Category Archives: Encouragement

Loving Father

loving-father

For many years I kept my distance from God the Father mostly because He seemed so distant and impossible to please.  Over the years many people I have encountered have revealed that they had or still do regard God the Father as distant and at least somewhat cold and demanding.  Many of us imagine God the Father residing at His ease in heaven, where everything is perfect and there is no hurt or uncertainty.   How could He know what it is like to struggle  as we do?  He has everything, while we have lost much.  Yet Scripture reveals just how loving Abba is and how much he shares in our joys and sorrows.

YHVH, our Father, was not content to remain isolated and aloof in heaven, but rather created people in His own image.  He lovingly fashioned a world that would meet our needs.  He desires not to just view us from afar, but to live among us and share in every moment of our lives.  What could God the Father know of our pain and loss and heartache?  Everything, for by interacting with people, He has suffered as we do.

After establishing His people in their homeland, YHVH fashioned a home for Himself on earth so that He could dwell among His beloved ones.  Always thinking of others, His home was designed to glorify His Son, Yeshua, and to teach us about His plan of salvation.  (see other blogs on Temple and Tabernacle)  Yet, YHVH left His home in Jerusalem when His people rejected Him even after many attempts on His part to reach out to them.  He watched in sorrow as His beloved ones went their own way.  He saw His Temple destroyed three times:  the physical structure in Jerusalem twice and Yeshua’s body as an atonement for our sin.  The special implements from His earthly home were carried off to Babylon and defiled.

YHVH’s desire is to live among His people, yet so many times He has been made unwelcome.  People have denied His existence, blasphemed His name, ignored Him, or blamed Him for the results of their own bad choices or the bad choices of others.

YHVH loved His spouse, Israel, and cared for her even when she scorned His love and turned to false gods.    He knows what it is like to have a spouse leave to run off after another.  He even sent His beloved Son to become one of us so that we could see how much He loves and understands us, but even His Son was rejected.

Scripture is the story of unrelenting love.  Let us examine just a sampling of Scripture verses that describe our Father’s love for us.  “[The Father] guarded [Jacob] as the apple of his eye.” (Deuteronomy 32:10)  “A Father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling.  God sets the lonely in families, he leads forth the prisoners with singing.”  (Psalm 68:5-6)  “Your Father knows what you need before you ask him.” (Matthew 6:8)  “Your Father in heaven is not willing that any one of these little ones should be lost.”  (Matthew 18:14)  “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us that we should be called children of God!” (1 John 3:1)

How should we respond to our loving Father?  He tells us in His own words in Scripture:

Love Him:  “You shall love YHVH your God with all your heart, and with all your soul and with all your strength.” (Deut 6:5) 

Trust in Him:  “But I trust in Your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in Your salvation. (Ps 13:5)

Obey Him:  “You must love the Lord your God and always obey his requirements, decrees, regulations, and commands. (Deut 11:1)

Keep your promises just as He does: “But whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected.” (1 John 2:5)

Yeshua shows us how to love our Father, for Yeshua did all these things.  He also did one more thing:  He kept His focus on His Father at all times and learned from Him. So Jesus explained, “I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself. He does only what he sees the Father doing. Whatever the Father does, the Son also does.”  (john 5:19)

If you feel far from Father, let go of your fears and doubts and run to Him.  He is waiting for you with open arms! “But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was moved with pity. He ran and threw his arms around him and kissed him warmly”. (Luke 15:20)

A Time for Joy

shout-to-godScripture mentions joy many times and as we study the “joy” passages, we see many different facets or aspects.  What is joy?  According to Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance, there are a number of Hebrew and Greek words used for joy in Scripture.

The most often used word is Strong’s Hebrew 8057 , simchah, which means joy, gladness, mirth.  There are 95 occurrences of simchah or a variation used.  There is a lot of noisy and vigorous celebration associated with simchah.  Consider the following examples.

  1. Numbers 10:10 “Blow the trumpets in times of gladness, too, sounding them at your annual festivals and at the beginning of each month. And blow the trumpets over your burnt offerings and peace offerings. The trumpets will remind the LORD your God of his covenant with you. I am the LORD your God.”
  2. 1 Sam 18:6 “When the victorious Israelite army was returning home after David had killed the Philistine, women from all the towns of Israel came out to meet King Saul. They sang and danced for joy with tambourines and cymbals.”
  3. 1 Kings 1:40 “And all the people followed Solomon into Jerusalem, playing flutes and shouting for joy. The celebration was so joyous and noisy that the earth shook with the sound.”

Joy is meant to fill us and overflow to others.  We see this in the two occurrences of Strong’s Hebrew 2304, chedvah.

  1. 1 Chron. 15:27 “Honor and majesty surround him; strength and joy fill his dwelling.”
  2. Nehemiah 8:10 “And Nehemiah continued, “Go and celebrate with a feast of rich foods and sweet drinks, and share gifts of food with people who have nothing prepared. This is a sacred day before our Lord. Don’t be dejected and sad, for the joy of the Lord is your strength!”

At times we are to rejoice with vigor and even with reverent awe and trembling before our sovereign King, as we see in some of the 46 occurrences of Strong’s Hebrew gil and its variants.  The word gil can also mean “whirl” or “spin around”.

  1.  Psalm 2:11 “Serve the Lord with reverent fear, and rejoice with trembling.”
  2. Psalm 16:9  “No wonder my heart is glad, and I rejoice.  My body rests in safety.”
  3. Psalm 48:11 “Let the people on Mount Zion rejoice.      Let all the towns of Judah be glad because of your justice.”

The Greek word chara (Strong’s 5479) is used 59 times in the New Testament.

  1.  Matt 2:10  “When they saw the star, they were filled with joy!”
  2. Luke 15:10 “In the same way, there is joy in the presence of God’s angels when even one sinner repents.”
  3. James 1:2  “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, …”

When are we to rejoice and be filled with joy?  When we recall the greatness of YHVH (Is. 12:6), in our love for one another (Philemon 1:7), before Yeshua returns (1 Pet. 1:8-9), when we are persecuted (James 1:2-3; Heb 12:2), when we hope and trust in YHVH (Rom 15:13, when we speak face-to-face (2 John 1:12) and when Yeshua returns (John 16:22).  In other words, we are to be joyful at all times and in all circumstances (Phil 4:4).

As we embark on Sukkot, we are commanded to rejoice and be filled with joy (Deut 16:14-15).  We remember YHVH with the Israelites as they wandered in the wilderness and we celebrate YHVH dwelling with us now through His Holy Spirit.  Yeshua has promised to never leave us or forsake us and He will return to us soon to reign over us.   Our Father’s glory will once again be present in Jerusalem.  We will see YHVH face to face (1 Cor 13:12).  We have much cause to rejoice.  Chag Sameach (from simchah) Sukkot!

Our Darkest Hours

Light

Life is full of challenges and often we are able to rise to the occasion and overcome our trials.  However, there are times when we feel overwhelmed by our circumstances.  During these times, we realize that we are weak and vulnerable.  What causes these dark times to happen?  What can we do?  Scripture provides some insights for us.

Sometimes our suffering is a direct result of our own poor choices, such as when David succumbed to temptation and slept with another man’s wife.  He continued to yield to temptation by attempting to cover up his sin with various schemes.  At last, David confessed and repented of his sins, but there was the consequence of losing a child.  It was only after David confessed his sin and repented that he was set free from his guilt and was able to finally move forward (2 Sam 11-12) .

At other times we need to adjust our focus.  A good example is found in the book of Job.  Job was living in fear and focusing on the negative.   His fear became his focus and performance became his “god”.  “What I feared has come upon me; what I dreaded has happened to me” (Job 3:25 NIV). Only when he experienced the loss of family, health, goods, and reputation did his focus change. He met YHVH personally and YHVH became his focus.   And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.  Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me—everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you (Phil 4:8-9 NLT)

Another source of adversity is when we build false strongholds.  We rely on something or someone else besides YHVH to protect us.  When we are threatened or injured, we tend to develop strategies and attitudes to keep from further injury.  The strategies become our “god” and the attitudes, instead of insulating us from further hurt, only trap us and make a dark place for the enemy to reside.  We know from Yeshua that “[t]he thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full (John 10:10 NIV).  Through deliverance and inner healing, we can remove the darkness and step into the light.

 Yeshua promised us that we would endure persecution for following Him (Matt 10:16-23).  The apostles suffered much persecution and many of our brothers and sisters today are suffering severely.  We must be ready to endure whatever is required of us (1 Pet 3:13-17).  Yeshua endured tremendous persecution during his time on earth, yet He kept His focus on His Father and Abba’s promises to Him.  As a result of His faithfulness, He is exceedingly glorified and we are tremendously blessed (1 Pet 3:18-22).

Whatever the cause of our darkness, the solution is always to turn to YHVH and put our trust in Him.  YHVH will take what is meant for evil and produce glorious good for us (Gen 50:20; Rom 8:28).

Hidden Strength

I have said these things (John 16 33)

Yeshua warned that we would face persecution and tribulation because of our relationship with Him. As I ponder having to suffer or die for my faith, I feel weak and afraid. Will I be able to endure to the end?

I think about Simon Peter and his struggles (Mark 14:66-72). His love for Yeshua was genuine and strong. Yet, at his first test of loyalty, Peter succumbed to fear and denied Yeshua as strongly as he had earlier declared his willingness to die for his faith.

When all was said and done and Peter was not arrested, he agonized over his disloyalty and his weakness. Perhaps it tormented him day and night. Yet, Peter learned a valuable lesson, one that we must all learn. He could not be brave on his own.

When the resurrected Yeshua visited His apostles, how hard it must have been for Peter to face Him, to look Him in the eye. Yeshua addressed this matter with love. He did not tell Peter that his cowardly act was alright. Instead, Yeshua gave Peter an opportunity to declare his love and commitment the same number of times that he had formerly denied even knowing Yeshua.

Yeshua understands our weakness. That is why He promised to send the Holy Spirit to us (Luke 24:49). What a difference it made to Peter after the Holy Spirit came upon him at Shavuot (Pentecost). Peter was no longer cowering, but now boldly proclaimed his faith to the multitudes. It is the same for us. We must welcome any and all assistance of the Holy Spirit in order to do what is required of us.

We can be sure that when we face trials and persecution, the Holy Spirit is with us (1 Pet 4:14). The Holy Spirit leads us into all truth (John 16:12) and strengthens us (Rom. 5:3-5). All that we need to perform any task YHVH assigns to us will be supplied by the Holy Spirit.

We will never have to face persecution alone. It will not be our strength that will overcomes, just as it is not our righteousness that reconciles us to our Father. YHVH is so good that He supplies all that we need and if we just use what He offers, we have the dignity and gratification of having accomplished great things. It is much like a child who proudly performs a task while the parent gently guides the child’s little hands. If we welcome the help of the Holy Spirit, our Father will guide us even in times of trial.