The first time Carl Hubbert came to our church, he filled out a visitor’s card inviting us to call. That week, I sat in his apartment and welcomed him to Kenner and First Baptist Church. I asked, “What kind of work do you do?” He said, “I sell candy for Russell Stover.” I did the same thing you would. I said, “Got any samples?”
He opened the door to a spare bedroom where boxes of candy were stacked to the ceiling. “Take as much as you like,” he said. “It’s dated. After Valentine’s Day, we have to remove this from the stores. It’s still good, but we aren’t allowed to sell it.” I left Carl’s apartment that night loaded down with heart-shaped boxes of chocolates.
A year or so later, the company got smart and opened an outlet in our city to sell the candy Carl had been giving away. For a while, he was easily the most popular man in town. Once he brought boxes of candy to place on the lunch trays of the entire student body of our school. I’m not sure what the parents thought, but that was one cafeteria meal the kids raved about.
What is it about chocolate? It seems to do something to the human spirit nothing else can. Athletes count on it for a quick burst of energy. In World War II, chocolate bars were as much a staple in soldier’s kits as canteens and k-rations. Today, people gladly own up to being chocoholics.
Everyone ought to visit Hershey, Pennsylvania, at least once. The very air reeks of chocolate. Every detail in that small city revolves around Hershey candy. I defy anyone to spend an hour there without experiencing a massive craving for chocolate.
Historians say the Aztecs of Mexico and the Mayans of Central America started the chocolate craze. The first date that can be nailed down is 1528 when Hernando Cortes brought this delicacy from Mexico back to Spain. Soon, people all over Europe had caught the chocolate fever. The rest, as they say, is history.
After Carl joined our church, he met Pam. Not long afterward, God called him into the ministry. These days, Carl and Pam are parents of Caitlyn and Jonathan, Carl has finished his master’s degree at our local seminary, and he’s knee-deep in working toward his doctorate. Recently, they were called to serve the First Baptist Church of Harahan, another New Orleans suburb. After I left the pastorate to assume my present position, I called his church to find out the times of the Sunday services. Our first free Sunday, Margaret and I dropped in to worship at Harahan.
Carl met us at the door with a hearty welcome and handed me a two-pound box of Russell Stover chocolates. “The first time you came to see me,” he said, “I gave you some. So, the first time you come to my church, it seemed appropriate to give you some more!” That is one pastor who knows how to welcome a visitor!
At the close of the service, Carl called on me for the benediction. I told the congregation how blessed they are to have Carl and Pam leading them, and of the circumstances of our first visit. Then I added, “Carl is working for a different employer now. But, he still knows how to open the door to the storeroom and hand out God’s delights freely to everyone willing to receive. And unlike chocolate, God’s favors are non-fattening!”
Once, a friend bit into a chocolate and said to me, “I shouldn’t do this. It has to be a sin.” I said, “To the contrary, God freely gives us all good things richly to enjoy. That’s I Timothy 6:17.”
The city of Charlotte, North Carolina, used to boast a terrific little Greek restaurant named Dikadee’s. Once I protested to Nick, the owner, about a chocolate dessert on his menu. “This ‘basket of sin,'” I said, “tastes great. But why call it sin? Anything this good has to come directly from God.” He laughingly agreed and to humor me, changed its name to ‘basket of righteousness.’ Anyone who knows the first thing about human nature will not be surprised that the name never caught on. People prefer savoring a forbidden treat, I suppose. Ask Adam and Eve.
Nothing more clearly testifies to man’s fallen nature than that he finds something good and attributes it to the devil. In the early 19th century, audiences thrilled to the violin artistry of Nicolo Paganini, whose fingers seemed to fly like magic. “He must be possessed by the devil,” they said.
That is typical of the slanderous attacks on the Father’s character the Lord Jesus came to answer and erase. Matthew 7:7-11 shows Jesus’ overwhelming confidence in the goodness of the Father. God plays no mean tricks on those who trust Him. That is the kind of things humans do. Jesus said, “If you, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask Him.”
In the days of Moses, when the Israelis grew hungry in their travels toward Canaan, God sent them “manna” from Heaven. Literally, that word means “what is it?” They had never seen anything like this celestial delicacy. For the four decades of their sojourning, six days a week, God opened His windows and dropped life-sustaining manna upon them. Psalm 78:25 calls it angels food. Once Israel arrived in Canaan, the manna ceased and was never given to them again. Historians and Bible students are puzzled by this. But I think I know what happened.
God was giving it to the Aztecs and Mayans. It was their turn to enjoy the blessings and benefits of chocolate. As it is ours today. That’s just my opinion.