Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Of pastries, protein and Scripture

Have you ever had a meal that you enjoyed so much that you didn’t want it to end?  The meal was so delicious, so well prepared and everything was just right?

Perhaps it was the perfect steak; an awesome pizza; pasta; or maybe dessert?

I have many food weaknesses – cake & ice cream; really good wedding cake; apple crisp; peanut M & Ms; pastries, and much more!

Yesterday marked a year of change in my life.  On a Tuesday morning in 2009, I found myself in the checkout line at the grocery store with my usual fare:  a cherry bismark and a chocolate star, along with a six-pack of Coke.

As I stood in the checkout line, my cell phone vibrated.


“Hi, what are you doing?,” the voice on the other end asks.

“I am at the store,” I say.

“What are you doing there?,” the other party asks.

“Getting a donut.”

“Just one donut?”

“Well, two donuts, and some pop.”

The silence on the other end was deafening!  The other party, you see, was my wife.  She loves me and cares for me and wants to grow old with me.  The fact that I was gonna cram these pastries into my mouth, in her mind, was irritating because of her desire for me to take care of myself.

I ate the pastries and drank one of the cokes – but that moment in the store was the beginning of a change in my life.

The next day I began a diet that eliminated most of the carbs, sugars and other negative dietary things from my life and replaced it with healthy food – namely fat-burning protein!

With the bad stuff removed from my diet:  things like pasta, sugars, pop, breads, cake, ice cream and desserts, the protein I ate was able to skip having to burn that stuff and go straight to the fat on my body. That's how this diet works, and every diet, really.  Protein burns carbs and then fat, but with more of the carbs and sugars - the toxins - removed from the body, the protein can attack the fat cells.

I was 307 pounds on Tuesday, September 21, 2009.  I lost 62 pounds by the time I went off the diet.

What does this have to do with anything is probably running through your mind?  

Our lives are filled with pastries – or other stumbling blocks – that keep us separated from the lives that God desires us to live.  Things that look so good to us for some reason; things like gossip, pride, money, covetousness, lust - you name the sin.  Pastries (sins) are so alluring, and yet they are the sugars and the carbohydrates that build layers a spiritual fat in our lives and separate from the life that God has for us.

So each day we make a spiritual dietary decision:  a choice between right and wrong; good and evil; pastry and protein, if you will.

The good news is that healthy living is possible if we follow the appropriate diet.

I want to invite you to hear these words from the Book that we love:

Psalm 1
“Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked; stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers.  His delight is in the law of the Lord, and on His law he meditates day and night. 

He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields it fruit in season and whose leaf never withers.  Whatever he does prospers.

Not so the wicked.  They are like chaff that the wind blows away.

Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous.  For the Lord watches over the ways of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish?”

Similarly, several hundred years later, the disciple John was aging and an old man when he receives these visions while exiled to the island of Patmos:

“Then I saw another mighty angel coming down from heaven.  He was robed in a cloud with a rainbow above his head; his face was the like the sun and his legs were like fiery pillars.

He was holding a little scroll, which lay open in his hand.  He planted his right foot on the sea, his left foot on the land and he shouted like the roaring of a lion.  When he roared, the voices of the seven thunders spoke.  And when the seven thunders spoke, I was about to write;  but then I heard a voice from heaven say ‘Seal up what the seven thunders have said and do not write it down.”

Then the angel I had seen standing on the sea and on the land reached his right hand up to heaven.  And he swore by him who lives for ever and ever; the creator of the heavens, and all that is within them; the creator of the earth and all that is withing it; the creator of the sea, and all that is within it, and said, ‘There will be no more delay.’  But in the days when the seventh angel is about to sound his trumpet, the mystery of God will be accomplished, just as he announced to his servants the prophets.

The voice I had heard from heaven spoke to me once more, saying:  ‘Go, take the little scroll from the hand of the angel who is standing on the sea and on the land.’ 

So I went to the angel and asked him for the little scroll.  He said to me, ‘Take it and eat it.  It will turn your stomach sour but will be as sweet as honey in your mouth.’

I took the little scroll from the hand of the angel and I ate it.  It tasted as sweet as honey in my mouth, but when I had eaten it, my stomach turned sour.”

This is the word of the Lord!

In 2010, as we live, move, and breathe on this earth, we have choices to make each and every day.  Our health has great impact as to how we live and move and breathe and the choices we make.

The temptation of the pastry is all around us.  We see pastry everywhere, don’t we?  If you are like me, you can even smell the pastry sometimes?  Sin is all around and it is all we can do to not give in sometimes – to be healthy.  These are the times when we really need a healthy diet of protein – of knowing the scripture and what it says – and its sin-fighting capabilities.

For those of us who desire to follow Jesus there is a healthy-eating manual at our disposal.  In fact, God beckons us to us to this life; that we might eat healthy, for he tells us in scripture that he has come that we might have life, and have it to the full.

In order to do so, we must know what he says.  And in order to know what he says and how he wants us to live, we need to spend time with him…in prayer and in the Word. He reveals himself to those who love him in his Word and equips us to cope in this world that is not our home.

The best way to do so, according to the Psalmist, is to the follow the example of the blessed man.  “His delight is in the law of the Lord; and on his law he meditates day and night!”

In Revelation 10, John says “take it and eat it!”

This is not a skimming of the Word, is it?  This is stopping to meditate on it – to eat it.

But what does that mean - to eat the scroll?

In his work, “Eat this Book,” 21st century theologian Eugene Petersen writes:  “Words – spoken and listened to, written and read – are intended to do something in us, give us health and wholeness, vitality and holiness, wisdom and hope.  Yes, eat this book.”

He continues…“Reading is an immense gift, but only if the words are assimilated, taken into the soul – eaten, chewed, gnawed, received in unhurried delight.”
“Christians feed on Scripture.  Holy Scripture nurtures the holy community as food nurtures the human body.  Christians don’t simply learn or study or use Scripture;  we assimilate it, take it into our lives in such a way that it gets metabolized into acts of love, cups of cold water, missions into all the world, healing and evangelism and justice in Jesus’ name, hands raised in adoration of the Father, feet washed in company with the Son.”

I may be pushing a little too far with thoughts from theologians, but may I share a thought from John Calvin with you?

Here’s what the 16th century theologian says:  “And here we again ought to observe that we are called to a knowledge of God:  not that knowledge which, content with empty speculation, merely fits in the brain, but that which will be sound and fruitful if we duly perceive it, and if it takes root in the heart.”        Calvin’s Institutes 1.5.9

Sound and fruitful if it takes root in the heart – this word that nourishes our souls – this protein that wards off the fat of pastry and sin.  You see, God’s word – meditated on, chewed on and gnawed on - is transformational.  It changes us when we eat it.

We find the pastry of the world less appealing and this protein – the Word – more and more edifying.  When we make time to meditate on it, that’s what God does; and it becomes part of who we are and how we respond to the world.

“The most striking biblical metaphor for reading was St. John eating a book:  He eats the book – not just reads it --  he got it into his nerve endings, his reflexes, his imagination.  The book he ate was Holy Scripture,” says Petersen.

This was true of kids thousands of years ago.  Teenagers and even pre-teens would memorize the entire torah, the first five books of the Bible.  Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy – memorized!  They ate the scroll, and it fashioned who they became.

Our lives are so full of activity that it truly requires something of us if we are going to meditate on his word day and night; if we are going to eat this book.  But eat it we must!  The other choice is a life of spiritual obesity – with layers of pastry and sin separating us from all God has for us

I have found this true in my life.  Not that I have already attained all this, but I press on in my “eating” as I look forward to attaining the Prize.  My cravings for the things of this world have become sour in my stomach, as I have endeavored to eat this book.  The more and more protein I digest, I see two things happening:  I crave pastry less and less; and I carry around less fat!

How about you?  Are you sick of pastry?  Are you hungry for some fat-burning protein?  Carve out some time, throw open the Word and let it nourish your soul!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Great and unsearchable things

It has been so long, so much has happened that I can't even...rather don't even know where to I will start at the present!

I pound out this short piece this morning from another time zone.  I am some 700 miles from home in beautiful downtown Holland, Michigan in a quaint little coffee shop this morning reflecting on God's goodness to me and mine.

I am excited for day two along this journey in which I am officially a student.  I have been studying and diving into the Word for some time now, but back in January, my wife and I officially succumbed to the call God has placed on my heart to seek out ministry possibilities.  

It has been a whirlwind - one amazing blessing after another from a God who has passionately been with me and with us from the very beginning.  He has carried us through the storms and is blessing us beyond anything we could ever ask or imagine.  The blessings and obvious favor he has shown since coming to grips with swinging this door open to really follow him blow me away.

In a classroom for the first time in 20 years yesterday I find myself encountering Christ in incredible ways and today promises to be even more exciting.

Where is he leading, what does all of this mean?  Who knows!?!

God knows - and after all I have been through, particularly in these past six months, where he leads I will follow.

Enough rambling.  This is my thank you note to God for blessing me beyond anything I could ever ask or imagine, for revealing to me great and unsearchable things I do not know and for simply deeming me faithful, calling me to his service.

Today, this amazing June morning in Holland, I am experiencing a full measure of grace and peace!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

The leaf

So there I was, braving bitter cold wind chills in the -20 range last week blowing out my driveway yet again after another onslaught of snow and wind filled the end of the drive.

Bundled up in nearly every piece of clothing I could find, including facemask and hooded sweatshirt tied tightly so there was just a little window through which to see, I cleared a path - again.

As I ran the snow blower I couldn't happen to notice through my narrow little window white everywhere.  We have gotten roughly 30 inches of snow here since Christmas.  Pelted with snow is the best way to describe it, I guess.

On this Thursday morning as I was going about my business there was much on my heart and mind, so as I blew away I prayed for all of those things on my heart.  Just 12 hours before I had been dealt a blow in one of my businesses that left me staggering and stumbling, much like this winter's snow - yet again.

This business has been a perpetual source of questions hurled at my Savior..."Why God?"  "What do you want me to do with this, God?"  "What am I going to do now, God?"  Know what I mean?

I am not a very astute businessman, but we have managed to function in this business for a number of years and I have learned much.  The timing on this news was perhaps the toughest to take, as a lot of things are going on now and are on the horizon.

So Thursday, as I blew snow in the arctic temperatures, I petitioned the God who sent his Jesus to die that I might live, yet again - asking, "Now what God?"  "Why God?"  "I know you tell me you have plans for me, for hope and a future, but I am sick of this, God!"

It isn't too often that I am phased by these kinds of things, but I headed for the tank all the while wanting to trust in those promises God makes me. Mark 10:24 was fresh on my mind, though - "I believe, help my unbelief."

Hearing my petitions, as Jeremiah writes..."When you call on me and come and pray to me, I will listen to you," God showed up.

Through my tiny window in the facemask and sweatshirt, amidst the white everywhere, it blew right in front of me.

A leaf.

"What in the world?," I thought to myself.  "Where in the world did that come from?"

Tumbling from north to south down the street at the end of my driveway, a LEAF!

A leaf, you ask?

My mind immediately went to the book of James.  While not talking about leaves, the passage jumped to my mind and into my soul - as it often does when I want help with my unbelief.

James 1:6
"But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind."

I so often petition Jesus to hear my prayer.  I play it off like I am some super-Christian who never doubts, but I do.  I do in the prayers for my business, for my family and for my ministry.  I am so often like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.

Kinda like that leaf.

There are so many for whom I am in prayer today.  The people of Haiti; others in hospitals; friends with incredible hurts in their lives; others in the midst of transitions in life.

When my phone rings twice within an hour Wednesday from people needing prayer, do they have any idea who they are asking to pray for them?  If they knew that I am often like a wave of the sea - or that leaf - maybe they should have called someone else!?!?

Jesus, help me believe.  I beg you to hold me close, to draw me ever nearer to your heart, to know - I mean KNOW - that you hear me and are listen when I cry out to you.  Jesus, may the cries of my heart align with yours.  May my prayers be yours, Jesus.

May we believe - believe in the sovereignty of a God who loves us so much that he was willing to send his one and only son as THE atoning sacrifice for our sins; believe that the creator of all things loves us with a love that we cannot fathom; believe that when we cry out to him that he hears us!

He is in control, He is mighty to save, He is the Alpha and the Omega - the beginning and the end.

Thank you for the leaf, Jesus.  Please continue to help me through my unbelief!