The Arms of a Father


A man
understands the meaning of being a father when he holds his first newborn baby. His arms will never be the same. His arms are filled with a new responsibility. He embraces a role that can only be filled by a man. Dad is his new name.

How does a man learn to become a father? By following the example of his Heavenly Father.

The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms.
He will drive out your enemies before you, saying, ‘Destroy them!’”
Deuteronomy 33:27

I remember my husband holding our first-born child. Our baby looked so small in the arms of his father. Gary lovingly supported this little eight pound bundle of boy. I saw both gentleness and strength in this new dad’s arms. Daddy was not going to drop his son. He would take care of him. He would protect him. This new father desired to follow the example of God, his Heavenly Father.

The years advanced. My husband was still Dad but his hands and arms had a new purpose. Our baby boy no longer depended upon his father’s arms to be held. However, the growing boy still needed guidance. A helping hand was required – and often requested by our son.

For I am the LORD your God who takes hold of your right hand
and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you.
Isaiah 41:13

A father holds his child’s hand so he/she will not run away. Otherwise, he or she might get lost in the crowd. I can still see Gary extending his arm down toward Greg’s little upheld arm. They clasped their hands together. Greg held tightly to his dad’s hand as the three of us maneuvered our way through a crowd of people at a local parade. Many things can crowd into the life of a growing child.

There are times when a helping hand is advantageous. Our kitchen table was the scene of various school projects for father and son. Dad’s wisdom was appreciated. A father helps, but does not do everything for the youngster. A good father relies on the Holy Spirit to be his Helper as he helps his family.

Now our son is a man. He is a father. However, he still returns to spend time with his dad.

So he got up and came to his father. But while he was still
a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion for him,
and ran and embraced him and kissed him.
Luke 15:20

This scripture is part of the parable of the lost son. Our son is not, and never has been, a wayward son. However, this verse is another example of a father’s arms. When Greg comes to visit his dad, a hand shake is not an adequate greeting. Father and son’s arms become entwined in a hug. The strength of their arms draws them close. There is a bond between a father and his kids regardless of their ages. This embrace is an expression of affection. I think of an acronym for hug: Heartfelt Unconditional Gesture.

Even to your old age and gray hairs I am he,
I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you;
I will sustain you and I will rescue you.
Isaiah 46:4

Through the prophet Isaiah, our Heavenly Father assures all earthly fathers that He extends His arms to them no matter their age. In addition to setting the example for earthly fathers, God desires to be the Heavenly Father of all dads. His everlasting arms offer affection, protection, guidance and strength to all His kids.

Happy Father’s Day!

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ASK!


Ask, and it will be given to you;
seek, and you will find;
knock, and it will be opened to you.
For everyone who asks receives,
and he who seeks finds,
and to him who knocks it will be opened.
Matt 7:7-8

While “ask” is the first word this scripture, it is also the acronym for the three verbs:
Ask
Seek
K
nock

There is a corresponding promise for each action:
Ask and receive
Seek and find
Knock and be opened

ASK

When praying, can we ask for anything and get what we want? Can each of us be like a little child and say, “Give me, give me, give me!”? No, more is involved if we are to be confident that we will receive.

In Mark 11:24, Jesus says, “Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.”
We must have faith in God’s ability to answer our request. We must have the kind of faith that trusts God to answer according to the way He sees best.

Jesus goes on to say in John 14:13, “And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.”
First, we must ask in the name of Jesus. This involves more than saying “in Jesus’ name.” Joseph Prince emphasizes that when we pray “in Jesus’ name,” we acknowledge that our prayers will be answered because of what Jesus Christ has done for us – not because of who we are or what we have done.
Secondly, our Heavenly Father must be glorified. Ultimately, prayer is about what gives God glory.

SEEK

Seeking is not simply a verbal request. It’s action time. We seek God’s will by searching the scriptures. This helps us find out how to pray.

Luke 8:17 says, “For there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open.
There is something to seek. And, there is something to be found. God plays a game of spiritual hide and seek with us. Amazingly, He always lets us find Him.

Matthew 6:33 instructs us to “Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.
Seeking is looking. Looking for God’s kingdom. We are not only to seek health or wealth. We are to seek God’s will. He has a unique plan for each of us. Unless we seek to know His kingdom plan, we may ask incorrectly.

David says in Psalm 27:8, “My heart says of you, “Seek his face!” Your face, LORD, I will seek.
To grow in our relationship with the Lord, we must seek Him rather than just what His hands can do for us.

KNOCK

Knocking is more than tapping on a door. It is a repeated pounding. When we are confident in what we ask and seek, we will knock tenaciously until the Lord answers. Knocking implies that we believe God has better and deeper things yet to be acquired.

In James 1:6 we are told, “But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt.”
I associate knocking with believing while tapping reflects doubting. Knocking is persistent.

Jesus says in Revelation 3:20, “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.”
If we have answered Jesus’ knock at our heart’s door. If we have invited Him into our life. Then, He will answer our prayerful knock upon the door of His throne room. Our answer may be just behind a door.

ASK – SEEK – KNOCK

The parable of The Lost Coin in Luke 15:8-10 is a good example of asking, seeking and knocking. The woman knocked on her neighbors’ doors asking them to help her seek her lost coin. Her need, or her prayer, was answered – the lost was found.

Jeremiah 29:12-14 is another inclusive scripture. “Then you will call upon Me (ask) and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. You will seek Me and find Me when you search (knock) for Me with all your heart. I will be found by you,’ declares the LORD.”

Thank you, Lord, that we can ask and receive – seek and find – knock and have it opened!

enJOY – JOY – JOYful

JOY – a simple three letter word with big potential. Add a couple of letters
and we have ENJOY or JOYFUL. How about REJOICE?

Let’s play around with JOY today. We will also do a little language study.

JOY
To begin, we must know what JOY is.
the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, . . .
Galatians 5:22
Joy is one of the nine attributes of the fruit of the Spirit. This fruit is the result of the
Holy Spirit’s presence in our lives. It is not something we can conjure up by ourselves.
The prospect of the righteous is joy
Proverbs 10:28
Joy is the reward of living in right relationship with the Lord.
the joy of the LORD is your strength
Nehemiah 8:10
Joy is more than a feeling when it is the Lord’s joy. It imparts
spiritual strength to our internal muscles.

ENJOY = in joy
En” is a prefix that transforms a noun into a verb. Enjoy means to cause
a person or thing to be “in joy.”
In Your presence is fullness of joy
Psalm 16:11 NKJV
When we are in the presence of Jesus, we are in joy. Through praise,
we enter the Lord’s presence and enjoy Him.
I will heal my people and will let them enjoy abundant peace and security.
Jeremiah 33:6
When we trust the Lord, we will enjoy His promises. If we enjoy something, we are in joy.

JOYFUL = joy full – full of joy
The suffixful” is defined as “full of” or “plenty.” We become “joyful” when we are full of joy.
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him,
so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Romans 15:13
God fills us with His joy. The Holy Spirit gives us more than a little bit of joy.
When we are “full of joy,” joy bubbles up inside and flows out of us.
This joy overflows to others. It even extends into the atmosphere.
That is what I call being “joyful!”
Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth;
break forth into joyous song and sing praises!
Psalm 98:4 ESV
When we are full of joy, we desire to joyfully praise the Lord. We let our joy overflow to Him.

REJOICE = re-joys
Re-joys” is my play on words for “rejoice.” The prefix “re” means “again.”
Joys” is more than one joy. We can experience joy in multiple ways at numerous times.
Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!
Philippians 4:4
Paul encourages us to “rejoice” twice in one verse. The New Living Translation says,
Always be full of joy in the Lord.”
This is the day the LORD has made. We will rejoice and be glad in it.
I say it again—rejoice!”
Psalm 118:24 NKJV
We have the choice of whether or not to rejoice. First of all, we must know and receive God’s joy. Then we can enjoy Him – be in joy. When we are filled of God’s joy, we are joyful.
We experience joy, and then more joy. This fullness of joy multiples into “joys.”
Because of these “re-joys,” we rejoice.

JOY – ENJOY – JOYFUL – REJOICE
Let us summarize our study of joy with a few final scriptures.
Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.
Psalm 30:5 NKJV
We will not always feel joyful or have joyous experiences, but we do have God’s
assurance of forthcoming joy.
I (Jesus) will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy.
John 16:22
Jesus spoke these words to His disciples before His arrest and crucifixion. He speaks the same words to us in our challenging times. His joy is everlasting and cannot be taken away.
Shout to God with joyful praise!
Psalm 47:1 NLT
Let us praise God for His promise of joy. Let us rejoice together because we are full of joy.

Thoughts for Memorial Day

In the United States of America, next Monday we will celebrate Memorial Day. It is a time when we remember those who died while serving in our country’s armed forces. We also honor those currently in our military.

Let’s take time to look at a few scriptures and make some comparisons of how the goals of our military men and women follow Christ’s example.

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

Out of love, God sent His Son to our world. Jesus sacrificed His life so that we, through faith, may receive the gift of eternal life. No one can do what God did. No one needs to do what God did because Jesus paid the ultimate sacrifice.

However, there are several similarities between God and the people in our military. Our armed forces defend all of humanity – not only United States citizens. They serve out of love for people around the world. They fight for freedom for people who are treated inhumanely. These soldiers are willing to die so others can live. There is also a sacrifice paid by the families of our active military men and women. Parents and spouses of military personnel allow their family members to go around the world defending those whose lives are in danger. There is a high price to be paid.

If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.
John 8:36

Jesus lived and died for freedom. Freedom is the cause for which individuals choose to serve in our armed forces. Jesus died to set us free from sin. Those in the United States military are willing to die so that our citizens may live free from tyranny and terrorism.

Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.
John 15:13

Jesus loves us. He laid down His life for us. We are His friends. Military men and women love their country. They are willing to lay down their lives. They are our friends, not enemies.

Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
Matthew 6:10

Jesus spoke these words when teaching His disciples how to pray. Their prayer was that God’s kingdom would reign on earth and His will would be done. The members of the United States armed forces serve their country defending their nation and the Constitution upon which the government is based. They serve their nation (or kingdom) and strive to fulfill the country’s goals (or will).

Who will separate us from the love of Christ?
Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine
or nakedness or danger or sword?
As it is written:
“F
OR YOUR SAKE WE FACE DEATH ALL DAY LONG;
WE ARE CONSIDERED AS SHEEP TO BE SLAUGHTERED.”
But in all these things we more than conquerors
through Him who loved us.
Romans 8:35-37

Paul acknowledges that we will encounter suffering. He lists several forms of suffering. However, he also assures us that nothing will separate us from Christ’s love. We are more than conquerors and we will obtain more than ordinary victories. Christ’s love triumphed over death. And, because of His love, we achieve abundant victories.

Paul’s words also offer assurance to our military personnel. If these men and women find themselves in harm’s way, they will face danger. If involved in combat, death will be a possibility. At these times, may our soldiers be aware of Christ’s presence. May they fight for freedom with faith. They are more than just conquerors.

In conclusion, I emphasize the importance of scripture being the foundation for our lives. I give thanks to Jesus for setting an example. I also thank members of our military for following the example of Christ. May Memorial Day be a time for us to honor these men and women of the United States of America for their sacrifices for freedom.

What Do You Imagine?

You receive a message from your doctor asking you to return his/her call.
The boss calls you into his office.
A friend asks to meet for coffee and conversation.

What is your first reaction to these scenarios?
What kind of news do you expect to hear?
Do positive or negative images form in your mind?

What we imagine (an idea or notion we form in our minds) causes us to create an image (an idea or perception). We need to be careful about what we imagine and the images we allow to be created in our minds because our imaginations can run wild.

Our imagination forms mental images. These images may be positive or negative. They are not always true because they are often based upon previous experiences and preconceived ideas. Images are not realities.

It is a battle of the mind whether we allow our imagination to create positive or negative images. Paul talks about spiritual battles in Ephesians 6:12 saying, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”

II Corinthians 10:4-5 NKJV says, “For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.” The Old King James Version uses the word “imaginations” rather than “arguments” when describing what comes against the knowledge of God. The enemy likes to create negative images in our minds. We should disregard the false and embrace the truth. Jesus is the truth according to John 14:6.

We must capture our thoughts for Christ. Philippians 4:7-8 states, “And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.” Let’s be positive. If we saturate our minds with Christ, we will think like Christ. II Corinthians 5:17 says, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!”

As God’s creations, we exemplify Christ. In Genesis 1:26 God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness” Romans 8:29 says, “For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren.”

Hebrews 12:2 says, “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Jesus imagined joy while facing crucifixion! In His mind, He imagined the throng of people who would be with Him throughout eternity because of His dying for their sins. He did not think about the verbal abuse or the pain of the nails. The pain would not last forever but the joy would be everlasting.

Christ gave us the perfect example of how to use our imagination. He focused upon the will of His Father and experienced joy. Our joy is to fix our eyes upon Jesus and the plans and purposes the Lord has for us. These plans will give us hope and a future according to Jeremiah 29:11.

In a sermon, Pastor Robert Reeves of Calvary Assembly of God said that our actions are determined by our imaginations. So, may we let our imaginations run wild! Ephesians 3:20 says “God is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think” – that includes what we can imagine.

Isaiah 26:3 NIV says, “You (God) will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.” I also like the New Living Translation that says, “You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you!”

I conclude with the refrain of the hymn Turn Your Eyes upon Jesus by Helen H. Lemmel.

Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.

Who Is Mom on Mother’s Day?

Honor her for all that her hands have done,
and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.
Proverbs 31:29-31

It’s hard work becoming a mom! Any woman in labor knows this. However, it is worth the effort to gain the title mother. I am not talking about just becoming a biological mother through the birth of a child. Anytime God impregnates an idea or a plan inside a woman, there is conception for a spiritual mother.

I say to all women, God created you with the ability to conceive and receive His plans whether or not that includes your being a biological mom. All women are moms birthing miracles of God. Conception takes place. Growth occurs. Labor is involved. New life begins. Every birth is a miracle.

First, a seed is planted. After physical conception occurs, it takes nine months for the embryo to grow into a baby ready to be born. When spiritual conception occurs, the time for development varies.

Within a physically pregnant woman, the baby begins to move in approximately 8 weeks. However, the mother most likely will not feel the movement until 16-25 weeks. A spiritually pregnant woman feels a quickening in her spirit at the time of conception. The length of time required for the reality of what has been implanted to occur depends upon God’s timing. The fetal motion within a woman’s body has been described as the fluttering of an angel or  butterfly’s wings. This is a beautiful picture of new life development whether it be physical or spiritual.

During pregnancy, a woman’s emotions are super sensitive. She rides an emotional roller coaster. One day high and the next day low. This is true for both physically and spiritually expectant women. Although there is excitement when physical movement is first felt, mom becomes tired of all the kicking by the ninth month. Spiritually, the development of God’s plans may move quickly for a time. Then there may be a time when nothing seems to be happening.  More highs and lows.

Gestation may feel like it will never end. The physical mom will be uncomfortable and count the days until delivery. The spiritual mom may be frustrated and think the fruition of her efforts will never come.

Finally, the mother’s body goes into labor allowing her to give birth to her biological child. The spiritual mother is not exempt from this experience. Laboring is also involved when giving birth to God’s plans and purposes.

When birth occurs, joy overtakes all the frustration, discomfort and effort involved. It is worth it – physically and spiritually. God created women to be mothers and to bring forth His miracles. For this reason, we celebrate all moms this weekend.

Happy Mother’s Day!

(Images provided by Pixabay.)

 

Underground

It is spring. Tulips and daffodils are springing up. It seems like these flowers are just suddenly appearing. However, that is not the case. If there are to be spring flowers, bulbs must be planted in the fall. They should be placed 10-12 inches deep beneath the soil’s surface. Then, a period of cold weather is necessary to break the dormancy of the bulbs. After a long cycle of cool temperatures, the biochemical process is sparked that causes the blossoms. All this is underground work.

God works underground with creation. He also works deep in our hearts. The Lord describes His ground work in Ezekiel 36:26-27 saying, “Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances.”  The power of the Holy Spirit changes our hearts. This is ground work because our heart is the ground, or soil, of our lives. It is also ground work in the sense that it is the foundational work that God does within us.

Isaiah 35:1-2 says,The desert and the parched land will be glad; the wilderness will rejoice and blossom. Like the crocus, it will burst into bloom; it will rejoice greatly and shout for joy.”
Various commentaries point out that the desert can refer to a spiritual wilderness. In these verses, there is a messianic message that is later fulfilled by Christ’s ministry. Combining the underground work of God in Ezekiel and the blossom in Isaiah, we can make a personal application. When the Lord works underground to give us a new heart, Jesus is the blossom that appears.

Luke 8:17-19 says, “So that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God.God works in our hearts creating deep roots – deeper than the 10-12 inches for tulip bulbs. The height of the faith flower that suddenly appears reveals the depth of the underground work of our Creator’s loving hands.

Ecclesiastes 3:1 NKJV says, “For everything there is a season.” Growth takes place in floral bulbs during winter as well as spring. Without winter work, no spring flowers. In our lives, there may be bleak times when nothing appears to be happening. We may think God is ignoring our struggles. We may feel like He has abandoned us. However, God is doing a deep spiritual work in our hearts. He digs out the dirt of sin and plants new life. He is working underground. II Peter 3:9 says, “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

God’s hands are in touch with flowers and personal lives. He handles all things with care. God works slowly and thoroughly. Philippians 1:6 assures us, “He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” Whether it be blossoms from bulbs or flowers of faith, God works underground to produce beauty above ground. According to Ecclesiastes 3:11 KNJV, He has made everything beautiful in its time.”

(Click on images to find the credit for appropriate images.)