My last post got a couple of WOW!s.
WOW! is an appropriate response to something remarkable. No, not my writing. I’m referring to the stories I shared, in which God placed his hand into the terrarium of my life in some special ways.
WOW! stories about the power of God are wonderful. They put a new spring in our step and bolster our flagging faith, at least for a while. As we all know, years pass, the color of our hair changes, or maybe they simply fall out, just like the WOW! stories fall from our memories.
The events I chronicled took place more than forty years ago. How did I remember them? Was it because of my razor-sharp attention to detail and my legendary recall skills?
Uh, no. Those who have known me the longest – my brother, sister, and wife – have laughed at, not lauded, my phuzzy-graphic memory. No, I don’t remember that event at Aunt Leona’s house. Are you sure?
So, again I ask – how do I remember the events mentioned in connection to my two-month trek around Europe?
I wrote them down.
Our daughter Sara was three months old in October of 1983. I bought a very-80’s style blank book, and in my sloppy handwriting, wrote these words to her in the opening pages:
I don’t write solely for you. As of yet, I don’t know how many brothers or sisters you will have. I hope too that our grandchildren will benefit from this book.
Let me say right away that this is not meant to be anything that would resemble a list of my spiritual accomplishments. Indeed, it is a record of “spiritual accomplishments”, yet they are recorded to point to one Author of all these events, and that is the Lord your God.
I call this a “Book of Stones” as living reminder of the principle we find in Joshua chapter four. These recorded instances are for you. As you read them, you “might know that the hand of the Lord is powerful and so that you might always fear the Lord your God”. (Joshua 4:24)
In 2007 I gave Sara and her brother Ben their own copies of my “Book of Stones”*, which contains approximately seventy-five episodes of God’s mighty hand in our lives – specific responses to prayer, examples of his protective care, and numerous “burning bushes” that captured my attention.** I have since logged another twenty-four stories in a second book.
Sara and Ryan, Ben and Ashley and our grandchildren Cooper and Reese – they need to know the WOW! Stories.
But the Book of Stones is primarily for me. I need to remember the WOW!s.
Since the days of Exodus, the people of God have been encouraged – yes, even commanded – to remember what God has done. Commemorate them. Celebrate them. Talk about them. Tell them to your children. To each other.
What difference does it make if we remember the WOW!s?
That’s a great question, and I’m going to lay out several brief answers. I’ll start with the basics and work up to the good stuff.
Remembering the WOW!s strengthens your ability to trust God during your trials and dilemmas. When you know what he has done in the past you can have confidence in your future struggles.
Remembering the WOW!s is therapeutic. When you’re feeling blue, call to mind the times that God has helped you, as well as what he’s done through the ages for his people. It will help take your focus off your immediate problems and remind you of his great faithfulness. Here’s David’s testimony:
So my spirit grows faint within me; my heart within me is dismayed.
I remember the days of long ago; I meditate on all your works
and consider what your hands have done. Psalm 143:4-5 ***
Remembering the WOW!s keeps you humble. Your life-long journey of learning to walk in God’s ways is not primarily about your efforts, including whether you consider them to be successes or failures. The One who walks with you – your Good Shepherd – has guided, guarded, and goaded you more than you know.
Remembering the WOW!s helps us to remember our vows, and therefore our identity as the people of God, the community of faith, the citizens of his Kingdom.
Slow down and think about those words. Yes, you made vows when you were adopted by God into his family. Sacred vows. Covenant vows. (No, you didn’t invite Jesus into your heart. Psst … you can’t find that term in the Bible. Anywhere).
This answer needs an explanation.
God has always been enamored with covenants, which are agreements between two parties. In this case, it involves himself and his people (us). We were represented by Abraham and by Moses in the old covenants. Jesus instituted the new covenant, spoken of by the prophets, and spoke of it during the Lord’s Supper.
Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. Matthew 26:27-28
Remember that phrase? I hope so. It’s why Jesus also said: Do this in remembrance of me. This is one of the really big WOW!s. We need to remember it!
God is always faithful to his covenant vows, what he has promised to do for his people: to be our God, to bless us and keep us, and to forgive our sins.
The people of God have also made vows – promising to walk with God and in his ways, with the purpose and hope that the tribes and nations of the earth may be drawn nearer to God as well.
That's what it means to be in God's family. Are you growing in your faithfulness to these vows?
Please understand. God did not and does not make separate covenants with every individual – me, you and all the followers around the world and throughout time. No, he made a covenant with the people of God for all time.
When a person comes to faith, he becomes a citizen of the Kingdom of God, bound together by a sacred vow of allegiance and loyalty to the King. And because that’s our identity, it’s crucial that we reject the tendency to think primarily in terms of the first person singular – me, myself and I – and grow in our ability to focus on the second person plural – we, us, and together.
So again, I repeat, but with an expansion: Remembering the WOW!s of our loving God helps us to remember our vows as the people of God.
And the best way to remember the WOW!s is to write them down. My Book of Stones is only one component of my commitment to have a good spiritual memory. The events in last week’s post were originally recorded in a journal, a practice I have kept for forty-eight years, writing three to six times each month on average.
I’ll admit – reading the older entries is cringe-worthy, as I see more clearly my self-absorption, spiritual near-sightedness, and overly-emotional whining. But amid my ramblings and rantings there remains a record of God’s faithfulness, which helps keep me centered and focused.
What will you do to help you remember the WOW!’s?
Benediction of Blessing
May you get started in your effort to remember and to record the wonderful works of God in your life.
May you regularly thank God for his faithfulness to the vows he has made to his people.
May you ask God for his help in being faithful to your part of the covenant relationship – with him and with the people of God.
* So named after the memorial stones Joshua was commanded to place beside the Jordan River, a lasting tribute to God’s power after he parted the waters of the river, allowing the people of God to walk into the Promised Land.
** Exodus 3 is the account of God speaking to and commissioning Moses, his voice coming out of a bush that was on fire but not burning up. This miraculous event got Moses’ attention. I’ve been blessed with some pretty amazing experiences.
*** For other examples of the Psalmist intentionally calling to mind the works of God, see Psalms 42 and 77.
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All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version, NIV. Copyright 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc. TM