Posts Tagged ‘God the Father’

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? (Romans 8:31-32 ESV)

Many of us are very familiar with these verses and others similar. But I think they are just beginning to pierce my own heart. It started last Sunday with a discussion about Hudson Taylor and how the missionaries of the late 1800s were not merely sacrificing their own lives by going but the lives of their own families. Hudson Taylor lost 1 wife and 7 children in China. Adoniram Judson lost 2 wives and 7 children in Burma. William Carey lost 2 wives and at least 3 children in India. These are no light losses. These also were not surprising to these men. Adoniram, when desiring to court and marry his first wife, Ann, wrote this:

I have now to ask, whether you can consent to part with your daughter early next spring, to see her no more in this world; whether you can consent to her departure, and her subjection to the hardships and sufferings of missionary life; whether you can consent to her exposure to the dangers of the ocean, to the fatal influence of the southern climate of India; to every kind of want and distress; to degradation, insult, persecution, and perhaps a violent death. Can you consent to all this, for the sake of him who left is heavenly home, and died for her and for you; for the sake of perishing, immortal souls; for the sake of Zion, and the glory of God? Can you consent to all this, in hope of soon meeting your daughter in the world of glory, with the crown of righteous, brightened with the acclamations of praise which shall redound to her Savior from heathens saved, through her means, from eternal woe and despair?

Shockingly, the father consented and left the decision to his daughter! Adoniram was right, though. Nearly everything in his statement above came true. So where is the line? Were men like Taylor, Judson, and Carey foolish to put their families in such a harsh environment? Were they in sin? Should they have taken better care of their families? Was it worth the cost? It’s likely that over 2 million Burmese Christians can trace their spiritual heritage to Judson. Who knows how many with regard to Taylor and Carey? Who knows how many other missionaries there would be without Carey? Was it worth it? How do we, as fathers, know when it’s right to do the same for the sake of the gospel? It’s a hard question! But as we discussed this, one thought came to mind as I was praying: God willingly gave up His only Son! How profound is that? God the Father did this for His enemies (us!) nonetheless.

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. (John 3:16-17 ESV)

Think about it for a second. We were utterly lost in sin. We did not love God but lived for ourselves and for Satan’s purposes (Ephesians 2:1-10). We spit in God’s face. He was barely a thought for us. All our intentions and deeds were bent away from Him. We were dead.

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:6-8 ESV)

Do we understand what God did? Who of us would sacrifice our own lives for our friends? Maybe. Who of us would lay our own lives down for an enemy? Nope. But God didn’t mere do just that. God laid down the life of His only Son for his enemies! If given the choice, even the worst of the worst parents would take a bullet for their child. Any of us parents would gladly lay down our own lives for our kids given such clear choice. But would I give up the life of my own son for even a friend? As ND Wilson says: Hell no.

It’s a joke to even think about whether I would let my own son die for my enemies. I would think myself a bad father! To lose a child is crushing. To yield a child to die is unfathomable. Yet this is what God did. He didn’t make it easy either – sending His Son into our world in poverty to then later be crushed and tortured and to be executed in one of the worst ways ever invented. This would seem evil for God to do except that we know Jesus was willing and endured for the joy set before Him (Hebrews 12). Jesus said, “I will go and walk in their shoes, be betrayed, take the 40 lashes, and painfully die for them!” Jesus did this for me. The Father did that for me. How ridiculous is it for me to ever question His love and good for me! How much does it grieve my heavenly Father when I doubt His love or His intentions? Our Father sees us, knows our hurts, and says, “I sent my only Son to the cross for you! What more can I do to show you my love?” Our Father is for us. He willingly gave His only Son for our sin. He loves us.

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I saw this posted today on the Desiring God blog and was so encouraged by what Paul Tripp had to say, I felt I needed to call special attention to it.

If you’re confused about what God’s agenda is in your life, or if it doesn’t always seem like his promises are being fulfilled, then this strange little prayer from Psalm 51 is helpful and clarifying. In his psalm of repentance after his sin against God, Bathsheba, and Uriah, David writes this provocative little prayer, “Let the bones that you have broken rejoice.” What in the world is he talking about and how in the world can it give perspective and hope to you and me?

Let me begin to answer with a personal confession. It’s a bit embarrassing to admit, but I have a low tolerance for difficulty. I confess that I am a project-oriented person. I tend to have a specific agenda for each day. I awake knowing exactly what I want to accomplish and what a successful day will look like. I don’t want to have to deal with interruptions or obstacles. I want the people, circumstances and locations to willingly submit to my sovereignty and participate in my plan. All of this means that it’s counterintuitive for me to view difficulty as something beneficial. I have little time or tolerance for “broken bones.”

But I have a problem. My Redeemer is the redeemer of broken bones. Now, maybe you’re thinking, “Paul, what in the world are you talking about?” Well, here it is. “Broken bones” is a physical word picture for the pain of redemption.

I don’t like being uncomfortable and I certainly don’t view difficulty as a fantastic thing most of the time, seeing it as a benefit!

We very rapidly forget or ignore the powerfully addicting dangers of sin and think we can step over God’s boundaries without personal and moral cost. We think we are stronger than we really are and wiser than we actually prove to be. We assess that we have character, discipline and strength that we don’t really have. So God, in the beauty of his redeeming love, will “break our bones.” He will bring us through difficulty, suffering, want, sadness, loss and grief in order to ensure that we are living in pursuit of the one thing that each of us desperately needs—him.

God will not let us be satisfied with anything else but Him and because He is our loving, perfect, caring Father, He will shepherd us towards the right satisfaction, that is, in Him.

God hasn’t forgotten you. He hasn’t turned his back on you. He isn’t punishing you in anger. He surely isn’t withholding the grace that he has promised from you. No, you’re receiving grace, but it’s grace that is willing to break bones in order to capture and transform your heart. This grace is unrelenting. This grace has no intention of giving up. This grace will not be satisfied with the status quo. This grace does not get discouraged. It will never compromise. It will never become bitter or cynical. This is loving, patient, perseverant, powerful grace.

God does not forget us. He does not fall asleep and just let our lives turn to wreckage. He is always at work. He is always after your heart. His grace does not give up! Read the rest here.

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This is part 2 on Job 1-25, read part 1 for the foundation and the initial discussion of grieving.

Grieving is hard (continued)

Why do we need such grief? Death feels wrong and reveals how we were never meant to experience it apart from the destructive result of our sin. Yes, Jesus defeated ultimate death at the cross. Yes, death has lost its sting. But it is still loss. To lose someone close hurts immensely. To merely blow off any loss in this life as trivial, is to be callous. Suffering is not good and Jesus came to ultimately wipe it away but while we walk in this earthly life, in our flesh, suffering is our life and our calling. However, nowhere does God call us to become stoic unemotional beings. Jesus certainly was not a stoic when walking in our shoes. Jesus empathizes time and time again. This life will always be bittersweet: news of a friend’s stillborn baby coupled with news of the birth of a child to friends after years of battling infertility. We might enjoy a delicious steak and glass of wine for dinner one evening but then deal with immense ailments the next month. We have sweet times of closeness with God followed by hard times when we can question if He is really there. We get enough of a glimpse of the goodness of God but not so much so that we would cling to this life. Grieve with Job when you read the book of his namesake. His friends do this initially but then make foolish attempts to reason with him.

Grief is not assuaged by logic

Job’s friends do not speak for a whole week when first visiting him. This is an enormous grace on their part! However, they then try to diagnose Job’s problems, try to fix it, at the same time they are trying to understand this harsh episode of suffering for themselves. They are his friends! They are foolish, and it is so easy to forget that they are his friends who are trying to enter into his suffering. The problem is that they try to fix things, to reason with Job. They end up isolating him even more. Even if they were completely right, would it matter? Would it have been helpful to Job? I don’t think so. Job needed encouragement, even if that meant letting him process thoughts that were not necessarily truth. I am not professing to completely understand the book of Job, but I do have some understanding of grief. The way Job’s friends do not listen to him would likely have made a scoffer of me as well. Job did not need reproof or reasons or logic to get through the fog. His friends did not get this.

For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another. My heart faints within me! (Job 19:25-27 ESV)

Grief is only assuaged by our Father

Notice that I said assuaged not answered. Does God tell Job about His confrontation with Satan? Does God truly answer any of Job’s questions? Nope. In His words to Job, God seems to merely assert His infinite power and wisdom over Job’s. However, God reveals Himself to Job! God meets Job exactly where He is at! Even if God did not restore much of what Job lost, I think Job would have been satisfied. Job 38-42 is not a prescription, just as grief and loss are not the same for each of us. To me it reveals that suffering is ultimately answered not in logic or in reason or in some pat answer but through the presence of God by way of Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit. The Gospel gives us the hope we need to freely approach our heavenly Father with our hurts and loneliness. The Gospel gives us the knowledge that we have not merely a savior but also a brother in Jesus who walked in our shoes, knows us, understands us, empathizes with us, even in our loneliness. The Gospel gives us the truth that we have the comfort in us, the Holy Spirit; a presence better than even having Jesus with us in the flesh. Job shows us that grief is not easy, is part of being human, and that ultimately assuaging it is a job of God and God alone.

Why did Job suffer? A refinement of his righteousness? Drawing him more personally near to God? Glorifying God and rubbing Satan’s face in the sand of Job’s choosing the truth and choosing to still wrestle with and walk with God? Giving us a small faint picture of the innocent suffering of Jesus in Job’s life? The answers don’t nearly assuage as much as meeting God personally and intimately.

Additional resource: “Job: Five Sermons on Suffering”

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In my reading plan the past 2 weeks I have been immersed in the book of Job. It is a challenging book, difficult to fly through Job, taking what is said at face value. It’s easy to judge Job and focus too much on his subtle self-entitlement. This time through, I attempted to focus on empathizing with Job, trying to feel what he feels. It’s been helpful, revealing new insights that have hit me. I have to set up the important foundation first though.

The Foundation

In the first 2 chapters we are given a glimpse of God’s confrontation with Satan. God calls Satan’s attention to Job and his righteous life. Satan scoffs and says that this is because Job’s life is easy. Satan says to take away what he cares about and he’ll spit in God’s face. God then gives Satan permission to do anything but harm Job physically. The next thing we know is that Job loses his livestock, servants, and his children all die. Job mourns but still praises God. Satan again comes before God and again scoffs at God defending Job. Satan is then given permission to afflict Job with sickness but not to kill him. Job is then afflicted with sores and skin problems and the book moves on the dialog with Job and his friends. This is huge. Job never gets this glimpse. Job never even gets this confrontation explained to him later (which is awesome, stay tuned). We do. Why? A major reason is because we must see that God does not initiate suffering in Job’s life because of any particular sin in his life. Yes, Job has sin. Yes, God draws out some issues through Job’s suffering. But it was not primarily due to sin in Job’s life.

All the back and forth then in chapters 4 through 25 are not, honestly, helpful. Job and his friends can’t see what we see and so it quickly devolves into trying to tie up Job’s suffering in a neat a tidy equation: Job + suffering = Job’s unrepentance from sin. The disciples do the same thing in Luke 13:1-4 and get rebuked by Jesus in doing so. We need to be careful of this equation when reading Job as well as when trying to interpret the dialog between Job and his friends. Therefore, In light of this foundation, what did I notice?

Grieving is hard

We cannot gloss over what Job is enduring emotionally or water down the heavy fog of grief. Grief is different for each of us but, for me, I didn’t feel like myself for 6 months after my dad passed away. I felt cut off and isolated, but there was nothing I could do. Most of it I just didn’t even notice. I was very lonely. My wife was an irreplaceable presence and encouragement, but this was a much deeper loneliness. I was not angry with God or going through depression, I just felt like I was in a cloud of hurt and numbness. Would I have said that to you at the time? No, I couldn’t put words to it. Even the loneliness that grief drew out in me is much easier to see in retrospect.

While he was yet speaking, there came another and said, “Your sons and daughters were eating and drinking wine in their oldest brother’s house, and behold, a great wind came across the wilderness and struck the four corners of the house, and it fell upon the young people, and they are dead, and I alone have escaped to tell you.” (Job 1:18-19 ESV)

Think about this in Job’s life. He has lost all of his kids and is disunified with his wife. Think about what kind of fog that would bring on. Think about the loneliness you would feel. So much of what Job expresses in Chapters 4 through 25 surrounds how isolated and cut off he feels. Why does he long for death in Job 3 and 6-7? Do we think this righteous example of a man is merely whining and complaining? This man is broken and in a massive dark cloud!

What then was the point of Job’s suffering? You’ll have to stay tuned. It’s not an easy answer at face value nor can I say I understand it fully.

Part 2: Dealing with Grief

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“What’s the most resilient parasite? An Idea. A single idea from the human mind can build cities. An idea can transform the world and rewrite all the rules.”

I’ve seen Inception twice now. I wrote an initial guide to the movie here. I think the second time was the best and even now I’ll be anxiously awaiting the DVD release or maybe even the $2 theater! I’ve had numerous discussions with friends that have seen it, I’ve processed it a lot, and now I’m ready to dig into a more spoiler laden analysis as to why I loved it and what makes it such a powerful piece of art. There are so many things you can talk about with this movie but I am going to focus on just one theme, the one that continues to stick with me and move me to Jesus, and even helps further enlighten the Gospel for me. This will be full of spoilers so turn away now if you have not seen this movie, it won’t make much sense to you anyway!

They are fully persuaded of Christ’s love and good-will to them, but the difficulty they have is whether the Father accepts them and loves them… Such thoughts ought to be far from us. – John Owen

The Inception

Peter Browning: I just don’t know. He loved you Robert, in his own way.

Robert Fischer: His own way? At the end he called me into his deathbed, he could barely speak but he took the trouble to tell me one last thing. He pulled me close and I could only make out one word, “disappointed”.

Robert Fischer, excellently acted by Cillian Murphy (The Scarecrow/Dr Crane in Batman Begins), is son of Maurice Fischer, head over a multi-billion dollar energy company. Maurice is near death and Saito hires Cobb and company to attempt to implant an idea to get Robert to do one thing: break up his father’s company after the death of his father. The characters discuss how they can even do this. What idea will they try to plant? How will they implant it? It has to be simple and Robert has to desire for it to be true – redemption and catharsis are significantly more powerful in how they impact us than some negative thought. Cobb and Eames quickly seize upon one idea: affect the perception of his relationship with his father, Maurice. When Maurice dies and they enter the dream world with Robert, Robert confesses that he had a terrible relationship with his father and that his father barely expressed any love towards him at all. His last words to Robert were “Disappointed.” Robert’s relationship with his father is completely broken and when they engage in the dream world with Robert, you find this really does hurt and crush him. That word, “disappointed,” sticks with him.

Robert Fischer: After my mother died, you know what he told me? “Robert, there’s really nothing to be said.”

Peter Browning: He was bad with emotions.

Robert Fischer: I was eleven.

In level 1, Eames (disguised as Browning, Maurice’s chief adviser and Robert’s godfather) starts to try to convince Robert of one thing: his dad really did love him. Eames wants to change Robert’s perception and believe that his father was not completely who he thought he was. Robert wants to believe this! He loves his dad, never wanted his relationship with Maurice to be broken! But at this level, there’s no way Robert can believe it. Level 2 is all about getting to level 3 and convincing Robert that Browning is trying to deceive him, trying to steal from him, and that there really was something else to Robert’s father. In level 3, after a whole lot of action, Robert takes the bait. He relives the scene with his father from before, only this time it’s different. This time, his father (merely a projection in his dream) doesn’t just express the word “disappointed” but tells him that he wants his son to be his own man, and shows him a pinwheel from Robert’s childhood, expressing satisfaction with who his son has come to be. It drops like a hammer on Robert. Maybe his dad actually loved him! His dad was only disappointed that Robert was trying too hard to be like him. Robert absolutely breaks down and this new perception seems to carry all the way through. His countenance and his whole life seem to change in one fell swoop.

Maurice Fischer: [trying to get his words out] I was dissa…dissapoi…

Robert Fischer: I know dad. I know you were disappointed I couldn’t be you.

Maurice Fischer: No…no…no..no! I was disappointed that you tried.

The Idea: Your Father is Not Who You Thought He was

What a powerful vision from Christopher Nolan. How do they change Robert Fischer’s life? They do it by changing his father. They completely transform his perception of who his father was and they provide for a restoration. Of course, in the movie, this is all a lie. Their motives are for selfish gain not for Robert.

But what if it’s the truth? What if we’re all living with a false vision of who our real father is and was? What if our father is not who we think he is? What if the key to restoration and transformation in our lives is understanding who our real father is?

He’s not a voice in your head,

He’s not the father you fled.

He’s not the things that they said.

He’s raising up the dead.

– Caedmon’s Call, “Raising Up the Dead”

Even if we had a great dad, don’t we still long for something more? This world and everything in it never seem enough. To top that, we seem to have this darkness within us that we just cannot shake. God feels very distant from us and it all feels like a fog. How could He love us? How could He not be disappointed with us? Does he even care? Isn’t he much of the cause of all my pain and misery? Praise Jesus that our Father God is beyond all of that! Praise Jesus, our God in heaven, is not who we always thought he was. He is our perfect loving father who is not distant, does not sleep, does not get frustrated with us, is always pleased with us yet never satisfied, and is gentle and tender towards us in Christ Jesus.

Be fully assured in your hearts that the Father loves you. Have fellowship with the Father in his love. Have no fears or doubts about his love for you. The greatest sorrow and burden you can lay on the Father, the greatest unkindness you can do to him is not to believe that he loves you. – John Owen

Beyond our earthly fathers, we have a Father who sacrificed His only eternal Son for our sin and separation that our relationship with Him would be restored once and for all. Our earthly fathers were meant to point to Him. But they were never Him and never could be.

Sin makes the sinner unlovely and undesirable. There is nothing in the sinner that could arouse love in God. Yet it is as sinners that God loves us. Not only when we had done no good, but when we were polluted in our own blood. – John Owen (based on Eze. 16:6)

Your true Father is not “disappointed.” He loves you. He paid a price to adopt you. He is waiting for you. He is not who you thought He was.

Let us remember how eager and willing He is to accept us. – John Owen

More good posts on Inception worth reading:

Cinemagogue (James Harleman/Mars Hill) Series:

Dream a Little Dreamscape of Me

Waking From Inception

From Cliffhangers to Topspinners via INCEPTION

Subjecting Yourself to INCEPTION

(INCEPTION) “This is the really REAL World…”

“True Inspiration” versus INCEPTION – does it exist?

INCEPTION, Reformed (for the last time)


Inception and the Gospel (written by an old friend of mine)

Lessons in Shared Dreaming (The Rabbit Room)

Dreaming Unawares (Damaris)

Truth and Consequences (World Magazine)

Inception (Christianity Today)

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