Tuesday, November 29, 2011

God is the Source

About a month or two ago I started the "Life Journal Reading Plan" on YouVersion. For any of you who don't know what YouVersion is, you should check it out! It's a sweet website that lets you start your own Bible reading plan. But anyway, it was a plan to read the whole Bible in one year, which became a bigger challenge than I first thought. I got about two weeks into it before falling behind and it's taken me this long to try to continue it. I realized the other day that the reason I started falling behind was that my heart just really wasn't in the right place when I started it, but I'll get back to that a little later.

The plan started with Genesis 1-2, and Luke 1. I only had to read a couple verses before my faith was both challenged and strengthened. Everyone knows and has probably heard the signature verse of Genesis 1 being used:
"And God said 'Let there be light,' and there was light."
- Genesis 1:3 (ESV)
I read it and continued and it really didn't stand out to me until I read verses 14 and 15:
"And God said 'Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night. And let them be for signs and seasons, and for days and years, and let them be lights in the expanse of the heavens to give light upon the earth."
- Genesis 1:14,15 (ESV)
That opened up such a can of worms for me. I began to question the order of the creation story. Light came before the sun and the stars? How could that make sense? The sun and the stars are what emit light, right?

A few minutes later and I suddenly felt convicted. Is our God not the LORD? Is HE not the source of everything? How could I dare to question how God could create light without the help of giant balls of burning gas and plasma? Does God need anything other than Himself to create? I know it sounds like a small little minute detail of my reading, but for me it was huge. God alone is the source of light.

More than that, God alone is the source of everything else. I soon found that it doesn't really stop with just the origin of light or the order of creation. If we're not careful, we can take for granted all that God does, and just assume that the source of our [life, success, love, freedom, forgiveness, happiness, joy, peace, provision, food, water, relationships, intimacy, etc.] is something material or worldly (or worse, ourselves) instead of God Almighty. Everything we have, we owe to God, because HE is the source of it ALL. He spoke our lives into being. He brought everyone into our lives that we know and love. He makes sure we are well and provided for. He created and designed intimacy, love, peace, and happiness. We owe it all to Him. And if there is anything in our lives that makes us happy or at peace, let us make those reasons to praise Him with all our hearts. Thank Him the minute you think of it! It's so easy to take it for granted. Thanksgiving may be over but may we never cease giving thanks!

I'm going to try my very best to start this Bible reading plan over. I'm going to let the source of my motivation to complete it be to strengthen my relationship with God, and to know Him better, not just to finally read the whole Bible, or to read it in just one year. Those motivations will just run dry. However, motivation for anything can never and will never run dry if God, and God alone, is the source!

- Zack

“There is something beautiful about a billion stars held steady by a God who knows what He is doing. (They hang there, the stars, like notes on a page of music, free-form verse, silent mysteries swirling in the blue like jazz.) And as I lay there, it occurred to me that God is up there somewhere. Of course, I had always known He was, but this time I felt it, I realized it, the way a person realizes they are hungry or thirsty. The knowledge of God seeped out of my brain and into my heart. I imagined Him looking down on this earth, half angry because His beloved mankind had cheated on Him, had committed adultery, and yet hopelessly in love with her, drunk with love for her.” 

― Donald Miller,  Blue Like Jazz

Monday, November 28, 2011

Magnify the LORD with Thanksgiving

Psalm 69 reveals something pretty neat about thanksgiving. I was reading in the Psalms on the morning of Thanksgiving, when a couple verses popped out at me:
"I will praise the name of God with a song;
I will magnify Him with thanksgiving.
This will please the LORD more than an ox
or a bull with horns and hoofs."
- Psalm 69:30-31 (ESV)
Other translations say "glorify" instead of "magnify," but they both essentially have the same meaning. I hadn't really thought a lot about the ways giving thanks can magnify the name of the LORD, but David tells us that not only does it glorify God to give thanks, but it pleases Him much more than any sacrifices we can offer Him. Is that not amazing to think about? God cares a whole lot more about us having a thankful spirit and heart than any expensive, worldly offerings we can make. More than that, I think we can take this verse and safely say that a thankful spirit and attitude is needed while we give our offerings to God (i.e. tithing). If we don't tithe with a grateful heart, will that not offend our God? Sure, we're offering our first 10%, but if we're just doing it out of a feeling of obligation and not out of a spirit of thanksgiving and joy, will that not be foul-tasting to the LORD?

It reminds me of a scene in the new Karate Kid movie (which I watch about every other week with my kids at the Boys & Girls Club), where Mr. Han tells Dre he will train him for the martial arts tournament, but every day just makes him pick up his jacket, hang it up, put it on, take it off, put it on the ground, pick it up, hang it up, and repeat. It bothered Dre's mother to no end to see his jacket on the floor everyday. When Mr. Han witnessed that, he incorporated it into the training to make Dre more aware of how he was treating people. One day, Mr. Han tells him he's doing good, but something is missing - attitude. He needed to do it smiling. So he did, but he eventually got tired of the whole thing, and wanted to quit:

The clip is cut off a bit, so we miss Mr. Han saying "Everything is Kung-Fu," which I thought was a cool line. But anyway, Mr. Han teaches Dre that he was learning and getting stronger all along, by doing something he thought was a hassle, and that Kung-Fu "is in the way we treat people."

I think we can apply that to giving thanks. Thanking God is in everything we do. It's in the way we treat people. Jesus said that "whatever [we] did for one of the least of these [His] brothers, [we] did for Him. (Matthew 25:40)" I believe that Psalm 69 is talking about more than just giving thanks to God. I believe that, like the verse says, the name of the LORD is made more widely known when we give thanks and carry around a grateful heart. Sometimes, it's through direct giving and taking care of those in need, but sometimes, it's through doing things for the people around you that seem like a hassle. For Dre in the movie, it was picking up his jacket.

For me, it's in everyday things. I've only been married to Kaitlin for about 5 months, but I am already finding our more about love than I ever knew in the 3 years we were dating. Some of the best ways to show her that I love her and that I'm thankful for her love for me and how hard she works is to do chores around the house. For example, we have no dishwasher and I absolutely hate doing the dishes. We both do. But I'll bet that seeing the dishes done when she gets home from a long day of teaching pleases her and makes her feel more loved and appreciated than even the most expensive gift I can buy for her. (Kinda like how thanksgiving pleases the LORD more than costly sacrifices). And I can do it smiling, if I just think about how thankful I am for her and all she does.

Just like we can tithe smiling, or during any other offering we present to the LORD. Because while thanksgiving is about thanking other people, it's mostly about thanking God. I wrote our tithe check for November during the Thanksgiving break we had. Sometimes it feels like a lot of money, but this Thanksgiving (our first Thanksgiving!), all I could think about was how much God pulled through for Kaitlin and I when we really needed it the most. It is UNREAL. A month before we got married, we were unemployed with no job offers at all, and we felt like we had exhausted all of our options. We knew marriage was where God was calling us, but had no way of getting through financially. We didn't even know where we were going to be living. About a week or so before "I do," I got three job offers and she had two, all of which were Rome. We went from having no jobs or bites to having to CHOOSE what we wanted to do. A month or so later, when our hours were cut at the Boys & Girls Club and we realized we needed a lot more income anyway, God pulled through for us at the last minute and gave Kaitlin an amazing job offer. I am still to this day amazed at all He did for us, and have nothing but thanksgiving and a smile to give Him with every penny of my tithe, and every little thing I do for others in need.

About a month or so ago, we ran into this homeless man in front of Taco Bell that we had helped before in the past and we started talking to him, and asked him what he liked from Taco Bell. When we gave him some food and a drink, I gave him a 10, telling him its all we really had on us since we don't carry cash. He said that he was more grateful than we could know, because he had only needed $7 more to get a hotel room for the night. He said he had been sleeping in an abandoned house on a cold floor. I realize he may have been lying and a lot of homeless people are said to "not even try to work," but when it comes down to it, that doesn't really matter. You never know what big an impact you can make on someone when you stop to ask them what you can pray for them about and try to meet their needs in some way. It's the simple act of extending your hand that does more than what you give someone, and it's easier to do when you're thankful for what you have, because you'll want to share that feeling of being provided for with everyone else. You'll want to magnify and make more widely known the name of the God that holds you in His hands.

That is what Thanksgiving is really about. Joyfully and freely loving and thanking others. And, I would add that we shouldn't just tell people we're thankful for them. Thank them specifically for what they've done. Thank God specifically for what He's done. Not just on one day of the year, but everyday, constantly. Thank without ceasing! Magnify the LORD with thanksgiving! It will please Him more than you know, and bring others to know His glorious name.

- Zack

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

It's Been a While

It's been far too long. Here's an update on things:

I got married!

I started working at the Boys & Girls Club

We got a Lionhead rabbit and named her Hannah! She's sweet, but she's also mischievous.

Kaitlin and I went camping! The hurricane came through and we almost floated away! It was my first time camping, and we had a blast!

My hunt for Dr. Pepper 10 came to an end when it was introduced at our Wal-mart. I soon after got addicted! I was already addicted to soda. But still!

I started geocaching more. This is me with my 50th find! Photo courtesy my beautiful wife, Kaitlin!

I attended my first NCAA college football game, where the Jackets CRUSHED the Tigers! If you look closely, you might find my brother-in-law rushing the field.

I went to my last David Crowder*Band concert during the 7 Tour when they came to Atlanta at the Tabernacle! That's us with Matt Ames after they melted our faces off.

I guess that's about it in a nutshell. I might add more later, and I'll try to do this more often! 

in Christ,