Saturday, May 7, 2016

God is Love; He is Our Loving Heavenly Father

My sister and I were very fortunate to have an earthly father who was loving, wise, and just. Our dad cared about who we would someday become, so he was always there to talk to my sister and me, and just as importantly he was always there to listen to what we had to say.

When we were talking and telling Dad some idea or decision that we had made, dad would often say, “well, let’s stop and think about that.” Although, we usually didn’t want to think about what we had said, Dad wanted us to think things through in order to make good decisions in our life, rather than just restating what someone else had told us, or rather than just not thinking things completely through and then getting ourselves in trouble. Moreover, Dad wanted us to be able to put our ideas or the plans we were making within God’s Truth and within the parameters of what we had been taught by mom and him. For, like God, our Heavenly Father, Dad our earthly father, wanted what was best in the long run for each of his girls.

(Remember, this blog is divided into sections so you do not have to read it all at once unless time permits for you to do so. I hope you enjoy learning about the Love of God!).

God is the Ultimate Good and Loving Father

We have been talking about the characteristics of God in the last few blogs. We have learned that God is Omniscient, which means that God is all knowing and all seeing with all wisdom and knowledge. We have also learned that God is also Omnipotent, meaning that He is all powerful, all sovereign, and He has all authority over everything. Finally, we learned that God is Omnipresent. This means that God is not limited by time and space as we know it. Rather, because God is Spirit, He can be everywhere at once. 

God can be with me and see me as well as know everything about me. But God can also be with me and see another as well as know everything about the person who is on the other side of the earth or the one who is right next door to me. The reason that God can do all this at once is because of His omnipresence and His unique relationship with time, which transcends and is different than the earthly time that God created for humans. Consequently, there is no finiteness to God’s presence or to His time or to His way of counting time. This means, then, that we cannot and should not try to gauge when Christ will return, because Christ will return on God’s time and not on ours. Instead, we are to be ready for Christ’s return at any time, by making sure that we are “Saved” and have Christ in our heart. We are to also share, in love, the Gospel message with those who have yet to ask Christ into their heart.

God is Love

There is so much more to God, though, than just those three magnificent, great and supernatural characteristics of God’s that I have listed above. So, I would like to discuss today another of God’s characteristics, which is love. God is Love. Furthermore, God expresses His love to us just as a good and loving father shows his children love. God’s love has provided a place for us to live and grow, as He gave us this earth on which to live and prosper. God also is there for us to talk to and to answer our prayers the same way that a good father would answer his children’s requests. Sometimes the answer is yes, sometimes no, and at other times not right now. But, God’s love is always there for us.

God is not just our Heavenly Father who created us and now sustains us. He is the best and greatest Father of all, as well as the most kind and loving Father too. Moreover, no matter how great your earthly Father is or was, God is so much better and greater. That is because God loves each of us more deeply than we can even imagine, for God is the essence of love.

The biblical Scriptures within God’s Word speak of the love of God quite often. In fact, the Apostle John wrote: “God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in Him.”  -- (I John 4: 16b. NASB). In this verse, John is telling us that all human love comes directly from the source of all love, which is God. Without God’s love we would all be living a cold, desperate, and lonely life. But, God in making us in His image has given us the ability to love others as well. For, it is only through our ability to share our love of others that we in turn receive love from those whom we have loved. In other words, God’s love is an eternal flame. Then, we can be that circle of love that engulfs others that we are around; sharing the love of God and Jesus Christ with those that we encounter.

Jesus Christ, i.e. God in the Son, said: “This is my commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.– (John 15: 12, 13. NASB). Then later, God demonstrated this great love of His for mankind, in that through God’s Son, God laid down His life for mankind, i.e. His friends. In laying down His life for us, God, the Son, has shown us that love is not static or self-centered. In fact, God, the Father, in His love for us, freely gave His Only Son so that we could have eternal life. For, “God showed His great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.”  -- (Romans 5: 8. NLT). (See also John 3: 16).

God did not want us to have to pay the ultimate price of sin which is eternal death, because “the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.” – (Romans 6: 23. NLT). So, if we will repent of our sins and believe on God’s Son, Jesus Christ, we can be “Saved” from eternal damnation. For, God, in loving us, paid the highest price that could be paid for our eternal lives. That price was the life of His Son, who three days later arose from the grave having conquered eternal death for all who would believe on Him. We are able to see the ultimate love of God through the Son of God who selflessly gave His life and took our punishment upon Himself, so that we could have a new life in Him, Jesus Christ.

Loving Fathers Require Obedience

Just like any loving Father, God loves us so much that He wants us to do those things that will give us blessings and joy. However, like any great and good father, God also wants us to learn obey Him and trust that He knows what is best for us. To that goal, God has given us His Word, and His laws to guide us in our spiritual growth. But also like any great and good father, God will discipline us when we disobey and do things to hurt ourselves or other people. In fact, God is always motivated by His love for us, rather than motivated to punish us in anger.

Certainly God can become angry, just as He became angry with the Israelites when they refused to obey and to trust Him, and then would not go into the Promised Land to take it over. But, even in His anger, God did not destroy the Israelites. Instead He disciplined them by allowing them to wander in the desert for forty more years before their children could go into the Promised Land (see Numbers 14). 

Humans are naturally very stubborn, because we want to do things our way. God, the Father, though, wants us to learn that His ways are best. In fact, God has many blessings that He wants to bestow upon those who are obedient, trustworthy, kind-hearted and compassionate, and for those who honor and reverence Him and His Son, Jesus Christ.

We can expect blessings if we obey and honor the Lord, just as a child can expect blessings from a good earthly father. For, the Apostle Peter said in speaking of those who believe in and are followers of Christ; “for you were called for the very purpose that you might inherit a blessing.’ For, THE ONE WHO DESIRES LIFE, TO LOVE AND SEE GOOD DAYS, MUST KEEP HIS TONGUE FROM EVIL, AND HIS LIPS FROM SPEAKING DECEIT. HE MUST TURN AWAY FROM EVIL, AND DO GOOD; HE MUST SEEK PEACE AND PURSUE IT. FOR THE EYES OF THE LORD ARE TOWARD THE RIGHTEOUS, AND HIS EARS ATTEND TO THEIR PRAYER, BUT THE FACE OF THE LORD IS AGAINST THOSE WHO DO EVIL.– (I Peter 3: 9- 12. NASB). So, just like any great father who teaches their children to watch their mouth, not do evil, or not to be deceitful, God, too, will bestow blessings on the child who is obedient, truthful, trustworthy, honest and good. In fact, God is the great Heavenly Father who taught the good fathers here on earth how to raise their children properly and bless them when they obey.

Almighty God is both our Creator and our Heavenly Father. In other words, He is the ultimate, good, kind, and loving Father Who wants the very best for His children, i.e. His creation. So, God, as our Father, not only tells us in His Word what we should do, but He also sets down the laws and rules for what we should not do so that we will not get into trouble. The prophet Isaiah put it this way: “But now O Lord, You are our Father. We are the clay and You are our Potter.”  -- (Isaiah 64: 8. NASB). In other words, God not only created us, but through His Words and His Righteousness He wants to mold us into the righteous humans that we can become. This is no different than an earthly father or parent wanting to mold their child into becoming a loving, kind, productive and caring citizen of this earth. Good Christian fathers also want to be that example of a godly parent who parents according to God’s Truth.

One and Only One Heavenly Father

Once a person realizes that there is only One True God and begins to study about God through reading His Word, they quickly realize that God’s characteristics are much greater than they might ever have thought. First, of all, those who come to know God will come to agree with the Apostle Paul who wrote, “yet for us there is but One God, the Father, from whom are all things, and we exist for Him; and One Lord, Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we exist through Him.– (I Corinthians 8: 6. NASB). So, Christians and those searching for God will quickly realize that we have a Heavenly Father who not only created us, but who loves us so much that He cannot fail to discipline us in order to help us grow into the best person that we can become.

God the Father as Disciplinarian

Sometimes, especially when we were younger, either my sister or I would have to be disciplined so that we would think twice before doing the same thing again. Dad truly hated to discipline us; often telling us that the (minor) spanking he was going to give one of us was going to hurt him more than it hurt us. Until I had a child of my own, I did not understand that statement. However, after I became a parent, I totally understood. For, I also found out that even though I did not want to discipline or punish our son, that there were just times when it had to be done, and then my heart, too, truly hurt. But, there were just times when there was no alternative to the discipline. Sometimes a very important point had to be made in order to get our child to understand that there are negative consequences for certain actions. Discipline also helped our child to think before doing that same action again. It also taught him right from wrong.

In the Bible, we see several examples of discipline that God administered to those who rebelled or who fell away from doing that which is right and good. In the book of Job, one of Job’s friends, Elihu, talks to Job about God’s discipline and God's dealings with humans. Elihu says about God’s discipline, “Then He sheweth them their work, and their transgressions that they have exceeded. He openeth also their ear to discipline, and commandeth that they return from iniquity.”  -- (Job: 36: 9, 10. KJV). In other words, God speaks to the hearts of humans and tells us when we are doing something wrong. Certainly, if we repent and turn from our sinful ways and accept Christ as our Savior, we will be forgiven all our sins. However, if we fail to do what is right and good, we, too, will find that God metes out discipline. For, God is the ultimate and perfect Father who loves His children and at times must discipline us for our own good.

Discipline Develops Honor for the Parents

 Dad, being the wise and loving father that he was, knew that discipline without anger was an important part of parenting and that on certain occasions there would be good reasons for administering discipline. The obvious first reason for discipline, is that children need to be taught to obey their mom and dad. If a child does not obey the parents, then that same child will not respect or honor any authority in his/her life. But, it isn’t just that children are to obey their parents. For, Children are to be taught to also honor their parents by not back talking or by not being hateful to their parents. Actually, it is through obedience to their parents that children take the first step in honoring them. So, too, it is in obedience to God’s Word that we honor God.

God knew that humans had to be taught to honor their parents, so God included within the Ten Commandments that He gave to Moses, a Commandment about honoring our parents. As children of God’s, we are to obey this commandment and in so doing not only honor our Heavenly Father, but also honor our parents. For, God said, “Honor thy father and your mother, that your days may be prolonged in the land which the Lord your God gives you.”  -- (Exodus 20: 12. NASB).

In this commandment there was actually a promise attached to it for the Israelites. For, if the Israelites honored their fathers and mothers, they would then live in peace within the Promised Land and their lives would be long. But in order to have this peace, the Israelites would need to learn to respect God’s authority, starting with the authority of the parents. Then, the Israelite parents would need to pass down to their children the laws of God and expect their children to honor both God and their parents.

The teaching of this authority would then lead to strong families who would then teach their children to always put God and His authority first in their lives. In other words, the children would see the parents recognizing God’s authority in their lives, and then those same children, as adults, would teach their children to honor God and then honor them. This teaching should then continue throughout subsequent generations, if the parents, indeed, remembered to teach their children about God’s love, His authority, and God’s expectations for His people to follow and then obey God’s laws and rules.

Discipline Establishes Authority and Order

As you can see, another reason then for discipline is to establish an order of rule or authority within the family. Obviously, there needs to be an order of rule within every family. For, without that order of rule nothing would ever get accomplished, and everyone would be pushing against each other to be the most important person in the family. Moreover, without respect and honor for their parents, displayed in obedience, kind words and actions, children can become very nasty little individuals who can grow up to be nasty, self-centered, prideful, thoughtless, and hateful young adults.

If our parents had let us do whatever we wanted to do, my sister and I could have grown up thinking that we ruled our parents and that other people around us owed us deference just because we existed. Moreover, we probably would have ended up thinking that we could do whatever we wanted to do in a world that is actually run on rules and consequences. For, it isn’t just the family that needs rules and consequences for civilized living; a civilized society is run on rules and consequences too, and children need to be taught that they are to adhere to the rules of society and the laws of the land. Learning how to behave in the world and how to get along with other people starts at home.

Dad also knew that it would be better for him to discipline us than for us to someday end up in prison or worse dead, simply because we selfishly never thought about the other person and how they might feel. Moreover, if Dad failed to discipline us or failed to expect obedience from us, we could have become involved in nefarious actions, including drugs. But, because Dad expected obedience at the same time that he taught God’s Truth and the reasons for not doing certain things, Cathy and I desired to honor Him by living for God and by doing that which he had taught us to be right and true. However, if Dad had not disciplined us or had not expected obedience and honor, there might have come a time when someone else would have disciplined us or a time when we reaped the repercussions of negative actions. But, Dad was a loving Father who disciplined in love. Consequently, we always wanted to please him, just as we always wanted to please God.

God Disciplines in Love

Certainly, lack of discipline or punishment by parents can cause children to grow up into young adults who think that what they say and do is more important than what someone else thinks or does. This kind of self-importance usually creates narcissistic, obstinate, thoughtless and self-indulgent individuals. But, God’s Word tells us that discipline is not mean or hurtful, rather that it needed, and that the just and appropriate discipline will guide a child into future good behavior.

In the Bible, King Solomon tells his own son, “My child, don’t ignore it when the LORD disciplines you, and don’t be discouraged when He corrects you. For the LORD corrects those He loves, just as a father corrects a child in whom he delights.– (Proverbs 3: 11, 12. NLT). Although the word “discipline” here, often has a negative connotation today, because many today feel they must be politically correct, the word “discipline” actually means “to teach and to train.” Unfortunately, some parents do not discipline in love, but in anger with unloving actions.

God is love and as a loving Father, He does not discipline us simply because He enjoys inflicting pain and neither should our earthly fathers. God, though, knows that He needs to teach us right from wrong. But, in order for us to become morally strong and in order to become good hearted loving individuals, God knows, too, that we sometimes need discipline in order to become the spiritually strong and good person that He knows that we can become. Our earthly loving fathers will also need to discipline their children in love in order to teach them right from wrong.

The wisest man on earth, King Solomon, was given insight on discipline from God and said, “Do not hold back discipline from the child, although you strike him with the rod, he will not die. You shall strike him with the rod and rescue his soul from Sheol (Hell)” – (Proverbs 23: 13, 14. NASB). (Certainly, God is not advocating child abuse as the political correctness police might have you believe. Rather, God is telling us that discipline done with love, will not hurt the psyche of a child, nor will it physically hurt the child. Rather, the rod, mentioned in the above verse is probably no larger than a switch off a small bush. I can personally vouch for the sting of a small switch as being just the thing that got my attention and kept me from ever desiring to do something that I should not do again. So, please do not think that I am advocating child abuse. For, kind loving discipline is not child abuse.).
What the Lack of Discipline Reaps

If you think about it, society is now reaping what it has sown. For, the last three or four decades parents have been sowing strife and unrest as well as disrespect and ungodliness by capitulating to the demands of their children. Consequently, the harvest is now the inundation of young people and even some adults in their late thirties who, having not been disciplined at home and who having never been denied their heart’s desires, now think that their rights and their desires are more important than the rights and desires of others. However, God even told us in His Word that we are to “Train up a child in the way that he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it.– (Proverbs 22: 6. NASB)

But, the opposite of that statement is just as true. For, if we fail to train up a child in the way that he should go, then when he is older, he will misbehave and fail to live for God and fail to care about the needs of others. He/she may also fail to know the difference between right and wrong and what moral excellence is. 

Today, many young people have not been taught about God, who is their loving Heavenly Father, or about the importance of recognizing His authority or the authority of others. Consequently, we have children and young people who not only do not know God, the Father, or His Son, Jesus Christ, but who verbally spew foul language and disrespect of others whenever they feel like it.

Reaping What We Sow

We saw first-hand this year some of what we as a society are now reaping for our failure to parent. We are reaping the repercussions or consequences of not teaching our children about the authority of God or the authority of their parents. We are now seeing, too, what happens when parents never deny a child anything and what happens  when parents refuse to discipline a child when necessary. For, we have recently seen college age students in several universities across the country who have refused to allow certain people to speak on their campus, simply because the students didn’t agree with the speaker’s political view, or they didn’t believe they would agree with what the speaker had to say. So, these students decided to take away the individual’s right to speak, rather than just not attending the person's public address.

More often than not, though, these self-centered young people just don't want to hear what the speaker would have to say, because it might be different than what they wanted to hear. So, instead of the idea of free speech reigning supreme, or instead of the possibility of learning something new from another’s point of view, these students simply refused to let the person speak in any forum. 

These students also refused to let other students hear what the person had to say even if they themselves did not want to attend the lecture or public address. Instead, they shut down the free speech forum and selfishly infringed upon the rights of others in order to get what they wanted, which was to stop the free exchange of ideas. Respect for others’ rights and ideas was not something even considered, because they had not been taught by their parents to respect other people.

This spring, we again saw the same type of narcissistic selfishness and the same disrespect for other peoples’ rights, i.e. the right of people to believe in something different or the right of people to be able attend a rally and hear another person’s viewpoint. This particular incident occurred when a large number of young adults, including even some individuals in their early forties who should have known better, decided to disrupt a presidential candidate’s speech. 

On this occasion, a large number of organized young people and young adults formed over a thousand-person barrier to keep other people, including some who had traveled great distances, from hearing Donald Trump speak at his presidential rally by interrupting the process, ridiculing those who had come to hear the candidate speak and by causing near riots. Their self-centered and hateful remarks showed the rest of the world their lack of respect for the rights of others to have a different opinion. They wanted only what they wanted and were determined to get it one way or another.

Failure to Love and Respect Other People Produces Unrighteousness

These young people's attitude, though, didn’t just happen. It started from not respecting authority and from not loving others and from not respecting the rights of others, all of which started at home. It started at home, by their not being taught about God, the Father, by them not being disciplined, and by them not being taught to honor their parents and the rights of others. In fact, a person’s negative, thoughtless, self-centered and hateful actions start early in childhood as seen when a child grabs a toy from another child and says, “mine”. Indeed, humans want to be able to do what we want, and we want what we perceive to be ours. Thus, it is our sinful nature into which we are born that directs us into selfishness. But, it is also in early childhood that a good loving parent or father needs to gently discipline and to share with their child that grabbing a toy from another child is wrong; teaching the child to honor the other child’s things and teaching that their child cannot always have what they want.

God gave parents the ability to teach our children how to overcome such selfishness with the Truth of God’s Word and with discipline when needed. Again we learn from King Solomon’s God-given insightfulness as he enlightens us. For, to the children Solomon said, “Listen to your father who begot you, and do not despise your mother when she is old. Buy truth, and do not sell it, get wisdom and instruction and understanding. The father of the righteous will greatly rejoice, and he who sires a wise son will be glad in him. Let your father and your mother be glad, and let her rejoice who gave birth to you. Give me your heart, my son and let your eyes delight in my ways.”  -- (Proverbs 23: 22 - 26. NASB).

God not only loving, but He is the Father of righteousness. Certainly then, God will greatly rejoice in those individuals who live by His Truth and in those who attain to wisdom and understanding regarding God and His Ways. Of course, our godly earthly father and mother will also be glad and rejoice in having a child who lives for God and His Truth. For that means that as their children, we will have listened to our parents. We will have obeyed and honored them; giving them reason to rejoice in having us as their children. Let’s give God, the Father, reason to rejoice in His being our Heavenly Father by obeying Him and honoring Him each and every day. Let’s give God, our Father, reason to rejoice, because we have repented of our sins and have asked Christ, God’s Only Son, to Save us from our sins.

Unfortunately, if an earthly father or mother does not teach and set rules, the child will continue to focus on their own desires instead of doing that which is right, good, and true. So, it is especially important for parents to understand the necessity of teaching the Truth and to be aware of the need to address any potential hateful, unkind and negative attitudes of their children. Only then will the child learn that their actions and the words must be curbed to reflect their knowledge and understanding of what is good, proper, kind and truthful.

If a parent gives up their authority and the expectation of obedience, a child who gets away with talking back to a parent, or a child who refuses to do what the parent has asked, will grow up to think that what they want or what they say is the only thing that matters. Then, such negative actions will grow ever more blatant and aggressive when parents refuse to discipline or punish their children for their misbehaviors. Those misbehaviors produce unrighteousness as well. Accordingly, parents end up reaping what they sowed. But, God, the Father, will not refuse to discipline us. He knows what is best for us. For, it is only when we are disciplined that we can grow into good, kind, loving, and productive people.

A Wise and Loving Parent

The Apostle Paul wrote to the Thessalonians whom he had witnessed to and who had given their hearts to Christ saying, “Now may our Lord Jesus Christ Himself and God our Father, who has loved us and given us eternal comfort and good hope by grace, comfort and strengthen your hearts in every good work and word.– (II Thessalonians 2: 16, 17. NASB). God loved those people and us today so much that He gave His Only Son to die on a cruel cross, so they and we could spend eternity in Heaven with Him when our life on this earth is over. But, God also knew that life on this earth would not be easy, so God, in His Love, comforts us in our trials and strengthens our hearts to do the good work of followers of Christ and to speak the Gospel message to others. For, a loving parent also comforts and strengthens his/her child even when there is sometimes a need for discipline.

No loving parent wants to discipline or punish their child. But, a wise parent knows that discipline and punishment, when applied sparingly but justly, will help their child to grow up to be honest, kind, loving, compassionate, and productive citizens who care about and love other people. However, without rules, expectations and discipline from their parents, children will just grow up expecting to receive whatever they want in life while not caring about anyone but themselves. But, my Dad in is godly wisdom, knowledge and love, recognized the necessity of setting rules and with a loving hand, then teaching his children the Truth of the Word of God as well as the truth about what it takes to become a good and productive human.

Where did my earthly father, better known as Dad, learn such wisdom? Well, my Dad believed in God. He saw what God, the Father, did for His children, i.e. for humans. In fact, in the example of God, as our Heavenly Father, my Dad had the perfect example of a good and loving Father who cares enough to discipline His children, in order to teach them. For even from the first book in the Bible, which is God’s Story, we are told that God had to discipline His children whom He had created, i.e. Adam and Eve. Part of that discipline came when God kicked Adam and Eve out of the Garden of Eden, because they disobeyed Him and thus could have continued to hurt themselves and all future mankind if they had been allowed to stay in the Garden of Eden. But that discipline did not mean that God did not love them. In fact, God loved them immensely even after Adam and Eve chose to disobey. All throughout the Bible, we are able to see that God loved and He also set the standard for a loving parent to not only teach their children, but to discipline them as well in love.

Throughout God’s Word, we can learn more and more about parenting. If we read the Bible, we can learn from those who have gone before us and find out what good parents do and what bad parents often fail to do. Both good and bad parents usually love their children, but it is certainly not true love when we fail to discipline our child when they are misbehaving or worse. Failure to discipline is the abdication of responsibility! Moreover, just as we see in our Father God’s administration of discipline, there is only one way to help a child develop into a productive and good person and that is through kind, but firm, discipline administered in love.

Knowing that God is Love and Sharing that Love with Others

God is Love. We will never experience on this earth the greatness of the Love of God, because "Now we see things imperfectly as in a poor mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity."  -- (I Corinthians 13: 12. NLT).  It will only be when we enter into the gates of Heaven that we will feel the all-encompassing love that will surround us as children of God. We will then experience God's love. For, it is through God’s love that those who will have believed on Jesus Christ, i.e. God’s Son, as their Savior will get to spend eternity in Heaven with the Triune God. I pray that if you do not yet know the love of God, have not yet asked Christ for forgiveness for your sins and have not asked Him to come into your heart that you will do so shortly. There is nothing in the world like the total peace and love that envelopes one who has given their life to God through Christ the Son.

I will end with part of a Psalm that was written about God. “Sing to God, sing praises to His Name, whose Name is Lord, and exult before Him. A father of the fatherless and a judge for widows … You provided in your goodness for the poor, O God. Blessed be the Lord, who daily bears our burdens, The God Who is our Salvation.”  -- (Psalm 68: 4, 5, 10, 19. NASB).

You can do it! You can share the goodness and love of God with others you encounter. You can engage in Active Relational Christian Mentoring. You can also learn to be the best parent possible by being that great godly Christian mentor and teacher to your children as you teach them respect, honor, love, and discipline. Remember, God has set the standard of true love. All you need to do is share God's love in service to Him.

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