The God Who Runs

The expression of a God who runs is what kick-started my meditation on the loving actions of God. In fact, it’s what I meditate on the most. Can you picture a God who runs? The Creator of the Universe running? Upon first inspection, it’s not very regal. To me, it’s a deep expression of love and romance. Little stirs my spirit more swiftly than God running toward me.

This example of the God who runs is beautifully described in the Parable of the Prodigal Son. I wonder if, because of this parable, the word “prodigal” has developed a negative connotation in the common language. After all, the story refers to a son who wastes away his inheritance. However, as I’ve studied and explored this parable over the years, it seems to me a story that is more about a prodigal father than son. The word prodigal implies giving in abundance, lavishly, or in extravagance. This aptly describes the father who lavishly loves his son. The father’s love is so full that he prematurely and freely gives his son an abundant inheritance. After his son wastes it away, the father not only welcomes his son home, but showers him with gifts and honor. What kind of a father is this who seemingly wastes his love on a rebellious, good for nothing son?

Early in my faith journey with Christ, a young man described God as One who lets go. He doesn’t lock people in a cage and demand their love. Instead, He let’s them go and waits for them to return. This is my story and could be why the parable of the prodigal father touches me deeply. It’s a story of a father who lets go and waits. The climax is in the run.

What was this father waiting for? An apology? A refund? No. He waited for the son he loved. Everyday, he waited and looked for his wandering offspring. Why? The father knew the son’s life was at stake. In the Hebrew culture at the time, such rebellious and squandering behavior was not just a crime against the family. It was a crime against the community and punishable by stoning. If the son were to return, he would face the consequence: death. So, the father waited.

One day, he saw the figure of a man in the distance and knew his son was returning home. I can see it now. It was a matter of life and death. So the father ran. He ran to embrace his son. No apologies. No explanations. Then, he clothed his son in the traditional, symbolic garments that identified him as a member of the family: robe, ring, sandals. Celebration ensued.

God runs. He also instructs us to run and to run with endurance the race that is set before us (Hebrews 12:1). Endurance in running comes from practice, as any runner will share. When I run, I set incremental goals for myself. My internal thought process is something like, “If I can just make it to the next light post. OK, made it. Now, if I can just make it to that big tree.” And so on. We have a promise in scripture that endurance for the spiritual race comes as we continually fix our eyes on Jesus (Hebrews 12:2). Imagine my endurance to run when I see Jesus who “never lost sight of where he was headed—that exhilarating finish in and with God. . .“ (Hebrews 12:1-3, MSG).

God runs to us. He also runs with us. In 1992, Dereck Redmond, the Olympian, experienced this first-hand. Maybe you know the story. Dereck was favored to win the 400-meter race. Half-way through, he fell to the ground in agonizing pain with a torn hamstring. But he didn’t give up. His eye was fixed on the prize. He was going to finish. His loving father ran to his side and carried him to the finish line. This image of love — a father running to his son — is seared in the depths of my spirit. It embodies who Father God is to me.

Click below to watch a father’s love in action.

 

When I picture Father God, I picture the God who runs. He ran to save my life. He asked nothing in return except to lavishly bestow me with the gifts that name me daughter. His daughter. He runs with me today. He helps me keep sight of where I’m going — that exhilarating finish in and with Him.

Holding the Door

It’s a new season! With every new year comes a renewed sense of goal-setting, excitement for new adventures, and curiosity for what the year might offer. There’s also the unique pleasure of turning our backs on the old year and brightly looking forward to the next. For many, the first day of the year brings the desire to spring-clean, release old (bad) habits, and start new things. It’s a time for change permanently marked by the calendar every 365 days.

What doesn’t ever change—no mater what day it is—is the constant, ever present, ever accessible presence of God. Sometimes that presence is thick and tangible. I like to refer to that experience as a God Encounter.

This morning I walked briskly through the cold to reach my office building. From another path, an older, white-haired gentleman emerged about 100-150 yards in front of me. Our destination was clearly the same, though he was bound to arrive before me. When he reached the door, he opened it—as expected—and waited. He turned toward me and watched me approach with a hospitable smile on his face. His pleasant voice shouted, “I must hold the door for you. It’s not in my nature to close it.”

I drew closer and crossed the threshold where we exchanged the normal pleasantries and bid one another a good day. But as I continued walking through the building the love of God warmed me from the inside out.

Scriptures suggest we may encounter angels in the faces of strangers (Hebrews 13:2). Although I cannot say if this man were angel or not, I can confidently confide in you the words of God, my Father, in that moment. “It is my great pleasure to not only open doors for you, but to hold them open until you arrive and cross the threshold.”

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It’s the first week of the new year and I am five days into it. Already, I am overwhelmed by the vast love of God as each day unfolds new evidence of His presence. Today, I receive a powerful addition to my faith, for God has clearly spoken and promised his great pleasure to hold the door for me. What a God Encounter!

God Desires

In my pursuit of Christ, it has not ever been a stretch to acknowledge what God is capable of. In short, anything! I have a track record and stories to confirm the magnificence of God and His ability. Nothing is impossible for Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all we ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:20). What could be more exciting or revelatory? What could be more assuring than knowing God can do it? Whatever it is, God can do it. But will He?

Over the last fews years, I have started a new meditation focusing less on what God can do and more on what God desires to do. I recall a key moment in my exploration of divine healing where my eyes were opened to this deeper Truth. Truth — the capital “T” kind — is remarkable. What makes it remarkable is the progressive revealing of its depths. I never doubted that God could heal, that he was able to heal. In fact, I almost took it for granted that God heals the sick, the lame, the deaf, the blind. Of course He does! He’s God. Yet, in all those years of nearsighted acceptance of this Truth, it never occurred to me that He wants to heal.

incense-smokeWhat a difference it makes to distinguish between the ability of God and the desire of God. This seemingly minor exchange of words—ability for desire—is radically transforming my meditations, my prayer-life, my understanding of healing, my relationship with Father God, as well as my outward mindset.

The deeper I dive into this new notion of God’s desire the more certain I am of God’s love for me and the stronger my trust in Him becomes. It is as if in this meditative dance, our embrace strengthens and the space between us lessens. And as our spirits mingle in the delight of God’s desire, I find myself craving not only more of Him for me, but more of Him for others. How my heart breaks for those who feel excluded from God’s blessing! Who confess God’s ability but fall short of recognizing His unrestricted desire. It applies to all. Just as a parent desires the best for their child, when well-behaving or misbehaving, so God desires.

His desire to heal, to create, to bless, to prosper, to speak, to dance, to inhabit praises, to be present must not remain a secret or unrevealed Truth. The difference between seeking God for what He can do and seeking God for what He desires to do, is knowing who He is: Love. He doesn’t heal because He can. He heals because He loves. He doesn’t create because He can. He creates because He loves. And so on and so on.

Now, when I pray, I pray with the growing confidence of God’s love for me and for others.  Instead of pleading with God, “God, I know you can do it so please just do it,” I thank Him. “Thank you, Father God, for your love and your blessing. Thank you that you desire my health, my healing, my provision, my (insert need).”

Lastly, as I meditate on God’s desire, I also meditate on an equally profound promise. He chose me, and appointed me that I would go and bear fruit, and that my fruit would remain, so that whatever I ask of the Father in Jesus name He may give to me (John 15:16). Because He loves.

Foundation

Someone once told me that a father’s role is to affirm and a husband’s is to confirm. There is “nugget of truth” in this statement that resonates deep within my spirit. What is the difference between affirming and confirming?

affirm – state as a fact; assert strongly and publicly

confirm – establish the truth or correctness of (something previously believed, suspected, or feared to be the case); reinforce someone in (an opinion, belief, or feeling)

They are similar in definition, but closer inspection and meditation yields how vastly different they are. One is the foundation (affirmation); one is reinforcement of that foundation (confirmation). As we all know, without a solid foundation, nothing built upon it will stand. I daresay we have all had this experience, either personally or with someone else. No matter how much we try to encourage or support, it cannot be received. Why? Because there is no foundation.

Another “nugget” I fondly adhere to is belief precedes behavior. Similarly, our beliefs are the foundation of our behavior. Before behavior will change, belief must change. We often address poor behavior backward. We address, punish, or react to the behavior (AKA the symptom) and rarely dive deep enough to discover the why or the belief behind the behavior (AKA the root of the issue).

From our earliest moments of cognition, we are influenced by all that is around us. Unfortunately, many of us grow up with a misunderstanding of who we are; an unawareness of who created us and for what purpose we were created. Our foundation is laid upon this misunderstanding and we are, subsequently, unable to establish healthy beliefs about ourselves and/or the world.

Women, more than men, seem to have the greater battle with identity. Perhaps this is a gross generalization, but it has been my experience nonetheless. We battle a barrage of lies thrown at us daily.

I am just a woman.
I have nothing to offer.
I cannot support myself.
I need a husband.
I need a man or someone else to feel good about myself.
I am no good. I am impure.
I am all alone.
I must surrender my purity to be accepted. To be loved.
I need to be skinnier. My hair needs to be a different color.
Only pretty women are successful. I’m not pretty enough.
I have to give up my dreams. My dreams aren’t as important.

These are just a few of the lies. Most of them tick me off! Not a healthy foundation. Sadly, there is plenty of confirmation to reinforce this negativity. We see it on the streets, in the movies, on television, in magazines, from our friends, and sometimes from our family.

Thankfully, there is a greater foundation and One who is willing and waiting to lay it. One who has already laid it. Jesus, our Cornerstone. When we look to God for our foundation, we discover our true identity. We discover Truth.

I am created in the image of God and created with purpose (Genesis 1:26).
I am the apple of His eye (Zechariah 2:8).
The King desires my beauty (Psalm 45:11).
I am wonderfully made and I am always on His mind (Psalm 139).
There is a plan and purpose for my life. I have God-given dreams (Jeremiah 29:11).
I am never alone (John 14:18, Hebrews 13:5-6; Jeremiah 29:13).
He can use me. He wants to use me (1 Corinthians 1:26-30).
I am washed, cleansed, purified (John 15:3).
I am free (Isaiah 61:1-3; Luke 4:18).
I am righteousness. I am holy (2 Corinthians 5:21; 1 Peter 1:15-16).
I am blessed, chosen, adopted, accepted, redeemed, and forgiven (Ephesians 1:3-7).

These are just a few Truths! With considerable rejoicing, I declare that our affirmation lies in the Living God. No one can take that away. These are words straight from the mouth of God. Whether the world or men confirm these or not, the Word of God remains forever (Isaiah 40:8, 1 Peter 1:23). It is fact and God asserts our identity “strongly and publicly” as we live our lives in pursuit of Him. The beauty and true “nugget of truth” is this: The Father affirms our identity in Him and the Husband, who is Jesus, devotes His life to confirm it.

Oh that we would stop and listen and let the Truth of God pour into us and take root!