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Thursday, April 8, 2010

Savory Lives

Psalm 119:57-64 (The Message) "Because you have satisfied me, GOD, I promise to do everything you say. I beg you from the bottom of my heart: smile, be gracious to me just as you promised. When I took a long, careful look at your ways, I got my feet back on the trail you blazed. I was up at once, didn't drag my feet, was quick to follow your orders. The wicked hemmed me in - there was no way out - but not for a minute did I forget your plan for me. I get up in the middle of the night to thank you; your decisions are so right, so true - I can't wait till morning! I'm a friend and companion of all who fear you, of those committed to living by the rules. Your love, GOD, fills the earth! Train me to live by your counsel!"

The NIV Bible starts out this passage, "You are my portion, LORD; I have promised to obey your words." Ever get a small portion of something, only to yearn for just a little bit more? We cherish the little bit we received, but we are yearning for a bigger portion, or really we are thinking, "just give me the spoon, the bowl, and leave me be!" In the context of the Scripture, a portion is something we have inherited or been given - it is ours because we have been the benefactors of one who has gifted us with it. David describes God as his portion - he finds great satisfaction in following whole-heartedly after God and is "satisfied" in his pursuit. God has become his source of enjoyment and he longs to be filled with all that God gives.

We can fill ourselves up with all kinds of things. Yesterday, I referred to the process of running things through a "filtering" process so that we only take in, believe, and act upon what God considers right, just, and good for us. As I was on the road to work yesterday, I began to think just a little more about "filters". Ever made a cup of coffee, smelling the rich aroma of the brewing coffee, only to find that when you actually take that first gulp of the rich brew it is riddled with grinds that have somehow made it past the filter and into the pot? Takes all the enjoyment out that cup, doesn't it? It is not as "satisfying" as you imagined it to be because the "filter" didn't work as it should have.

In closer examination, the filter may have been an excellent filter, but the one using the filter did not place it appropriately, allowing the grounds to escape into the pot. Or perhaps you had just run out of filters, and desirous of a cup of the savory java, you "improvised" - creating a make-shift filter from a paper towel or napkin. It simply does not work the same because neither the towel, nor the napkin, were designed for the purpose of acting as a coffee filter.

In attempting to live a life of obedience, we attempt to apply spiritual filters in much the same way. We expect those spiritual filters to assist us to live right, coming out on the other side of our daily experiences showing we are obedient (something that God savors greatly). If the filter was a little askew, like the Word of God taken in quickly, but not really studied for the full value so that we could wrap our minds and hearts around it, it may not keep all the "sediment" of life's crud out of us. If the filter was "faulty", such as a Scripture passage taken out of context or mis-interpreted, we find what is produced bitter and repulsive.

David has learned the value of "taking a long and careful look" at the things God teaches - understanding the value of the spiritual filters God places in our lives through the Word, the Holy Spirit, and his sheltering arms. He had come to the place in his life that he was "committed to the rules" - not just because they were rules, but because those rules produce all that satisfies a man's heart. We may interpret what David is saying as God has a lot of rules and regulations that we HAVE to follow, but that is not what he is saying at all.

David has come to appreciate the value of the "rules" or "filters". When we examine what David is saying, we find some interesting facts:
  • God's "rules" have a keeping power - David is able to rise above his failures because he recognizes the "boundaries" of the rules and has learned that living outside those boundaries is dangerous to his emotional, spiritual, and/or physical well-being. Living within those boundaries (filters rightly placed), provides an element of protection over our lives.
  • God's "rules" have a restoring power - David tells us he falls down, but is able to right himself in a quick time frame because there is grace found at the foot of the Cross. He calls upon God to "be gracious" - in other words, to extend grace when the filters have not been rightly applied. God's promises are coupled with his "regulations" - they go hand in hand. David calls on both to help him to rise above his fallen state and be restored to newness of life.

No one likes the "rules" all of the time. We long to be able to break a few of them just once in a while. Why? Because we see them as "rules" instead of "filters" that keep the good stuff on the inside and the bad stuff on the outside. That is all that a rule is - it is something designed to produce the desired "product" without any "tainting" of the product. Boundaries established in the Word of God are just that - boundaries. They can be crossed, but there is a cost. They can be stretched, but there is a tainting affect of our character with compromise. Yet, when we live within them, there is so much more freedom, peace, and deep satisfaction that we can experience!

It is not a one-time determination of heart that says, "I am committed to living by the rules." It is a life-long reaffirmation of that determination every step of the way. When we truly commit to live by God's rules, we are making a determination of heart that is deliberate. We engage our entire being (body, mind, and spirit) into living within the boundaries God establishes through his Word. It is not a religious thing, or a system of "I have to's" that keep us obligated and in a sense of dread or fear. It is a commitment of heart that relies upon the one who has established that very rule to show us how to live by that rule in a grace-filled way.

Rules can be liberating - it is all in how we view them! If we see a rule as "protecting" us, we are more likely to do our best to honor that rule. If we see a rule as "restricting" us, we are more likely to resist it. So, how do you see the "rules" God has given you to live by? Do you see them as "spiritual filters" that keep you safe, growing in grace, and developing in God's love? Or do you see them as something you dread, resist and find to restricting?

If it is the latter, it may be because you have not learned the value of a good filter, aptly applied in your life. Just take one promise of God and rely on it totally. Just incorporate the limitations of one rule of God, applying it to all areas of your life that God illuminates through the power of the Holy Spirit in your life, and see if in just a short amount of time you don't see the tremendous value of that "boundary" in your life. It is all in the perception we have of the "filter". Ask God to renew your mind daily - changing the way you perceive the boundaries - and see what he can do for you when the "filters" are aptly applied. What a tremendous "savor" your life will be!