Monday, August 31, 2015

Don’t Gulp Your Food!


[Photo of a woman looking at a spoon]

“How sweet are your words to my taste,
sweeter than honey to my mouth!”
—Psalm 119:103

I can still hear my father’s admonition at the dinner table, “Chew your food!” I suppose I might have felt the urgent need to finish the meal in order to get back to playing with my sister, or riding my bike, or any dozens of other favorite pastimes I enjoyed as a child.

Some forty years later, I heard a pastor, on the verge of retirement, talking about the ways he needed to intensify the taste of God’s Word as he got older. He shared the premise that when our taste buds are young, we have a much more discriminating pallet even for mild flavors. He likened that to a child’s ability to remember new facts, songs, poetry, and Scripture with much more ease than an older person.

When this pastor was young, he told us, he enjoyed just about any flavor of jelly on his toast. But, when he got older, he needed stronger, more intense flavors to satisfy his taste. He said that in order to remember Scriptures like he did as a child, he needed more intense practices in his devotional life as an older Christian.

This pastor particularly enjoyed memorizing scripture. He urged his congregation to learn to appreciate God’s Word by intensifying the enjoyment of it through this practice. Memorizing passages from the Bible does indeed help cement the words of truth in one’s mind and heart.

Not only do we need more intense means to learn and remember Scripture as older adults, but we also need the practice of savoring what we read. Gulping down large portions of Bible books may bring some degree of growth. But, I believe that slowing down, savoring, and delighting in what we read intensifies our experience like nothing else can do.

How can we enjoy the Scriptures in this way? Certainly, we can memorize portions of it. We can also journal verses that God points out to us. We can paraphrase portions of Scripture that God is using to teach us. We can find hymns that capture the idea of certain Scripture readings. We can meditate over the images we read about.

All of these practices should have the effect of helping us say with the Psalmist in Psalm 34:8:

Taste and see that the Lord is good.

Let us determine to learn to enjoy feeding on Scripture one bite at a time.And remember, “Don’t gulp your food!”



Monday, August 24, 2015

God Said, “No”


[Photo of a woman in silhouetter praying]

“He withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond
them, knelt down and prayed, ‘Father, if you
are willing, take this cup from me; yet not
my will, but yours be done.’ An angel from heaven
appeared to him and strengthened him.”
—Luke 22:41-43

God does miracles in response to prayer! He is able! Can I get an “Amen?”

Most of us, if we’ve lived long enough, can say that God has performed miracles in behalf of people we know. He has spared us against impossible odds, has come to our rescue with resources we didn’t have or couldn’t see. He has healed those we love even after doctors did all they could do and results they hoped for didn’t come. Those miracles came with a “Yes!” answer as a result of faithful prayers.

Jesus believed, as we do, that God always heard His prayers. In John 11:41-42, He prayed:

“Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me.”

If God said, “No!” to Jesus in Gethsemane, certainly, we can also expect that sometimes He will say “No!” to us as well.

As we watched my sister die of multiple myeloma, we prayed in faith fully believing that God had the power to heal her. She prayed that prayer too. Yet, when we heard God say “No!” we watched her—patiently resigned, submissive, and full of grace—bow to His will. Did God still perform a miracle? He indeed did!

God, instead of saying “Yes!” to Jesus in Gethsemane, sent angels to minister to Him, gave Him power to face death, and gave Him power to shout victory over it on Resurrection morning, bringing with that victory the way for all of us to know Him and ultimately triumph over death.

As recorded in Luke 1:38, the young virgin, Mary—frightened, alarmed, and perhaps even shamed upon hearing about her one-of-its-kind pregnancy—instead of praying to have this burden removed, said:

“I am the Lord’s servant. May it be to me as you have said.”

Instead of saying “Yes!” to my sister and to all of us who prayed for the miracle of healing for her, God sent incredible grace, beauty beyond compare, and a witness to all who knew her of the Resurrection power He has given her, and will give anyone, who trusts in His provision for our sin.

We can have the assurance that when God says, “No!” to our prayers in one sense, He always says, “Yes!” to His power to work His will in ways we could never imagine. From Jude 24 we hear these words:

To him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy—to the only God our Savior, be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore. Amen.



Monday, August 17, 2015

The Reckless Tongue


[Photo of a woman with her hands on her face]

“The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil
among the parts of the body.
It corrupts the whole person, sets the
whole course of his life on fire,
and is itself set on fire by hell.”
—James 3:6

“Why did I say that? Ugh! Not only did I embarrass myself, but may have hurt the other person with my ill-thought-through statement.”

How easily our words can trip us up, can hurt others, and belie our witness for Christ. Such tiny mistakes sometimes create such a world of trouble.

Our enemy, Satan, waits to set up a conversation wherein we easily fall for temptation to cut down someone else, or share a secret we know, or use words that ought not come from the lips of a child of the King. How easy we fall into the trap and how difficult we find it to apologize!

My poet friend, Clara, penned these words that sums up my thoughts well:

My tongue was a reckless car today
That didn’t recognize or respect the stop signs.
It ran down two people
Without thought or compunction.
It crushed a sister and bruised a brother.
So dangerously exceeding all speed limits,
It careened over the highways
Without control or fear of consequence,
Halted only by the Word of God. 1

If we know that the temptation to speak evil comes careening through our brain and onto our lips, we need to display a healthy amount of self-control, and the foresight before we begin a day, start a conversation, or make a phone call. We need to say the words written by the Psalmist David found in Psalm 141:3:

Set a guard over my mouth, O Lord, keep watch over the door of my lips.

Let us covenant with God to do our part and to rely on Him to keep us from the hurt a runaway tongue can inflict on others!


1 Ruffin, Clara V. He’s Prepared My Heart for Harvest. Hartford, CT: Food for Thought, 1998.



Monday, August 10, 2015

Commands With Blessings
in Their Mouths

by Thomas Watson (c. 1620-1686)


[Photo of a man standing in a light shining down from a cloud]

“Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice.”
—1 Samuel 15:22

“It is not enough just to hear God’s voice, but we must obey it. Obedience is part of the honour we owe God. It is the beauty of a Christian, makes us precious to God, and makes us one of his favourites (Exodus 19:5). What are the ingredients in our obedience that will make it acceptable?

  1. It must be performed freely and cheerfully, or it is penance, not sacrifice. Hypocrites obey God grudgingly, and against their will. Cain brought his sacrifice, but not his heart. [Genesis+4:1-5] Cheerfulness shows that there is love in the duty.

  2. Obedience should be devout and fervent—not as a snail in a dull, slothful manner. As water boils over, so the heart must boil over with hot affections in the service of God. Obedience without fervency is like a sacrifice without fire. Elijah’s prayer brought fire from heaven because it carried fire up to heaven. [2 Kings 1:10]

  3. We must obey all of God’s commands. Hypocrites will obey God in the things which require little effort, and that raise their reputation, but leave other things undone. Herod would listen to John the Baptist, but would not leave his incest. [Mark 6:17-19]

  4. Obedience must be sincere. We must aim at God’s glory in it. The object of our obedience is not just to stop the mouth of conscience, or to gain applause, but that we might grow more like God.

  5. Obedience must be constant. True obedience is like the fire on the altar which was always kept burning. A hypocrite’s obedience is but for a season; it is like whitewash, which is soon washed off. God’s commands are not grievous, and he commands nothing unreasonable. [1 John 5:3]

“To obey God is not so much our duty as our privilege. His commands carry blessings in their mouth. There is love in every command, as if a king bid one of his subjects to dig in a gold mine, and then keep the gold for himself.” 1


1 From “The Ten Commandments,” by Thomas Watson, as quoted in Rushing, Richard, editor. Voices from the Past. Carlisle, PA: The Banner of Truth Trust, 2009. p. 220.



Monday, August 3, 2015

Gifts to Give


[Photo of a boy holding an apple in his outstretched hand]

“Each one should use whatever gift he has
received to serve others, faithfully
administering God’s grace in its various forms.”
—1 Peter 4:10

Benny Jermaine came to my school as a kindergartener. He lived with a foster family in town. This winsome little boy, along with his class of five-year-olds, visited an apple orchard in the fall. The children were given permission to fill their backpacks full of apples. I’ll never forget that day when they all walked out the front door during my bus-duty time, bent over, moaning under the weight of their heavy burdens!

But, Benny didn’t appear “burdened” at all. Instead, with a smile and open pride, he offered his apples to any adult he saw as he walked the long hallway to the front door.

Carrie Lindmore made herself quite a reputation as a third grade trouble maker in the same school. She, too, lived with a foster family, who found her behaviors quite a burden. Carrie spent many hours in the school office!

I watched her one day as a teacher, who had learned of her birthday, bought cupcakes for her to give to her class. She literally skipped down the hall with “Thank you! Thank-you!” and found her fellow classmates in the cafeteria and yelled out, “Guess what! We are going to have a party!” She couldn’t wait to give away her cupcakes to those who knew her rather one-sided reputation.

In ordinary circumstances, both of these children never had enough of this world’s goods that they could freely give to others. Once they received a gift, they used those gifts to make others happy.

I think God wants His children, upon whom He lavishes His great favor and His abundant grace, to give away the gifts He gives us. Of course, these gifts could include material goods, hospitality, or any manner of other blessings. However, God has given each of His children at least one spiritual gift—and, sometimes, several spiritual gifts. He has told us the purpose for which He gives these gifts. And, He expects us to give them away.

Now, some Christians may feel their obligation to offer service to others, but find no joy in it. This cannot please our Heavenly Father. Although the passage speaks about financial gifts, I believe 2 Corinthians 9:7 can likewise refer to any gifts, including spiritual ones when the Apostle Paul says:

God loves a cheerful giver.

Likewise, in Titus 2:14 we read that we are a:

…people that are His very own, eager to do what is good.

Also, when speaking of spiritual gifts, Paul, in Romans 12:11 exhorts believers to:

…never be lacking in zeal, but to keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.

God has never given His people gifts for us to hold onto them, to clutch those gifts close to themselves, to enjoy the gifts, but keep them from others. He graciously and lavishly gives us His gifts, so that we might open our heavy backpacks and offer His grace in all its forms to anyone we meet along the “hallway” of our lives.

Thank God, and enjoy the gift-giving!


Please note: The names of the two children mentioned in this blog post have been changed to protect the identity of the real people involved.