30 January 2013

Approaching the end of the season

It's not very often that Chris gets to ref at Avery's future high school.

So we took advantage of the close location and went to watch him perform. It also was almost our last chance to see him since the season quickly is winding down. Girls' sectionals are next week.

Grandma and Grandpa joined us, too. We missed having Mommaw with us. We hope you feel better soon, Mommaw!

Avery loved dancing to the music by the excellent pep band.

Here she is doing her best impression of Mick Jagger.

I publicly apologize to Chris for getting so many pictures of Avery. Before she was born, I used to focus all of my basketball photography on him!

29 January 2013

BSF 2012-2013: Genesis 20-21

At the end of this study, I think my favorite character from the book of Genesis will be Abraham. Or maybe Jacob. Or Joseph. Well, right now it's Abraham! I love seeing how he completely obeys God without questions (such as when he took his family to a new place and next week when we discuss God's test related to Isaac). Abraham had to trust God when it was a pretty novel thing to do. Most of all, Abraham illustrates for us that God graciously gives us second, third and fourth chances to learn lessons and grow in Him.

The sin Abraham most struggled with was fear. This fear crept up again in the form of lying about his relationship with Sarah. Abraham and Sarah made a similar arrangement before meeting Pharaoh. You would expect them to learn their lesson after that situation, but they didn't because they repeated their same sin now with King Abimelech. Abraham was fearful of someone killing him and taking Sarah. But instead of trusting God with his fear, he took matters into his own hands.

Only by God's grace was Sarah (and the line of the promised Messiah) protected from what could have been horrible circumstances. God approaches Abimelech in a dream and explains the situation. Then God uses Abimelech to discipline Abraham, who tries to justify his sin.

Abraham trusted God, but he had a hard time putting his trust into action. We trust God based on His character. We must take the trust that we know in our minds and put it into practice. What sin is undermining my trust in God? What is preventing me from putting my trust into practice?

Next, God miraculously gives Abraham and Sarah the son He promised them. They name the boy Isaac, which means "laughter." How appropriate! When God announced the boy's impending birth, Abraham and Sarah laughed at the impossibility of the situation. Now they are laughing with joy at God's fulfilled promise.

This shows us that God keeps His promises in His perfect timing. God is faithful, and we can trust what He says. But usually the hardest part of watching Him fulfill His promises is waiting for His perfect timing. Why do we doubt God's ability to do what He says He will do? As Avery's memory verse says, "Is anything too hard for the Lord?" What impossible thing have I given up on? Will I be faithful in prayer and let God do what He wants to do?

The birth of Isaac, the promised son, brought turmoil to Abraham's household. Abraham's first son, Ishmael, persecuted Isaac. So Sarah asks Abraham to get rid of Ishmael and his mother, Hagar. Abraham loved Ishmael and didn't know what to do, so he went to God for help. God tells Abraham to send away Hagar and Ishmael. Abraham trusts God and obeys His command.

God was not being unfair or cruel to Hagar and Ishmael. They had to leave that situation in Abraham's house so God could bless Ishmael. God sees Hagar and Ishmael in their despair and reiterates His promise to Ishmael. It seems that Ishmael was angry throughout this whole situation and didn't see into the future how God would fulfill His promise and bless him.

It's the same for us. God's will is often hard to understand, but it always can be trusted. What am I struggling with related to God's plan for my life? Will I choose to trust God and His will for me? Then will I put that trust into practice every day?

King Abimelech appears again. Abraham approaches him about a situation involving a well of water. It's clear that Abimelech fears God and wants to stay in God's and Abraham's favor. So Abraham and Abimelech make a treaty over the water rights.

Abraham's witness was restored between the first situation (in chapter 20) and this one. When Abraham surrendered to God's will, he experienced peace between himself and Abimelech. Abraham also experienced peace with God. Where do I need to surrender in obedience to God's will?

As I mentioned above, Avery's memory verse this week focused on God's sovereignty (His absolute right to do all things according to His own good pleasure) and omnipotence (unlimited power):

"Is anything too hard for the Lord?"
Genesis 18:14

26 January 2013

An afternoon with the girls...and Joel

It was time for another baby fix today! The Rork girls spent the afternoon with Faith and the Boone family.

Everyone had their own time with Faith. She was very cooperative and didn't mind all of the strangers who wanted to hold her.

As expected, Avery showed plenty of love to Faith.

We all had fun spending time together and catching up on things. Joel and Avery did a good job of keeping us entertained.

I'm so happy that Joel and Avery enjoy playing with each other. They're such good cousins and playmates!

25 January 2013

22 January 2013

BSF 2012-2013: Genesis 18-19

This week's lesson gives us applications from three people: Sarah, Abraham and Lot. We'll start with Sarah.

Abraham probably told Sarah about God's promise (Genesis 17:19), but Sarah had to believe the promise herself. This reminds us that we can't have faith for other people. Each of us makes our own decisions and chooses whether to accept or reject God and His promises.

Three men visit Abraham. (One is the pre-incarnate Jesus.) He welcomes them and shows them hospitality. The men eventually ask for Sarah, and they tell her that she will have a son by this time next year. Sarah laughs to herself and thinks to herself about the impossibility of this, due to her age. But the Lord knew Sarah's thoughts and rebukes her for them. At this point, Sarah and Abraham realize that one of the men is God Himself.

If God knew Sarah's thoughts and private emotions, she believed He could fulfill His promise of a son. God knows everything, even our inmost thoughts. We can't hide anything from Him.

This immediately points us to our own private thought lives. Are my thoughts pleasing to God? What kinds of things am I putting in my heart and mind? What effect are these things having on my life? Do I stop ungodly thoughts when they enter my mind? Do I truly realize that God knows everything I am thinking? This verse is a great reminder: “…For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks.” Matthew 12:34

Now, let's move on to Abraham's example for us. The three men eventually left Abraham's tent to turn toward their mission of judgment on Sodom and Gomorrah. Abraham went with them. He didn't want to leave God's presence! I also should have a heart that desires to continue in the Lord's presence.

The cities of Sodom and Gomorrah were involved in sexual sins. These sins included homosexuality as well as pagan worship. But these sins also involved moral and social corruption (brutality, suppression, denial of basic human rights, etc.). Ezekiel 16:49 says Sodom was destroyed because of the people’s arrogance and pride against the Lord. It was a lifestyle that cared about no one but self.

Abraham humbly and respectfully approaches God. Abraham probably didn’t understand the depth of sin in these cities and couldn’t believe that his nephew Lot was living in the midst of such sin. God is teaching Abraham about holiness.

Abraham repeatedly asks God not to destroy Sodom. His requests are based on His character of perfect righteousness and justice. Abraham had such an intimate relationship with God that he could approach Him with this sincere prayer.

Do I approach God with such boldness and confidence in His character? Do I humbly intercede with God for others in my life? Real intimacy comes only when I spend time with God.

And finally we see Lot's wasted life as an example of what not to do. Lot, a righteous man (II Peter 2:7), chose to live in Sodom. The world had a strong hold on him. The world influenced him more than he could influence it.

The Lord's angels deliver Lot and his daughters from the judgment on the cities. But Lot's wife hesitates. She looks back at the city and turns into a pillar of salt.

We cannot walk in the ways of the world and expect not to be affected by sin. But God provides His mercy and forgiveness when we do sin. As Christians, we are called to live in the world but not of the world (John 17:13-19). By whose standards am I living? God's or the world's? And how am I aligning myself with the world? Will I willingly choose to live separate from the world?

Which of these three examples are you following? Are you like Sarah, realizing the truth of God when you see His character? Are you like Abraham, knowing God intimately and boldly approaching Him in prayer and service? Or are you like Lot, keeping your eyes on the world and having no influence on it because of your wasted Christian life?

Avery's verse this week was:

You are the God who sees me.
Genesis 16:13 NIV

16 January 2013

Avery gets another cousin

We are so excited to announce that Avery finally has a girl cousin! My cousin Lori Anne delivered her second child last weekend.

Faith Anne Boone
January 12, 2013
11:07 p.m.
8 pounds, 1 ounce
20 ½ inches long

Faith is the fourth great-grandchild on the Rork side of our family. She joins her big brother Joel and her cousin Obadiah.

We had the pleasure and joy of meeting Faith on Monday.

Avery is excited to have a new playmate. She can't wait to share her dolls and Barbies with Faith...in a few years!

She's even cute when she's crying!

Congrats to Lori Anne and Jon!

15 January 2013

BSF 2012-2013: Genesis 16-17

How good are you at waiting? For me, it all depends. Waiting to get my ideal job? After a few arguments with God, I eventually was patient and received a wonderful blessing from Him. Waiting for Mr. Right (a.k.a. Chris) to show up in my life? Not too bad. Waiting on an empty stomach for my dinner to arrive at a restaurant? No chance!

In this week's story, we see how Sarai and Abram tried to make their own plans when God wasn't working fast enough for them. Sarai and Abram were tired of waiting for God to act. Through self-effort, they tried to fulfill God's promises on their own. But God always fulfills His promises in His timing.

Sarai is frustrated that God has not provided an heir. So she concocts a plan to begin their family line through her servant Hagar. Abram agrees to follow through on Sarai's plan. They are acting on common sense and the morals of the day. They don't follow God's direction for their lives. This shows us that human wisdom can lead us out of God's will in many situations.

Look at the downward spiral that comes from this seemingly innocent decision: Hagar conceives. Hagar despises Sarai. Sarai blames Abram. Abram refuses to intervene. Sarai mistreats Hagar. All of this could have been avoided if Abram and Sarai had simply waited for God to fulfill His plan in His time. God's way is the right way, and it never is the way of sin.

A distraught Hagar flees and heads toward Egypt, her homeland. The angel of the Lord pursues Hagar and finds her in the desert. This is no plain angel -- this is the pre-incarnate Jesus Christ. And Hagar recognizes Him as such.

The angel tells Hagar to go back to Sarai and submit to her. Probably not what she wanted to hear! He promises to bless Hagar with a son named Ishmael. This name means "God hears him." Hagar praises God and calls Him "the God who sees me." God saw Hagar and came alongside her. He saw her and heard her.

I love this principle from the lecture: God will find us where we are, not where we should be, and He will act to return us safely to His will. Hagar's story spoke to me the most this week. God never leaves me and always takes care of me, even when I sin and try to run from Him and my problems. Even when I make a mess of things, God will rescue, redeem and restore me.

When Ismael is 13 years old, God restores His relationship with Abram. God appears to Abram and calls Himself "El Shaddai." This means "God Almighty." Nothing is impossible for God.

God promises Abram that he will have a son with Sarai. Abram responds by falling on his face and worshipping God. God tells Abram to walk before Him and be blameless. Then God gives Abram a new name. Abram means "exalted father." Abraham means "father of a multitude." Abraham would become the father of many nations and kings, chief of them all is Jesus Christ. This is an everlasting covenant.

"Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him, "So shall your offspring be." Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead—since he was about a hundred years old—and that Sarah’s womb was also dead. Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised." Romans 4:18-21

Abraham has a part in this covenant. He must be obedient to show that he trusts God and believes He will fulfill His promise. God requires every male in Abraham's household to be circumcised. This is the sign of the covenant.

Today, Christians aren't marked with an outward sign. Instead, we are marked and sealed with the Holy Spirit. This act of physical circumcision also represents a spiritual circumcision -- cutting off the sin in our lives.

God also gives Sarai a new name. Then Abraham voices a concern -- he doesn't want Ishmael to be left out of the blessings. So God promises to bless Ishmael, too. But the covenant blessings are reserved for Abraham's future son Isaac.

Abraham obeys God and circumcises every male in his household -- on the same day. He obeyed immediately and without questions. This shows that Abraham was walking with God in faith.

Waiting isn't easy. But it's worth waiting for what God wants to do in my life. Am I willing to wait for Him to act in His time and in His way? What outward act of obedience can I take to show that I joyfully responded to God and His promises? God's plan must be allowed to happen in His time and in His way.

Once again, I failed to get Avery to say her memory verse on camera. We'll get back on track again soon!

Abram believed the Lord.
Genesis 15:6

14 January 2013

March Madness in January

We've been living and breathing basketball around here lately. Come to think of it, I guess that's not really any different than normal!

Avery and I don't get to go to a lot of Chris' games...mostly because they're past Avery's bedtime and they're located far from home. But last weekend, Chris' two games were very local. So Avery and I went to cheer him on. (I'm sure our Indy readers will recognize these two gymnasiums.)

I harass Grandma and Grandpa Hromada for teaching Avery that a basketball game is incomplete without popcorn. At least it keeps her quiet for a little while.

She ate the whole box by herself!

Even though it's sometimes challenging when Chris is away from home at his games, I never will tire of watching him officiate. I love seeing his passion for the game.

And finally, Avery made her first visit to my alma mater this weekend to watch the men's basketball team play. (Perhaps one day it will be her alma mater, too?) Rest assured, they serve popcorn in Muncie, too.

I tried taking some pictures of the game. But it's just not the same when Chris isn't on the court.

Daddy was nice enough to buy some cotton candy.

I hope he's just as willing to pay the dentist bills!

Avery couldn't take her eyes off the cheerleaders. So after the game, we sneaked down to the court and requested a photo with one. Heaven help us if she decides to be a cheerleader!