"Oh how I love your law! I meditate on it all day long. Your commands are always with me and make me wiser than my enemies. I have more insight than all my teachers, for I meditate on your statues. I have more understanding than the elders, for I obey your precepts. I have kept my feet from every evil path, so that I might obey your word. I have not departed from your laws, for you yourself have taught me. How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth! I gain understanding from your precepts; therefore I hate every wrong path."
Have you ever been to a pastry shop? I am not talking about seeing one on the food channel, but I mean actually setting foot in a pastry shop. From the moment you enter the door, every sense you have is filled with sugary goodness. There are no limits to what you see. The sweets normally range from cheesecakes, to cannoli, to macaroons, to various types of cakes and cookies.
It's really hard to pin down exactly what you want to get. Sometimes you want to try that shop's version of your old favorite. And then sometimes you want to venture out and try something new. Whatever you try, everything promises to be an experience sure to make your taste buds dance.
David feels the same way about the Word of God. In Psalm 119, he talks about how he loves the law of the Lord. It is something that he constantly thinks about. The Word has made him wiser than others. He has more insight than others because the Word of God becomes a part of Him. When it becomes a part of him, it convicts him and makes him want to please God even more. He does not fall into temptation because he is allowing God himself to teach him. He has discernment. His conscience is clean. He is obedient. And he hates what God hates. He cherishes the Word of God. He honors God's precepts. He keeps them close to his heart. And every time he "tastes" the word, every time it caresses his palate, it becomes sweeter and sweeter, just like honey.
We all have spiritual taste. There is an inner drive in us that longs to be closer to God. Our spiritual taste causes us to have an inward savor for the things of God. Sure, we are constantly pulled by the world, and the world may offer us things to please our palate for a moment, but only the Word of God satisfies. God has created us to relish the divine. And like the pastry store has cheesecakes, cakes, cookies and chocolates, the Word of God also has tender morsels of goodness. Philippians 4:8 paraphrased says " whatever things are true, honest, just, pure, lovely, and are of good report; if you want to taste something good, if you want only the best, if you want to lavish in the delectable, then think on (meditate on...and taste) these things.
What are you craving for today?
"Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men."
Let all that you do be done in love."
I Corinthians 16:14
Valentine's Day, my husband and I decided that we would pass on giving each other gifts and forego the outings for this year. His birthday is at the beginning of the year and mine is just a few months after, so we thought we would save the "special stuff" for our birthdays. Because I am still trying to eat right and stay as healthy as possible, I asked him not to give me anything sweet... no cakes or cookies. This would help both of our efforts to eat better. He agreed.
The day after Valentine's Day, my neighbors, whom we love so much, blessed us... "the teenagers" (they call us) with a beautiful gift. When we opened the present, we found that they had given us chocolates. But not just any chocolates, gourmet chocolates. Ron and I looked at each other, smiled, took a chocolate out of the box.... did a "chocolate toast", and bit into this scrumptious decadence. The moment I bit into it, I looked at Ron and said, "They understood the assignment."
When we hear this term in social media, it is often used when someone goes above and beyond the call of duty. People use this term when someone completes a task and completes it well. The moment Ron and I opened the box of chocolates, and tasted them, we knew that these were not just any chocolates, but they were exquisite...creamy. They were gourmet, some with pecan praline, some with cordial cherries, and others with chocolate ganache... and they were amazing. Our neighbors, not only wanted to bless us, but they went above and beyond the call of the assignment. The assignment that God had given them was clearly understood.
I realized that God had a message in what seemed to be a simple box of chocolates. Let whatever you do, be done in love. Do it as if you were doing it for the Lord Himself, and not for men. This thought should change one's perspective. Understand the assignment. Put your heart into it. Don't settle for the ordinary. Regular won't work. Perform, give, share, bless, minister... as if you were doing it for God Himself.
When Ron and I tasted the chocolate, for a moment, health goals melted away. Concern about a few inches in the waste line vanished into thin air. We chose to bask in the moment that God loved us enough to give to us the very best... in more ways than one.
"The little troubles we suffer now for a short time are making us ready for the great things God is going to give us forever."
II Corinthians 4:17 NLV
How many times have we said it? The struggle is real. I promise you I have said it no less than a hundred times. When something comes up in my life that presents itself as an insurmountable feat, saying "The struggle is real" is a way to say, this is hard for me to handle, but I am handling it. It is a way to try to make sense out of something that is crazy hard, but perhaps, shouldn't be.
While I have used the term sarcastically, I have also used the term to relay to others that the current situation I am going through is major. It is not meant to be taken lightly but meant to reiterate that my struggle right now is not fictitious. It is not menial. But I am literally on the edge and I need help to make it through. The struggle is indeed, real!
The other day, Ron and I were talking about a few things that we had been through over the past few months. While we were in it, it seemed that there was no end in sight, no answer to the issue at hand. In this situation our hands were tied. We had no more resources or connections. This however, made for a ripe situation for God. We laughed about how we refused to give up, but insisted on trusting God through the WHOLE process, knowing that we had sought Him in the beginning and that He was working things out in our favor.
Ron ended the conversation by saying, "The struggle is real!" There was a pause, to which I said afterwards, "But it aint permanent!"
How many times do we get stuck in the struggle, forgetting that everything that we go through in this world is just making us ready for what God has for us in eternity? Paul "reckoned that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us" (Romans 8:18). If we can ever remember that our current condition is not our permanent condition, we can find the joy that we need to tunnel through what we are currently experiencing.
Whatever plagues your heart right now is real. Very real. More real to you than it will ever be to me, even if I have gone through the same thing or something similar. And just as sure as you are living and breathing, your heart is aching and possibly breaking for a resolution, a way out, or even a moment, just a moment, of genuine peace. But the way things are now are not the way that they will be.
The sick man at the pool of Bethesda in Jerusalem had been there for 38 years. That's a long time. No doubt, the struggle was real. But then, Jesus came. He sought him out of all the other people. Even though Jesus knew instantly how long the man had struggled, He stilled asked Him one question, "Do you want to get well?" (John 5)
The man gave excuse after excuse... but the summary... "Jesus, the struggle is real!"
Jesus gave one answer. "Pick up your bed and walk"... summary... "It ain't permanent!"
Change your gaze. There is still hope. There is still a way out. The waters don't have to be troubled. Jesus is more real than the temporary struggles we face.
"And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God's possession - to the praise of His glory."
Ephesians 1:13-14 NIV
Isn't it amazing how Jesus reassures us in our most uncertain moments? He started this with the disciples.
All of the dialogue He was having with the disciples about leaving them (John 14) made them worry a bit. Most of them had hung out with Him throughout His entire ministry. They were friends. They enjoyed being with Him. Although they knew He was the Messiah, they did not like the thought of Him leaving.
Jesus, compassionate as He is, reassured them by letting them know He was going away to prepare a place for them where they could be with Him always. He was not leaving for good, but would come back to get them. He shared that He had given them everything they needed to carry the Gospel throughout the world.
But that wasn't enough.
Upon sensing their angst, He says, "If you love me, keep my commandments. And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever." Jesus loves us so much that He wanted to ask His Father if He would give us some comfort... some reassurance so that we would know that He really is going to return to get us.
Paul, in Ephesians 1, gives us a little more clarity on that request. Once we heard and accepted the message of our Risen Savior and the good news of our salvation, there were perks! One of the joys of being a child of the King is knowing that we are marked. Designated. Chosen. The Holy Spirit, which is a promise fulfilled, lives in us, guaranteeing that we belong to God and will one day be able to live with Him in eternity.
Oxford Dictionary defines deposit as "a first installment on the purchase of something or as a pledge for a contract."
This will all work out just fine.
I know what I am doing, and so does my Father.
I will give you a gift to reassure you.
You will feel His presence and know that I am near.
The Holy Spirit is an installment until the covenant comes to its fullness. He guarantees that Jesus loves us, that we have been sealed and there is nothing that will ever change that. He guarantees that we will get what's been promised, our inheritance. He guarantees that we are not orphans, but that we have been adopted, and soon Dad's coming to get us. He is a guarantee that we are God's possession.
Even so, Come Lord Jesus.
"For we are God's handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do."
Ephesians 2:10 NIV
Ever wondered if where you are right now, in life, is really where you are supposed to be?
Ever wondered if you got the calling on your life mixed up with that of someone else's... and that your calling maybe...let's seeeee.... easier, less stressful, more fruitful?
I have. I've looked at my life and wondered if I am at the right place, at the right time, doing the right things. We pray and ask God for peace, confirmation, and a definite show that we are doing this thing right. We ask for a peace that surpasses all understanding, yet all that time we want a peace and "just a little" understanding so that we know we are not crazy.
And then it happens.
You are at the right place at the right time. Because you have labored at the feet of the Savior, when someone needs encouragement, God's words spring up in your heart (and mouth) that you never knew were there.
You are led, (in the middle of a pandemic) to go over (masked, of course) and hug someone... really tight... who needed it at just that moment.
You are purchasing groceries and out of the blue someone comes over to you that you blessed years ago, and they remember you. And you see the fruits of the seed sown.
Here's the thing. Where we are supposed to be in this time and season is never about US. It's about HIM. It's about allowing ourselves to be the hands and feet of Jesus. He loved those who were less, or at least that's what they thought. Where we are supposed to be is anywhere we can be used by the Father. When we see Him as both Savior and Lord, we will understand that His Lordship means that we avail ourselves to be used by Him. It may not be comfortable, or easy, or even fruitful at first. But when purpose calls, no matter how you feel or what it looks like, answer.
Hang in there. You are right where God wants you to be.
"I've concluded that whatever God does, that's the way it's going to be, always. No addition, no subtraction. God's done it and that's it. That's so we'll quit asking questions and simply worship in holy fear. Whatever was, is. Whatever will be, is. That's how it always is with God."
Ecclesiastes 3: 14-15 The Message Bible
I've gained a new understanding about rest.
It is not laying my head on a pillow and closing my eyes, hoping to get a bit of shut eye.
It's not propping my feet up on an ottoman hoping to get some peace and quiet for a moment.
Neither is it taking a deep breath at the end of a great task.
No, just recently I realized that Ecclesiastes tells us exactly what "rest" is. It is understanding that whatever God does, is done. That's the way it is going to be. It is the "whatever my lot, thou has taught me to say" part of being - WELL.
God is sovereign. He is holy. He is righteous and just. He is love and He is good. And He desires nothing but good for us. In just these two verses of Ecclesiastes, I understand that when I learn to rest in the goodness of God; the sovereignty and righteousness of God, I never have to ask questions. I can be free to worship Him in holy reverence because I know Who HE is, and that whatever He has done, is done. Whatever God is doing, is done. And whatever He will do... you got it... IS DONE. And it will be well and good.
That's how it will always be with God.
When we grasp this concept of resting in God, sleep will come easier, the propped feet will come more frequently, and the deep sighs will be a result of trusting a loving Father.
"Blessed is the man who trust in the Lord, and whose hope is in the Lord. For he shall be like a tree planted by the waters, which spreads out its roots by the river, and will not fear when heat comes; but its leaf will be green. And will not be anxious in the year of drought, nor will cease from yielding fruit."
Jeremiah 17: 7-8 NKJV
It is the eighth day of January and I think I've heard just about everything for New Year Resolutions. I dare not quote them all, but I can promise you, we have heard them all before.
Don't get me wrong. I am the biggest advocate for leaving the past behind, goal setting, and re-dos. I have made vision boards, taken vision notes, wrote vision poems. I promise you I have done it all. And when I can remain focused and consistent, I usually get pretty good results.
However, for 2022, I decided to have only one New Year Resolution. After COVID blew my vision board for 2019 and 2020 into "smithereens", I thought for 2022 it was best to start out with more realistic resolutions. While I would love to be in the gym 6 days per week, that really is not realistic for my schedule.... so let's keep it simple.
I have only one New Year Resolution. You read it in the scripture above; to trust and hope in the Lord. In 2022, my goal is to rely on Adonai like never before, and to hope in Him like a kid hopes on Christmas day. I desire to trust Him with every aspect and every decision in my life, to find a peaceful rest in Him that comes from a certainty that His heart is only good towards me.
If I do this... If I can keep this one resolution.... If I can remain hopeful in this one promise of God, then I shall be like a strong tree, planted by this source of water. I will have deep roots that spread out far and wide. And when the heat comes, I will not wither and wilt. If there is a lack of water, I will not begin to question and fear. Because I trust in Him, I will never cease to produce.
Father, Help me to trust you and to rest my hopes in you because you only want good for me. In times of trouble help me to remain grounded, never fainting, never withering, never worrying, always fruitful, ever focused and consistent, because I can rest assured that my roots grow deep in you.
“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.
“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven."
Matthew 5:13-16 NIV
Who are you?
Why are you here?
What is your purpose?
As we began the year 2022, these are the questions many of you are asking yourself... your pastor, perhaps your counselor. Or maybe these are questions that you have in your mind, but would never let them part from your lips.
God is so amazing. He sometimes answers our questions in one passage.
You Are The Salt of the Earth. Not "you were". Not "you will be". Not "there's a good chance you will turn out to be"... but YOU ARE. Who better to call us into who we are than the One who created us Himself.
We are here to bring the world flavor. We bring joy. Happiness. Encouragement. We bless those who need it. We are the ones who change the atmosphere in the room with the Jesus that lives in us. We are light because in Him there is no darkness. And we are never to hide who we are, but ensure we bring light to "everyone in the house." We shine so that others can first, see what God is doing in us and through us, and second, give glory to our Father in heaven.
The Message Bible puts it this way:
“Let me tell you why you are here. You’re here to be salt-seasoning that brings out the God-flavors of this earth. If you lose your saltiness, how will people taste godliness? You’ve lost your usefulness and will end up in the garbage.
Here’s another way to put it: You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I’m putting you on a light stand. Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven."
If we become discouraged and "lose our saltiness", how else will people get a taste of what God is like? If we fail to allow our God-colors to show, placing all of our God-given radiance under a basket, how can people know that there is light in the darkest of circumstances?
So...Who are you? Salt and Light.
Why are you here? Because the world needs to see Jesus.
What is your purpose? To be salt carriers and light bearers.