This week, I read a Bible verse that really got to me:
"Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise--the fruit of lips that confess his name. And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased," (Hebrews 13:15-16.)
So, I started thinking. Fruit is a natural, God-designed product. Its growth is a long, sometimes beautiful, sometimes ugly, four-season process. I find it easy, for example, to think about a juicy strawberry that way: its deliciousness dripping off my chin is well worth the dirt stains on my hands in spring, the weeds and birds I had to fight to protect my crop, and the compost and water I tried to provide in perfect combination.
I find it quite difficult, though, to think of my praise to God with the same hard-fought value. My words, my "sacrifice of praise," my "fruit of lips" are just simple words, aren't they? But my life, when offered "through Jesus," is as satisfying as that juicy strawberry to the One whose hands are stained by my sin, whose angels are assigned to protect me and my mostly dumb choices, and who painstakingly places water and fertilizer in my life for the purpose of growing me closer to himself.
No, wait, I'm wrong. The fruit I offer is more satisfying to him. And God designed it that way. This fruit wasn't the result of just twelve short months. He's been gardening me since he "knit me together in my mother's womb," (Psalm 139:13.) I want to give him more than just some words or a weekly song or a random "thank you." I want the fruit of my lips to be the fruit of my life. The life he gave back to me by saving me. A life that is lived for him and through him and, continually, offered back to him. I catch myself making a little happy noise when I bite into a strawberry like the one you're imagining. And I think God makes that noise, too, when we "continually offer God a sacrifice of praise--the fruit of lips that confess his name." "...For with such sacrifices God is pleased."