How Many Times Do I Have To Tell You?
A Guest Post at Proverbs 31 Ministries
I have a dare for you. It’s simple. But it’s definitely not easy. I believe it can be the turning point of your relationship with your children and with your heavenly Father.
Look at the list of things you say most often to your children. Do you hear your heavenly Father whispering the same things to you?
Be honest. Let the words sink in. What is God saying to you?
I’m over at Proverbs 31 Ministries today with thoughts on our words – what we hear and what we say. Hop on over and tell me what God might be whispering to you.
In His Grace,
Your Name Here
Remembering names is not my gifting. I want to remember—really I do—but I’m not very good at it. I’m better with faces. Although I don’t like name tags, I need them. If we’ve met, and we see each other again, I’m hoping that grace will prevail. I will reintroduce myself and maybe we can share a laugh!
But God knows each of us intimately. Scripture talks about Him knowing the number of hairs on our heads. Perhaps more profoundly, He knows our thoughts, even our days. Those are things that I don’t even know about me.
My hair isn’t as thick as it once was, but I don’t know the exact number of lost locks. My thoughts often seem scattered and unfocused. And my days? Those are crazy (most of them)—not necessarily in a bad way, but full. And while I’m a planner, I rarely remember what I had for dinner yesterday. I’m glad God knows those things, but they seem impossible for me to know.
It’s the fact that He knows my name. This blows me away. And I think it is so wonderful. My name. Mine. The name my parents gave to me. The one my husband whispers, the one my friends call, the one my kids repeat. I’m not a number to God. You’re not a number. He doesn’t ever forget my name or yours. You are you, by name. I am me, by name.
It must have been startling for little Samuel to realize that God was calling his name, not Eli. God was saying, “Samuel, Samuel!” God’s voice, not just the priest’s. While Samuel listened to and obeyed Eli, while he wanted to be attentive, the sound of his name spoken by the Almighty had to be a powerful moment.
And what about Saul on the road to Damascus? Talk about a crossroads. Saul, passionate about upholding the Law and the traditions, led the charge in persecuting the Christians. He went door to door. He was actively imprisoning men and women. He stood in direct opposition to Jesus.
Then as he was on the road with his companions, set on finding more believers and punishing them. Jesus spoke to him from a bright light, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” Saul was literally blinded by the light. Jesus called him out and gave him a new name, Paul.
The calling of the disciples is a part of the story that we often read as if it isn’t significant or substantial. Wait just a minute. Jesus called these men by name, and they followed Him without question or discussion leaving their work behind them.
Might there have been something different about the authority with which He said their names? Did He exude the qualities of a leader that drew them to His side: confidence, direction, charisma? If we could ask them, I would bet they would say they couldn’t quite put their finger on it, but there was something in the way He looked them in the eye when He offered the invitation by name with the words, “Follow Me.”
Jesus called Mary and Martha by name. This happened on two very different occasions, and in both instances He did so with gentleness and compassion. Jesus said, “Martha, Martha, “ when she had become frustrated with her sister about helping her in the kitchen. Mary seems blind to all that needed to be done and was just sitting and listening to Jesus.
Jesus wasn’t calling Martha out. He didn’t seek to embarrass her. He wasn’t intent on making her feel bad. No. Jesus softly spoke her name. He wanted her full attention. I’m sure He looked her in the eye. “Martha, Martha.” Jesus wanted Martha to listen to Him, not be distracted by what wasn’t being done around the house.
God knows your name. And He whispers in a thousand different ways. It’s in the wind of a storm, the quiet breeze at the beach. You can hear it when the birds sing or the soft rain falls. Sometimes your name is clear in your heart. And every time you hear it, lean in and listen. He knows your name.
What if our seeing all that God wants to show us isn’t about us looking harder or praying harder or doing more? What if it isn’t about us being more discerning or wise or focused? What if, it’s about us being less busy. Walking slower. Pausing. Breathing. Lingering.
Be still must be accompanied with be quiet, “Shh!” They go together. Being still without being quiet negates itself. Being still and being loud misses the point. The point of being still is being quiet, being stilled.
This is a soul stillness that few of us regularly practice. A stillness from the inside out. It’s a stillness that is manifested on our faces as a peaceful contentment. In our actions as selfless service. In our devotions as pure and lovely. Stillness.
It’s the Divine, “Shh!”
In a breeze or a sunrise or the bird’s song or the flower’s bloom. It says, “Hush. Pause. Breathe.” It urges. It insists. It encourages. It draws. “Shh.”
It isn’t harsh, but still halting. Not obtrusive but mild. Not demanding but rather inviting. It doesn’t require but instead welcomes.
Sometimes it presents in the middle of a storm, a tempest that rages and roars around us. When the world seems to be falling apart. When life shatters. When our wounds are raw, our eyes are red, our pillows wet.
Sometimes it echoes when panic surrounds and threatens us. When our head is spinning. When we flustered and overwhelmed, we’ve lost our way and we feel trapped. In the distance we hear it, “Shh-“.
“Be still” and “be quiet” go together. They’re inextricable. They go together. Impossible to separate. Being still means being quiet. Being still without being quiet isn’t possible. Many of us try to practice being still without being quiet. We hope that no one will notice.
We sit still but we aren’t really still. Physically we are motionless, every muscle unmoving. But spiritually our souls aren’t. And our minds are racing. We’re merely still on the outside. We wonder why practicing being still isn’t benefiting us, why we get up and still feel empty, stressed.
Really being still is not about being physically still. Being still on the outside, is an exercise in controlling ourselves physically. And as challenging as that is-more so for some of us than others-it’s being still on the inside that is the real challenge. And, it’s being still on the inside that makes all the difference.
My mind is constantly racing, lists of things to do, projects, calls, meetings, emails, dinners. ‘To do’ lists swirl with, responsibilities, dreams, and ideas. I think about conversations I need to have, notes I need to write. My mind runs and chases, stresses and configures, considers and imagines.
God’s invitation, His gentle, “Be still,” is a providential proposition. It’s a omniscient offer, a sovereign suggestion. He’s asking me to lean in, to quiet myself, to rest in Him. To trust Him. To allow Him to do what only He can do-His good, perfect and pleasing will.
In the Old Testament, in Exodus, Moses led God’s people, the Israelites. God had prepared Moses to led as a shepherd and he was well prepared for his task. (You can review the whole story in Exodus 1-14.) In summary, God had brought Moses to be the Deliverer of His people out of the bondage of slavery under the Egyptians.
God had worked wonders through the 10 plagues and in fact had caused Pharaoh to release the Israelites. But not long after they had left and gone into the desert, Pharaoh changed his mind. He gathered his forces and went after God’s people. It was at the edge of the Red Sea with Pharaoh’s army to their back that Moses said to the people, “Do no fear! Stand by and see the salvation of the LORD which He will accomplish for you today…The LORD will fight for you while you keep silent.” (Exodus 14.13-14)
Here is a perfect example of “Be still”. In a moment of crisis, with their enemies at their backs and the vast Red Sea in front, Moses essentially says, “Be still. God’s got this one. Don’t panic. Just watch and see.”
Wow. When I want to panic, when all seems lost, when the odds are against me, when I’m lonely, defeated, and far from home. When I’m weak, worn-out and weary. When I’ve messed up again.
So, whose at your back? What are you facing? Does your situation seem impossible? Does it seem that there is no way out? Like all of your options are gone? Along with all of your hope? Do you feel like your back’s against the wall? That you’re between a rock and a hard place? Even out of wiggle room?
I tend to want to try and fix everything, everyone. I want to make it better. I’m willing to apologize, and I do. I’m willing to make amends and I have. I do whatever I can to bring about peace and reconciliation. But sometimes it’s not enough. And He whispers, “Shh-“
Let’s dare to hear His “shh” and respond. Let’s dare to be still. To be quiet. To be stilled. Calmed. Silent. Let’s dare to lean into who He is. Let’s dare to be still when everything around us is spiraling. Let’s dare to be still when we don’t think we have time to. Let’s dare to practice His presence. Be still.
How Many Times Do I Have To Tell You – NO
Not only do we dislike saying it, we don’t like hearing it either. In fact, I used to think that growing up meant the end of “no.” After all, I would get to make the decisions, and I certainly would not tell myself “no.” I would tell myself “yes.”
I would tell myself “yes” to Ding Dongs and Oreos and Twix. I would tell myself “yes” to the whole jar of peanut butter, the whole can of whip cream, the whole 3-layer cake. “Yes” to staying up as late as I wanted, watching whatever I wanted, sleeping in the next morning as late as I wanted. “Yes” to expensive shopping sprees and indulgent vacations. “Yes” seemed to be the ticket to freedom, to adventure, to excitement, to satisfaction. But alas, it’s just not true.
“Yes” isn’t the ticket to freedom, not really. In fact, habitual and uncontrolled “yes” without self-control and discernment, without wisdom and restraint, can actually be the road to slavery. It can lead to a prison of our own construction, by our own hands. While we may be free to say “yes” to whatever we want to say “yes” to, doing so doesn’t bring us more happiness. Actually it only leads to emptiness.
What if hearing “no” from our heavenly Father is not negative?
What if it’s not mean?
What if it’s not insensitive?
What is it’s not oppressive?
Is it possible that a sovereign “no” is actually beautiful? Could it also be loving, considerate, gracious, and merciful?
We’ve vilified the One who knows us best. He created us. He has a plan for us. He died for us. When He says “no” we often think that either He doesn’t hear us or that He doesn’t care. Neither are true. He does hear. He does care. In fact, He cares enough to say “No.”
Scripture tells us that Paul wrestled with an unknown ‘thorn in the flesh.’ We read that he asked God repeatedly to remove it. That’s a simple enough request for the God of the universe. Seems to me that Paul’s ministry might be stronger without the thorn. It’s distracting Paul, discouraging him. Paul was a bold and courageous minister of the Gospel. He deserved for it to be removed, deserved for God to say “yes.” Surely if God removed the throne, Paul would have testified of God’s goodness, compassion, and power. But God said “no.” Paul was assured that “My grace is sufficient; My strength is made perfect in weakness.”
God’s “no” wasn’t and isn’t flat or flippant. It was and is rich and multi-dimensional. God’s “no” is actually more like an invitation to go to a deeper level of trust, love, and faith. When He says “no” do we trust Him enough to know that He still loves us? Will you still believe that He has a plan for you? Can we dare to trust that He is enough no matter what the circumstances?
God is not the supreme sugar daddy. Nor is He our bellhop, constantly waiting for us to make a request to fulfill. Neither is He the highway trooper who lies in wait for us to mess up. He doesn’t carry some cosmic lightening rod ready to zap us when we mess up. God is good all the time; all the time God is good. But that doesn’t mean He is obligated to give us any and everything we ask for. He loves us more than that.
Besides, He has already given us everything we need for life and godliness in the gift of His Son, Jesus Christ. We have forgiveness of our sins and the hope of life eternal with Him. “The joy of the Lord is our strength.” He walks with us each day. His Holy Spirit lives inside of us and guides us. He grants us strength for each day. He has lavishly given us all we need.
Here again, the “no” we receive is a lot less about us and a lot more about Him. When we hear “no” we take it personally, and often allow our emotions to get the best of us. We whine and complain when we get a “no.” For what it’s worth, we wouldn’t and shouldn’t allow such behavior from our kids. But we mope. We sulk. We pout.
Think about that for a moment.
What God says “no” they are a divine set up for His glorious plan, for His protection, for His provision, for His praise. God’s ways are not our ways. We base our plans on things making sense. We’re admonished, “lean not on your own understanding, in all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your path straight.”
His path takes us straight to Him, straight through sanctification, straight to selflessness, humility, and love. His path takes us to the end of ourselves, through the valley of the shadow, through fire and water. On this side of eternity, it’s wonky, full of ups and downs. Sometimes we’re on the path, sometimes not. From this side, His designated path for us doesn’t look straight—at all! But from the perspective of eternity, it’s a straight shot. It’s the way we need to go.
“No.” It’s a little word filled with protection. “No” knows better. It knows that there are things we cannot see, things we underestimate, things we don’t think matter. God’s “no” says, “I love you, and I know what’s best for you. Trust Me. The answer is ‘No.’”
It Doesn’t Matter What Everyone Else Is Doing
The fashion industry depends on it, as do many magazines and talk shows. Certainly ‘reality’ television needs it. I’m talking about voyeurism. Watching how other people live and wanting to live just like them.
The right jeans.
The right car.
The right hair style.
The right house.
The right job.
The right glasses, dinner entre’, and exercise class. All these luxuries are predicated on what everyone else is doing.
Arguably it was the worst in junior high. I mean the worst. We all wanted desperately to just blend in with each other. No one wanted to stand out. Standing out was bad, even scary. Whatever was vogue or cool or hip—that’s what we wanted. We wanted to be accepted, liked, and included. We wanted to prove who we were even though we didn’t really know yet. And we hoped no one noticed.
There is only one person you and I are called to be like. Only one—no one else. In fact, the ultimate goal of the life we have here is to be conformed to His image. To take up His cross and follow Him, to reflect His glory, testify to His goodness, to point others to Him. We are charged with walking in the Light and abiding in Him. To transform our minds, not grow weary in doing good, to stand firm, and be on guard.
It really doesn’t matter what everyone else is doing.
It doesn’t matter even as our culture continues to shift away from God and more toward the individual. Culture encourages selfishness. It advocates for relative truth. Today we see individually defined and lived out loud. It rejects God’s ways and commands, refusing to see them as loving and kind.
Everyone else’s behavior isn’t supposed to set the bar for our standards. God does. And His bar is higher. It’s the cross bar of Calvary. The cross bar of Calvary says come, follow Me, learn of Me, rest in Me, trust Me. The cross bar of Calvary demands sacrificial love, sacrificial living, sacrificial service. The cross bar of Calvary challenges us with these thought: What does it profit a man to gain the whole world and yet lose his own soul, and the first shall be last.
Humility is the way.
Serving is the way.
Honoring is the way.
Dying is the way.
Jesus told us that the world hated Me and it will hate you, too. We don’t like that part. We like the parts of the Gospel where people were healed, the blind see, the deaf hear, and the lame walk. We like lepers being restored. We like sins forgiven. But the part about taking us the cross, about washing others feet, about humbling ourselves—oh, and the part about being hated—we skip over that part.
But that part is what it’s all about. We are here to live a life that matters. Living a life of obedience. Fixing our eyes on Jesus and keeping a hope of heaven. We are live in such a way that our example points other people to Him. We are here as aliens and ambassadors. This world is not our home. We were made for more than this. This is just the preparation for Heaven with Him. Eternal life with Christ and God the Father is what we are made for, perfect fellowship that will last forever.
We keep trying to fit in with the world around us instead of allowing Him to fit us for service above. Fitting in shouldn’t be our goal. As daughters of the king we should stand out. Not obtrusively. Not obnoxiously. Not in a rude or gaudy way. We should stand out because we are standing on His promises. As we live, we are to let our light shine wherever we go because we are children of the Light.
It doesn’t matter what everyone else is doing, but rather what He doing through me and in the lives of everyone else around me.
That is what matters!
Now Is Not The Time
“God’s timing is perfect.”
People tell us that when we are exhausted from waiting. They tell us when we don’t think we can take another step or when we feel like giving up all together. When it feels like the trial or the discipline will never end. When our prodigal still hasn’t returned. When a job is allusive, disease is overwhelming.
The God of the universe Who exists outside of time, interjected Himself into time on time. He wasn’t early. He wasn’t late. He was right on time. Jesus, born of a virgin, in a ‘stable-esk’ setting, to young, weary parents, was right on time.
In Psalms 90:4 and II Peter 3:8 we are told that God is unhindered by time. God is timeless. He doesn’t work on a clock. He’s not running out of time. He doesn’t miss appointments. He is never late. He is only, ever on time, every time.
Our aggravation with time, feeling like there is not enough, like the clock is working against us, like it’s our enemy, is the reality of being created. God’s creation. He set the clock when He put the sun, moon and stars into motion. He set the week with the days of creation, complete with the institution of rest.
And our time is limited. We don’t have forever here. We have forever there, somewhere and for eternity. Only two options: Heaven or Hell. Both are real. Both last forever. One is with God. One without Him. Endless fellowship or endless aloneness. Ultimate Joy or ultimate grief.
God’s word, the Bible recounts instance after instance of His perfect timing. Never early, never late. To the characters in the Bible and to us, He regularly seems like both. We often accuse Him of being late, of being unaware of the time-our time. But He’s not working on our time. He’s working outside of it.
Hannah thought that God wasn’t listening. It’s common for us to think He cannot hear us when He doesn’t answer our prayers, not at least in the way we wanted Him to answer them. We blame Him for being deaf. Or we blame Him for not caring. Or we blame Him for being unable or unwilling.
According to our clocks He’s late. According to our schedule He missed an appointment. According to our alarm He forgot. Nope, not true.
What is true is that He is working on different time table. God is working on a grander scale than we can imagine. He is listening. He is aware. He is busy. Matthew writes that Jesus told His followers that He was going to prepare a place for us. We can know that since His return to the Father’s right hand, He has been busy preparing a place for us with Him where we will join Him outside of time.
That is one aspect of eternity that we don’t often discuss. Here in time the tick-tock, tick-tock enslaves us. It is a cruel master. There never seems to be enough tick-tock for all the laughter, for the rest, for the relaxation. And way too much tick-tock for the waiting and the wrestling. Way too much for the struggles and stress, for the separation, loss and hurt. Way too much. Tick-tock. Time races when things are good. And it stands still, doesn’t move, when the hard times come. Tick-tock echoes.
The Psalmist felt this. “How long, Oh Lord?” David wrote. How long indeed? The moments here sometime feel like forever. Forever since we didn’t hurt. Forever since we didn’t miss. Forever since we weren’t alone or tired or afraid. Forever. “How long?” our hearts cry out. How long?
We are introduced to Hannah in I Samuel. We are introduced to a woman longing for a child. Longing. Tick-tock, time marches. Tick-tock. No child. Tick-tock. No child. Tick-tock. No child. At the doorpost of the temple, she laid it all out. She wept bitterly. I Samuel 1:11:
11 “She made a vow and said, “O Lord of hosts, if You will indeed look on the affliction of Your maidservant and remember me, and not forget Your maidservant, but will give Your maidservant a son, then I will give him to the Lord all the days of his life, and a razor shall never come on his head.”
His timing humbles us. His timing draws us. His timing molds us. Hannah was humbled by her circumstances. She needed God. Hannah was drawn to God, knowing He alone was able. She desired God. Hannah was molded by God, changed; she no longer wanted a son for herself, but for God. She loved God.
God’s perfect timing had a purpose: to glorify Himself and to grow Hannah. Her desperate waiting killed her selfish desires. It focused her on God. It taught her that her son wasn’t hers, but God’s. It gave her purpose as a mother: to raise a son to give back to God. Hannah knew that Samuel wasn’t hers. God’s timing and Hannah’s waiting. His perfect timing and her humble waiting.
I’m betting that like me there’s something you’re waiting on. Reconciliation. Forgiveness. Healing. Employment. Rest. Maybe you’re waiting for a friend, a house or a test result. You may be waiting for an answer to a question or a problem that’s years old. You might feel like your drifting without a direction or maybe you are in a storm so intense that you don’t know which way is up.
You cry out. You shed tears or maybe you’ve run out waiting. Know this: When your Heavenly Father whispers, “Now is not the time,” it isn’t because He doesn’t care. It isn’t because He is unaware of your pain, your heartache, your brokenness. And it’s not because He’s late, unaware of the time. His ‘now is not the time’ is perfect time. It’s an invitation to lean further into Him. An opportunity to trust more, to stop trying to hold it all together and just rest in Him.
Allow your Father to hold you. You with all your tears and questions. With all of your frustrations and even your anger. Let it all out in His lap. Know that He is big enough. He is strong enough. He is faithful. He is good. Know that He is outside of time, but aware of ours. He is never late. Never. Rest in His perfect timing. He’s got it.
I Love You!
As discussed in the previous post, “How many times do I have to tell you?” God’s overarching message throughout the Bible is “I love you!” God’s common grace surrounds us in His creation, His handiwork, the clear evidence of the Creator of the universe.
God doesn’t offer us a formula for religion, an experience. He isn’t far off and away, uninterested or uninvolved or indifferent about us. Our heavenly Father offers us a relationship with Himself. He extends to us an invitation to us for intimacy. Not just an association or an acquaintance or an affiliation, but a deep and abiding friendship. God offers us Himself, to know and be known.
The relationship includes vulnerability on our part, a willingness to submit to Him and His will. Submitting is a beautiful act, it reflects a grateful heart. A grateful heart is a humble heart. A humble heart knows and acknowledges God and doesn’t seek to replace or supplant Him.
Submission trusts God to do what brings Him glory and us growth. Submission allows God to be God; it leans into Him and rests in Him. Submission isn’t easy or natural. But He is patient with us when we wrestle and even rage, when we ask questions or insist on our own way, He remains squarely on the throne, arms extended, love out pouring.
He is the Sovereign of the universe whether we acknowledge Him or not. Our rebellion to the great I Am does nothing to diminish Him. We are the only losers when we choose to reject or ignore or despise His love. His love to us is a free gift. The cost? Our arrogance, our pride, our selfishness and our greed. Death to self. That’s all. Not much, comparatively speaking. I mean we are like dust.
When we spurn His love it breaks His heart. After all, He sacrificed His only Son to pay our sin debt. Only the perfect Lamb of God-Jesus Christ- could pay our penalty. We can’t pay it because we are sinners. Every one of us. Sinners.
Even if I chose to die for a friend, in an effort to pay the price for their sin, it wouldn’t matter. A sinner dying for a sinner cannot pay the price. Only perfection can pay the price. Jesus was the spotless Lamb of God. His perfection qualifies Him to be the payment.
It was a price He paid willingly, not because anyone made Him or under compulsion, but because He wanted to glorify the Father. See, glorifying the Father was always Jesus’ focus. It glorified the Father for Jesus to give His life as a ransom for many, for you and for me. That’s love. Our Heavenly Father’s love.
The hymnist writes:
What manner of love
The Father has poured out on us
That we should be called the sons of God.
What manner of love indeed. That the Father poured out. Lavish. Abundant. Extravagant. Radical. Abundant. Beyond all we could ask or imagine. Beyond. This is the “I love you,” resounding from the throne of Grace, from the Holy of holies, from Heaven itself. “I love you. I’m your Father and I have great plans for you.”
Your birth. “I love you.”
His plan. “I love you.”
Your salvation. “I love you.”
His sacrifice. “I love you.”
Your sanctification. “I love you.”
His Spirit. “I love you.”
Your growth. “I love you.”
His glory. “I love you.”
He wants the best for you and me and the best for us is less of you and me, none of you or me in fact and more of Him. Trusting Him, Depending on Him, Following Him. Being kind and generous and diligent and forgiving. Those are the activities of His children and the behaviors of His children.
Jesus’ birth. “I love you.”
Jesus’ ministry. “I love you.”
Jesus’ death. “I love you.”
Jesus’ resurrection. “I love you.”
Jesus’ sure return. “I love you.”
“He (God) who did not spare His own Son (Jesus), but delivered Him (Jesus) over for us all, how will He (God) not also with Him (Jesus) freely give us all things?”
God’s message to you?
“I LOVE YOU!” (In all caps, boldfaced, underlined, exclamation point.)
How Many Times Do I Have To Tell You?
From the throne: an invitation
Peter do you love Me?
I love you-
Things said in triplicate.
Thought question – name some consistently repeated messages in the Bible. You know, ideas or themes that run through all 66 books. Take your time and consider it.
What was creation all about? Who was Job? What about Noah and the ark? Abraham? Isaac? Joseph’s rise to power in Egypt? Moses’ last message to the Israelites? What about the lives of Jeremiah, Isaiah and Daniel? And Ruth, Esther and Bathsheba? The prophets, miracles, 10 commandments, plagues?
Why Mary and Joseph? Elizabeth and Zachariah? Who were the disciples? Why did Jesus come to earth? Who was Nicodemus? The blind man? The woman at the well? Why do their stories matter? What about Mary, Martha and Lazarus? What are miracles and what do they mean? Why did Jesus have to die? When did He rise again? When is He coming back? Who was Saul-Paul? Virgin birth, sacrificial death, resurrection? Justification, salvation, sanctification? Grace and mercy?
Don’t panic if you don’t know all these people or their stories or the events. Even some of the words can be confusing, but they can be understood. That’s not the point here. (That’s just an opportunity for further study!) The point here is that all of the people and events, the miracles and the trials are all part of one big story: His story.
Throughout the Bible God is repeating His message of love to His people, to us. All of the 66 books of the Bible share the same overarching theme: God loves. This is a message He repeats over and over again. He is intent on driving home the point.
Before the disciples went with Jesus to the Garden of Gethsemane, Peter told his master that He was willing to die with Him. Jesus then predicted Peter’s denial. Peter, passionate, rash Peter.
Upon the initial threat of Jesus’ arrest, Peter draws his sword in an effort to defend Jesus, but instead of decapitating Malchus, Peter only manages to remove the man’s ear. Jesus asks Peter to sheath his sword, then proceeds to miraculously restore Malchus’ ear.
As the evening progresses, Jesus is tortured and questioned. Peter loiters in the courtyard just outside. And just as Jesus predicted Peter, strangers confronted him three time with questioning Peter’s association with Jesus. Peter flatly denies Him. In fact his denials become more and more vehement and indignant.
The rooster’s crow reverberated through the cool, stillness of the early morning.
Three times asked. Three times denied.
Peter wasn’t at the foot of the cross, only John and Jesus’ mother. Where was Peter?
At dawn on the third day, the glorious day of our Lord’s resurrection, we get to see Peter again. This time we see him running to see the empty tomb for himself. In the days that followed, Jesus made a point of restoring Peter, communicating love and forgiveness.
Jesus began, “Peter, do you love Me more than these?”
“Yes Lord; You know I love You.”
“Tend my lambs.”
“Peter, do you love Me?”
“Yes Lord; You know that I love You.”
“Shepherd My sheep.”
“Peter, do you love Me?
“Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You.”
“Tend My sheep.”
Listen to the grace here. Jesus is driving home a point. His question is the same each time, but He wants to make sure that Peter gets the point. The question is simple enough and it seems Peter answers casually, flippantly merely glancing Jesus’ way at first. In response, the disciple’s tone of voice communicates more than his words. His tone says, “Yeah, yeah, of course I love you.” But then Jesus asks again.
The second time Peter again answers emphatically, almost agitated, impatient, but the Lord seems to want Peter to be less passive with his answer. Jesus wants Peter’s total attention. Peter after being asked the same question and given two different, but similar answers, turns to the Lord, facing Him, eyes locked. By the time the Lord Jesus asks the third time He has Peter’s total attention. Jesus is charging Peter with leading, pastoring, and caring for the flock.
Jesus could have said, “How many times do I have to tell you Peter? Feed My sheep!” But He didn’t. He could have grown impatient with Peter’s disinterest. He could have become frustrated with Peter’s thoughtlessness, with his apathy. But He didn’t. Jesus had a message he wanted to communicate with Peter directly and clearly. He didn’t want Peter to miss it. Jesus knew that He was going to have to say what needed to be said more than one time.
This isn’t the only place in the Bible where the same phrase is said over and over. There are several themes and one overarching messages. In His grace our God knows the power of telling us over and over. God is constantly displaying His glory in creation. His message from Genesis through Revelation is the same: “I love you!”
And He patiently says it over and over.
Several years ago I had a friend who shared this story. She and her son were having another rough day. He wasn’t listening. With a desire to vent, she called her husband and recounted the frustrations of the day. As she was wrapping us her story she asked her husband, “I keep telling him over and over!” Calmly her husband responded, “That’s your job.” He’s right.
Here are a few of the phrases worth studying further which are throughout scripture: stand firm, do not be afraid, take courage, love one another, but God and remember. These are admonitions that God wants to make sure we hear, take seriously and act on. How many times does He have to tell us? Lots. To be honest these are things we simply cannot hear too many times. Our ears, our hearts need the comfort and confidence these words offer. I’m glad He tells me over and over aren’t you?
God grants us the opportunity to patiently repeat ourselves to our children every day. May we choose wisely those phrases and words which echo in our homes. May they be words of life, encouragement and hope. May we reiterate with love and patience. And may we never grow weary of our Father’s voice telling us about Himself, His grace, mercy and love many, many times!
They were distracted.
I get distracted too.
Even though their every need had been met from the very hand of God. They missed it. Forgot. Their eyes wandered from His face to His hands. He wasn’t doing enough because He wasn’t enough.
Even though He has met my every need – not to be confused with want – I miss Him. I forget. I allow my eyes to wander from His face, to His hands. Sometimes I feel like He isn’t doing enough. I forget that He is enough.
They wanted more from Him. More things they could see, taste, touch.
I want more from Him. Lots more. Tangible things.
When His people were wandering in the desert, God wanted their hearts. He wanted them to look to Him. He provided for them even though they had disobeyed. They had chosen against trusting Him. Instead of striking them all dead, He had given manna in the desert.
As I’m going through life, God wants my heart. He wants me to look to Him. He continues to provide for my every need even though I disobey Him. I sometime choose against trusting Him and yet, He sustains me.
The price of whining and complaining is high. The cost of discontentment is staggering – dissatisfaction, malcontent, displeasure. Attitudes reflective of a heart condition, a deadly heart condition. These attitudes are the result of our taking a stroll on the dark side, of ourselves. These attitudes cannot be the result of walking in the Light as He is in the Light. These attitudes come from the pit of our own selfishness. These attitudes grow when we are distracted from His face by our own.
Ingratitude means we don’t get what He’s done. We think we have done it. We think we don’t need Him. His provision, His blessing, His grace, somehow we have come to believe we deserve them. That entitlement attitude equals ingratitude. Instead of praising Him for who He is, instead of thanking Him for what He’s done, ingratitude ignores and even criticizes both.
The Old Testament symbol of the bronze serpent in the desert, was a foreshadowing of Christ on the cross. God instructed Moses to fashion the symbol for the people to look at and be saved. When Jesus hung on the cross, God extended salvation to all mankind. Look to Jesus and be saved. “Look at Me!” Jesus says.
God’s desire is our hearts. His invitation – our attention. He wants us to look at Him, to seek Him, to depend on Him. He longs for us to run to Him in good times and in bad. Running to Him when we’re in a spot, when we can’t see a way out, when consequences overtake us, that’s when we wonder where He is, that’s when we call out, that’s when we tend to questions His faithfulness.
When we look at Him we are reminded of His sacrifice, His love. When we look at Him all fear is gone. Looking at Him puts all of our problems and issues and struggles in perspective. When we look at Him we gain strength and confidence, not in ourselves but in Him.
Focusing on Him makes all the difference. Looking at Him, and His glory, His faithfulness, His holiness, His truth makes all the difference. It doesn’t make everything make sense, but it grants us peace to know that He holds it all. He is in the process of redeeming it all, bringing it all together for His supreme purposes.
Nothing is an accident, nothing wasted. He uses everything our faith and our failures, our dreams and discouragements, our hopes and our hurts. Nothing wasted. Everything redeemed. In the worst situation, the most painful, the most overwhelming, the most hurtful, we can know that He knows, that He cares, that He is working it for our good and His glory.
Look at Me and be healed, gain strength, renew hope.
Looking at Him reminds us of the hope we have in heaven, in His immanent return. Looking at Him with tear-stained faces, when tired eyes and weary smiles.
He is trustworthy, He is faithful.
Look at Me when things are crazy.
Look at Me when the world is spinning.
Look at Me when you don’t know which way is up.
Look at Me whenever you need Me, whenever you have a question, a frustration, a hope, a dream, a loss, a wound.
Look at Me when you’re tired.
Look at Me when you’re lost, under attack, feeling alone, blindsided, confused, broken, bruised, outcast.
Look at Me!
Not him or her or them. Look at Me! Not that or that. Look at Me! Not the problem. Not the storm. Not the crowd. Not the enemy. Not your friends or family.
Look at Me.
Though tears blur your vision and stain your face.
Look at Me.
I am. Your Hope. Your Answer. Your Peace. Your Joy. Your Defender. Your Healer. Your Redeemer. Your Savior. Your Lord. Your Master. Your returning King.
Look at Me. I Am.
Look at Me.
I know. I get it. All the details, I understand them. The subtly, the nuance, the implication. I see you. I see them. I see through it all. I’ve got it.
Look at Me, just Me.
Let the cross be your focus. Nothing else.
Look at Me. Don’t get distracted.
I Remember the Day You were Born
Balloons. Cake. Candles. Presents. Decorations. Smiles and songs. Family and friends. And pictures—lots of pictures.
Celebrating a birthday brings back memories of the day someone came into the world. As a mom, all of the details come rushing back. The nursery. The shower. Choosing their name. Packing the hospital bag. The doctor’s visits (or the midwife). The predictions. The kicks, the hiccups, the nausea, the nesting.
I’m grateful that the memories of the labor pains really do fade with time—at least until it’s time to do it again. The emotional rush of the birth is exhilarating and exhausting at the same time. Smiling with tears dripping off my chin was standard.
Have you ever considered how God responded to your birth? Have you ever thought about His lordship over it? Ever think about it as part of His sovereign plan? Ever picture Him smiling with tears dripping off His chin?
Psalms 139 gives us insight. In the first twelve verses David acknowledges God’s omnipresence and omniscience. Those are just two big words that mean that God is everywhere and knows everything. Clearly these are words of both assurance and encouragement. David writes, “You have searched me and know me.” Pause just a minute. God knows you. He knows me.
Continuing, David states that not only does God know, He also understands, scrutinizes, and is intimately acquainted with all our ways. “You know it all, You have enclosed me behind and before.” Then, God “laid His hand upon me.” Then further on the writer asks, “Where can I go from Your Spirit?” Here again David is emphasizing God’s omnipresence and omniscience.
God cares about your birthday. And He cares about mine. He was there. As the psalmist writes, “You knit me together in my mother’s womb; I am fearfully and wonderfully made.”
Here are some Bible birth stories worth thinking about. What about Cain? After all, he was the first child born. Adam and Eve had no reference point, no What to Expect When Your Expecting books, no parties and yet, what a moment. Read little further on. What about the day that Isaac was born to a 90-year old Mom and a 100-year old Dad? Sarah and Abraham with smiles and tears dripping down their chins. Think for a moment about the day Rachel finally gave birth to her long-awaited son—Joseph. Similarly, think of Hannah when Samuel arrived after Eli promised that her prayer would be answered. Smiles and tears.
In the book of Ruth, Boaz accepted his role as kinsman-redeemer. Through their marriage, Obed was born. That was accompanied by great celebration! Obed became the father of Jessie who became the father of David. David was the youngest with six brothers and two sisters. His family already had a calendar full of birthdays! What about the child born to David and Bathsheba as a result of his adultery with her and murder of her husband? What heartbreak. Then came Solomon. Bitter sweet. Still, smiles and tears dripping.
Move forward now into the New Testament. Of course it begins with the birth of John the Baptist. After years of infertility, God chose Elizabeth and Zacharias to be the parents of the forerunner to Christ. John’s birth was greatly celebrated by his parents and community. Not long after the miracle of John’s birth, Mary and Joseph were alone and far from home when they welcomed Jesus, the Christ, and held Him for the first time. Smiles and tears had to be dripping off their chins. I wonder if the same thing was happening with God the Father’s too.
These are all physical births. And while God is present at each one, there’s another birth that He also attends. Spiritual birth. Nicodemus came to visit Jesus, at night. As a Pharisee he had some questions for Jesus. The whole issue of these two births (physical and spiritual) fueled their discussion. Jesus explained the importance of being “born again.” The idea thoroughly confused Nicodemus. All he could think about was the physical, but Jesus was talking about the most important birth—the spiritual one.
Jesus goes on to explain. This is the context of the best-known Bible verse found in John 3:16. The verse contains the words of Jesus laying out the Father’s plan and His role. God’s plan: send His Son as the Savior of the world. The Father knew that only a perfect sacrifice could pay the debt required by the sin of the world. Jesus’ sacrifice extended grace to all who would believe in Him and trust that His death was payment for their sins. Placing personal faith in Jesus signifies spiritual birth.
Do you remember yours? Do you remember the day you decided to place your faith and trust in Jesus as your Lord and Savior? What was it like? What promises did you make? What assurances?
Now let’s consider one primary biblical example: Saul (aka Paul). Saul was born into a family of prominence. Intelligent and passionate, he trained and excelled in the Law and the Prophets. He was a Hebrew of Hebrews Gamaliel taught him, trained him. Saul was passionate about his role among the Jews. And when God got ahold of him, he was just as zealous about bringing others into the family of God.
Not every birth story is ideal. Some elicit painful memories, unanswered questions and deeps wounds. Some of us weren’t anticipated or possibly not celebrated.
Do you remember a favorite birthday of your childhood? What stories have you been told about your birth? No matter what, God fondly remembers the day you were born both physically and spiritually, complete with smiles and tears dripping.