You Are What You Eat

O fear the Lord, you his holy ones,
    for those who fear him have no want.
The young lions suffer want and hunger,
    but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.

Come, O children, listen to me;
    I will teach you the fear of the Lord.
Which of you desires life,
    and covets many days to enjoy good?
Keep your tongue from evil,
    and your lips from speaking deceit.
Depart from evil, and do good;
    seek peace, and pursue it.

(Psalm 34:9-14, New Revised Standard Version)

you are what you eat 2 

You’ve likely heard the phrase “you are what you eat.”  Of course, this doesn’t mean that when you look at me you see a delicious strip of bacon.  Rather, it’s meant to convey that the kind of food we ingest, whether it is physical groceries or spiritual sustenance, is of great importance and significance.  Eating unhealthy stuff makes you unhealthy.  Conversely, ingesting healthy things helps one to maintain proper health and vitality for functioning and thriving in life.

The psalmist encourages us to seek the LORD because in going after God we will be filled with goodness.  Using our tongues for good and not evil; our words for encouragement and not for forming lies; our constant verbiage for uplift and support and not with the poison phrases of evil; and, our voices for pursuing peaceful relations and not for disharmony; are all beautiful buffet foods of health and goodness to fortify our souls.

Back when I was in seminary (in a galaxy far, far away) it was difficult to keep up with the bills.  Finances were tight in our young family.  Despite working sometimes up to three jobs at a time, our budget had no budge to it.  In one unusually and particularly hard month, we were down to our last groceries.  In fact, on one summer evening we all had a bowl of Wheaties for supper.  The refrigerator was empty.  In our bedtime prayers with our girls, my wife and I voiced and expressed our need to God.

As Mary and I readied ourselves for bed, it was raining cats and dogs outside.  At 10pm, we heard a knock on our back patio door.  We looked at each other as if the other would know that we’re expecting someone.  We weren’t.  As I pulled back the curtain, there stood a sweet little Puerto Rican neighbor holding two large bags.  I quickly ushered her into our little apartment.  Her next words to us I will never forget:

“I went to bed at 9:00 and quickly fell fast asleep.  At 9:30 the Holy Spirit woke me up and told me to fill two bags with as many groceries as I could get in them; then, go and give them to the Ehrhardt’s.  So, here I am.”

All my wife and I could do was look at her and each other slack-jawed and simply say, “Thank you.”  No one knew our need.  We told no one about it; only God.

My family learned an invaluable lesson that stormy night, one you can’t learn any other way but being in a place of desperation.  The spiritual food that we eat is so important that Jesus put it this way:

One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4).

Many years later after that rich spiritual feast, I told this same story in a congregation on a Sunday morning.  Afterwards, a middle-aged man came up to me and said something that initially took me aback: “So, how do you justify being in such a state of deprivation and not taking care of your family?”  After gathering my thoughts, I gave him this retort:

“You have asked me an honest question.  I will ask you one before I answer yours: Have your teenage kids, you, and your wife ever been in a situation where you needed God and cried out to him for something?”  Long pause…. “Well, no, not really.”  “Then, sir,” I replied, “I like the lessons my encounter with want and privation taught my kids better than the lessons your kids have never learned.”

You see, my friends, you are what you eat.  This obsession we have with being independent, self-sufficient, and our compulsions about money has spawned an entire generation of folks who just don’t know they need God.  Then, parents wonder why their kids abandon God.  God is simply irrelevant to them.  After all, why serve a God who has never touched my life in any significant way?  If we eat from a table of our own making, then the Table of the Lord becomes only a dusty piece of furniture in an empty church.

When we come and eat the bread which the Lord offers us we find satisfaction and fulfillment.  When we allow God to serve up a delicious spiritual meal we discover hospitality and joy.  When we accept the invitation to seek the Lord we find that little is much when God is in it.  In God’s upside-down kingdom, the poor are rich, and the rich are poor.

Good days of plenty don’t come because we ingeniously orchestrate it all.  Yes, of course, planning is both necessary and important.  Yet, all of our best laid plans are just that.  The outcomes belong to God, not us.  We have because God gives, and not because we figured out how to work harder, or smarter, or better.

you are what you eat

The one who truly fears the Lord has learned to first receive from Him.  Open-handed reception can only result from a heart posture of humility and need.  Close-fisted folks only know how to figure things out on their own and are not in the position to receive anything.

Whichever way you slice the Old Testament bread of poverty and the New Testament teaching on being poor in spirit, the rich are typically not in the best place – the poor are.  Being a spiritual beggar who recognizes his/her need for God, and who is desperate for Jesus is the one who has found the narrow entrance to where the Lord dwells.  And, upon entering, finds a lavish spread that is worthy of the marriage supper of the Lamb.

Genesis 22:1-19 – The Lord Will Provide

abraham and isaac

Abraham named that place “The Lord Will Provide.” And even now people say, “On the mountain of the Lord it will be provided.”

The biblical character of Abraham is synonymous with faith.  And for good reason.  God had told Abraham that he would have a son with his wife Sarah.  This wouldn’t be unusual except for the facts that the couple were well advanced in age, and Sarah was incapable of having children.  Infertility isn’t just a modern problem; it has always existed.  But Abraham believed God.  Years later and with a mix of patience and impatience from the would-be parents, the promise from God was realized.  Abraham and Sarah had a son, Isaac.

“The child of the promise.”  This was Isaac’s moniker – which makes the command coming from God so perplexing: Take your son, the child of the promise, and go to the mountain and sacrifice him there.  Huh? What the…!  But it only seems strange and super-weird to us.  We get no reaction from Abraham, no questioning, no talk back.  He just goes about the business of saddling up the donkey, chopping some wood for the sacrifice, and takes his only son with him on the journey to the mountain.

We can wonder what might be going through Abraham’s mind through all of this.  While you and I might try and figure out if we really heard God or not, Abraham had a history of talking with God.  He knew God’s voice as well as he knew his own.  Abraham was well down the road of relationship with the God he served.  We get an insight from the author of Hebrews into Abraham’s thought process, a line of thinking that is consistent with a person who has a regular habit of talking with God:

“Abraham had been promised that Isaac, his only son, would continue his family. But when Abraham was tested, he had faith and was willing to sacrifice Isaac, because he was sure that God could raise people to life. This was just like getting Isaac back from death.” (Hebrews 11:17-18, CEV)

Abraham didn’t try and figure out God’s mind.  He didn’t get into a debate with God about the contradiction of ethics he was being asked to do.  He simply obeyed. He reasoned that it didn’t matter if Isaac were killed because God could raise him from death.  This, of course, is not what happened.  It was all a test of faith.  Abraham knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that God is the Lord who provides.

You and I don’t always know why we are facing the circumstances we’re enduring.  We don’t always know what in the world God is thinking.  Yet, like Abraham, if we have a spiritual history of walking with God and hearing his voice, we don’t hesitate to respond.  We are convinced that God will provide.  Obedience for the follower of Christ is not a burden; it’s a privilege, even when we are being tested beyond our seeming emotional ability to do it.

Sovereign Lord, your ways are sometimes strange.  Yet, I know that everything you do is always right, just, and good.  It is to your gracious and merciful character that I know you will provide.  My allegiance is to you; in the Name of Jesus Christ, in the power of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Isaiah 41:14-20

            Each morning I rise and read God’s Holy Word.  It is a discipline I’ve been doing for nearly 40 years.  In the past few years, I have begun reading more slowly and with greater contemplation –  because the goal is not to check off that you have read some verses on a Bible reading plan.  The aim is to connect meaningfully with God.  The desired result is to hear from him, and to let the Scriptures do their incredible work in our hearts.
            One of the ways I connect with Scripture, after having read the verses for the day several times, is to write it in my own words, using personal pronouns.  This morning is one of those days.  Here is today’s Old Testament lesson interpreted and personalized with God being the speaker….
“My dear servant, there is no need whatsoever to worry yourself,
though others say about you,
            ‘That guy is nothing, only a wormy maggot!’
I am your holy God,
            who saves and protects you.
I’ll let you be like a big ol’ log
            covered with sharp spikes.
You will grind and crush
every mountain and hill in front of you
            until they turn to dust.
A strong wind will scatter the dust of unholy jerks
            in all directions.
Then you will celebrate
and praise me, your LORD,
            The holy God who watches your life.
When your financial budget doesn’t budge
and your bank accounts lie empty
            and you have no idea where to turn,
I, your LORD and your God
will come to your rescue.
            I will not forget you.
I will make rivers of abundance flow
            on the desolate mountain peaks in your life.
I will send streams of life
to fill your empty valley of life’s tribulations.
Dry and barren places in your life
will flow with springs
            and become a lake of grace and goodness.
I will fill the parched desert areas of your needy life
            with all kinds of fruitful trees –
apple trees, olive trees, fig trees,
oak and walnut, elm and maple, fir and pine,
like in the original garden,
all your needs will be met in and through me, your God.
Everyone will see this
            and know that I,
the holy LORD God whom you love and serve,

 

            created every bit of it.”