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.

 

 

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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. 

To sleep in a storm

What does it mean to sleep in a storm? To have an unshakeable faith, that even in the toughest of times, your peace remains firmly anchored in Jesus.  
To have no fear of what you cannot control, and relinquish it to Him, is probably one of the biggest things I am learning to do in my christian walk. Because when I do ‘let go and let God’, I have found that God loves to show to me how mighty His power is. There have been countless times where circumstances beyond my control have been lifted to Him, and He has answered my prayers in ways I could never have imagined.

Where He has aligned the wayward stars and the orbiting planets to perfectly encompass all that I had feared, and all that I had spent sleepless nights over, and made it all make sense.

That’s what He does. It’s His specialty, and it’s up to us to let Him do it, His way. 

When we try to fix it on our own, we will never be able to truly fulfil our needs; and it’s then that we sleep with two eyes open in the midst of belting down rain and harrowing thunder, and it feels like waves of uncontrollable strength rolling beneath and overcoming us in floods of distress. I have been there, more times than I care to admit, but the alternative is a thousand times better. It’s admitting to God that we cannot do it on our own, and that we need Him to takeover. It’s realising that we are limited in our strength, and that there is someone bigger, mightier, and more willing to take the worries off our yoke. 
Matthew 8:23-27 KJV

And when He was entered into a ship, His disciples followed Him. And, behold, there arose a great tempest in the sea, insomuch that the ship was covered with the waves: but He was asleep. And His disciples came to Him, and awoke Him, saying, Lord, save us: we perish. And He saith unto them, Why are ye fearful, O ye of little faith? Then He arose, and rebuked the winds and the sea; and there was a great calm. But the men marvelled, saying, What manner of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey Him! 
Why do we put limits on God? Why do we not let Him show us what He can do in every aspect of our lives, to the fullest? Prove to Him your faith by giving Him your worries, and letting Him calm your storm, for even the winds and the sea obey Him – because it’s time to peacefully sleep. 

Home Time

Two words.

That’s all it took for our parents to send “grief” and “agony” to our young hearts. As a child at the playground, having the time of our lives, the thought of going home was like pure torture, it felt as though they killed our soul. There may have been tears, sulking, stomping of the feet, gripping on tighter to the swings, and quite possibly a very public and embarrassing tantrum.

Our parents would have threatened to leave without us, they would get in the drivers seat, close the door and start the engine. We feared for our lives that they may not have been bluffing. So we quickly ply open our fingers from the swings’ ropes,  and make our way to the car for a very solemn ride home.

These are the thoughts that run through my mind when I think of the words: “home time”. To leave something so enjoyable and fun as the park, to go back to the “boring” home was grevious to say the least.

But our Father in Heaven will come to take us home soon. But when He comes, there won’t be sulking tears, but rather tears of joy; there won’t be stomping feet, but steps of love to the Father’s arms; our hands won’t be gripping to this earth, but reaching out to grab His; and we won’t hesitate to follow Him home, because we know that’s where life begins.

John 14:2-4 KJV

 In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so , I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also. And whither I go ye know, and the way ye know.

The second advent will be the most joyous occassion, and I can’t wait to go home.

In Good Company

John 15:17-20

“These things I command you, that ye love one another. If the world hate you, ye know that it hated Me before it hated you. If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hate you. Remember the word that I said unto you, ‘The servant is not greater than his lord’ if they have persecuted Me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also.”

There will be those who accept the truth you present, and there will be those who don’t. They will hate us for it, but we are in good company, because Jesus was also despised for presenting the truth, and shedding light that exposes sin.

Colossians 4:5-6

“Live wisely among those who are not believers, and make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be gracious and attractive so that you will have the right response for everyone.”

But we need to strive to make the most of every opportunity that God gives us. It is by no accident that we come across the people that we do. Be kind and loving in your conversations, so that others can see that you are different to everyone else.

We are to be in, but not of the world.

1Peter 2:9

“But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of Him who hath called you out of darkness into His marvellous light” 

We are not called to blend in, and neither did Jesus blend in and conform to worldly ways when He was here on Earth; and if we are persecuted for this, we are in good company.

Patience is a virtue 

Recently I have been looking more into the importance of being patient. What it means for me, and how to better apply it to my everyday life. 

1 Corinthians 13:4 says that “Love is patient”, but what does that really mean?

 Does it imply that I wait in a long line at the supermarket without complaining (this includes in my thoughts)? Does it mean that I’m more tolerable to people and their different ways? Am I to wait patiently for my pay to come into my bank account before I buy something that “I just HAVE to have!!” (when really I don’t)? 

I think patience encapsulates all of those things and more. For the bible says that “Love is patient” and we know that “God is love”. Therefore God is patient. He is the most patient one of all, and He is waiting on us, just as we should wait on Him, and others. 
As hard as it is to be patient with others, we must, because if we can’t wait on others – how can we ask God to wait on us, and to be patient with us? 

I don’t know about you, but personally for me, I am the most patient person with other people. I will wait and wait without complaint, whether it be for my food in a restaurant, in line at the supermarket, etc. 

But when it comes to my close family, I’m afraid my patience has a very low tolerance. I think I expect more of them, and I expect them to think of me as someone important enough to hurry their time along for. Which I’m not, at all, but I think this is where it stems from. 

And I too expect more of them. I think “they know better!”  or “can’t they just be more like me? and be more wise with their time?” It’s really a terrible habit!! And I’m working on it, trying, day by day to improve. I think it’s working though! There have been times when I want to get mad, but I hold my tongue and bite my lip, and I just think “If this is frustrating for me, how much more so am I frustrating God?” 

Because being patient is about applying that to EVERYONE!! Not just to strangers at the checkout, not just to waitstaff at the restaurant, but everyone – including those closest to you.  

So yes, patience is a virtue, and I’m a work in progress. 

The Humble and Sweet Cousin

Since the popularity of the French Macaron has surged in recent times, the humble, and always dependable, British Coconut Macaroon has become somewhat of a background noise.

Have people forgotten its ease of making, its reliability to never disappoint on the feet (coz lets face it, they ain’t getting any!), the always sure to please the masses dish, with minimal stress? I must admit that I did, for a little bit. But don’t worry I found my affinity for them once more, when I made some at work for petit fours, last year. And boy am I glad that I did!

To be honest, I kinda do love this scrawny mountain of chewy coconut goodness, more so than its French counterpart. It’s unassuming appearance hiding all that glorious dense cloud of white coconut meringue, it’s an experience to say the least.

I did, however, jazz these macaroons up with a little drizzle of dark chocolate and a crowning of freeze dried raspberries. They added a perfect balance of bitterness and tartness to the sweetness of the macaroon (can I just say macaroon-ness).

And while it’s French cousin is basking in the limelight, I am hoping these humble and sweet relatives will make a come-back!

Layers

Winter time calls for finding your gloves and the collection of knitted jumpers that you have hidden away from the sweltering Summer sun. As much as I love to layer my Winter outfits with thermals, shirts, jumpers, leggings, tights, and jackets, topped off with a scarf (of course!), this post is about cake, my other love.

Layers upon layers of cake.

Before I start to design a cake, I think of flavour combinations that I love to eat. For example I love white chocolate together with coconut, lemon, blueberries, and cardamom. It sounds weird, but trust me, it works.

It’s not only layers of cake and ganache filling, but it’s layers of flavours that work harmoniously together, that just belong. Each on their own being delicious, that somehow become even more so when all is tasted in one bite.

It’s like layering your Winter thermals, each is warm on their own, but when layered with others, it gets even warmer! (Yes, I do realise I am comparing a delicious cake flavour profile to being warm in Winter, but I think you get my drift!)

So once I have the flavour profile, I think about how to incorporate them into cake form. Like what can be the cake, and what flavours will be in the filling, and what can be used in the decorations and also what can add a textural element.

For this sweet creation, I thought about combining flavours into each element. So for the cake part I combined lemon and blueberries; for the filling I infused the white chocolate ganache with cardamom pods (which I removed once imparted its aroma), and then I toasted desiccated coconut to sprinkle in between the layers, and as a decoration on top (along with some pretty Pansy flower petals). And for added crunch, I sprinkled some white chocolate crispy pearls, they finish off the look perfectly.

This rustic and wholesome beauty is all you need to warm you up from the insides, on a cold Winter’s day; and don’t worry about the calories, let the thermals, jumpers, and jackets hide the extra layers of love you put inside of you!

Happy eating!