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:
“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!