What a Mighty God We Serve!

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I used to have quite a collection of cassette tapes. (Remember those?) They made the days of running countless errands (before Amazon!) more entertaining for me and for my kids. I can still hear the perky kids’ tunes in my memory. One of the verses playing in my head this morning is an African folk song possibly recorded first by Hezekiah Walker. It goes like this:

  • What a mighty God we serve!
  • What a mighty God we serve!
  • Angels bow before him.
  • Heaven and earth adore him.
  • What a mighty God we serve!

It’s a good reminder, don’t you think? Sometimes the day ahead of us looks too big, too challenging, and we shrink back a bit as it begins. We need not, because we are facing it with a mighty God!

You know by now that I love the works of Hannah Whitall Smith. In The Christian’s Secret of a Happy Life, she lists a dozen Bible based reminders of how mighty our God is, how very much he cares about us, and how his might and care affect our daily lives:

  • Not a sparrow falls to the ground outside of his care.
  • The very hairs of our head are numbered.
  • We’re commanded to cease all worry, because our Father cares for us.
  • We’re not to avenge ourselves, because our Father will defend us.
  • We have no reason to fear, for God is on our side.
  • No one can be against us, because he is for us.
  • We lack nothing, because he is our Shepherd.
  • He shuts the mouths of lions, quenches flames, delivers us and rescues us.
  • Kings and rulers come and go according to his will.
  • He rules the wind and waves.
  • He thwarts the plans of nations.
  • He does whatever pleases him in the heavens and on the earth.

I hope you are facing only pleasant things today. But if, like most of us, you will meet challenges before the evening comes, be encouraged. Let your heart cry out before every difficulty, “What a mighty God we serve!”

(And if you’d like to be reminded of that fact by a choir of children’s voices, check out Cedarmont Kids here.)

 

 

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God’s World (by Beth Smith)

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We can get pretty depressed about our planet earth. Nearly every day something happens that causes me to shake my head and wonder, “How did the world get so crazy?” God didn’t create the mess it’s in now. Sin has done that, through man. We can dwell on the negative aspects of our world, or we can proclaim God’s ownership—of the world, of our lives, and of our circumstances. How do we begin?

  • A young boy once told his dad, “I know what the Bible stands for.”
  • The father answered, “Oh, really? Can you tell me?”
  • The boy replied, “BIBLE – Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth.”

Cute, but also true. We begin to place our world in God’s hands by relying on his Word. Here’s an example of what he tells us to do.

“Let the whole earth sing to the Lord! Each day proclaim the good news that he saves. Tell everyone about the amazing things he does. The world is firmly established and cannot be shaken. Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice! Tell all the nations that the Lord is king. Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good!” (I Chronicles 16, abridged).

That’s our response to God.  And what’s God’s response to the world?

“For God so loved and dearly prized the world that He even gave up His only begotten son, so that whoever believes in, trusts in, clings to, and relies on Him shall not perish, come to destruction or be lost, but shall have everlasting life. For God did not send the Son into the world in order to judge, reject, condemn or pass sentence on the world, but that the world might find salvation and be made safe and sound through Him” (John 3:16-17 AMP).

Let’s embrace his love, mercy, forgiveness, and grace. If you’ve never done that, you can do it today. I did it one Monday morning many years ago after all my young children were off to school. Alone in the house at the foot of my bed, I became one of the “whosoever believes” people talked about in John 3:16. It has made all the difference. Let’s put him at the center of our worlds. Let God be in charge and in control. Try it. You’ll love it.

I love the old hymn “This Is My Father’s World,” written by Maltbie D. Babcock in 1901. The last verse reads:

This is my Father’s world, O let me ne’er forget
That though the wrong seems oft so strong,
God is the ruler yet.
This is my Father’s world; why should my heart be sad?
The Lord is King; let the heavens ring!
God reigns; let the earth be glad.

I pray that this truth will make us glad this week.

 

Keep Austin Weird

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Georgetown is a far northern almost-suburb of Austin. A few months ago, I stepped out of an elevator and found myself face to face with a friendly woman wearing a bright pink T-shirt emblazoned with the words, “Keep Georgetown normal.” That’s not what most people say around here. The T-shirts I’m more likely to see say, “Keep Austin Weird.”

Yes, my friends, that’s the slogan for my new hometown! Does it mean I must be weird to live here? Probably. Truth be told, we’re all a little weird. I’ve heard a couple of great sermons lately reminding me that, in some ways, we’ve been called to be weird:

Give away money—even if the budget is tight. Who knows how God may use your “widow’s mite”? And many times, when we give, we get to see how God provides for our needs anyway. I’ve been reading about George Muller and the miraculous way he provided for thousands of orphans without ever asking anyone for money.

Give away time—even though life is busy. There’s time enough to do all God wants us to do. (Of course, we may be caught up in a few time-consuming pleasantries that aren’t really part of his plan. I have to keep looking for those and weeding them out.)

Forgive—even when there’s no apology. Apologize—even when it’s awkward. Forgiveness isn’t a suggestion. It’s a command. Bitter grudges only harm us and dim the joy God has for us. If our bodies kept every bruise we ever received, think what a physical mess we’d all be. In the same way, imagine the mess that would come from holding on to every hurt inflicted on our inner selves.

Submit to authority—even when we don’t agree. (I don’t mean we should submit to sin or sinful edicts, of course.) Silent submission may require great strength and courage. The Bible is full of ways God has honored this: Daniel, David, Joseph, Sarah…

Speak with kindness and respect—even when we’re angry. Perhaps this is what “In your anger do not sin” means for many of us.

So, as I close, I’m wondering if there’s a market for T-shirts that say, “Keep Believers Weird.” No? In that case, I hope you’ll simply keep that slogan in the back of your mind this week, smiling as you follow Christ—even if that makes you weird.

 

These Are a Few of My Favorite Things!

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This week, I’d like to share a few favorites with you.

 

 

 

 

Recent sermon:

“Guardrails of the Heart” Ky Faciane, Bannockburn Baptist Church 2/18/18. Listen here.  (If you’re short on time, start at minute 15.)

Recent Movie:

Wonder. Read about it here.

Older Movie:

The Kid. (The Bruce Willis one, no offense to Christ Pratt, who stars in a movie with the same title.)

Recent Book:

Skirting Tradition by Kay Moser (Fun fiction available here.)

Older Book:

All things written by Hannah Whitall Smith.  Here are a few of her wonderful words:

  • The presence of God is the fortress of his people.
  • What is within us makes or unmakes our joy.
  • Pay no attention to your feelings as a test of your relationship with God, but simply attend to the state of your will and of your faith
  • Never, under any circumstances, give way for one single moment to doubt or discouragement.

New Habit: At least 20 minutes of sunshine every day possible.

Old Recipe: Don’t Knock It ‘Til You’ve Tried It Breakfast Smoothie (For the first time in my life, I don’t get hungry until lunch.)

Into a blender add:

  • 1 ½ cups almond or soy milk
  • 3-4 cups of loosely packed baby spinach
  • 1 banana (unfrozen)
  • 2 T baking cocoa
  • 1-2 T ground flaxseed or chia
  • 2 pitted dates or 1 T honey
  • 1 T vanilla
  • 1 ½ –2 cups frozen blueberries

Blend thoroughly. Serves 2.

Tip: Blend together everything except the berries in the evening and refrigerate. Add the berries the next morning and blend again.

Okay, your turn! What are some of your favorites?

 

Secret Shopper

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It was only a table, well, two tables actually, and their matching chairs. The kitchen set was worn out by two childhoods’ worth of homework and supper, birthday parties and art projects. At the dining room table, family dinners once melted into lingering conversations, multiple generations swapping stories and sharing laughter.

Those tables don’t fit in our new home. Their replacements, chosen through long pleasant hours of shopping with Steve, are truly lovely. After months of navigating a garage clogged with cast-offs, I knew the Salvation Army truck was sorely overdue. But I still cried. My tears were happy and sad and unexpected. They surprised me, because I didn’t know that sticks of wood could mean so much.

I walked outside and headed two doors down, where Nick saw me right away. He waved and said, “Hi, Nana!” His mom, having already seen the truck, asked how I was feeling about parting with my longtime belongings. Love. Compassion. Understanding. They comforted me. Soon I was almost as good as new.

Someone around you is holding back tears today. You can’t see their emotion. You don’t know their struggle. Chances are that person is hiding it all rather well. ‘Could be over something as simple as a table or something far more serious. Often the people who need our love, our compassion, and our understanding are the ones we least suspect. So, the only answer is to offer it to everyone. A tall order? Yes, but one I believe pleases our Lord.   

Sultan and the Frisbee

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Since I’ve asked you to share some of your miraculous moments (and please keep them coming), I thought I’d tell you one of my own today.

We were still newlyweds, and hadn’t lived in that first house in northwest Houston for very long. Homeownership was a both a blessing and a burden.

·       We had a big yard, but finding time to cut the grass was a bit of a challenge.

·       We had a dog, Springer, who, despite turning out to be half the size the pound said she would be, brought us great joy for over a decade and a half.

·       And we had terrific neighbors, two of whom had the coolest dogs we had ever seen. (Sorry, Springer!) Steve got his “big dog fix” across the street.

Prince and Sultan were jet black Belgian sheepdogs, gorgeously groomed and perfectly trained. They were also very well fed. One winter weekend, their owners went out of town. We volunteered to care for the dogs in their absence. We learned to prepare the rather complicated meals to which those pampered pooches were accustomed, placing several ingredients into each dog dish and then squishing them together by hand. (Fortunately, Steve didn’t mind. I kept my hands clean.)

The neighbors left. We fed the dogs. Then we stayed outside playing Frisbee until well after sundown. Back inside, washing up for our own late dinner, Steve realized his wedding band was missing. His first thought, of course, was that it might have become an unplanned addition to the dog food. This was not a pleasant thought in any way shape or form, as by then the dog dishes were licked clean. Then we thought about the Frisbee game.

The grass was a bit longer than usual at the time. And rings can be a bit loose on chilly nights. Had that precious bit of gold been flung who-knows-where into the yard? Although beginning to search felt like a needle in a haystack impossibility, we pulled out a flashlight and prayed. God used the very next moment to teach us that he cares about every detail of our lives. No prayer is too big, too small, or too difficult for him. Steve turned the flashlight toward the lawn and there, right there, in the first spot the spotlight lit, was his wedding band. Enough said!