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.

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.)

Sacred Fear or Scared Fear

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

When rereading The Fear of God by John Bevere, I was reminded of the confusion that can arise concerning the word “fear.”

Several years ago, we were in Australia for my husband’s work. We stayed at an apartment that had maid service. When one of the girls saw John Bevere’s book on my table, she was very adamant that we were not to fear God. Although we both spoke English, I could not adequately explain to her the difference between sacred fear and scared fear. I wonder how many others struggle with this concept.

According to spelling, “sacred fear” and “scared fear” look similar. However, the fears described are different. Both are mentioned in scripture.

Sacred fear is a fear reserved for God who deserves our praise and worship. A person experiences awe and wonder when overcome with reverential fear.

Several Proverbs and a couple of quotes by John Bevere, help clarify the meaning of sacred fear. (or reverential fear)

Fear of the LORD is the foundation of true knowledge. – Proverbs 1:7aNLT
Fear of the LORD is the foundation of wisdom. – Proverbs 9:10a NLT
The fear of the LORD is a fountain of life. – Proverbs 14:27
The fear of the Lord is the beginning, or the starting place, of an intimate relationship with God.” – John Bevere
To fear God is to believe God. To believe God is to obey Him.” – John Bevere

Scared fear is a fear of man that causes anxiety and agitation. A person may become worried or panicky when feeling afraid.

The following scriptures reveal that scared fear can be overcome with sacred fear.

Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD is kept safe. – Proverbs 29:25
The LORD is for me, so I will have no fear. What can mere people do to me?Psalm 118:6 NLT
For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self- discipline. –
II Timothy 1:7 NLT
The LORD is my light and my salvation– whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life– of whom shall I be afraid?Psalm 27:1

Sacred fear of the Lord overpowers any scared fear of potential harm by another person. When we place a higher value upon God’s Word than man’s opinion, we turn our hearts to Him with reverential awe.

Hebrews 13:5 NLT says, “So we can say with confidence, ‘The LORD is my helper, so I will have no fear. What can mere people do to me?’” To boldly and confidently declare this statement does not mean that bad things will never happen to us. But, it does give us courage during difficult times.

Scared fear is a force that opposes the spiritual force of sacred fear. While scared fear urges us to believe what is seen and doubt the unseen, sacred fear is the result of faith – believing what is not seen. (see Hebrews 11:1)

God knows we will encounter fear. He also promises to help us overcome our fears. We can cling to  Deuteronomy 31:8, “The LORD Himself goes before you and will be with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.”

In conclusion, we can say that sacred fear reveres the Lord while scared fear dishonors Him.

John Bevere asks, “Are my actions influenced more by God or people?”
My answer is found in Psalm 56:11, “In God I trust and am not afraid. What can man do to me?

What is your response?
If you are unsure of your answer, I encourage you to think about Isaiah 41:13, “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.”

Sacred fear is full of awe while scared fear is awful.

 

Prayer – Just God and Me (Part 1)

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Come near to God and He will come near to you.
James 4:8

Recently, I spent time with a new friend getting to know her better. While sipping coffee, we shared our experiences and expectations, our likes and dislikes, our hopes and fears. Just the two of us chatting together! Similarly, the best way to get better acquainted with God is to spend time with Him and talk with Him. In other words, pray. Each of us should daily have one on One conversations with the Lord, not only expressing our opinions and needs but also listening for His response. He will talk with us, Spirit to spirit, if we will give Him the opportunity.

 

The primary point for us to notice is the choice the people made. In verse 27 they said to Moses, “Go near and hear all that the LORD our God says; then speak to us all that the LORD our God speaks to you, and we will hear and do it.” They encouraged Moses to meet with God but they did not do so themselves. God’s response to Moses is recorded in verses 30-31, “Go tell them to return to their tents. But as for you, stand here by Me, that I may speak to you….”

 

Moses is an excellent example of a man who talked with God. Let’s look at Deuteronomy 5:24-33. The Israelites wanted Moses to act as an intermediary between themselves and God. Although they had a reverential fear of God, I believe they also had a human fear of God.  This torment prevented them from seeking a face to Face encounter with the Lord.

They told Moses in verses 25-26, “Now then why should we die? For this great fire will consume us; if we hear the voice of the LORD our God any longer, then we will die. For who is there of all flesh who has heard the voice of the living God speaking from the midst of the fire, as we have, and lived?” Which was stronger – their fear of losing their lives or their reverential fear of the Lord?

The primary point for us to notice is the choice the people made. In verse 27 they said to Moses, “Go near and hear all that the LORD our God says; then speak to us all that the LORD our God speaks to you, and we will hear and do it.” They encouraged Moses to meet with God but they did not do so themselves. God’s response to Moses is recorded in verses 30-31, “Go tell them to return to their tents. But as for you, stand here by Me, that I may speak to you….

Moses had a personal encounter with the Lord that the others were unable to experience because they chose to stay away. What a difference!

Relating the Israelites’ experience to our privilege of prayer, may we be encouraged to draw near to God. He desires to hear what is on our hearts through our words of praise and petition. Corporate prayer and support from prayer partners are legitimate forms of prayer (more on this next week), but they do not take the place of our privilege of personal one on One prayers. We deny ourselves beautiful times of intimacy with the Lord if we do not take time to personally pray.

In Exodus 34:29-35, we find the account of Moses’ face shining and reflecting God’s glory when he came down from the mountaintop.

Verse 29 says, “It came about when Moses was coming down from Mount Sinai . . . , that Moses did not know that the skin of his face shone because of his speaking with Him.” In fact, Moses had to hide his face behind a veil because he reflected God’s radiance.

Verses 32-35 tell us, “When Moses had finished speaking with them, he put a veil over his face. But whenever Moses went in before the LORD to speak with Him, he would take off the veil until he came out; and whenever he came out and spoke to the sons of Israel what he had been commanded, the sons of Israel would see the face of Moses, that the skin of Moses’ face shone. So Moses would replace the veil over his face until he went in to speak with Him.

In Deuteronomy 5:29, God says,Oh, that their hearts would be inclined to fear Me and keep all My commands always, so that it might go well with them and their children forever!” The Israelites could have reflected God’s glory if they had reverentially eared Him. However, their hearts remained darkened and their minds blinded to the very thing they so desperately needed.

I see Moses’ veil as being a prophetic picture of the tabernacle’s veil that separated the Holy Place from the Most Holy Place. When Jesus died on the cross, the veil in the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. (see Matthew 27:51) No longer need we be afraid to see the face of God or to be in His presence. The blood of Jesus cleanses us from any sin that would prevent us from being in His presence. Reverential fear of God is mandatory.  However, there is no place for human fear. What a privilege we have through prayer! Let us not deny ourselves this opportunity. When we experience the Lord’s presence during personal prayer time, we too reflect His glory.

In Leviticus 10:3 NLT, Moses explained to Aaron, “This is what the LORD meant when He said, I will display My holiness through those who come near Me. I will display My glory before all the people.” Today the Lord still desires to reveal His holiness to us if we will come near to Him. In Psalm 37:7 NLT, David instructs us, “Be still in the presence of the LORD, and wait patiently for Him to act.May we come into the Lord’s presence and take time to wait for His response. After all, prayer is a two-way conversation – we are not to do all the talking. May we echo the words of Samuel in I Samuel 3:10, “Speak, for your servant is listening.”

 

Jesus: Majestic, not Messy

In a few days, we will be celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior! My heart and our home are ready. Our house looks “Christmasy.” My attention continues to be drawn to our nativity. With the little lights of the stable twinkling and the infant Jesus in the spotlight, Christ is the center of our Christmas scene. Today I see Jesus – not the messy manger. What if there were cobwebs and straw piles along with some dung around the manger that night over 2000 years ago? My focus is on Jesus. He is the light and the life. Today I want to correlate several verses of the first chapter of Ephesians in the Living Letters translation with the birth of Jesus as recorded in Luke 2:7 NIV.

Now she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths,
and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.
Luke 2:7
NIV

When Jesus, Son of God and Son of man, was born, Mary used a cow’s feeding trough for a cradle. However, before she laid him on his bed, she tightly wrapped him in a clean blanket. What a discrepancy between the purity of the newborn baby and the messy manger!

Long ago before He made the world God chose us o be His very own,
through what Christ would do for us; He decided then to make us holy in His eyes,
without a single fault –
we who stand before him covered with His love.
Ephesians 1:4 LL

I focus on the highlighted portion of this verse. While thinking about Jesus wrapped in swaddling cloths, I also picture myself swaddled in God’s love. All of us are privileged to be tightly wrapped in God’s perfect love even though we live in a world that appears to be like a messy manger.

Now all praise to God for His wonderful kindness to us and His favor that
He has poured out upon us because
we belong to His dearly loved Son.
Ephesians 1:6 LL

When Jesus was born, his cradle was a cow’s feeding trough. Thirty-three years later, he died on the cross creating the way for us to belong to Him. We no longer have to be controlled by the world’s mess. Jesus cleans up the messiness of our lives when He cleanses us from all unrighteousness. (See I John 1:9) As the emphasized words proclaim, we belong to Jesus, not the world’s messy manager.

And this was His purpose: that when the time is ripe He will gather us
all together from wherever we are – in heaven or on earth-
to be with Him – in Christ – forever.
Ephesians 1:10 LL

According to Matthew 1:23, Emmanuel was the name of the baby to be born of Mary and conceived by the Holy Spirit. Emmanuel means God with us. Emmanuel came to be with us at Christmas. Emmanuel will be with us forever! He is coming again to rescue us from the world’s messy manger. He will then take us to live with Him in the eternal city where He now resides in the throne room of God. (See Revelation 22:1-5) What a difference from the messy manger! Jesus says in Revelation 22:7, “Behold, I am coming soon!”

I pray for you constantly asking God the glorious Father
of our Lord Jesus Christ to give you wisdom to
see clearly
and really understand who Christ is and all He has done.
Ephesians 1:17 LL

While gazing at the figure of baby Jesus in our nativity scene, I no longer see a messy manger. I  envision His majesty. He did not stay in a wooden cradle. He later died upon a wooden cross and rose again as the Savior of all who live in a messy world. Philippians 2:5-11 LL says, “Try to be like Jesus Christ Who, though He was God, did not demand and cling to His rights as God, but laid aside His mighty power and glory, taking the disguise of a slave and becoming like men. And he humbled Himself even further, going so far as to actually die a criminal’s death on a cross. Yet it was because of this that God raised Him up in the heights of heaven and gave Him a Name which is above every other name, That at the Name of Jesus every knee shall bow in heaven and on earth and under the earth, And every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

In honor of the birth of Jesus, please join me in singing the first verse of Away In A Manger and the chorus of O Come All Ye Faithful.


Away in a manger, no crib for a bed
The little Lord Jesus laid down his sweet head
The stars in the bright sky looked down where he lay
The little Lord Jesus asleep on the hay.

O come let us adore him
O come let us adore him
O come let us adore him, Christ the Lord!