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God Is Our Father

Posted on June 20th, 2011

Saint Augustine once said, “The mind curiously delights in truth that comes in an indirect and symbolically evocative way.” We see reflections of God’s picture for the church in marriage – but on a different level, we see a picture of our personal relationship with God within fatherhood.

God Is Our Father

Throughout scripture we see that our relationship with God is that of children coming before their father.

“See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know Him.” – 1 John 3:1

“My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline or be weary of His reproof, for the LORD reproves Him whom He loves, as a father the son in whom he delights.” – Proverbs 3:11-12

“Father of the fatherless and protector of widows is God in His holy habitation.” – Psalm 68:5

God provides, protects, comforts, disciplines and loves us as our earthly fathers should.

Earthly Fathers Are Flawed, But Important

We know that God specifically designed men and women with distinct and vastly different, yet complimentary roles. These roles are very important for the development and growth of children. Statistics show that 63% of youth suicides, 85% of all children who show behavior disorders, and 85% of all youth in prison come from fatherless homes (US. Dept. Of Health/Census, Fulton Co. Georgia, Center for disease control, Texas Dept. of Correction).

My deepest concern with pointing out this allegory between God the Father and our human fathers is that we will become sidetracked with the failings of our fathers, missing the fact that all of creation is flawed. Author Robert Barron makes a good point, “All things above and below are related to God. But they are not God. All that is true and beautiful in the finite realm is a reflection of God, but it is not God.”

God Teaches Fathers, Fathers Point To God

Ephesians 3:14-19 shows one of the strongest pictures of the father love God has for us:

“For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from Whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of His glory He may grant you to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.”

This call, being accepted into our Father’s family, allows only one response for the children of God: an outpouring of love in honor, praise and obedience to our earthly and heavenly father (Ephesians 6:1-3) and then a new attitude in the way we embrace parenthood.

Written by Eric Novak. For more articles, check out his site: EricNovak.com

Relationship or Rite?

Posted on June 6th, 2011

She walked up the sidewalk in her pretty heels, slowing as she drew near the restaurant door. The date was at 7 pm, and she was five minutes early, despite dragging her feet. The door swung open and she peered into the dimly lit room. “A table for two – I’m meeting someone.” She gestured to the hostess, who led her to a little two-top in the corner. He was waiting.

Tall and handsome, he greeted her with a welcoming smile and stood as she sat down. “You look beautiful, as always,” he said gently. She flashed an apathetic half-smile. “Thanks.” The server clanked at their elbows with the water pitcher as the man endeavored to start a conversation.

“How was your day?” He asked. The woman sighed, glancing at her phone just long enough to answer a text, then slapping it shut. “Oh, good, I guess.. I just really need you there more for me. It’s so tough.”

His eyes saddened.

“Why didn’t you call me?”

“I didn’t think of it.”

“If I’d known, I could have – “ he began.

“It’s whatever, there’s always tomorrow.” She interrupted before springing into a monologue unparalleled since Shakespeare.

“I’ve got to talk to you about some things,” She pulled out a thick notebook and flipped to a page somewhere in the middle. “First, I really need you to spend more time with me. I just never seem to feel like you’re here – and secondly, there’s been this guy at work who is SO annoying and I’m getting really stressed, so please be patient with me if I’m grumpy because that’s why.

“Oh, and will you remember to stop by Aunt Jackie’s and give her something for those headaches she’s been having? You’re so thoughtful, I’m sure you know what to do. And lastly, you know, I just feel like you don’t listen to me. Like so much of what I say is in one ear and out the other. Like right now – you haven’t said a barely a word this entire evening.”

She closed the notebook and sat back in her chair. The man sat silently, fingering the cloth napkin. He slowly raised his eyes to meet hers, a sad smile playing on his face.

“I’ve been here every evening,” he said softly. “I’ve listened to your troubles and requests every time you have met me. I hear every word you say, and I’d be with you the second you called, if you chose to do so… but you don’t hear me because you are always speaking, and I’m not with you because you never call.” He paused for a moment, a moment where a tear seemed to gather in his eye before he said,

“To you, our evenings have become a duty; but to me, they are a testament to our love.”

The Sad Reality

It would be appalling to see this transpire in any human relationship. We would be shocked and disappointed if our significant other acted like the woman portrayed above – and if it continued, anything from a break up to a lengthy stint in personal counseling could be the result! No one appreciates time spent with a person whose primary interest is herself, who doesn’t want to be there, and talks our ear off in the meantime, only to accuse us of “not listening.”

Would it shock you, then, to know that this illustration is a portrayal of the prayer life of the modern Christian?

For many years I was a member of those ranks. Rising early (because I heard it was good for my character) I would come to God begrudgingly, still half asleep and sleepier by the minute. My prayer list grew duller by the day, and each quiet time became successfully overwhelmed by a thick silence. I began to wonder if God heard me at all. I left my time with Him unrefreshed, alone, and wondering why I even bothered to pray.

Prayer is Communication

On human terms we know that communication always goes two ways. Like a good tennis match, the conversation bounces between its members with ease and enjoyment, each person taking his turn to speak or listen. Why then do we, made in the image and personality of God, talk to Him as if He were as impersonal as the nonliving gods of pagan religions?

Prayer and religion have vital connections that transcend the reach of Christianity. Anywhere we see an organized religion, whether Buddhism, Islam or the empty “Christianity” of dutiful Catholicism, an effort to communicate with the Divine is present. But the defining quality of our faith – true Christianity – is our living relationship with God. Too often this relationship, despite our claims to its personal nature, is nothing more than rite.

Like the woman in the illustration, we approach God begrudgingly, watches ticking, checking our time with Him off the list. Out needs, wants, and requests become one long Christmas list of desires. We never think that maybe God would like to talk to us realistically; authentically, not just when we want something out of Him. Instead of seeking His face, we just seek His hand.

Joy-Filled Prayer

Anyone who has ever experienced love knows that speaking to the object of our affection is not a duty, but a joy. In fact, it is such a joy that we look forward to each successive conversation. This goes for relationships with family, friends, spouses and ultimately relates to the source of love itself, Jesus Christ.

When we have a relationship with God, this same joy should translate into our conversations with Him. Why the boredom? Why the sleepiness? Just as in a one-sided friendship interest is lost and selfishness reigns, when all we do is talk at God, refusing to listen, we won’t get much of a response. And even if there is one, we’re too self-absorbed to hear it.

Prayer is a discipline, but that doesn’t mean we can’t learn to enjoy it. A sign of mastered discipline is in fact the enjoyment of it – evidence that it has gone from struggle to habit to joy. As we discipline ourselves to meet God, to spend time with Him, to listen to Him, we begin to take pleasure in practicing the presence of God.

It may be easier to have a relationship with a ‘real person’ because they are visually present and audibly available to us. However, it is the nature of faith itself that enables us to have a relationship with the Almighty God. What a great privilege! How little He asks of us except that we come to Him in faith and converse with Him. It was all He asked in the beginning, when He walked in the garden with Adam and Eve, and now, thousands of years and an incomprehensible Sacrifice later, He issues the same call: “Come! Come fellowship with Me.”

Will we be so stubborn, so self-absorbed, so “bored” that we ignore His call? Will we drag our feet and pout at the table He invited us to join? Or will we choose the joy-filled relationship that He has for us, if we are only quiet enough to listen?

Written by Phylicia D. Duran. You can read more at, A Quill and Inkwell.

Eternal Perspective

Posted on May 23rd, 2011

Harold Camping was wrong. You probably knew that long before the morning of May 22nd dawned, and you logged into Facebook to make sure that your friends hadn’t disappeared. After all, Camping hasn’t been the best authority on theological matters – his blatant disregard for the finality of scripture proving this point, time and time again.

Still, leading up to the 21st, I had to ask myself, Can I accept the idea of the world ending? This isn’t a question solely related to Camping, and it is one I have wrestled with long before I knew anything about him. This question is, in fact, based on a fundamental doctrine of the Christian faith.

Throughout the Bible we see that life as we know it will end, Christ will return, and there will be a new heaven and new earth (Rev. 21:1, Rom. 8:21, Isa. 65: 17). In Philippians 1:21, Paul states, “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” How could Paul face death with such complete and utter confidence? Ultimately the question boils down to what we consider most important.

Corrupted Creation

God has given each of us desires, dreams, hopes and aspirations. These are all good things if we view them as ways to further His kingdom, and spread the gospel. Yet, these same gifts can become corrupt if we make them more important than our primary responsibility to God. If we are not constantly looking toward redemption, our works and plans can and will become idols in our lives.

As humans, we are rooted in the temporal. Looking to the eternal doesn’t come naturally, we can’t see it or feel it – it isn’t in the least bit tangible. It is much easier to grasp the present, much easier to desire earthly relationships: marriage, children, and a home, before desiring God. Somehow, we fear that we will lose experiences on this earth, when Christ’s return can only mean redemption for all of creation and a new wholeness we have never experienced!  Deep inside we know the present can’t be the only thing that exists, for God has set eternity in our hearts (Ecclesiastes 3:11).

From Blueprint to Cathedral

In an essay on transcendence, C.S. Lewis wrote,

“Our natural experiences (sensory, emotional, imaginative) are only like the drawing, like penciled lines on flat paper. If they vanish in the risen life, they will vanish only as pencil lines vanish from the real landscape; not as a candle flame that is put out but as a candle flame which becomes invisible because someone has pulled up the blind, thrown open the shutters, and let in the blaze of the risen sun.”

This must be our cry. Throw open the shutters, pour therein the light! Christ return and bring your children home! “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.” -Revelation 21:3-4

Written by Eric Novak. For more articles by Eric, check out his site: EricNovak.com

How Then Shall We Live?

Posted on May 2nd, 2011

Just a few weeks ago another earthquake shook the globe, devastating the coast of Japan and leaving in its wake thousands of people fighting for their lives. First it was the tsunami that hit India, then the earthquake in Chile, then Haiti and now Japan. Anyone who has access to the news cannot help but notice the severity and frequency of the earthquakes we’ve been experiencing in the past ten years. Not to mention the man-made turmoil all over the world like the uprisings in the Middle East. The number and frequency of these disasters has caused many, even the non-religious to suspect we may be entering into the last days. I am no expert on biblical prophecy, but this may very well be true.  Jesus did say that in the beginning of the end, there would be earthquakes and famines in various places around the world, as well as wars and rumors of wars. But all this is just the beginning of  the birth pains.

If we are truly gearing up for the end times, what does this mean for believers? For some of my friends, it means moving to the country or building bomb shelters in the mountains filled with a stock pile of supplies, food and guns. Although I am all for being prepared for emergencies, what does it really mean for Christians? How then shall we live?

You Aren’t in Control

The answer isn’t all that complicated – live in the same way the disciples did when Jesus ascended into Heaven (Matthew 28:16-20). One thing I’ve come to realize is that humans have very little control over their own mortality. Accidents happen at the most random of times. Despite all of the precautions we may take, our lives are ultimately in God’s hands.

Have you ever wondered what gives missionaries the courage to risk their lives entering dangerous foreign lands? I believe that they understand that that their lives are truly not any safer staying at home than going abroad. Living in America does not guarantee a long healthy life and traveling to Iraq does not guarantee a short one.

“Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.” – James 14:14

James says that the life of a man is like a vapor, a mist, a fleeting moment. We need to live every day with this in mind. We need to make the most of our moments because we don’t know when or if there will be a second chance. Most importantly we have to pour our lives into things that are worthwhile – serving God and other people.

Do You Wear a Seat Belt?

In Saudi Arabia the citizens don’t wear seat belts because they figure if it’s their time to die then Allah will take them. If not, then they will be safe regardless. Am I saying that we should do the same? No. Actions have consequences. You might choose to not wear a seat belt, but if you get into an accident, you may spend the rest of your life crippled. Our decisions affect the quality of our lives and we do live with the effects of our decisions. But our mortality itself is out of our control – and it’s better this way. Who can we trust more than God to hold our lives?

Written by Scott Pinto. For more articles by Scott, check back on Latitude often!