Savoring The Meal

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on AppleSpotify, or Audible. 

Jesus told us twice, “Your Father knows what you need before you ask Him” (Matthew 6:8, 32). He knows the good we need. 

When we were children, our parents tried to give us good-for-you food, but sometimes it wasn’t necessarily good. It might have given us nutrients, but perhaps it wasn’t as tasty as we would have liked. Let’s be honest: most junk food tastes really, really good—probably better than the good-for-you food. As a result, sometimes we eat just to eat. We eat because we have to. We choke down the vegetables just so we can get to the dessert.  

As parents, we want our kids to have good-for-you food. God wants that too, but He wants more than that for us: He wants it to be savory as well. Jesus talked about how evil parents knew enough to give good things to their children, but then He reminded us how much more does God want to give us (Luke 11:11-13)! 

It usually takes much longer to prepare food than it does to eat it. This is especially true for more savory gourmet meals. When we gulp down our food, we don’t really appreciate or savor the tastes, the subtle hints the chef has mixed in, and certainly not the time involved to prepare such a lovely feast. 

When we gulp down our food without savoring it…

  • …we don’t honor the one who prepared the food 
  • …we don’t savor the goodness so we don’t appreciate the goodness
  • …we move on to dessert (or junk food) before our body is ready for it 

In Psalm 106 we read a history lesson of Israel’s ups-and-downs—the trouble they were in and the deliverance God prepared for them. The psalmist directly connects their lack of savoring God’s good things to their rebellion and their carnal, godless cravings. Instead of slowing down to be grateful for what God had given them, they just wanted to move on to the next dessert. That attitude may have been what was behind the spoiled girl named Veruca Salt in the movie “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” who sang the song “I Want It NOW! 

David gives us the antidote for this tasteless gulping of God’s good and good-for-us food: “Taste and see that the Lord is good…” (Psalm 34:8a). This deliberate tasting allows us to see how excellent the things of God are, better than anything else the world has to offer!  

David concludes his counsel with these words, “Blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him. Fear the Lord, you His saints, for those who fear Him lack nothing” (Psalm 34:8b). 

In the New Testament, the apostle Peter gives us a similar word: “Like newborn babies, you must crave pure spiritual milk so that you will grow into a full experience of salvation. Cry out for this nourishment, now that you have had a taste of the Lord’s kindness” (1 Peter 2:2-3 NLT). 

It’s this savoring that will help us appreciate the sweet and the bitter. It’s this appreciation that brings glory to God and keeps us craving more of the ultimate good that only He has for us. 

If we will slow down to savor God’s Word, if we will delight to spend time in prayer, if we won’t rush through the good-for-you trials, we will taste and see that there is nothing that can satisfy like our Savior! 

If you’ve missed any of the messages in our series called Craving, you can find the full list by clicking here. 

►► Would you please prayerfully consider supporting this ministry? My Patreon supporters get behind-the-scenes access to exclusive materials. ◀︎◀︎

Links & Quotes

“Don’t quit until every base is uphill. I played just a little too long.” —Babe Ruth’s advice to Hank Greenberg, when Hank was considering retirement

As a part of my ongoing Monday Motivation series, I shared a thought of how we can see more miracles—

The Assemblies of God have always been a missions-centric fellowship. Check out this mini-biography of Alice Luce as a prime example.

The Bible isn’t a “once upon a time” collection of stories, but the accounts contained in Scripture are historically verifiable. I love this archaeological biography of Israel’s King Pekah. And be sure to check out my side-by-side chart of the kings and prophets of the divided kingdoms of Israel and Judah.

There is a psychological term called “projection” where we see in others what is really in ourselves. This is something Christians MUST guard against doing. Instead of going to the other person first, let’s go to our knees in prayer first. This is a short clip from a full-length teaching video I provided exclusively for my Patreon supporters.

“Blessed are those who can give without remembering and can take without forgetting.” —Elizabeth Bibesco

A High And Holy Calling

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on AppleSpotify, or Audible. 

When God spoke to the “princes of Israel,” He was speaking to those in leadership positions. They were men who had wealth, position, and a high level of influence. God called them to live up to their title as “prince” because leadership is a high and holy calling given by God. 

Leaders are to set an example for others. They are to provide what is lacking so that others can live up to their own God-given potential as well. Here’s the way God describes His leaders in Ezekiel 45-46:

They are to be peacemakers, never men of violence nor oppression (45:9). 

They are to be fair, consistent, and impartial in their interactions with others (45:10). 

They are to generously provide for the people under their care (45:15-17, 22; 46:13-14). 

They are to have a “get to do it” attitude toward their duties, not a “have to do it” attitude” (46:5, 7, 11). 

They are to be among their people, not aloof nor isolated from them (46:10). 

They are to provide for their family without impoverishing the people under their care (46:18). 

Since God calls leaders, He will also call them to account. Jesus made it clear that there are only one-of-two assessments that leaders will hear from God:

  1. Well done, good and faithful servant 
  2. You wicked, lazy servant

Let me say it again: Leadership is a high and holy calling. So…

A mark of a godly leader is one who joyfully and faithfully fulfills God’s leadership call. 

This is part 67 in my series on godly leadership. You can check out all of my posts in this series by clicking here.

►► Would you please prayerfully consider supporting this ministry? My Patreon supporters get behind-the-scenes access to exclusive materials. ◀︎◀︎

Faith Over Fear

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on AppleSpotify, or Audible. 

I am always interested when I see contrasts in the Bible. Things like:

  • Live this way, not that way
  • These people are blessed, these people have trouble 
  • If you do this, you won’t have this 

So an interesting contrast caught my eye in the story where Jesus calms the storm (Matthew 8:23–27). Jesus is sleeping peacefully in the middle of a storm that is described as “furious [where] the waves swept over the boat.” The disciples were anything but peaceful—they thought they were going to drown—so they yelled for Jesus to wake up. 

Before Jesus calmed the storm, He says, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” 

That’s the phrase that caught my attention. Notice the contrast between “little faith” and “so afraid.” In other words, small faith means big fear! 

Strong’s Greek dictionary defines “little faith” as “dread (by implication) faithless.” So it appears there is an inverse proportion between faith and fear. 

The word that Jesus used for “afraid” is only used here and in the same story in Mark 4:40, and in Revelation 21:8 which lists people who will be excluded from entrance into heaven.

The phrase “so afraid” (or “O ye of little faith” in the King James Version) is just one word in Greek: olgiopistos. The root word pistos is faith, but I find the prefix oligos very descriptive. It means: 

  • small in quantity 
  • short in time 
  • slight in intensity 

In other words, it is faith that is immature, or hasn’t been used much, or hasn’t been applied to a particular circumstance. This word olgiopistos is used five times in the New Testament, and only used by Jesus. 

In addition to this story, it is used in Matthew 6:30 and Luke 12:28 when Jesus tells us not to worry about the things that God will provide for us—things like food, clothing, and shelter. Jesus uses this word for Peter when he began to sink in the water after walking a few steps toward Jesus. And Jesus uses it in Matthew 16:8 when He warns His disciples about the “yeast” of the Pharisees and Sadducees that can creep into their hearts and spoil their faith. (Check out all of these verses here.)

In mathematical circles, this relationship between faith and fear is one that would be called inversely proportional. When our faith is high, our fear is low; when our fear is high, our faith is low. I also think it is very eye-opening that the mathematical symbol for inverse proportionality (∝) is the same symbol called ichthus that the early church used to represent Jesus.

Faith and fear cannot coexist in the same heart. Sometimes our faith is small in quantity because we haven’t fed our faith with God’s promises. Sometimes our faith is short in time because we want things done on our time schedule. And sometimes our faith is slight in intensity because we are unsure if God can “come through” in this particular situation. 

Whatever the case, when we feel any fear, we need to ask for faith. We need to return to God’s Word and be assured that His promises are applicable regardless of the situation we are in. As our faith grows, our fear has to diminish! 

►► Would you please prayerfully consider supporting this ministry? My Patreon supporters get behind-the-scenes access to exclusive materials. ◀︎◀︎

Eternally Satisfied

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on AppleSpotify, or Audible. 

We see a pattern throughout the history of the Israelites in the Old Testament: They wanted to have all their bases covered, so they kept up the pretense of worshiping Jehovah, but they also added the idolatrous practices of the nations around them. It got pretty vile (see Jeremiah 2:23-25 as an example). 

These cravings for more than God had provided led to their punishment. As we quoted last week from Isaiah, they lost their “matchless, unbroken companionship” with God (Isaiah 30:18 AMP).

Craving for our self-created idols creates anxiety in our hearts that shows up in three nagging questions. 

(1) What will others think of me if they have things I don’t have?

Worrying about what others think of us has always been a trap. We play games, posture, and frequently hide the truth so that we “look right” to others. But this dishonesty only hurts us in the long run.

Dr. Tony Evans noted, “satan uses our legitimate need for acceptance in an illegitimate way that can result in us living under a false identity.” Jesus warned us not to show off to try to get others to think well of us (Matthew 6:1) and He lived this out in His own life. He said, “I receive not glory from men—I crave no human honor, I look for no mortal fame” (John 5:41 AMP). 

To avoid this trap remember: Recognition from God > Recognition from men. We should be living to hear Jesus say, “Well done, good and faithful servant!” (Matthew 25:21, 23). 

(2) Will I have enough to survive?

Because the things of this earth pass away, it is natural to think that our supply may just <poof!> be gone in an instant. So we can crave the security of having our shelves fully stocked for the future. 

Jesus twice tells us that our Heavenly Father knows what we need (Matthew 6:8, 32). Then over a span of ten verses, Jesus tells us four times, “Do not worry” (Matthew 6:25-34). He can assure us of this because of this rock-solid reality: Heaven’s provisions > Earth’s provisions. 

(3) Will God accept me?

Just as satan tried to get Jesus to doubt that He was the Son of God, the devil will also try to get you to doubt whether or not you measure up in God’s sight. But in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus emphasizes the Fatherhood of God thirteen times—usually calling Him “your Father.” 

This tells me that we can cling to this: Being accepted by your Father > Being accepted by anyone else. Paul uses a wonderful description in Ephesians when he tells us we are “accepted in the Beloved” (Ephesians 1:6 NKJV). 

Isaiah told us that God longs to be gracious to us, and Jesus emphasizes that idea when He says, “Only aim at and strive for and seek His kingdom, and all these things shall be supplied to you also. Do not be seized with alarm and struck with fear, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom!” (Luke 12:31-32 AMP) 

Just as God craves to bless you, so you are to crave your fulfillment in what He alone can supply. You must crave the only One Who can eternally satisfy you, Who longs to reward you, and Who delights to give you the inestimable rewards of His kingdom! 

If you’ve missed any of the messages in our Craving series, check them out by clicking here. 

►► Would you please prayerfully consider supporting this ministry? My Patreon supporters get behind-the-scenes access to exclusive materials. ◀︎◀︎

Links & Quotes

Immature people only want to do the bare minimum, but mature people want to do more than is expected of them. Jesus called these people those that went the second mile. That was a topic in my most recent Monday Motivation series.

I am a big fan of The Babylon Bee. If you haven’t checked out their satirical wit, please do so! One post that caught my eye this week is called What Your Favorite Book Of The Bible Says About You. Wow, did this one make me laugh! If you would like to check out some real Bible studies, I have some here and here.

Cold-case detective and Christian apologist J. Warner Wallace discusses how Jesus impacted other world religions—

The drought in north Texas has revealed some more dinosaur tracks, raising some new questions about these massive animals that roamed Earth.

The devil loves to try to pervert the conviction of the Holy Spirit into condemnation. Here is the freeing truth we can stand on: There is NO condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

Sean McDowell elaborates on the dangers of pornography.

Judging The Right Way

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on AppleSpotify, or Audible. 

I have probably heard this verse quoted more by non-Christians than any other verse: “Do not judge, or you too will be judged” (Matthew 7:1). 

Does Jesus mean that we can never point out to anyone else an area of concern? No, because Jesus Himself did this as well as nearly every epistle writer of the New Testament. What it does mean is that confrontation needs to be truly corrective and never condemning. 

Correcting means that I am never serving as the judge and jury. But it does mean that I can lovingly help someone before they have to stand before God on Judgment Day. Jesus said that if I am a mean, self-serving judge of others, I can expect to receive that same treatment (v. 2). 

Instead, I need to first recognize that what I may see in another person may only be apparent to me because I am afflicted with the same thing. So my first response when I see “a speck” in someone else’s eye is to ask the Holy Spirit to show me a possible “plank” in my own eye. Only after I have dealt with this through repentance and making appropriate changes, will I have the necessary empathy and gentleness to help my brother or sister deal with their own eye speck (vv. 3-4). 

Jesus said that trying to get someone else to repent of something that still exists in my own life is being a hypocrite. It’s playing a role that isn’t me. So Jesus says “first” deal with my own sin, “then” I may help a brother or sister (v. 5). 

Notice that I have been very careful to use the phrase “brother and sister.” I believe that Christians should deal with fellow Christians, but we shouldn’t try to bring correction to those who don’t come from the same biblical paradigm that we have. In legal terms, I may say that we have no standing, or that non-Christians are out of my jurisdiction. 

One final thought. I think I need to treat a concern that another person brings to me in a very similar fashion as I would treat an eye speck someone else. Perhaps God sent them to me, so I need to ask the Holy Spirit to show me any “plank” that may be in my eye, even if it has been brought to my attention through a judgmental person. It is very God-honoring for me to give that person the benefit of the doubt by saying that they cared enough for my well-being that they would be willing to point something out to me. 

Correction is an important aspect of Christian maturity. But we need to make sure we do it in a Christlike way.

►► Would you please prayerfully consider supporting this ministry? My Patreon supporters get behind-the-scenes access to exclusive materials. ◀︎◀︎

Watch Out When Wants Become “Needs”

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on AppleSpotify, or Audible.

There is a mistaken belief that urges or yearnings or cravings that humans have are sinful and must be quickly squelched. To that end, many will deny themselves absolutely anything that brings them pleasure. 

But what God creates, He calls “good” and even “very good” (Genesis 1:4, 10, 12, 18, 21, 25, 31). In one part of the Creation account, we read that God created “trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food” (2:9). Things used in the way God created them are both good and good for us. The Creator knows the best uses, and He shares these with us. He also knows the harmful misuses, and He warns us of these. 

Even Lucifer was created “perfect in beauty” until his craving for more than God had given him corrupted his goodness and turned him into satan (Ezekiel 28:12-19). satan’s craving perverted his heart because he craved more than what the Creator had given him. 

He still uses the same tactic today: he attempts to turn a craving for a legitimate good into an irresistible, entitled pursuit for more. This is what he did with Adam and Even in the Garden of Eden, trying to get them to doubt God’s wisdom in forbidding them from eating that one tree (Genesis 2:16-17, 3:1-6). 

Adam and Eve needed food, and God gave them a craving for good food. But they didn’t need the fruit from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil—they just wanted that forbidden fruit. 

When wants become “needs,” “needs” become idols. 

Once again, satan tried the same strategy with Jesus. Jesus had a craving for food after 40 days of fasting, but His Father said, “Not yet.” Notice how satan again tried to get Jesus to question God’s wisdom with his “if” questions at each temptation. He even quotes a Scripture out of context to try to legitimize turning a want into a need (Luke 4:3, 7, 9). 

These longings may seem irresistible, but John counsels us: For every child of God can obey Him, defeating sin and evil pleasure by trusting Christ to help him (1 John 5:4 TLB). Jesus defeated the craving for wants-turned-to-“needs” by using the Word of God, and we would be wise to do the same (Luke 4:4, 8, 12). 

When wants become “needs,” “needs” become idols. And when “needs” become idols, our unfulfilled cravings create anxiety. And when anxiety persists, sin is usually not too far behind. 

So any anxiety in our hearts should alert us to the idols of wants-turned-to-“needs.” In other words, make sure what you are calling “needs” aren’t just wants in disguise. 

How can you do this? By asking yourself these four questions: 

  1. Is this an earthly craving or an eternal craving? Cravings for earthly things will ultimately fail because this world is temporary (1 John 2:17).  
  2. If I don’t get this thing, will I die? If I answer “no,” it’s probably a want. 
  3. Will this craving bring me closer to God? Jesus said, “Your Father knows what you need before you ask Him” (Matthew 6:8). So let’s ask ourselves, “If this longing is fulfilled, will it make me more dependent on God?” If the answer is “no,” then it’s probably a want. 
  4. Will this craving glorify God’s name? Jesus taught us to begin our prayer with an attitude of longing for God’s name to be glorified (Matthew 6:9-10). We can definitely spot wants we’ve turned into “needs” when we are looking for personal gain. Check out this verse from the prophet Isaiah— 

And therefore the Lord earnestly waits, expecting, looking, and longing to be gracious to you; and therefore He lifts Himself up, that He may have mercy on you and show loving-kindness to you. For the Lord is a God of justice. Blessed—happy, fortunate, to be envied—are all those who earnestly wait for Him, who expect and look and long for Him—for His victory, His favor, His love, His peace, His joy, and His matchless, unbroken companionship! (Isaiah 30:18 AMP) 

God longs to be gracious to you, so He puts cravings in your heart that can only be satisfied by His presence. Lucifer and Adam and Eve all lost God’s “matchless, unbroken companionship” when they tried to appease the wants-turned-to-“needs” idol. It doesn’t have to be like that for us! Ask the Holy Spirit to help you spot those wrong cravings and turn them into cravings that only God can satisfy. 

If you’ve missed any of the messages in our series called Craving, you can find the full list by clicking here. 

►► Would you please prayerfully consider supporting this ministry? My Patreon supporters get behind-the-scenes access to exclusive materials. ◀︎◀︎

Links & Quotes

The churches in my hometown have banded together to get food to students who need it for the weekend. Would you like to help us? We can use both your food donations and your financial support as we serve nearly 200 students every week.

Jesus said we are hypocrites when we give, pray, or fast only outwardly. He called our prayers “pagan” when we try to pray unnaturally. Jesus desires for our giving, praying, and fasting to be natural parts of who we are. This is a short clip of a full-length teaching called “Keepin’ it real” that I shared exclusively with my Patreon supporters. If you would like to sponsor me too for just $5/month, check out the details here.

“Nothing is impossible, the word itself says ‘I’m possible’!” —Audrey Hepburn

“Astronomers are thrilled by the extraordinary images provided by the new James Webb Space Telescope (JWST)—but some of the data already contradict Big Bang expectations. … Creationists have long noted that the Big Bang suffers from the mature distant galaxy problem. Big Bang theorists assume that light from the most distant galaxies took more than 13 billion years to reach Earth. By Big Bang reckoning, we should be seeing these very distant galaxies, not as they are today, but as they were more than 13 billion years ago. Hence, these galaxies should look ‘unevolved’ and ‘immature.’ Yet this expectation is routinely contradicted, and preliminary data from Webb continues the trend.” Check out more from this ICR article.

“Our leadership will always be second to our followership of Jesus.” —Pastor Ben Stoffel

Have you ever been cursed out? Here’s how Jesus wants Christians to respond. It’s pretty easy to say something nice to someone who has done something nice for you. But Jesus tells us to say nice things to people regardless of how they have treated us.

“The battles that count aren’t the ones for gold medals. The struggles within yourself—that’s where it’s at.” —Jesse Owens

“Your walk walks, and your talk talks, but your walk talks more than your talk talks.” —Anonymous

The Best Laid Plans

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on AppleSpotify, or Audible. 

Perhaps you’ve heard the phrase, “The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.” 

This is a line from a poem written by Robert Burns in 1785 called To A Mouse. The story behind the poem is Burns had been plowing his field and destroyed a nest that a mouse had been working all day to build. His poem was written as an apology. The famous line from the Scottish poet actually is written like this—

The best laid schemes o’ Mice an’ Men
     Gang aft agley,
An’ lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain,
     For promis’d joy!

That phrase “gang aft agley” means often go awry. 

Do you ever feel this way? Like your perfectly planned agenda got derailed before you even finished breakfast? Or that your To Do list never quite gets “To Done” by the end of the day?  

I had a great time on the Thriving In Ministry podcast with Kyle Willis while his podcast partner Dace Clifton was on sabbatical. We had planned to discuss how to help pastors get some rest so they could be at their optimal health, but our best laid plans definitely “gang aft agley”! We had multiple technical issues before we could even start recording, and then just as we talked about how pastors could find a way to rest, well, this happened…

Ah yes! Plans gone awry, indeed! 

But here is an important principle for all of us to remember. The Bible says this: We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps (Proverbs 16:9). That means the thing that I call “an interruption” may be something or someone God has sent my way. 

I used to really struggle with this, saying things like, “My plans never work out.” Until one day I heard the distinct voice of the Holy Spirit ask me, “Whose plans?” 

Right—I plan, but God directs. 

And He directly perfectly. 

So now I write the initials I.T.L.W. on the top of my well-crafted daily To Do list. That is shorthand for “If the Lord wills” which I took from this passage—

Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” (James 4:13-15) 

Pastor, look at the life of Jesus. He often tried to get away for a time of rest, but people with needs showed up. His well-laid plans appeared to go awry. But He had compassion on them because He viewed them “like sheep without a shepherd” (Matthew 9:36; Mark 6:34). Jesus then found time to sabbath later. 

Don’t view people with needs as an interruption or as something that derails your plans, but thank God for sending them your way. Then listen to the Holy Spirit showing you how and when you can get the rest you need to be energized to accomplish the rest of the items on your agenda.

I’ll be sharing more clips from this Thriving In Ministry interview soon, so please stay tuned. Shepherd Leadership: The Metrics That Really Matter is available in print or ebook, and in audiobook through either Audible or Apple.

►► Would you please prayerfully consider supporting this ministry? My Patreon supporters get behind-the-scenes access to exclusive materials. ◀︎◀︎

%d bloggers like this: