Good Gifts from a Good, Good Father (Good Gifts 1:1)

A Good, Good Father…It’s who He is.

Chris Tomlin wasn’t joking around when he identified that we have a good, good father, but he also wasn’t the first to identify it.

The Psalmist cries out in Psalm 136:1:

Give thanks to the LORD, for He is good, for His steadfast love endures forever.

Moses asked for God’s glory and what did he get? God showed Moses all His goodness instead, and it’s goodness overload. Goodness so good that Moses couldn’t be allowed to see the frontside of it, or else it would literally kill him with goodness and God loved Him too much for that. You can read the full account of this in Exodus 33:13-23. I’ll highlight verses 19 and 20 here:

And he said, “I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you my name ‘The Lord.’ And I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy.20 But,” he said, “you cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live.”

Jesus, in great humility, without revealing his position as God-in-human-flesh, clarifies that goodness can only come in and through God the Father, in Mark 10:17-18:

17 And as he was setting out on his journey, a man ran up and knelt before him and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 18 And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone.

Aka – “…you won’t find goodness elsewhere, kind sir. What exactly is it, you’re really looking for?”

What are we really looking for when we look for good?

Do we want stuff that’s good?

Do we want to feel good?

Do we want a good reputation or good job, good health, a good future?

All these things are nice, but they aren’t necessarily good, because good only comes from the Good, Good Father. We know this because we have the gift of the book of James, which will be our course of study over the next six weeks.

Let’s dig in to James chapter 1. If you have your Bible out, read the whole chapter. It’s a gem and we’ll be resting there all week long, so you can get a bookmark for it and get cozy. Here I will focus in on James 1:16-17 for today’s study:

Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. 17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.

James connects some dots for us. God’s not just Good, he’s a Father to us, and He’s not just a Father to us, He’s a Good one. God’s goodness is wrapped in Fatherly affection and His Fatherly affection is all kinds of goodness.

The devil wants to deceive us on two accounts.

First, God is Who He says He is.

The devil would have us believe that because of our earthly experience, God can not be good and He surely can not be a good father. This is particularly hard for anyone with an extremely imperfect or even terrible father. God, is perfect in every way, including in His role as our Heavenly Father. There are many things in life that feel less than good. It’s easy to piece those things together and make-up in our head a God that isn’t for our good- disease, shootings, poverty, bankruptcy, family turmoil, and life turmoil all demand accounting for.

We can rest in the Truth of Scripture that tells us over and over, in the midst of chaos, in the seasons we are pummeled by storms, that He is Good. He is the Father of lights, not the Father of darkness.

“…do not be deceived, beloved brothers.” Trust in His Good Word.

Second, He is steadfast.

The devil is the shifty one, not our Good Father. God is unchanging in nature. This is attached to his goodness in the book of James. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8). He isn’t a shifting shadow of darkness. The devil aims to deceive us into believing that God is unsure, unsafe, because it’s more damaging that way- it pulls and stretches us to our limits, it leaves us feeling doubtful and questioning, but God is in the questions too.

“…with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth…”

He is steadfast, no variation. The Greek root word for variation in James 1:17 is parallage, which can mean a change, variation, or mutation. God does not mutate. The devil may make himself into a snake to fool us, but God does not try to trick us. James tells us that it’s not in His nature. God has His own will and He is subject to no one. He lays His Will out for us in the Word, particularly in the saving work of Jesus Christ. In Christ, all goodness is ours – redemption, forgiveness, life, and eternity.

As we study James, this will be our foundation:

A Good, Good Father, steadfast and true, with many-a gift for us to discover as we spend time with Him and in His Good, Good Word.

Good Gifts Study Scripture Engagement Tool, designed by Victoria Weaver

 

Discussion –

What do you think people want, when they want good?

How does God offer us good and then something more?

How have you seen the Good, Good Father work in your life, or when has it been hard to see Him working good in your life?

Say Goodbye to Incongruence

Spring hasn’t even sprung and I’m so hungry for something new.

I’m ready for a new day, a new song, a new landscape out my kitchen window. While we know that new isn’t always better, I think we were made for the knowledge of something to come, something waiting just around the corner.

We live in eternity, you see, but we can’t see it and we can’t hold it in our hands. So, we live with eternity as an idea, a place saved for later. We call it heaven and we tuck it away for deathbeds and difficult days. We imagine golden gates and gemstones and a giant mansion of many rooms that hold pints upon pints of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream. (Ok, maybe that’s just my daydream.)

While that may be a sliver of eternity, it’s not the real deal, and I’m tired of settling for the pretty picture when I can have the real thing. How about you?

Eternity is now. Eternity is God with us, placing His Spirit inside of us, and that Spirit flowing out like a mighty river that can not be stopped up.

Jesus’ brother, James, knew a little bit about Eternity walking around the earth right in front of him. He ate food with the Son of God. He played games with the Son of God. And like the disciples, he walked away from the Son of God in His darkest hours. I wonder if that is why walking with the Son of God, walking in the Eternal Life that we are offered, today, this day, is so important to James, and written all over the pages of his book.

James is worried about a little thing called congruence. He’s worried about whether we’re living Eternity now, or whether we’re living one way and saving eternity for later.

The reverse – often our daily struggle – is incongruence.

Incongruence happens when we say we love God, but ignore our neighbor who is struggling with cancer, with addiction, with any number of very present needs.

Incongruence is when we go to church, but push aside making disciples for the ever present to-do list of the day.

Incongruence happens when I can not, for the life of me, get it together to put my husband’s needs before my own and give him the best parts of me on a daily basis.

I am incredibly incongruent. We all are, but the book of James teaches us that as we grow up into Christ, as we acknowledge and remember the eternity we have been offered today, we will become more and more congruent in every tomorrow.

Congruence is that blessed thing we seek when we understand what we value and put it into action rather than push it under the couch. Congruence is when we know Who our God is and how He changes everything, makes everything new.

When faith becomes life, rather than a part of our life. 

Who’s hungry for that?

Oh, I am. We’ll never be perfect, friends. Chief of sinners though we be. Jesus died so we can live in eternity, though, rather than guilt ridden and incongruent. This is the work of the book of James. We’ll look at what we’ve been given, and all the good in the gifts we never even knew were sitting on our front door step, from a God who loves us so very much.

Join us for New.

Join us for Congruent.

Join us for Good Gifts.

This is a six week study. Find all the posts on the blog here by searching for “Good Gifts.”

There are short 10-15 minute study posts 4 days a week. You can find video lessons on the I Love My Shepherd YouTube Channel.

Let’s get started by walking this road together.

To Eternity, to a God who walks with me, and to congruence…let’s do this.

This study will make it’s way to the print version in 2020. See more on the Studies Available page.

Mama said there’d be days like this – when awake just isn’t working…

Ever had the day when you’d like to just go back upstairs, put on your pajamas, crawl back into bed, and hide from the world around you? Yes? So this was my day last Tuesday. It took everything I had to leave my clothes on and walk around out where the people live.

These are the kind of days that we are reminded of a hard truth – we are sinners, living in a sinful world. Life isn’t always sunshine and roses, but it certainly is worthwhile. As much as I want to slip on my pajamas and hide under my covers, He calls me out for more.

Israel in the Old Testament had plenty of pajama-and-under-the-covers kind of days. Some were their own fault. They chased other gods, let lust have its way, and set aside the opportunities to worship for whatever seemed good at the moment. Sin creeps into our lives in ways we least expect as well.

We think we’re pretty good people, we go to church, we do alright. The Truth: Not one of us is without sin. We have blunt and obvious sin – hurtful words and anger, ignoring our neighbor, the chitter chatter of gossip, and more. We also have the secret sins – hate in our heart, lust, discontentment, thinking highly of ourselves.

Look at Isaiah 26:16-19

O Lord, in distress they sought you;
    they poured out a whispered prayer
    when your discipline was upon them.
17 Like a pregnant woman
    who writhes and cries out in her pangs
    when she is near to giving birth,
so were we because of you, O Lord;
18     we were pregnant, we writhed,
    but we have given birth to wind.
We have accomplished no deliverance in the earth,
    and the inhabitants of the world have not fallen.
19 Your dead shall live; their bodies shall rise.
    You who dwell in the dust, awake and sing for joy!
For your dew is a dew of light,
    and the earth will give birth to the dead.

As we read, we hear the Israelites proclaim their allegiance to the Lord and the Lord alone. They recognize their sin and the mess they’ve made, while looking around and seeing the sin and mess of the nations around them. They recognize the goodness and necessity of the Lord’s discipline. Consequences happen, but in this instance, instead of sneaking away, they cling tightly to the promise that only the resurrection can offer – life eternal and an eternal life perspective.

Sometimes God not only gives me grace, He also gives me excessively practical advice for these exact situations in my own life. Isn’t it nice when it works out like that? What can we learn for life from Isaiah 26?

They pray:

…they poured out whispered prayer…

He wants to hear our sin. He knows it, why say it? Why confess it aloud?

Hearing it from our lips and poured out from our hearts, gives Him the opportunity to pour in.

He pours into us forgiveness and life. He pours tenderness and healing. Do you have past sins that sit on your heart like a boulder? Do you ever feel like if people found out your real story, they would never look at you the same way again? God says, No. I heal. I restore. This sin, let me use it for my testimony. I have a plan.

“pray without ceasing…” 1 Thessalonians 5:17

Pray unceasingly also means pray about all of it, even the ugly. God invites us to pour out every last sin and temptation to Him.

Pour it out to Him. Let Him pour in.

 

They rise:

(v.19 ) Your dead shall live; their bodies shall rise.
    You who dwell in the dust, awake and sing for joy!

God invites us to confess, not to make us sit in the dust, but to pick us up out of our shame and pour Himself into us.

“…my cup overflows…” Psalm 23:5

This exchange of pouring is part of the overflowing cup – Him filling and filling and filling some more, releasing us from the burden of our own incapabilities and inadequacies. “Let me take that,” He says, “I already carried that cross.”

When faced with our sin, we can look to Jesus, or we can look away. We can crawl back into our jammies and hide under the covers, or we can let Him give us a New Day.

Pour it out to Him. Let Him pour in.

My cup overflows with mercy and grace. I pray you know the truth of this today. Forgiveness and grace, poured on you for every last sin, every last fail, for pajama days and rockstar days and every day in between.

fontcandy-42Exploration:

When was the last time you wanted to crawl back into your pajamas and hide under the covers? How did God tend to your heart?

Read John 17:1-5 Identify the following:

Who is praying?

Why?

What does he identify as eternal life and how does this perspective change each of our days?

 

This post is a sample reading from He Calls Me Loved: A Study of Isaiah, coming Summer 2018. Find more information on this study on the Studies Available page.

*I Love My Shepherd graphics are always sharable 😉