Have you ever been deceived? Maybe you were swindled at a car dealership. Or possibly you were manipulated by a shyster to order something over the telephone. Or even worse, a minister or church hurt you at a time when you were most vulnerable. Bottom line: You trusted someone, but in the end, they actually hurt and betrayed you.
Life can be cruel. Things are not always as they appear. Did you know that a prairie dog is not a dog, it’s a rodent. A shooting star is not a star, it is a meteor. India ink is from China. Or as the three witches in Macbeth said, “Fair is foul, and foul is fair (cackle – cackle).”
When I was elected to be the pastor of a great church in the Twin Ports of Duluth, Minnesota, and Superior, Wisconsin, I set a number of goals. Some goals were natural and some were spiritual. One of the natural goals was to eat at every restaurant in Superior, a town about the size of Richmond. Since I often ate lunch at a restaurant, it was easy to make good progress in my first year.
I love soup. Believe me, the chefs of Superior were, uh, superior at making soup. However, after a while, I could see that beef barley soup at Perkins restaurant tasted differently from the same soup at The Shack or Fullers. So, I decided to be a connoisseur of beef barley soup, long before Yelp and CitySearch showed up.
One day, several members of my staff joined me for lunch. They knew I was working through a bucket-list, but went along anyway. We went to a small, inconspicuous place (i.e. hole-in-the-wall) near the docks of the Superior harbor. Even the least discriminating diner would have skipped this place, but it was on my list. I ordered my usual. With obvious hesitation, the others ordered sandwiches and chips. They must have figured, “how could you go wrong with a bag of chips?”
When the meal came, there was an extended prayer time with supplication by the youth pastor. At first, my beef barley soup tasted pretty good. It was a cold day outside, and the hot soup warmed me inside. But instead of finding a diamond in the rough, I actually found a chicken bone in my beef barley soup! No kidding!
The waitress noticed my amazement when I showed it to the others. Could it really be a chicken bone? Why was it in my beef barley soup? Huh? She was nice, but perplexed at my reaction. It was almost like she was relieved that it was just a chicken bone. UGH! She offered to get me a fresh bowl, but I was no longer hungry – for days!
Life is like that. Things are not always as they appear. You never know what lurks beneath the surface in personal relationships, or automobile purchase contracts, or annual church business meetings, or your beef barley soup. Some of you know exactly what I mean. The rest of you soon will.
Friends, there are several lessons about being deceived in this soupy story. Here are some:
Lesson #1 – Be VERY careful about ordering beef barley soup in a restaurant. It is only acceptable when my dear wife makes it. She can be trusted to not sneak any alien cogs into it.
Lesson #2 – False teachers will often plaster a thin layer of truth over the rotten wood of heresy. It is their intension to deceive God’s people (2 Peter 2:1-3). To avoid spiritual calamity, dig deeper in the Scriptures yourself, to better understand what you are being taught.
Lesson #3 – In John 7, Jesus was being harshly judged by surrogate inquisitors. Jesus warned them to study the Word for themselves, and to not be swayed by the hostile leaders. Jesus said in verse 24 (NLT), “Look beneath the surface so you can judge correctly." LOOK BENEATH THE SURFACE!! Whether it is soup or theology, probe beneath the surface to see if there are any unwelcome bones of bitterness, resentment, heresy, or sacrilege present.
No, I did not make it to all the restaurants in Superior. Doctors’ orders.