Author Archives: thebeginningchapter

A Compassionate Father

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Thoughts gathered by Laura Putney

Maybe you are like me. You’ve had a great home with loving parents that taught you about God and provided all you could ever need. Or maybe you had none of those things. You didn’t grow up knowing about God and didn’t learn about His love. Somewhere along the way you like me decided that you had to earn God’s love and that He was angry and wanted to punish you when you messed up. Yet, God’s Word says differently. With nearly 30 years of church, good Christian teaching, and Christian college behind me, I should have this down by now, but I’m still learning. I’m thankful that He came not to “call the righteous, but sinners to repentance” (Luke 5:32, NIV). He loves me not because of what I do, but because of Jesus and His work on the cross for me (2 Corinthians 5:19). He chose me before He created the world (Ephesians 1:3-4).

  1. God the Father Isn’t Out to Get You or Punish You!

As Elyse Fitzpatrick says, “…his work in our lives is never punitive; it is always redemptive. This means that he doesn’t punish us for our sins…he gently and loving frees us from the lies, misconceptions, and idolatries that captivate and enslave our hearts. He never punishes us in wrath because he has no wrath left. Every drop of wrath was all poured out on his Son” (Because He Loves Me, p. 88-89, 2010).

Robert McGee also agrees when he says, “If any sin is so filthy and vile that it makes us less acceptable to Him, then the cross is insufficient. If the cross isn’t sufficient for all sin, then the Bible is in error when it says that he forgave all yours sins (Col. 2:13-15). God took our sins and canceled them by nailing them to Christ’s cross. In this way, God also took away Satan’s power to condemn us for sin. So you see, nothing you will ever do can nullify your reconciliation and make you unacceptable to God” (The Search for Significance, p. 64, 2003).

Ted Dekker also affirms God’s love, “Many Christians secretly hold on to fear because of their view of God, often without realizing it. In their mind, God’s punishment is what they are saved from, but this leaves them with a fear of the Father who would punish them if Jesus had not rescued them from God’s punishment. John is clear, there is no fear in love because fear has to do with punishment and God’s love isn’t about punishment. Without a revelation of the goodness of God, your fear of your Father will keep you from experiencing His presence though nothing can separate you from his love” (The Forgotten Way Study Guide, p. 18, Dekker and Vanderbush, 2016).

  1. God the Father is Merciful and Gracious.

Psalm 103:8-14 (ESV 2001)

The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. He will not always chide, nor will he keep his anger forever. He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us. As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him. For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust.

He doesn’t call us to perfection and knows we are dust,. But calls us to dependence on himself and his Spirit. Read John 15 about abiding. He chose you!

  1. God the Father Loves You!

As Ted Dekker writes, “The Father’s love for you is infinite. He’s so proud of you and isn’t disappointed in you” (The Forgotten Way Study Guide, p. 14, Dekker and Vanderbush, 2016).

Romans 8:15, “For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” (ESV, 2001).

Romans 8:38-39, For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (ESV 2001).

So, brothers and sisters on the journey, you are not alone. He loves you and He loves me. Join me in praying, “Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief! Thank you that you are a compassionate and gracious Father. Transform and renew my mind. Take captive the lies that have held me captive and let me walk in your Truth through you and in your power, not my own. Amen!

 

Chasing Dreams or Chasing Jesus?

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Most twenty to thirty age singles are chasing something: a job, a relationship, ministry, marriage, a business, or missions etc. Some of us chase these things and are successful by man’s standards and by God’s standards. Some of us succeed merely by man’s standards. Some of us don’t end up being successful by man’s standards. Our dreams and hopes don’t come true. We are left disillusioned, confused, angry, and feeling like we failed God or that he failed us. When this happens, how do we react? We can stay angry and blame God for not giving us what we thought we deserve. In reality, we deserve his wrath, but he has given us the opportunity for salvation through Christ. We can choose to focus on the blessings God has given by justifying us through Christ, by loving us so much He gave Christ to for our sins, for reconciling us to Himself through Christ, and making us new in Christ. Out of that we can choose to love God and love people. I wonder if that’s God’s purpose, when we fail: That we choose to chase Him instead of dreams. He becomes the goal, not the next accomplishment or relationship. I’m not saying this is easy or that we shouldn’t have goals, but I wonder if we make things more complicated than they are. I’ve been choosing to learn to be content where God has put me. That doesn’t mean striving to climb a ladder, but it does mean loving God and loving people. It means choosing to believe the truth of Scripture over the lies of success and people pleasing. It means doing justice, loving mercy, and learning to walk humbly with my God and learning boasting in Him instead of myself.

Jeremiah 9:23-24 Thus says the Lord: “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the Lord.”

Micah 6:8 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?

Romans 5:1-2 Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God.

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Follow Me, Not Facebook, Not Instagram, Not Twitter

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Who are you following? A movie star? A rock star? A blogger? An amazing photographer? A best friend? Sometimes, all that following other people on the Internet does is fuel discontent and disillusionment. We see another friend get engaged and wonder, “Why not me?” Or another friend has 3 kids already and you can’t have children or you are waiting for Mr. Right, so that you can have those children. Or maybe your friends have photogenic pictures of the perfect family, while you do well to get your kids dressed and fed without them destroying the house. Or perhaps your favorite movie star has it altogether with designer clothes and an exciting life. Or your favorite musician is racking up awards and you can’t even get anyone to listen to your songs. Or maybe you write and write only to get rejected, while a famous blogger has thousands of followers. Maybe our problem isn’t who we are following, but how we respond to who we are following? Does what we are following draw us closer to Christ? Or does it distract us? Does it cause envy and comparisons that have no basis in reality? I would say no, yes, and yes.

We so often get consumed with comparisons and then envy what others have. Even Peter did this in John 21, “When Peter saw him, he asked, “Lord, what about him?” Jesus answered, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me (NIV). When I struggle with “Why Lord?” I’m trying to remember, “What is that to you? You must follow me.” My path isn’t someone else’s. He has plans for me, but they aren’t the same as my friends. My job is not to indulge my self-pity and selfishness, but to follow Jesus. While following celebrities, bloggers, and friends is all well and good, there’s Someone we need be following more seriously in our lives. As Matthew 16:24 says, “Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me (NIV).

Another problem we have is living for the approval of others and desiring them to follow us. Like the Apostle Paul, I want to remember whose approval I’m supposed to be living for, “Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ” (Galatians 1:10, NIV). Being his servant means living to please HIM! Paul reminds the believers in Corinth of the dangers of comparison, “We do not dare to classify or compare ourselves with some who commend themselves. When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise. We, however, will not boast beyond proper limits, but will confine our boasting to the sphere of service God himself has assigned to us, a sphere that also includes you” (2 Corinthians 10:12-13).

So, if you are where God has placed you and you are faithfully serving Him, don’t give up. God doesn’t require us to have perfect Instagram lives, impressive blogs, award-winning photos, perfect families, or even to be married. He does call us to boast not in ourselves, but in HIM!

This is what the Lord says: “Let not the wise boast of their wisdom or the strong boast of their strength or the rich boast of their riches, but let the one who boasts boast about this: that they have the understanding to know me, that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight,” declares the Lord” (Jeremiah 9:23-24, NIV).

 

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Stop Doubting and Start Delighting

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Sunday morning I was preparing to leave for church and it was like the Holy Spirit spoke to me and said, “Stop doubting and start delighting.” Then, I went to church and God met me there. It was like each word of the sermon was right where I was at in my life right now. It was a reminder how desperately I need God and his Word.

What does the word “delight” mean? The Merriam dictionary defines delight as, “a high degree of gratification,” “joy,” “extreme satisfaction,” “something that gives great pleasure,” and “the power of affording pleasure”. Last night, I looked up “delight” in the Old Testament and found a multitude of references. Many deal with delighting in God’s law and some deal with God delighting in his people. God says to “delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart” (Psalm 37:4). David calls God his “delight” (Psalm 43:4). Psalm 119: 16, 24, 35, 47, 70, 77,92, 14 all proclaim God’s law to be the psalmist’s delight. Yet, Psalm 147:11 proclaims that God “delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in his unfailing love”(NIV). In Zephaniah 3:17 God’s delight over us is again proclaimed, “The Lord your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing” (NIV).

I’m astounded that a God who calls me to delight in Him somehow delights in me and chose me to be his child. Right now, I’m practicing delighting in God by meditating on his Word and thanking him for his love and plans for me. I’m finding this brings great joy and pleasure to a heart that is thankful to find joy again.

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You Lift Us Out

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Some days and nights are darker than others. We wonder if we’ll see the light again. We get stuck in the mud of our own making or that which others have throw us into. We cry out for deliverance and wonder, “God where are you? Why don’t you get me out of this?” Eventually, He does lift us out, but sometimes not as quickly as we wish. King David knows exactly how this feels in Psalm 40. Sometimes I wonder if we have to wait in the mud longer so we’ll see his deliverance as our only hope. Or maybe He’s using the mud to teach us to fully rely on him. Or perhaps, He is using the mud to give us a new song and new ministry? Or maybe He is working beyond what we can see and we’ll never know the answers. In all this, He keeps his promises though we may feel forgotten. He never leaves us though sometimes it may feel that way. He’s teaching me all three of the above options and let me write the lyrics below:

You Lift Us Out

By Laura Putney Psalm 40; Psalm 16

In your grace you lift us out of the mud and mire,

In your grace you hold us in your hand through the fire,

Though I may tire in the waiting,

Though it’s dark and I slide down deeper,

You will lift me out of the mud and mire,

You will lift me higher and set my feet on the Rock who does not fail,

Turn me aside from the idols of this world,

From pride, self-reliance, and acclaim,

Jesus, teach me to fully, wholly, completely, rely on your Name,

You have lift me up and out,

Planted me in the fertile, peaceful field,

Opened my lips to sing a new song of deliverance,

Your lifted me up and out,

You are my Rock,

You are my Strength,

You are my new Song,

You are my God.

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Andrew Peterson

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Maybe it’s just me, but I feel like musicians that I have listened to since I was a teenager are my best friends. Their songs have carried me through joy, fear, pain, and hopeless times when nothing else could heal my heart or express my hope and joy. Andrew Peterson is one such musician. I remember discovering his music when I was 13 or 14 years old around 2000. A friend drove my sister and I to his concert in Blackwood, NJ. He had a motorhome with all his gear, his wife Jamie, and Aedan and Asher, his sons, were both still in diapers. He regaled us with stories of writing his song “Loose Change” and being upset that he couldn’t use a title more like “lost penny” because someone else had already used that title. Then, he told us a story about his brother Pete stomping out a fire with his socked feet and burning them off, which makes me think maybe “Pete the Sock Man” was beginning to form back in 2000. That was the first time I saw Andrew in concert and then didn’t seem him again until 2008  at the Behold the Lamb of God Christmas Concert in Richmond, VA. Since 2008, I have seen 4 more Christmas shows (1 more in Richmond and 3 in Raleigh and 1 regular show with Jason Gray in Charlottesville, VA).

In the past 15 years, I’ve seen a talented musician with a witty sense of humor continue to grow into an even better musician, a proud father, and believer that has become comfortable in his own skin and beliefs. He’s humble enough to admit his struggles, his need for community, and his faith in the God. He surrounds himself with other amazing musicians that he is proud of that make his music even better. Last night, I was privileged to see my 5th Behold the Lamb of God concert, but unfortunately, Andrew posted that he was “sick as a dog” and didn’t have voice earlier in the day. We left for the concert (2 ½ hours away) apprehensive about his health. Like the funny, humble man he is Andrew told us all he was sick, but the proceeded to sing with his amazing friends’ help. He made it to nearly the end and at “Behold the Lamb of God” his voice gave out and the audience carried on singing for him. He started crying and couldn’t stop. He was a struggling man, who gave all he had and knew he was loved when we as an audience picked up where he left off. So, Andrew, from “The Chasing Song” to “The Far Country” to “The Reckoning” to “Shine Your Light On Me” to “Be Kind to Yourself”, and more than I can list, thank you for being my confidant, counselor, and big brother. I’m a PK that wears my emotions on my sleeve too, that needs reminding of God’s truth more often than I can admit. Blessings, brother!

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Contentment…Impossible? Or Possible?

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Contentment…Impossible? Or Possible?

“I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.  I can do all this through him who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:12 -13, NIV, 2011).

Contentment seems to be an illusive state, but one for which we all long. For a brief period, contentment seems possible when everything is going well, or when we have everything we always wanted, or when we forget to be jealous of others’ lives. We think we have grasped it, yet it slips through our weak and tired fingers once again. However, contentment is possible through Christ.

Contentment is a decision based on the character of God and power of the Holy Spirit. Contentment is believing that God is good, faithful, and true in the midst of chaos, confusion, and despair. Contentment is pleading for, leaning on, and relying upon the power of the Holy Spirit that raised Christ from the dead, instead of feelings and circumstances. Contentment is rejoicing and worshipping even though I don’t have everything I want or think I need. Contentment is resting, trusting, relying, and believing that He is ENOUGH and will be enough in everything and through everything. Like a Rwandan woman who lost nearly everything in the Rwandan Genocide may we say, “For this, I have Jesus,” (Our Daily Bread, October 23, 2015, Marion Stroud).

“I’m just as happy with little as with much, with much as with little. I’ve found the recipe for being happy whether full or hungry, hands full or hands empty. Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am “(Philippians 4:12 -13 , The Message, 1982).

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