“YOU SURE LOOK LIKE YOUR FATHER!”

Many years ago, before my biological children were born, we were foster parents for several children who were placed, for a variety of reasons, in a nearby children’s home. 

As an “adventure” one weekend, we took our foster children to a Civil War battlefield, complete with canons and stacks of cannonballs.  It also had a museum and much for the children to interact with as they learned about what happened at the Chickamauga Battlefield so many years earlier. 

When we went to the cashier to pay for our souvenirs, the Park Ranger standing there looked at our family and said to our son, “Boy, you sure look like your Father!” and to our daughter he said “And, you really look like your Mom!”  We smiled at him and paid for our goodies, and then left. 

In the car, we chuckled about the Ranger’s well-meaning comments.  They were especially humorous since both children were in foster care and of no blood relation to us.  Furthermore, they were not brother and sister but were from two separate families. 

Ultimately, I did have two children, a son and daughter, and when they were in preschool, my husband left us and divorce ensued.

Then the Lord brought Bill into our lives and, 31 years later, we are still married and the “children” (now in their 40s) are very much in love with him.   

When Bill had taken our son to the store for some clothing, the cashier looked at the two of them and said “Boy, your sure look like your Father!”   Without correcting the clerk, without discussing step-relationships, and without missing a beat, our son said “Yes, I do.”

Father and son marathon cropped
Father and son running in a marathon.

We were thinking about these comments recently and I wondered if I looked like my Father.  Do you?

We have just concluded consideration of just a few of the attributes of God, the Father, and I thought we should bring those discussion down to earth.  Do we look like our Heavenly Father?

I know that we cannot be like God, we are merely creatures who are sinful and who live in a fallen world.  But some of the attributes that are of God can be found in us if we let Him live in our hearts through the Holy Spirit. 

For example, Eternality is totally outside of our experience, we are time-bound, temporal, finite.   But Mercy is something that we can extend to those who wrong us in some way.

Omnipotence, Omniscience and Omnipresence are attributes that no one would ever credit me with having, that’s for sure.  They reside within God and are not communicable to either you or me. 

Holiness is surely one of the attributes that sets God apart from the sinful creation ever since the fall of man in the Garden of Eden.   But, Scripture says that we are to be holy. 

“For I am the LORD who brought you up out of the land of Egypt to be your God. You shall therefore be holy, for I am holy.””

Leviticus 11:45

“but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.””

1 Peter 1:15-16

I cannot be holy on my own nor can I become holy through any effort or action that I take.  I am sinful and will be sinful all my life.  But through the righteousness of Jesus Christ, in the eyes of God, I can be holy.

Justice is another attribute of God that is tied to His Holiness.  God is repeatedly called Just in Scripture and we are told that His actions are always just. 

“For the LORD your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God, who is not partial and takes no bribe.  He executes justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the sojourner, giving him food and clothing.”

Deuteronomy 10:17-18

While Justice is an attribute of God’s intrinsic nature, it is also something that we are commanded to be.

“He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”

Micah 6:8

Love, the attribute of God’s nature which Jonathan Edwards called “the sum of all Christianity”.  God loved us even when we were sinners and unable to approach Him even in prayer. Through the Holy Spirit, we were made part of God’s family because of His love.

In Romans 11, the Apostle Paul uses the imagery of an olive tree into which branches have been grafted, the tree, rooted in Jesus Christ, is referencing the Jews while the branches that were grafted onto the tree reference the Gentiles. 

Adoption is another image presented in Scripture with respect to God’s love.  The Amplified Holy Bible renders Ephesians 1:4-6 as follows:

Just as [in His love] He chose us in Christ [actually selected us for Himself] [as His own] before the foundation of the world, so that we would be holy [that is, consecrated, set apart for Him, purpose-driven] and blameless in His sight.  In love He predestined and lovingly planned for us to be adopted to Himself as [His own] children through Jesus Christ, in accordance with the kind intention and good pleasure of His will to the praise of His glorious grace and favor, which He so freely bestowed on us in the Beloved [His Son, Jesus Christ].

We have been loved by God, through Christ Jesus, and have been adopted into His family.  What does that mean for us here on earth, surrounded by so many who do not know Him?  We are to love each other and are to live as disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ so that men can see Him when looking at us.

By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.  As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love.”

John 15:8-9

This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.”

John 15:12

“You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.  These things I command you, so that you will love one another.”

John 15:16-17

So, the question hangs in the air – do you look like your Heavenly Father?

          At church on Sunday morning?

          At the supermarket on Tuesday?

          At the work meeting where your project is being criticized?

          When someone cuts you off on the highway?

          When you can’t think because the neighbors’ dogs are barking?

Do you look like your Heavenly Father?  Do I?

 

Father, we so easily call You Father even though we had nothing to do with Your adoption of us.  Your grace in giving us eternal life came at the incredible cost of Your Beloved Son’s atoning death.  Your mercy was extended to us even while we were still wallowing in our sin. Oh, Father.  Your love and compassion is too wonderful for us to comprehend.  All we can do is thank You and pray that we would be transformed through Your Spirit into the image of Your Beloved Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ.  May we look more and more like Jesus and, thus, more and more like You each day.

ATTRIBUTES OF GOD — OMNIPOTENCE

Have you ever felt overwhelmed at something ahead of you?  Maybe it is a challenge physically.  Maybe it is overwhelming sorrow upon the loss of a loved one.  Perhaps it is failing health or an illness that you must face.  Everyone has felt being overwhelmed or that things are happening which are outside of your power, and you fear that you cannot battle through. If you cannot relate to this description now, rest assured that at some point in your life you will understand these words. 

We are mortal, finite, and of limited power and strength.  Many have accomplished great things in their lifetimes but even those at the pinnacle of power share the same mortality and finiteness of the rest of us.

But God is not like us, He is omnipotent. This is how John describes the power of God:

“And I heard as it were the voice of a great multitude, and as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of mighty thunderings, saying, Alleluia: for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth.”

Revelation 19:6 KJV

The Amplified Bible renders this verse as follows:

“Then I heard something like the shout of a vast multitude, and like the boom of many pounding waves, and like the roar of mighty peals of thunder, saying,

“Hallelujah!  For the Lord our God, the Almighty, the Omnipotent, the Ruler of all reigns.””

God is omnipotent.  It is one of the attributes of His character.  It is not something that He puts on and takes off.  It is part of His nature, it is eternal, and it will never change.  He is all-powerful.  His Name is rightfully called The Almighty. 

Omnipotence is not a common word for us, but its parts are.  “Omni” is a word prefix that means “all, every, the whole, of every kind”.  “Potent” is a word that means “having great power, influence, or effect.”  Thus, “omnipotent” means “having unlimited power; able to do anything.”  Only God is omnipotent. 

Consider the Book of Job.  There we read of a man who was subjected to loss of property and family, loss of extreme wealth, loss of health, painful boils covering his body, and yet through all of that, he did not curse God.  Rather, he remained faithful to God and was rewarded for that faithfulness. 

The point for our consideration, however, is not how Job reacted to the tests.  Rather, it is how it came to be that Job was tested in the first place.

This is how we are introduced to Job:

“There was a man in the land of Uz whose name was Job, and that man was blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil.”

Job 1:1

The next verses in the chapter detail Job’s wealth and power in the community.  Then the scene switches to heaven with Satan conversing with God.  The thrust of Satan’s discussion is that Job honors God because God has blessed him.  In other words, Satan challenged God to take away the hedge around Job and Job would turn his back on God.  The first challenge and God’s response is as follows:

“”But stretch out your hand and touch all that he has, and he will curse you to your face.” And the LORD said to Satan, “Behold, all that he has is in your hand. Only against him do not stretch out your hand.” So Satan went out from the presence of the LORD.”

Job 1:11-12.  Notice that God was in control.  God is omnipotent, and Satan is not.  Satan received permission to hurt Job but there was a limit that Satan could not exceed.  After receiving word that his entire family and all his flocks and herds had been destroyed, Job said:

“And he said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.” In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong.”

Job 1:21-22.  Satan was foiled.  Job followed the Lord and he did not sin.  But Satan did not leave poor Job alone.  The second challenge was set up:

“Then Satan answered the LORD and said, “Skin for skin! All that a man has he will give for his life.  But stretch out your hand and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will curse you to your face.”  And the LORD said to Satan, “Behold, he is in your hand; only spare his life.” So Satan went out from the presence of the LORD and struck Job with loathsome sores from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head.”

Job 2:4-7.  Satan was again allowed to test Job, but, as before, God put a limit on what Job could do.  God is omnipotent, and Satan is not.  Job again honored God despite his wife’s nagging that he should curse God and die.  Job 2:9-10

Job endured unimaginable pain and sorrow, and then he had his three friends who came to comfort him.  He remained faithful to God even though his friends encouraged him to admit his sin and get it over with! 

Paul said it this way:

“For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.”

Romans 11:36

In Ephesians Paul notes:

“In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will,”

Ephesians 1:11

The Psalmist expressed God’s omnipotence by stating in Psalm 115:3 “Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases.”

The prophet Jeremiah talks of God’s omnipotence when he said:

“‘Ah, Lord GOD! It is you who have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and by your outstretched arm! Nothing is too hard for you.”

Jeremiah 32:17

Omnipotence mandates that nothing is too hard for God – things are either done or not done, according to His will, not because they are easy or hard.  God’s power to do all that He desires is the basis for His sovereignty which then accomplishes His providence. 

So, what does this attribute mean to us?  Beloved, it means that no matter what you are facing, no matter how horribly you are treated, no matter how severe the pain and suffering you are going through, God is in control. 

As finite and mortal beings, we are no match for Satan’s power.  But, God is neither afraid of Satan nor is He unable to control Satan.  Satan may be more powerful that we are, but He is not as powerful as God is. 

Keep Job in mind.  Satan can do nothing to us that God does not allow in His sovereign providence. 

Father, thank You for Your omnipotence, Your power over all things.  I take comfort and I draw strength from the fact that You are unshakeable and that Your will takes priority over all else.  Even when I don’t understand what is going on, I thank You that I can rely on You. I praise Your Holy Name!

THE VINEYARD AND THE CHURCH

The vineyard and the church
Jefferson’s Vineyards outside Charlottesville, Virginia

As we were going through the vineyards outside of Charlottesville, Virginia, this summer, we stopped to take a picture of just part of the vines in the Jefferson vineyard with a red-roofed church just beyond them.

The juxtaposition of the vines and the church building prompted my mind to go to John 15.

I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. … Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.  I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.”

John 15:1, 4-5

Jesus was speaking to His disciples in this discourse and He was advising them that they had no power in and of themselves to accomplish anything eternal for the Kingdom of God.  Indeed, He said “apart from me you can do nothing”! 

We think that we can do a lot of things without God’s assistance; but, without Jesus, none of them are of any merit.  But, separate us from God and all our works, even the very best ones, are essentially garbage in God’s sight.

“We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment. We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.”

Isaiah 64:6 

Our righteous deeds, the ones that we hold up to God as evidence that we should be rewarded, all those nice things we did and said, all of them are considered to be like a polluted garment, filthy rags. 

According to Strong’s concordance information, the Hebrew word translated as “filthy rags” relates to menstruation and the soiled garments therefrom. It is profound that Isaiah used this term to describe God’s attitude toward man’s good works. 

It is easy to read “filthy rags” as being merely soiled cleaning cloths.  But for me, this Hebrew definition puts the “filthy rags” reference into a new light – our good deeds, no matter how costly or how worthy they are in man’s eyes, are worth only to be dumped into the refuse can. 

So, what do filthy rags have to do with the Vine?   

NOTHING!

When we are in Christ Jesus, when we are connected to the Vine, our acts of righteousness avail much. When we are abiding in the Vine, we have the power of the Vine flowing through us and we can accomplish that which He has ordained for us to do for the Kingdom of God.  Then, instead of “filthy rags,” God sees the righteousness of Christ that has become imputed to us through our faith in Him.  In short, we abide in the Vine and He enables us to do righteous deeds that are a fragrant aroma to God, not filthy rags.

The church, the bodily manifestation of Jesus Christ after His resurrection, is to do His work. 

“And [God] put all things under [Jesus’] feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.”

Ephesians 1:22-23 

Each of His children are part of the church, the body of Christ, and we each have a role to play as we live out our lives to the glory and honor of our Savior.  Paul talks of the body of Christ like this in First Corinthians 12:

“For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. …  Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.”

1 Corinthians 12:12, 27 

In this new year, praise the Lord for the gift of eternal life through His death and resurrection and also for the gift of an abundant life in the here and now.  And thank Him that He has grafted us into the Vine so that as His Church we will have the power that comes to those who abide in Him.

The vineyard and the church.  The very symbols of the Source of our strength and of the Body which carries the message of our Lord to those with whom its members interact.

Father, Your ways are inscrutable and unknowable to us.  We praise You for giving us Your Son as our Savior and we thank You for enabling us to witness to Your incredible love and mercy through Jesus Christ.  Thank You, too, for giving us symbols that we can use to remind us of Your grace, providence and goodness.  May we glorify You in all that we do, through Jesus Christ our Lord.