Knowing God as Father

Many Christians who love God without reserve struggle with the idea that God loves them infinitely more than that. They cannot grasp the thought of God as their Father—the Father—because of the poor example of their own fathers as they grew up. If their earthly fathers have been absent from their lives or they have suffered physical or sexual abuse from their fathers, the whole concept of “father” is skewed for them. They think of themselves as damaged and unlovable and this leads to difficulties in viewing God the Father as their own “Abba Father” who loves them beyond measure.

In Scripture there are many different names used to describe God. While all the names of God are important in many ways, the name “Abba Father” is one of the most significant names of God in understanding how He relates to people. The word Abba is an Aramaic word that would most closely be translated as “Daddy.” It was a common term that young children would use to address their fathers. It signifies the close, intimate relationship of a father to his child, as well as the childlike trust that a young child puts in his “daddy.”

Today’s post is a devotional from John MacArthur’s book, Daily Readings from the Life of Christ.

Knowing God as Father

“‘“Our Father who is in heaven . . .”’” (Matthew 6:9).

Only those who have come to God through Christ can call God “Father.” He is the Father of unbelievers only in that He created them (cf. Mal. 2:10; Acts17:28). It is only those who trust Jesus who have “the right to become children of God” (John 1:12; cf. Rom. 8:14; Gal. 3:26).

In the Old Testament, faithful Jews saw God as the Father of Israel, the nation He elected as His special people. Isaiah proclaimed, “You, O Lord, are our Father, our Redeemer from of old is Your name” (Isa. 63:16b; cf. Ex. 4:22; Jer. 31:9). Many of them even saw God in an intimate way as their spiritual Father and Savior (Pss. 89:26; 103:13).

But because of their disobedience toward God’s commands and their embracing of false gods around them, most Jews of Jesus’ time had lost the true sense of God’s fatherhood and viewed Him as only the remote Deity of their ancestors.

These six words at the beginning of the Disciples’ Prayer reaffirm that God is the Father of all who trust in Him. Jesus Himself used the title “Father” in all His recorded prayers except one (Matt. 27:46). Although the text here uses the more formal Greek pater for Father, Jesus likely used the Aramaic abba when He spoke these words. Abba has a more personal connotation (cf. Mark14:36; Rom. 8:15), equivalent to the English “daddy.”

Because saints belong to Jesus the Son, they can come to God the Father (“Daddy”) as His beloved children.

Ask Yourself

Certainly in our decadent day and age, many are increasingly growing up in homes where “father” is a person to be feared, a person who rejects, a person who demeans and devalues. How does God’s identity as “Father” fill the holes left by even well-meaning dads who fall short of what their role requires?

Please visit John MacArthur’s site, Grace to You.

From Daily Readings from the Life of Christ, Vol. 1, John MacArthur. Copyright © 2008. Used by permission of Moody Publishers, Chicago, IL 60610, www.moodypublishers.com.

1http://www.gotquestions.org/Abba-Father.html

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Memorial Markers

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Now this day will be a memorial to you,
and you shall celebrate it as a feast to the LORD;
throughout your generations you are
to celebrate it as a permanent ordinance.
 

—Exodus 12:14

Two years ago today, I enjoyed a day completely free of pain. Days like this are so unusual that I make sure to remember them by setting a memorial/memory marker for each of these times.

I’ve written about memory markers before. These are referred to in the Old Testament as memorials. God encouraged His people to pile up some stones in the places of special blessing as a memorial for them to remember things He had taught them and didn’t want them to forget.

The meaning of the Hebrew word for memorial (v. 7) is “to remember.” Given man’s propensity to forget it is little wonder then that memorials have frequently played an important role in biblical history. At the foot of Mt. Sinai, Moses built an altar of stones to commemorate God’s covenant with Israel (Ex. 12:14) . Now in today’s text we see God command his people to erect a memorial.1

I have my own version of these memorial markers to commemorate certain days or events I don’t want to forget by adding them to my cell phone calendar and setting alerts.

It is so easy to get caught up in the cycle of pain, thinking that’s all there is in my life. However, God gives me special days and occasions to remind me that He is always with me and will never let me go. So I cling to these memorial markers during the ongoing days of chronic illness when it often seems I will never climb out of the pit.

What this has done in my life has been remarkable. It used to be that I would mentally cry “I don’t understand!” But now, even though I still don’t understand (because I’m not God), I find myself telling Him, “I don’t get it, but I trust that You know what You’re doing and that’s good enough for me.”

You see, God has shown me that He wants me to remember that I can always count on Him. So on each of my pain-free occasions, I have made a new memorial marker on my phone calendar so I can recall the day (or event) and the outcome when I need encouragement.

Beloved, I want to encourage you today if you’re going through a tough time. It is so easy to be thankful when things are going well but understandably much harder to have thankful thoughts when everything seems to be falling apart.

I know what I’m talking about here.

I once read a devotional that confirms what I have long suspected. We were encouraged to store up the memories of precious times when we felt God blessing us with something special, and slide those memories out during the tough times.

In other words, remember the good during the not-so-good.

Here is the crucial part of trusting God: each time I choose to trust God during a particularly puzzling and/or frustrating situation, He demonstrates His faithfulness to me. Sometimes that means He answers a particular prayer in a particular way. Other times He fills me with the overwhelming sense that I can absolutely trust Him while He works behind the scenes, even if it doesn’t feel like He is hearing me. This is where faith comes in.

During one of the toughest times in my life, God pointed me to Isaiah 26:3 and I cling to it to this day:

Is26-3-Canva

“You will keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You.”

Beloved, how about you? Do you do anything to remember those sweet, special times where you can see the Lord at work? And if so, share how you commemorate those times in the comments below. 

1“Building Memorials to Remember God” from Sermons.Logos.com 

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Ultimate Strength

 Ultimate Strength

by Patricia Knight

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“’I will strengthen you and help you;
I will uphold you with my right hand” (Isaiah 41:10).

I’ll admit it; I’m a pushover for statuesque oriental lily plants. From each underground bulb, a gallant plant emerges. Growing to heights of four feet, the lily boasts a sturdy but invisibly reinforced stalk whose purpose is to support and nurture the entire plant, as well as showcase the lily flowers it produces.

Though the lily plant is tall and grandiose, it seldom requires external support for stability. Even during summer windstorms, it will skillfully withstand thrashing wind without bending or breaking the stem. The lily is built for endurance. Even a plant rimmed with pendulous flowers remains stable under pressure.

It is apparent that the balanced lily stalk must possess intrinsic features that prevent it from breaking under intense environmental conditions, specialized fibers comprising the stalk that offer reinforcement. God, the Creator, designed the majestic lily plant for beauty and dependability, giving it equilibrium by strengthening its internal composition.

What augmented inner support do we depend upon when adverse conditions assail us? With personal tragedy, every fiber of our being revolts, thrashing our hearts, twisting and churning our minds, and interrupting our intrinsic ability to remain calm and composed. We may groan and bend under the emotional or physical weight of the hardship.

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Whether we break or rebound depends upon the strength within us. Our tenacity alone is insufficient to fight our personal battles, to provide confidence and composure amidst life’s entanglements. When the winds of adversity blow through our fragile lives, does our resolve wither and snap? Reacting to trauma, we may feel as if all of our energy is sapped. Physical weakness may cause us to tremble or shake, but there is a solid Source of immeasurable reinforcement available to us. God converts our trembling to peace; our weakness to strength.

Unlike the lily plant, our Lord designed His children with a renewable Source of strength. The Creator implanted our psyche with innate fortitude, but when that limited resource of inner strength wanes, our Lord is delighted to buttress our supply with his own infinite strength. “It is God who arms me with strength and makes my way perfect. He makes my feet like the feet of a deer; he enables me to stand on the heights” (2 Samuel 22: 23-24).

Believing in God’s absolute authority and power is much more straightforward when our days are peaceful and predictable. But, how do we respond in an emergency?

It must have been a traumatic jolt the day King Jehoshaphat of Judah was informed that a coalition of enemy armies was poised at his country’s borders threatening to attack. Vulnerable without a militia or armaments, where would the King find strength of opposition against such a formidable foe? “Alarmed, Jehoshaphat resolved to inquire of the Lord. The people of Judah came together to seek from the Lord; indeed, they came from every town of Judah to seek him (2 Chronicles 20:3-4).

The people prayed continuously as they stood firm to wait for the deliverance they knew the Lord would provide. The frightened, but trusting inhabitants, prayed, “For we have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are upon you” (2 Chronicles 20:12).

Delighted with their faith, God informed King Jehoshaphat and the people that they need not fight the battle. God further instructed them to stand firm in their faith “and see the deliverance the Lord will give you” (vs. 19).

God developed unique war strategy, creating an ambush between that caused the two foreign armies to destroy each other in the confusion of battle. Not an Israelite was harmed. God’s strength was magnified and the people learned a significant lesson about faith and trust at a time when their personal supply was impoverished.

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“Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord,
whose confidence is in him.
He will be like a tree planted by the water
that sends out its roots by the stream.
It does not fear when heat comes;
its leaves are always green.
It has no worries in a year of drought
and never fails to bear fruit” (Jeremiah 17:7-8).

Scripture reminds us to plunge our roots into fertile, watered ground, accessing the Lord, our sovereign Source of all strength. God has created each of us with a natural desire to seek Him and His provisions, to help with both minor and major calamities.  Then on the occasion when we are confronted with an unsolvable adversity, it will be our first response to call on God for His expertise in fighting our battle, for lavishing His gifts of peace and love, and for His intervention to deliver an extra boost of strength.

The lily plant is strong, but not impervious to destruction. Drought, insect infestations, and flooding will defoliate the plant, eliminating its source of nutrition. The plant is given one chance to perform majestically with the nutrition stored within its bulb. If the stress is too great, the plant will collapse.

Our Lord is the God of second chances, over and over again. With the renewable Source of strength God provides, we are able to grow in faith, combat stress, and to submit to the will of the Father. Whatever we lack for life and fellowship with God, He will graciously provide. Union with the living, exalted Christ is the secret to contentment and the Source of abiding strength.

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When Little Ones Pray – The Power of the Meek

I wrote this post last week and scheduled it for today. However, as you must know by now, the people of Nepal and Kathmandu are in great need of prayer because of the 7.8 magnitude earthquake which struck central Nepal this past Saturday, April 25th. Some of those affected include the Bridge of Hope centers that I refer to in the original post I wrote which follows this news release I received in an email from Gospel for Asia:

VectorPageDivider April 25, 2015

More than 1,000 Dead, Survivors Struggling After Nepal Earthquake

A 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck central Nepal, less than 50 miles outside the capital city of Kathmandu, just before noon Saturday, killing more than 1,000 people in Nepal, India, Tibet and Bangladesh. The death toll is expected to rise.

Rescuers in Nepal are searching through the rubble for survivors. More than 1,700 have been injured, and hospitals are overwhelmed.

Gospel for Asia has 450 churches and 20 Bridge of Hope centers in the region. Some churches and some centers have been destroyed by the quake.

Between 30 and 40 of Gospel for Asia’s missionaries serving in Uttar Pradesh, an Indian state bordering Nepal, are headed toward the destruction to help.

This is estimated to be the worst earthquake to hit Nepal in 80 years.

Read the rest here.  Beloved, thank you for praying about this.

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When Little Ones Pray –
The Power of the Meek

I often post about prayer. There is nothing else like prayer. It blesses us and God to pray for others. Our hearts become one with those for whom we pray. And God uses our prayers for our good and for His glory.

At the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus preached the Beatitudes. This is one of them:

Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. —Matthew 5:5

K. P. Kohannan is the founder and president of Gospel for Asia, and his wonderful book, No Longer a Slumdog, tells the story of how the children (the meek) of Asia have learned to pray. They daily use the power of prayer to affect their lives and those of their family and neighbors.

From the Gospel for Asia’s No Longer a Slum Dog site:

When you teach a child that the God who loves them unconditionally answers prayer, miracles can happen. Sagan and his friends learned of the power of prayer from watching their Bridge of Hope teachers. Soon they were praying for those in need, while watching God answer. See what happens when they hear of a young boy with a terminal condition in a neighboring village.

Beloved, please take the time to watch this 5-minute video. You will be touched by the faith of these little children that God is using to change lives in Asia. Click here to get a free copy of No Longer a Slumdog.

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Is Your Hut Burning?

A friend shared this with me in an email recently, and then I found it again at Inspire21. This is really good and very thought provoking.

is your hut burning?

— Author Unknown

The only survivor of a shipwreck was washed up on a small, uninhabited island. He prayed feverishly for God to rescue him, and every day he scanned the horizon for help, but none seemed forthcoming.

Exhausted, he eventually managed to build a little hut out of driftwood to protect Him from the elements, and to store his few possessions. Then one day, after scavenging for food, he arrived home to find his little hut in flames, the smoke rolling up to the sky. The worst had happened; everything was lost.

He was stunned with grief and anger. “God, how could you do this to me!” he cried.

Read the rest here.

Beloved, please pass this on. You never know whose life may be in need of this today. The will of God will never lead you where the grace of God cannot keep you.

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Thankful for God’s Salvation

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This is another of the devotionals I wrote for the anthology titled Anytime Prayers for Everyday PeopleThis particular devotional was included in the section titled Prayers of Praise and Thanksgiving and is perfect for this time of the year as we are contemplating the true meaning of Resurrection Sunday.

 

When I want to thank God for His salvation . . .

I am not ashamed of the gospel: it is the power of God
for salvation to every one who has faith.

—Romans 1:16 RSV

I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor,
now is the day of salvation.

—2 Corinthians 6:2

The LORD lives, and blessed be my rock;
and exalted be the God of my salvation.

—Psalm 18:46 NASB
 

[Peter said] Jesus is the only One who can save people.
His name is the only power in the world that has been given
to save people. We must be saved through him.
—Acts 4:12 NCV

If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and
believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead,
you will be saved.

—Romans 10:9 NKJV

 

. . . I will pray.

Redeeming Lord,

I am always amazed when I consider the depth of Your love for me. You, who created everything in the universe, care for me so much You sent Your Son, Jesus Christ, to die for my sins. And I will never be able to explain why Jesus came—willingly, determined to rescue me and make me part of Your family. My salvation is more wonderful and amazing than I could ever comprehend.

Lord, You could have simply walked away from Your human creation, washed Your hands, and moved on to a new project. Instead, You walked beyond Your personal disappointment and went to extraordinary, even miraculous, lengths to salvage us. Knowing that moves me beyond words. And then to think that even in the face of so great a gesture toward us, You’ve made Yourself vulnerable by leaving us with the choice to take Your gift or leave it.

I want to be very clear, Lord—I take it! Every bit of it—all You have or want or plan for me! I choose to love You back every day of my life. Thank You for Your lavish gift of salvation.

Amen.

It is not your hold of Christ that saves you,
but His hold of you!
—Charles Haddon Spurgeon

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[From Anytime Prayers for Everyday People. Copyright © 2006 Bordon-Winters LLC]

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Rejoice in God’s Will

Here is a great devotional that is a good addition to my JOY theme this year. I read this yesterday at Crossmap.com titledNot Simply to Endure or to Choose God’s Will but to Rejoice in it.” The author of this devotional is none other than L. B. Cowman of Streams in the Desert. 

I live with several chronic pain illnesses and have often pondered the subject of God’s will, especially during this particular season of my life. Is it really possible to truly rejoice in God’s will, no matter what our difficulties are? Yes it is, and Mr. Cowman’s devotional is a good reminder of this. I especially appreciate this part of the devotional: “the most magnificent psalms arose from the most profound agonies of the soul.”

Not Simply to Endure
or to Choose God’s Will
but to Rejoice in it

Sorrowful, yet always rejoicing. (2 Corinthians 6:10)

A stoic person despises the shedding of tears, but a Christian is not forbidden to weep.Yet the soul may become silent from excessive grief, just as the quivering sheep may remain quiet beneath the scissors of the shearer. Or, when the heart is at the verge of breaking beneath the waves of a trial, the sufferer may seek relief by crying out with a loud voice. But there is something even better.

It is said that springs of sweet, fresh water pool up amid the saltiness of the oceans, that the fairest Alpine flowers bloom in the wildest and most rugged mountain passes, and that the most magnificent psalms arose from the most profound agonies of the soul.

May it continue to be! Therefore, amid a multitude of trials, souls who love God will discover reasons for boundless, leaping joy. Even though “deep calls to deep”(Ps.42:7), the clear cadence of the Lord’s song will be heard. And during the most difficult hour that could ever enter a human life, it will be possible to bless the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Have you learned this lesson yet?

Read the rest here.

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Great is Your Faithfulness

Great is Your Faithfulness

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Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. —Lamentations 3:21-23

How often do we do things that disappoint the people in our lives?

Maybe we’ve made a promise that later we found we can’t keep. Perhaps we raise our voice in anger again even though we don’t mean to. And how about the times when a friend or family member tries to sympathize with our pain? They mean well, but you’re certain they just don’t understand. I’m sure you’ve wanted to tell them, “You have no idea what it’s like to be in this kind of pain every day.”

At this point, we have two choices: to dwell on our misery or get on with the business of life.

We can moan and groan about our circumstances so everyone is aware of how much we are hurting, or we can demonstrate God’s presence in our lives by rejoicing in the knowledge that He is faithful to be with us through our tough times.

I have a very close friend (you know who you are!) who is a good example of one who lets God shine through her in spite of her constant pain. She once shared her feelings about pain with me this way:

“It is just pain. It could be worse. I could be suffering with pain and dying. It is only pain. I can still live and make the most of my life, to extend myself as far as I can go, to reach for the stars, to do the unimaginable. The pain will still be there. So, why not celebrate?”

This dear friend is such an encourager. Her positive attitude is a beacon of light in the darkness of pain. Quite simply, she makes me smile no matter how awful I’m feeling.

Beloved, the Lord is our only hope! He knows exactly what our pain is like and He will help us through it “every morning; great is [His] faithfulness.” He understands how constant pain can undermine a positive attitude and make us feel hopeless. But He’s always with us, ready to offer His love and comfort: “therefore I have hope.” Won’t you please pray with me?

Heavenly Father, sometimes it’s so hard to be cheerful and hopeful when I’m feeling so rotten. It’s easier for me to just give up and let the pain take over. But, Lord, I know that You love me too much to let me feel this way. Thank You for what You are teaching me through these trials and for being with me always. Help me to let Your joy flow through me to touch the lives of others who may also be suffering. You are great and greatly to be praised! Amen.

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