A good Father?

Psalm 73-1-2

The questions come in the strangest moments, when I am least prepared to answer. Why are you _____? There’s a number of possibilities that fill in the blank. Single, travelling on your own, still teaching … There’s usually a facial expression on the ask-er’s face too that’s a mixture of bewilderment and pity. Sometimes the expression is harder to deal with than the question.

 

Surely God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart. But as for me, my feet had almost slipped; I had nearly lost my foothold. For I envied the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked. Psalm 73:1-3 (NIV)

No doubt about it! God is good – good to good people, good to the good-hearted. But I nearly missed it, missed seeing his goodness. I was looking the other way, looking up to the people at the top … Psalm 73:1-3 (MSG)

God is truly good to Israel, to those who have pure hearts. But I had almost stopped believing this truth. I had almost lost my faith because I was jealous of proud people. I saw wicked people doing well. Psalm 73:1-3 (ICB)

 

It’s frequently been those questions that have lead me down the rabbit trail of doubt. Frankly, in my life, that’s no rabbit trail. It’s been paved over with asphalt because I’ve walked it so often. Doubts about my marital status. Doubts about the wisdom of choices I have made. Doubts about whether I should do something or not. Doubts about risk taking. The doubt list is actually longer than I would like.

 

And then there’s the doubts about God that sneak in on the quietest of feet. Those doubts are more dangerous than anything else. They’re insipid, sneaking into the corners of my mind and heart and then burrowing in with porcupine hooks. Removing them is more difficult than I had anticipated.

Doubting my God’s goodness. That’s been something I’ve done wholeheartedly. There are prayers I’ve been praying my whole life that have still gone unanswered. Those are the prayers that have brought tears to my eyes. I’ve held them up to the Father’s throne and tagged “ifs” on them. God, if you do _____, then I will know you are good. God, if you do _____, then I will see you are faithful. God, if you do _____, then I will know you love and bless me. The “ifs” linger still and brought trouble with them. I bought into the lie that because God didn’t answer my prayers the way I wanted that He is not good, to me, anyway. I have believed that his faithfulness is only extended to some. I have questioned and doubted His love and blessing in my life. These are my porcupine quill doubts.

But God is gracious and God is good. He is not limited by my doubts. He is not constrained by my “ifs.” If I look back, truly looking at the experiences of my life, I see His goodness written all over it. His faithfulness is more than I can measure. His love and mercy have washed over me again and again. He has shown Himself to me in crashing waves and peaceful seas, quiet cathedrals and park benches. His presence, constant and true, has been the pliers that have removed the doubt quills from my heart.

God, too often I’ve almost missed your goodness. I choose to look to You, Jesus, because Your character does not change. I ask You to open my eyes to make me aware of where You are moving in my life. I pray for attentiveness to see what You are doing to recognize that Your goodness and faithfulness reaches me again and again. You are a good Father and I am so blessed to be Your child. Amen.

Chris Tomlin’s Good Good Father

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A legacy passed on …

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They are mine and yet they are not. Twenty-nine little ones are in front of me every school day. Sometimes they exasperate. Sometimes they are endearing. There are hugs and daily fist bumps. We talk about good things – what’s gone well today? We talk about hard things – why did you let the aliens invade? All along the way there is learning to be done. English, Math, Bible, Science, Social … all with lessons to learn and mastery to develop.

 

Endow the king with your justice, O God, the royal son with your righteousness. Psalm 72:1 (NIV)

Give the gift of wise rule to the king, O God, the gift of just rule to the crown prince. Psalm 72:1 (MSG)

Give the king your good judgement and the king’s son your goodness. Psalm 72:1 (ICB)

 

But that’s not all I want for them. Every year, I pray for these twenty-nine hearts that are mine for those ten months. While I want them to grasp the material that they are being taught, there are bigger lessons than that for all of us. I want them to see Jesus. I want them to know Him better. I want them to see the answers to prayer. I want them to ask their questions. I want them to wonder about Him. I want them to be blown away by His goodness and majesty.

I want them to love Him deeper. I pray that they will develop a love of Jesus that is the deepest passion of their hearts. A love that experiences His love for them. A love that endures, that weathers the storms of life. A love that is confident that Jesus deeply loves them.

I want their worship to ring out louder. For their praises to ring out in my classroom. Praise that cannot be contained because it is too overwhelming for words. I want them to experience the passion of living life with Jesus.

I want the tough experiences too. The times where we all wonder what God is up to. The times that hurt our hearts and hopefully make us lean into God more than we have before. I want the times that make our hearts burn because it doesn’t seem fair and we are not totally sure where God is in the middle of it. I want those moments because they spur us into discovery and sometimes prompt our feet into action. Those moments test our faith and our love. I pray for faith that relies on the One who will always be there. He cannot be shaken.

As I read Psalm 72:1, my head and my heart pray it this way for my learners – “Give the [teacher] your good judgement and the [teacher’s students] your goodness.” (ICB, bracketed words mine) We have much to experience this year. Some will be remembered. Most will be forgotten. But my heart’s cry is for my students to know Jesus better and love Him more. If that occurs, I will be blessed beyond measure.

Jesus, move powerfully. You are the true words of life. You are the One who equips us for every good work that You have planned in advance for us to do. Would you move and shape in such a way that we look more like You, sound more like You and join You in the adventures You have planned for us. Open our ears to hear what you are up to. Then we will become the people You have called us to be. Amen.

The story never gets old

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She is 95. One who once was spry is no longer. The sharp memory is fading. She was an avid reader, but with fading eyesight, God’s Word is the only book she is reading now. The longing to know Jesus – that’s still there. The desire to know Him better – that’s still pursued.

 

Even when I am old and gray, do not forsake me, O God, till I declare your power to the next generation, your might to all who are to come. Psalm 71:18 (NIV)

I’ll keep at it until I’m old and gray. God, don’t walk off and leave me until I get out the news of your strong right arm to this world, news of your power to the world yet to come, Psalm 71:18 (MSG)

 

The stories of the past, the stories of God’s faithfulness, those are stories I love to hear. Those are stories I need to hear. They are reminders to me that God is present. He is moving and active. He is deeply involved and His care and passion are on display in the lives of people around me.

The stories of faith challenge my faith. What do I believe about God? Where do I see His hand moving? What kinds of things do I lay before the throne? Am I bringing Him my burdens?

The stories of faith help my faith to grow. They cause it to be stretched. They help me listen with new ears. What is God up to? Where is He moving? Am I joining Him in what He is doing?

The stories of faith spur me on to action. I cannot hear them and not be moved. As the tears roll down my face, I am reminded that my faith is not finished its development. There is more to learn about my God. There is more to experience about Him and with Him. There is more to love about Him. I do not know Him as well as I want to. My faith is not finished its stretching and growing. He’s not finished with me!

The stories of faith remind me that I have stories to share too. God’s taken me on journeys. Some have felt winding and never ending. Some have been fast paced and gone by too fast. Others are slow and plodding with steady progress in one direction. Some have felt like I have been in no-man’s-land. But each story of my faith is one that reminds me that I have a God who is with me. My God is the One who holds me close. My God is the One who has walked every journey with me.

I have a story to tell. A story of my God who walks with me all the days of my life.

Hunting after God

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I sat in the dark. A full moon overhead. All was silent. I hadn’t anticipated sitting in a blind in the dark but I had been invited on a hunt and it was an experience I wasn’t going to miss. The wild boars came. All brave and snorting, gorging themselves on the food. But then in tromped the porcupines and the boars scattered. It wasn’t a fair challenge. No boar was willing to risk the outcome. Vicious quills were no match for tender snouts! It was quite the sight to behold. No animals were harmed on my adventure.

 

But may all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you; may those who love your salvation always say, “Let God be exalted!” Psalm 70:4 (NIV)

Let those on the hunt for you sing and celebrate. Let all who love your saving way say over and over, “God is mighty!” Psalm 70:4 (MSG)

 

Do I hunt after God? Do I pursue Him? Do I make finding Him and growing in Him the highest priority in my life?

I think the answer to that is sometimes.

Sometimes I do hunt for Him. I’m convinced that He’s not where I saw Him last and He hasn’t been close to me, so I best go and find Him. It’s moments of desperation when I search, eager to see Him, urgently wanting to know His presence and His touch.

Other times, I’m happy to sit in my place, content and too often complacent with how things are in my life. I’m okay. God’s okay, so why shake the boat? We’re each in our places and all seems fine. But is it?

Sometimes I really do hunt after God. It’s not because I’m in a place of desperation. But it’s because I really want to spend time with Him. I really do want to invest in our relationship. I value that closeness and the comfort of His presence and so I pursue Him.

Lord, I confess that I’m not always pursuing my relationship with You. Too often I am complacent. Forgive me for being satisfied with the status quo. I ask for a heart that longs for You. A heart that pursues You. A heart that is passionate for You. A heart that longs for Your presence. I desire to be deeply known by You. Thank you for being the God who pursues me in love and kindness. I am so grateful to be loved and known by You. Amen.

The One who Saves

God, answer in love! Answer with your sure salvation!

 

But I pray to you, O Lord, in the time of your favour; in your great love, O God, answer me with your sure salvation. Psalm 69:13 (NIV)

God, answer in love! Answer with your sure salvation! Psalm 69:13 (MSG)

But I pray to you, Lord. I pray that you will accept me. God, because of your great love, answer me. You are truly able to save. Psalm 69:13 (ICB)

 

We celebrated again this past weekend. A tiny wafer. A cup of juice. Elements helping me remember the body and blood of my Lord Jesus Christ. Broken and bleeding for me. Taking my place. Suffering my guilt and shame. All sacrificed in love. All given because I was far away and could do nothing on my own to be close to God.

At some point, every person has tried something to reach God. Good works. Living a good life. Living a moral life. Being generous. The list could go on and on.

But all of it, while it may be good on its own, can do nothing about the problem of my sin. Yes, I sin. I completely miss the mark. My attitude gets in the way. I rebel in some way. I offend and hurt others. It’s all sin. It’s all missing the mark of God’s perfection. Sin tarnishes everything it touches. And unlike a polishing cloth removing the tarnish on silver, I can’t just wipe it off my record.

Only my God can truly restore. His polishing cloth was His Son. The only One who was sinless. The only One who was perfect. The only One who could bear the weight of every wrong I have ever done. He carried the load and suffered the most horrid death imaginable – a cross. He went in obedience. He knew that the suffering would be intense. He knew that it would mean separation from His Father. They had never been apart – Father, Son and Spirit – and when He carried the weight of the sin of the world, the Father could not look at Him anymore. That is lonely!

But God in His mercy and grace looked at the sacrifice of His Son and was satisfied that the penalty was paid. It was enough. It was finished. Salvation was bought with the sacrifice of the One who was perfect. What a costly redemption!

When the Father now looks at me, He sees that the penalty has been paid. He desires that I live in right relationship with Him. Confessing my sin to Him is part of the transaction. But His forgiveness is right there. Meeting me at the point of my need. His memory of my sin – that’s a short memory. He chooses forgiveness. He wipes the sin away. It’s gone, forgiven, finished.

I am so in need of salvation! I cannot do life on my own. I’m so grateful that when I call out, and it’s often, my God is right there. He reaches out to me. He is the One who comes near. He is truly able to save!

Family

God gives the lonely a home

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God sets the lonely in families, Psalm 68:6a (NIV) 

God gives the lonely a home. Psalm 68:6a (ICB)

 

I’d been in this country before. I’d travelled all around visiting a whole host of teachers and principals and their schools. But I’d never lived there. I really didn’t think I would live there. But God wasn’t subtle about His call on my life to go live on the other side of the world for a period of time. When God speaks, it is really best to obey. So, I packed my bags and prepared my very unsure heart for the adventure He had me on.

In some ways, it was exactly what I thought it would be. I was challenged. I was out of my comfort zone. I was uncertain. God was very present.

In other ways, it was exactly unlike what I anticipated. I thought I knew where I would be living. But, circumstances beyond my control completely changed the plans. Little did I know that the plans changing was exactly what my heart needed.

Instead of a quiet basement suite, I was plunked into a family. And it was perfect. They welcomed me with open arms. They made me one of their own. They told me Sunday night supper was “feed your face” meaning I needed to fend for myself and make my own meal. They stole my peanut butter and honey sandwiches. They wrote in my journal. They stormed into my room. They teased me. They laughed at me when I was cold. They wanted to see my pictures and listen to my music. They made all sorts of musical racket with me. They hunted me down if I wasn’t joining in on what they were up to. They took me to their friend’s homes. They loved on me when I was lonely. They listened to my stories about home. They helped explain my current surroundings. They became my family! I love them dearly!

We haven’t seen each other for a really long time. But every time I read Psalm 68:6a, I am reminded of God’s perfect provision for my life. Had I lived in the basement suite, I would have been so lonely. Instead, God surrounded me with the family He knew I needed. And I am grateful beyond words. He knew what I needed – a family! I’ve got a family this side and one on the other side of the world. Both of my families have been God’s gift to me. I cannot imagine my life without all of you in it! I love you more than words can say!

Blessed

May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face shine upon us,

I am amazed at the blessing of God in my life. There are more blessings than I can start to list off. God. Family. Friends. Health. Career. Community. Fun. Curling. Music. Writing. Travel. Photos. Memories. The list may start here but by no means is this the end. I have more blessings spilling out of my hands than I can possibly list.

 

May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face shine upon us Psalm 67:1 (NIV) 

God, mark us with grace and blessing! Smile! Psalm 67:1 (MSG)

 

But, I am often reminded that the blessing of God in my life is not always tangible. Some of the blessings He has for me are ones I know nothing of in the moment. In fact, there are times when I am not sure He is even blessing me right then.

I think that if I was able to see all of the blessings that God is constantly pouring out into my life, I would not be the person He has designed me to be. Any shred of humility I may have developed would be sacrificed in a moment of gloating. Any thought of thankfulness might be consumed in a belief that I’ve done something to earn it.

I can’t earn the blessing of the Lord in my life. Nothing I could do would ever be enough to merit his favour. Instead He lavishly pours out blessings on me – over and over again. I am more loved than I can understand and more blessed than I will ever fully know.

God, forgive me for all the times when I forget to be thankful. You have provided so richly in so many ways in my life. May my heart be one that overflows with a constant outpouring of gratitude to You. You are my provision and every blessing that is in my life is a gift from Your hand. May my life reflect Your generosity, mercy and grace to me.