Ezekiel 3:9: ‘I have made your forehead like a diamond, harder than flint. Don’t be afraid or discouraged.’
Your tenacity and determination may cause you to be labeled ‘hard-headed’. While it might not always seem like a gift, this character trait is a valuable asset God has granted you for your particular journey.
When others may get discouraged or give up, you continue to persevere. You do not see quitting as an option. You find your greatest success comes from the simple practice of persistence.
There are times when life is hard, but the difficulties never get inside your head. God has protected your mind with an unyielding resolve which enables you to resist both internal and external pressures. There are times in your life when fear may seem to be the logical response. Other times, discouragement may cast its shadow across your path. But you have been designed by the Creator of the universe and He has constructed you with a supernatural ability to withstand such destructive forces.
You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its salty taste, it cannot be made salty again. It is good for nothing. It must be thrown out for people to walk on.
Some foods stand the test of time well. Salt is one of them. Can salt go bad? The answer is both yes and no. Natural salts without any additives can never go bad. After all, salts have been around for thousands of years, and they were used for food preservation in ancient times. That means salt can actually prevent bacterial and microbial growth in meat and other foods. Foods spoil only when bacterial, fungal, and microbial growth take place.
That was for the ‘no’ answer. What about the ‘yes’ part?
If salt goes bad, how can salt lose its saltiness? Although natural salts can never spoil, table salts with additives can lose their flavor and texture over time. Refined table salts contain iodine to enhance flavor and health properties and anti-caking agents that protect it from clumping.
What would qualify as an ‘additive’ in the spiritual sense?
This verse in Matthew was first spoken by Jesus, long before the periodic table of elements had been developed. The disciples understood what Jesus said, based on their own experience and knowledge. We, however are able to gain deeper meaning from his words, based on the extra 2000 years of scientific study we have at our disposal.
Thus, because creation and science go hand in hand, we look at Jesus’ words from a scientific perspective. His feet walked the paths of ancient Palestine, but His knowledge of biology and chemistry was far more advanced than any of the most brilliant scientists known to us today. He was present when the minerals were hidden under rocks. He stood at His Father’s side when the salty ocean waters were gathered together; held in place by sandy shores.
Therefore, he understood much more about the chemical make-up of Sodium Chloride than the first century believers, but he used it as an object lesson which would inspire them and mystify future generations.
Salt, the Multi-Purpose Mineral
As a Seasoning
Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone. (New International Version)
Your speech should always be gracious and sprinkled with insight so that you may know how to respond to every person. (Common English Bible)
Beginning with the most common use of salt, we examined the basic facts. As a seasoning, it just makes things taste better. It enhances flavors in different, yet distinctive ways. Salt magnifies the unique essence of food. Adding salt to something bland makes it more interesting and enjoyable. Shaking a little salt on certain fruits, such as watermelon, deepens the flavor, while putting it on sour fruits, such as grapefruit or tart apples, causes them to taste sweet.
Salt is quite versatile when it comes to creating tasteful results. It’s not very good by itself, but when it is blended with other flavors, there is a noticeable improvement.
Jesus has called us the salt of the earth. From a food perspective, this means we are the subtle influence which brings out the best in people, groups, or organizations. We are called to enhance, but never overpower.
To Promote Healing
Salt can aid in the healing process for sinus infections and dental procedures when a small amount is dissolved in water. However, salt is never to be used full strength on an open wound.
The water of the word, warm and clear, infused with a dash of salt disinfects, soothes, and restores balance.
To Promote Buoyancy
Why can people float in Great Salt Lake?
There are around 4.5 billion tons of salt in the lake. This gives the water a density that is approximately ten times more than a normal ocean. This density is higher than the mass of a standard human so you become buoyant.
Based on this information, what are we as believers called to do for those around us?
As a Preservative
How does salt preserve food?
Picture what happens when you sprinkle salt on a sliced cucumber; within a few minutes, the salt is dissolved in a pool of cucumber juice. That’s because water flows through food cell walls towards greater concentrations of dissolved particles, proteins, and pigments. When you rub salt on a vegetable or meat, it dissolves in the food’s exterior moisture, creating a concentrated solution that draws more water from the interior to the surface.
This process illustrates salt’s role in preserving meat for jerky, ham, or hard-cured salami. The salted meat is placed in circulating air, which evaporates emerging water so the meat dries out. Because microorganisms need moisture to survive, drying meat makes it inhospitable to molds and bacteria, thereby lengthening the storage life of some sausages and hams for months.
If we are the Salt of the Earth, what are we called to preserve?
In a world of competition and comparisons, you sometimes wonder if your value is measured by what youdo, rather than by who youare.
This is a concern for many human beings. Some struggle to do more, or to be better than everyone else in order to feel significant. Others think that money, talent or popularity will make them feel important. Sadly, these schemes are worthless.
Knowing that you are handmade by the Creator of the universe assures you of your value. Since you are so special to God, He designed you in a unique and wonderful way. Before your mother even knew you existed, God was already weaving together the strands of your DNA.
Imagine His excitement as He selected your eye color, your voice tone, and your sense of humor! He gave you a love for animals and the ability to connect with them on a level other humans may not understand. He infused you with a high level of curiosity and compassion.
He placed within you, specific gifts and talents which you are just beginning to discover.
Your value is far beyond what you do or say. You are much more important than your achievements or your awards.
You are a person with a destiny; designed by the God of the galaxies.
You play an important role in the future of humanity. Each day you spend on this planet becomes a significant part of history.
God knows the value of your unique human spirit. He knows that your heart is filled with compassion, determination, and enthusiasm. He has given you a mind, body, and temperament which will are ideal for your journey.
Long before anyone knew you, God was sketching out a plan; designing you perfectly for the destiny which will be yours.
We examined the passage in Ezekiel 37, which described the valley of dry bones and the prophetic challenge to call them back to life. In the vision, God tells His prophet to speak specific words to the dry bones. In incremental stages, the bones were told to rise up, collect themselves, and grow tendons, ligaments, and skin. Ezekiel gave one final command to the lifeless creatures, as instructed by God. He told the four winds to deliver the breath of life and each skeleton begin to breathe. Gathered together, they formed a mighty army and stood ready to defeat the enemy who had once destroyed them.
The excavation process in our own emotional tar pit, revealed decomposing dreams and dried up destinies. Those artifacts might have left us hopeless and grief-stricken over our wasted years, had we not clung to David’s hope from the 23rd Psalm: Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me. (Psalm 23:4).
We feared arousing resentments and regret, but with God at our side, we were assured there was nothing we couldn’t face and forgive. As much as we felt our history was set in stone and fossilized forever, we claimed the following Sacred Text over the excursion, “Behold, I am the LORD, the God of all flesh. Is anything too hard for me?” (Jeremiah 32:27). In time, we became willing to enter our valley of dry bones and speak life over what had been so dead for so long.
We found the lifeless remains of enthusiasm, which had been suffocated by disappointment. We found fossils of unfinished projects, which could have been profound, had we not given up. We unearthed splintered fragments of gifts, talents, and abilities which had become casualties of our own sense of inadequacy. We didn’t see them as hopeless signs of a wasted life. Instead, we saw them as dry bones coming back to life. By faith, we saw our powerful future rising up from the wreckage of our past.
In our new normal, we spoke life over anything which reeked of death. In our new normal, we commanded those dry bones to rise up in service to our King. We did not think this was too much to expect for we had been given the resurrection power of Christ. We have been urged to follow in the footsteps of our Father, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence things that don’t yet exist. (Romans 4:17)
The winds of change swept through our own valley of dry bones, breathing life into what was dead inside. Slowly, methodically, our powerful army of gifts and talents began to rise. These warriors were character qualities which had been gifted to us from the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. (Galatians 5:22-23).
Not all of our changes felt comfortable. There were great risks involved.
We feared that a person who was compassionate and cooperative might easily be mistaken as weak. We knew that a person who was trusting, had the potential to be conned. We struggled with the concept of humility, for within our vulnerability lurked the danger of humiliation. We were concerned that if we relinquished control, we might become powerless.
In our old lives, we had well-developed self-defense techniques which would protect us from harm, and maintain our position of control. The power plays, manipulations, and rhetoric we formed, became so deeply ingrained in our personalities, we didn’t know who we were without them.
As God delivered us from our sense of self-obsession, and led us to a life of service in His Kingdom, our old methods of self-preservation seemed to stop working. When we disrespected others, we felt disgraced. When we shouted our aggression, we were repulsed by the sound of our own voice. When we played our manipulative mind games, we became sickened by our own maneuvers.
This left us in a peculiar predicament. Our former defense mechanisms and power plays were useless. The methods we had developed and perfected were worthless. There was nothing left of any value in our bag of tricks. The old life and the new life were out of sync. The disharmony in our souls sounded like an elementary school orchestra warming up before a concert. The conflict was deafening and the sound of chaos nearly drove us mad.
Thankfully, our old ways became so frustrating and futile, we finally let go. We felt like a gymnast on the uneven parallel bars. Releasing our grip on what had previously stabilized us, we spun helplessly in mid-air, hoping to catch hold of the new life when it came within reach. We prayed for the strength to hold on as we spiraled upward toward a higher level of existence.
Eventually, we found some stability within our new normal. The old comfort zone had become uncomfortable. Our former stability had become unstable. The discomfort turned out to be our assurance that we were changing. We learned to embrace our instability, for it revealed the cracks in our old foundation. We grew to appreciate the sounds of disharmony, for in its chaos, we discovered what was out of tune.
We believe in the scriptural principle of sowing and reaping. We see the effects of this principle in the natural realm as well as the spiritual. We are certain that an oak tree will not grow from a thistle seed. Therefore we do not expect to receive hope and healing by speaking of our addiction as a lumbering giant which threatens to steal our sobriety.
We dare not speak of relapse, as this seed grows into a massive, poisonous vine which produces an itchy sensation known as irritable, restless, and discontent syndrome. We dare not speak of our past indiscretions as a boastful or laughable matter, for this seed will grow into a field of dandelion memories, brightly colored egotistical blooms which turn to hollow shams of fly away seeds, searching for another ego to embed. We dare not speak of our resentments, for this is the thicket which depletes our energy and slows our progress.
The words which produce a harvest we don’t want ought never be sown by our voice.
As we progressed up the path in the Tetelestai Realm of Recovery, we discovered a powerful weapon against the onslaught of obsessions, compulsions, and other dysfunctional thought patterns. The weapon was praise and it turned out to be more powerful that we ever imagined.
We came to see that when we praised God, we experienced a higher level of satisfaction in our lives and we became more deeply aware of His goodness surrounding us. We also noticed that when our praises declined, so did our sense of well-being.
From simply a human point of view, this made perfect sense to us. We were easily able to confirm the effect praise has on all creatures. Praise given to a pet or a child is the way to convey approval and appreciation. Praise offered to a co-worker is received with gratitude and good will. Praise given to a spouse, partner, or family member can bridge a strained relationship or energize an exhausted soul.
We realized that when we praised God, we were verbalizing our trust in His divine plan. When praising God, we were simultaneously attracting angelic presence and repelling demonic entities. Knowing that neither angels nor demons can read minds, we put great emphasis on verbalizing our praises.
We looked to the fifth chapter of the gospel of Mark to discover Jesus’ total disregard for facts. In this one chapter, we found three unique and unrelated accounts of individuals who desperately sought to change the facts of their reality. Each case study contained significant details which would negate the likelihood of change. To change an unchangeable fact is outside the realm of reality. We, like the characters in Mark 5, rejected typical reality based solely on facts. We believed that our righteous Judge could and would overrule the facts in order to establish His trademark justice which is lovingly steeped in mercy.
Demon possession, insanity, hemorrhaging, sickness, death; all of these issues were factual information. The facts of each case were well established by many witnesses. The demoniac was known by the townspeople as a stark raving lunatic. The hemorrhaging woman was diagnosed and treated by several physicians. The severity of Jairus’ daughter’s illness was confirmed by her prominent, well-respected father. Her subsequent death was confirmed by his servants and the mourners at the home.
We discovered plenty of facts which presented themselves as evidence. We knew that facts typically make very compelling arguments. However, we also saw in each of these three cases, that the unchangeable facts were, in fact, changed.
When we claimed the powerful declaration of Christ, “Tetelestai,” over our sickness, poverty, strained relationships, and criminal records, we were, in essence, asking Jesus to override our human facts in preference to His divine truth concerning our true purpose and potential.
We found the facts of the first story, concerning a demon possessed man who cut himself and lived in tombs, to be tragic and disturbing. We also identified with him in a way that few others can. This man was out of his mind and everyone knew it. The historical facts had proven that human power was no match for a demon. Evil was an entity to be feared and avoided.
When we were lost in our addiction, we were self-destructive, violent, fearful, crazy, and more conspicuous than we cared to believe. The demoniac man is one we relate to with deep heartbreaking empathy. We walked his path. Like him, our path led to Jesus. And in like manner, Jesus called out our demons, and returned us to our right minds.
A s far back as we could remember, we felt different, damaged, and just plain wrong. We did not know exactly what was wrong with us. We only knew that we felt things more intensely than others and we processed our problems with great difficulty.
We obsessively examined ourselves, looking for clues to solve the mystery and find a key to unlock some invisible door which kept us perched precariously on the outside edge of normalcy. We noticed people we admired and made feeble attempts to imitate their persona. We sought out damaged friends who would validate us in our dysfunction. We pursued money to prove our worth. We questioned and blamed. We fought with ourselves and resented God. We learned how to act right, but we didn’t know how to feel right. Eventually it was our feelings which became our undoing.
The presence of unwanted feelings such as insecurity, inadequacy, fear, anger, and other social phobias, coupled with our inability to manage or control them, unleashed within us a desperation for relief at any cost. We soon learned of a temporary reprieve which occurred when our brain chemistry became altered. We didn’t care that the relief would be short lived or cause irreparable damage. The long awaited relief of rightness, contrasted against the life-long agony of wrongness, offered such an enchanting embrace, we surrendered without a fight….
In time, the feelings become less intrusive. The presence of an unwanted negative feeling sends us running for relief to the Word, and there we find our sustaining Truth.
When we feel like we have failed, we choose to believe God who says we are blessed (empowered to succeed).
From this day on I will bless you. Haggai 2:19 (NLT)
When we feel as if we aren’t going to stay clean, we believe God’s word which promises,
I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished… Philippians 1:6 (NLT)
When we feel as if we are weak, we believe that we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us.
For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength. Philippians 4:13 We silence our fickle feelings, with His word: T E T E L E S T A I
We declare, “It is finished!” to those roller coaster emotions which had bullied us long enough.