Devotional: We are the Clay

“Yet, O Lord, you  are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are the work of your hand.” Isaiah 64:8

Observations: God is our father–not only is He the source of all life, but He has a special relationship with His people as our provider, protector, teacher, etc. Comparing God’s people to clay and God to a potter suggests that God molds and shapes us into the people we become. In one way, God created us with our unique personalities, natural talents and inner desires. But He also molds us by the work of His spirit through our restored relationship with Jesus Christ (sanctification). We are God’s handiwork, created by Him for a purpose and we are dependent upon Him to fulfill our purposes in this life. However, we are not devoid of all responsibility for our behaviors and the shape we take. It is our responsibility to respond to God’s call in our lives and to the work of His spirit, at least as much as we are able to in our broken condition.

Application: I will rest in the arms of my heavenly Father, secured by the blood of Christ, remembering that I am the work of His hand that was created for a specific purpose. I will remember that my responsibility is to respond to God’s leading and continually seek out His will daily, though it is Him who actually accomplished His perfect will.

Prayer: Lord, thank you for Your tremendous love and grace. Thank you also for creating me the way that You did. God, help me to not lose sight of who I  really am in this ever-changing, crazy world. Help me to look to You alone for my worth and value, seeking after Your will above all else. Guide me and mold me into the image of Christ. Amen. 

Strength in the Lord

Isaiah 40 says, “he gives power to the faint and to him who has no might he increases strength” (ESV). Just before Jesus ascended into Heaven after His resurrection, He told His disciples “…you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8, ESV). Judges 7 tells the story of Gideon who defeated the numerous Midianites with only 300 men so that Israel would attribute the victory to God, not their own strength (see verse 2). Again in Judges 16 we read about Samson, who was a judge over Israel known for his incredible, God-given strength and brute force. 1 Samuel 17 gives the well-known account of David, a young shepherd boy, who kills the Philistine giant Goliath and propels God’s people to victory over their enemies.

These are just a few pieces of the Bible that I read this morning. The interesting thing is, I didn’t plan to just read passages about people who had strength and power through the Lord. The first two (Isaiah 40 & Acts 1) came from a daily devotional reading about strengthening your marriage spiritually. The others were from a reading plan (The Story) that gives three chapters or so each day that highlight some of the most notable people and events throughout the entire Bible. However, I quickly saw the connections between theses passages when I read the questions at the end of the marriage devotional: Do you lean on the Holy Spirit to strengthen you and your marriage? What is a specific situation where you lacked ability, but were strengthened by the Holy Spirit? Obviously, Gideon, Samson, and David could answer those questions with several examples. Jesus tells His disciples before He leaves them that they will receive power in the form of the Holy Spirit and they will be His witnesses (see above). You see, God never asks people to do incredible things alone; He always offers us strength and courage to do things that seem too difficult or even impossible. God’s purposes for our lives are much bigger than we can imagine, but our God is also much bigger than we know. His thoughts are higher than our thoughts, His dreams are more grand than our dreams. When He calls us into relationship with Him, He calls us to turn our lives upside down. He asks us to live lives that look crazy to those who don’t know Him, to love and sacrifice more than we think we can, and to surrender our will to His. All of this change and breaking away from being self-centered takes tremendous courage and strength; God provides everything we need to follow Him faithfully through His Holy Spirit. A common thread that runs through many of the stories throughout the Bible is simple, average (or even pretty bad) people doing incredible things for the Lord by genuinely trusting and obeying Him. They were often under-qualified, outnumbered, too young, too old or just not good or smart enough, but they believed God and walked in obedience to Him.

Do you lean on the Holy Spirit to strengthen you and your marriage? What is a specific situation where you lacked ability, but were strengthened by the Holy Spirit? 

When I look back to three years ago when my son and first child was born, I am reminded of the strength and courage that God gave me during that time. Being our first child, my wife and me were both nervous before we even arrived at the hospital. But I kept reassuring her that things would be fine. Although it worked out well in the end, things were not “fine.” She was induced because her blood pressure was elevated, then she spent 42 hrs in labor followed by an emergency C-section. Afterward, both she and our new baby had infections, several issues with IVs not staying put, and sleep issues. We were in the hospital 10 days in all, followed by months of follow-up visits to the pediatrician and an orthopedic surgeon in the city due to some minor underdevelopment issues my son had with his hips. I know our experience pales in comparison to that of many other young parents who have lived much more serious, and even tragic stories. However, it was still the most nerve-wracking and exhausting experience of my life (not to mention my sweet wife). Through this experience, I wrestled with fear, doubt, anger, confusion, frustration, and an overall feeling of dread during some of the most difficult times. But in that hospital I had my parents and my wife’s parents to encourage me. We had friends visit us in the hospital and at home, and we had a lot of people praying for us. I don’t think I have ever prayed more seriously and earnestly in my life than I did in that hospital. The Lord brought me (and my wife and son) through that difficult and stressful experience, and gave me courage that I know I didn’t have before. I was able to encourage my wife, talk calmly with the doctor and nurses, and make difficult decisions without letting my fear paralyze me. This boost of courage continued after we went home from the hospital and has continued to influence the person that I am. While expecting another baby in just a few months, I have been praying for trust and obedience to God no matter what issues may arise. I have also asked to be given more courage and wisdom to raise my children faithfully in the ways of the Lord.

 

Do you lean on the Holy Spirit to strengthen you and your marriage? What is a specific situation where you lacked ability, but were strengthened by the Holy Spirit? 

I would love to hear your response to one or both of these questions. Please respond in the comments section or on Facebook.

“Safety is our Top Priority”

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We are often hindered from giving up our treasures to the Lord out of fear for their safety. This is especially true when those treasures are loved relatives and friends. But we need have no such fears. Our Lord came not to destroy but to save. Everything is safe which we commit to Him, and nothing is really safe which is not so committed.

(The Pursuit of God,Tozer, pg 28)

The above words of A.W. Tozer, thought written several decades ago, still ring true today. So often, we try really hard to protect everything we have. With home security systems, car alarms, safes, security guards, and security cameras, we try to protect our stuff, ourselves, and our families. If you have ever worked in construction, manufacturing, or the oil & gas industry, you have been told a thousand times things like “safety is our top priority,” “safety is our number #1 value,” “nothing is too important that it can’t be done safely,” etc, etc. You’ve probably sat through endless training sessions that try to make you “think safety” and you may even have a dozen different ID cards to prove how “safe” and well-trained you are. Even with all this safety talk, there are still accidents and injuries every day of the week. Hopefully not all at one job site, but somewhere every day there are incidents, accidents, injuries and workers comp claims being filed. Car accidents happen constantly, understaffed hospitals are filled with patients, and health and life insurance claims are piling up. The reality or our lives is that that are brief and they are fragile. We will all die–some of us today, some tomorrow–but at some point in our lives we all end up dead. We try not to think about it because it’s uncomfortable and unpleasant. We try our best to avoid injury and death at great expense. But no amount of training, security equipment, or crash-testing can change this reality.

What then should we do? “Live life to the fullest,” is what people say. “Chase your dreams,” “love like there’s no tomorrow,” “carpe diem!” Although I agree with some of these cliche sayings, I believe the best possible way to live life is in total surrender to God. I know, that doesn’t necessarily sound like a lot of fun–go skydiving, rocky-mountain-climbing, bull-riding (Tim McGraw song reference, anyone?). However, I think most would agree that a meaningful life trumps a fun life every time. What Tozer is getting at in the above quotation (and in his entire book) is that we can and should trust God with our lives, including all of our stuff and our relationships. Abraham trusted that God would keep His promises through his son Isaac, and even if Isaac was killed, he trusted that God could raise him from the dead. Abraham believed God, trusted in His character, and let God rule in his heart. He was tested with giving up his son because his love for Isaac had become a sort of idol in his heart. But when tested, he obeyed God and was willing to give up his beloved son for God’s sake. We should follow Abraham’s example. I’m not suggesting cutting firewood and taking our favorite kids up on a mountain. But I am suggesting that we surrender all of our possessions, all of our relationships and loved ones–even our kids–to the Lord.

What does this look like in our daily lives? Spending time alone with God when we could be playing with our kids; giving generously to our church and people in need when we could be saving more or buying more; it may mean adjusting our dreams for our family to include serving God as our top priority; it could mean that we fasten our seatbelts and buy insurance, but we know in our hearts that we could be standing before the Lord at any moment. We should commit everything that is ours and everything that we are to God without fear, because we can trust Him and He is faithful.

What things do you do to keep yourself trusting God with your stuff? With your family?

Who I am and Why I’m here…

I’m Tyler Brooks. I’m a twenty-something who is a husband, father, born-again, sinner-saved-by-grace Christian. I’m an amateur writer, a thinker, a dreamer. I care deeply about relationships with family, friends, and Jesus. I’m an introvert with a few extrovert tendencies; basically, I love being around people, just not too many and not for too long. I have aspirations of being an author and speaker and maybe even a pastor.

My motivation for writing this blog is simply to use it as a platform to share my thoughts and ideas, as well as to engage in meaningful conversation with others. The title, “The Mind of Tyler,” is intended to communicate that the content you read streams rather freely from my mind. Therefore, the topics covered are likely to be widely varied and my thoughts may at times seem incomplete. I’m OK with that. Sometimes, self-expression is not pretty and it is NEVER perfect. As a recovering perfectionist, this blog is kind of like therapy for me. That being said, my readers will likely see a lot of content about Jesus, Christianity, Faith, Family & Marriage, relationships, some book reviews, personal finance, small business, entrepreneurship, leadership, and whatever else I feel the need to share.

In the next 6 months, I intend to update this blog at least 3 times/week, hopefully more often. By this time next year, I hope to have a consistent group of readers who engage me. I really enjoy positive feedback, but I appreciate ALL constructive feedback. If you read my post and have an opinion or some thoughts to add, please feel free to COMMENT.

The people I hope to connect with through this blog are students, teachers, pastors, Christians, non-Christians, academics, leaders, business owners, entrepreneurs, artists, and anyone who enjoys thinking and interesting conversation. If you would like to see a particular topic covered (or just more of it), please let me know. Thanks for reading!