How Deep (and painful!) the Father’s Love For Us


From Hebrews 12:

And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons? “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him.  For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.” It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline?  11 For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.

And now, from J. I. Packer’s Knowing God:

And those whom he does accept he exposes to drastic discipline, in order that they may attain what they seek… God’s love is stern, for it expresses holiness in the lover and seeks holiness for the beloved. Scripture does not allow us to suppose that because God is love we may look to him to confer happiness on people who will not seek holiness, or to shield his loved ones from trouble when he knows that they need trouble to further their sanctification (p. 122).

In this world, royal children have to undergo extra training and discipline which other children escape, in order to fit them for their high destiny. It is the same with the children of the King of kings. The clue to understanding all his dealings with them is to remember that throughout their lives he is training them for what awaits them, and chiseling them into the image of Christ (p. 222).

Earthly parents enjoy their babies, but are, to say the least, sorry if their growing children want to be babies again, and they hesitate to let them return to babyish ways. It is exactly so with our heavenly Father. He wants us to grow in Christ, not to stay babes in Christ (p. 248).


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Learning to Ask for Help

9781433547119Little by little I’m reading Ed Welch’s Side by Side, and am finding it increasingly helpful. The chapters are short and easily digestible, yet so profound. If you only have 10-15 minute windows for reading, this is the sort of book that will help you to feel the encouragement of actually getting some reading done!

Welch makes the point from Scripture that wise living means regularly asking God for help (prayer) and asking other people to help (by praying). So true, and yet such a struggle for us. Why is it so hard? We don’t want people to know how needy we are, that we can’t get it done, that we’re not all they think we are.

So we need to grow. We need to grow in how often we ask for prayer, and in how we ask for prayer. And I think that second area of growth is a huge opportunity for most of us. It means learning to ask people to pray not only for our circumstances but also for “matters of the heart that sit below the surface, for things seen and things unseen” (60). First, we put our burdens into words. Second, we get below the surface and ask for prayers that are directed to our deeper needs in the circumstances.

Welch provides great examples of this – maybe they’ll help you, too.

First, the burden: “I have been so tired. I feel like I am always a few steps behind on everything.”

Second, we attach Scripture: “Would you pray that I would rest in Jesus?” The Scripture that shapes this prayer is from Matthew 11:28-30: “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

First, the burden: “This is so hard. Would you pray for healing for my daughter?”

Second, we attach Scripture: “Would you also pray for perseverance and that I would be able to fix my eyes on things that are not seen?” (Heb 6:11 and 4:16-18)

First, the burden: “I have been so impatient with my kids recently. I need help.”

Second, we attach Scripture: “Would you pray that I will know Jesus’s unlimited patience toward me so that I will pass that on to my children?” (1 Tim 1:16). Or, “Would you pray that I will see my anger as my problem and not theirs? I want to see that anger is murder and the problem is that I demand something and am not getting what I demand” (James 4:1-10).

First, the burden: “Would you pray that I will find work?”

Second, we attach Scripture: “And would you pray that I will trust the Lord for manna each day rather than get swamped by my anxieties?” (Matt 6:28-34).

And sometimes our request for prayer can be very simple and desperate: “I feel undone. Would you pray for me? I don’t feel that I can pray for myself, and I don’t even know what to pray.”

So go ahead and ask for help! God is a loving, wise, powerful, and gracious Father who loves to give good gifts to his children. And among those gifts are wise and caring friends who will love you enough to listen to you, and then speak to God on your behalf.


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“Good” Friday, indeed

As we give some special attention to the glorious work of the Redeemer, Jesus Christ, in his sin-bearing death and life-giving resurrection, here are some words from the great hymn writer, Isaac Watts:

Jesus, my great High Priest, offered his blood and died;

My guilty conscience seeks no sacrifice beside.

His pow’rful blood did once atone, and now it pleads before the throne.


To this dear Surety’s hand will I commit my cause;

he answer and fulfills his Father’s broken laws.

Behold my soul at freedom set; my Surety paid the dreadful debt.


My Advocate appears for my defense on high;

the Father bows his ears and lays his thunder by.

Not all that hell or sin can say shall turn his heart, his love, away.


Should all the hosts of death and pow’rs of hell unknown

put their most dreadful forms of rage and mischief on,

I shall be safe, for Christ displays his conqu’ring pow’r and guardian grace.

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Moving Toward & Greeting One Another


I always have a stack of books waiting to be read. Actually, I have stacks of books waiting to be read – some at work, some at home, some on the iPad. You know the deal. One of the books in one of those stacks is Side by Side, a relatively new book by Ed Welch, a counselor and faculty member at the Christian Counseling and Education Foundation. And today I began reading that little book like I often begin reading books: right in the middle.

The message of the book is captured in two statements: you are needy, and you are needed.

  • You need others to move toward you and greet you.
  • Others need you to move toward them and greet them.

Isn’t that the truth? Ever get hung up on that first one, so much that it keeps you from the second one? I know.

But my real aim is to connect you with what Ed Welch says, so here it is. It’s a long excerpt, but well worth pondering and applying.

As the King goes, so go his people. He moves toward his people; we move toward his people. He moves toward people who seek him and people who do not; we move toward those who want help and those who seem distant and marginalized. He moves toward friends and even enemies; we move out beyond our circle of friends to those far beyond that circle.

Imagine how this can transform our churches. Instead of talking to the same people-those with whom we are comfortable and who are similar to us-we treat others as God has treated us. Imagine how aloneness could gradually be banished.

See? Moving toward and greeting isn’t just about ‘being nice’. It’s so much more than that! It’s about reflecting the character of our heavenly Father, who loves and pursues and embraces and welcomes and listens and speaks and helps.

But it’s hard, isn’t it? What do you say? How do you greet someone? Do you just say a big hello and move on to the next person? It might feel like you’ve greeted lots of people, and so they must feel welcome now, right? Not so much. Being a serial greeter is probably not the goal here.

But what is the goal? Welch continues:

Consider whom you are greeting. They are children of the King, your brothers and sisters. Some might feel lost, which is all the more reason to greet them. Others might be seeking something but are unsure what that is, and we have the privilege to invite them to a place that could be home. Others we have seen before, but we don’t yet know their names.

Greetings, of course, take time. This means our greeting list might be short, because we have a finite amount of time when the church is gathered – or when a friend is walking by on the street. We cannot greet everyone. So here is how we prioritize:

  • The visitor (what Scripture calls the “foreigner” or “alien”) comes first
  • The visitor who returns comes next
  • The less popular, the introverts, the marginalized, or those sitting alone come next
  • Then come the children. Jesus singles them out as examples of the marginalized.
  • “Hi, ______________” is offered to as many people as possible, which doesn’t have to be accompanied by a hug or a handshake.

Good friends are interspersed through these greetings, but they are left for later if time is short.

And then here is this jewel of wisdom – so practical:

A reasonable application of Scripture is to greet one person we don’t know or don’t know well every time we gather with others in the body of Christ.

And if we feel a little awkward? All the better. Some people are naturals at moving toward others, greeting them and striking up a conversation. Most of us are not. So we pray that we will share in this feature of God’s character. We move toward others, not because we can do these things with ease but because of Jesus.

God has moved towards us. Isn’t that amazing? Now let’s ask him for help, and trust him to help us as we move toward one another in love.

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Christmas and the Future


Pictured above is a wonderful book from a wonderful series of books by Simonetta Carr. Buy them and read them yourself, and read them to your children, and encourage your children to read them!

Christmas should turn our eyes forward as well as backward – to the second advent of Christ in glory as well as the first advent of Christ in fleshly weakness.

In this, once again, Athanasius is a help to us:

From the Scriptures you will learn also of His second manifestation to us, glorious and divine indeed, when He shall come not in lowliness but in His proper glory, no longer in humiliation but in majesty, no longer to suffer but to bestow on us all the fruit of His cross – the resurrection and incorruptibility. No longer will He then be judged, but rather will Himself be Judge, judging each and all according to their deeds done in the body, whether good or ill. Then for the good is laid up the heavenly kingdom, but for those that practice evil outer darkness and the eternal fire.

Come quickly, Lord Jesus!


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Son of God, Son of Man


Athanasius not only teaches us the doctrine of the Incarnation, but also challenges us to be amazed at the bodily work of Christ for us and our salvation.

In short, such and so many are the Savior’s achievements that follow from His Incarnation, that to try to number them is like gazing at the open sea and trying to count the waves. One cannot see all the waves with one’s eyes, for when one tries to do so those that are following on baffle one’s senses. Even so, when one wants to take in all the achievements of Christ in the body, one cannot do so, even by reckoning them up, for the things that transcend one’s thought are always more than those one thinks that one has grasped… For, indeed, everything about it is marvelous, and wherever a man turns his gaze he sees the Godhead of the Word and is smitten with awe.

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Marveling at the Incarnation


Another reflection from Athanasius’ work, On the Incarnation:

All these things the Savior thought fit to do, so that, recognizing His bodily acts as works of God, men who were blind to His presence in creation might regain knowledge of the Father. For, as I said before, who that saw His authority over evil spirits and their response to it could doubt that He was, indeed, the Son, the Wisdom and the Power of God? Even the very creation broke silence at His behest and, marvelous to relate, confessed with one voice before the cross, that monument of victory, that He who suffered thereon in the body was not man only, but Son of God and Savior of all. The sun veiled His face, the earth quaked, the mountains were rent asunder, all men were stricken with awe. These things showed that Christ on the cross was God, and that all creation was His slave and was bearing witness by its fear to the presence of its Master.

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