Often life is hard, but God is always good

Posts tagged ‘Fatherhood of God’

Abounding in Love and Faithfulness

Photo Credit: Lisa Widerberg

Photo Credit: Lisa Widerberg

And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, “The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness.” Exodus 34:6 NIV

I first heard that the Lord “abounded in love and faithfulness” from my grandmother, Dorothy Clay Watson, aka “Grandmummy”.

She has gone to glory, but her own faithful declaration of the constant affection of the Lord for me built a solid foundation for my soul.

Every time I stayed overnight at her house, my Grandmummy walked with me up the creaky stairs to the spare bedroom. She paused at the landing to retrieve a silver candlestick with a candle stub that she would light. This magical ritual culminated in our kneeling by the bed to sing songs as a nighttime benediction by candlelight.

Precious.

Recently, I crooned one of these holy songs to my own infant granddaughter as I rocked her by the crib before putting her to bed:

Jesus loves me — this I know

For the Bible tells me so

Little ones to Him belong

They are weak but He is strong

Refrain: Yes, Jesus loves me! 
Yes, Jesus loves me!

Yes, Jesus loves me! 
The Bible tells me so

(Original poem by Anna Barlett Warner, Hymn by William Batchelder Bradbury)

The faithfulness of God is yours and mine from our birth to our present moment.

My eyes with the clarity of heavenly sight look back and see He has kept his pledge to love me always. He has protected, re-directed, and placed strategic people in my life.

Can you see the evidence of His faithfulness to you?

May we “pay it forward” by proclaiming to others the wonder of our dependable, steadfast God who loves us forever.

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases his mercies never come to an end. They are new every morning, new every morning. Great is your faithfulness, Oh Lord. ©1974, 1975 Celebration / Written by Edith McNeill

More to Come – Looking at a Bright Future

Photo Credit: Howard Ignatius

Photo Credit: Howard Ignatius

“We always thank God for all of you, mentioning you in our prayers. We continually remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.” 1 Thessalonians 1: 2,3 NIV

The apostle Paul visited the city of Thessalonica and spent a brief but fruitful time preaching in the Jewish synagogue and encouraging new converts, Jewish and Gentile, “and some prominent women” to continue in their faith.   Heckling, threats, and a riot conspired to drive him on to Berea as the next missionary stop, but the Thessalonian believers remained rooted in their Christian faith and in Paul’s heart as evidenced by the two letters he wrote them which are now part of the New Testament canon.

“Now about brotherly love we do not need to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love each other. And in fact, you do love all the brothers throughout Macedonia. Yet we urge you, brother, to do so more and more.” 1 Thessalonians 4:9 NIV

I was struck by the sincere admiration Paul expressed for the Thessalonian Christians and his heartfelt commendation for their love, their work and their faith. This is not flattery or cloaked criticism – not the “sandwich” method of saying something positive before and after a hard, negative truth.

So let me be your “Paul” – reminding you of the work, labor, endurance, and love of your present life. God sees all of it and smiles. Our heavenly Father is a good supportive parent, so allow me to direct your attention to all the good stuff and applaud you.

But you have more purpose and more acts and more love in your future. Like my little grandbaby who at five months is just learning to roll over and has so much more to do (like crawling), we are urged to keep on growing and doing.

“Finally, brothers, we instructed you how to live in order to please God, as in fact you are now living. Now we ask you and urge you in the Lord Jesus to do this more and more.” 1 Thessalonians 4:1 NIV

This applies to us no matter our stage in life.

Although Paul urges the Thessalonians (and us) to do more and more, he clearly points to the power source – God – who fulfills his purposes through our lives:

“With this in mind, we constantly pray for you, that our God may count you worthy of his calling, and that by his power he may fulfill every good purpose of yours and every act prompted by your faith.” 2 Thessalonians 1:11 NIV

Our future prospects glow with promise.  There is more to come.

Am I the Older Brother?

Photo Credit: JL Hopgood

Photo Credit: JL Hopgood

He brought me out into a spacious place; he rescued me because he delighted in me. Psalm 18:19 NIV

I was a prodigal once.  Sure, I have lived in my “Father’s House” and enjoyed His love and protection for many years, but I had to be rescued first.

I made a childhood profession of faith, but when I became a youth pastor, I left my principles and began living wild.

Looking back I can see that I experimented with another life path, thinking maybe I was missing out on something, but that direction led me to a place that was dark, heavy, and suffocating.

Although I closed my ears to friends and family who knew this was bad for me and kept on doing what I wanted, such a soul sickness set in from living a double life.

Finally, I ran back home to God.   I heartily bless all those people who prayed for me and sought me out.

I experienced first-hand this beautiful truth about the Heavenly Father: He fervently desires us to be close to Him and he actively brings us into a good place filled with love, safety, belonging, and purpose.

The parable in Luke’s gospel about the lost son includes a vivid picture of how God watches for our return:

“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.” (Luke15:20 NIV)

What about the other brother? He stays at home, close to the father, but his heart isn’t right – it’s cold and self-satisfied and focused on justice.

So beware the Older Brother Syndrome.  Once we are back in the fold (or maybe we never left), we can experience a dulled heart, a turning of our backs on the “outside world”.

What a temptation to build walls to keep out the undesirable effects of the darkness.  I saw it depicted in the movie World War Z.  My heart turned to ice as I watched zombies scale the wall of Jerusalem.   Do we view prodigals like that?

God certainly doesn’t!

“I know that God has not forgotten all that’s lost and broken”, sings Will Reagan in his beautiful song, “Take Back”. (Will Reagan and United Pursuit, Endless Years, United Pursuit Records, 2013 CD).

Not forgetting even means going out after those whose lives are stuck in abuse, fear, and alienation, like Jack LaPietra, the pastor of New Life in Christ Church in inner city Denver, Colorado.  He writes that this “prodigal son” parable is written also to religious leaders to underscore the tragedy that no one goes.

“The son is left to make his own way back home.  Jesus’ implication is obvious: the older brother should have gone to his father and said, ‘My younger brother’s been a fool, and now his life’s a mess.  But I’ll go look for him and bring him home.’” (“The House of Pain in the House of God”, Newsletter, May 2013.)

Pastor Jack’s church is full of “younger brothers” – returned prodigals – who go out to find their brothers.

I love the good place – the spacious place – I live in with God, but it has more than enough room for all.   “O Lord, open my arms like yours and make my feet run to meet others who are soul-sick and ready for your love.”

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