Archive for the ‘Taste & See’ Category

Salty

Posted: November 26, 2013 in Taste & See

“You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.” – Matthew 5:13

Salt is good, but if the salt has lost its saltiness, how will you make it salty again? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.” – Mark 9:50

Salt

1: a natural white substance that is used especially to flavor or preserve food

2: to season with salt.

3: to cure, preserve, or treat with salt

4: an ingredient that gives savor, piquancy, or zest

 

Salt seems to be as old as time.  Far before it was insinuated to be something that raises blood pressure, it was a staple of daily living.

The Israelites had an unending supply of salt for their needs.  The Dead Sea is rife with it, and after every flood, copious amounts were left along the banks and ditches.

Salt was of course used for preserving food.  There was no refrigeration at that time and salt was a handy substance to retard the spoiling process.  Salt was used to bring flavor to food.  It drew out the taste of their food.  In fact, a meal was not considered a meal without salt. It was used for medicinal purposes; they used to rub newborn babies in it.  God demanded that His sacrifices be covered in salt.  Poignantly, your very body will not function properly unless it has the correct salt to water ratio.

So how can salt lose its taste or its saltiness?  It can be contaminated with a foreign substance; dirt or dust.  It can become unusable and not fit for any use.

Contaminated salt could not be used for anything.  It couldn’t be tossed anywhere except the roads where people walked, to keep the dust tamped down.  Therefore, it was trampled underfoot.

So if God demanded His sacrifices covered in salt, and we are to be living sacrifices, then we need to have salt in ourselves. We are to be cured; to remove any contaminant from ourselves.  Likewise, we are not to be contaminated by the world.

Salt is meant to flavor our lives.  Salt brings out the zeal and passion of the many layers in God’s word and God’s heart.  Salt seasons our hearts and gives us the desire to draw people to Him.

Salt is never sugar.  It is not meant to sweeten the truth, or to drug us into complacency.  Rather, it is to bring out our flavor.  In truth, this message cannot be emphasized enough.

Do you feel dull?  Do you feel bland or as if God’s word doesn’t hold anything for your life?  Check your salt level.  If we lose our heart for God, then we will be destined to be trampled by the world.

We are called to preserve the truth in this world.  We are called to bring flavor into a flavorless world.  We are called to be God’s living sacrifices.  Life out your calling with zeal and be savored.

“Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.” – Colossians 4:6

Banquets

Posted: November 26, 2013 in Taste & See

“When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return and you be repaid.  But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you.  For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just.” – Luke 14:12-14

Repay

1: to make return to in any way

2: to reward

 

   The verses immediately following these are some of the most beloved for those who don’t feel like they’ve got it ‘all together.’  It is Jesus’ parable about the Great Banquet.  Jesus tells the story about a great banquet a man was giving.  Everyone who had received the invitation refused to attend when the time was ready.  The excuses they made were flimsy and not believable.  Upon hearing this, the man became furious and told the servants to go out onto the streets and bring in every poor, crippled, blind and lame people they met.

   Just as it would be a challenge for a person living on the outskirts of humanity getting cleaned up and attending a great banquet, so it would have been for these people when they walked through the doors and their eyes landed upon the spread before them.

   It is the people who think they don’t need anybody except themselves who reject God.  They think they can make excuses, or push it off for another day.  They feel no guilt or remorse at rejecting an invitation.

   One day in every person’s life it will be time to make a decision.  Some will give poor excuses as to why they can’t make it.  Other will gape in astonishment at all that the man has provided for them.  Like those people in the parable, they will be both grateful and astonished at the love and joy waiting for them at the table.

    The man in the parable is of course is the Lord.  He casts off the ones who reject Him, and sweeps up everyone who thinks they’re too broken to be noticed. It is those people that God loves, the ones who know they can’t do much on their own.  The ones who have already knocked down their façade of order and perfection; these are the people who God cherishes.

   So too, are we to act in this matter.  God doesn’t want us to remain in our comfort zone, with people who we know to be safe.  He tells us to go to the people who cannot repay us, but rather who need physical and spiritual food and relief.

   God promises to repay us for what we do in our lifetime.  He knows if we reached out to the world with the mercy and grace of the Lord.  He knows if we shelter ourselves in our busy lives; making excuses for our lack of desire to spend time with Him.

   Jesus is preparing a great feast for those who love Him.  Our part is to extend the invitation to everyone who is reaching for one.  And there will be great rejoicing one day when we all pull up a chair.

“It shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the house of the Lord shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and it shall be lifted up above the hills; and peoples shall flow to it…but they shall sit every man under his vine and under his fig tree and no one shall make them afraid, for the mouth of the Lord of hosts has spoken.” – Micah 4:1.4

Establish

1:  to make firm or stable

2:  to introduce and cause to grow and multiply

3:  to bring into existence:  found

4:  to put on a firm basis:  set up

5:  to gain full recognition or acceptance of

6:  to put beyond doubt:  prove

“…they shall sit every man under his vine and under his fig tree…” This was a blessing in biblical times.  Fig trees were a sign of comfort and security.  Figs took a long time to grow; they need plenty of care and nurturing.  So if someone had a fig tree they could sit under, it would mean that they had been on that land for quite a while, and that fig tree had become a symbol of prosperity.

    Fig trees were the only identified tree in the Garden of Eden. The leaves were used to cover Adam and Eve’s nakedness, which would seem to foreshadow God’s continuing provisions for His people.  When God gave the Promised Land to the Israelites, God mentions vine and fig trees as being a part of the good land He was giving them.  In 1 Kings, it talks about the time when Israel and Judah lived in safety, under their own vine and fig tree.  The fig tree blossoms with good fruit when people are walking with God.

    Conversely, fig trees are also used as an indication of judgment upon the people.  In Joel 1:12 the vine is dried up and the fig is withered.  In Habakkuk 3:17 the fig tree no longer buds. Perhaps the clearest indication of how God used figs is found in Jeremiah 24, where God declares two judgments upon the people of Judah.  Jesus even curses the fig tree for not being fruitful.  It wasn’t just because He was hungry and there was no fruit.  It was an indication that the people still had no faith, even though there was every sign that their Messiah was present. The fig tree withers when there is rebellion.

    Two more important references:  In Matthew 24:32, Jesus tells us that when the fig tree’s branches become tender and puts out its leaves, you know that summer is near and that the King is coming.  In Revelation 6:13 John compares the end of the ages as like, “a fig tree sheds its winter fruit when shaken by a gale.”

    These verses in Micah are referring to when everything is over; when God establishes His kingdom on earth.  God’s promises have been realized!  He has stood by His word and we have been restored and redeemed!  Everyone will want to come home to the house of the Lord!

    These promises should lift your heart to the heavens.  If God says it, it will come to pass.  God will restore those who believe.  We will be blessed; joyful and content while singing and praising the Ancient of Days.  God’s will cannot be moved or thwarted, and His foundation will be impenetrable.  And every one of us will have our own vine and fig tree, and we will not be afraid.

I am the apple of His eye.

Posted: November 26, 2013 in Taste & See

“But the LORD’s portion is his people… “He found him in a desert land, and in the howling waste of the wilderness; he encircled him, he cared for him, he kept him as the apple of his eye.” – Deuteronomy 32:9-10

 Eye

1:  an attentive look

2:  close observation:  scrutiny

3:  point of view, judgment

4:  the faculty of intellectual or aesthetic perception or appreciation

   Of course we all know the traditional sense of the word eye; the photosensitive retina in the middle of an orb that allows us to see.  That’s not the definition that I want to focus on, nor is it the definition that God wants us to know.

   These verses are recounting the early days of the Israelites.  They are found in the Song of Moses.  They were among the last things Moses said to them before he died and they went on to the land that God was giving them.  It was said 40 years after they left Egypt and wandered in the desert.  Moses is reminding them: Take to heart all the words by which I am warning you today, that you may command them to your children, that they may be careful to do all the words of this law. (v36)

   They originally hadn’t been happy about their freedom.  The land was strange, the food was scarce and their meager comforts were all gone.  But God wasn’t about to just march them into the Promised Land.  He had some lessons for them to learn first.

   They were made to wander in the desert 40 years, learning lessons.  They learned not to fight in battles when the Lord isn’t present.  They learned the Ten Commandments, good rules to follow for life.  They learned the Greatest Commandment; Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.  They were handed down laws designed to keep them safe and healthy in these foreign places.

   During this time, the Lord taught them patience, perseverance, dependence and to rely on faith.  Even when the Lord corrected them, it was a lesson to be learned.

   They didn’t remember these lessons, and so often neither do we.  We forget the lessons God has painstakingly taught us. There is no pain, no trial that we go through that God doesn’t know about.  There are pains and trials because we live in a land that is fallen.  We are not complete yet, and we won’t be until we are with Him.  He is attentive to us all the time.  We are never alone.

   In the verses following these, Moses compares God to an eagle with its young.  The baby eagles are content to rest in the nest, until they are forces from their comfort and made to fly.   Perhaps when we go through this life it would be good to remember that we will always be the apple of God’s eye.  And sometimes we need to be nudged out of our nest.

But the fruit of the Spirit is…

Posted: November 26, 2013 in Taste & See

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” – Galatians 5:22-23

Fruit

1: The effect or consequence of an action or operation

2:  a result or reward that comes from some action or activity

 

   Quite simply, these are the fruits that Christ followers should employ.  We are no longer the people we once were; ones who took pleasure in sin.  We are to be different.  One important note to consider, the word fruit in this verse is singular; we are not to demonstrate one of these, but rather all of these should be fruits blooming from a regenerate heart.

   We don’t come across these fruits naturally as a human.  Before the Lord, we might demonstrate some altruistic qualities, but we are not truly changed.  It is God’s love permeating through our souls that causes these soul changes in us.

   These fruits are coming directly from God; via the Holy Spirit.  He is actually sharing who He is through us.

Love:  Love is the basis for all the rest of the fruit.  Love is not love in a generic sense; rather it is a self-sacrificing, unselfish, loyal love.  It is a brotherly love based on what God has done for us. We live and breathe the love of God.

Joy:  With the weight of the world looming always over us, a person with joy will shine like 1000 candles.  It’s not ignorant, blind joy.  It’s joy because we know Who is in charge, Who resides inside of us, and we know the End of the story.  We also learn to rejoice in our suffering and in our trials.  We speak volumes to the world with our joy.

Peace:  Peace coincides with joy.  Peace means that our comfort and our soul rest in knowing that God is in charge.  We are dependent on His peace to remain in us.  It is truly a ‘peace that passes all understanding.’ We reflect peace on to a peace-less world.

Patience:  Patience isn’t something that seems to be abounding on earth right now.  We need information, food, drink, service, immediately.  We cannot believe we would have to wait on anything.  We’re always facedown in our phones; we are constantly looking to find out more.  Yet, Christ followers are called to endure this and much more.  We are also asked to endure suffering and adversity in order to reflect God’s patience.

Kindness:  You just need to look around and see that kindness is slipping away. In our impatience, with a lack of joy; people don’t have the time or the heart to be kind.  Still, if we have the kindness and love of God flowing through us, we can’t help but be more kind to others.  We show God’s goodness of heart.

Goodness:  In this sense, goodness is what can draw people to God.  It is truly what sets us apart.  We are called to always be ready to serve, to be generous and good.  There is no manipulation in goodness.  People are drawn to us because we are safe; they can trust us to never hurt them.  We touch people with God’s goodness when we reflect this gift.

Faithfulness:  This is certainly one that is a notable difference to the world.  With relationships becoming more and more casual, marriages being temporary and families left in the wreckage, our faithfulness is a testimony to others about endurance.  We also stay true and faithful to God, knowing that it’s in His strength we rest.

Gentleness:  If we’re not careful, we can condemn with our words.  Rather than approaching people gently with love and truth, we smack them with truth and expect them to respond with thankfulness.  Christ-followers should be known by their gentle love.  Of course there are times when stern words are needed, but it’s relying on the Holy Spirit to guide us as to what is appropriate.  We use gentleness to demonstrate God’s gracious strength.

Self-control:  This one can be the most difficult.  The bible tells us that there is a struggle for control in us.  The sinful part wants what it wants.  We want to yell if we’re upset, we want to get angry if we’re wronged, we want to be critical when we see someone who makes us insecure.  God’s self-control is something entirely different.  We see time and time again in the bible where God exercises self-control toward His people.  We demonstrate self-control when we demonstrate that we walk in the world but not of the world.

Abide in me

Posted: November 26, 2013 in Taste & See

Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.” – John 15:4-8

Abide

1:  to wait for

2:  to endure without yielding:  withstand

3:  to bear patiently:  tolerate

4:  to accept without objection

5:  to remain stable or fixed in a state

This is the only page where I will inject myself into the story.  When I first heard the word abide, and was told that I needed to do that very thing, I was horrified.  The word abide conjured up the idea of a demanded father ordering me to uphold his proclamations.

My mentor had an entirely different idea of the word.  She told me it was abiding safely in the Father’s arms, trusting Him to do what is good and right.

A decade later, I know that to be true.  Jesus is the only One who can be our true vine.  We branch off from Him, doing the work we are called to do.  When we have something branching in the wrong direction, He gently prunes that particular area and we continue to grow healthy.  Conversely, if a branch refuses to grow properly, as on any vine; it will be pruned away.

Jesus tells us that when we allow ourselves, when we abide, we are able to be turned in a direction that will provide delectable fruit that is in abundance.

When we allow the word of God to penetrate us, to cleanse us; to mold and shape us, we become an abiding force in God’s army of people full of grace and truth.

As the definition implies, we endure what comes against us; the gentle pruning, the violent storms; and we grow stronger in Christ.  We bear it patiently, knowing that the vine will always protect us.

A branch inherently wants to produce fruit; it’s in its DNA.   I believe that we are born with a desire to abide.  It’s what we abide in that matters.  Direct yourself to abiding in Someone who is the lover of your soul; who is waiting for you to produce good fruit.

 

 Taste:

1:  to become acquainted with by experience

2:  to have perception, experience, or enjoyment

3: a relish, liking, or partiality for something

4: to enjoy or appreciate

5: to test or try

 

   Some people have a passion for cooking; creating new inventions with food in the kitchen.  I happen to be one of those people.  It is an exciting challenge for me to take up a concoction and turn it into a culinary sensation.

    It wasn’t always like that.  It took me quite a while to hone my skills; to learn what worked and what didn’t.  It was by trying, and tasting, that I developed a flair for creating new menus.

    What I needed was experience.  The willingness to try different ingredients, to savor what I had found and to let the flavors expand and burst upon my tongue.  It was by trial that I began to enjoy what I was doing, and found myself trying more and more new ideas. 

    I don’t know how different our experience with the Lord is.  We find verses that cling to our very souls.  We find verses that we have to attempt to digest because they may teach us a challenging lesson. 

     The result is the same.  When we taste God; when we become His child, we acquire new taste buds.  We no longer despise what is good, but rather we embrace it.  We are nourished by His words; by the mind-blowing and mind-altering presence of the living God.  We long to repeat the tasting, to feel the goodness wrapped around our very souls.  We desire to try more of Him; sensing that every thing will be good.

    Here are some ‘nuggets’ of what the Lord says about His children:

 I have birthed you. – John 1:12

I have brought you into union with Me. – 1 Corinthians 6:17

I have forgiven you of all your sins. – Colossians 1:14

Your life is complete in Christ. – Colossians 2:10

I have freed you from condemnation. – Romans 8:1-2

I will never allow anything to separate you from My love. – Romans 8:35-39

I have hidden you in Christ. – Colossians 3:3

I will pour out grace and mercy in your time of need. – Hebrews 4:16

I will not let the evil one hurt you because you are born of me. – 1 John 5:18

You are a branch of the new vine, infused with life. – John 15:1,5

You may approach me with freedom and confidence. – Ephesians 3:12

You can do all things through Christ who strengthens you. – Philippians 4:13

   Each of these words is filled with an explosion of meaning.  God has a wrenchingly intimate relationship with every one of His children.  These words are packed with a message for your soul, for you to taste and see that He is good.

    When we read God’s love letter to us, we need to savor every word; to know the words as we would gaze and know what is at a glorious feast.  We know not what honey tastes like by looking at it; rather when we taste and realize the pure sweetness do we know it is indeed good.