Posts Tagged ‘Father God’


Do either of these statements describe the way you see God’s love for you?

1. God loves me, but (or as long as) _______.

2. God loves me, period.

Is God’s love for us something we control by our actions or behavior? Is his love contingent on what we do or don’t do?

In the biblical parable of the Prodigal son, Jesus tells us the story of a young man who thoroughly insulted his father by asking for his inheritance or “death benefit” early and leaving home to do as he pleased—to go hog wild, so to speak. After he partied all of his inheritance away, he found himself destitute and starving. He came to his senses and realized he’d been a wretched fool and his only hope for survival was to return to his father and beg to be made a slave. But as he neared his father’s estate, his father saw him from a distance and ran to meet him, embraced and kissed him, overjoyed at his son’s return.

Was the father’s love for his son based on the condition that the son return to him? Or did he love him all along?

I wonder if some of us see God’s love as conditional, based our actions, strivings, and obedience to him. I wonder if some of us need to see that God’s love is not like human love; it is not capricious or waning like that of humans. He doesn’t give the silent treatment when insulted or hold an offense over our head. His love does not tire like a discontented mate and send him in search of someone new.

I have often despaired of ever being good or pleasing enough. I struggle with the constant challenge to do better, to be better, to try harder. Yet I fail. I am inherently flawed and prone to mistakes. I can only follow Christ and serve him with his help, and even then I fall short of my aims.

But . . . then I read the story of the prodigal son and am reminded this represents the Father heart of God. Jesus paints a very touching picture of a father’s love, and more importantly, our heavenly Father’s love. I am so moved by this story, straight from the mouth of Jesus himself, which describes the holy, righteous God of the universe as an incredibly loving father.

Don’t get me wrong. I am not moved by the fact that the son got away with reckless sin and was forgiven without question, as though I were looking for a way to justify or excuse sinfulness. I am just awed and touched by picture of the Father’s steadfast love. The father didn’t lift his chin and turn to his friends and say, “Well. At least he’s back where he belongs, that takes a load off my mind. Lucky for him he came to his senses. But he has proven himself a disappointment and won’t soon forget what he did, I can guarantee that.”

No. He celebrated his son’s return to him. Wholeheartedly, with exuberant joy. He was so moved to emotion that he ran, breaking cultural codes of propriety. He not only ran, he embraced his son and kissed him. Couldn’t contain his joy at his son’s return. Unreservedly expressed his love before his son had a chance to speak a word of remorse for his sin. Showed lavish grace and forgiveness without another word about what the son had done.

I wonder if those of us who grew up either fatherless or with dads who were unloving or abusive have a particular need to be reminded of the “Father heart” of God. I am not suggesting that we should ever forget that he is also God of the universe, the absolute holy, righteous judge. But those of us who have lived under the thumb of someone who rules by cruelty and intimidation may have a harder time understanding how so good and loving a father can be at the same time so exacting in his judgment and so thoroughly demanding of holiness. It’s simply who God is (and more than can be addressed in a blog post.)

We must do our best to keep in mind the big picture perspective of all that God is, and not pick and choose our favorite attributes. He is fierce both in his love and his holiness. His love is everlasting—to those who fear him. (Psalm 103:17) Not fear him in the same way I once feared a stepdad’s return home from work every day, but a reverence for him in all his righteousness and holiness. AND his love. Embrace the total truth of who God is and allow Him to embrace you in return.

And don’t forget: he is running to embrace you long before you’ve even arrived.

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A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows,

is God in his holy dwelling.

God sets the lonely in families,

he leads out the prisoners with singing

Psalm 68:5-6

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I confess. I would’ve liked to have been called somebody’s “Princess.”

As a very little girl, of course. Long before the black eyeliner, Army coat, and bag of weed in my pocket.

Sometimes, I wince inwardly when a dad talks about making sure his daughter knows she’s his princess. Every father should make sure his daughter feels beautiful and special and loved, absolutely. But girls like me never saw ourselves this way. I have never felt like princess material. I may have even gone out of my way (with the Army coat and the weed) to make sure no one suspected me of wishing to be anyone’s princess. That way no one can mock you for failing.

When I was four, my parents divorced and my dad left the country. It’s hard for a kid not to take abandonment like that personally. Hard to ignore the inner voice whispering you aren’t lovable or he would have stayed. Hard to ignore the nagging sense there’s a gaping hole at your feet and there’s no one to catch you if you fall.

By the time I was 15, I’d learned that fathers (and their replacements) were deserters and bullies who were critical, perverted, self-serving, or unappeasable.  After years of receiving conflicting and demoralizing answers about who (and whose) I was, I no longer pined for a daddy. That ache had been thoroughly cured.

And I sure didn’t feel like anybody’s little princess.

When I was 17, my mom and I were both brand new Christians, on our own again and trying to start our lives over. Then mom said she was getting married. Again.

Wonderful. My first thought was to leave the new couple to their blessed new life and go my own way. I was of course so grown up. So I told the new man in Mom’s life I was happy for them and would be moving out shortly. The guy burst out laughing. Not exactly the reaction I expected. And he kept on laughing until he turned red. Once Robert composed himself, he somehow talked me into staying a little while longer.

It didn’t take long to realize my mom had married a psycho. He’d often say things to me like, “HI, HONEY!!!” (Robert doesn’t have a low setting on his volume control.) And “You’re so NEAT!” And “You’re such a pretty girl.” Okay, great. Another perv.

And my favorite: “I SURE LOVE YOU!” To which I wanted to reply Whatever, man. There’s no need to butter me up, she already married you. Save your breath because I’m not buying it. And don’t be getting any ideas that I need to hear that stuff, because I don’t.

(Sorry, yes, I was a jerk. Holey hearts have a way of growing thick, ugly shells.)

But the guy just wouldn’t stop. No matter how much I stiff-armed him, Robert kept telling me I was pretty. Neat. Special. And that he loved me.

You know, a rock hard heart can only take so much of that.

When I accepted Christ at age 16, I understood that Jesus died for me out of love, but I struggled hard with the whole Father God thing. God the Father was certainly far away—like in another country. Maybe he was like my dad who only thought about his kids every five years with a postcard bearing foreign postage and stamped “Airmail.”

But in time, Robert’s persistence finally wore down the shell around my heart. Not only did I begin to accept his love, I found myself needing it. And eventually, that persistent love helped me grasp a life-changing, heart-healing truth about the huge, persistent Father heart of God:

There is a Father whose love never fails.

See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! 1 John 3:1

Do you know without a doubt that you are God’s beloved child? If not, I encourage you to let the truth and grace of his word pour over you. I’m praying he will show you without a doubt. You are a son or daughter of the King of Kings! And so am I.

Hey! I guess that makes me somebody’s princess after all.

And thanks, Dad. I love you too.

For a similar Along The Banks post, see: What Would You Say To Little You?

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Last week, we looked at some ways we can know God loves us. For me, learning to trust in the unwavering love of Christ has been critical to my emotional and spiritual healing and maturity. Knowing God loves me gives me the hope and confidence I need to press on through various challenges. It also helps me accept correction and repent when I make mistakes.

Some people might see God’s unwavering love as an open invitation to complacency or sin. Maybe resting in the knowledge of God’s love isn’t everyone’s key to spiritual growth. But for me, it’s been a powerful catalyst for change.

If you’ve been anything like me—sorry!—maybe you’ve also needed to wrap your head and heart around the Father’s love. Maybe you needed to know this Father will never come home drunk and belligerent. He isn’t going to blindside you with a knuckle rap upside the head or cuss you out when you can’t figure out how to fix the lawnmower. He will never, ever humiliate you in front of strangers or verbally beat you down just to see you cry. He will never tire of family responsibilities and bail on you, move to another country, and send a postcard every five years to tell you about his new wife and kid and forget what grade you’re in.

No. God is a Father unlike any you’ve ever known, good or bad. And he loves us far more than we can possibly understand.

And yet, we’ve been challenged to try to understand.

The Apostle Paul prayed this prayer:

14For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. 16I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Ephesians 3:14-19

This prayer seems contradictory, doesn’t it? Paul asks the Father to empower us to know this love that is beyond knowing. He wants us to grasp it. Seize it with our hands. Put down roots in it. Be saturated with it.

Why is it so important to know and take hold of the immeasurable love of God?

To make us happy?

It may do that, but knowing I’m loved does far more than simply make me feel good. The assurance of God’s love gives me hope and strength. It renews, heals, and motivates. But best of all, it’s empowering.

To do what?

Anything God asks.

My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.  John 15

What do you need power to do?

 20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. Ephesians 3:20-21

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