Praise

Psalm 113: 1 – 3              The Message Bible

Hallelujah! You who serve God, praise God! Just to speak his name is praise! Just to remember God is a blessing – now and tomorrow and always. From east to west, from dawn to dusk, keep lifting all your praises to God!

This is one of those verses which has different readings in different translations. There are varying nuances on the theme, and you might be interested in reading it in different Bibles. One of the easy ways to do that is to go to Bible Gateway. You can bring up this, or any other passage, in multiple translations at once. I landed here for one simple reason. The idea that simply remembering God is a blessing provoked my thinking. Having read that I backed up a sentence and thought, “Just to speak His name is a blessing.” It reminded me of a chat I had with the Father yesterday. I was about to pray for some people and began my prayer with, “Father.” I was struck by what an amazing blessing and privilege it is to get to call Him “Father.” I almost wanted to whisper so He wouldn’t figure out what a bad deal He got when He got me. There is no way I am worthy to be His own child. In fact, that is crazy to me.

I don’t praise Him nearly as often as I should. I don’t sing to Him as often as I should. I remember singing for my grandmothers and how much they enjoyed that. Maybe He loves that simple time together. And I believe when I breathe His name it blesses Him simply because I am thinking about Him. It is a blessing to me, and I believe blessing flows down that connection I have established with Him when I call His name.

From the rising of the sun, until its setting, God’s children should speak His name and lift praises. That praise gives us strength and establishes us in the way we should go. It aids us in integration and walking hand in hand with Him. Praise the Lord, all His people. Sing your gratitude. Let the air be saturated with praises to the King.

Father

John 16: 25, 27

But (I) will tell you plainly of the Father . . . for the Father Himself loves you.

Have you ever wondered why God, chooses to be called “Father?” I mean, He is Lord High King, God Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth. Why does He call Himself Father to a bunch of rag a muffin humans? He could choose any title or name imaginable yet He chose to be a Father. Why does He ask us to love Him rather than just to serve Him?

That is an amazing question, isn’t it and an interesting perspective. I think it highlights that, above all else, God is love. He wanted a family to spend His love on. Love requires someone to share it with. Love demands acts of kindness and goodness. Wouldn’t those be a bit lost on servants? No matter how good God treated a servant, they could never rise above that station. They could never receive His intimacy. A servant doesn’t crawl up in the Father’s lap and take a nap. God wanted children He could dote on and spoil. He chose to have kids instead of slaves.

I think this question tells us more about God than many of the questions we might ask. It explains why He does many of the things He does and even how He feels. Ultimately, His desire is that all people join His family and let Him save and bless them. He is a good God and above all else He loves us. That is truly amazing and wonderful. Fill yourself with that good news today.

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A Child is Born

Isaiah 9: 6

For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; and the government will rest on His shoulders; and His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.

I find this a heart-warming passage as it brings to mind images of the baby Jesus and Christmas. It is also fascinating to me. In this one passage is so much explanation of the once foretold, now realized Messiah. Remembering that this is an Old Testament passage creates an understanding of pre-Christ expectations. Yet, I suspect most people who lived before Christ and even those who experienced Jesus didn’t fully appreciate what this passage reveals. I wonder how much I fail to see in it.

The book of Isaiah is my favorite Old Testament book and you can see why. The revelation God gave Isaiah of the Messiah was very detailed and complete. It was also imbued with the passion of Christ which, amazingly, Isaiah was able to transmit to us through his writing. We feel the enthusiasm of the coming Messiah even as Isaiah revealed that this Savior would come as a baby. That had to have rocked a few people off their feet. I am sure they were expecting a powerful, glorious being to descend from heaven to right all the wrongs and restore the nation of Israel. Instead, they got a baby, but hey, they shouldn’t have been so surprised. Isaiah told them a baby would be born and that this baby would be the son who is given to us from God; a gift of love.

People did grab a hold of the part about the government resting upon the savior’s shoulders but they didn’t understand. They thought he would come as a usurper, a military leader and that he would take over the government which ruled the nation of Israel. Of course, at the time of Jesus’ life on earth, Rome ruled over Israel. The Jews expected, therefore, a conquering hero. I don’t believe that is the vision Isaiah saw. The government spoke of was the government of the whole earth. This government truly is about the laws which govern the earth. Those laws go far beyond political institutions to include gravity, hydraulics, and all the physical laws as well as all of the spiritual laws, most of which we don’t even have names for. These spiritual laws are a bit reflected in the close of this verse where Jesus’ titles are given.

How is the babe, who is revealed as the son of God, also known as the Eternal Father? Spiritual conundrum # 1. He is the Mighty God and the Prince of Peace. How do those harmonize? In God’s kingdom, there is not tension between those two roles. Jesus is God the Father and the son, who is a prince. He is the God of might and yet the prince of peace. These two roles sound like they are in conflict, but it takes a God of gentle yet formidable power to bring about peace. His power is not a threat but rather a comfort. His power actually brings peace when we soak ourselves in it. It is His ability to cause all things to work together which ultimately eliminates conflict. There is no need to strive or try to best one another because in Him, all needs are met.

I hope you find comfort and peace in this passage today. Some prayers will make better sense now as you embrace God as Father and Son. In one breath, we speak to the Father, who is the son. The son has come. He was given to us; a child and a king. He is our Lord and yet our best friend, and even our father.

Let me leave you with one thing more to ponder, if Jesus is Father and Son, what does that make the Holy Spirit?

Carried by Love

Psalm 68 : 5 – 6          Passion Translation

To the fatherless he is a father. To the widow he is a champion friend. To the lonely he gives a family. To the prisoners he leads into prosperity until they sing for joy. This is our Holy God in his Holy Place! But for the rebels there is heartache and despair.

We saw yesterday that God is the perfect parent. Notice that the first three sentences have to do with family relationships. I think that is significant. Families provide individuals with much, so God stands ready to repair and restore family relationships and to be the person each of us needs whether a parent, brother, sister or spouse.

One version says that He is the defender of widows. Women didn’t have any standing of their own. They were either under the protection of their father or their husband. When a husband died, the powerless widow could easily become destitute and a target for those who prey on the weak. In fact, many had to turn to prostitution as the only means for generating income. It was rough, but God saw their plight those many years ago and He sees the challenges today. He is the champion of the widow, her defender, so if a person takes on the widow, he is taking on God. God stands in the shoes of the widow to protect her and her children.

Also, there are no lonely in Christ. He has ways to provide a family, beginning with Himself. He knows that humans need social contact and He does not want any of us to feel lonely.

The most interesting part, though, is His response to prisoners. What kind of prisoners do you think God has in mind here. I don’t think this is the conventional use of the word. The King James refers to the prisoners as those bound in chains. Looking in the Strong’s Concordance causes one to come away with the notion that these are people who are bound or who are being held against their will. God’s grace and compassion absolutely extends to people who are incarcerated as a result of their actions, but this verse seems to convey an image of those being held against their will or restrained. In that regard one might think in broader terms as in any person who is bound by anything or anyone. It might refer to someone who is imprisoned in an unhealthy relationship, maybe by marriage or maybe familial. Others are held captive by their past. Really, there are many ways we are shackled but the key is that God is here to set you free. But that is not all. He wants to shower you with prosperity until you sing for joy. That is so over the top and when God talks about prosperity He means everything in life is flowing with goodness and abundance. Sure, it means money, but it includes everything else too. God has an interesting reaction to setting the captives free. It is not enough for Him just to purchase their freedom. He wants to make up for everything that has been stolen from them as well. That is a good Father.

I am reminded of the words from Isaiah 40: 11, “In His arms He will gather the lambs and carry them in His bosom.” That is the picture of our loving Father. He wants to gather you up in His arms and carry you next to His chest where no harm can befall you. No matter how you have been hurt in the past, God is here, now, to restore and heal you.

Perfect Parent

Psalm 68: 5 – 6

To the fatherless he is a father. To the widow he is a champion friend. To the lonely he gives a family. To the prisoners he leads into prosperity until they sing for joy. This is our Holy God in his Holy Place! But for the rebels there is heartache and despair.

This is one of the Words the Father has given us for encouragement. It is an important one, though sometimes over looked.  I have grayed out part of the verses to focus in on the first sentence.  We will discuss the remainder tomorrow.

There are no orphans in the Kingdom of God. God is a Father, the Father, in fact. If you had less than satisfactory relationships with your earthly parents, do not despair. Be healed in your heart by the one who loves you beyond measure. He (for lack of a more suitable pronoun) is your mother and your father. This is not the only place this promise appears. Psalm 27: 10 reads, “For my father and my mother have forsaken me, but the Lord will take me up.” If your earthly parents failed you, fear not because God is here to pick you up.

Every loving characteristic of a good parent comes from God because God is the source of all love. Both women and men inherit their parental skills from God. We have made God in our image attributing to “Him” only masculine qualities but this is not as it should be. God is not gendered. Why would “He” be? He has no reason to procreate. He simply creates with the words of His mouth. I think this mischaracterization of God is one of the reasons people imagine Yahweh as vengeful, harsh and angry. We have put human robes on Him painting Him with the brush we gained from earthly fathers. We have all been deceived. Earthly fathers were never meant to be relegated to the role of disciplinarians. Fathers, your job is to love your children. In this you model your heavenly parent.

Over the years I have been stunned at the number of people who admit to having not only unfulfilling relationships with their fathers, but even traumatic, or even abusive ones. Because of the broken relationships with our earthly fathers, we often approach God with trepidation if we dare approach Him at all. It is common to hear Christians confess to having little to no relationship with God even though they love Jesus. Why is this so? I believe it is because we expect Him to treat us as earthly fathers do. Here is the good news, though. There is healing for us all. Yahweh is the perfect father. I even want you to know He is your real father. He begat you in His imagination and in the spiritual realm before your parents were born. At the beginning of time, God looked into the heavens and saw your beautiful face. He thought then, as He does now, that you are the most beautiful baby ever. He loves you with a love that is, actually, beyond your comprehension. As much as you have ever loved anyone, He loves you way more than that. He doesn’t only love you to the moon and back, He loves you as much as the entire universe and more which is why the universe is still expanding. It hasn’t the capacity, yet, to contain all He has and wants for you.

If one, or even both of your earth parents forsook or mistreated you, take ahold of this revelation and promise from Yahweh today. You are the beloved of the most loving parent ever. Trust me in this, if you will give God your heart, He will cherish and nurture it as the most precious thing ever. He will be the father or mother you wished you had when you were a child. Believe me in this! He can move into your life in a real way. It may be hard for us to understand how a spirit being can become so real to us that we are nourished in His loving embrace, but it is true. You just have to trust me. If you seek Him, you will find Him. The scripture says He will make up for years that the locust has stolen (Joel 2: 25). Let Him/Her, for God is both father and mother. God is love, the very source of all love. Do not let your thoughts be pigeonholed any longer. God isn’t one or the other. He is all in all. He is absolutely everything you need. Embrace and accept the fullness of His great affection.

Jesus is Real

John 20: 27

Then He *said to Thomas, “Reach here with your finger, and see My hands; and reach here your hand and put it into My side; and do not be unbelieving, but believing.”

Yesterday I promised we would tackle the question of how we intertwine with Jesus. It can be frustrating when a pastor gives a directive without directions, I know. So, let’s see if I can help you find your path. I don’t pretend to have arrived. All I can do is show you the path I have traveled and try to share those things which have worked for me.

Here is a beginning place and though rudimentary, still necessary. We must come to the place where we realize and are convinced that Jesus is real. Thomas, called Doubting Thomas, didn’t appreciate Jesus was still alive. He saw him die, how could he be alive? Well, that is what the resurrection is all about. We, like Thomas, have to come to the same conclusion; that Jesus is alive. He is a real person with real substance. He isn’t an angel or some ethereal legend. He is a living person whom you can relate to and talk with. Okay, sure; he isn’t flesh and blood like the people you see everyday even though he can materialize when he chooses. None the less, he is real; he is alive. He is a living personality and until we really and truly embrace that idea, there is no way we can intertwine with him and him become an integral part of our everyday life. Jesus can become your best friend and your closest ally but first we must believe that he is real right now today and that he is present to interact with and in our lives.

The single thing that was most important to my walk was learning to commune with God the Father. Jesus is the way to him but eventually we have to reconcile our feelings, understanding and beliefs about God. Is he a religious image, a deity or is he a Father? I discovered that although I had a good relationship with Jesus, I had almost none with the Father.

In 2005, I learned that the fullness of truth is that God is every bit as much my Dad as my biological father. That revelation became very real to me. It was through communing with Him and getting to know Him that I came to understand that. The revelation was possible because some years before I chased God down. I knew others could hear Him but I could only occasionally hear Him speak to me. I was frustrated and angry so I flew out to LA to a conference I knew He would be at. I like to say, “I sought Him until He found me.” The Bible says if we will seek Him, we will find Him. It’s true. When I set my heart and mind to seeking Him, He revealed Himself to me in some awesome ways. So, first, let us seek Him out with all our hearts. Second, we must learn how to commune with Him. I will tell you how I was able to learn that tomorrow.

The Prodigals’ Father

Luke 15: 20

And 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.

You all know the story of the prodigal son and how he went off to another town and lived there until he squandered his inheritance. Realizing the slaves of his father’s house fared better than he was in that foreign town, he decided to return home. He didn’t have a cell phone (I guess he squandered that too) so he did not call his father to say that he was returning home. His plan was to show up and beg his father for a position as a hired hand since, he believed, he no longer deserved the title and position of a son.

Obviously, this is a picture of each of us. Jesus told this story in order to illustrate to us how Father God loves us. We don’t deserve to be called the children of our Father either. Some of us have squandered our time, our money and our skills on the wrong pursuits. For many of us we spent those resources which God gave us on our flesh or, in other words, on worldly desires. Then we come to the end of ourselves and realize that we have wasted so much precious time. So, we turn our faces back towards home, knowing we deserve nothing but hoping that we can at least have the leftover crumbs of His grace.

The thing that astounds me about this verse is that the father saw the prodigal approaching in the distance. Let’s read this again, “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.” How did the father see him while he was still a long way off? The answer is that he, the father, was looking for him. Imagine the father. Every morning he arises early and looks out to the horizon anticipating the return of his beloved son. He stands there and watches for his kid. He was not reclining in his tent bemoaning the fact that the boy went off and wasted what the father gave. He didn’t judge the boy. He just searched for him every day until one day, there upon the horizon, was a dust cloud. He kept watching and praying that it might be his lost one. When the boy came into view the father ran to him.

Glory to God! This is the image of our heavenly Father who searches and watches for us. When we return to Him, He runs to embrace us. He feels compassion towards us, not hate and anger. Let this sink down into your spirit. Feel the compassion of this father towards his lost child. Now become the child as you receive your Father’s embrace. Bask in the warmth of His joy at your presence. This, Jesus said, is the way the heavenly Father feels towards you. Of course He has never forsaken those who seek Him. He longs to have us return to Him so that He can express His compassion and love towards us. He is watching for you daily, searching the horizon for your visage to appear over the hill. There is nothing which gladdens His heart more than for you to want to spend time with Him. You are the beloved. You are the apple of His eye.