As sticks and stones

Sticks and stones. Three words that are used to denote teasing as a supposedly lighter option to physical harm. But this blog post isn’t about these playground nuances. Instead, this is about God’s purpose for your life and how being called to be as “sticks and stones” gives a more powerful and spiritual meaning.

I say sticks, but the bible says branches. In John 15:5, Jesus speaks to His disciples on the night of the last supper; “I am the vine, ye are the  branches he that abideth in Me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit; for without Me ye can do nothing.”

Thus if Jesus is the vine, He is then the life source, from which all sustenance flows and keeps the branches (sticks) alive. And if we have Him as our life provider, then His fruits will be evident in our lives.

Galatians 5:22-23

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance, against such there is no law.

These are like aspects of God’s character, and how beautiful they all are individually, but even more so – all together.

In Matthew 7, Jesus explains that you cannot receive good fruit from a bad tree, nor bad fruit from a good tree. Therefore, how important it is that we choose the right life source, for our foundations will be shown in our character (our fruits).

Isaiah 51:1,2

"Listen to me, you who pursue righteousness, who seek the LORD: Look to the rock from which you were hewn and to the quarry from which you were dug. Look to Abraham your father and to Sarah who gave birth to you in pain; When he was but one I called him, Then I blessed him and multiplied him."

To be a stone is to be cut from a larger rock. To be carefully hewn out of something larger and greater, inherently imparts the characteristics and features that the original piece possessed. As in Isaiah, he referred to Abraham as the rock of which all the descendants – the Israelite people – were cut from. He pleaded with the people to not forget who their ancestor was, and who he was blessed by, God.

Stones were used in biblical times to build homes, but also altars. Elijah rebuilt the Altar of the Lord using 12 stones that represented the 12 tribes of Israel. Each upholding a life of sacrifice that pointed towards Jesus. Do our lives do the same? Or have we fallen into the same trap that Peter did when he was called a stumbling stone? Placing our own agendas, and our own precepts before God’s will.

As stones cut from the Rock of Ages, we are to live as altars to God. Living a life of sacrifice that just over spills with love that flows from our Heavenly Father.

As newborns, our parents would earnestly study our facial features, seeking any resemblance of their own traits. The same eye colour, shape of ears, dimples, the same nose and eyebrows. Anything that proves their ownership of this child that they have long awaited to meet. As growing children, reflections of behaviour and attitudes start to come through.

And while parents hope that their offspring receive all of their good features and desirable habits, their main priority should be that their children’s character will reflect God’s character. That their fruits will be His, and that they are hewn from His rock.

As sticks and stones, we are called to glow. Not of our own light, but the light that God shines upon our face (Numbers 6:23-27).

 

Thus in everything we do, and with every inch of our being, we are called to reflect God's love and light to others, as sticks and stones.

Cookie Pie

For those days where rolling 20 or so individual cookies seems too arduous a task, a cookie pie may be the answer!

Pressing the whole dough into a cake tin and baking it straight away makes the path to getting diabetes more efficient.

And as it has been requested as birthday cakes this year by my nearest and dearest, I give full permission to also call it a cookie cake. Whichever name you use, I'm sure it will go down a treat!

Terribly satisfying, and also hugely indulgent, a slice of warm cookie pie served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream can satisfy the sweetest of cravings for all things comforting.

American Campfire meets French Pastries

Being a kiwi, the idea of an American campfire with smores, is the stuff of childhood dreams (fuelled by television's portrayal of what Americans ideally do).

So every winter, out would come the skewers and the marshmallows, and as we carefully held our safe end of the stick the marshmallow slowly roasted in the fireplace. Many a cold winter's night was spent toasting the outer layer of these sugary delights, and my goodness were the Americans onto something great!

The crispy caramelisation and burnt bits, combined with the gooey molten centre is what I wanted to recreate from Adriano Zumbo's recipe for Toasted Marshmallow Macarons.

I toasted a tray of marshmallows in the oven on grill, and let the sweltering heat emulate a fireplace, (that my current flat does not have). Out came a giant cloud of toasted marshmallow mass. This was whipped into a healthy amount of creamed butter in addition to creme patissiere – as if this recipe couldn't get any better 😍 this is then piped between two French Macarons and left to mature in the fridge overnight.

I know I said in a previous post that English Coconut Macaroons are my favourite out of these two cousins, but this filling may just tip the scale 😉

Until next time,
Happy baking (and eating!)

He qualifies the called

He doesn't call the qualified, but He qualifies the called.

This gives me hope, and I'm sure it will give you hope too.

We may not be educated, or have the best communicating skills. We may not have the best literacy, or even have much charisma. But God made us. He made us to worship Him, and to reach others, so that they may come to know Him too.

So long as we commit ourselves to Him, He will use us in ways that we can never prepare for.

So don't wait to be highly educated, or to have great literacy skills, to be an excellent communicator, or to have a personable character. Because God can use you now. In the state that you are in, and with any limitations you think you have, God can use you.

He uses the sick to reach the ailing, the broken to meet the wretched, and the poor to help those who lack. Whatever situation you are in, God can use your lowly state to appeal to those in a likewise destitution.

For when God calls you, He qualifies you.

Jacob’s faith

Hebrews 11:21
By faith Jacob, when he was a dying, blessed both the sons of Joseph; and worshipped, leaning upon the top of his staff.

 Genesis 48:13-20
Before he blessed Ephraim and Manasseh, he adopted them Genesis 48:1-6. God wants to adopt us into His family and bless us as His children. We are not to be so enamoured with the offers of this world, that we lose sight of the bigger picture, and the bigger family that we are called to be a part of. 

He adopted them so they fully receive their blessing, as they had an Egyptian mother, and were born in Egypt, they may not have been considered viable options. But as adopted sons, they were eligible to receive all that he had to give through the promises of God.

“A patriarch’s final blessing was important in biblical times as a practical matter of inheritance rights. In addition, some final blessings included prophetic statements that reveal God’s supernatural power through the men of His choosing.” {Got questions}
Jacob adopted two rich princes into his lowly shepherd estate. He then blessed them with a dry desert land that he didn’t even own (Acts 7:5), except for a burial cave. There was no inkling of evidence that God would fulfil His promises, (consider Abraham who did not allow a Canaanite wife for his son, which would have provided a family connection to the land), and yet by faith Jacob gave both Ephraim and Manasseh a full and complete portion of blessings. 

How fortunate, for the two boys, that they had a grandfather that saw past the great and highly esteemed Egyptian abundance; but rather he valued Abraham’s spiritual blessing above worldly fame. That is faith, to not fall for all the world has to offer, however present it may be, and to fully believe that God will provide a way, though you cannot see it. 

Psalm 27:14 

Wait on the Lord : be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the Lord .

Being on the cusp of death is hardly a reason to be joyful. It is notably a time of sadness and of questioning. But Jacob worshipped God. With every last beat of his weak pulsing heart, and his physically failing body, his need and desire to worship his Creator, and Merciful Forgiver, grew immeasurably. 
How often do we let our circumstances dictate our relationship with God? He is ever patient with us, waiting on us to commune with Him. In every situation, God wants us to worship and praise Him. This allows us to be free to receive the blessings and provisions He is longing to give us. 
Though we have faith our whole lives, or at least endeavour to, perhaps the most vital of times to express this faith is on our deathbed. It is how we finish, whether we die believing in God’s promises, that speaks volumes to those that catch us in our last moments. And the best way we can show this, is by singing the praises of the One who brought us through, and by blessing the generations that succeed. It takes great courage to die in faith, but when we honour Him with our patience, our hope, and our joy, God ensures that the promised blessings are sure to be fulfilled.
It was not by his own strength by which he gave his blessing, but rather God’s strength, and Jacob’s faithfulness to Him. 
Exodus 14:15-16 

 And the Lord said unto Moses, Wherefore criest thou unto me? speak unto the children of Israel, that they go forward: But lift thou up thy rod, and stretch out thine hand over the sea, and divide it: and the children of Israel shall go on dry ground through the midst of the sea.

By faith Moses obeyed God and used a rod, an inanimate object made of wood, to part the red sea into two. Generations before, Jacob divided Joseph’s inheritance blessing into two, and gave it to Manasseh and Ephraim, whilst leaning on top of his staff. 

It’s not the stick that parts the seas and it’s not the stick that holds us up to give us strength. It’s our faith in God that He will make a way. Just like the serpent on the rod that cured the Israelites from their snake bites. The wood did not save them, it was their faith. It’s God asking us to be obedient, even when it seems crazy and beyond understanding. God is saying “Trust Me!”
Hebrews 11:1 tells us that faith and hope are interlinked. You cannot have one without the other. 
Even though Jacob was sick and harbouring a physically failing body, he still leant all that he had onto his staff and worshipped God. And even though Moses was drowning in the inches of the Red Sea water of which he dared to dip his feet into, and although the prospect of a multitude of deaths was but a gentle wave away, he still trusted God. 

The same faith that portioned a double blessing to two Egyptian royalties, is the same faith that lead Moses on that great exodus expedition, that did eventually see the results of God’s promise to Jacob in the land of Canaan (Genesis 28:13).

Jacob’s eye sight was nearing blindness, thus Joseph was troubled when he realised the swapped positioning of his father’s hands. But Jacob let God lead, and knew what he was doing (Genesis 48:19).

The positioning wasn’t convenient, it was purposeful. Sometimes we like to make provisions for God to bless us, in the way that we see fit. But God knows better, and we must allow Him to bless us, in His way.

 
According to Jewish Sages, growing up, Ephraim was solely focused on doing God’s will. While Manasseh did go according to God’s will, he also concerned himself with the matters of the world. He balanced both, while Ephraim was solely God’s. Much like Jacob and Esau. Jacob was more interested in being a spiritual leader, and Esau was clearly not (as he sold his birthright). Jacob wanted that position as patriarchal leader and a strong pillar for God, and attained it through means of deceit. By blessing Ephraim, he showed God that he had come full circle and that he allowed the younger brother to become the spiritual leader through an honest practice. Jacob had bought his birthright, and Joseph earned it. 
Jacob had faith that the blessings would fall upon Ephraim and Manasseh, and not to Reuben. This was against tradition, but it wasn’t against God’s will. 

Jacob vs Israel
 

{why was the name Jacob used in Hebrews 11:21, and not Israel?}
Jacob represents his timid and passive self. As we can see when Jacob wanted to keep Benjamin back with him in their home, rather than save the family from starvation. But it was Israel that eventually let him go to Egypt (Genesis 42:36-43:13). 

It was Israel that allowed for the destruction of Shechem; and it was Israel that sent Joseph to find his brothers, though he knew that they hated him. Jacob would have kept him home, and hoped from afar that his sons would be ok. But Israel was determined and put it into action. 

So it was Israel that sent Joseph away, but it was Jacob that called him back. In his timidness and frailty, Jacob knew the time had come to pass on his blessings.   

In the first 17 years of Joseph’s life, his father raised him to be a God fearing man and equipped him with strong values that saw him succeed in Pharaoh’s command, which saved the people from the famine. In the last 17 years of Jacob’s life, Joseph cared for him and provided for his needs. Their last 17 years together was a testament of their faith in God that had brought them back together, it was this faith that paved the way for Joseph and his two sons to be blessed. 

He died a poor man in a foreign land, but he died in the faith of God’s promises {Dying faith}. 

A worthy investment

As a former business studies student, the idea of investing in something (i.e. a new venture, shares, partnership, etc.) appeals to me. Or I should say, investing with a guaranteed prosperous return. No one wants to lose when they put in. No one wants to waste their time, energy, and money (life savings), on investments that never pay out.

But what if there is an investment, that is guaranteed to create a return that will be a million times more than what was put in? 

A deal like that can not possibly be fashioned up by mere humans, but rather it takes a powerful and almighty God to make an offer of such proportions.

God wants us to invest in Him. To wisely spend our time, energy, and faithfulness, in seeking Him diligently.

Hebrews 11:6 

But without faith it is impossible to please Him: for he that cometh to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him. 

2 Chronicles 31:20-21

And thus did Hezekiah throughout all Judah, and wrought that which was good and right and truth before the LORD his God. And in every work that he began in the service of the house of God, and in the law, and in the commandments, to seek his God, he did it with all his heart, and prospered. 

This investment requires a dedication that only gets stronger with every day. With Him, the “dollar” never weakens, it never dips, and will never lose value. There’s no risk of the bank going belly-up, and you can be assured that your investment is in the safest hands ever possible. 

However, your desire to seek God first, needs to immeasurably outweigh your need to seek a reward. Meeting God is the ultimate prize, and everything else falls afterwards. 

Genesis 15:1

After these things the word of the LORD came unto Abram in a vision saying, “Fear not, Abram: I am thy shield and thy exceeding great reward.” 

Matthew 5:12

Rejoice, and be exceeding glad for great is your reward in Heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you. 

Dedicating your life to seeking Him, is the most worthy investment that could ever exist. 

So sign me up!

An exposed heart

The meeting of Zacchaeus and Jesus is one that reminds me of the importance of not judging a person by their past, and not defining a person by what they do.

Zacchaeus was a very rich tax collector. His wealth was gained due to sinful ways of deception and stealing. He was well despised by the Jewish people, because he worked for the Romans, and it was clear to them that his wealth was begotten from their taxes.

Outwardly, he should have been the last person that Jesus would have considered a suitable host for tea. But thankfully for Zacchaeus, (and for us), He looks at the heart. The Holy Spirit had been working on him to realise his sinful ways, and how he could repay his theft. If he had not, then he wouldn’t have climbed a tree to try and catch a glimpse of someone that could potentially publicly rebuke him.

Zacchaeus was lost, and he knew it. He realised his downfall through his ways of deception. And when Jesus sought him, he openly confessed his sins and repented. His heart had been transformed and this was what Jesus could see.

Hebrews 4:13

Nothing in all creation is hidden from God. Everything is naked and exposed before His eyes, and He is the one to whom we are accountable.

1Samuel 16:7

But the LORD said to Samuel, Don’t judge by his appearance or height, for I have rejected him. The LORD doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.

Zacchaeus was surrounded by people who appeared to be good and wholesome, but inside their hearts were riddled with judgement. For if they were truly God fearing people, they would have rejoiced when Jesus wanted to dine with the sinful tax collector.

In Luke chapter 18, Jesus spoke a parable to people that believed themselves to be more righteous than they truly were. It too was about a tax collector, and his humble plea before God to have mercy upon him – a sinner. He also described a pharisee that also came before God, and thanked Him that he was not like other sinners, not even like that tax collector. He then proceeded to list his great virtues as a “righteous” tithe giver and a regular faster. On the outward appearance, it would seem that the pharisee would be justified, but rather it was the lowly and humble tax collector that left justified.

Luke 19:10

For the Son of Man came to seek and save those who are lost.

Zacchaeus had an exposed heart before Jesus. To make yourself so vulnerable to chastisement and rebuke is what often stops us from fully letting God dwell in our hearts. When we spend so much time trying to hide our undesirable past, we fail to recognise that all that time was wasted and could be better spent with Him. Zacchaeus realised this, and desperately sought Jesus to make that right. That’s what we are to look at, not at his past, but rather that he saw his future with Jesus.

It is my prayer that in every dealing that I have with other people, that I don’t exercise my judgement on them. Judgment should be left to God, for only He can see their hearts exposed.

 

 

Hold on

A verse was shown to me today. It’s a verse I have read before, but never really took the time to try and understand. But I’m glad I did, for I feel that it’s message has become clearer and I have since realised its importance.

Hebrews 12:3 

For consider Him that endures such contradiction of sinners against Himself, lest Ye be wearied and faint in your minds. 

When you start to feel tired and exhausted in your walk, consider Jesus who, the sinless one, bore our sins. Who had every right to give up. Who has every understanding if He chose to not go through with the great sacrifice.

Yet He endured, He conquered, and He won.

All to save us… you and I. All with the weight of everyone’s sin and guilt on His shoulders.

So don’t give up, though the world seems against you, remember that the world was against Him. When you feel broken and battered, that’s how Jesus felt; and when you feel like letting go of Him, remember that He clung on, for His life and for ours.

So don’t lose hope, just remember that our life here is “but a stepping stone”, life in Heaven is eternal, and anything we endure here will be rewarded more than ten-fold in Heaven.

Endurance is not easy, but the reward is far greater than anything suffered here on Earth. So hold on and remember Him.

Jacob wrestles 

Based on Genesis 32-33, and The Story of Redemption, Chapter 13 by Ellen G. White 

In a sleepless night, Jacob spent time on his own, and prayed. He prayed for the overdue meeting with Esau and the wrath he was sure to meet. He prayed for the sins of his past and repentance. The answer to his earnest prayers came under the guise of an angel, but it was Jesus Himself, who wrestled with Jacob all night. 

As the morning rays were forcing its way into the abyss of the desert night, an exhausted Jacob realised his true need. When the sun peeked over the horizon to illuminate the land, clarity was brought to his mind. “Let me go, for the day breaketh!” the angel pleaded, but Jacob matched Him with a request of his own, “I will not let thee go except thou bless me.” Then he asked his name, and this time it was his Heavenly Father asking, and Jacob knew why. Before, Isaac asked his name and he answered “Esau” in order to deceptively receive the blessing, but this time Jacob was honest and full of repentance so Jesus blessed him with a new name, Israel. 

Jacob wanted the assurance that God really had forgiven him for his sins of deception. It was only then that he could pursue on with his journey to reunite with his brother Esau and encounter his army of 400 men. His fear had caused him to doubt that the God of his father Abraham and Isaac had the power to truly forgive and bless him. When he was saved from the wrath of his father in law, Laban, it was still not proof enough that God loved him so dearly, despite his wrong doings. 

So God had to wrestle with him on a personal one on one level, to finally cause Jacob to realise that he had not forgiven himself, and how this placement of power on his behalf had caused a 20 year gulf between he and his home. 

When we pray and ask for forgiveness, Jesus places the petitions before His Father, and for our sake He pleads for our case. It’s His eternal love for us that paves the way for this most special and kind act of grace. Yet, despite this, we are unable to forgive ourselves, thus planting us firmly in a stronghold of regrets and transgressions. 

However, we often become comfortable in this destitution, we adapt to the situation and we let it put limitations on our relationship with God. 

It becomes such a problem that Jesus Himself comes down to pull us out and we wrestle with Him, not knowing why, until the light comes on and we realise that we need to let go in order to earnestly and sincerely ask God to bless us. 

Satisfied 

A little nugget to think on today…

Habakkuk 3:17-19

Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labour of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls: Yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation. The LORD God is my strength, and He will make my feet like hind’s feet, and He will make me to walk upon mine high places. To the chief singer on my stringed instruments. 

We should be so satisfied and spiritually filled, with just the presence of God, that any blessings He bestows are the cherries on top. Our faith, and relationship with God cannot be dependent on how blessed we are, but solely dependent on whether we have humbled ourselves enough so that we can allow God to fulfil our spiritual desires, and grace us with His presence. 

So no matter if our ventures fail, if our health gives way, if our loved ones go, and our finances plummet; our praises to Him should never cease. Easier said than done, I know, but try, every day, to be satisfied with His presence alone.