God With Us

God With Us

I think I’m finally starting to get what God is really up to. Even after 40 years of being a Christian and reading the Bible nearly every day of those 40 years, I’m just beginning to understand God a little bit more. It’s all there in Matthew 1:23, “Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us” KJV. The first part of the verse is from Isaiah’s prophecy about Jesus Christ 700 years before His birth, but Matthew tagged on the words, God with us.” He didn’t want us to miss this extremely important announcement.

I love Psalm 37:23, “The LORD directs the steps of the godly. He delights in every detail of their lives” NLT. It doesn’t just say He knows about the details of our lives, but He also delights in the details of our lives. Jesus said, “But even the very hairs of your head are all numbered” Luke 12:7 KJV. Notice He didn’t say, “God has your hair strands counted.” He has them inventoried and has assigned a number to each one of them! (For me it’s more like He knows how many hairs I used to have on my head).

Some people pray about everything from lost car keys to the color of shoes they should buy. Other people feel God is only interested in hearing prayers concerning serious issues like poverty, war, disease and the economy. They feel He is too busy with big world events to bother with our little daily problems. I’m sure praying about what color carpet we should use in the church sanctuary may not be on the same level of priority to God as the atrocity of child soldiers in South Sudan, but His Word clearly tells us that He is interested in the events of our everyday lives. Listen to what David, the psalmist said, “O LORD, you have examined my heart and know everything about me. You know when I sit down or stand up. You know my thoughts even when I’m far away. You see me when I travel and when I rest at home. You know everything I do. You know what I am going to say even before I say it, LORD. You go before me and follow me. You place your hand of blessing on my head. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too great for me to understand! I can never escape from your Spirit! I can never get away from your presence! You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed. How precious are your thoughts about me, O God. They cannot be numbered! I can’t even count them; they outnumber the grains of sand! And when I wake up, you are still with me!” Psalm 139:1-8, 16-18 NLT.

I’m not trying to trivialize God Almighty, but His desire has always been to hang out with us ever since His daily strolls through the garden with Adam and Eve. My best friend Dan lives in Canada. I’ve known him since I was 18 years old. He visits me in Pittsburgh twice a year. When he visits, he wants to know all the details of my immediate and even my extended family. He is like a member of our family. He is as much at home in Pittsburgh as he is in his hometown in Canada. He loves to know everything that’s happening with me, my family and my city. God is the same way. He delights in the details of our lives. Emmanuel means God is with us. He promised us that He would never leave us or forsake us. He said, “When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you” Isaiah 43:2 NLT.

There are scientists called Astronomers who study the vastness of the universe. Equally important are those scientists who study nothing but micro-organisms. Likewise, God is fully aware of what’s happening with all of the galaxies and planets and He is equally aware of things so tiny that they are invisible to the human eye. The Bible says, “In Him we live and move and have our being.” There is nothing outside of God. There is no universe that is beyond Him, nor any micro-organism too small for Him to see. My point is, He can handle the big stuff in the universe and on planet earth, as well as the small stuff in our daily lives.

I know we were made to bring Him glory. I also know we are to serve His will, and not the other way around. I understand that He wants to be Lord of our lives and we are created for His pleasure. But for some reason He enjoys the details of our lives, and that brings Him glory and pleasure. He actually wants to go to work with us each day. He even wants to workout at the gym with us. He likes to sit with us as we cuddle with our spouse. He desires to live with us in our home. He enjoys riding with us in our car, bicycle, boat, or motorcycle. He will run that 5K race with you if you invite Him to. God goes where He is invited. What should our response be to this good news that God is with us? The Bible tells us to, “Open up, ancient doors, and let the King of glory enter” Psalm 24:7 NLT. We only need to welcome the King of Glory into our daily lives. Come on in Jesus! Come in to my heart, my home, my family, my job, my finances, and my life! Oh by the way, if He can locate a lost axe head by making it float on the water (see 2 Kings 6:5-7), He can help you find your lost cars keys too.

The Bucket List

 

The Bucket List

I recently unpacked some old VHS family movies that had been in storage for years. Some of them dated back twenty eight years. My wife and my grown daughters got a kick out of watching the videos again after so many years. I think it’s so cool that my adult daughters can see themselves as children. Even my grandson’s enjoyed watching their mother and aunt when they were exactly the same age as my grandsons are right now. I wasn’t in a lot of the movies because I was usually the one holding the camera. There were still some brief moments that I was caught on camera when obviously someone else was recording. I noticed a disturbing transformation in me as the years passed on each video. No, I’m not talking about how I gained weight and lost more hair with each video! That was disturbing, but I noticed a trend occurring that bothered me even more. Each progressing year revealed a less joyful, less patient, and a little meaner me. The evidence was undeniable. It was all captured on video and staring me in the face. I was guilty.

Viewing my gradual downward transformation on those old VHS tapes caused me to do some serious soul-searching. What made me less happy, impatient, and unkind to people; especially to my immediate family? I came to the conclusion that I allowed the cares of everyday life choke and squeeze the sweetness out of me. Allowing the weight of the world to take up residence on my shoulders made me an unhappy camper. I became so focused on my career, paying bills, fixing the house, repairing the car, and keeping up appearances, that I lost sight of what and who was most important in my life. It’s not that I didn’t love my family, I just didn’t appreciate them like I should have and realize how incredibly blessed I was.   

Tim McGraw’s song “Live Like You Were Dying” tells of a man who has been given a fatal diagnosis and suddenly realizes what’s important in life. He talks about doing a few things he has always been afraid of doing like skydiving, Rocky Mountain climbing, and riding a bull named Fu Manchu. But he get down to the deeper matters of the heart like loving deeper, speaking sweeter, and giving forgiveness previously denied. He goes on to tell about the other transformations in his life like finally becoming the husband that most of the time he wasn’t, and becoming a friend that a friend would love to have. His hope is that everyone would get the chance to live like they were dying.

A movie starring Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman called “The Bucket List,” was about two terminally ill men who escape from a cancer ward and head off on a road trip with a wish list of things they want to do before they die. They have some great adventures together but come to the understanding that their family and friendships are what’s most important. I have a bucket list that includes some travel and fun experiences but one thing I must do is taste that coffee Jack Nicholson described in the movie as “the rarest beverage in the world,” referring to Kopi Luwak or “civet coffee.” This coffee is made from coffee cherries eaten by and then passed through the digestive tract of the Asian Palm Civet.  The beans are then collected, processed, and medium roasted to enhance its complex flavors. I would love to taste this cat poop coffee! I hear it’s wonderful. But priced between $200 and $600 a pound, I don’t see me having a sip anytime soon.

I have a few things selfish things on my bucket list that I want to do like go to Ireland and own a Harley Davidson motorcycle. I really don’t have any desire to go skydiving and I can assure you I’m never going to ride a bull. Even if the bull is named “Gentle Ben,” I’m not getting near him! However, at the top of my list is what the man experienced in Tim McGraw’s song: to love deeper, speak sweeter, to generously give forgiveness, to finally become the husband that most of the time I wasn’t, and to be a friend that a friend would love to have.

I believe our bucket list accomplishments really boil down to daily choices. The Bible says in Deuteronomy 30:19 (NLT),Today I have given you the choice between life and death, between blessings and curses. Now I call on heaven and earth to witness the choice you make. Oh, that you would choose life, so that you and your descendants might live!” I don’t want to be mean to anyone ever again, especially to my family and friends. I want to practice what the Bible says in Romans 12:9 (NLT), “Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them.”

Okay. Here’s the short version of my bucket list:

  1. Be patient with everyone, even the old guy wearing a hat driving 15 mph in a 40 mph zone in front of me.
  2. Speak softer, kinder and gentler to everyone, even to telemarketers.
  3. Honor and respect all people, even those whom I completely disagree with.
  4. Listen respectfully to others, even when I have no interest whatsoever in what they are talking about.
  5. See people for who they are, God’s wonderful and unique creations.
  6. T be always willing and ready to forgive.
  7. Express genuine love with every chance, both verbally and in tangible ways.
  8. And oh yes, one more thing…to drink a cup of that Kopi Luwak (cat poop) coffee!