Taste and See that the Lord Is Good

by Shelly Beach
© 2017

strangelemons-Pixabay

When I was a kid, my dad used to bring home unusual food for our family to try: cherimoyas, dandelion greens, sassafras, fiddleheads, jackfruit, jicama, grasshoppers, various assorted animal meats and organs, smelt, lutefisk, and I’ll end the list there.

Taking that first taste took a bit of courage for me. Often the food looked distasteful and  unpalatable. My dad seemed to think it a mark of moral character to force us to try something new that would expand our palate and our experience. And he also wanted us to understand that judging by what we see can often be misleading.

The Bible tells us to “taste and see that the Lord is good.”

Life serves up both the bitter and the sweet. We’ve all faced distasteful, horrible experiences. You know, things that make us want to cover our mouths and cry “No!” like toddlers being asked to eat parsnips. Something unwanted stares back at us from the table, when we’d much rather down  our favorite foods.

bread-Pixabay

When something unwanted is placed before us, God asks us to trust Him, and like children we often clamp our mouths shut.

We don’t want to.

It’s too hard, too terrible, too painful, too frightening.

And the truth is that terrible, hard, painful, and frightening things are often unsavory and hard.

But the greatest truth is that nothing is sweeter than God’s goodness and love for us.

When we trust God in the terrible and the hard, we “taste” His goodness, His faithfulness, His perfect peace, His incomparable presence.

But tasting God’s love and care for us requires several things of us:

  • Trusting God implicitly because of who He is. This requires acting on our will and commitment to God’s Word, not our emotions. Trusting God is also a learning process.
  • Looking at life from God’s perspective. Circumstances are temporal realities with eternal implications. Conversely, God is an eternal being who works for our good in our temporal circumstances. What we see now is superficial. God is at work in the whole of eternity to work out even dire temporary circumstances for our good.

Are you facing the terrible, the hard, the frightening, the disastrous, the overwhelming? Taste God’s goodness. Trust who He is. Look at life from His perspective, and trust Him to be at work for your good.

“I will bless the Lord at all times;
    his praise shall continually be in my mouth.
My soul makes its boast in the Lord;
    let the humble hear and be glad.
Oh, magnify the Lord with me,
    and let us exalt his name together!”  Psalm 34:1-3 ESV

The Our First Calling: Be Like Jesus

Blog by Shelly Beach
Author, Speaker,
& Consultant © 2017

Award-winning author of
The Silent Seduction of
Self-Talk, Love Letters
from the Edge, Precious
Lord, Take My Hand,
Hallie’s
Heart & other fiction & nonfiction titles

We’re imperfect people. All of us. Definitely me, and yes, you too. 

Even the most godly Christian you’ve ever known is an imperfect sinner. And if they’re honest, they can humbly point out their flaws because they know them well and do battle with them on a regular basis.

But we can’t be complacent about our gossiping tongue, bitter spirit, unforgiving heart, angry outbursts, private moments with porn, potty mouths, condescension toward (spouse, children, siblings, boss, MIL, you know who). Not at least if we claim to love God.

As Christians, our first calling is to become more like Jesus.

This is a lifetime calling. As long as we’re still on earth, we’re going to be working on “the sin[s] that so easily besets us.” You know…the moment when you say or do the things you regret the next instant. But as followers as disciples of Jesus, we should all desire to become like Him. This means intentionally assessing our motives, priorities, attitudes, and actions on a regular basis.

Accountability is a necessary, bittersweet part of growing.

Our love for God should compel us to please Him. He has made us complete in Christ, but we to become more like Him as the Spirit of God transforms us. This is a lifelong process. Unfortunately, we don’t go from sinners to perfect people the moment we receive Christ, even though positionally in the spiritual realm, God sees us as sinless and complete because He sees Jesus’ righteousness in place of our sin.

Instead, we grow as we learn more about God’s love for us. The more we know Him, the more we love Him and release the rights we have falsely believed we had to rule life our way. We begin to substitute His will for ours, which is the essence of Jesus’ heart. His every breath, word, motive, and act were to glorify the Father.

Doing “good things” has nothing to do with a moral checklist.

We measure “good things” by arbitrary preferences or personal and cultural biases. Or we do good things to bolster our pride, gain value in others’ eyes fit in, or for other self-serving reasons.

God defines doing good things as doing the things Jesus would do and being conformed to His character. Paul said, “This will continue until we are . . . mature, just as Christ is, and we will be completely like him” (Ephesians 4:13 CEV).

As believers, we all are works in process. God is on our side and wants to build our character so we become more like Jesus, not so we live from a list of dos and don’ts.

We become like Jesus as our minds are transformed and renewed. 

Transformation is more than following a list of dos and don’ts. It’s learning to live by the fruit of the Spirit–fruit that grows naturally from the spiritual nutrients that flow through our lives through the power of the Holy Spirit.

We lost much of the divine image of God when Adam sinned in the garden of Eden. Jesus restored it on the cross, and our calling is to show the world God’s goodness reflected in Jesus as we bear His image.

What a humbling partnership and blessed calling. Amazing grace…

 

Thistles: Pulling Out the “Pricklies” in Our Lives

Thistles: Pulling Out the Prickly Sins in Our Lives

By Shelly Beach

© 2017 Shelly Beach

Recently I’ve come to enjoy pulling weeds. I’d like to think that this is an indication of growth in character, rather than old age. Luckily, our half-acre yard gives me lots of opportunities to weed, but usually the sun, heat, and humidity discourage me from spending more than a few minutes outside in the summer, due to my health.

On good days I work on one small area near the rose bushes, the garden bench I bought in memory of my mom, or in the back yard flower bed (more weeds than flowers, unfortunately). I enjoy pulling out weeds that come easily, room and all, with one quick tug the most. I don’t mind digging or yanking a bit. I expect a bit of a challenge, but I hate pain, and I certainly don’t choose it for a leisure activity.

I hate thistles the most.

They are prickly, ugly, and grow into monstrosities that are almost impossible to grip without being pierced—even if you’re wearing gloves. For this reason, thistles have been the last weeds in our yard I’ve attacked.

 

Tending the Garden

Many of us have a regular devotional life. We pray, read the Bible, pray, and even do so on a regular basis. It can be easy to focus on sins that have more shallow roots–the ones that don’t ask us to truly change or look deeply at our motives.

For instance, may drop five dollars in the offering plate but not want to honestly consider sacrificial giving to God.

We may say we forgive a friend but be unwilling to lay down the bitterness in our heart.

Or perhaps we fence off areas of our lives and justify behavior we know contradicts the Word of God, because we want to do what we want. These areas are usually deeply rooted in attitudes and motives that say

Thistles grow in all of our lives,
prickly, ugly sins we don’t want God or anyone to touch. 

Weeding Thistles

Weeding thistles takes more work and commitment than pulling out the weeds that have weaker root systems and  no protective thorns. The job requires special weed killer, thicker gloves, running the risk of drawing a little blood, and/or the effort of digging down to the roots of the weed.

Pulling out the thistles in my spiritual life has meant committing to honest self-examination and prayer, shifting my focus from other people to myself, focusing on God, and asking Him to change me. It’s meant constantly evaluating my motives and attitudes, and listening to God’s Word and Spirit for direction and correction.

Are negative attitudes, preoccupations, resentments, bitterness, anger, or ungodly behaviors choking your spiritual growth? Ask God to show you where the thistles have taken root in your life. Then pray and seek godly counsel about how best to uproot them.

 

 

Partnering in Suffering

  Photo Credit: Pixabay

 

I hung up the phone and cried. I wasn’t guilty of my friend’s accusations, and my heart was broken.

At one time or another, we’ve all been unjustly accused, betrayed, abandoned, blamed, rejected, or used. Sometimes the pain seems unbearable. The world seems unjust. Our suffering seems pointless. and we often feel alone.

At times the world seems unjust

and our suffering seems pointless.

We can’t understand others’ anger because we know our words and actions were motivated by love but somehow met by misinterpretation. The result is agonizing. “What’s the point?” we may think.

God’s word promises a purpose in our suffering: to partner in Jesus’ sufferings. In other words, when we suffer, we are also suffering with Jesus.  “But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.” 1 Peter 4:13 ESV

When we suffer, we are also suffering with Jesus.

Think of it like running a marathon at the side of a friend as an encourager and co-participant. This is one of the greatest purposes of our suffering–standing with Jesus in His suffering. What a privilege!

Jesus experienced pain beyond comprehension and gave His life for me. My perspective as co-sufferer with Jesus changes my attitude when I understand I suffer out of love for and in partnership with Him.

What about you?

Seven Signs Bitterness Has Become Boss

Photo Credit: Pixabay

The people I admire most don’t return anger with anger.

I recently watched a friend come under horrific false accusations. They calmly and respectfully laid down healthy boundaries, but they refused to retaliate in anger. The attacks continued for a long period of time and even increased in vitriol. Remarkably, my friend persisted in prayer for his attacker, refused to speak negatively about them, and successfully defeated bitterness.

The Bible is clear about how Christians are to handle bitterness. We’re to refuse to let it have power in our lives. And we don’t have to be rocket scientists to know when it has a stranglehold on our hearts.

 

  1. We talk negatively about the other person. We may try to hide our attitude with a false agenda, but people can see bitterness, even when we’re blind to it. We get annoyed just thinking something positive about the other person. We like it when other people make snide or critical remarks about people we hold bitterness toward. Take the time to be honest with yourself. You’re not hiding anything from God.
  2. We constantly compare ourselves to the other person and get jealous. We see what other people have or how other people are treated and we think, “Hey, I deserve that!”
  3. We avoid “them.” You know what I’m talking about. Moving to the other side of the church. Dodging down another aisle at the store. Not talking to that relative any more. Not going to that group any more. We find ourselves enjoying people less and less.
  4. We’re annoyed when something good happens to “them.” Something inside us wants them to suffer because we think they’ve gotten something we deserve.
  5. We take things personally that aren’t about us. We make assumptions about things without facts. People are against us. People are talking about us. Things aren’t fair. Someone is trying to irritate us.
  6. We complain a LOT about the same things and overgeneralize perceived or actual negative experiences. We develop “tunnel vision” about a person and can only see them from our single, bitter perspective. We hold on to negative perceptions because we’ve rationalized away the positives.
  7. We think the person (or the world) owes us. We feel like we’ve been wronged, we’re owed an apology, and life is unfair.

 

So what’s the answer to bitterness?

Hopefully, we will have the honesty and integrity to see when we’ve given in to sin, repent, and take action to change our heart. Sometimes we may need prompting from the Word or from a loving, brave friend. But left ignored, bitterness will destroy us from the inside out.

Jesus gives the simple (NOT easy) solution for bitterness.

1 Peter 2:23: “When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly.”

Jesus didn’t see himself responsible for responding to abuse and attacks. The word revile is a strong word that literally means to “lambaste” in the manner of attacking and abusing someone. Jesus chose to trust God to make things right. He remained silent.

In the face of abuse, Jesus chose to react with peace, verbally and physically, while trusting God to judge.

Easy? Absolutely not.

Possible? Absolutely, through the power of the Holy Spirit and our conscious choice to lay down what we falsely believe are our so-called “rights.”

He left vengeance in God’s hands. He did not become bitter. He prayed for his enemies’ repentance and best interests (Luke 23:34).

 

“See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.” (Hebrews 12:15 NIV)

Tell Someone You Care

A geriatrician holds the hand of an elderly woman with arthritis.

The chronically ill walk a fine line between honesty and duplicity.

Loving, well-intentioned friends and acquaintances frequently ask us how we’re doing. But “How are you?” is typically used as a social greeting in the same category as “Good to see you.” and “How are the kids?”

Most people who ask the question “How are you?” don’t have the time or interest, at least at that moment, for people to talk about how they’re truly feeling.

We may mean it when we say those words, but hearing a literal answer to the literal question is usually not our intent when we ask, right?

Which can feel disheartening to the chronically ill person, since at any moment in time we’re probably not feeling fine. In fact, we’ve learned to push through our pain if we want to interact with family and friends.

Feeling “fine” is often a memory the chronically ill grieve.

In many ways, our lives are not like the lives of our healthy friends and family. We do not have the same choices. Illness may have taken a toll on our finances and career. I may have eroded family relationships. Living with chronic illness means dealing with feelings and circumstances that healthy people are often unaware of. Talking about how we truly feel can sound like complaining, and if we tell people how we really feel every time we feel that way (which is often awful and exhausted every day), we run the risk of sounding like ungrateful, unspiritual wimps and whiners.

So we choose something polite to say, which is usually “Fine.” And we smile and push away resentment for the question. Especially if we’ve been saying “fine” for years when we’re really not so very NOT fine. Besides, if we’re or a social event, we’ve come to enjoy the event and the people. We don’t want to be defined by our illness.

If we’re lucky, we have friends who know what living with illness looks like for us. They probe beneath the surface because they want to help lift the burden, whatever it may be for us. They understand that compassion is an expression of love. They understand that suffering and pain are not to be borne alone.

I appreciate one dear woman who sits near me at church on Sundays. I don’t know her well. She always asks me the dreaded “How are you?” question. Then she tilts her head and follows it with one word: “Really? How are you really?”

The simple question “Really?” tells me she cares about more than a superficial answer.

I don’t go into detail, but I’m always honest when I answer. “It’s been a rough week. My walking has been pretty rough.” “I’m having increasing cramping and pain in my legs.” “My fatigue has really put me down this week.”

She always takes my hands and promises to pray. In less than a minute she has reached out and helped bear a burden.

I’m grateful for this woman who cares enough to ask me for more than a polite answer. It’s not necessary for everyone to do what she does every time they approach someone with chronic illness or who may be suffering in other ways, but it means a lot to know that people will pause and ask about our pain.

Last summer I went to our local zoo with my son’s family, who had come to visit. I knew I couldn’t walk the zoo, so I rented a motorized scooter. Even though I was using a scooter, I was exhausted after several hours and needed to find a place to cool off and rest. I drove the scooter toward the front of the zoo and pulled off under a tree to rest. People passed by me by the hundreds as they headed toward the exit. After I’d been sitting for about thirty minutes or so, a young black man approached me with a concerned look on his face.

“Ma’am, can I help you with anything? Are you all right? Can I get you something? Do you need assistance?”

I reassured him that I was waiting for my family and thanked him. But for more than a year, I’ve pondered what drove that one person to approach me and ask if I needed help. What gave this young man eyes of compassion when hundreds of other people never considered that a lone, obviously exhausted handicapped woman who appeared to be looking for someone might need help?

Do we see the crowd, or do we look for those in need in a crowd?

Who’s in need in your crowd? How can you help the sick and hurting in your community? Perhaps you could bring a meal, grocery shop, do yard work, run to the post office, watch their favorite TV show/athletic event with them, fix their car, help with home maintenance (no one in this house can change light bulbs), purchase their favorite fruit or flowers, or simply stop by for a visit.

Ask God to place one or two people in your life to occasionally look in the eye and ask “Really? You know, it’s easy to look good on the outside and still hurt like crazy on the inside.”

In body, soul, or spirit.

Who has asked you about how you are? What has it meant to you? Who have you helped to encourage and how?

 

One woman who

Encouraging Ourselves Through Truth Talk

vineandbranchesLately I’ve been focuing on the the truth that Jesus is the vine and I am a branch. This means that I’m connected directly to Him. My life flows from Him. My nourishment comes from Him. I can’t do anything that isn’t connected in some way to Him.

I have to admit that I don’t always feel spiritually connected. I need encouragement. Aches and pains, financial challenges, relationship heartaches, and other frustrations can infect my attitude before I have a chance to figure out what day it is (sometimes that takes ALL day). One of the key aspects of practicing my “vine life” has been remaining in conversation with Jesus. To do this I literally envision Him standing beside me (because He IS with me) and telling me all the things He’s said to me in His Word that apply to my life in that moment or in my hurts and challenges.

Conversing with God is one of the best ways to encourage yourself. “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10.) This means that I sit quietly as Jesus tells me who I REALLY am. Who He REALLY is to me. What my REAL purpose is in life and on this particular day. What I am responsible for (obedience, loving God and others, trust, repentance) and what He is responsible for (loving and taking care of me).

The more we converse and stay connected to the vine, the more encouraged we become because we focus on truth and Jesus.

For more help on transforming your self talk, check out The Silent Seduction of Self Talk: Conforming Deadly Thought Patterns to the Word of God. and to hear more from me and author Wanda Sanchez on the topic of encouraging yourself, tune in to the Freedomgirls Sisterhood blogtalk podcast with host Dawn Damon Monday nights at 8:00ET.