Family Traditions

This week, during our e-learning adventures, I worked with my first grader on social studies. Cultures, customs, and traditions were in the lesson, and I had to laugh at the family tradition he chose to write about.

Taco Tuesday.

This kid L O V E S tacos. And he REALLY loves taco Tuesday at our house. Have you ever heard the song “It’s raining tacos”? Yeah, it’s a regular over here.

Anyway, his write up on Taco Tuesday was great – except one small detail. Taco Tuesday doesn’t fit into the definition of a tradition: a custom that is passed down through the generations over time. 

Now, if my son eventually makes tacos with his kids on Tuesdays, BAM, this custom is now a tradition! And I’d be a proud mama to pass that down.

Although, not quite David/Solomon level of traditions we have recorded in the Bible…

From an early age, David declared not just the power of God, but the power in his NAME! When standing against Goliath he says “you come with sword and spear, and I come in the name of the Lord”.

In Psalms, David says “may the name of the God of Jacob defend you“. He goes on to worship and sing praises to the name of God and call on the name of God.

There IS power in the name of the Lord! This power continues with the name of Jesus. Praying in his name, miracles in his name, POWER in the name of Jesus.

I’m guessing that King David not only wrote down about this power and strength that the name of the Lord carries, but he also shared his testimonies with his family. His real life experiences of God’s protection while battling Goliath, running from Saul, and everything in between. He shared how the Lord was his refuge and strong tower against his enemies, passing down to the generations the protection that the name of the Lord provides. I can picture them worshipping the name of the Lord together as a family. What a legacy!

Proverbs 18 records David’s son, King Solomon, penning this very same thing. The name of the Lord is a strong tower, the righteous run to it.  His name protects us, shields us, secures us. David believed it, Solomon believed it, and generations later, we believe it. We rely on it. I’m so grateful to be part of the family of God with these truths passed down from generation to generation!

Thirst Quencher

When you’re thirsty, which beverage sounds the most quenching? Is it situational?

For me: First thing in the morning, cold tap water, then sparkling water. After working in the yard, beer (and when I was very young my grandma always had Orange Fanta ready after I cut her lawn). Throughout the day, flavored sparkling water. When I was a youngster playing golf, I loved lemonade or Vernors (ginger ale) with ice and a lemon. Fitness, a sport bottle that quickly launches a steady stream of cool water down my throat. Ahh….

Typing this brings back some great memories, quenching thirst with friends and family.

What do you thirst in life? Peace, balance, fun, joy, laughter, friendship, love, success, healing, wealth, rest, sleep?

One prayer on my heart, “my thirst” has been to find another brother in Christ in/near the city where we live. Perhaps there was some doubt that this would happen anytime soon because when it did happen I admit to being shocked. What other prayers do we pray with seemingly full faith but as time passes we begin to doubt? Keep on praying and trusting!

Trust in the Lord with all your heart
    and lean not on your own understanding; (Proverbs 3:5)

My new friend Francesco is already a great blessing as we discuss and give praise to God; this is true living water. When I think about all of the earthly things that I seek, none are greater than being in alignment with my creator and seeing him work and move in my life and in those around me. All of that wonderful sparkling water in the world will never compare to the thirst quenching of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. He promises it; may our words, thoughts and actions reflect our belief in his promises.

13 Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (John 4:13-14)

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled. (Matthew 5:6)

Teacher

Did you like school growing up?  Some years were better than others, but overall I remember generally liking school.  Often times whether the year was good or bad simply depended on the teacher I was assigned.  I had one or two with whom I never really made a good connection, a few that made the class tons of fun, and a few that truly inspired me to excellence / to love the subject matter / to love learning.  Inspiring teachers had a lasting impact on my life by getting me to engage in the learning process.

During the season of remote learning we are currently enduring, one of the things my kids are missing out on is the opportunity to connect with others, in person, on a daily basis.  Personal interaction enhances friendships and I am convinced it enhances learning.  While my kids’ teachers are doing all they can to increase the effectiveness of remote learning plans, it cannot completely replace the value of personal interaction.  These teachers don’t have the same ability to influence the lives of their students because it is so much harder to get students excited about/engaged in learning when you never see them in person.  It is sad, both the students and teachers are missing out!

Merriam-Webster defines teacher as, a person who helps students to acquire knowledge, competence or virtue (conformity to a standard of right).  This is a pretty high standard.  Every teacher who had a lasting impact on my life took this responsibility seriously.

In the New Testament, Jesus was often called, Rabbi or teacher.  He helped his followers acquire knowledge and conform to the ways of the Lord.  He inspired his followers to engage in the learning process and thereby had the opportunity to make a lasting impact on their lives.

Do you consider Jesus a teacher?  Are you allowing him to guide and influence your life through personal interaction?  While Jesus is not physically present, by accepting him and Savior and Lord, the Holy Spirit will come and live in your heart.  He will be with you always.

An inspiring teacher + a willing learner = life change

 

 

Glorious Sword

Deuteronomy 33:29 Blessed are you, Israel! Who is like you, a people saved by the Lord? He is your shield and helper and your glorious sword. Your enemies will cower before you, and you will tread on their heights.

Today’s name of Jesus is “glorious sword“. Swords are primarily a symbol of warfare used to kill and destroy. This brings pictures of gladiator fights and bloody wars from Braveheart to Ben Hur. If I have ever used a sword it was made out of foam and my kids were involved.  There is no one in this world that I would use a sword against. I am a peaceful person and never want to hurt anyone…especially with a sword! So barbaric!

But 1 Peter 5:8 reminds me that there is an adversary and an enemy that seeks to destroy me. “Be careful! Watch out for attacks from the Devil, your great enemy. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for some victim to devour.” I am defenseless against this enemy without the glorious sword of Jesus. This sword is more powerful than any physical sword. The sword of the spirit is the word of God. When thoughts of worthlessness are creeping in…..wield His glorious sword! When tempted to give in or give up….wield His Glorious sword! When the darkness starts to crowd out the light….wield His Glorious sword and trust that you are victorious through Jesus. There is power in our proclaiming His name and allowing his glorious sword to fight for us.

Ephesians 6:12 “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms”.

Dear Heavenly Father~I pray that we would have faith to wield your Glorious Sword in the midst of our daily lives. Help us to battle against the lies of this world with the truth of your word. Thank you for fighting for us and giving us victory. Amen

Sustainer

Last week I was attempting to play some street hockey with my kids. As I was trying to go down the driveway, my stick gets stuck in to a gap between the driveway and road. As the end of the hockey stick jabbed me in the stomach, my feet went as high as my head, landing on my hand, then elbow, and then shoulder. My body and pride took a hit as the kids expected me to hop right back up like they usually do. I thought…

 In about a month, I will be turning 45.  Now some may say, “That’s old!”  Or some may say, “That’s young.”  or some may say, “ I’m right there with you.”  Wherever you land or, in my case, physically land, Jennifer was quick to remind me of my age and need for me to be injury-free in our household.  

I tell you this story to help you to reflect on our verses today.  These were the verses I read that night as I secretly rubbed my should and applied a little ice. Bothe verses connect with our word for today.  Sustain. When you look up the word sustainer, you will discover names like carrying, upholding, supporting, keeping from falling, or enduring.

 

Isaiah 46:4 even to your old age I am he, and to gray hairs I will carry you. I have made, and I will bear; I will carry and will save you.

 

Those who trust in the Lord can believe and have an assurance that He will sustain us through it all.  That day I had physically fallen, but the Lord picked me up and supported me.  At work, I had a plan not happen as planned.  This is where I  mentally fell.   I was talking to a family member who is on the verge of a divorce.  I spiritually fell after thinking of the prayers we had said.  Our Lord picked us right back up.  

Where have you fallen? Is it physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually? 

 Our Lord is here to carry, support, and endure anything the world throws at us or takes out from under our feet.  Are you worried a little today about anything? Let’s change it.  

 

David reminds us in 

Psalm 55:22  Cast your cares on the Lord and He will sustain you; He will never let the righteous be shaken. 

Are you trying to do it on your own? So maybe its the impact of COVID, a position at work, dealing with family, a recent failure? Whatever it may be.  Trust in the Lord.  He is our sustainer.  

Unspoken ~ You’ve Always Been

You’ve been my Savior, Sustainer when I’m at my end. My Healer, Redeemer, again and again, My Mother and my Father, Brother, Sister, and friend and everything I’ve needed Lord, You’ve always been everything I’ve needed Lord, You’ve always been

 

My Support

Today’s Reading: 2 Samuel 22:19; Psalms 18:22

From the day that we were born we are supported by many individuals in our life: our mother, our father, our family, our friends, our spouses, our children, our teachers, and our community. We learn how to interact with each other and how to support each other from these relationships.  There is a complexity that surrounds these simple relationships.  The very nature of our relationships have us to depend on someone else with blind trust that can be either enhanced or destroyed.  There are many times in our lives that our main support systems sometimes do not have 100% support for us.

For instance, when we are babies, our parents be able to provide the proper nourishment for us through breast milk or inability to produce or lack of funds to purchase formula. But God provides us and them with required amount of nourishment.   

Another example is when we are having our friend support us and our friends cannot understand the true complexity of what we are asking them to do.  They may not be able to fully support us and that leaves us wanting more. 

Another example is in marriage, your spouse may support you in 99% of the things that you want them to support you but there is a one percent chance that they will not completely support you in every aspect that you are needing. 

Another example is with children,  we will support them in their development and sometimes they support us later in life and they may not be able to for fill those needs 100%. 

In all of the these examples we see that in these important and meaningful relationships we are supported and are cared, but these relationships will not provide 100% of the needed support.  That is where we have a benevolent father who is able to provide support for us 100% of the time. He is unlike our human counterparts which we love and cherish, God is able to give us 100%  support 100% of the time throughout eternity.

We may not be able to see his full support but he is there to support us through the good times, the bad times ,the hard times, the challenging times, the difficult times, the crying times, and the laughing times we go through in this life.

In these two passages, these are the exact same words verse by verse.  This is one of the first semi-autobiographical accounts of the Bible.  The words that are used in the psalms that David wrote in Psalm 18 is echoed from 2 Samuel.   This is the last testament, declaration and prayer of David. This is at the end of his life. He has gone from being the youngest and smallest son of Jesse, living the life of a shepherd to being the King over all of Israel and Judah. The life of David live was one from our human perspective was full of complexities and strife and joys.  From a human perspective David’s life could be seen as one where he has risen to glory and “fallen out grace”.  From God’s perspective, God in his infinite mercy and grace has given him resolution and absolution from his sins. 

Throughout David’s life he had many supports: his father, Saul, Jonathan, his wives, his children. But at the end of his life he acknowledges that throughout his entire life the only main support that he had throughout endless times and that saved him many times was God.   The entire life and story of David is one that cannot be retold here in a few words.  David’s life is one that is truly defines how an open and trusting relationship with God can be transformational.  Take an opportunity to review David’s life in I & II Samuel.  If you take the opportunity to read through I & II Samuel and the Psalms, you will see how many areas of his life were broken; how many areas of his life that were fallen; how many areas his life were tragic; but in the mist of everything he was supported by God because he loved God, he knew God’s heart, and he knew that he was a true child of God. And he knew that God’s promises to him were 100% accurate and 100% truthful.

To many times in our lives we try to get support from our loved ones, but sometimes the support that we get and the support that we can give may not be 100% percent of what that person needs and so they feel something lacking.  This is the area where we need to know that God has our support God is our support and he gives it freely.

Prayer: Dear Heavenly Father, please allow us to look to you in the mist of our lives, in the mist of our days, in the mist of our troubles, and find you are there as our eternal support.   Heavenly Father thank you for being our eternal support. Thank you for allowing us to ask you for whatever needs we have and you will be our support. Amen

Sun

It is hard to imagine our lives without electricity.  Can you imagine your evenings and early mornings without a light bulb?  The only true light that existed before electricity and the light bulb was the SUN.  When the sun went down it got dark.  The best you could do back then was make a fire, light some candles, and wait for tomorrow when the sun would return.  

There are many scriptures that suggest Jesus is a SUN.  The sun in nature is the source of light, life, warmth, beauty, and fruitfulness.  God is Light against darkness.  

For the Lord God is a sun and shield;  the Lord bestows favor and honor;  no good thing does he withhold from those whose walk is blameless.

Psalms 84:11

The sun is our ultimate source of physical light and warmth.  Without it we would starve and freeze to death.  It is essential to life here on planet earth.  

Do you know the feeling of being inside, usually a Dr office or a commercial building, and being totally freezing because the air conditioner is cranked to the lowest setting?  And then walking outside and feeling the sun penetrate your skin and immediately warm you up?  It feels so good!  

God is the sun.  He warms us even on the coldest and cloudy days.  On the days when life is hard and everything seems difficult, He is there.  You may not feel the rays and the warmth every single day,  but the sun is still there.  It is up to us to believe that He is working in us and through us for our good.

Then, there are also times of trial when it seems the sun has totally disappeared and we don’t see the sun.  The sense of the Lord’s presence does not feel near.  Thankfully, our lives are not built around feelings.  We have the promise that God is near.  

The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth.

Psalms 145:18

We relish in the days when the presence of the Lord feels real to our hearts.  These days are delightful.  

Our Lord is a Sun.  A bright and glorious sun to brighten our lives.  He warms us with His love.  Fills our very beings with His presence.  And, sometimes withdraws His face from our lives.  But, we have the promise that He is working all things for the good of those who love Him.

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

Romans 8:28

Stronghold

We recently stayed with my wife’s family while traveling, and while praying over a meal, her stepmom specifically asked “that Satan would have no hold here,” which has been on my mind since. In the line of Philippians 4:6, we experience the power of prayer in our home all the time, and have seen how God answers our constant pleas for help with worry, anxiety, and freedom from sin. But this one line in our family prayer got me thinking about finding complacency in God’s protection. It’s a trap I occasionally find myself falling into: that feeling of security and protection leads to me being lax in focusing on God, which the deceiver can so adeptly slip through. It’s nice to have those occasional reminders of our need for vigilance. It’s as 1 Peter 5:8 says: “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”

In all ways the devil can attack us, God offers protection. 2 Samuel 22:3 says “my stronghold and my refuge, my savior; you save me from violence.” Or Psalm 9:9, “The Lord is a stronghold for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble.” Or Psalm 27:1 – “The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear; The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?” Though his evil may constantly hound us, God offers no sway to the deceiver. In times of turmoil, our God is our stronghold, our impenetrable fortress to hold against any siege. In all times, Satan can find a hold on our hearts if we let our guards down and try to find safety and security in our own means. It happens to me time and time again, as will everyone else admit to sometimes: it just seems to be our prideful nature that lets us believe we’re doing ok and don’t need any help. But as time and time again have shown… no, we can’t. Only in God, our stronghold, comes victory over evil. It requires embodying such reminders as James 4:7, “submit yourselves to God; resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” Or as Paul says in Ephesians 4:27, “give no opportunity to the devil.” Those constant prayers for no holds for the devil, that reliance on Biblical foundations, on God’s power over evil are where our hope lies.

When a stronghold is well-maintained and well-stocked, it can outlast sieges from even the largest of armies over extended periods of time. But our enemy has been telling lies and spreading for far longer than we’ve been around. When we try to build our own defenses against the sadness and pain of this world on our own, surely Satan will find a way to tear them down. But God is our perfect stronghold, our defense, our shelter; when we surrender our lives to His calling, He upholds His promise of guidance through the pain and oppression and times of trouble this sinful, broken world besieges us with. 2 Thessalonians 3:3 says it well: “the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen you and protect you from the evil one.” Only in God will we find a safety and a home that stretches beyond this life & overcomes death. As Paul says, we must be watchful; always reliant on God, always focused on a pure heart of service towards Him that we may give the devil no hold. Today, I implore you to extend this prayer we shared with your own families: that God would be your stronghold against the evils of this world, that He would protect your hearts and minds from the many lies of Satan, keeping hearts devoted to Christ that would make the devil flee in terror.

Strength

I must be very transparent in that as I’m writing this we are wrapping up what was supposed to be a relaxing weekend getaway with my wife’s family to Grafton, IL and while it was a great time with them..I’m still tired. I’m not refreshed and recharged like I hoped. Don’t get me wrong, I’m very thankful that many of the recent events have not directly affected my family negatively. My prayers go out those who have been directly affected my all the crazy stuff going on in our world. When I say I’m tired…I mean I’m tired of all the sin and evil every day with so many bad things happening which also seems amplified in the news. Yes…we have had conflict since sin came into the world through the Fall and we always will until Jesus returns, but it seems as though the level of divisiveness is extremely high right now. At times I just sigh and long for us to do as Jesus directed us in John 15:12, “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.”

As Jon wrote about last week https://www.biblejournal.net/2020/09/11/200-trillion-decisions/ , we make about 35,000 decisions a day. And while that can be tiring enough, it seems as though every decision we make, or don’t make, is under a magnifying glass as political or social statement these days which there also doesn’t seem to be a perceived difference right now. You are either for something or against it. If you say one thing on one side of a social or political issue..or even don’t say anything at all…you’re labeled an extremist for or against it. Even a decision whether or not to wear a mask, or what’s on the mask, seems to make an unintended statement someone may not agree with. There’s also the whole social media animal which I used to love to keep up with friends and their families. Then, there’s sports and movies. And while I’m not going to say that athletes or entertainers should be silent on issues in our world which they can potentially help make a positive impact where needed, I must admit I miss the days where we could watch a game or movie to get away from the stresses of the world without everything and everyone making a statement on something. In fact, I’m concerned as I write this that I’m going to offend someone by this prior sentence. That they might think this means I don’t care about these issues athletes and entertainers are speaking and acting on and thus I’m making a stance for or against something. Crazy, isn’t it? Please don’t misunderstand and judge me. Again, I’m not. I am just saying again I’m tired…and sports and movies were something to watch and attend as a respite for weariness..a medium to get away so to speak..and to forget about everything else in the world for a couple hours and get re-energized.

Again, I’m very blessed, and this is minor in comparison to the direct challenges others are facing due to the issues we see in the news everyday or just the everyday financial, relationship, and health challenges others are facing to name a few. I’m just being transparent with the fact that I’m feeling drained right now. Author Jon Gordon writes about staying away from energy vampires. I feel like the present times we are in are like one big energy vampire. A weekend getaway with family, scanning social media to see what friends and their families are up to, sports, and movies are not refreshing to me.

That brings me to my personal lesson in reading today’s verses and my assignment to write on which is the Lord being our “strength.” It seems as though He’s speaking to me through this topic that my relationship with Him has an opportunity to grow to look to Him to re-charge and for strength and not to the idols of this world in our everyday lives. This is the ‘what’ so to speak..I need to reflect more on the ‘how’..although their are simple steps like more time in prayer (speaking with Him), His Word (listening to Him), and worship (praising Him for His saving grace on the cross and all He’s done for me).

Please take a few moments to read the below verses and if you are just plain tired like me, reflect on if you need to turn more to your relationship with Him, and not to other idols, for strength.  Pray on how you can do so as well. As Psalm 73:26 says, when He is our strength, He is our portion. He fills us up…forever.

“I love you, O Lord, my strength.”

Psalm 18:1

“The Lord is my strength and my shield; in Him my heart trusts, and I am helped; my heart exults, and with my song I give thanks to Him.”

Psalm 28:7

“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.”

Psalm 46:1

“My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”

Psalm 73:26

 

Stone that the Builder Rejected

 

1Peter 2:7

 

My level of frustration in the current reporting and news cycles continues to grow. Truth is so hard to find and identify in all of the talk. It seems that everyone has an agenda and reports to their desired end. On just about any given topic you can find people earnestly arguing with opposing facts. How can the average listener find the truth? How do we weed out the untruths in a report and find the nuggets that actually are true?

1 Peter 2 tell us that some people will stumble over Christ because they reject Him or refuse to believe He is who He says he is. I understand the fear and confusion of falling for an untruth. None of us wants to be in the position of aligning ourselves with someone and later finding out that the person has been dishonest about his character or personhood. People will always let us down at some point. No human is perfect. Jesus is the only “spotless lamb”, blameless, perfect, absolute truth. 1 Pet 2:7 says,” You who trust Him recognize the honor God has given Him. But for those who reject Him, the stone that the builders rejected has become the corner stone.” The One that people couldn’t believe in, is actually the most important One of God’s church. He is completely trustworthy, precious to all believers, and the foundation of the church.

In Eph. Paul talks about the church as “the body” of Christ. Jesus is the “head” and each believer is another member of the body. Here in 1 Pet., Peter tells us that the church is a living, spiritual temple, where Jesus is the foundation and cornerstone, and each believer is another stone in the building. These word pictures help us to understand, in a clear and simple way, how the church is supposed to function because of who Jesus is. He is the foundation because He gave His life to make a way for us to have relationship with God. We cannot be in God’s presence unless we are washed clean and made pure. We have no way to make ourselves pure. It is impossible for us to do on our own. So Jesus took our place and paid our cost with His own blood, His life for ours so we can live in relationship with God. Using Peter’s analogy, without Jesus there is no cornerstone or foundation for the church. Let’s take the analogy a bit farther. One stone does not make a building or even a wall. One stone is kind of useless on it’s own. It takes many stones to make a building…many believers to make the church. We should remember especially now in this super isolated time of living, that we need other believers. In our individualistic society, it’s is easy to depend on ourselves instead of remembering that He built the church on interdependence between Christians. The notes in my Bible say about this passage, “When God calls you to a task, remember that He is also calling others to work with you. Together your individual efforts will be multiplied.” Beautiful!