus Christ is a definition I have heard for many years.
What is the “milkfat” of being a Christian? Remember that milkfat is what makes ice cream ice cream. It is the cross of Christ, Christ Jesus, crucified, dead and buried. The Episcopal Church, my current flavor of Christianity, loves creeds and has lots of them. But contained in the Holy Eucharist service is found three little lines that I lift my voice when I say them. Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again. Those three lines sum up the gospel for me.
But I think that defining being a Christian needs more. It is the cross of Christ, of His death, His dying for each man, woman and child of humanity. We are a people condemned to death in the Garden of Eden, forever bound and chained. Yet God in His mercy sent His Son to die in our place, to redeem us and set us free from the death that is in each of our lives.
For us to appropriate this salvation we have to accept Christ death for our own and that means we have to take up the cross and walk with it. A. W. Tozer says this about the cross: “The old cross is a symbol of death. It stands for the abrupt, violent end of a human being. The man in Roman times who took up his cross and started down the road had already said good-by to his friends. He was not coming back. He was going out to have it ended. The cross made no compromise, modified nothing, spared nothing; it slew all of the man, completely and for good. It did not try to keep on good terms with its victim. It struck cruel and hard, and when it had finished its work, the man was no more.” That is harsh, very harsh. We are called to sacrifice and give our lives to our Lord, to live no more for ourselves. But, but, but….
Look at what the apostle Paul says. 1 Corinthians 1:18-19: For the word of the cross is to those who are perishing foolishness, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” 1 Corinthians 1:17-19: “For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel, not in cleverness of speech, that the cross of Christ should not be made void. For the word of the cross is to those who are perishing foolishness, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” 1 Corinthians 2:1-3: “And when I came to you, brethren, I did not come with superiority of speech or of wisdom, proclaiming to you the testimony of God. 2 For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.”
Being a Christian is at once the epitome of simplicity, utterly and purely. God does the work, God has done the work. The work is finished; it was finished by Christ Jesus on the cross. The price was paid for you, for me, the bonds were broken for all eternity and it was all laid bare and exposed. Take, eat, live; Christ presents you with life, true, whole and pure. Say yes, Lord, yes, come into my life as Lord and Savior. I believe and receive. There, was that so hard, so difficult.
But now comes the hard part; how to walk this new life. If you have been going through life blind, deaf and dumb how does one walk, talk and hear all that life is? If I have accepted the Lord I am required, nay, I am compelled to take up my cross as I go forth and I am compelled to share this new life that I have received to share with everyone I meet and come in contact with the good news that you too can have life, you can be saved from certain death.
Now about flavors. Do you as a Christian call yourself Baptist, Catholic, Episcopal, Lutheran, Methodist, non-denominational, or any of the too many to number flavors of Christianity? Do you venerate the Pope as being the head of the church, or is it that you have to be baptized by immersion or filled with the Holy Ghost and speak with tongues or any of the multitudes of church requirements? What is it that your church, your flavor of Christianity requires for you to wear the badge and mark of calling yourself a Christian?
I put forth that I don’t care what church you worship in or what beliefs your church holds and espouses. I really don’t as long as you worship and lift up the Lord Jesus Christ crucified for you and for me; the Lord who will return and claim us all as His bride. I accepted Jesus into my life in an Assembly of God church and was married in an Episcopal church. At our wedding an Anglican priest presided, a Catholic minister sang, a Baptist friend sang and the best man was non-denominational. I have no idea who all attended because I was the groom and was caught up with getting married. We gathered and rejoiced in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and the great wedding feast.
I pray that each time you enjoy a bowl of ice cream that you will consider that you are part of something much greater. Know that as you partake of your bowl that you are partaking with millions the world over. Rejoice with them for ice cream and do not worry about the flavor they choose. Rejoice in the “milkfat” of the cross of Jesus Christ and Him died for you. I pray that you go to the church of your flavor and that you remember all the ice cream in the world that has the same “milkfat” of being Christian and that you worship in spirit and in truth. The truth of Jesus Christ and Him crucified. Blessings.