Grandma’s Reflections: Romans 8

Grandma’s Reflections: Romans 8

“Abba! Abba!”, cried a little boy, who raced with his arms lifted high towards a man across the terminal. His Daddy caught him up for a joyous reunion. My son, knowing Whose he is, witnessed this scene upon his arrival in Israel. It was the first of many “Ah! Wow!” moments he and his wife experienced during their visit to that land.

… but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry “Abba! Father!”

Meanwhile, on another continent, their children were with me and my husband. While those words from Paul’s letter to the Romans warmed his soul, that same letter was impressing me in another way.

Their youngest, not yet talking, expresses herself with finger jabs and movements reminiscent of a rider on a trotting horse. Then a glottal stop releases into a nasal grunt-squeak. Incomprehensible. But she is insistent. Her gesticulations becomes more rapid. Her brow furrows. Her eyes dart back and forth between this Baba and Grandma as if to say, “I know that you know what I’m saying so why don’t you just — respond accordingly! What’s with you gray-hairs anyway?”

…the Spirit helps us in our weakness, for we don’t know what to pray for as we ought …

Frustrated, I don’t understand her. I want to answer her request appropriately but, more than that, I want her to just stop it! My frailty knows the temptation to lose patience, to tune out or to (imagine!) be offended that she isn’t acting “properly” towards me, almighty adult that I am. It occurred to me that my Heavenly Father never loses patience with my stuttering in his ear, nor takes offense because I dare to approach Almighty God with my limited understanding of Him.

The incident passed, on to the next need to be met … (God feeds mothers of tiny ones, and babysitting Grandmothers, in little bites as they go along. Quiet, alone- time for prayer might not happen every day.) Honesty, the next need to be met probably had to do with the trash. More incomprehensible than the baby’s whining was how to dispose of the cellophane on the cardboard packaging, or where to throw the metal jar lid. There must be five or six receptacles in every German home, each receiving its own, specific type of “throw away” item. They call it recycling. I call it crazy. I met a lady who, after her first visit to this place, returned home with her used dental floss in her suitcase because she didn’t know how to dispose of it in Germany! I didn’t even understand the booklet, written in English, explaining the system. I fear that if I ever return the immigration officer will scan my passport after which a siren will sound and a warning will flash across his screen: “Plastic container found in rubbish bin after last visit. Danger to society. Apprehend immediately.” But I digress. Romans is not about being patient with babies. It’s about the privileges granted to God’s true children. The message is not“recycle”, but restoration.

…but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And He who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God …

We are weak in prayer. We don’t know how we should pray because we don’t fully comprehend God’s will and can’t pray in agreement with HIm. We don’t know what to ask. We are shortsighted and very much biased in favor of the flesh [our nature that seeks to gratify our self]. We are distracted, poking our finger here and there, uttering insistent, loud noises, thinking that we know what we need. But the Spirit of God knows us better than we know ourselves and he knows God’s desires and plans. So, His Spirit in us (given freely to only those who accept adoption) helps us, or ‘heaves/lifts with us’. He interprets our requests, and Christ himself intercedes on our behalf. When our soul is so troubled that articulate prayer is impossible, the Spirit knows our heart and knows how to line it up in accord with the will of the Father. What patient attentiveness! That He should take the cries of His children so seriously; that He should have made such a perfect way for them to approach Him, anytime, anywhere and in any circumstance; that He should attend to them; that He brings his divine character to bear upon their case, unfolding His response so that all things work for the good of His children and for His glory — this is a certainty for us to dwell upon, to rest in.

The opening chapters address sin, God’s wrath and judgement, our darkened understanding and rebellion against God, the brokenness of all His creation, and what we all justly deserve. The message is doom for those not in Christ. And then it surges into hope, redemption and the guarantee of restoration, addressed to those who receive Christ. The restoration of creation is the greater theme. Why, in our moments of quiet solitude, do we detect a whisper of unnamed longing in our soul? Every request is fundamentally a prayer to restore a body or a relationship, to restore fruitfulness to our fields, to mend a broken vocation, or our honor, or the government, the economy, society, to return our joy, to give back to us what we had before sin entered the world … “Restore!” is the cry of our soul. We long for the promised consummation of our redemption and the complete restoration of all creation, perfect and complete. The Father who hears and takes seriously our babbling is the same Father who will return to this earth as the victorious, resurrected One, the Vindicator, the Just, the One who will ultimately, finally, restore all that concerns me and all that concerns Him. He understands our groaning in prayer for what it really is. “Abba! My own Daddy! Please come make everything all right.” At just the perfect time, He will.

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photo: 2nd generation spoon licker
extra-biblical source: Matthew Henry’s Whole Bible Commentary

Is That ALL?

Is That ALL?

“Is that ALL?”, I fairly shouted at God. After asking Him, beseeching Him earnestly for rain; after days of watching the storms come close but then skirt our town, the thunderheads rolled in. I had been watching them all day as they slowly crawled up to us. Before evening they arrived, and the rain did fall, hard and promising. I stood at the kitchen window to watch this answer to prayer unfold. Audibly, I thanked the God who sent it our way this time. However, the yard of sand was barely wet before the clouds released just one, final dribble, thus ending what had barely begun. And I was incredulous. I heard a loud whine – “Really, God? Is that all you’re giving us after such a long and hopeful wait?” Oops. That voice was mine. …

“Is that all?” It’s December 26th. Maybe you heard the whine from a child. Or maybe you thought it. The post-Christmas let down. Then there’s a hazy, nagging disappointment at the close of a happy event, meeting or conversation. You had somehow expected — more. And then there are the large and looming disappointments, like:

the end of a relationship – “Is this it, then? After all these years is this ALL?”,
or looking back on years of living in hard-to-be places so that some might come to know Christ Jesus, and asking “Is this it? All my life for this small handful of fruit? Really, God?”
or studying hard for that one degree that will get you that job that will get you that career …but it doesn’t work out that way and you sputter “Really, God? Is this ALL I’m to expect?”

Ah, you and I, once young, rising stars who could go anywhere and do anything. The older, wiser ones nodded and smiled, and waited to see what we’d become. The brightness has now faded into a glow. We are ordinary after all. Are you tempted to disappointment? “Is this all, Lord?” Had we expected more fruit, or more affirmation, or to be more cherished, or for more in our 401K? Let’s be careful that the questions we pose, silently or audibly, do not stem from a bitter root of chronic disappointment.

A chronically disappointed person is, at the root, a person in rebellion against God. Pow. Pretty strong statement there, but I didn’t make it up. From Genesis (or at least Exodus 16) all the way through to the apostles’ specific teachings (especially Hebrews 3:7-19) to those of faith in Christ we are warned: ungratefulness = unbelief = disobedience = rebellion = sin (= death). A chronically disappointed heart is a complaining heart. Complaining isn’t really against other people or circumstances; it is really ultimately against God. It is saying, “I am not getting my due, so therefore God isn’t really good. I would do it differently, better. I would be a better god than God.” Does this ring a bell? Know of anyone who has taken action on that premise? So, yes, this is serious stuff. My innocent outburst against the rain stopping may not have been so innocent. Our spontaneous expressions of exasperating disappointment are red flags that direct us to peer into our own hearts and identify sin that may be hiding there. Due to the eternal goodness of God, He is eager to grant us repentance.

So what does repentance look like in this case? Romans 2:4 is a good start. First, you and I must own up to our unbelief. This is called confession. Repentance means to stop going one way, to turn and go a different direction. God’s goodness is meant to turn us. We want to choose the road of chronic gratefulness instead.

… I clapped my hand over my mouth, and went to study my wall map, which is a visual tool I’ve created to help me cultivate gratefulness. This is where I note the ways God’s goodness is clearly visible to me. The map is quickly filling with notes of gracious over-and-above blessings, the sequence and timing of each one truly remarkable, gifts with my name on it from my Heavenly Father. The little “overflowing bowl” icons I draw by each note far outnumber the little icons identifying activities and outcomes that might be in the “Is this all?” category. Clearly, then, God is more interested in sustaining, supporting and encouraging me than he is in waving successes and fruits of my labor before my eyes. His will for you and me is to believe Him with a thankful heart. “As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord [have you?], so walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving [italics mine].” Col. 2:6, 7  I am amazed, humbled. How dare I not believe in His sovereign goodness. How dare I not overflow with thanksgiving?

“It this all, then? That’s IT?” Yes, for some things it is. The time comes to recognize the end of some events, some seasons. It is with thankfulness that we do so because we know that God is good in all He does. “Oh, that men would give thanks to the Lord for His goodness, and for His wonderful works to the children of men! [That would be you and me.] For He satisfies the longing soul, and fills the hungry soul with goodness.” Ps. 107:8

At the edge of my map I have written these verses:
My counsel shall stand, and I will do all My pleasure. … Indeed I have spoken it; I will also bring it to pass. I have purposed it; I will also do it. Is. 46:10, 11

This is NOT all!, the Only Just, Righteous, Good God has declared! There is more! He is not finished! No one, nothing, will derail or stop Him from completing His good plan for you and me, and all His creation. So, hold your tongue when the rain stops – unless it speaks from a grateful heart.

Will You Not Play?

Will You Not Play?

“Will you play cello in the small orchestra I’m assembling?” the music director asked. It was 1987, in Lisbon, where we were immersed in language learning for two years in preparation for work in Lusophone Africa. I had left my cello behind at the urging of a well-known ethnomusicologist who warned me that if the “indigenous people are exposed to western tone structure and instruments they will lose their own music”. The inference was that I would be committing an unpardonable anthropological crime if I took my cello to Africa. But I received the exhortation as godly wisdom and relinquished my hobby for the higher calling on my life: to take the word of God to a people who did not yet have it. I believed that my God would provide anything he knew I had to have to thrive in our new place. And so, I gave my regrets to the director – who wouldn’t take “no” for an answer.

“…but the Lord takes pleasure in those who fear him; in those who hope in his steadfast love.” Psalm 147:11

“I think I have a cello for you!” responded this persistent one. Sure enough, stashed away in someone’s attic languished a cello. It had been purchased years earlier at the flea market but the owner left it when she returned to her home country. It was in poor condition from lack of care and full of wood-worm holes. My heart sank as I considered the fortune required to have it repaired. The owner, knowing this, sent me the message that if I could bear the cost of repair, it was mine. I didn’t have to pray about it. This was no coincidence. God knew more about my future location than the ethnomusicologist and I received his gift with two hands (the African way of receiving with a full and thankful heart). I felt the pleasure my heavenly Father took in returning music to me. What’s more, the cost of repair turned out to be minimal, due to the exchange rate at the time. My precious Lord brought to new life what I had put to death for his sake. He gave back the part of me that gave him pleasure. I became a cellist once again. And this cello made it to Africa.

I did not commit the unpardonable, anthropological crime. Coca-cola and pop music idols from the west had already beaten us to our destination. Our “oldies” were their “newsies” and how they loved them. Rock music blared from every bar (and there are many of those). Would my little ‘ole cello, being played in the house for my family’s benefit, corrupt the homes and neighborhoods where I lived? I thought not. Definitely not.

By 2010, this instrument had done a good bit of traveling. Finally, it returned to the U.S. with me. But it had literally come unglued during the flight. The extreme climates I’d exposed it to and that final journey had done a number. I had it repaired by a master and it’s probably a better specimen than it’s ever been. “Farmboy” (affectionately named in honor of its supposed origins – but that’s another story) is fragile, though. So, when my husband and I took this recent assignment in Namibia, I left it home. With the confidence of a “seasoned missionary”, well accustomed to necessary sacrifices, I didn’t think twice about living for two years without a cello. For a “seasoned missionary” with open-ended assignments lasting a decade or more under my belt, a two-year assignment is “nothing”. I actually convinced myself, and glibly declared to my friends, “I can do anything for two years! Why, that’s a drop in the bucket of life!” Not. Almost immediately the short-term assignment took on a plodding, endless character. Clearly, the God who gave his life to save me from such pride had more to teach me regarding being “seasoned” – mainly that it’s less about my history and more about him.

My perceptive husband was noticing that I just wasn’t “the gal I used to be”. After all, I had been attached to a cello when he met me. I was “M—E—who-played-the-cello”. Turns out, “cellist” is a part of me that also delights him, even as it delights my Lord. So my man was determined to find a cello for me here. It is true that in my uncertain moments before we left for Namibia I researched “travel cello” online. I actually found one, but didn’t pursue it. My husband, possibly fearing I would go the way of Farmboy and become unglued, directed me to put in an order for the “practice cello designed for air travel”, called Prakticello. This was risky. No cellist of my acquaintance had ever heard of this “instrument”. I had never seen it nor played it in person. Hubby was blessedly insistent, though, so we took the plunge and ordered. We found a traveler willing to hand carry it to the capitol. We drove a day (each way) to retrieve it. And now, I am a cellist — again. And once again, my heart leaps at the joy my heavenly Father has over me. As if his joy over saving and redeeming me from sin’s powerful grip, and forgiving me of my pride isn’t enough, he gives me a cello too! — again! I am not really a seasoned anything. But I am seasoned by God’s presence; daily sprinkled with his loving kindness, spiced up by his generosity and perfect gifts; growing older in the certainty that it delights him to season me so.

“The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness, he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.” Zephaniah 3:17

 

One of Those Days

One of Those Days

I’m wandering slowly, aimlessly thoughout the house, trying to think of an activity that will get my limbs moving. But not so much as to whip up all the hot air around me, making the heat even harder to ignore. I’d been sitting for quite some time, writing out long-hand my notes for the presentation I’m scheduled to give at a women’s conference later this week. I was tired of sitting so, after peeling my glowing arm off the paper, I stood. And made my way to … where? Oh my, it’s that 3 p.m. slump that presents itself most days at exactly this time. I usually weather it pretty well but when it’s this hot, I don’t weather much well. I’ll begin this sweaty, slump with a cup of coffee. A small one, because I don’t really yearn to drink it as much as I crave the ritual. Now, at least, I can wander slowly and aimlessly with coffee in hand.

Maybe I should go online, again, for the sixth time today, or the tenth. I lost track. I go online about as often as my husband dashes into the shower for a quick cooling. I have given up on that method of feeling good because the lovely, cool feeling doesn’t last long enough to get me from one side of our modest house to the other, making me feel quite cheated. Back to my idea of checking email again – I must exercise a bit of self-discipline. I pick up my Kindle instead, which doesn’t require hardly any effort to turn a page, and open to Colossians. I’m putting the text to music – for my personal benefit only. No one else would want to sing it as I’m certainly no composer.  I review a few “stanzas”.  There. That has reset my soul and I’m in a good place. What shall I do next?

Dust the sills. This doesn’t require hardly any energy and it always needs doing. The window sills are particularly disgusting. When the sand pit we call our yard blows daily into the house, I think 50% of it must make its landing on the sills before the remainder hits the floor. On my “full steam ahead” days, when I sweep and mop and do laundry and dust and bake and write and everything – I scorn the sills. They are speed bumps that curb my domestic enthusiasm. I have to actually slow down to dust them because of all the burglar bars that interfere. It is a tedious chore. Mindless. And just the thing for this hour.

Next? Here I sit, obviously. It really tells you something when a body is too languid to do anything but dust the sills and a mind too fried to do anything but write about it.

But behold! What is this? The wind is picking up! Do I hear thunder in the distance? Might this oppressive heat be a portent of a refreshing shower?

It occurs to me that quite a few people here are wilting under the oppression of the Enemy of their souls. Their spirits are languid, they are floundering, aimless, not knowing which way to turn. They are sheep without a shepherd, seedlings without water. On Friday I am bringing buckets of water to scores of women, many are plants of the Lord Jesus. I’m going to douse them in Colossians. We’re going to jump in, get washed up and stay in the cool water of God’s word for two days straight. I’m hoping to show some how to swim. It might be intolerably hot under the tin roof of the church building. I sure hope not, but if it is, we’ll need the cool water from heaven all the more.

Bye Lines

Bye Lines

“Time to say ‘goodbye’”, Sarah Brightman’s breathy crooning soared up and over the mango and the cashew trees, wafting in under our tin roof. The bar down the road, like most bars in Africa, graciously shared their music with the entire neighborhood. One raunchy, raucous rap or intrusive, throbbing rock song after another pushed it’s way into our evening routine. Then, suddenly, Sarah is singing goodbye. It seemed so incongruous, out of place – and yet, comforting in an odd sort of way.

Here are some down to earth goodbyes I have known:

“May the Lord watch between me and thee, while we are absent one from the other.” One branch of my family repeats in unison this covenant made between Laban and Jacob. (Gen. 31:49) Their relationship had been strained, at best. Deceit and mistreatment are the words that come to mind. When Jacob finally left Laban’s employ they reconciled, promising not to avenge wrongs, acknowledging that God would see and hold accountable the one who sabotages their family relationships. I’m not sure why my family clan has used this as their goodbye, but it really would be an appropriate one for some of our situations.

“I hate goodbyes – I’ll just say ‘until next time’”.

“The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make His face shine upon you and be gracious to you. The Lord lift up His countenance upon you and give you peace.” The Aaronic blessing – Numbers 6:24-26

Tearful goodbyes: Standing in a circle, holding hands, various ones pray, then we sing the Doxology together. God has blessed one branch of my family with more than their share of musical talent. I love singing with them but never make it to the final “Amen” of that farewell, as I’m usually sobbing by that time. Some of those family members I will never see again this side of Heaven.

Painful goodbyes: the final visit with grandchildren before returning to Africa for another term — my small grandson spontaneously stooped down, grabbed a couple pieces of gravel from the drive and handed them to me as I got into the car – his way of recognizing my sadness and bestowing a blessing. I only registered the blessing later. At the time, it all just hurt.

I remember clearly where my brave, precious mother was sitting when I bade farewell before our final term in Mozambique. Usually positive and dry-eyed when we depart, this time her lip was trembling, her eyes pleading. I sensed within me that I’d never see her walk again. We promised to not go more than a year without seeing her. She smiled then, and released us. It was a painful departure, and it was the last time I saw her walk.

I carry deep within me my father-in-law’s goodbye. Here we were, a young couple with four little children and ten pieces of luggage at least. A crowd of dear friends and family gathered around us at O’Hare to enclose us in a tight circle and pray for us before we boarded our plane for another continent. The children were his grandchildren; the luggage, the possessions they would need for the next four years; but the young man was his own son. My husband’s dear father, and mine because hubby and I are one, gripped me in an uncharacteristic hug. And then, with his voice close to my ear he chocked out , “Please, take care of my son.” At various times in our marriage, his heartfelt “last instructions” have echoed in my mind and I remember that my husband is also someone’s beloved son whom they hope will be cherished as they have cherished him.

I have known some who pick a quarrel in the final days or hours before a goodbye that will initiate a long separation. Maybe they think: “It won’t be so painful if I convince myself they aren’t worthy of my love anyway.” This way of saying goodbye is selfish, destructive to all parties, and is like a curse on the relationship.

Goodbyes are important. The way we say goodbye can pronounce a curse, or a blessing.

Elijah bade farewell to his ardent disciple, Elisha, with a blessing – the prophetic mantle was passed on to him with all the enabling he needed to fulfil God’s calling. II Kings 2

Jesus’ goodbye to his disciples was a promise of great blessing – a clear mandate for service and the power of the Holy Spirit within them to qualify them for the work. (Acts 1) In both the case of Elijah and Jesus, their disciples received a greater blessing at the farewell than they had while living in the bodily presence of their master. They received a double portion, a blessing that saw them through to the end of their days.

How often have I bid a farewell with my mind full of my own sorrow and deprivation? Was my loved one blessed in the parting, or have I been too absorbed with my feelings about the separation to bestow a blessing?

Our family parted in July after a sweet reunion. We planned our goodbye ritual in advance: we stood in a circle, sang Mayibuye (our favorite Africa song), repeated Aaron’s blessing as a prayer, then sang the Doxology. It moved me, blessed me, and I actually made it to the “Amen” – just. Our farewell was a fitting end, sending us all our separate ways with full and happy hearts.

How do you say goodbye? I know that I want to be less concerned about expressing my personal feelings and more generous to appropriately bless.

Time to say goodbye! So, I’ll see ya’ — here, there, or in the air!

Glory For Me!

Glory For Me!

That which gives you your sense of worth
is your glory.

“Glory!” What comes to mind when you hear the word? I think: jaw-dropping awesomeness, perfection, God, and Christmas. “Glory!” What do you see? I see angels, white and blinding light, glitter and sparkles. Glory. It’s one of those Bible words that we don’t use much nowadays, unless it’s December and we’re singing about it. But the word does appear in the Bible over and over. I was seeing the “glory” theme so often that I decided I’d better take a closer look and understand what is actually being said.

The glory of God is easier to define, even from a brief dictionary definition. glory – n. 1 high renown or honor won by notable achievements 2 magnificence; great beauty; a thing that is beautiful or distinctive; a special cause for pride, respect, or delight. Granted, this only scratches the surface of what the prophets and apostles mean when they speak of God’s glory but at least our understanding is pointed in the right direction. What really threw me was the passages that quote a human being saying “my glory”. What is that about? Take Psalm 16, for example, where we listen in as David alternately prays to God and talks to his own soul. Towards the end he says,

“Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoices…”

Now, if you are using a modern paraphrase, you probably won’t see the word “glory” here. The translators have accommodated our self-imposed, limited vocabulary. I’m sorry about that because I think the meaning intended in the original manuscript holds layers of richness that contextualised translations miss.

One commentator, Matthew Henry, explains that “our glory is that within us that makes us different from the beasts”. Our tongue, our ability to speak, distinguishes us from animals. Therefore, in the case of Psalm 16 David audibly, with speech, rejoices in the Lord. But speech is not our only distinguishing characteristic. There’s a deeper layer of meaning to “glory”.

We differ from animals in that we are aware of the self. We think about our self. We consider our image and we ponder the level of satisfaction we have attained. We are conscious of our self, of our soul. So now I invite you to read Psalm 84 with that in mind. Notice that in David’s self-awareness, he directs his soul to God. David is the king! He sits on a throne and lives in a palace! But this is not where he finds his worth. “The Lord will give grace and glory”, he assures his soul, “no good thing will he withhold from those who walk uprightly.” We see here, then, that “glory” also carries the meaning ‘the weight of significance, honor, esteem’. And here is the point. David, for all his talents, skills, wealth and power derived the weight of his significance from the Lord who gives it to those who trust in him! What freedom this truth has given me from the bondage of self — of having to assert myself, to protect and look after the measure of my worth and significance!

Do you see the powerful truth here? If you trust in the Lord Jesus your identity, self-esteem, value and worth is wrapped up in him. He shares his glory with you. In Him you live and move and have your being. Our personal glory is centered in our Savior, the only truly Glorious One.

Now, when you read your Bible and come across the phrase “my glory”, don’t rush over it. Amplify the meaning with “my esteem” or “the weight of significance” and catch a glimpse of the further glories that await you and I! Go to John 17 with this in mind and you’ll be blown away! Christ’s glory, which He has given to us, is for the purpose of unity among us, His followers, to the end that the world may know God sent Jesus. I am identified with Christ, sharing in his worth, not to realize my self but to manifest the truth of the gospel, God’s glory, to the world! Genuine significance lies in an absence of pride in the “me” that I love, and finds its pride and worth in God’s glory.

There is an old hymn I sang as a child that comes to mind. Sing along with me (or say it) and in your mind think “significance or esteem” when you sing “glory”.

When all my labors and trials are o’er, and I am safe on that beautiful shore,
Just to be near the dear Lord I adore, will through the ages be glory for me.

[chorus] Oh that will be glory for me, glory for me, glory for me. When by His grace I shall look on His face,
That will be glory, be glory for me!

When, by the gift of His infinite grace, I am accorded in Heaven a place,
Just to be there and to look on His face, will through the ages be glory for me. [chorus]

Friends will be there I have loved long ago; Joy like a river around me will flow;
Yet, just a smile from my Savior, I know, will through the ages be glory for me. [chorus]

Let Them Eat Meat!

Let Them Eat Meat!

While on our home assignment some dear friends took us out for dinner. This was no small expense for them, we being a family of 7 with four growing boys. What’s more, this brave couple chose a steak house and said, “Order whatever you want.” Naturally, one of our young carnivores chose the largest, most expensive steak on the menu. Like many families on limited income, I didn’t cook much red meat so when the boys had a chance for some real man-food, they took it, much to my embarrassment.

But nothing compares to the Namibian meat eaters! Game (think kudu, oryx, eland) biltong (like jerky only better) is a routine snack. Game, as well as beef, are main staples of the diet here. Whereas in other African countries you can buy peanuts, roasted corn, coconut fudge, sugar cane or samosas from curb-side vendors, in Namibia you buy Russians (I don’t refer to people trafficking but to the local version of our Polish sausage), or bits of grilled beef. Recently an acquaintance returned from a hunting trip. My husband was invited to the ritual in which all real men participate: dressing the game and butchering, mixing the marinade and putting the biltong meat to soak. My man came home with pounds of game filet and a tub full of marinating strips, which he hung to dry according to instructions. What will last us for months, would disappear after a few weeks in the more carnivorous households around us. These folks know how to chew meat. To say they desire it is an understatement!

I am looking for people who crave God’s word like that. People who chew on the meat of His truth revealed with an insatiable appetite. If you have tasted that the Lord is gracious, desire the pure milk of the word, just like a newborn desires milk, so that you can grow. The apostle Peter so pleads with the first century church-goers. (I Peter 2:1-3) We live among a people who have tasted that the Lord is gracious. The good news of salvation has come to them. They have said “It is good!” They share in the benefits of grace in belonging to a local church: they are baptised, partake of the Lord’s supper, they are comforted by prayers and visits when they’re sick, are helped in trouble and, seemingly most important, they are guaranteed a well attended funeral service officiated by an ordained minister when they die. Yes, they taste of the good gifts God bestows on His covenant family.

Peter, as well as the other apostles, urge the people in all the places they preach to go on from tasting to desiring. He longs for them to crave God’s word the way a baby desires to nurse. He thrives on this milk until he grows up and wants to chew. Peter says that this should be the church’s response to the tasty morsels of grace they sample. The gracious gifts of God’s presence among His people should stir up a yearning, a hunger and longing after Him and His strong words, like it did for David (Psalm 119:9-16). He exhorts them to grow up and chew on the meat! They should be returning continually to the word and meditating on it, storing it up in their memory, pressing it into their heart and bringing it to bear in their lives. They should be filled richly with Christ’s word in order to teach and correct one another; to comfort and encourage one another. (Colossians 3:16-17) Their counsel should come from Scripture (Ps. 119:25). Husbands should be showering their wives with God’s word (Ephesians 5:25-28) and building their marriage and homes according to God’s ordinances.

But instead, these converts to the faith, these tasters, were absorbing themselves in comparisons, divisions and criticisms. They were full of malice, envy and hypocrisy because they contented themselves with tasting, just lounging on the fringes of grace. They stopped short of actually feeding on God’s word— they had no craving or desire for it. Those noble people of Berea, however, loved God’s word and fed on it, instead of preying on each other. And so they discovered the truth and believed that Jesus is indeed the Christ, the Savior of the world.

This past Sunday in Rundu, a local minister declared to his congregation that their denomination is unwell. This dear man of God has recognised that neither the laity nor the ministers yearn for God. Most disregard His word, rarely read it (or hear it read) and meditate on it even less. They, too, like those early Christians dispersed throughout Asia and the Mediterranean, are absorbed in controversies, rumors, fear of the spirits and idolatries of their past. Most, it seems, do not hunger to know Christ, and so they lack wisdom, godliness and the graces that abound in one who nourishes his soul on the word. They are unfruitful in the knowledge of Christ, shortsighted, blind, and have forgotten that they were cleansed from their old sins. They attend church, but they are unwell. Their souls, in fact, are in great danger. (See Hebrews chapter 6.)

Our soul’s meat is the everlasting, unchanging word of God. “Father, as a dear pants for the water; as a newborn cries for milk; as a hunter craves meat, may we hunger for you. May we nourish our soul on the solid food of your word. Thank you for your Holy Spirit who makes your word alive and active to convict us of sin, bring us to repentance, comfort us, teach us, guide and nourish us, to make us healthy in spirit. The kudu filets in my freezer will run out one day. But your word, your truth and satisfying nourishment, will last forever! Amen and amen.”

A soul that thirsts for God, is a soul that hungers for His word. Don’t ever apologise for eating The Meat. Choose It. Rejoice over It. Savor It. Desire It. Over and over again.

II Peter chapter 1; Isaiah 40:8; Matthew 24:35; Psalm 119:57