Everlasting Arms

“The eternal God is your refuge,everlasting-arms.jpg
and underneath are the everlasting arms.”
-Deuteronomy 33:27

We all have hurtful experiences and sometimes respond emotionally. The loss of a loved one, a troubled relationship, unkind words or actions, a deep disappointment, a distressing work situation, or a persistent problem we can’t seem to overcome – these are all painful experiences. Sometimes we just need someone to vent to. We need a safe place to express ourselves without fear of condemnation. We need the comfort of God’s everlasting arms.

I had a friend in high school who offered his shoulder as a punching bag to another friend who was going through a hard time. He stood there, lowered his shoulder, and told his friend to hit him and get it all out. Thankfully his friend didn’t take him up on the offer, but it impressed me how willing my friend was to sacrifice his own body for another. It was his way of saying, “I’m here for you. I care about you.”

I think God is like this. He allows Himself to be our punching bag. He just takes it. He takes it because He loves us. He takes it because He knows we’re hurting. He opens up His great big arms of love and just holds us, loving us and comforting us in our troubles. He doesn’t reject us or turn us away.

God is big enough to handle all our grief and anger. He is patient, so patient, to allow us to vent everything. Sometimes, He doesn’t say a word. He just lets us get it all out. Sometimes what we need more than His solutions is His presence. But sometimes we need to hear from Him. He gives us that as well. He knows exactly what we need in every situation.

When I was in high school my girlfriend and I broke up. It was hard to do. After we broke up, I walked to the church parking lot where my friend Joel was. Joel is 6 foot, 8 inches tall. He gave me a hug and I started crying. My head was buried in his chest because that’s where my head comes up to when I hug him. My steady, faithful friend was there to comfort me when I was going through a hard time.

The Bible says,

“The eternal God is your refuge,
And underneath are the everlasting arms…”
-Deuteronomy 33:27

God is a great big God. The entire universe and everything in it was created by His word and is sustained by His awesome power. You have probably heard someone refer to another saying, “He has a big heart.” Well, God has a big heart. The Creator of hearts has the biggest heart of them all. He has big enough arms to welcome us all in and comfort us. He is “the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles” (II Cor. 1:3-4). In turn, we are able to comfort others in their trials, with the same comfort we have received from Him.

A break-up with my girlfriend was not the end of the world. But at the time, it was a big deal to me. I needed comfort. In these last twenty years, I’ve experienced delays and disappointments much more difficult then breaking up with a girlfriend.

One time, I came to a point where my life frustrations boiled over. I let loose a complaint to the Lord. I vented to God, loudly expressing my frustration. As I vented, it seemed the Lord stood before me. I felt Him place His hand on me and comfort me. I heard Him say, “I know…I know…and it’s going to be okay.” My complaint faded as I was soothed by His presence. How can you continue to be upset with someone when they are comforting you in such a loving way?

His simple words, “I know…I know…and it’s going to be okay,” did not give me the answers to my problems. They did not guarantee a certain result. Yet, it seemed that God was saying that He knew everything I’ve gone through and everything I was going through. He knows it has been hard. He knows it’s been a struggle. But it’s going to be okay. It’s going to be okay.

We don’t always need answers. And God doesn’t always explain things to us. But He does give us His comforting presence. We are soothed and our joy is restored in His presence.

For my son Joseph, it’s a big deal when he’s hungry. He cries. Even though my wife has never denied him milk, he still cries. He needs the comfort of mommy’s breast. When he’s tired, he needs the comfort of papa’s arms. Sometimes he cries and I find myself saying, “It’s okay, it’s okay, you’re going to be okay.” He also doesn’t like being swaddled because he can’t move his arms. He fusses. He doesn’t understand that it’s good for him. He doesn’t see it, but we know what is best for him. When he’s tired, he falls asleep best when I hold him in my arms and soothe him with my voice. For him, my presence means comfort and security.

I’ve noticed that I hold Joseph in my left arm. I’ve done this since he was born without even thinking. I’m right-handed, so my right arm is my stronger arm. But when I hold him in my left arm, I am holding him close to my heart. That’s how God holds us, close to His heart.

The second part of Deuteronomy 33:27 says,
“He will thrust out the enemy from before you,
And will say, ‘Destroy!’”

My left arm gives Joseph comfort, but my strong right arm is there to protect him. Likewise, God holds us close to His heart, tenderly and carefully. His right arm is present to push away any enemies that may come against us. He is both comforter and protector.

Isaiah 40:11 says,
“He tends his flock like a shepherd:
He gathers the lambs in his arms
and carries them close to his heart;
he gently leads those that have young.”

My wife was drawn to this Scripture when we had a miscarriage. During that time, we needed God’s comfort, both His words of comfort and His presence.

We find comfort in His words and in His voice that soothes and reassures. We also find comfort in His presence, in His everlasting arms. He has a big heart to receive us and hold us. Until Jesus returns and restores all things, we turn to God and His outstretched, everlasting arms. We draw near to Him as He holds us close to His chest.

Image of the Father

 

 

IMG_0891

Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God! -1 John 3:1

Holding my newborn son in my arms, I can see how important my role is in shaping his image of Father God. In the Bible, God primarily reveals Himself as Father. When my son Joseph sees me and how I live my life, will he see Father God? Will I give him the proper image of the Father?

I think this reality is a reason that Satan’s attack on men seems particularly fierce – because earthly fathers reflect the Father image of God to their children. Of course, both mom and dad play a vital role in reflecting God’s image to their children. This is not meant to undermine the role of mom or say that mom doesn’t get attacked. My mom was the paramount spiritual influence in my life and I personally saw her get attacked by the enemy.

That said, a father wound is a profound wound. If dad was an angry man, criticized you or rejected you, chances are you struggle to see Father God differently. To move past this wound, it is important to see God for who He really is.

There have been times in my life where I felt like God had rejected me. I felt unwanted by God. It seemed like God had rejected the prayers of love I had offered to Him. The sting of rejection hurts, even if it is perceived rejection and not based in reality. One time I complained that I felt like God had not fathered me the way I wanted Him to. That very next day, I woke up sensing God’s love and presence and I heard a song in my spirit. The song is called Father’s Eyes, sung by Mark Schultz.

Part of the song says this:

He’s on the edge of giving up tonight

Feeling like he’s wasted the best days of his life

Afraid he’ll never be the man he thought that he could be

And when he looks inside he’s so ashamed of who he sees

But in his Father’s eyes

He is a son of glory

The image of a strong and mighty King

In his Father’s eyes

There’s more left in the story

And he’s fighting hard to hold back tears of pride

If only he could see himself tonight

In his Father’s eyes

In my perception, I doubted myself and I doubted my Father. But He sees me as a son of glory, a strong and mighty man of God. The seasons of disappointment I have experienced were not rejection, but spiritual training in sonship.

This is where the tension lies. We may have a perception of God that is, in fact, not reality. Our perception is based on the fallenness of our earthly experience. We see God through the filter of our hurts and wounds. To combat these lies, we have to renew our minds with truth. We have to embrace the reality of who He is and who we are in Him.

There have been many times where God has shown His love to me. Looking back, I see how hard it was for me to truly embrace that love. It wasn’t until I began to take the truth of God’s word and speak it over my life, meditate on it, declare it and confess it, that something began to change inside of me. God was showing me His love, but I had to internalize it through the power of His word. In doing this, transformation took place.

Israel had this same problem. Due to so many years in bondage, they saw themselves as less than they really were. Despite God’s mighty acts on their behalf, they saw their God through eyes of bondage rather than freedom. God had to take them through a wilderness experience to show them who He was and to raise them up according to who they really were in Him. He transformed them from a slave-minded, faithless bunch to a mighty army able to go in and conquer giants and possess the Promised Land.

My wife and I attended church in Virginia for a couple of years while I was in law school. We helped out at the Welcome booth, serving drinks and snacks to the people. One Sunday, I sang to myself while I walked to get some supplies from the supply room. I’m not a professional, but I have a pretty good singing voice. One of the guys said to me something like, “don’t quit your day job.” Of course, it was meant as a joke. I responded to him by looking him the face and continuing to sing. He said to me, “you’ve had a lot of rejection in your life, haven’t you?” I said, “yes, sir” and kept moving.

I thought it was interesting for him to say that, but I think it made me realize how God has actually used rejection to form me spiritually. It has forced me to listen to the voice of my Father, to walk according to what He says about me and to follow the leading of His Spirit regardless of the opinions of others.

I may have experienced rejection in my life, but I know that I am accepted by my Father in heaven. I am His beloved son. I am not perfect, but I know that He is well-pleased with me (see Mark 1:11). I know that God’s hand of blessing is on my life. I know that He is proud of me. I have had to learn to just keep singing, no matter what others say about me. What God says is the only thing that really matters.

What is your image of the Father? Others may have rejected you, but God loves you and He accepts you just the way you are. He is proud of you, not because you are perfect, but because you are His child.

I am proud of my son, Joseph. He’s only 4 weeks old and has accomplished basically nothing in life except poopy diapers and lots of eating and sleeping. But he’s gained about 1 pound and grown about a 1/4 inch. I’m proud of that 1 pound and 1/4 inch. I’m proud of him simply because he is my son. He doesn’t have to do anything for me to smile down on him and feel such love for him. It is the same with our Father in heaven. He is looking down on you now with love, pride and joy because you are His child.

Dream Workshop

I do not consider myself an expert on the subject of spiritual dreams. But I am thankful that God has spoken to me through dreams of the night on numerous occasions. I confess that these experiences have been some of the most exciting of my walk with God. It’s pretty cool to wake up in the morning with the sense of God’s love and presence, realizing you were visited by God by a dream of the night.

I do realize that not everyone hears from God through dreams. I do think that everyone can hear from God through dreams, but for some it is more common than others. I think that some are called to be “dreamers” – they have the gift of dreams. For many others, it may be only an occasional thing or non-existent. I think that those who are dreamers usually, if not always, walk in a prophetic calling.

There are a number of Bible examples of people who heard from the Lord through and interpreted dreams (Joseph, Daniel and Jesus’ earthly father, Joseph, being prominent examples). I know there are books on the subject of dreams, most of which I have not read, but perhaps I will someday. One book that I have read is entitled, “Dream: Discover personal strength in one word” by Dr. Mark Rutland. I highly recommend this concise and excellent resource.

The Bible says,

“And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God, That I will pour out of My Spirit on all flesh; Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, Your young men shall see visions, Your old men shall dream dreams” (Acts 2:17).

Hearing from God through dreams is certainly biblical, but certainly not every dream is from God. I’ve missed it on occasion. I have had dreams that have profoundly impacted my life. I’ve had dreams that have perplexed me. I’ve had dreams that I think were from the Lord, but there still exists a feeling of uncertainty about the dream. And I’ve had dreams where I have absolutely no doubt were from God.

Numbers 12:6-8,

“Hear now My words:
If there is a prophet among you,
I, the Lord, make Myself known to him in a vision;
I speak to him in a dream.
Not so with My servant Moses;
He is faithful in all My house.
I speak with him face to face,
Even plainly, and not in dark sayings;
And he sees the form of the Lord.
Why then were you not afraid
To speak against My servant Moses?”

Dreams and visions are wonderful things, but the ultimate goal and prize is to walk with God in face-to-face relationship. I don’t seek dreams, I seek the Lord. Yes, sometimes I hope God will speak to me when I lay my head down at night. But my desire is to walk with God in intimate relationship. How He speaks is His prerogative.

I’d like to consider this blog page a dream workshop of sorts. Here, I will post dreams God has given me and share the spiritual insights I believe God has given me through the dreams. Also, as I continue to study God’s word, I’ll share insights regarding spiritual dreams in general.

More to come!