The Father’s Love

For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16). 

A short time ago, the message at our church impacted me so much that even though I may not do it justice in these few words, I would be remiss for not sharing and will prayerfully try.

Although God’s word never goes out and returns void, I chose a verse that even non-believers can quote. John 3:16 is so commonly used, the depths of its meaning has been lost.

How many of us as loving parents would choose to suffer pain, emotional hurt, or even death rather than see our child experience it? The anguish suffered by that parent is often more excruciating than the physical pain.

Our loving Father gave us His most precious, precious gift. His only be-loved Son was sent from a heavenly paradise to live on earth for the sole purpose of assuming our sins on His perfect humanity in order to pay the penalty for what we did. As a parent, the depths of His pain would have to be immeasurably greater than if the Father could do it Himself.

And then, because God cannot be in the presence of sin, the already grieving Father had to turn away from the Son. Many parents cannot even leave a child’s hospital bed to eat or sleep, but the Father, who is the very definition of love, had to for a time abandon the Son. He could not complete His purpose if “the cup passed” from Him.

Can there be any greater love than to give His Son–His dearly loved child?

The depths of this love story can only be matched by the joyous ending. Sin and eternal death are defeated. We are redeemed by the most costly price imaginable—the Father’s love.

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Recognizing the Enemy

For Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light (2 Cor 11:14).

In one of Priscilla Shirer’s studies she notes that there are two mistakes that we make concerning the enemy. One is that we overestimate his impact on our lives and are therefore laden with much fear and anxiety. The other is that we underestimate the impact of his influence.

I would guess that in our sophisticated culture that we don’t recognize that many of our societal and personal problems are coming from Satan, the father of lies, the master deceiver. How many “forbidden fruits” are now thought to be not only acceptable, but even worth pursuing? In our culture, he doesn’t work in black and white, but in shades of gray, slyly whispering, “How could this be wrong?” or “Don’t you have rights?” or “Did God really mean that?”

Our relationship with the Lord is vital for a clear vision and the only way to evaluate situations with discernment. As a child of God, we have defensive weapons to protect us, and offensive weapons to unleash power through the Holy Spirit, the Word of God, and prayer because greater is He that is in me, than he that is in the world.

Finished

Now God saw all that He had made, and indeed, it was very good! Thus the heavens and the earth were entirely completed in all their vast array.    By the seventh day God completed His work that He had done, and He rested (Gen 1:31-2:2).

Although no work by God can be called small or insignificant, the creation of the heavens and earth “in all their vast array” had to be one monumental task. What do you do after you complete an immense work? If I am satisfied with my effort, after a well-deserved sigh, I sit down, put my feet up, and rest—mission accomplished, satisfied that it is good, relax and peacefully rest.

THE most monumental task was accomplished by God through His Son. Let’s look at what Jesus did as noted in Hebrews:

After he had provided a cleansing from sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Highest Majesty.

His mission was accomplished. It was finished, done, totally complete.

Through our faith in the work of the Son, our purification from sin is finished, done, entirely complete. We need not, nor can’t, add one thing more. It is more than enough. We can rest assured that it is very good.

Guidelines for a Joyful Life

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men (Col 3:23).

The other day I heard the following part of a sermon preached by the Reverend Martin Luther King:

“If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as a Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, ‘Here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.’”

I did not check the rest of his message to identify the scripture about which he was speaking, but when Colossians 3:23 came to my mind, I began thinking that every success principle discovered by man can be paired with a principle from scripture.

Our God is good. He wants us to be joyful even when we are hard at work. In fact, His joy gives us strength (Neh 8:10).

So instead of reading a list of the 10 Best Things to Do for a Contented (Successful, Joyful…) Life, search The Book and you can write your own.

Pure in Spirit

Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting (Psalm 139:23-24).

The topic for my most recent bible study was purity — not just sexual, but more so the motives of our heart. Coincidentally, today’s reading from Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest, was also about purity. He says that when our hearts are left to their own devises, what proceeds from them are evil thoughts, murder, adultery, fornications, false witnesses, blasphemies and that list of ugly things noted in Matthew and 2 Corinthians. Whoa! I don’t do THOSE things, but…

Without the Holy Spirit, we are constrained only either by cowardice (would I really act on my thoughts if I was more brave!?), or that we are constrained by living in a civilized society (so grateful for the morality set in place by our forefathers).

Sometimes I question my motives like am I being manipulative or prideful or selfish. Those I don’t like, but they are “acceptable sins” if there is such a thing. But when we let the Holy Spirit penetrate our heart, we’re appalled at how evil we really are. The Spirit of God uncovers our self-exoneration and excuses and makes us sensitive to things we never recognized, let alone admitted before. We begin to realize how much we need the kind of cleansing that only comes from Him.

Proverbs 16:2 says, Everything a person does seems pure in his own opinion, but the Lord weighs intentions. So I prayerfully repeat O God… see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.

The Word

Man does not live by bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord (Deut 8:3).

 Did you notice that this verse is from the Old Testament? You probably recognize it from when Jesus quoted it to rebuke Satan’s temptations. There are so many lessons to be learned from the context of this quote in the Old Testament, but I’d like to focus of Jesus (yes, I would). He had the power of the Creator of the Universe at His fingertips, but He, the Son of God, fought the enemy with scripture.

Have you ever seen those bookmarkers that have a scripture for every need (when you’re lonely, depressed, scared…)? Don’t take it lightly; that is our arsenal. His words are powerful.

When I think of the power of my own words to produce joy, anger, hurt, love, I can on a small, small scale begin to grasp the immeasurable power of proclaiming the words of God.

Both Masterpiece and Work in Progress

But those whose hope is in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint (Is 40:31). 

From time to time, the Lord convicts me of things that I need to work on and change. And when I say “I” need to change, I actually mean that “He” has to change me. That definitely does not get me off the hook though. Although He could zap me into the perfect wife, mother, or friend, in His wisdom that is not how He works.

Easy lessons unfortunately are more quickly forgotten. Most things of great value come to us through struggle. They take self-discipline and persistence on our part, but He provides the power and strength to overcome and conquer.

It is so very true that we shouldn’t be quick to judge others because everyone has a struggle or burden. But blessed are those who have trust in the Lord because our ally is wise, loving, powerful, and will lead us on the most effective path to overcoming.