By Woody Woodrick
God Made Us Special
Purpose: To affirm what it means to be crowned with glory and honor.
Bible Lesson: Psalm 8
Key Verse: “What are human beings that you are mindful of them,/mortals that you are for them?/Yet you have made them a little lower than God,/ and crowned him with glory and honor.” – Psalm 8:4-5
At one time or another, we seek the approval of our peers. We need affirmation that what we do professionally is on par, recognized and accepted.
I remember when that moment arrived for me. I had been working at the McComb Enterprise-Journal newspaper for about 10 months. It was my first job out of school. Hired as a news reporter, I was promoted to sports editor two months later when the job came open. It was my dream; sports editor of a daily newspaper.
I muddled my way through football season trying to figure out how to cover seven football teams in one county and still keep tabs on another 10 or so in the region. At times I had no idea what I was doing or how to do it, but I just kept plugging away.
Eventually, time came to enter the Mississippi Sports Writers Association writing and editing contest. Well, I figured, enter the contest and try to learn from the ripping I was bound to get from the judges.
The weekend of the writers’ convention arrived. I went down to the
Something strange and unexpected happened. My name was called. Third place. A minute or two later, it was called again. Second place. Another third and then a first-place award!
As exciting and heady as it was to win, the awards assured me that I did belong. Writing sports was something that I could do well, and my peers recognized my ability. I began to approach my job with much more confidence.
God does that for us. Amid this amazing creation – the universe in which we live – God gives us honor and glory. Even more amazing is we don’t have to do anything to earn this. Unlike awards and human adulation, God gives us glory and honor just because He likes and loves us!
It’s easy to feel insignificant in this great world. Stand atop a mountain, on a cliff overlooking the ocean or gaze at the stars. How, in all that immense majesty, could we matter? Yet, we do. Not only do we matter, but God has given us dominion over His creation. What an overwhelming responsibility.
We have been given the responsibility (dominion) of taking care of God’s creation – the earth, the universe, one another.
Carrying out this responsibility must come with humility. We have to remember that we are the caretakers, not the creators.
I used to think I knew a lot about football. After all, I had been a sportswriter for 14 years. I covered two college national championship games, numerous high school games and college contests. When I was roped into coaching my son’s flag football team, I expected to impart some of my knowledge to the youngsters.
What a come-uppance. We lost every game and scored our only touchdown all year on literally the last play of the season.
I’m a lot less critical of football coaches these days.
What is the best way to balance pride and humility as we take our place in creation?
God Created Wonderful Things
Purpose: To acknowledge and celebrate the majesty of God’s creative power.
Bible Lesson: Psalm 104
Key Verse: “Bless the Lord, O my soul./
O Lord, my God, you are very great./You are clothed with honor and majesty.”– Psalm 104:1
Sometimes I get perturbed when certain political groups warn us against “destroying the earth.” Such statements strike me as the height of human arrogance. I wonder, who do they think we are? Do they not realize how big Earth is? If we’re powerful enough to destroy the earth, why aren’t we powerful enough to stop a tsunami or a hurricane?
Certainly, as we learned in the previous lesson, we are to be good stewards of the earth. We should take care of the land, water and creatures over which God has given us dominion. However, we have to realize just how majestic God’s creation really is.
First, let’s consider how beautiful Earth is. Sunsets, mountains, the endless seas; all offer us a tiny glimpse of how much God loves us. He created a thing of great beauty.
At the same time, it is a creation of great power. We can block but, at times, not stop the wind. We can hold back the waters to a certain point, but once it starts moving, we’d better get out of the way because there’s little we can do to stop it. We experienced that back in August.
Where have you seen the majesty of God in creation? How do you make sense of those times when God’s creation becomes destructive and forbidding to humans?
We give one another things of beauty to show our love for one another. Precious jewels, flowers, etc.; things of beauty made by God. Consider that God’s gift to us is His creation. He has filled it with good things that sustain us and give us pleasure. Creation is an expression of God’s love for us. How have you experienced God’s love in creation?
At one time, failure to send thank-you notes would have embarrassed even rowdy teenaged boys. Today, one rarely receives a thank-you note. And some of us rarely send them.
Through his creation, God has given us much to celebrate, but we need to also remember to say “thank you.” It’s so easy to take the earth for granted, to just assume that our surroundings will rarely change. Again, we learned differently back in August.
Yet, amid the changes Hurricane Katrina brought to our state we should try to remember that sometimes change is good. When spring comes, flowers may bloom where there were none before because the storm blew down a building covering the plants. A new view of the sun setting over the
Creation is cause for celebration and thanksgiving. Where are the places in your life celebration needs to occur? How have you thanked God for creation?
Searched and Known by God
Purpose: To marvel at the depth of God’s intimate knowledge of us.
Bible Lesson: Psalm 104
Key Verse: “I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; that I know very well.”– Psalm 139:14
Not long ago I read a newspaper column from a small-town daily newspaper. The editor related how he went to a Popeye’s restaurant in that town. He eats at the restaurant on a regular basis, but hadn’t visited in two or three weeks. When he entered, only one person was behind the counter, and she was busy preparing chicken. He went to the restroom, and when he returned, his usual order was sitting on the counter waiting for him.
The point of his column was how the relationships in small towns make them special. The woman in the restaurant was able to get to know him well enough to fill his order before he even made it.
How well do we know one another? Like so many other parts of life, knowing someone and having him or her know you is a double-edged sword. Situations such as the newspaper editor encountered make us feel good, comfortable. Family relationships can be that way. A husband just comes to know what to get his wife on gift-giving occasions because he has learned her likes and dislikes. Parents learn what to expect from their children in various situations because they know their child’s tendencies and character.
However, really knowing people also means we’re aware of the not-so-pleasant side they might have. A wife learns that her husband can be moody when things go wrong at work and adjusts her attitude accordingly. Best friends can tell much about each other by facial expressions and body language.
We come to know one another through relationships, even bad ones. Being in close proximity and sharing stories, dreams, hurts all help us know one another.
That’s what makes our relationship with God so special. God knows all about us; even the things that our closest friend doesn’t know. It is the most intimate relationship we have. It is so intimate that some people run from it.
How comfortable are you with the idea that God knows the most private and secret parts of your life?
Even in the closest human relationships, folks need time alone. Having time to spend contemplating our lives helps us assess where we are, where we might be going. We can also use time alone to let anger or hurt rise up, be recognized and, hopefully, exorcised. However, we wouldn’t want our family and friends to know those thoughts. Sometimes we go to places, physically or spiritually, where we think we’re alone.
Yet, not only is God there with us, He’s waiting on us when we get there. When we go to “good” places, we’re glad to have Him along. But when we want to retreat into those dark corners of our souls, we don’t want His light shining on us.
What are your thoughts on knowing there is nowhere you can flee God’s presence?
In most relationships, knowing each other is a two-way street. As we get to know our spouses, they get to know us. Our relationship with God is not quite as reciprocal. God knows us intimately, but we can only strive to know God. We study, pray and spend time with God, but we can never come to know Him on the level He knows us. Despite knowing all our virtues and faults God loves us. How have you experienced the love of God? How do you know God loves you?
Worthy of Praise
Purpose: To rejoice that God’s greatness and mercy are inseparable.
Bible Lesson: Psalm 145
Key Verse: “The Lord is gracious and merciful,/ slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.” – Psalm 145:8
When we wish to praise someone, we often try to come up with terms that both praise him and set him apart. Athletes, actors, writers, musicians go from being stars to “superstars.” Simple excellence isn’t enough.
Yet, among those in a particular field, the strongest compliments are the simplest. Athletes refer to the best of the best as a player. Pastors admiringly say a colleague can “preach.” We might say a top novelist “can write,” or a journalist is a reporter.
God can also be described or praised in simple terms. God is great. Yet, that term still doesn’t encompass the magnitude of who and what God is and does.
How do you describe God?
The psalmist said God is “gracious and merciful.” He is indeed. I am reminded of that each time I crawl into my mental hiding place and discover God waiting patiently for me. Even as I protest, He lovingly guides me back to where He wants me to be.
The psalmist writes that God is “good to all.” I don’t know about you but that one’s sometimes hard for me to handle. I certainly want Him to be “good to all” when I’m being bad. However, I’m not sure God’s being “good to all” is a good thing when I look down from high on my horse of self-righteousness.
Yet, God is good to all, and while we struggle to come up with the right words to express our gratitude, all we need say is “thank you.”
God’s goodness makes Him great; and His greatness makes Him good. He loves us despite our flaws because He knows us intimately. Our praise and worship of Him helps us know Him better.
All God asks in return is that we live our lives showing the same kind of love that he shows us.
Who in your life needs (not deserves) your gracious love? How can you extend gracious live and mercy to persons from whom you are estranged?