Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The Mind and the Pickle Jar

The Mind and the Pickle Jar


All these evil things come from within and defile a man.” – Mark 7:23

Out of my deep love for salt and vinegar, I decided a few years ago to learn how to make homemade dill pickles.  In the process, I learned a couple of very important things. First, if a recipe calls for “a lump of alum the size of a hazelnut”, it is crucial to understand that a hazelnut is MUCH smaller than a walnut.  That became quite clear when the first batch nearly caused a medical condition known as lock jaw!  Secondly, putting in more salt simply because you like the taste of it isn’t a good thing.  Too much of a good thing…is a bad thing. 
Through trials and errors, and many wasted cucumbers, I’ve found there are two things that are key to making good pickles.  First, you must have good salt and vinegar.  Not all salts or vinegars are equal.  After trying several types of each, I’ve come to find that kosher salt and white vinegar make the best pickles in my opinion. 

Secondly, you have to control the amount of empty space you leave in your jar.  If you only fill your jar half full, the pickles are sure to go bad!  By filling the jar to the neck with pickles, you assure that only enough air is there to prevent the jar from exploding.  Any more than that and the empty space in the jar will allow the pickles to mold. 
Empty space can be a problem in our minds too, but you can’t just fill it with fluff and expect to walk away a genius either.  It takes good ingredients and filling the empty space to become intelligent in any subject.  Disregarding that fact and allowing anything to come into your mind will cause your whole person to become, well, rotten! 

In Mark 7 Jesus is teaching a large group of followers, and He talks to them about what defiles a man.  These people were religious, and would only eat certain things because they feared that the wrong foods would defile them.  They would also have ritual cleanings of their hands and table elements before eating because they wanted to keep themselves pure.  But purifying what enters the stomach has no effect on the purification of the heart, and Jesus is concerned not with the body, but the heart.
In Mark 7:18-19 Jesus says, “Are you thus without understanding also? Do you not perceive that whatever enters a man from outside cannot defile him, because it does not enter his heart but his stomach, and is eliminated, thus purifying all foods?” The stomach does not control your thoughts and actions.  It’s what is put into your heart that controls your thoughts and actions, and it’s from those that a man is defiled.

Jesus continues in verses 21-23 saying, What comes out of a man, that defiles a man.  For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lewdness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness.  All these evil things come from within and defile a man.” It’s what is put into your heart that controls your thoughts and actions. It’s from the heart, not the stomach that we rot.  
But again, you control the jar!  We need to actively make a decision.  What kind of person do YOU want to be? Years ago someone told me, “If you don’t know what your priorities are, the world will quickly tell you!”  So let’s make some decisions, etch them in the crevices of our hearts and minds, and work toward those goals.  Let’s not leave our lives up to the world’s pressures and priorities.

If you want to excel at the place you are employed, then listening to negative coworkers as they fill your empty jar with negative thoughts probably isn’t the way! Find out what God’s undefiled word says about how to treat your employer, and follow God’s lead.
If you want to become a good wife, then it’s probably not a good idea to watch soap operas and “Bridezilla” and see how disrespectful some women can be to their spouse.  Read what God has to say about the relationship between husband and wife, and use His word as your role model.

If you want to become a good father, spending all day Sunday watching sports on TV isn’t going to get it done.  As skilled as those players are, most don’t have happy homes.  What does God say about how a father should instruct and discipline his children?
If you want to raise good children, you probably don’t want “Honey Boo Boo” to be brought into their minds as a role model, and you probably don’t want to fill the radio waves of your home with the voices of musicians who promote premarital sex, the “baby daddy” lifestyle, and vulgar comments toward the opposite sex!  If they are taught to live in a Christian lifestyle, these other small voices will be foreign to their ears.  Take (not send) your children to church, put them in Sunday School classes, and allow them to learn God’s word.  Fill that empty space.

If I wanted to grow my own cucumbers for my next batch of pickles, I wouldn’t plant squash seeds.  I would plant cucumber seeds.  The seeds that you plant will grow.  If you find that you’re growing things you don’t like, there’s only one thing to do.  Uproot those bad thoughts and habits, and replace them.  Fill the empty space in your mind and your calendar with what you want to grow. 
Jesus ended his sermon saying, “All these evil things come from WITHIN and defile a man.”  Consider what goes into your jar.


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