The Good Life, Part 1: TAKE A TASTE

Stuffed Mushrooms

PANNING FOR GOLD

Digging into Psalm 34:8

I made some stuffed mushrooms for lunch today. I chopped some zucchini, red bell pepper, and onion; added parsley, garlic, lemon juice, and crumbled goat cheese; stuffed the mixture into the mushrooms; and popped them in the toaster oven. They came out looking good, but when I bit into one—oh my!—it tasted even better than it looked.

In the middle of Psalm 34, David makes an interesting suggestion:

8 Taste and see that the Lord is good;

    blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.

The caption at the top of the psalm, as well as the first several verses, show that this psalm was composed in thankfulness and praise to the Lord for rescuing him from King Saul and King Achish.  So the goodness of the Lord that David is talking about must be that he rescues believers from danger.

Well, yes, but then he goes on to say:

 9 Fear the Lord, you his holy people, for those who fear him lack nothing.

10 The lions may grow weak and hungry, but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.

Hmmm. Now he has gone on to a whole different way that God is good—he not only helps people in danger, but he is a giver of good things.

Most Christians would quickly say, “Oh, yes, God gives us everything we need—not everything we want, but everything we really need.” If you point out to them that Jesus said He came to give life in abundance, they would say that means an abundance of love, joy, peace, etc.—in other words, spiritual blessing.

That’s not how the Jewish people understood the Lord’s blessing. They trusted God to bless them spiritually by atoning for sin, but they also very much expected Him to bless them abundantly with material things.

Their history started with Abraham. He was a nomad in a strange country. But the Lord promised it all to him and his descendants at the appropriate time. In the meantime, the Lord caused him to become enormously wealthy and influential AND enabled his formerly barren wife to bear their son when she was ninety years old.

Abraham’s son Isaac also experienced an economic miracle because of the Lord’s blessing:

1 A severe famine now struck the land, as had happened before in Abraham’s time. So Isaac moved to Gerar, where Abimelech, king of the Philistines, lived.

The Lord appeared to Isaac and said, “Do not go down to Egypt, but do as I tell you. Live here as a foreigner in this land, and I will be with you and bless you.

12 When Isaac planted his crops that year, he harvested a hundred times more grain than he planted, for the Lord blessed him. 13 He became a very rich man, and his wealth continued to grow. 14 He acquired so many flocks of sheep and goats, herds of cattle, and servants that the Philistines became jealous of him.(Genesis 26:1-2, 12-14 NLT).

God created life to be good. That’s why we feel distressed when our resources are in short supply. Distress (pain) is the response the Lord built into our beings to let us know when something is wrong. Scarcity is not good, minimal health is not good, strained relationships are not good. God never intended his people to be saddled with this kind of experience.

Why do Christians have them? A big reason is: we settle for all these things because we don’t really believe God is good and that he is generous with those who allow Him to be. We don’t know how pleased He is when we seek Him about the things that we lack.

Let’s taste and see how good God is. If we seek Him, we will lack no good thing.

 

Who’s in Charge?

In a democracy like the United States, we understand the concept of choosing who will be in charge. We don’t have a choice about whether to have a government, or whether to obey the laws, but we do have a voice in choosing which individuals will make and enforce the laws.

That is very much the case, Votingalso, in the spiritual context of life. We can choose whether to put ourselves under the authority and protection of God and his angels or under the domination of satan and his demons.

This is where you might be saying, “I really did not need to hear this. It freaks me out.”

The good news is: with spiritual “government” you don’t have to wait up until midnight to find out who won the election. You can choose who will be in charge over you at any time, regardless of how anyone else is “voting.”

How do you do that? Let’s look at an example from the ancient history of Israel.

God had rescued the Israelites from slavery in Egypt and was returning them to Canaan–the land he had promised them 400 years previously. The native Canaanites had become so corrupt that they sacrificed their own children in fiery furnaces to their god, Moloch. God is merciful, as he showed in the case of Nineveh. He will forgive those who repent. The Canaanites must have shown themselves unredeemable, because the Lord sent the Israelites to destroy that civilization and claim the land for themselves.

So here they were at the border of Canaan. The Lord told Joshua to send twelve spies into the land to familiarize themselves with it before sending in their troops. The men came back with a glowing report about the land. But then ten of them gave the opinion that they could not conquer this land because some of its inhabitants were giants. Most of the Israelites allowed themselves to be caught up in fear. They spent the night weeping and complaining. By morning they were ready to choose a new leader and return to Egypt.

5 Then Moses and Aaron fell facedown in front of the whole Israelite assembly gathered there. 6 Joshua son of Nun and Caleb son of Jephunneh, who were among those who had explored the land, tore their clothes 7 and said to the entire Israelite assembly, “The land we passed through and explored is exceedingly good. 8 If the Lord is pleased with us, he will lead us into that land, a land flowing with milk and honey, and will give it to us. 9 Only do not rebel against the Lord. And do not be afraid of the people of the land, . Their protection is gone, but the Lord is with us. ” (Numbers 14:5-9 NIV).

Who was right–the ten fearful spies or Moses, Aaron, Joshua, and Caleb? The answer is obvious in the story of the first battle (which took place 40 years later–after the doubting generation had been replaced by their children). This battle did not involve giants, but it did require the Israelites to enter the walled city of Jericho. You no doubt know the story: The army walked around the city multiple times. On cue, the priests blew their rams’ horns. The soldiers shouted. And the walls of Jericho crumbled.

Clearly, Joshua and Caleb had known what they were talking about–“Their protection is gone, but the Lord is with us” and “Do not be afraid of them because we will devour them.”

The second generation, led by Joshua, cast their vote for God and won big. The first generation cast their vote in the opposite direction and died in the wilderness. In what way did they “vote”? It all boiled down to whom or what they chose to fear.

The second generation–the winners–“feared the Lord.” (Whenever this terminology is used in the Bible it means they had awe and respect for God.) In spite of the unknowns ahead of them, this generation chose to trust the Lord and follow his directions. They put God in charge, and they gained everything He had promised them.

The first generation feared everything but God. By default, the “other entity” took charge of this situation in their lives, and they were big-time losers. They were still God’s people. He had set them free from slavery and continued to care for them miraculously for 40 years. Their clothing and shoes did not wear out and they had manna to eat every day. BUT they missed out on all the blessings He was ready to give them–because they gave into fear of things God was easily able to overcome.

When you find a promise in the Bible that relates to you, expect the enemy of your soul to behave the way he did toward the Israelites camped on the border of Canaan. Expect him to plant a fearful thought or intimidating circumstance in your path to hinder you from believing God and receiving His blessing.

When that happens, what will you do? Will you give in to the fear and let the enemy take charge of that situation? Will you let him do what he does best–“rob, kill, and destroy” the destiny God has for you?

Or will you fear the Lord? Will you purposely remind yourself that God can easily overcome any obstacle? Will you tell yourself that God means what He says? If so, He will remain in charge of that situation in your life, and you will receive “immeasurably more than all” you could “ask or imagine” (Ephesians 3:20).

 

P.S. This post can be subtitled “What’s the Hold-Up, Part 3.” We don’t have to be in the dark about why some of our prayers are not answered. God does keep his promises! The Bible shows us how to cooperate with Him to receive them. 🙂

 

 

 

 

The Land of More Than Enough

Celia with younger siblings - Dominican Repubic

My siblings and I in a lush land (Dominican Republic)

I’ve lived in a few “lands” in my life–the Dominican Republic, Arizona, California, Illinois, and now Kentucky. I’ve heard Spanish . . . and Southern drawl. I’ve lived in lush tropics . . . and in the desert. I’ve enjoyed beaches . . . and snow. No two of these places are alike.

Just like the two places I am thinking of today: the land of Barely Enough and the Land of More Than Enough.

You can see a really good example of these opposite “countries” in the journey of the Israelites from Egypt to what became The Holy Land. The Lord delivered them miraculously from slavery in Egypt. He led them through a wilderness area to Mt. Sinai, where they stopped and built the Tabernacle of worship. Within months (a year or two) they could have entered the Promised Land, but they were not ready. So they wandered in the wilderness for forty more years, until all the older generation had died.

Why were they not ready to take possession of the Promised Land? They didn’t trust God when he said he would go before them to give them the victory over their enemies.*

A cave in Israel where Dead Scrolls were discovered. People actually lived in this area!

A cave in Israel where Dead Scrolls were discovered. People actually lived in this arid part of the country!

Now, God cared for his people–even when they did not trust him. During the years of wandering in the wilderness, he miraculously provided manna for those millions of people to eat. He also (according to Moses) kept their garments from wearing out and their feel from swelling (Deuteronomy 8:4). Daily miracles of provision for forty years! But the desert was the Land of Barely Enough.

They could have been in the Land of More Than Enough “a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and springs, that flow out of valleys and hills; 8 a land of wheat and barley, of vines and fig trees and pomegranates, a land of olive oil and honey; 9 a land in which you will eat bread without scarcity, in which you will lack nothing; a land whose stones are iron and out of whose hills you can dig copper” (Deuteronomy 8:7-9).

Two of the original adult generation–Caleb and Joshua–made it to the Promised Land. They knew God would do what he said. They believed. And it happened for them–in spite of the doubters around them.

Do Christians around you say things like:

“Ask God for what you need but don’t expect him to give you what you want.”

“I’m only human. I can’t live the way the Bible says.”

“I’m just not very spiritual. I don’t know what God wants, so I’ll have to decide by myself.”

“God only heals once in a while.”

“It is not spiritual to want to be comfortably well off and have plenty to share with those in need.”

“God only calls a few, extraordinary people to do great things.”

“Until they get to heaven, Christians have to put up with everything the world dishes out. Strong Christians don’t expect God to protect them. He wouldn’t anyway. He just gives you grace to endure.” *

Maybe “the masses”  of well-meaning Christians are saying these things, but what what does God say? (Did you click on the link in each statement to see?)

Are you content to live in the Land of Barely Enough–barely enough grace, barely enough well-being, barely enough protection, barely enough provision, and barely enough fruitfulness? You don’t have to! Study the Bible, take God at his word, and step into the Promised Land. Be like Joshua and Caleb–hold out for God’s full purpose and destiny for your life. And–like Joshua and Caleb–as you step into it, take all your family and friends with you.

No one’s ever seen or heard anything like this,

Never so much as imagined anything quite like it—
What God has arranged for those who love him (1 Corinthians 2:9 MSG).

____________

*Christians do suffer persecution and challenges for the sake of the gospel. And God gives great, supernatural grace for that. But, otherwise, God blesses and protects them.