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!

Advertisements

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.

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.)

 

Closed Doors

On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together,
with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders,
Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!”
John 20:19

We celebrated the resurrection of Jesus a little over a week ago. Does that affect what you are doing or how you are feeling today? Let’s see what the disciples did after Jesus’ resurrection. Then, let’s find a promise for ourselves. What Jesus did for the disciples, He will do for us.

According to the gospel of John, the disciples hid behind closed doors after Jesus’ resurrection. They were afraid. Can’t say I blame them. However, this was not what Jesus intended them to do. So, Jesus walked through the closed door and extended peace. A peace that would help them overcome fear.

Have you allowed fear to close doors in your life? Jesus is willing and waiting to walk through your barricades. Colossians 3:15 says, “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts.”

Has God put something upon your heart that He wants you to do? But, you are afraid. God will help you break down your barrier according to Philippians 4:13, “I can do all this through him (Jesus) who gives me strength.”

Maybe you are afraid you will make a wrong decision. Remember the Lord’s words of assurance in Isaiah 41:10, “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” The Lord will walk into your life and help unlock your fears.

I guess the disciples did not learn their lesson the first time because Jesus found them behind closed doors a second time. A week later, or seven verses later, they are still hiding behind locked doors. In John 20:26, we discover that Peter is with them while previously he had not been present. This visit may have been primarily for Peter’s benefit. However, Jesus extends the same blessing – peace. The disciples evidently did not remember the words of Jesus in John 16:33, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” Locked doors still felt safer to them than the threats of the Jewish leaders.

Jesus walked through locked doors to speak with Peter and the other disciples. Today, He is able to enter through our closed doors.

Our granddaughter shared the following testimony with me. She was invited to attend a national scholastic leadership conference for college athletes. However, as she weighed her options, she decided it was best not to miss classes. She turned down the offer. A few days later, a staff member of the athletic department met with her explaining the significance of her attending this conference. She thought she had shut the door but the Lord walked through her closed door to keep the option open. She attended the conference.

Yes, all of us will be tempted to close doors because of fear. But, remember that Jesus can walk through the doors He does not want us to shut.

We just celebrated Jesus’ resurrection on Easter. Now this same power that raised Jesus from the grave is available to us. Does His resurrection make a difference in your life today? Paul says in Philippians 3:10 NLT, “I want to know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead.” We will not be able to know this amazing power, if we fearfully hide behind closed doors.

I challenge you to envision Jesus walking through your closed doors and extending peace to you. Philippians 4:7 says, “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Jesus is risen and He still walks through closed doors!

(Images provided by Pixabay.)

 

 

Mary – JESUS – Mary

Imagine a group of books being held upright by a bookend at each end.

Now make some changes to this image and create a spiritual picture.

Replace the books with the life of Jesus. (Maybe a collection of 33 books – one for each year of His life.)
Instead of bookends, imagine a woman named Mary at the beginning and another Mary
at the end of Jesus’ life. Two ladies supporting Jesus at His birth and death.

Let’s make some comparisons between the two Marys. I will refer to one as Mary Mom (the mother of Jesus) and the other as Mary Magdalene (a woman uniquely positioned in Jesus’ inner circle of followers).

  • The young Mary, chosen by God to be the mother of His Son, was from Nazareth, a small town in Galilee. (see Luke 1:26)
    Mary, known as Mary Magdalene,
    was from Magdala, a fishing town on the western shore of Lake Galilee. (denoted by her name)

  • Mary Mom was a pure virgin whose baby was conceived by the Holy Spirit. (see Luke 1:31)
    Jesus cast seven demons out of Mary Magdalene – at one time she was not so pure. (see Luke 8:2)

  • Mary Mom encountered an angel (Gabriel) when told she would bear a son named Jesus. (see Luke 1:30-31)
    Mary Magdalene saw an angel (a young man wearing a white robe) at Jesus’ empty tomb. (see Mark 16:5-8.)

  • Mary Mom was fearful but was told not to be afraid. She was perplexed by Gabriel’s visitation and message. However, he told her not to be afraid because she had favor with God. (see Luke 1:26-38 esp. v30)
    Mary Magdalene was fearful but was told not to be afraid. When she saw the empty tomb, she was bewildered. Then the angel told her not to be alarmed because Jesus had risen. (see Mark 16:5-8 esp. v8)

  • Mary Mom would have been the first person to hold Jesus as a human baby. (Isn’t this the privilege of a mother?)
    Mary Magdalene had intended to be the last person to hold Jesus’ human body. (Had she fulfilled her plan of preparing His body for burial at the tomb, this would have been her privilege.)

  • Mary Mom anointed Jesus for life. I think Mary Mom may have anointed Jesus (with baby oil?) before she wrapped Him in warm blankets. (an assumption by author)
    Mary Magdalene desired to anoint Jesus after His death. Because she had spices with her, I believe Mary Magdalene went to the tomb to anoint Jesus’ body for burial. (see Mark 16:1)

  • Mary Mom wrapped baby Jesus in swaddling cloths before she laid Him in a manger. (see Luke 2:7)
    Although Joseph of Arimathea had already wrapped Jesus’ body in a linen cloth, I believe Mary Magdalene had intended to provide a proper burial for the crucified Christ by wrapping His body in a linen shroud. (see Mark 16:46; John 19:25)

  • Both Mary Mom and Mary Magdalene were near the cross when Jesus was crucified.  (see John 19:25)

Looking closely at the spiritual image, I see one Mary holding baby Jesus at the beginning of His life and another Mary with the intent of holding His body at the end of His life. Jesus was surrounded and held by Mary Mom and Mary Magdalene. The words of Jesus in Revelation 1:17-18 seem an accurate description of Jesus’ life,Do not be afraid. I am the first and the last. I am the Living One;  I was dead, and behold, I am alive for ever and ever!

This Sunday, we will celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ – the Living One. We no longer hold Jesus as a baby in our arms (as Mary Mom) and there is no need to hold His body in the grave (as Mary Magdalene).

He is risen! He is risen, indeed!

(Images provided by Pixabay.)

A Valentine for 365 Days

Universally, the heart is a symbol of love. However, on February 14, the heart is commercialized in more ways than one can imagine. Greeting cards are created in the shape of hearts decorated with lace and flowers. Heart-shaped boxes enfold decadent chocolates. Bouquets of red roses with a plastic heart stuck in the middle are advertised. Even fluffy stuffed animals portraying love are for sale. Whatever the expression of love, there is always a heart included with the sentiment “Be My Valentine.”

Why magnify love only one day of the year? True love lasts longer than one day. Love is more than a few romantic words composed by Hallmark. Love is more valuable than commercial stuff. God’s love is lavished upon us 365 days of the year. (see I John 3:1) God is love according to I John 4:8.

Let’s make a few comparisons between what God says about love and what the marketing industry sells.

The Greek language has several unique words for love. Agape is God’s love – selfless love. Eros is passionate or romantic love. Valentine’s Day focuses on Eros.

Here are images of angels. Cupid is the valentine angel. In classical mythology, Cupid is the god of erotic love. A cupid is described as a winged being symbolic of love.

In comparison, we see an image of Michael, God’s archangel. Micheal is a warring angel who fights for us. (see Revelation 12:7-9) In Revelation 5:11, John heard the voice of “thousands upon thousands and tens thousand times ten thousand” angels. Too many angels to count! Psalm 91:11 a  loving verse telling each of us about our personal guardian angel. Weapons are evident in these images. In the valentine image, Cupid is shooting an arrow with his bow. On many valentines, there is an arrow of love aimed for the beloved’s heart. Is this truly romantic?

The other image is symbolic of the sword of the Spirit – part of God’s armor. (see Ephesians 6:18) The sword of the Spirit is the Word of God. Offensively, God’s Word can penetrate the unbeliever’s heart allowing him/her to experience the love of God. Much more powerful than an arrow!Is love costly? Looking on the back of a valentine card, one discovers how expensive a particular piece of folded paper can be. Is Eros love worth this amount of money?

Agape love cost Jesus His life. That’s costly! Romans 5:8 NLT says, “But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.” And I Corinthians 6:20 says, “God bought you with a high price.”Pictured above is an old-fashioned valentine. On a flimsy piece of paper, a cute little angel says, “It would be heavenly to have you for my Valentine.” Although this might be a sweet sentiment, there is no sincere commitment.

In contrast, God reveals His love for us throughout the Bible. In Revelation 21 and 22, the angel of the Lord shows John the new heaven and the new earth that will last throughout eternity. The Lord’s love endures forever.  (see  I Chronicles 16:34)

So, forget the commercial hype of Valentine’s Day. Concentrate on God’s  love. Listed below are  scriptural love notes from God. (Emphasis is by the writer.)

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this:
While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Romans 5:8

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

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God.
I John 4:7

The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love.
I John 4:8

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love.
But
the greatest of these is love.
I Corinthians 13:13

and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us
and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.
Ephesians 5:2

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

 

 

 

 

 

No Messy Manger for the Magi

 

While packing away our nativity scene for another year, I reminisce about the significance of each figure. I hold the Magi, or Wise Men, a little longer because I have not blogged about them in the past weeks. I must take time to ponder and print a few words about these men before this season is complete.

According to the Christian calendar, Saturday, January 6, 2018, is the church festival of Epiphany which commemorates the Magi coming to see Jesus. This was the first manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles because the Magi were not men of Jewish background.

Little is known about these mysterious Magi except that they were seeking a specific baby. Matthew 2:1-12 is the only scriptural account. For an extended time, these men determinedly followed a star. I think they would have visited a messy manger if God’s star had led them to that location. However, we can assume that they were still traveling when Jesus was born in the messy manger. Some say it possibly was as long as two years before the Magi found Jesus. Maybe these Magi represent those who are still traveling the road of life looking for Jesus today.

Although not historically accurate, these men have sometimes been referred to as kings. (Maybe because of the Christmas carol We Three Kings.) Chuck Missler has said that over time the truth and traditions about these men have been embellished. By the third century, the Magi were viewed as kings. I wonder if this perspective has anything to do with the fact that the day is coming when Jesus reigns as King of kings. (See Revelation 19:16) Missler has also written that these ancient men were part of the hereditary priesthood of the Medes. They were known for having profound and extraordinary religious knowledge. Here is another correlation – Jesus becomes the great high priest. (See Hebrews 6:20) If we associate kings and priests with the Magi, maybe we are types of Magi because Revelation 1:6 NKJV says, “(Jesus) has made us kings and priests to God his Father, to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever!”

The Wise Men may not have been totally wise about whom they were seeking. They simply expected to find the one born king of the Jews by following a star. These men even stopped in Jerusalem to ask Herod what he knew about the baby. (see Matthew 2:2) While the Wise Men were not necessarily looking for an infant king in a castle’s cradle, neither were they expecting to find him in a messy manger. They just wanted to find Jesus! Matthew 7:7 says, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” Although the Wise Men may not have been wise in every respect, they were wise enough to seek him. There is truth in the quote, “Wise men still seek Him.” Today, Jesus wants us to seek and to find Him.

John 1:11 says, “He (Jesus) came to that which was His own (the Jewish people), but His own did not receive Him.” John MacArthur points out that the Magi were “God-fearing, seeking Gentiles.” They followed a star that led them to the Messiah they had heard about since the days of Daniel. Through scripture, we know that Jesus came first to the Jews and then to the Gentiles. (See Romans 1:16) In a previous post, “Messy Shepherds at a Messy Manger,”  I noted that shepherds were the first to visit Jesus when he was born in a messy manger. They were of Jewish lineage. Significantly later, the Magi worshiped Jesus –  they were Gentiles. According to Romans 14:11, every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord – that includes both Jews and Gentiles. Matthew 2:11 says, “On coming to the house, they (the Magi) saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him.”

The word “epiphany” originated in the Greek language and means “manifestation.” The worshiping Magi portray the picture of Epiphany because this season of the church celebrates the appearance or “manifestation” of a divine being, namely Jesus. However, an epiphany can also be defined as a sudden perception or revelation. In others words, a new understanding is “manifested.” Each of us encounters our own epiphanies when we come to illuminating discoveries or realizations. An enlightening fact of faith is an example of an epiphany. Or, it might be a moment when we become increasingly aware of Jesus’ presence. Since it is the beginning of the new year of 2018, now is a good opportunity for each of us to set the goal of becoming more receptive to personal epiphanies. May our epiphanies cause us to bow down and worship our Lord Jesus Christ.