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#ThrowbackThursday — This post was originally posted June 11, 2010

This is the first Father’s Day I will be without my dad. It did not really hit me until the other day when I strolled past a display of Father’s Day cards. Instinctively I started to walk toward the display thinking, “Oh, I should get my dad’s card.” No sooner had the thought entered my mind when I remembered he was no longer with us. A sense of loss suddenly filled me; a sense of missing someone you love; a sense of wanting to see him again.

It made me wonder if I have the same sense of loss of not being with God my Father. Do I miss his companionship when I don’t spend enough time with Him? Do I have a love for God that makes me miss Him – makes me long for Him? Do I grieve over the sinful things I do that harm my relationship with Him? Isaiah 59:2 reminds us that our sin separates us from God, that “sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear.” (NIV) Paul told the Ephesians not to “grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.” (Eph. 4:30)

Paul expressed the longing he had for God the Father and Jesus. In Ephesians 1:23-24 he describes being torn between his desire for Jesus and his desire to stay and teach others about Christ. I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body.” I question if I have that same love for God my Father. Do I live in expectation of the day when there will be a reunion with God my father in heaven? Do I long for others to know the love of God?

While this Father’s Day carries with it sadness and loss, there is also joy in thinking about the reunion with God the Father and my dad on the true Father’s Day in heaven.  “And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.” (Revelation 21:3) There we will no longer feel the pain of separation or the grief of loss. We will live forever in the joy of his presence. “There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the older order of things has passed away.” (Rev. 21:4)

I remember the look of panic on my dad’s face when he handed me the keys to his car. I was 16 years old with a newly minted driver’s license and about to drive his car alone for the first time. He didn’t say a word about what he must have felt inside, he only said, “be careful” as he handed over the keys.

This is the image that came to mind as I read Matt. 16:17-19. I could almost picture Jesus handing over a set of large keys to Peter saying, “Here’s the keys to the kingdom of heaven!” Then as Peter takes them, Jesus tells him, “Oh, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” It’s an astounding level of trust to hand over the keys to someone who just a couple chapters earlier was told he had “little faith” (Matt. 14:31, NIV).

Just as my mom and dad spent countless hours gritting their teeth and coaching me from the passenger seat as I learned to drive, Jesus spent years with his disciples mentoring them on the Kingdom of God. In the eyes of the Jewish leaders at that time, the disciples were not the type of people you would want to hand over the keys to the kingdom. Yet God’s wisdom proved right as he equipped Jesus’s disciples to take the wheel and drive “into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation (Mark 16:15).”

Like Peter, God entrusts us with the keys to the Kingdom of God. He is holding out the keys to us and asking us to take them. Even though we may doubt our ability, God trusts us. He has been there in the passenger seat with us gently mentoring us and encouraging us, “You of little faith, why did you doubt (Matt. 14:31)? We only need to believe in our Lord Jesus Christ; to believe and take the keys with confidence.

Again he said, “What shall we say the kingdom of God is like, or what parable shall we use to describe it? It is like a mustard seed, which is the smallest of all seeds on earth. Yet when planted, it grows and becomes the largest of all garden plants, with such big branches that the birds can perch in its shade.”

— Mark 4:30-32

He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.” — Mark 16:15

Throughout my life I have grumbled about a lot of things, often related to the actions of other people. I have also heard my fair share grumbling from other people. So when I read Exodus 16, verse 8 jumped out at me — particularly the last sentence: “Who are we? You are not grumbling against us, but against the Lord (NIV).”

It made me wonder if we look at our grumbling as complaining to God instead of complaining to people? In Exodus 16 the Israelites are complaining because they lack the food they had in Egypt. Verse 2 tells us, “In the desert the whole community grumbled against Moses and Aaron.” In the next verse they accuse Moses of bringing them into the desert to starve to death.

The Israelites had forgotten that God appointed Moses as the person to bring them out of Egypt (Exodus 3:10). The irony is that they grumbled about being freed from the slavery they grumbled about before they left Egypt. They could only focus on their current discomfort, not God’s plan to lead them into “a land flowing with milk and honey (Exodus 3:17).” Instead they choose to grumble and blame Moses for their current struggles.

God offers us eternal life through Jesus Christ; life with him in the new Jerusalem (Revelation 21). He has appointed people in our life to guide us to this new land, to help us grow in our faith and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ. When we struggle in life let us remember that when we grumble at people for directing us to do hard things, we are actually grumbling at God; a God full of love and grace who wants what is best for us.

Don’t grumble against one another, brothers and sisters, or you will be judged. The Judge is standing at the door! – James 5:9

Bruised and injured I lay on the ground

My adversaries advance, closing in for the kill

I pull my belt tight around my waist, secure my breastplate

I see their angry faces as they move closer

They taunt me with their screams, “Where is your God now?!”

I try to pull myself up, my feet ready with the gospel of peace

My bones and muscles ache from countless skirmishes

I can barely stand, as I try to get a glimpse of my enemy

In the advancing darkness I see a line of archers form

Flaming arrows pierce the sky as bowstrings snap

I stumble and fall, as I raise my shield in faith

My muscles strain to steady the shield as arrows impact

Yet no harm comes to me, the evil one’s intent is smothered

I adjust my helmet and pull out my sword from its sheath

“Give up!” The enemy shouts as they continue to pursue me

Again I pull myself up, this tired old warrior presses on

Armed with the word of God, I place my hope in the Lord

I take refuge in my God, my strength and my shield

“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.”

Ephesians 6:12-13 (NIV)

On congested streets filled with chaos

I listen for you

On sidewalks swarming with people and turmoil

I look for you

In a crowded building filled with screens and distractions

I seek you

In a packed train humanity closes in on me

I reach for you

But you are not there

Yet in the solitude of the wilderness, I heard your voice.

“Do not come any closer,” God said. “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.” (Exodus 3:5)

In the quiet of the upper room we saw you.

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)

In the crowded building we found you.

Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus by digging through it and then lowered the mat the man was lying on. (Mark 2:4)

In the midst of the crowd pressing in, I touched you.

She came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak, and immediately her bleeding stopped. (Luke 8:44)

In my deep desire to hear you, to see you, to seek you, to touch you, I came to know you.

But if from there you seek the Lord your God, you will find him if you seek him with all your heart and with all your soul. (Duet. 4:29)

I had a friend who had a knack for fixing most anything, particularly electronics. At one point he looked at buying a desktop computer and decided he could make one that better suited his purposes. So he bought all the components and built a computer that was faster and more powerful than any you could buy at that time. He knew that machine inside and out because he created it. In fact no one knew that machine better than him so he was always the go-to person when it didn’t work right. He was also the one to talk to when you didn’t understand its purpose.

I thought of this friend today when I read Psalm 139, particularly verse 13-14: “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” Like my friend knew that computer inside and out, our creator God knows us inside and out. We are not a generic machine pulled off the shelf, but each one of us is handcrafted by God. We are wonderfully made by the master craftsman.

God knows you inside and out because he handcrafted you. No one knows you better. When things don’t seem to be working out right in your life, he is the go-to person. He understands your inner most being. As 1 Peter 5:7 tells us, “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” When you don’t understand why something isn’t working, seek God. If you’re confused about your purpose, seek your creator and let the Spirit of God reveal his plan for your life.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” – Proverbs 3:5-6

As I read through the hundred-plus verses of Psalm 119 in sections over several days, one verse in particular stood out for me. Verse 164 reads, “Seven times a day I praise you for your righteous laws.” I immediately wondered if that was possible. It sounds simple, but to take time out my hectic day to praise God and his law seven times each day suddenly sounded difficult to accomplish. As it was, i could barely manage a set devotion time each day.

So the question remained in my head. Could I actually make it work? That’s when I came up with a strategy. I divided the roughly 18 hours I’m awake each day by seven and came up with about two and a half-hour intervals between the seven praises in a day. Then I created seven alarm settings on my phone with that interval between them. The goal was to praise God and his “righteous laws” each time I heard and/or felt my phone vibrate.

I started this approach on a Monday morning. I programmed the alarm on my phone for 6 am, 8:30, 11, 1:30 pm, 4, 6:30 and 9 pm. I used a praise song as the alarm sound to set the mood. This was an intentional way to move toward daily giving praise to God. An effort to, as Hebrews 13:15 tells us, “continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise, to “openly profess his name.” I would like to say this approach worked, but I soon found it became more forced with each passing day. While the interruption reminded how distracted from God I would get during the day, it tended to become just another routine — another “to-do” to check off the list.

What I learned from this experiment is that our worship and praise of God and his laws needs to come from an outflowing of our heart. Our love for God should overwhelm us to the point that it is a natural outpouring into our lives each day — a frequent praise of God as we experience him in the moments of each day. Disciplining our lives to align with God and his laws is good, but we must be careful not to force it to the point where it loses its meaning and purpose. 1 John 5:2-3 reminds us that God’s commands should not be a burden: “This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out his commands. In fact, this is love for God: to keep his commands. And his commands are not burdensome.”

A dear friend shared this in an email during a particularly trying week. With her permission, I now share it with you.

These verses encourage us to T.R.U.S.T. Him: His unfailing love and His mighty power…

T—TELL HIM EVERYTHING!

Psalm 86:5-7…You, Lord, are forgiving and good, abounding in love to all who call to You. Hear my prayer, Lord; listen to my cry for mercy. When I am in distress, I call to You, because You answer me.

Ps. 34:17-18…The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them; He delivers them from all their troubles. The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.

Matt. 20:29-34…As Jesus and His disciples were leaving Jericho, a large crowd followed Him. Two blind men were sitting by the roadside, and when they heard that Jesus was going by, they shouted, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on us!” The crowd rebuked them and told them to be quiet, but they shouted all the louder, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on us!” Jesus stopped and called them. “What do you want me to do for you?” He asked. “Lord,” they answered, “we want our sight.” Jesus had compassion on them and touched their eyes. Immediately they received their sight and followed Him. (Lord, we cry out for insight in the current need for decision-making!)

R—REMEMBER HIS PAST FAITHFULNESS!

Ps. 77:5-14…I thought about the former days, the years of long ago; I remembered my songs in the night. My heart meditated and my spirit asked: “Will the Lord reject forever? Will He never show His favor again? Has His unfailing love vanished forever? Has His promise failed for all time? Has God forgotten to be merciful? Has He in anger withheld His compassion?” Then I thought, “To this I will appeal: the years when the Most High stretched out His right hand. I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember Your miracles of long ago. I will consider all Your works and meditate on all Your mighty deeds.” Your ways, God, are holy. What god is as great as our God? You are the God who performs miracles; You display Your power among the peoples.

U—(Be) UNAFRAID!

Deut. 20:1-4…When you go to war against your enemies and see horses and chariots and an army greater than yours, do not be afraid of them, because the Lord your God, who brought you up out of Egypt, will be with you. When you are about to go into battle, the priest shall come forward and address the army. He shall say: “Hear, Israel: Today you are going into battle against your enemies. Do not be fainthearted or afraid; do not panic or be terrified by them. For the Lord your God is the one who goes with you to fight for you against your enemies to give you victory.”

S—STAND FIRM!

Ps. 20, especially vs. 6-9…Now this I know: The Lord gives victory to His anointed. He answers him from His heavenly sanctuary with the victorious power of His right hand. Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the Name of the Lord our God. They are brought to their knees and fall, but we rise up and stand firm. Lord, give victory to the king! Answer us when we call!

T—TAKE HIM AT HIS WORD!

Ps. 86:11-12…Teach me Your way, Lord, that I may rely on Your faithfulness; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear Your Name. I will praise You, Lord my God, with all my heart; I will glorify Your Name forever.

Isaiah 30:19-21…People of Zion, who live in Jerusalem, you will weep no more. How gracious He will be when you cry for help! As soon as He hears, He will answer you. Although the Lord gives you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, your teachers will be hidden no more; with your own eyes you will see them. (Praying for vision to determine “who” or “what” those righteous teachers are this week.) Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.”

Praying and trusting with you.

As the woman approached me in the aisle of the store I noticed her long face. I did not know this woman, but the next moment she passed me and I had this sense that she was burdened by something. I took a few more steps and then I felt the need to pray that the Spirit of God would fill her with hope; that she would feel the presence of Jesus Christ easing her emotional load. After that short prayer I turned to look back and she was no longer in the aisle.

This brief encounter made an impression on me. It made me think about how God looks at people — about the love and grace he offers us in the midst of our struggles. To see people as God sees them is to feel their burdens and pain; to experience the hopelessness people feel in life without Jesus Christ. When our heart is oriented toward God our desires become God’s desires. We share a longing for others to know Christ Jesus and the hope he brings.

We see Jesus modeling this compassion in Matthew 14:13-14. In this passage Jesus had just learned about the beheading of John so he climbs into a boat to seek a place of solitude. When he reaches shore he is greeted by a large crowd. He wanted to take time to grieve, but scripture tells us “he had compassion on them and healed their sick.”

God knows our hearts and he knows our needs. Jesus reminded us of this in Matt 6:8: “Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.” God knows when we need someone to touch our lives to ease our burdens and he knows when we should reach out to others in need. He uses the Spirit to nudge us to help one another whether it is a short prayer, a conversation or helping with a need. As a community of believers in Jesus Christ we need be attentive to the Spirit’s leading to help us see people as God sees them.

I recently gave my friend a multi-tool which included a level. After he unwrapped it, he immediately laid it on the kitchen counter to ensure the level was accurate. It may sound strange that he checked the accuracy of the tool against his counter, but I knew that most everything in his house was level. As a craftsman, he would not accept anything less. He was checking this tool against what he knew to be right.

Life in Christ is the same way. Each day we are bombarded with many different belief systems and ideas not always aligned with Christian values. If our life is on the level of the Word of God and aligned with Jesus Christ, we can check the accuracy of these beliefs and ideas. We will quickly know if they are correct based on how they align with God’s truth and avoid using something misaligned as our benchmark.

We should take to heart God’s truth and be vigilant about letting it guide our life. Hebrews 4:12 reminds us: “For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart (NIV). Proverbs 3:5 also reminds us: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding (NIV).”

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