EATING – LIVE TO EAT OR EAT TO LIVE?

I have heard it said that some people “live to eat” and others “eat to live”.    We have two dogs who represent these two concepts.

Cuddles loves to eat – in fact the trainer who worked with us when the girls were brought home from the animal shelter said, and I quote: “I have never seen a dog that was so food-centric as Cuddles!”  If you want her to do anything, you need to give her a treat, preferably before AND after her obedience.

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Cuddles, in the foreground, LOVES to eat; Snickers, in the background, is pickier!

In this picture of the two of them “sitting pretty”, Cuddles is in the foreground and you can see that she has to sit with her rear legs spread apart to keep her balance. 

On the other hand,  Snickers, despite her candy-bar-name, eats her food but she is not hankering for a treat every time we turn around.  You can see that her rear legs are at right angles to her body.  She does not have to sit “side-saddle” like her younger sister does.

In short, the difference between the girls is that Cuddles lives to eat and Snickers eats to live.

Since both my husband and I are overweight, I am not going to point to us as examples of this concept.  Rather, I want to think about what we consume from Scripture.  Do we eat to live, that is only eat from Scripture a sufficient amount to gain our fire insurance from hell, or do we live to eat, that is feast on the truths of Scripture and come again and again to the Word for more food for our spiritual souls’ growth and development?

The Bible talks about eating in many places.  In the very first book of the Bible God tells Adam that he can eat of every tree in the Garden of Eden, except for one.  (Genesis 2:16-17)  After their disobedience, Adam and Eve were ejected from the Garden and they had to work for their food ever after.

In Exodus we read of the meal of unleavened bread and bitter herbs which preceded the visitation from the angel of death.  After the exodus from Egypt, the Israelites wandered in the wilderness and God sent manna and then quail for them to eat.

David puts God’s provision like this:

Yet he commanded the skies above and opened the doors of heaven, and he rained down on them manna to eat and gave them the grain of heaven.  Man ate of the bread of the angels; he sent them food in abundance.  He caused the east wind to blow in the heavens, and by his power he led out the south wind;  he rained meat on them like dust, winged birds like the sand of the seas; he let them fall in the midst of their camp, all around their dwellings.  And they ate and were well filled, for he gave them what they craved.

Psalm 78:23-29

The New Testament talks of food as well. For example, Jesus’ first miracle was turning water into wine at a wedding feast. (John 2)  Jesus fed thousands as He taught them along the seaside. (Mark 8.)

In 1 Corinthians 6 we find Paul’s instruction regarding eating the Lord’s Supper in remembrance of His death for our sins.  Some call this feast Communion and others Eucharist, but the essence is that we are celebrating the marvelous work of our Lord and His sacrifice for us.

Paul has strong words for the people in the Corinthian church.  He wrote:

But I, brothers, could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ.  I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not yet ready,  for you are still of the flesh. For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way?

1 Corinthians 3:1-3

The writer of Hebrews expresses this same idea in this way:

For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child.  But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil. 

Hebrews 5:12-14

We know from our own experience that babies take milk and then, at some point in their infancy, they move up to some diluted cereal such as infant oatmeal.  Then comes soft food and, upon reaching childhood, they can eat regular food, starting with soft meats and them ultimately moving up to steak! Meat comes with maturity. 

What does this solid food look like?  Paul tells us, it is the food in Scripture that we read with our power of discernment trained by constant practice, to do what?  To distinguish good from evil. 

Do you know when the preacher’s doctrine is faulty?  You know it when you have read the Scripture, studied and have discernment from constant exposure to the Word of God.  Then you can tell good teaching from the faulty teaching.

So, beloved, when it comes to spiritual food, are you satisfied with milk?  Or, do you long for solid food, for the meat not just the milk?   Do you read the Word of God for yourself?  Do you study with others so that you can practice your discerning powers and so identify both the good and the bad.  Do you ask the Holy Spirit to guide your thinking and open your eyes and your mind to the truths and riches that are found in the Word of God?

From a spiritual perspective, the question is:  Are you Snickers or Cuddles?  Do you eat to live, or do you live to eat.  Oh, that we would be spiritually overweight with the rich meat of Scripture.

Father, forgive me when I have been satisfied to skim the surface of Your Word, when I have been lazy and have not studied Your Word to uncover the truths and precepts that You want me to have.  Enable me to feast on the meat of Your Word through Your Holy Spirit, I pray.

Pedal! and Perseverance

There is a story that I came across many years ago, and it speaks to me as I consider my journey with Jesus Christ.  It has been duplicated numerous times so you may already have heard it, but I do ask that you read it and think, again, about your own perseverance in the Christian walk. 

At first I saw God as my observer, my judge, keeping track of the things I did wrong, so as to know whether I merited heaven or hell when I die. He was out there sort of like a president. I recognized His picture when I saw it, but I really didn’t KNOW him.

But later on when I met Christ, it seemed as though life was rather like a bike ride, but it was a tandem bike, and I noticed Christ was in the back helping me pedal. I don’t know just when it was that He suggested that we change places, but life has not been the same since he took over steering the bike.

When I had control, I knew the way. It was rather boring, but predictable… it was the shortest distance between two points. But when He took the lead, He knew delightful long cuts, up mountains, and through rocky places at breakneck speeds, it was all I could do to hang on! Even though it looked like madness, He said “Pedal”.

I worried and was anxious and asked, “Where are you taking me?” He laughed and didn’t answer, and I started to learn trust. I forgot my boring life and entered into the adventure.  And when I’d say, “I’m scared,” He would lean back and touch my hand.

He took me to people with gifts that I needed, gifts of healing, acceptance and joy.  They gave me gifts to take on my journey, my Lord’s and mine.  And we were off again.  He said “Give the gifts away, they’re extra baggage, too much weight.”  So I did, to the people we met, and I found that in giving I received, and yet still our burden was light.

Perseverance
Perseverance in Pedaling!

I did not trust Him, at first, in control of my life. I thought He’d wreck it; but He knows bike secrets, knows how to make it bend to take sharp corners, knows how to jump to clear high rocks, knows how to fly to shorten scary passages. And I am learning to shut up and pedal in the strangest places, and I’m beginning to enjoy the view and the cool breeze on my face with my delightful constant companion, Jesus Christ.

And when I’m sure I just can’t do anymore, He just smiles and says … “Pedal!”

(Author unknown)

 

There are many theological words we could insert into this story, but the verbal picture drawn for us is sufficient for our purposes.  Life is hard – the Christian life is harder, especially if you try to do it on your own.  Your way is simply not good enough … we cannot live a sinless life.  That is the reason that Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross was necessary.  We need to come to the Lord Jesus Christ in faith and repentance, and only then can we rely on His strength to enable us to persevere.

 

In Second Timothy Paul encourages the young pastor to endure even when the “going gets tough”.  In these days of the Olympics in Rio, we can more fully understand Paul’s reference:

 

An athlete is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules.

2 Timothy 2:5.

 

It is foolish for us to think we can satisfy God on our own, that we can compete in this world according to our rules and not those of the Creator God as established in the Bible.  Do we really think we are bigger and know better than God?  REALLY?

 

Sin has broken the connection between us and the Creator God.  There simply is nothing that we can do to fix that situation because anything we do is just as dirty and sinful as we are.  There must be Someone Who lived a perfect, sinless life, and Who was willing to be the sacrifice to pay for the sins that we have committed, so that we could be reunited with God.  That Person is Jesus Christ, the Lord of Lords and King of Kings.

 

The Apostle Paul says:

 

And it is God who establishes us with you in Christ, and has anointed us, and who has also put his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.

2 Corinthians 1:21-22.  The Holy Spirit is our guarantee of salvation and perseverance.  What a blessing!

 

Jesus describes our security in Him as we persevere in our walk with Him in the Gospel of John:

 

All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day.  For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”

John 6:37-40.

 

The Apostle John reiterates that which Jesus spoke in the Revelation of Jesus Christ.  Regarding Jesus presenting us to His Father in Heaven if we are faithful to Him, Revelation 3:5 states:

 

The one who conquers will be clothed thus in white garments, and I will never blot his name out of the book of life. I will confess his name before my Father and before his angels.

 

Perseverance in the Christian life.  It really is not based on our own efforts. We must yield control of our life to Christ, but even that we cannot do on our own!  Rather it is an ability that we receive from the Lord as the Holy Spirit indwells us and supplies the power that we personally do not have. 

 

We still must run the race and exert as much effort that we can muster, as if we were athletes competing in the Olympics, but at the end of the day we must recognize that it is God who worked through us.  The Apostle Paul reminds us:

 

I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth.

1 Corinthians 3:6-7.

 

So, when you want to give up on your Christian walk, when you feel totally inadequate, when you think that you can give no more … listen to Jesus say “Pedal”.  Rely on Him and He will see you through as He uses you for His purposes, all to His glory and honor.

 

 

Father, forgive me when I have foolishly tried to do Your work in my own strength.  What folly!  Enable me to see when I am grabbing control and let me release my grip and rely on You. May my reliance on You be my first choice, instead of my last resort. Forgive me, Lord. Your way is always the best, most beautiful and enduring way there could possibly be. Thank you Father for calling me and for granting me the blessing of a relationship with Your Son and the presence of Your Holy Spirit.

 

 

SIGNS OF GROWTH

It is spring and we see signs of growth all around us.

 

USED Crepe myrtle just beginning to open in spring
Crepe myrtle budding in the backyard.

 

The crepe myrtle in the backyard is just now beginning to open with a promise of beautiful flowers in the near future.

 

USED First rose of the summer
First rose of the summer!

 

Outside the bedroom window is the rosebush with the first rose of summer.

 

USED Azalea blossoms up close
Plethora of azalea blooms grace the yard.

 

The azalea bush in the backyard astonishes us each year as it blooms with a plethora of gorgeous flowers in a glorious display of color.

 

There are other signs of growth, however, that are not part of the natural ebb and flow of nature. I am referring to cranes.

 

I’m not talking about birds — rather, I am referring to construction cranes.

 

USED Crane visible from interstate in Nashville
Crane hovering over construction in downtown.

 

 

USED Crane in Nashville (C)
Crane high in the air over building.

 

Construction cranes seem to be ubiquitous in some communities. Everywhere you look, you can see a crane hovering over a building site.

 

While there are folks who will be inconvenienced by the construction indicated by the crane’s presence, a realistic view of the crane is that there is growth in the area. Someone is building something because of their confidence in the community that the investment will be rewarded based on the community’s growth, population, revenue, … all sorts of indicators that go into the decision for new construction.

 

In short, the presence of construction cranes are an indication of a healthy, growing community.

 

Growth is observable not just in plants and communities but also in human kind. It is easy to see the changes when the baby grows into the toddler, the toddler into the young child, the child into the teenager, the teenager into the adult, the adult into the senior citizen.

 

USED Newborn with mother
Newborn baby with mother.

 

USED Baby - illustration of limber
Baby showing us what limber looks like!

 

USED Learning to walk (C)
Toddler learning to walk with the help o a little scooter.

 

USED Baseball player (C)
Child becomes young baseball player.

 

Changes in our physical growth are fairly easy to see.  There  should also be growth in our spiritual life as Christians, but sometimes that is harder to see!.

 

Paul made the distinction between infants and mature Christians when writing to the church at Corinth:

But I, brothers, could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not yet ready, for you are still of the flesh. For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way?

1 Corinthians 3:1-3 [ESV]

 

While not the only harbinger of immaturity, according to Paul, jealousy and strife between Christians are an indications of immaturity, and such actions reveal that the individual is still acting through the flesh and not following Christ. This type of behavior is allowing our human character to control – it is not an indication of control by the Holy Spirit.

 

The writer of Hebrews also talks about Christian maturity.

For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.

Hebrews 5:12-14 [ESV]

 

According to these verses, the Christian who is mature in the Lord is one who has discernment that has been trained by the word of righteousness, that is Scripture or the Word of God. Further, the writer says that this discernment is trained by constant practice. While the Holy Spirit indwells the Christian and is available for illumination of the Scripture, the Christian must read and study the Word and must pay attention to the instruction of the Spirit. In other words, the Christian must work and practice to train their power of discernment. When this is done, the resulting discernment enables the Christian to distinguish between good and evil.

 

So, what are the indicators of growth in our Christian life? How do I know if I am growing from an infant into a mature Christian?

 

There are many indications of growth in our Lord, including obeying His commands and loving each other.

If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.

John 15:10-12.

 

Perhaps the best identification of virtues indicative of growth in our Christian life is the listing is found in Galatians 5:21-22 [ESV].

 

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.

 

This is no ordinary fruit. While the words sound like things we talk about every day,  the imprint of the Holy Spirit on the words takes them to an entirely different realm than that of our world.  For example, the fruit of the Spirit of love is way more than casseroles and cards!

 

On Friday we will begin consideration of the fruit of the Spirit in a separate series on The Ruminant Scribe. In order for us to grow in Christ, we need to understand the work of the Spirit, and praise the Lord and our Almighty Father for the Spirit’s presence in our lives.

 

I pray that you will follow the Fruit of the Spirit Series and that it will be enlightening and encouraging to you in your Christian walk.  Please leave your comments and thoughts about how the Spirit is speaking to you through His Word on this topic.   I look forward to hearing your thoughts.

 

We are called to grow in Christ – we are not to remain infants, we are to mature. May I not be satisfied with milk, but may I seek to obtain the meat of the Word.

 

Praise the Lord, oh my soul!

 

Father, Thank you for giving us your Spirit Who encourages, teaches and empowers us to grow toward the likeness of your Son. Thank you for loving us so much that you provide the Spirit to do that which we cannot do for ourselves, and thank you for sending the Lord Jesus Christ to take our sin upon Himself so that we could become children of God. Enable me to show forth your Spirit as I interact with people who you bring into my life.

How firm a foundation …!

Reverend Franklin Graham stated, in an article for the National Day of Prayer,

“I believe our nation is in trouble today, probably more than I’ve seen in my lifetime. We are contending with issues that are causing the very foundation of our country to crumble. Our moral and spiritual roots are eroding, the economy is misleading, family life is disintegrating, and political forces are at unprecedented odds. There seem to be very few leaders who will take a stand for God and for His Word.”  http://www.nationaldayofprayer.org/how_to_pray_for_america

 

Foundations are important. Without a firm foundation, the whole structure falls, whether it is a building, home, career, church or country.

 

Most of us have experienced the lack of a foundation. The easiest to recall may be the first time you went to the beach and have stood, ankle deep, in the ocean. As wave upon wave rolled through your legs and over your feet and ankles, you can feel the sand shift under you. Soon, if you stood there long enough, you will be knee deep in sand because the water has “rearranged” the “ground” upon which you based your stance, and there was nothing secure underneath you.

 

Ocean - standing
Boy standing in ocean as waves move the sand under his feet.

 

In what is known as the “Sermon on the Mount”, Jesus Christ talks about the need for a foundation as he spoke to his disciples and the people gathered around him. In Matthew 7:24-27 [NIV] he provided the following parable where He particularly was speaking about those who hear his words but do not intend to follow His teaching:

 

Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.

 

Clearly, Jesus’ parable has a multitude of lessons encapsulated in these four verses. But the focus here is on “foundation”. What is the foundation that the wise man used for his house? What foundation is secure so that the house did not collapse even during difficult times?

 

Scripture states that this Rock is Jesus Christ Himself. In Isaiah 28:16, the writer states that there is a rock provided for us to build this house upon, and that rock is Christ. He is laid for a foundation, and other foundation can no man lay. The church is built upon this Rock, and every believer is secure on this Foundation.  I Corinthians 3:11; Ephesians 2:20.

 

foundation
Rocks forming the foundation of the porch at cabin in Cades Cove, Tennessee.

 

The foolish builders in Jesus’ parable based their hope upon anything but Christ, and you can rest assured that such unsecured foundation will certainly fail them on a stormy day. This picture of rocks as a foundation for the front porch was taken at the Oliver Cabin in Cades Cove, Tennessee.  While the porch has been sturdy with this “rocky” foundation for a very long time, such foundation for your life will yield no true comfort and satisfaction for times of trouble in this life or at the time of death and future judgment. (There is more information about Cades Cove in the Smoky Mountains National Park that can be found at the Parks’ website, at http://www.nps.gov/grsm/planyourvisit/cadescove.htm.)

 

This dilemma was described eloquently in Job 27:8 [KJV]:

For what is the hope of the hypocrite, though he may gain [much], if God takes away his life?

 

Job continues to compare the foolish builder’s hope with the spider’s web.

Such is the destiny of all who forget God; so perishes the hope of the godless. What they trust in is fragile; what they rely on is a spider’s web. They lean on the web, but it gives way; they cling to it but it does not hold.

Job 8:14-15. [NIV]

 

Clearly, having the right foundation is of paramount import. Indeed, it has eternal consequences.

 

The Psalmist says:

Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD, the people whom he has chosen as his heritage!

Psalm 33:12 [ESV]

 

The writer of Psalms 11 then asks this question:

When the foundations are being destroyed, what can the righteous do?”

Psalms 11:3 [ESV]

 

The answer, Beloved, is to pray … to look to the Lord who is the only foundation that will stand, no matter what happens. When things look bleak, Scripture tells us that God is not hindered by the leaders of men, see Proverbs 21:1 [ESV]:

 

The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord; he turns it wherever he will.

 

Even the king, who is the most powerful person in the kingdom, is subject to the sovereign will of Almighty God, whether he recognizes it or not! The Lord turns the king’s heart however He desires.

 

Are you going through difficulties now? Have you in the past? In the unlikely event that the answers to these two questions are “no”, in all likelihood you will have difficulties in the future. But you do not have to be terrified or dismayed.

 

Are you concerned about our country and the course it seems to be traveling?  Pray.

 

Read the Word and pray that the country will return to the foundation upon which it was founded. Pray that God will be allowed to return to the school, the governmental body, the court. Pray that God will shower His grace upon our country and that we would repent of our arrogance and insistence that we would ignore His Word and His Son.

 

God rescued Israel when they prayed to him and repented of their sin … let us do so now and pray that He will not depart from our land.

 

Beloved, pray and then trust Him and praise His Name even when things are hard … the Lord will be blessed and you will be glorifying Him in all things.

 

                                                

Father, I know that You are sovereign and that no leader rises to power but for You allowing him/her to do so. I know Scripture says that You can turn the leaders’ hearts because they are like a stream of water in your Hand. Lord I pray for our country, for our leaders and for our people. Prick our hearts that we would turn to You and not trust in our own power. You gave us this land; may we be stewards of it as we rely on You to guide our course.