Bay and I sat shocked (early last week) following a call from a dear friend's daughter informing us he had just graduated from earth to heavenly-places only minutes before.
It was a quick, unexpected home-going.
For over two years, Alan and his wife, Joyce, have participated in fellowship and the study of God's Word with us in a life-group.
Even more than "big church", this small group has become true "CHURCH."
We've formed a family.
While grieving, we rejoice.
Alan lived for years with severe muscular dystrophy.
I never heard him complain.
It hurt to watch him try to do simple things: like walk from the kitchen to the living room, find a comfortable place to sit, or attempt to carry a plate...
Yet in spite of his disabilities, he and Joyce bought a mobile sawmill, planed their own boards, built their dream home from the ground up (one of the most beautifully crafted homes I've ever been in)...all by hand and debt free.
Throughout his difficult journey, Alan pursued God.
Of anyone I know, he understood the struggle of Job.
Interestingly enough, I just finished reading the book of Job on Sunday morning, the day of Alan's celebration of life.
There was much about Job's life I would attribute to this man...
In spite of hardship, these Job-statements resonated:
"Though He (the Lord) slay me, yet will I hope in Him."
"I know that my Redeemer lives, and will yet again stand upon the earth."
"A man's days are determined..." The Sovereign God holds each of our days in His hands.
"Should we receive good from the hand of the Lord, and shall we not receive adversity?"
"The Lord gives and the Lord takes away, blessed be the name of the Lord."
In spite of his difficulties, Job kept pursuing the Lord!
As I seek the Lord more through 2020, these statements are truly Words to Live By!
And, this is what I want to focus on this morning:
We all need words to live by.
Early in December, I was challenged to listen to a message by Pastor Craig Groeschel of Life Church in Oklahoma City. The title was: Words to Live By (preached in January of 2017). If you click on the title of the message, you are directly linked to it on YouTube.
When life gets tough, I've recognized we often find ourselves in a place of stuck.
Not only stuck, but, actually, lost.
Not a "lost" as in not saved.
Lost as in: "broken, undone, perplexed, conflicted, bewildered, disoriented..."
Ever felt that way? I'm sure you have, because we are all human and nothing one of us experiences is foreign to others.
I've certainly been there...and expect it isn't a once or twice experience, check and done...
In Psalm 143, King David calls the "hard-stuff-of life" that puts us in this place:
"adversaries of the soul"
That phrase echoes deep within, doesn't it?
So, when we find ourselves sitting on an ash heap, scraping away at the scabs on our heart so the pus-filled places of our soul can be healed, words that help us to do what David did when in despair are hard to come by.
Scripture tells us that David learned how to "encourage himself in the Lord."
But, these words can be hard, no, almost impossible, to come up with when we are lost in the middle of our mess.
Proactively writing strong Biblical truth down on paper, and repeating these words OUT-LOUD to ourselves each day, do something to bring clarity to our minds, settle our souls, and get us up out of the ash-heap.
I know this from experience.
Job's words inspire me in my pursuit of God, especially when things go pear-shaped.
Last week I mentioned that in my pursuit of the Lord, I am attempting to work through some spiritual disciplines - some of the practices are old and well-known, some are new and stretching me.
This is one such new spiritual discipline for 2020.
I'm writing words to live by.
When Job said, "Though He slay me, yet will I hope (wait) in Him," I wrote a few words - ok, I wrote some lengthy words:
No matter what the Lord allows into my life
I will WAIT, HOPING, in Him
to come, to just show up
to act, to be mighty on my behalf
to be my joy, my contentment, my source of satisfaction
to heal, make whole
to restore, renew
to providentially unfold His plan
and, do a good work in and through me.
In the meantime, I will trust
ABIDE in Him...
process the pain
learn what I can about the nature and character of the Lord
ask the hard questions
and, mostly, allow God to unveil to me all the unbelief that is within me.
I will not
or stop pursuing Him
I will not
look for other ways to cope
fall into sin
react wrongfully (even to misguided friends)
give in to peer pressure
I will remain
true to my convictions
true to my integrity
true to what is right and honest
I will pursue the Lord God Almighty...even when I feel lost in the middle of my mess...
NO MATTER WHAT!
Can I encourage you to write a few words of your own? It doesn't have to be lengthy (that last sentence I wrote is really at the heart of my Words to Live By. So, a few meaningful words will do...just write them...then speak them...every day until they go from your head to your heart and are lived out through your life.
Want a "song to live by?" Here's a great one!
Big Daddy Weave: I Know (link to YouTube is included)