The Bible is not unlike a good cookbook. On its own, it is just a book, and many people never remove it from their bookshelves to savor its delights. But when you choose to read and practice what's in the Bible, its words become delicious recipes for your life: enriching your health, enhancing gatherings with friends, and improving your ability to serve others.
Now, I like to cook, and I love to entertain, and it brings me great joy to serve people in this way. We had friends over this week for a "just dessert" party, and it was a sweet evening filled with good conversation, a few laughs, and deepening relationships. So I wasn't surprised when the Lord began speaking to me this morning about cooking. I just hope you will forgive me for stretching the culinary analogy a little in order to make a point! Here's what He shared with me.
Proverbs 4:22 describes the words of God as "...life to those who find them, and health to all their flesh." Amazingly, the Bible can be as simple as a convenience food or as elaborate as a perpetual feast. It has recipes suitable for every palate, every age, and every type of dietary restriction. In fact, even as we open up this divine "cookbook," the Bible appeals to our culinary natures: "Taste and see that the Lord is good!" (Psalm 34:8).
From Bottles to Banquets: Selecting a Recipe
Your recipe is your message. It's the right word from God at the right time. How do we select the right recipe? The Bible helps us figure this out, too.
Everyone knows that milk is for children. Easily digested, it requires no skill to pour, no cooking to drink, and is readily available. It's a convenience food, sold almost everywhere. Yet despite the benefits, I'm pretty sure Jesus isn't going to be serving baby bottles full of milk at His great marriage banquet!
For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled
The writer of Hebrews compares the basics of the Bible to milk: simple teachings or ideas that "babes" can understand. The Proverbs are basics like that: short, bite-sized maxims that pack a punch. Some of the stories of Jesus are similar: God loves and cares for you. There is hope for your future. It is the stuff we serve in Sunday-school. Simple fare that fuels simple people. Young kids can grab it from the fridge on their own. It edifies.
Of course, adults enjoy the milk, but one cup of milk isn't enough to satisfy a growing body or serve a crowd. Bland food doesn't hold our interest any more, either. We are excited by tasteful, multi-ingredient dishes with complex flavors that nourish both our senses and our systems! We can discern between good and bad food, and we develop appetites for certain types of food that satisfy us. In the spiritual realm, that might mean we begin to identify our gifts and ministry preferences and experiment with different methods of "cooking," or application, to see what works for us.
We also find that we need to plan what meals to serve as we fulfill the Great Commission, reaching various groups of people. The apostle Paul, again in culinary language, says he used only specially-selected "recipes" for feeding the immature Corinthians:
And I, brethren, could not speak to you as
Why could they not receive solid food? Because their spiritual digestive systems were not ready for it yet. You don't serve a baby a pot roast! He tenderized, mashed, and spoon-fed the Word to those who were unable to digest more. But he hoped they wouldn't remain babies. The goal was always maturity. Mature men (at least the ones I know) prefer a steak!
I find it interesting that even as far back as Exodus 16, when Israel was in the wilderness, God ministered to both young and old through the types of food He served. In the morning, He supernaturally rained down sweet wafers that tasted like honey: "manna." In the evening, however, He provided quail: meat for those with more substantial appetites. God's Word is sufficient for the "morning" and the "evening" stages of our lives.
Pleasing Your Guests
When I am expecting company for dinner, I nearly always check first for dietary restrictions or allergies. I would never intentionally serve bread to someone who is gluten-free! If I want to reach people for Jesus, I need to do the same thing by preparing for the audience to whom I will minister. I will need different ingredients, or verses, for different groups.
For example, to serve a Jew, we must accommodate the Jews. We cannot serve the same food to a weak person that we would serve to one who is strong (Romans 14:2). We know that there are times when serving meat to a brother would make him stumble (1 Corinthians 8:13). We need a kosher recipe to reach a Jew!
Adjusting the Temperature and Seasonings
How we serve is as important as what we serve. (See Proverbs 17:1). In the natural, both undercooked and overcooked food can be dangerous to the body. A steak that is charred becomes carcinogenic, even if it is meat.
Spiritually translated, this means that things like high-pressure evangelism tactics, however well-meaning, will usually drive people away by their toxicity. So will coarse, tasteless talk. It's our "saltiness," says Jesus, that makes what we serve palatable! Our choice of positive, edifying words is the seasoning for our messages.
We avoid spiritual cooking disasters by sticking with recipes the Bible gives us for sustaining ourselves and for reaching our world. Proverbs 4:22 is preceded by the caution to attend to the words of the Bible. We must do this as diligently as we would stir a pot of soup or check the oven! We also select the freshest ingredients to prepare meals for our guests. Should we not seek God for the freshest nuggets of revelation to share as we minister to others?
We can improve our cooking by involving God in the preparations. He will give us a list of the things we need for each meal, so we are prepared to reach specific people in a meaningful way. Our success stories will become the picture-testimonies in the newest edition of that shiny cookbook! Others will begin asking us for our recipes or our "secret sauce." And we'll have pulled up chairs for a few more guests at the great marriage supper of the Lamb.
Food for Thought:
c. Deborah Perkins, 2015. All Bible references NKJV
Deborah Perkins is passionate about helping others connect with God. She writes about knowing God and hearing His voice at HisInscriptions.com. Follow her on Twitter, or contact her here if you'd like to stop by for a meal!
Free Link to the Subscriber Resource Library when you join His Inscriptions!
A severe hearing loss from childhood caused Deborah Perkins to develop what she now calls her secret weapon: tuning in to God's voice. A Wellesley College graduate and an award-winning writer, Deborah is now a wife and mother of 3 boys. Deborah has devoted over 25 years to professional and lay Christian ministry in New England and beyond. Her passion is inspiring people to cultivate greater intimacy with God.