The Father and His Son

Long ago and far away there lived a Father and his Son who had a relationship that is rare on the face of this earth. We’ll call them Father and Son. We don’t know a lot about the details of their relationship, but there are some things we know for certain. Although both grown men, the two could often be found enjoying each other’s company.  Son had an artistic mind and found pleasure in creating things – a real master craftsman. And Father took equal pleasure in seeing what Son made.

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One day tragedy struck and darling Son suffered a severe injury while rescuing Father’s dog that had been caught in a well. Death appeared imminent for Son. Father felt as if a knife had cut through his own soul watching Son suffer so.  He drew closer to Son’s bedside and tenderly took his hand, giving the comfort only a loving father can.  The power of their love enabled Son to pull through the darkness and, in the end, fully recover. They could again be found side-by-side, loving on the pup that had nearly been the end of it all.

There was no room for one-upmanship, manipulation or control in their relationship and no sense of fear or dread, no concern of inadequacy.  The relationship was built on trust, mutual respect and personal freedom. The result was sheer enjoyment and delightful companionship for both.  It was the envy of all who saw it.

Amazingly, this is real. This is the quality of relationship described in the Bible between God the Father and Son before time began. Close, warm, tender, playful, creative, pleasurable. There was a third party to this relationship. His name is the Holy Spirit. We don’t know as much about Him, but He was a part of the giving and receiving of benevolent love.

More amazingly, you and I are invited to walk into the relationship with God. Listen to the prayer of Jesus in John 17:

The goal is for all of them to become one heart and mind—
Just as you, Father, are in me and I in you,
So they might be one heart and mind with us.
Then the world might believe that you, in fact, sent me.
The same glory you gave me, I gave them,
So they’ll be as unified and together as we are—
I in them and you in me.
Then they’ll be mature in this oneness,
And give the godless world evidence
That you’ve sent me and loved them
In the same way you’ve loved me.

It was Jesus’ desire that we experience the same quality of love relationship with each other and with His Father as they have been experiencing for eons past. God is not content to simply spare us. He wants to save us out of everything painful and into a beautiful friendship.

You are not alone. You don’t need to perform to be acceptable or accepted. You are loved deeply and tenderly. You don’t have to wait until heaven to experience this. He wants to start growing into this relationship with you right now. Do you trust Him? Will you believe He’s inviting you, just as you are, into the inner circle?

Jesus opened the door of trust in our hearts. Now walk through it.

He’s the hero. And it’s great news!

See Isa 42:1, 6; Pro 8:30, 31; Zech 13:7; John 1:18; Mat 3:17; John 8:29; John 17:24; and John 10:30. 

 

 

 

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A New Heritage

As I listened to their description of what it means to provide hospitality, my first response was to tell myself some lies. “I don’t know how to do that. The family I came from never taught me that. This is going to be hard.”

While I enjoy having friends over and have prepared countless meals, the kind of hospitality they were talking about was at a whole different level. It involved welcoming the stranger into my home, relieving their burdens and providing for their needs for the purpose of sharing the good news of Jesus with them. Wow! Yeah – I’ve never seen that done. … Or have I?

While Jesus was on the earth revealing the love of the Father to us, He went about doing good ~ healing the sick, relieving physical maladies, lifting emotional baggage, and feeding thousands of strangers at a time. He gave hope to those who could never repay Him. He expressed love and forgiveness for people who spat in His face.

I have seen that kind of hospitality.

The gospel tells me that I am seated at the right hand of God (Eph 2:1-10) with Jesus. It says that Jesus agreed to trade places with me in order to heal what I am unable to heal for myself (Isa 53:5, 1 Pet 2:24). If I accept the gift that Jesus has offered, I have the most amazing heritage of hospitality!  John 14:12 tells me that, empowered by the Holy Spirit, made possible by the gift of Jesus, I will do the things Jesus did while on earth in order to bring glory to the Father.  It’s already a reality. I just have to claim it as mine and choose to live in that reality.

Jesus is the hero. It’s good news! And that’s the gospel!

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What I was shown or not shown, what was done or not done to me or for me, is a part of my story. But it does not define me. In the gospel story, through the exchange of Jesus, I am offered a new heritage. I can grieve whatever I need to from my past, but I am given the option of grieving with hope. I can acknowledge the hurt of any past events, without any part of it determining my future. So when looking strictly at family of origin, it would be true to say I have not been shown how to be hospitable. However, Jesus has inserted a new story line into my life and has provided all I need. In Him, my story changes.  In Him, I am whole and complete.

Jesus is the hero. It’s good news! And that’s the gospel!

The Gospel ~ Big Picture

The story of God is a story of love. For He is Love. My story, your story – our story as the human race – is but a small part of God’s story. He is the hero of all stories.

In the beginning, before time on earth began, God existed in the form of three – but yet in one. Being three in one God has experienced love, shown love, been love for all time. As an expression of His love, and no doubt also as an expression of His power and creativity,  God created. God created angels. And He created our world and the human race. We were made to be in relationship with Him. We were made in His image, to give and receive love.

Doubting the goodness of God, Adam and Eve broke the relationship.  Each of us has been born into that state of brokenness since that time.

Knowing His creation could not repair what had been broken without eternally losing their lives, God came to the garden with good news for Adam and Eve. He would make a way for the connection to be regained. It would be expensive for Him, but He had a plan.

God sent His Son, not as a third party to punish and bear the brunt of His anger, but as a part of Himself, to take the consequence of sin. Coming as a baby, to grow and experience life as a human, Jesus could identify with the plight of humanity. In this exchange, He gave up His omnipresence being now limited to space and time, omniscience – having to grow in wisdom, and omnipotence – doing nothing but what His Father empowered Him to  do.  He came as an expression of the Father – to reveal the Father. Jesus is God.  

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As a result of bearing our sins at the end of His ministry, His guilt ridden soul was shut from the Father’s presence. He who had known ever-present, perfect love was now entirely alone and the separation broke His heart. The wages of sin are death, not as a punishment or revenge from God, but as a natural result of choosing to be separated from the source of life. Jesus bore that price by choice to provide a way for us to be free from the penalty. By His wounds we are healed. Being fully divine, Jesus conquered the grave. His payment was accepted by the Father. Hallelujah! Our Savior lives!

God offers this payment to any who would believe. Reaching out our hand and accepting the gift is all that is required. And once accepted, life eternal is ours – beginning now. What God calls real, is real – now – even though I’m not experiencing it yet. That’s part of the faith process. Believing involves trusting what God says more than what my senses say.

“For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” 2 Corinthians 5:21.

It’s not the ending we deserve. That’s the gospel. And that’s good news!

The Gospel Lens ~ An Evolution of Theories

Over the years I’ve had some defining moments that have prompted me to put my beliefs into words. The first was about this time six years ago. My late husband was on hospice. He and I, and our kids, signed a family pledge. It went like this: “Because Jesus is coming again to take His friends to Heaven, we will, therefore, dedicate our lives to Him.”  I had a considerably longer version written out, but the challenge of writing it in calligraphy on a 12 X 16″ sheet of paper inspired me to distill it down to as few words as possible. So when push came to shove, the essence of my beliefs landed on, “Jesus has something I want, so I’m willing to give Him something back in order to get it.” I will always treasure that piece of paper with all of our signatures on it, but I find my gospel view… well… interesting.

About two years ago I had occasion to give a synopsis of my life view again. This time it read: “Because of all Jesus has done for me, I am a bond servant to Him.”  The essence of this statement sounds more like “Jesus has done something for me… and I will work at paying Him back.”  Again… interesting.

But I’ve come to some stark realities in the more recent past. These realizations are based on words that I’ve known for as long as I can remember being.

  • Jesus/ God doesn’t need my work. He owns the cattle on a thousand hills. He can command the rocks to cry out. All things are at His disposal. (Ps 50:7-10, Luke 19:40)
  • He doesn’t want my work. He’s not interested in any performance.  “Going through the motions doesn’t please you, a flawless performance is nothing to you. I learned God-worship when my pride was shattered. Heart-shattered lives ready for love don’t for a moment escape God’s notice.” (Ps 51:16,17 MSG)
  • I can’t give Him any good works of my own.  Every good and perfect gift is from Him. (James 1:17)  Anything I do on my own is as filthy as menstrual rags. (Is 64:6) That’s disgusting.

The 4 Gs

So, if that’s what the gospel isn’t, then what is it? I like this brief summary based on “The Gospel Primer” by Caesar Kalinowski (2013 Missio Publishing):

God is Great ~ so I don’t have to be in control. I can rest of my worries.

God is Glorious ~ so I don’t have to fear others. God is important, or “weighty”. In fact, He is the “weightiest” person in my life.  I can let go of seeking the approval of others.

God is Good ~ so I don’t have to look elsewhere for my satisfaction. People and things eventually fail to deeply satisfy my soul. Jesus is the better fulfillment of my every need.

God is Gracious ~ so I don’t have to prove myself to myself, to others, to God. While I was yet a sinner, God sent His son Jesus to die in my place. I don’t need to earn His love. He proclaims me worthy.

God is the hero.

He graciously gives. I gratefully receive.

Because of the gospel, I am free.

My burden is light.

That’s Good News!

Pithy Proverbs

“Pithy”?!  “Pithy Proverbs” is what the man said. If I’d read his name, seen his face, written his name, then repeated it back a few times, I could tell you what his name was. But alas, it was just an interview on the radio with an apparently well-studied man and author on the subject of Christian family life, and I can’t remember his name. But his comment caught me off guard. Weren’t Proverbs guidelines for life? Weren’t they promises? Weren’t they meant to define a Christian? For Pete’s sake, there’s a whole industry and list of expectations for what a Christian woman should look and act like based on Proverbs 31. And he’s calling them pithy? Somehow that threatened their importance in my mind.

pithy 

pithy phrase or statement is brief but full of substance and meaning. Proverbs and sayings are pithy; newspaper columnists givepithy advice.

The root of this word is pith, which refers to the spongy tissue in plant stems, or the white part under the skin of citrus fruits. Pith is also used figuratively to refer to the essential part of something: They finally got to the pith of the discussion. Pith descends from Middle English, from Old English pitha “the pith of plants.” In the adjective pithy, the suffix –y means “characterized by.”

Well, ok, maybe “pithy” carried a negative connotation to me and applying it to the Proverbs really didn’t diminish their worth. However, the speaker gave an example of how those pithy directives in Proverbs can actually contradict each other. I was surprised, once again, to realize these apparently contradictory words of advice directly follow each other in Proverbs 26.

4 When arguing with fools, don’t answer their foolish arguments, or you will become as foolish as they are. 5 When arguing with fools, be sure to answer their foolish arguments, or they will become wise in their own estimation.

So… is it wise to respond to foolish arguments or not? Hmm… I’m not sure. Maybe it’s one of those things that isn’t “right” or “wrong”, “good” or “bad”  – but is one of those situations in this crazy life where there really isn’t a one-way-fits-all answer. There are consequences (and it would appear that neither of them is ideal) for either direction of action we choose.

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Perhaps the words of Proverbs are merely heavenly-inspired education. Maybe Proverbs wasn’t written to tell me how I have to live. Maybe they aren’t intended to be cut and dry promises of God’s blessings if I just act right. Maybe it was written to give wise advice on the common consequences of choices in various tough situations. Maybe following it has nothing to do with securing nor maintaining my salvation. But maybe it has a whole lot to do with increasing the odds of living a peaceful, whole-hearted life as I walk through these often less-than-ideal circumstances I find myself in every day.

Making Music

The young lady walked into the college music hall surrounded by silence. It was after-hours. She slipped onto the piano bench and quickly opened her sheet music. Perhaps she could play for a while in the big hall before supper was finished and others arrived to use the practice rooms.  The song started softly but grew to a crescendo, the notes reverberating off the walls and filling the space. So consumed was she in her passion of playing that she didn’t see him arrive. His heart swelled with the music.  He also loved to play and knew the passion and dedication required to play as she was. He immediately liked that about her and found himself drawn not just to the music, but to her as well.

Nervous but determined he approached the bench watching her fingers dance on the keys. The young lady, unaware of any change in her surroundings, finished the song.  Her eyes closed in peaceful bliss as the notes drifted away and silence once again surrounded her.  Suddenly the silence was interrupted by a single person clapping right behind her. Simultaneously her body and mind spun.How had he gotten in here? How long had he been standing there? How dare he interrupt her solitude like that! Are his eyes really that blue? No – Wait! How dare he? … He has a sweet smile! … But he could have at least knocked or something before intruding into my space like that.” 

The young man’s smile broadened as he sensed her reluctant pleasure at the attention she was receiving. “Wow!” he exclaimed. “That was beautiful!” He extended his hand in greeting.  “My name is Ted, by the way.”

She regained her composure and clasped his out-stretched hand for the obligatory shake. “Oh, thanks! My name’s Sandy. I’m in the music program here at the college. Someday I’d like to perform on stage.”

“Then I’m sure you will one day.  You are very talented,” Ted replied in support.  When Sandy blushed but didn’t speak, Ted continued on. “I love to play piano as well. Would you be interested in trying a duet sometime?”  She agreed with a nod. That sounded … interesting.

The two began to meet in the music hall every week. The hall had two grand pianos facing each other – a perfect arrangement for playing duets. Their timing, as their conversation, was a bit awkward at first. But their shared passion and dedication to the music drove them on. After a few weeks they found the experience so enjoyable they decided that waiting a whole week between duets was much too long and agreed to meet in the middle of the week as well. And then soon they were sitting at the piano benches at every possible opportunity they had.

A year of making music together quickly slipped by. Then one day Sandy arrived at the hall to find Ted sitting at her piano bench. She tilted her head in an unspoken question. His eyes danced to the rhythm of the song beating in his heart. He rose to his feet as she approached. He was nervous, but yet not. He couldn’t imagine the rest of his life without her. As she arrived in front of him, he dropped to one knee and extended his hand to her once again. But this time his hand was not empty. It held a little box. As she dared take her eyes off of his to look at the box, he opened it wide. The diamond sparkled in the lights of the music hall. “Will you marry me, Sandy? I love you and want to make music with you for the rest of my life!” Her squeal of absolute delight made a reply unnecessary but she spoke it, sang it, and then shouted it for all to hear over and over, “Yes!”

Now, I don’t know if that’s how it really happened. I didn’t ask. But here’s what I was told when I asked an elderly lady how she was adjusting to her move to a retirement home. “Well, there certainly are a lot of changes to get used to. But probably the hardest change has been the piano. My husband and I have been married 60 years, but we’ve been playing piano duets for 62 years. Our new place only has room for one baby grand and we’re having to learn to play on the same piano.”

She found it to be an adjustment. I found it to be sweetly romantic that they were so dedicated to each other as to continue making music together after 62 years. I could imagine them at the bench, their fingers now intertwining on the keys, sometimes awkward, but ever learning and growing, laughing and loving.

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There is a love story in the Bible of which we know very little. Perhaps it was too intimate to reveal in detail. Perhaps it wasn’t shared because we each need to learn our own duet with God rather than focusing on how someone else did it. What we know about the relationship goes like this:

When Enoch was 65 years old, he became the father of Methuselah. After the birth of Methuselah, Enoch lived in close fellowship with God for another 300 years, and he had other sons and daughters. Enoch lived 365 years, walking in close fellowship with God. Then one day he disappeared, because God took him. (Genesis 5: 21-24 NLT)

What a beautiful duet that must have been! What a perfect rhythm they must have developed – a oneness of mind and spirit.

During this season when there is special attention and focus on romantic love, let us also daily remember and grow in our romance with our Savior, our Redeemer, our Lord, Jesus Christ.  I challenge you to a year of making music with God. Even if you don’t think you know how to play your part, show up. He’ll be there. The Master Musician is anxiously waiting.

Squirrel!

A friend of mine expresses significant disgust with greedy squirrels getting into her bird feeders. In order to deter those crafty critters, she has taught a couple of her dogs to chase them on command.  She also happens to be a bit of a tease and will at times open the door and yell, “Squirrel!” just to get the dogs outside. They’ll run out the door full speed ahead in search of that allusive rodent.

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A few years ago I attended a Beth Moore study series about Esther. There were many good lessons worth reviewing in that series, but one stands out in my mind very clearly.  Beth described how we sometimes fix ourselves on a goal, certain we are doing as our Master commands.  We are like a dog on point, fixated on the squirrel.  God at times picks us up by life circumstances and turn us around to point us toward the goal He desires for us, toward our true destiny.

May we hear our Master speaking and make the turns required when He calls us. His plans will always be much more eternally filling for us than our own could ever be.

Crazy Love

I contacted a friend the other night, needing someone to commiserate with concerning the trials and tribulations of the dating world.  Turns out we are both in a similar boat and the opportunity to share was much appreciated.  As often happens in the world of relationship conversations, things quickly turned to the deeper questions in life, like – what is God trying to teach me?  What is the meaning of happiness?  How much work in a relationship is too much?  How much waiting is too long?  What motivates our deep desire to give and receive love?  Can someone be loved enough to heal a past injury? Are we setting the other person up for disappointment if we think we can love away the hurt- knowing we are only human and prone to fail in our attempts at some point and to some degree? Can we stay close enough to God to provide unconditional love without becoming impatient, selfish or anxious when it doesn’t look like it’s going how we’d like?  Can love endlessly flow from us while being filled only from God?  Does God put love in our hearts for others so He can love them through us even when they don’t appear to accept it?  Is this all crazy?

Then I look at God.  I did nothing to reciprocate before He told me He loved me.  I, in fact, didn’t even like Him before He loved me.  I was dressed in stinky, smelly rags but yet He unashamedly told the whole world of His love for me.  I was not worthy but He didn’t care.  He didn’t give me a time-line I had to comply with or risk the removal of His love.  He had no guarantee as to whether or not I would accept His love.  He took all the vulnerability on Himself. While He tells me what I can do to please Him and show my love for Him, He doesn’t require me to do any of it for Him to love me.  His love makes no sense at all.  It is the most selfless, patient, generous thing I’ve ever encountered.  For God so loved me, that before I even looked His way He gave me the very best He had to offer, waiting with anxious anticipation to see if I would love Him back. He is absolutely, over-the-top, CRAZY!

It’s Too Bad

I had a patient tell me today that he waited to come in because he was embarrassed.  He thought his foot problem was “too bad” and I might be judgemental about it.  He tried to fix the problem himself before his appointment so it wouldn’t look so bad when I saw him.  That sounds kind of silly since that’s exactly what I’m here for – to help fix the problem.  If a person waits until the problem is fixed, there’s no reason to come see me.  I specialize in “weird” feet or “bad” things.  That’s what I see all day.  “Normal” feet don’t show up in my office.

But it’s not uncommon for people to think their problem is “too bad” to be seen.  I remember a lady I saw during my residency who did the same thing.  She was a diabetic and had had an amputation a couple of years previous on the right leg because of infection.  She started getting a sore spot on a toe of the left foot several months before we saw her.  She didn’t tell anyone about the sore because she was afraid that the left leg would be amputated also.  She thought it was too bad.  She never told.  Her family finally noticed that she never took her shoe or sock off of the left foot, and…her house started to have a peculiar smell.  She ended up in our clinic.  Sadly it was too late and too bad by the time she came to see us.  Her left leg had to be removed in order to save her life.  What a shame!  It all started with a corn that could have been treated very simply if she’d have just come in when it started.

God’s job is to clean us, fill us, and heal us while we visit and walk with Him.  Why do we think we need to do it ourselves before we come to Him?

“And when the scribes and Pharisees saw Him eating with the tax collectors and sinners, they said to His disciples, “How is it that He eats and drinks with tax collectors and sinners?”  When Jesus heard it, He said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.”  Mark 2: 16, 17

Hush Now

She’s always been my expressive one – my daughter.  At times she’s been expressive enough to earn the title “drama queen”.  One time we were with a crowd of people we didn’t know when she was three.  “Wow!  It’s like talking to a 10 year-old!” someone commented.  At the age of two she’d tell animated stories that would go on and on.  Then she’d take a deep breath, hold up one finger and say ever so sweetly, “Just one more story!”  and ramble off again.  She was talking in full sentences by the time she was one.  It’s a mystery from whence she got the gift of gab.

But even before she could use words, she expressed her needs and desires very effectively.  She wanted companionship.  I’d rock and rock my little baby girl and when I was sure she was sleeping soundly, I would lay her in her crib ever so gently.  The instant my hands moved away, her eyes and mouth would open simultaneously.  “Come back!” she would scream in baby language.  Hungry – same language, but slightly different tune.  Tired – same language, slightly different tune.  Wet – yeah, same language, slightly different tune.  I became pretty efficient at interpreting the tune she was “singing”.  And I distinctly remember thinking and even saying at times, as I listened to her “sing” to me while I was getting whatever it was that she needed ready for her, “It’s coming.  I’m taking care of it.  I know what you need.   Hush now.  It will be O.K.  Mom is right here.”  And I could smile even though she was so distraught because I knew she’d be O.K.  I was taking care of it already.  She just hadn’t gotten it yet.

I think God looks at me with the same smile while I “sing” my tune to Him.  He’s got it handled.  He’s right there.  He’s taking care of it already.

“It shall come to pass that before they call, I will answer;  And while they are still speaking, I will hear.”  Isaiah 65:24