Who is God when life happens?

This study was written as a congregational study that followed my pastor’s sermon series. Small groups would work through the study throughout the week, then hear the sermon, and then discuss both the homework and the sermon during the next small group meeting.

In that model, here is Who is God when life happens?

life happens: Endnotes…

It is common that a person going through a study such as this makes commitments—to themselves, to God, to those around them.  And the next week, those commitments become a fading memory as the busyness of life presses in and takes over.

Do not let that happen this time.  Write down each of your commitments here.  They may be fresh on your heart, or you may need to flip back through the lessons to refresh your memory.  Regardless of the method, take the next few minutes and commit those commitments to paper.

Then, ask someone to help you remember.  In this age of technology, we have electronic reminders for everything.  I have a friend who set their phone to remind them to ask me how my writing is going—every Wednesday, I get a text of some sort or fashion, asking the question.  And I respond, every Wednesday, with the good, the bad, the motivation, or lack there-of.  It is not an exhaustive report, but it is just the little bit of accountability I need each week to keep going.  Knowing I will get that text makes me want to be able to share something.  And sometimes, it is the humility of admitting I hadn’t made much progress.  Regardless of my answer, that tiny little phone is used so my friend remembers to ask.  And because they ask, my writing progresses.

It doesn’t take much.  But it does take the commitment to a) actually commit to what you say you want to do, and b) asking for the help you need to do so.

With that, write out your commitments.

life happens: God the Almighty…

God the Almighty When He Doesn’t Make Sense

Funny, isn’t it, our human propensity to describe everything in terms of us.  I laugh when I review the title of this chapter.  What if, in the whole of life, it isn’t about God making sense to us?  What if it is about us finally acknowledging that God is Who He says He is?  He says He is almighty.  Why don’t we believe Him?

Read each of the following passages.  Write what God did in each passage.

  • Genesis, chapter 1.
  • Exodus 14:1-29
  • Leviticus 9:22-25
  • Numbers 22:22-35
  • Deuteronomy 2:31-36
  • Joshua 10:7-14
  • Judges 7:15-22
  • Ruth 4:13-17
  • 1 Samuel 1:1-20
  • 2 Samuel 6:16-23
  • 1 Kings 3:5-15
  • 2 Kings 2:6-14
  • Chronicles 10:11-14
  • 2 Chronicles 2:12
  • Ezra 6:21-22
  • Nehemiah 4:10-14
  • Esther 8:1-8
  • Job 1:6-12
  • Psalm 149:1-9
  • Proverbs 2:6-9
  • Ecclesiastes 2:26
  • Song of Solomon—What kind of love does God ordain, as shown in Song of Solomon?
  • Isaiah 4:1-6
  • Jeremiah 6:16-21
  • Lamentations 3:1-66
  • Ezekiel 3:3-14
  • Daniel 3:8-28
  • Hosea 6:1-3
  • Joel 2:28-32
  • Amos 5:4-15
  • Obadiah 1:17-21
  • Jonah 4:1-11
  • Micah 2:12-13
  • Nahum 1:1-9
  • Habakkuk 3:17-19
  • Zephaniah 3:8-13
  • Haggai 2:20-23
  • Zechariah 14:16-21
  • Malachi 3:1
  • Matthew 3:1-17
  • Mark 1:29-31
  • Luke 1:5-21
  • John 16:1-4
  • Acts 4:5-13
  • Romans 4:13-25
  • 1 Corinthians 12:1-6
  • 2 Corinthians 10:3-6
  • Galatians 4:3-5
  • Ephesians 2:1-3
  • Philippians 4:19-20
  • Colossians 1:15-18
  • 1 Thessalonians 5:9-10
  • 2 Thessalonians 3:3
  • 1 Timothy 2:5-7
  • 2 Timothy 1:8-11
  • Titus 3:4-7
  • Philemon 1:3
  • Hebrews 10:12-13
  • James 2:5
  • 1 Peter 3:12
  • 2 Peter 1:2-4
  • 1 John 5:6-9
  • 2 John 1:1-3
  • 3 John 1:11
  • Jude 1:24-25
  • Revelation 3:7

The Lord God is Almighty in all things.  Praise His holy name.

life happens: God the Redeemer…

God the Redeemer When I’m Stuck in the Past

Experiences shape life.  Good, bad, indifferent—your life experiences have an impact on who you are today and who you will be tomorrow.  Yet, sometimes, it feels like past experiences rule the current day.  The understandings, or lack thereof, regarding those experiences centers itself in the middle of your thinking—not always, but certainly more often than you would like.

You try to forget the past, to “move on”, but you feel stuck.

So what does God want us to do with our past?  Are we to forget it?  A search of scripture reveals sixty-four references to forget or forgetting.  Considering the total number of books in the Bible is sixty-six, the number of references to forgetting is rather small.  However, they are there.  Does God want us to forget the past?  What about people who do not have hard memories?  Are they to forget?  Are we to have selective forgetfulness?

Read Philippians 3:12-14.  What stands out to you?

There are two main actions in this scripture: forgetting and pressing on.  But what does “forgetting” mean?  It is important to understand forgetting in the greater context of scripture.  Sometimes the best way to understand forgetting is to look at the opposite instead: remembering.  What does God say about remembering?

Read Joshua 3:12 through Joshua 4:7.  What stands out to you?

The people of Israel had spent forty years in the desert, eating manna and water.  Circle upon circle had been tread by tired, dusty feet.  Millions of people walked a great number of miles over several decades.

According to the passage in Joshua, did God tell them to forget that experience?

God reframed the entire experience.  God did not say “Remember how you disobeyed and refused to go into the Promised Land 40 years ago?”  God did not say, “Remember all that manna?”  Instead, God reframed the experience to where it should be: remember how He delivered you.

Read Exodus 13:3.  Just after being released by Pharaoh, what did Moses command the people with regard to remembering that day?

Again, the remembering was not about the bondage, it was about the deliverance of the Lord.

Read Exodus 12:12-14.  Describe the events in this passage.

 

In verse 14, how does God tell His people to remember the events?

 

What are the differences between how you described the events and how God described them?

Despite the difficulties, God cuts to the core of the situation.  Each time, He points to how the events memorialized Him, showed His power, and resulted in His glory.

What stands in the way of you memorializing God in your memories of the past?

 

Review the sections of scripture again.  Prayerfully ask God how He would have you view your past.  Write what you learn.

Review Philippians 3:12-14.  Remembering the events of your life as God desires will help you move forward.  Forgetting what is behind is far more about remembering God’s hand in the situation, or the deliverance, than it is about rehashing the details.  God did not ask the Israelites to rehash their time in the desert.  He told them to remember Him.

Review your life and those moments or events that you cannot seem to get past.  Prayerfully ask God how He would like you to remember them.  Write those remembrances below.

Each time one of these memories crops up in your mind, review how God would like you to remember them.  Implant His perspective in your heart, and you will find the strength and ability to press on.

Memorize Philippians 3:12-14.

life happens: God the Victor…

God the Victor When I Grieve

Grief is one of the most challenging, and most feared, experiences of life.  We try to avoid grief; yet, it is an integral part to healing.  As someone who has grieved the death of far more friends and family than I care to discuss, I know the depth, the unpredictability, and astonishment that grief brings.  And I understand the fear of grieving.  If you currently reside in the I-can-only-imagine camp right now, you look at the grieving camp and don’t really want to visit there.  I understand that too.

The most surprising thing about grief may very well be the surprising nature of it.  Some people react with outwardly-expressed weeping.  Others nod, and seemingly just move on with the day.  Others still make jokes at seemingly inappropriate times.

Just like most anything else in life, people react differently to grief at different times.

Grief is something we do not understand, even when we are in it.  And that is the difficult thing.  As the griever, sometimes you do not even know what you need in the moment.  Sometimes the cliché-sounding statements are the reminder we need.  Sometimes it spurs anger and heartache.

The consistency in grief is this: God is bigger than the situation.  The key to getting through is endurance.  God is the God of long-suffering endurance.  He knows the heartache of waiting for a prodigal people return to the fold.  He knows the pain of watching a child die.  And He knows the struggle of being hated for no reason by a fickle people.

He knows the pain.  He knows the heartache.  And He knows the strength required to overcome.

 Read Psalm 30:1-12.  What stands out to you?

 

List the characteristics of God highlighted in this passage.

 

In what ways might these characteristics carry you through a time of grief?

 

Review verse 5.  What does this verse say about weeping?

 

What does it say about joy?

 

Does joy “maybe” come in the morning?  Or “possibly” come in the morning?

Weeping “may” endure for a night.  Joy, on the other hand, will come.  Repeat that: Joy will come.  The night of weeping may seem like an eternity, and may very well last for some time.  However, joy will come.  Sometimes the biggest influence in enduring is to remember that there will be an end.  The grief will subside.  Joy will come.

Read the following passages.  What is the promise for those who overcome?

  • Revelation 2:7
  • Revelation 2:10-11
  • Revelation 2:17
  • Revelation 2:26-28
  • Revelation 3:5
  • Revelation 3:11-12
  • Revelation 3:21

What do these promises to the those who overcome mean to you?

These promises can help buoy you through difficult times.  However, a promise is only as good as the One making it.

Returning to Revelation, read the following passages and list the characteristics of the One making the promise to those who overcome.

  • Revelation 2:1
  • Revelation 2:8
  • Revelation 2:12
  • Revelation 2:18
  • Revelation 3:1
  • Revelation 3:7
  • Revelation 3:14

What is God telling you about the character of the One making the promises to those who overcome?

There is yet another element to grief, promises, and the character of the One doing the promising—do they really know what I am experiencing? You may receive a promise from someone with impeccable character, but if they do not know the situation or have never been through it, how can they make such promises?

Review the following passages.  List what the Promise Maker knows:

  • Revelation 2:2-3
  • Revelation 2:9-10
  • Revelation 2:13
  • Revelation 2:19
  • Revelation 3:1
  • Revelation 3:8-10
  • Revelation 3:15

Reviewing what Jesus knows, what is on your mind?

 

What is God asking you to do right now?

Grief can be a seemingly insurmountable burden.  However, He who promises is faithful to fulfill all that He promises.  Lean on Him.

Amen, and amen.