Who Are You For?

I wasn’t born in the South.
I moved to Alabama in the middle of the school year when I was six years old.

15167490371647258806alabama-vs-auburn-clipart.medOne of the first questions my new classmates asked me was this:
“Who are you for? Alabama or Auburn?”

I can remember desperately wanting to choose the right answer.

I didn’t have any idea what an “Auburn” was, but I did know that Alabama was the state where I now lived. So when they asked again, “Who are you for?”

I answered quietly, “Alabama.”

Thankfully, my answer satisfied most of that group of first graders.

Let’s just say I had no idea then how important choosing a football team is in Southern culture!

But “Who are you for?” is always a high stakes question.

It forces you to choose sides.
It reveals your loyalties.
It presents a risk of being rejected by the crowd.

And whether we acknowledge it or not, you and I are faced with this question every day.

“Who are you for?”

Am I for myself, for my own way, for whatever makes me look good or makes my life easier?

Or am I for God, for His way, for whatever exalts Him and draws others to Him?

My way or God’s way.

Who are you for?

Joshua chose God’s way.

But if it doesn’t please you to worship the LORD, choose for yourselves today: Which will you worship—the gods your fathers worshiped beyond the Euphrates River or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living? As for me and my family, we will worship the LORD.” Joshua 24:15

Who will I worship?
I want to choose to worship the Lord.

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Isaiah chose God’s way.

Yes, LORD, walking in the way of your laws, we wait for you; your name and renown are the desire of our hearts. My soul yearns for you in the night; in the morning my spirit longs for you. Isaiah 26:8-9a NIV

Which way will I go?
I want to walk in the way of God’s commands even if it means waiting when I’d rather run ahead.

Whose name will I exalt?
I want the desire of my heart to become making God’s name famous, not mine.

What do I long for?
I want my soul and spirit to long to be in God’s presence more than in the company of others I admire.

So, how can I choose God’s way instead of my own?

Paul reminds us that Jesus makes it possible.

I have been crucified with Christ, and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. Galatians 2:20 CSB

And he [Jesus] died for all so that those who live should no longer live for themselves, but for the one who died for them and was raised. 2 Corinthians 5:14-16 CSB

Who are you for?

The answer will always be “me” until I come to the cross.
I can only live for God if I die to me.
Christ in me is my only hope.

You see, God answered the “Who are you for?” question before you and I ever had to.

God is for us.

For you.
For me.

God sent His only Son to live as one of us. Jesus showed us how to listen to the Father’s voice and how to choose God’s way in every circumstance. Jesus chose God’s way, even when it meant death on a cross. He died so we could live.

What then are we to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He did not even spare his own Son but offered him up for us all. How will he not also with him grant us everything? Who can bring an accusation against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies. Who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is the one who died, but even more, has been raised; he also is at the right hand of God and intercedes for us. Who can separate us from the love of Christ? Can affliction or distress or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Romans 8:31-35, 37-39 CSB

Who is God for?
He is for you and for me.
He spared nothing, not even His only Son, to prove it.
Nothing can separate us from His love.

Who are you for?
Every day we choose sides.
God is for us.
Let’s choose to live for Him.

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Construction Zone: Studs

Studs.

Yep, you read it correctly.

No. Not a horse, nor the handsome guy in anatomy class, but the two-by-fours within your walls.

My husband is a fantastic handyman who has saved us many a repair bill through the years. I find paying in Yankee dimes much preferrable to ruining our budget by paying an exorbitant bill from our checking account for home or car repairs.

My husband is also quite the kidder. His favorite handyman joke when working with walls or hanging pictures for me involves a stud-finder. In case you don’t know, a stud-finder is a large matchbox sized, battery operated gadget that can detect boards within a wall so a person will know where to hang heavy objects. As you move it across the wall it beeps when it senses the more dense area where a stud is located. My Sweetheart’s joke is to sweep his stud-finder around him and finally across his body, and at that moment hit the test button which causes it to beep. He does this with a flirtatious grin, and of course I reward him with a quick kiss and “That’s my stud!” or laughter and eye rolls, depending on my mood. Even after years of this same joke, it never ceases to bring joy to our days.

post-2232962_1280Through all our years of marriage I’ve learned many things about studs that I did not know as a young bride of 21. I knew there were boards within the walls of buildings. And I knew they were needed to support the roof. But that’s about all I knew those many years ago.

Since then I’ve learned that studs have to be at the right distance apart to make a structure strong and stable. Studs need to be placed “16 inches on center” for THE best stiff, strong wall. This doesn’t mean there are 16 inches in between the studs, but that measuring from the center of one board to the center of the next will give you 16 inches. Some buildings don’t measure up to this standard. Older homes, or ones constructed by someone on the cheap or in a haphazard way may yield other results. Twenty-four inch centers is common, but not nearly as strong.

Secondly, I learned that studs need to be certain dimensions, not just any ole board will do. Two-by-fours are the standard stud size. That means that when they are cut, they are 2 inches thick and 4 inches wide. After that they are kiln dried which causes them to shrink as the moisture evaporates. Then they are further reduced in size when they are planed to make them a uniform size for building (usually about 1 1/2 by 3 1/2 inches).

wood-690402_1280I also learned that studs are usually made of particular kinds of wood. Softwood is generally used behind the walls for construction projects, whereas hardwoods are used for the beautiful furniture and embellishments we see in the rooms of our homes. Softwoods are generally coniferous trees such as pine and cedar, those that grow quickly and do not lose their leaves in the fall. While hardwoods are deciduous trees, like oaks, which lose their leaves. Softwood is preferred because it is easier to saw, plane, bore, and nail because of the structure within the wood, and I wonder, if not possibly because it grows more quickly and trees can be replaced within a few years rather than decades.

So how does our woodworking lesson relate to life?

1 – The unseen supports inside us are very important. I may look like a happy-go-lucky, got-it-all-together kind of woman on a random Sunday morning where your local God-fearing congregation is meeting. But on the inside I may be a sinful mess, a doubting mess, a fearful mess, a depressed mess, a burdened mess, a prideful mess, or any of a number of other messes. You don’t see the real me. Only God does. And I don’t see the real you. I’ve learned through years of walking with the Lord that the scriptural principle is, what’s on the inside is going to eventually come out. We are to be more inwardly concerned with pleasing God than pleasing people.

A good man out of the good treasure of the heart bringeth forth good things: and an evil man out of the evil treasure bringeth forth evil things. Matthew 12:35 KJV

Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ. Galatians 1:10 NIV

2 – Your internal “studs” must be made of the right stuff. This is obvious. Heaven knows those cardboard houses I built as a kid couldn’t even withstand one rainy day. Yet we try building our inner man based on popularity, acceptance, the world’s opinions, and even our own feeble human wisdom. Softwood such as this won’t work for a stable life. While soft wood may be best for building physical structures, we want to build our spiritual homes on the hard truths of the Word of God. God’s words from scripture, when taken in daily and applied to building our lives and homes, will build in us the character, faith, submissiveness, patience, love, and a host of other things that are required to live a life of love as Christ commands us in the New Testament. When we seek Jesus first and follow His commands we are building with the right materials.

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. Galatians 2:20 NIV

For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work. 1 Corinthians 3:11-13 NIV

wood-877368_12803 – Your “studs” need to be the right size. If I tried using a 1×4 within the walls of my home I would find them collapsing under the weight of the roof. If I used 1/4 inch plywood it would be even worse. If I cut my studs too short, I’d find myself having to duck my head when I entered my home. We would never do that, and would consider it shoddy work if a builder we hired did such a thing. However, we frequently build this way in spiritual matters. We take shortcuts and don’t measure up. We grasp onto one verse and use it as a proof-text for what we believe. We ignore the harder teachings of scripture because they are too challenging, they convict us too much, or because we haven’t read enough of His word to know better. We need to be students of the Word on a daily, methodical journey to learn all we can of God’s ways and the nature of the world through His Word. Anything short of observing the full counsel of the Word of God, is taking shortcuts and not measuring up in our building materials.

Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. Matthew 7:24 NIV

Those [seeds] on the rocky ground are the ones who receive the word with joy when they hear it, but they have no root. They believe for a while, but in the time of testing they fall away. Luke 8:13 NIV

Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth. 2 Timothy 2:15 NIV

I meditate on your precepts and consider your ways. I delight in your decrees; I will not neglect your word. Psalm 119:15-16 NIV

4 – “Studs” need to be on at least 16 inch centers. We may be firmly grounded in scriptures about “honor your parents” or “thou shall not covet” or “for God so loved the world” or other basics we’ve been taught since childhood. These are not unimportant, but they are few and far between as far as strong support for our spiritual house goes. These represent lives built on 24 inch centers or worse. As we’ve grown physically older, have we matured spiritually too? Have we studied His Word deeply and participated in Bible studies and classes that have added deeper truths and more complex theology to our walls? Have we gotten to know the Father personally from His word rather than just religiously? Have we added teachings on spiritual gifts, grace, wisdom, and other matters to our lives? The deeper teachings of God’s word grow us stronger. With each new revelation from the Word of Truth we add more studs to our walls constructing stronger Godly houses with numerous 16 inch center studs.

Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind. Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good. 1 Peter 2:1-3 NIV

Though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. Hebrews 5:12-13 NIV

So as we evaluate our spiritual house, I must ask – If I run a spiritual stud-finder across you, will it beep or will you have to mash the test button? Will it be just one, or many studs, spaced closely, offering strong support, cut to the right dimensions, and made of appropriate materials?

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