God’s Extraordinary Favor

“If you cannot train your children to do as they ought it is far better to lower your standards and enjoy them as they are than to allow your looks of displeasure to become the norm. A kid may grow up to be undisciplined and self-willed, but there is no reason to add to it a feeling of being unloved and unable to please.”

These words arrested my attention earlier this week as I grazed through an article entitled: “Six Ways Parents Destroy Their Children Without Trying.” * They fell under point #3: Expressing displeasure regularly. Ah yes, familiar theme. I stand guilty as charged.  This has been a hard lesson for me to learn. My children bear its marks.

Loving our kids, we naturally want them to be good. When they are not, we frown. They try harder, we expect great things. They prove to be human, flawed, and they fall short. If we are still frowning and goading them on mercilessly, relationship suffers and eventually the ones not cut out to be goody-goodies give up trying, feeling like failures themselves and steeling themselves to further condemnation as best they can. Loving fellowship of parent and child is lost. What has gone wrong?

The paragraph goes on to remind that: “…child training is causing the child to want to please you and be like you. They will want to please you only when they find pleasure in your presence.” This rings true to me, and I commend to you the rest of the article  if you are yet rearing young under your roof, but I’m considering another angle, namely how our parenting flaws reflect our own misunderstandings of God’s favor toward us.

How do we see God as parenting us? If we perceive Him as having a frowning countenance toward us, his children, exasperated at our constant need to be reminded of house rules, disappointed by our ineptness, tired of waiting for us to act more mature….then what? How fast will we be to run to Him when we need Him most, to treasure time alone with Him, to be eager to do whatever He says? Do we view God as regularly displeased or never quite satisfied with our conduct, whether it be things we do or things we have failed to do? Are we forever ‘falling short’ in our own estimations and concluding this is how God sees us too? Or do we see Him as a Father who loves us so extravagantly that there’s nothing we can do (or not do) to alter His favor toward us and His enjoyment of us as His dearly loved children!

Is favor with God something we must earn/covet/work up a great desperation for? Is He really holding us at arms’ length until we ‘get it right’, become better witnesses, do more, love better, live more consistently victorious lives, or just plain get desperate enough? And what does God really want from us?

If these are not myths you’ve labored under or questions you’ve had, be thankful! You need read no further. But if like me you struggle to believe that all the favor you could ever have is already yours in Christ, then read on and with me be glad it’s never too late to be transformed by the extraordinary reality of God’s favor.

As I read Scripture I see that while we were yet His enemies God extended a peace offering (Rom.5:10), not contingent on our doing anything but saying ‘Yes’ to Him. “Yes”, I need You. I need mercy. I need grace. I need the sacrifice of Your Son who took my guilt and died to pay for it, so that the righteous requirements of the Law could at last be fully met in me!” (Rom.8:4) On the basis of His Son I am henceforth (and yes, I love those old words!) looked on with favor, exceedingly great favor, the favor with which God looks at Jesus! It is incredible, imaginable only in fairy tales perhaps, but nonetheless true. We have found favor with God; no striving needed. No kicking ourselves into greater service, greater devotion, greater passion. He cannot love us more. We can not earn, finagle, or wrest greater favor from Him than we already have in Christ.

Really, think about it, if there was nothing we could do to bring ourselves into relationship with God in the first place except to respond to His overtures, then why do we think that somehow now we must become high-achievers if we are to keep that favor? It’s not based on our efforts; it never was. How could there be any greater favor to work for than that which we have because of Jesus?

And yet, I like the idea of ‘being good’, of meriting favor and I look for examples…How about Mary? The angel came to her and said ‘you have found favor with God’ (Lk.1:30) What had she done? We have no record. What did she have to do next? Nothing; just believe and wait for the Spirit to impregnate her to carry out her Father’s bidding… Favor is God’s prerogative, not ours.

And I think of Noah, a righteous man in his generation. He found favor in the eyes of the Lord. How’s that? Well, the text says He walked with God. (Gen. 6:8) What does that mean? It brings to mind the verse: “Can two walk together, except they be agreed?” Amos 3:3 Or as Jim is known to say: “Friends agree”. And I think this is the answer to that other question, What then does God want of us? He wants us to agree with Him, about everything. This is faith. This is the root of repentance. This is what He wants of us, to walk with Him, enjoying His favor, hanging on His wisdom and saying, ‘Yes, you’re right.’ He just wants relationship with us. He’s done all the footwork. He’s pleased.

For this reason there was that grand announcement 2000+ years ago:

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased” or alternately, “peace to men on whom his favor rests.” (NIV) Luke 2:14 Well the News was for the joy of ‘all the people’ because at last the promised Savior had been born to them. But God’s favor rests secure only for those who welcome this News. It is secured by faith.

Which brings me back to that thought on child training: “…child training is causing the child to want to please you and be like you. They will want to please you only when they find pleasure in your presence.”

Am I finding pleasure in God’s presence day-by-day– living, breathing, meditating on His Word? Is walking with Him in obedience duty or delight? Am I eager to see His face? The answer to these questions has everything to do with my perception of His extraordinary favor. And the proof of comprehension will be in the reflection of His smiling face in my own!



“You will make known to me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; In Your right hand there are pleasures forever.” Ps.16:11

“He has shown you, O man, what is good; And what does the LORD require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?” Micah 6:8

“For what the law could not do, in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did, sending His own son in the likeness of sinful man, and so He condemned sin in sinful man, that the righteous requirements of the Law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit.” Rom.8:3,4

“Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” Eph.5:1,2

“…the LORD make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you” Numbers 6:25


*Michael Pearl, No Greater Joy, Jan-Feb.2013, p.23. (Though I don’t agree with every opinion in this article, there are many pearls of wisdom! –LS)

On Purpose

“Your life’s purpose may remain a mystery to you, as may the events of your world, but that’s okay. God is in control. We are relieved of the responsibility of understanding everything and the need to change it.”*

I ‘happened upon’ these words earlier this week. It was no mistake. Had I not just been journaling my own questions about my purpose in life…dragging a bit with disappointment at my ‘performance’, dismayed at feeling so ‘stuck’ artistically—an otherwise ‘happy homemaker’ content in her pumpkin, yet with her neighbors heading obliviously to Hell! Ouch.

I was doing a sort of New Year’s assessment I guess, wondering all the while whether my guilt, disappointment and dismay were legitimate or just my ‘wrong-headed’ way of motivating myself to ‘DO SOMETHING!” Wondering, in fact, whether I was even asking the right questions: “How am I doing?” and “Am I pleasing?”

As per my last blog, that old hymn came to mind, a prayer:

Open my eyes, that I may see
Glimpses of truth Thou hast for me;
Place in my hands the wonderful key
That shall unclasp and set me free.

Silent, I waited. Well, to be honest, I suppose I just went off into the daily details. That was Saturday.

Then came the sermon on Sunday from Acts 3 and 4. Peter and John are at the Beautiful Gate giving what they have to the lame man begging for alms. No, not money. But Jesus. They lifted the lame man to his feet and for the first time in his life he walked, no he danced! into the temple praising God. Peter and John had been at the right place at the right time—after 40 years of waiting, this was the day chosen by God to heal this man. Of course that episode was just the beginning; the ‘greater work’ was the telling of the Gospel to the crowd gathered in wonder and amazement. The calling to repentance. The winsome invitation to find forgiveness and ‘times of refreshment’ from the Lord. Yes, Peter and John had quite the mission that day. Exciting. Mind you it landed them abruptly in prison when the religious leaders caught wind of the goings on. Did Peter and John even realize how many people had come to faith that day?

Then there it was again: “What is your calling?” Pastor said. And I thought of Peter’s words: “Look at us” (not much to look at?) “I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you.” (Acts 3:4-6) What I do have, this I can offer… hmmm . The message went on to other illustrations of seeing people as Jesus sees. There were pointed challenges to follow Jesus out of comfortable places into the world, to make the work of God’s redemption known to those around us… but most of all the message confirmed my desire to answer the question: “Am I doing what God has designed and ‘prepared before the foundation of the world’ for me to do?”

Fast forward to the wonderful devotional clip on life’s purpose, pasted on my mom’s Facebook page– the story of a man who spent his life longing to reach the Koreans with the Gospel back in the day when Korea was closed to outsiders. After years his chance came– a trading ship going there to see if maybe… but NO! They were not welcomed. The ship was caught on a sandbar and burned. The stragglers ashore were brutally murdered on the spot. Was this the missionary’s reward after a lifetime of praying and waiting? But he held copies of Chinese Bibles that day. These were seen as valuable for their fine paper. Some illiterate man tore out pages to paper the exterior walls of his house. And one day these pages drew the attention of a scholar who could read. And the Gospel he read there won his heart…And would you know, it was his nephew a generation later who would assist another little known missionary to translate the Bible into the Korean language. ** God had a plan…

The devotional ended with these reassuring words: “The meaning of life does not consist in what we make of it, but in what God makes of it. Success is not about achievement or what we make of ourselves. It’s about placement, or what God makes of us. We take the lesson from the persecuted church that it is okay to die quite unaware of our life’s meaning. We can rest in trust that God, in His mercy, has used us to help build His eternal kingdom.” [Ronald Boyd-MacMillan, Faith That Endures (Grand Rapids: Fleming Revell, 2006), p. 314].

God is building an eternal Kingdom. We who have committed our lives to Him are stuck in the perspective of time, seeing days, weeks, years, maybe a generation but God sees all of Eternity and weaves all for the best display of His glory. We see life from our own perspectives, feel our disappointments, our pains, our comforts. He sees the big picture. There have been other nudges, other confirmations, other answers to my questions. God is not silent when we sit in muddled wonder at what He could possibly be up to. He may not unveil His whole plan but He knows just what we most need for this moment. And there are glimpses, mostly in retrospect, of how He has led us along so far. That’s a story for another day. For today He’s not asking me for dramatic deeds but that I listen for His promptings, pursue the passions that He’s planted in me, and trust Him with what I cannot accomplish.

Peter, in his address to the crowd gathered around the once-lame, now dancing man, called Jesus ‘the Author of Life’ (Acts 4:15). I love that! He is the One who writes my story. Through faith in His Name I am made strong—given confidence to walk, yes even to dance!—in praise for His work in my life. He calls me to repent of dead works and present my members, these hands, these eyes, this voice, this mind…as instruments for righteousness, and to follow Him in adoration all the days of this life!

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses,
let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely,
and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,
looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith,
who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross,
despising the shame,
and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”



* Ronald Boyd-MacMillan, Faith That Endures (Grand Rapids: Fleming Revell, 2006), p. 315.

** Story drawn from Paul Estabrooks devotional in “Standing Strong Through The Storm” (SSTS), Open Doors Int’l, 2011



What would it be like to live for a whole year with this word, “SEE” in focus? Would I learn to see more clearly, more fully, more like God sees?

I say I want to learn to draw more and better than I do. They say it’s really a matter of learning to see, to perceive things as they really look, not as you suppose they should be. As children we draw squares topped with triangles, add chimneys and call them houses. We plunk in a little rectangle and perhaps a wee circle where the doorknob should be. We add some squares for windows and voila we have a replica of our home… But as adults we begin to see there’s more to the drawing of a realistic house. But how do we do it? We learn to see the lines and angles that are really there.  Only then can we transfer them to paper… I want to learn to really see and copy what is there. This is one of my intentions in this New Year.

But there is more to seeing than being able to draw. Sunday’s sermon was taken from John 1. John the Baptist had done his job. His own disciples were fascinated with this God-man Jesus that John had pointed out to them. “Behold”, he had said…That’s the King’s English imperative for: “SEE, look, take note, observe, pay attention”. And they did. Before long, John’s disciples were becoming Jesus’ disciples. They just literally started following Jesus till He turned to ask them what they wanted. They wanted to stay with Him wherever that was. Jesus invited: COME AND SEE. This was just the beginning for these uneducated fellows. They were learning to see who this really was, and they would never be the same.

I want to learn to see like that too, to see the real Jesus, to see where He stays, to watch what He’s doing, to walk with Him and follow His directives till I am turned around and made into all He wants me to be. Then others will see Jesus when they look at what’s happening in my life, for it will be His doing! That’s the way it’s supposed to be anyway. Remember what was said about Peter and John?

“When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.” Acts 4:13

God expects others to see our good works and glorify Him! (Mt.5:16) For He’s the Source of all goodness. (Lk.18:19) A good piece of artwork draws attention to its creator. Do the details of my days point to Jesus? Are they covered with His fingerprints?

Of course these first followers were so excited about what they saw when they met Jesus that right away they began pulling others into the picture. Andrew dragged his impetuous brother Peter to Jesus to prove to Him what a ‘find’ he’d made–The Messiah had come!

Philip told incredulous Nathaniel he’d just have to “Come and see” for himself. And Nathaniel was convinced, for to his wonderment Jesus told him that He’d seen him there under the fig tree. Had Nathaniel been deep in thought there–waiting and wondering when the Messiah would come and how he’d recognize him? Perhaps. Jesus pronounced him to be without guile (precisely what the religious leaders in Israel were full of, cf.Mk.14:1). There was no deceit or trickery in Nathaniel, and right away he believed, “Rabbi, thou art the Son of God; thou art the King of Israel.”Jn.1:49 We might have thought Nathaniel gullible. Jesus was delighted with his faith and assured him he would see far greater things. The eye of faith sees what others miss. I want to see like that.

I woke this morning with an old song in my head:

Open my eyes, that I may see
Glimpses of truth Thou hast for me;
Place in my hands the wonderful key
That shall unclasp and set me free.


Silently now I wait for Thee,
Ready my God, Thy will to see,
Open my eyes, illumine me,
Spirit divine!
   (Clara H. Scott, 1895)

Yes, that’s what I want to see in this New Year, truths I’ve missed and the lies I’ve believed that keep me bound up. I want to see how God sees and walk in His perfect will for my days. When John came baptizing, spurring people to repentance, he was fulfilling God’s calling for his life and in so doing he ‘made manifest’ the Messiah. This was the point of his ministry, (Jn.1:31) not to be somebody but to devote his life to making Somebody else known!

It started with recognizing Jesus: “The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him”. Only then was  he able to point Him out to others: “Behold (lit: “See”), the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!.” Jn.1:29

May we have our eyes open this year to see Jesus nearby so we can point Him out to others. And may the art of our lives show others what He’s really like as we trace His design in the way we live our days.


“And I saw, and bare record that this is the Son of God.” –John the Baptist, Jn.1:34

“For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.” –John1:16

I lift up my soul…

After all the bliss and fuss of the holiday season it is good, essential in fact, to rest awhile, to sleep in a bit, to sit and collect thoughts, to refuel…I find myself not yet ready yet to produce many words.  May I offer you instead some passages I’m meditating on…

I Samuel 30. David’s in a dilemma—his family has been taken captive, along with the families of all his men and they’re about to stone him! His response? He encouraged or ‘strengthened’ Himself in the Lord. What does this look like?

I picture it involving words like these from David’s 25th Psalm:

To you, O LORD, I lift up my soul.
O my God, in you I trust;
let me not be put to shame
Let not my enemies exult over me.
Indeed, none who wait for you shall be put to shame;

“Make me know your ways, O LORD;
Teach me your paths.
Lead me in your truth and teach me,
for you are the God of my salvation…

Good and upright is the LORD;
Therefore He instructs sinners in the way.
He leads the humble in what is right,
And teaches the humble His way…”

David reminded himself of things true of His God, the source of his salvation.  Only then was he ready for the next thing.  He dared not steam off in response mode before getting his bearings…That’s a a sure recipe for shame! (I know.)

So this is where I’m at today, getting back into the Word, lifting my soul to God, longing for a ‘fill-up’ after too many quick snacks…

And what was David’s next step?  He inquired of the Lord, ‘Shall I pursue the kidnappers? Will I catch up with them?’ He needed direction. He went to the Source.

I too could use a fresh game plan for this new year…What should I do differently?  What is my next step, Lord?  So here I sit considering David’s strategy, making his words my own:

“Who is the man who fears the LORD?
Him will He instruct in the way that He should choose.
His soul shall abide in well-being,
And His offspring shall inherit the land.

“The friendship of the LORD is for those who fear Him,
And He makes known to them His covenant.
My eyes are ever toward the LORD,
For He will pluck my feet out of the net….

“O, guard my soul, and deliver me!
Let me not be put  to shame for I take refuge in you.
May integrity and uprightness preserve me,
For I wait for you…”

I commend this two-step game plan to you whatever you’re facing in the New Year—find encouragement in the Lord and inquire for His direction.  And may He restore your soul and direct your steps.

God Bless,