Tell me about Larry Bird…and God…

Anyone who knows dad most likely has also heard of Larry Bird, especially if they are a basketball fan. Jordan could tell spectacular facts about Larry Bird he has heard from dad. He could tell record-breaking statistics and would recognize him if he saw a picture. Dad has commended Larry Bird’s talent and skills and that is how Jordan knows a lot about him.

Can our friends do the same about God after talking to us? The psalmist today speaks of how one generation will “commend” God’s works to another. They will praise or declare God’s works to their children. He speaks of telling others and especially our children of God’s mighty acts.

I am not so sure I have done a great job of this. I do see God at work, and have seen amazing things He has done in my life and in this family. I am not sure I have “commended” them clearly to you. What works of God have I told you so often that you could tell someone else? Just like a play or the looks of Larry Bird, could  you tell a “play” of God in my life? Maybe I have been commending my own works and taken all the credit myself in my life, instead of giving it to God. I pray these things will change in me!

We could probably all work on this. Is it natural for us to speak of God’s impact in our life or do we tout our own accomplishments? Is it impossible for our friends to spend any time with us without them hearing about God’s mighty acts? Do they even know He is an integral part in our life?  We need to all be that generation that passes it on.

I pray God helps us see His mighty works even more clearly. May it spill out of our mouths on a regular basis in such a way that those who know us, know Him. He is amazing. He deserves all the glory and the “stats”!

 

What is a “portion”?

Grandpop has generously offered to take us to Texas Roadhouse tonight for dinner. I am already looking forward to it. As always, I am sure I will be bringing home food that will serve as a second or third meal later for me in the week. They give huge portions there.

This week’s memory verse talks about  a“portion”.  As I read it and also read today’s reading in Job I was thinking they are linked together. In the Lamentations verse above, I remember that the part about “the Lord is my portion” means God is enough. A portion of food is enough for one person. Because God is enough, I can trust Him when I need hope.

How is He enough and how can we hope in him? This is where Job comes in. If ANYONE would have been in a position to say God was NOT enough, it would have been Job. Yet, after having lost everything and still physically suffering, Job tells us  that God’s Word was more treasured than daily bread.  That is a “daily portion” needed to live. Surely being Job, he might have instead treasured being healthy again more…or getting his family back more… or his material possessions? But that is not what he says. He says it is God’s Word that is of supreme value. God’s commands were Job’s portion and treasure.

I believe as we grow in Christ, as God’s Word becomes more and more a part of our actual being (as it “abides” in us) then we will find it is a full portion too. The more we are satisfied with God, the more hopeful our lives become. As you see God in a new way or at work in your life, His value will increase and He will become more of a treasure to you. As you and I walk through very difficult or frustrating circumstances and we follow God’s Word despite our feelings, we will learn He is our portion. He will sustain us like daily bread. He is trustworthy, and our hope in Him will increase-just as Job’s did in the midst of true calamity.

The “phone” test…

What would be the best way for you to know me-what I think, what I like, what I talk about and how I spend my time? Just grab my phone. If you looked at my photos, apps,  emails, amazon account and read through my texts, I think you would get a pretty clear picture. You would see who I talk to, how I speak, what we talk about and how I spend my money. It would be a pretty good means of “searching” me.

Here comes a harder question: Would you or I actually give our phone to someone to do this? Would you feel comfortable giving your sibling or dad and I your phone, saying “Please look through this-let me know if you see anything questionable.” Would I hand you mine?

As I was reading today’s verse about asking God to “search” me and “know my heart”, this thought came to mind. The Psalmist is saying this as a means to seek God’s guidance. There is a good purpose in it. He wants God to look at every area in his life (which God already sees and knows of course)

and point out those areas the author is missing. He wants God to find areas that are “offensive” [grievous, hurtful, bad] and then he wants to be lead away from those things into the way everlasting. This is a good request. He is asking for God’s help.
It is not a bad idea for us to ask the same of God. Ask him to show us those areas of sin in our life that we are oblivious or blind to. Ask God to lead us to repentance and that our heart would be inclined to follow that lead. Dare I suggest the first place might be an examination of our phones. Would you let me have free reign with yours? Would I give you mine? Don’t just read this-hand your phone today to a God-seeking family member or friend.  If there is any hesitation, than I suggest we seriously ask ourselves why and start to ask for God’s help in that area first. Ask God to lead us in the way everlasting-and that we would be good followers to His leading.

Clay not Play-doh…

Dad and I were talking to Zach B. the other day about his college plans. He is unsure about choosing a major. This is normal. We tried to encourage him to not worry about being unsure, but to watch and see how God shows him his gifts, strengths, likes and dislikes and have confidence God will guide him.

Why do we say that? Because if we are God’s children, than God is at work-guiding and shaping us. He is not only guiding us to a “job” or our future, but more importantly, we are His special project that he started and will finish. God is not a quitter.

We can be confident God is at work in our lives based on today’s Psalm. We are the “works of [his] hands”. Other scriptures call us “clay in the potter’s hand”. We are not play-do that is just played with, instead we are clay for a potter whose intent is to create a finished product.

He does not quit. This Psalm also reminds us God will not abandon us. He is not going to set us down and give up. He will keep molding, forming, adding and taking away until we are the exact image He intended from the start. He puts “marks” or gifts in us that will be useful in our lives to fulfill our missions. He forms us to be able to complete our job, just as a pitcher is made to pour water.

Our job? Be clay. Be moldable. Look for the “handles” and “spouts” (gifts) that we alone have to be used for His purposes in the kingdom. Look for the workplaces, lives and occasions where we can serve him best with those gifts.

The good news is, we can be used while in the process. What are your gifts? How did you help someone yesterday? Did you help anyone today? We are the only person specifically qualified to fulfill His purpose for us. Trust that God is continually making us more and more useful day by day. It may take some reshaping and it may be a bit painful, but it will make us more useful. We need to look for areas where we can help and be used. Be willing and ready so that we can fulfill His purposes for us.

No answer given…

Think about the latest “bad” thing that happened to you. What was your reaction? For me, it was a minor inconvenience like forgetting about the construction on route 7 and finding myself delayed for an appointment. My response would be to make a u-turn, be slightly frustrated and then feel rushed. It would NOT typically be “well, this is what God has chosen for me and I will be content in it.”

Moving into the book of Job now, we have something far more serious than a slight inconvenience. We have the death of every single family member but his wife, every possible material loss and a near-death health problem all occurring in one man’s life on one day. It is truly unimaginable to me. And yet, Job’s first response is seen in today’s Scripture verse-and even more astounding it ends with “the Lord be praised.” What? How is that even possible??

Anyone who knows me knows Job is not my favorite book. I have so many “why” questions and I am not alone. Job did too. His friends tried throughout the book to answer some and they answered wrong. I have never quite understood what God wants us to learn about Him from this book.
Today, I gained some insight. In reading today, and viewing the Bible Projects intro to Job, they point some key things out:

-Job does not answer the question about why bad things happen.
-Job instead, asks us to trust God when we are suffering instead of trying to figure out the reason. We may never know. It teaches us to bring our pain and grief to God as Job did, and trust God without the knowing. We have to trust that He does care and knows what He is doing. 


Phew! That is NOT easy. I don’t know how Job responded as he did, but it was the right response. It is how we need to respond as well. If you haven’t already, you will eventually experience suffering without the answer to the “why” at some time in your life. There will be no clear cut “lesson” learned or “good” from our perspective to come from it. Maybe you are in a situation now that you don’t understand with a friend. Maybe you are waiting for something you thought God would bring your way and it hasn’t happened. Whatever the struggle, seek God for guidance and help-but also be willing to accept the fact you may never get the “why” answer. This is why we need to know God better-these times will require pure trust in God, and the better we know him, the easier it will be to trust Him in these times of grave suffering.

Choose unity…

We can’t talk about today’s verse until I put it in context. This verse ends a short psalm which starts by saying: “How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity!” (Ps. 133:1) I don’t think anyone needs to be convinced of this-we all know getting along is better than not getting along!

Now let’s consider this ending verse. Literally speaking, the Psalmist in vs. 3 talks about God bestowing His blessing  and compares it to dew on Mount Hermon. This would have been understood in those days very well-Mt. Hermon  was the highest mountain in the area. Dew was a huge blessing in an otherwise parched, dry area. (soniclight.com) This blessing is used to illustrate how good things can be when brothers (people) get along and live in unity.

We have seen our fair share of disunity in this world-we have seen it at school as a whole and between individuals. We have seen a church crumbled by disunity. Divorce today shows the ripple effect of disunity in the family. Friendships break up from disunity. Disunity is ALWAYS massively destructive.

Unity, by contrast, is a huge blessing. The question God challenges you and I with in this Psalm is: Will unity be our choice? When we are involved in an institution where disunity is arising, will we feed the disunity, or look for common ground to rebuild? When the day comes and you are in a marriage and you and your spouse disagree, will you fight until the death of the marriage to prove you are right, or instead, be willing to unselfishly give up your ‘rights’ to being ‘right’ for the sake of unity in marriage? Today or next year, when you and I disagree with a friend or family member, will we insist on having our own way and drive the wedge between us deeper, or pray and do whatever we must to mend the relationship. These are not easy choices, and our sinful nature will ALWAYS push us towards disunity. As members of God’s family and the church, let the Psalmist remind us today we can instead choose unity. By the power of the Holy Spirit, we can stop, consider how to be a peacemaker, and do whatever it takes. In the end, all will benefit and be blessed because of it.

Loading the dishwasher does matter…


I sent the family a group text today with a few requests to help us all adjust to living in the same house again. It is really just the basic reminder to clean up after ourselves. This may seem like just a  “mom” thing, but you know, it really is a “Christian” or even better “Christ-like” thing.  I would imagine most people don’t consider keeping a bathroom clean or putting dishes in the dishwasher a vital piece of their Christian walk, do they?

My reading of this week’s memory verse though reminds me it is.  Being Christ-like means we “serve” one another. We count others and what they desire as more important that what we desire. As we see in this verse, those who want to be great, are to be servants or slaves. That requires doing things for others.  This does not come naturally to any of us (except maybe dad, who models this better than anyone I know!) But it can become a part of who we are. It can become natural as we pray and seek to do this. I see you all doing this already when friends are over for dinner and you let them go first. When you choose not to brag about good grades to friends if/when you get them, this too is a means of not being “great”. It is right and Christ-like.  But we all have a long way we can go, especially in serving others.

Let’s look for those ways. Live out Matt 20:26-28. We have PLENTY of opportunities right in our own house- carrying something upstairs for another, saying a kind word or compliment, letting a sibling use the tv or watch the show they want without complaint. These are all “small” acts of putting others first,  that I believe are big in the eyes of God.

 

 

“Heed” the rod!

It is a gloriously sunny day today-thank goodness, but I want you to think back to a snowy day in the past. Mr. Bill and the school both have driveway snow poles they put in the ground so that when it snows, the plows know where the road ends, and the ground begins. It creates a border to help people stay on the road.

Those poles don’t hurt anyone, but they do protect the ground and possibly the drivers, depending on what is under the snow that they can not see. This is not a perfect analogy for the rod spoken of today in Micah, but it is a good mental picture. The rod in today’s verse, is the “rod” used by God and coming from wisdom to protect us. Sometimes, this “rod” is painful. Micah and God want us to listen. Listen to God. Listen to the wisdom of God whenever we can.

In Micah’s day, God had brought wisdom to his people time and time again through the mouths of prophets. They did not listen. It was very painful when they did not listen. He then brought the “rod” of judgment and correction-not something anyone would enjoy. This is because they did not listen initially. But, if they had humbled themselves to the “rod” when first encountered, that too, would have spared them more pain. They did not.

We can. God shares wisdom with us daily through His Word, messages, godly people in our lives and messages we can hear. We need to keep listening.  When we don’t, He will also correct us with a “rod”. He is protecting us from the dangers that lurk off that road, just like the orange snow poles. I know I seem to repeat myself time and time again, but it is that important. We must always keep in the forefront of our mind that God is For us. His wisdom and commands are for us, not to destroy us. For example, when we are told to be careful what our eyes see or to remain pure until marriage, listen and obey, because it is for our own good. It is for protection and future blessing, not to frustrate us. Listen, fear His name…and when we haven’t, let’s make sure we wisely heed the rod!

Introductions

When we go down to Liberty this weekend, we will see some of Jordan and Miriam’s good friends. I will recognize a few I have met, but others may need to be reintroduced to me. I would easily recognize Claire, SK, Corey and Nick. Others, I don’t know because I have never met them or only met them once like Cal or Quinn. I have not spent time with them and have no connection.

Sadly, God is in the second situation with his people today in the book of Amos. They have reached the sad, scary point, where they really don’t even know who God is anymore. In the past few prophets we have been reading (Isaiah, Hosea,  and Joel), God repeated over and over “I am the Lord your God.”  Notice at this point, in today’s verse, He actually has to tell them He is the creator  (mountains, wind) and all-knowing (reveals things) and more. Then, He tells them his name,  “Lord God Almighty.” He is introducing himself. They SHOULD know his name, but clearly they are so far from Him they don’t even know who He is. This is a sad state they are in. They literally don’t even recognize their own God.

I know Claire because she stayed here, and Corey because he joined us in Wildwood, at our house, and even at Liberty. I don’t really know Cal or Quinn because I have never done anything with them or really talked to them for any period of time.

We will or will not know God based on the same criteria: time spent together, communication and joint experiences.  We can be confident and deepen our relationship with God through these same means.  He has given us the Holy Spirit to “stay” with us forever. God communicates with us as often as we look at His Word.  We spend time with him when we walk through tough times and good times in faith. We have the luxury of clearly knowing our God as long as we continue to maintain our relationship with Him, spend time daily, hang out with “his friends” and keep communicating. May God NEVER have to introduce himself to us again!

Avoiding calamity

Calamity: An event causing great and often sudden damage or distress; a disaster.

Joel says our God is a god who “relents from sending calamity”.  Calamities in other versions reads: sending disaster, evil, punishment and chastisement. We learn from this verse two things: God does at times plan punishment or sudden disaster. We also learn from the verse that there are times that he “relents” or loosely translated, he is “willing to change his mind”. This is good news! We can ask that God would relent from sending calamities to us.

Joel reminded his people of this and reminds us as well. I also find it interesting that this week’s memory verse includes the word “calamity”. In this case, it tells us we will experience calamities. We are told in 2 Cor. 12:10, that Paul somehow was able to be content, for the sake of Christ, when he had to go through calamities. He was able to do this because he trusted and knew he would be made strong through them.

God can use calamities in our lives to strengthen us, and He can also decide to protect us from experiencing calamities. Either way, it will always be His decision. So, what part do we play?

This is where we can invest our energy in the first part of today’s verse and in Paul’s words. Rend our hearts-return to God from the heart, in those areas we have wandered. Look at where sin has crept into our lives.  Repent of it. Do everything possible to turn away from it in the hopes of God relenting from the punishment and consequences those sins may incur otherwise. When the calamities come upon us and have not been avoided, we are to hang onto God. Using every ounce of faith we have, trust that while we absolutely may not understand the “why”, He has chosen this path for us to strengthen us-despite all that we see, know and feel. We can still fully trust Him.