Ed & I got to spend a week at my sister and brother-in-law’s place in Dallas last week and it was great to spend time with them. What makes it fun is that we have a lot of similar interests, so we’re rarely bored and always have something to talk about. What made it even more special was the time Sam (my sister) and I have been spending once a week doing the study on prayer along with Ashley, my daughter. How that continues to change us is evident in everything that we do. We’re in our seventh week and we all agree that this study has been absolutely revolutionizing our understanding of prayer as well as our actual prayers. It truly has been amazing* and every week has been very impactful, exponentially, not a 10+10 = 20 but a 10×10=100 type of increase week over week, especially as we think back to where we were when we started.
An interesting topic came up at our last study and that was how we see our Heavenly Father. As you may remember I had extracted a quote from Graham Cooke in my previous blog where he said that God was the kindest, gentlest person he’s ever met. That theme runs all through this study and as we discussed a section we’d read last week we began talking about how, in our mind, we’ve seen our Heavenly Father. One view that arose was that God the Father was the bad cop, the stern, white haired patriarch, ready to mete out judgment and Jesus was the good cop, willing to take on our punishment and put us in good standing with the Father. While we may not have all associated that particular description to our view, there were truths to it that resonated with each of us. It was startling actually how similar our views of a Heavenly Father who has some type of anger, displeasure or sternness about Him was in each of our perceptions. The whole reason I began this blog was to have my mind, and hopefully yours as well, renewed from the misconceptions I have lived with my entire life and replace them with the truth, the truth that He is the farthest thing from an angry, displeased and stern being but is loving, kind, slow to anger, patient and He is pleased with us, proud of us and full of joy, laughter and delight for each and every one of us.
As I’ve been studying other areas like prayer, I am even more convinced than when I started this blog, that it is the most important thing that we search and seek until we have a transformed revelation of the character of our Heavenly Father. It is the foundation on which everything else God asks us to do is built. In the scripture I started out this blog with, Jeremiah 9:23-24, it reveals that there is nothing to glory in if we don’t know and understand Him. Let’s take another look at it:
Thus says the Lord: “Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, Let not the mighty man glory in his might, Nor let the rich man glory in his riches; But let him who glories glory in this, That he understands and knows Me, That I am the Lord, exercising lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness in the earth. For in these I delight,” says the Lord.
If you’ve read this scripture before you might have seen the loving-kindness, and thought, “Nice!” but then lost some of the initial enthusiasm as you moved on to judgment and righteousness. I, of course, can’t speak for more than myself but I believe that the enemy has caused us to focus in on words like judgment and righteousness, holiness and other words that make us feel separated or not good enough to instill in us that “bad cop” persona and then focus on the fact that Jesus came as a man, suffered unimaginable things and then rose again so we could be reconciled with our Heavenly Father and now that’s how Jesus has the “good cop” persona. Maybe that’s not what you think in your conscious mind, I don’t think I did, but somewhere where I assess God’s character, there has been that type of thinking. I’m going to assume I’m not alone in it and take a few minutes for us to see why that’s not the truth!
Sin had to be judged, that is true. God is holy and perfect and He cannot be in fellowship with sin but we have to remember that the reason for His complete rejection of sin is because it is evil, it is designed to separate us from Him and destroy us. From Adam and Eve’s first sin, God immediately made a way to bridge the gap of sin, through shedding of animal blood, until the time that Jesus shed His perfect blood and once and for all took away all sin (Hebrews 10:23). But Jesus didn’t do this because our Heavenly Father was going to be upset and judging us. How do we know this? We know this because Jesus was very clear that when He walked among us the only thing He was doing was representing our Heavenly Father (John 5:19 Then Jesus answered and said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son also does in like manner.”) and this was before He went to the cross. And remember the most known scripture of all time, John 3:16, For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten son… A son that the Father called His beloved Son, in whom He was well pleased. Also, there’s Romans 8:32 (NKJV) He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things? We could go on and on but the end result is that God the Father, God Jesus and God the Holy Spirit all feel the same about us, are all committed to our good success and love us with a godly love that is far beyond what our human minds can comprehend!
We see that God exercises loving-kindness, we see that God exercises judgment but not judging us, but judging sin, and all of that was resolved through Jesus. Now let’s look at the fact that God exercises righteousness. The good news is that that’s been resolved as well! Our righteousness (our right standing with God, our standing before Him perfect as though we were never impacted by the damage of sin in our lives) is Christ’s righteousness (2 Corinthians 5:21). I think we can say it this way, “We who know and understand God, know that out of His loving-kindness has judged sin and made us righteous through Jesus Christ, representing our Heavenly Father who so loved us, sent Jesus to redeem us and be His delight.” Does that change the way you look at your Heavenly Father? It is certainly changing the way I see Him. I’m learning to take scriptures that I’ve let paint in my mind an inaccessible Father, be transformed by God’s Spirit to show that this whole book is a book of our Father’s great love for us and any separation that appears is made of no effect when I understand that in receiving the work that Jesus did I am a beloved daughter of my Heavenly Father.
To know Him, if we can keep that as the focus of this journey, all of these other things will fall into place and we will know love and know joy and know peace and have confidence in a future bright with daily promise.
* Note: If you are interested in this study, information is in my last blog as well as on the resource page. Also, I haven’t forgotten the notes and questions for the Crafted Prayer study. As you can see it is amazing and transformational and I underestimated the amount of time it would take to complete, but as James says, waiting produces patience! I am continuing to work on it and will advise when it is available. Feel free, though, to purchase the book and read through it and then come back and do the study when it’s finished. The book, while relatively short, takes going through several times because it is very different than how you’ve probably ever looked at prayer!
A Daughter’s Prayer – Abba, to know You, Your good character, Your loving-kindness that is my desire. I pray that the misconceptions and incorrect images I’ve had of You would be replaced with truth. You are the kindest, most gentlest person we will ever know and I pray that my eyes would be opened to see more and more of Your kindness and more and more of Your gentleness and that any time I feel myself slipping back into old views that the Holy Spirit would help me stop that way of thinking and reveal to me Your true nature, Your loving nature that gave Your beloved son, Jesus, to us to make the way for me to be Your beloved daughter. In Jesus’ holy name, amen.