The Father Turns His Face Away?

We sang the song, “How Deep the Father’s Love For Us” again in church this past Sunday. I really love the tune and the sentiment of Stuart Townend’s worship song, but I used to cringe every time we came to one line in the song:

“How great the pain of searing loss
The Father turns His face away
As wounds which mar the Chosen One
Bring many sons to glory.”

“The Father turns His face away.” That line grated on me every time I sang it because I just didn’t think it was possible for God the Father to turn his face away from his beloved Son.  The Cross was the culmination of God’s Plan to redeem the entire world.  It seemed unimaginable that God would turn his back on His Son at such a crucial point in history.  It just didn’t line up for me theologically.

I’ve been immersed in Psalm 22 this last week leading up to Easter.  It is a Psalm of David and must be read in context for a full understanding of its message and meaning.  Certainly in Jesus’ time, this Psalm would be well known and likely memorized and sang in synagogue.  Chances are the people of the time may have thought it referred to trials David was personally experiencing in his life time.  We have the benefit of knowing it was a prophetic telling of the Passion of Christ, and Jesus, as He hung on the Cross quoted the first line of that Psalm, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”  It is perhaps this line that inspired Townend to pen the line in his song, “the Father turns His face away.”

It is a confusing statement in many ways.  Did Jesus actually think that God the Father had forsaken or abandoned Him on the Cross?  No, not at all!  It goes contrary to God’s nature to “turn his face away” from his beloved Son at a time when Jesus had been obedient to the will of His Father throughout His entire life, including going to the Cross.

Several Scripture references give credence to the fact that God the Father was “well-pleased” with his Son, so that indicates to me that God could not and would not abandon his Son or turn his face away from Him.

Matthew 17:5  “While he was still speaking, a bright cloud covered them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!”

Matthew 12:18  ““Here is my servant whom I have chosen, the one I love, in whom I delight; I will put my Spirit on him, and he will proclaim justice to the nations.”

2 Peter 1:17  “He received honor and glory from God the Father when the voice came to him from the Majestic Glory, saying, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”

It is vital to note that the sacrifice on the Cross was all God’s idea.  It was his intention from creation forward to offer up his Son as the only One Who could take away the sin of the world.  Jesus was fully aware of that plan and willingly offered Himself up as the perfect Sacrifice.

Acts 2:22-23  ““Fellow Israelites, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. This man was handed over to you by God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross.”

John 8:28-29  “So Jesus said, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am he and that I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me. The one who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, for I always do what pleases him.”

Philippians 2:8  “And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!”

Ephesians 5:1-2  “Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”

Lastly, if we get really theological about this, a Triune God is incapable of separating himself from himself.  Confused?  The Baptist Faith and Message  clearly explains the Trinity: “The eternal triune God reveals Himself to us as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, with distinct personal attributes, but without division of nature, essence, or being.”

John 5:20  “For the Father loves the Son and shows him all he does. Yes, and he will show him even greater works than these, so that you will be amazed.”

Matthew 29:19-20  “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

I think when Jesus cried out from the cross, “”My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” He was quoting directly from Psalm 22.  That makes sense to me.  He wasn’t claiming He was abandoned by God!  That’s ludicrous.  Instead, He was quoting from Scripture something He did repeatedly throughout His entire life.  That seems true to His character.  However, weak from the brutality inflicted upon His earthly body when He was crucified, He may not have had the physical strength to recite any more than that first line.  It was highly likely that was all He needed to say because His followers would have known and memorized that Psalm.  The meaning would have been perfectly clear.  The Father did not turn his face away instead verse 24 clearly states:

For he has not despised or scorned the suffering of the afflicted one; he has not hidden his face from him but has listened to his cry for help.”

I challenge you this week to read Psalm 22 as you prepare yourself and your household for this Easter weekend.  I know you will find it as impacting as I have this week.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.”  John 3:16-17

(For your reading pleasure, I also recommend this article I wrote for InScribe this week: “The Passion Through John’s Eyes“)

 

 

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Lord, Give Me Patience…but Hurry!

My daughter has asked me not to pray for patience for her anymore.  She says that when I do, God always provides a situation that requires even MORE patience from her!

The Fruit of the Holy Spirit is a biblical term that sums up nine attributes of a person or community living in accord with the Holy Spirit, according to the Epistle to the Galatians: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” (Galatians 5:22-23 ESV).

In the NIV Bible translation, “forbearance” is the word used for “patience”; in the NKJV version it is “longsuffering” and in the Message “patience” is described as “a willingness to stick with things”.  The dictionary definition is even more verbose to describe the word: Patience (noun): the capacity to accept or tolerate delay, trouble, or suffering without getting angry or upset.  Synonyms: forbearance, tolerance, restraint, self-restraint, resignation, stoicism, fortitude, sufferance, endurance; calmness, composure, even temper, even-temperedness, equanimity, equilibrium, serenity, tranquility, imperturbability, inexcitability, understanding, indulgence, lenience, kindness, consideration, perseverance, persistence, tenacity, diligence, assiduity, application, staying power, indefatigability, doggedness, determination, resolve, resoluteness, obstinacy, insistence, singleness of purpose, purposefulness and pertinacity.

Whatever term or word you want to use, patience is a character trait of the Holy Spirit and one we should desire to emulate in our individual lives.  But, as I have discovered this week, it’s easier said than done!

I am facing a health crisis…again.  Waiting on doctor appointments, tests, and surgery is hard.  There are so many unknowns and I tend to overthink things and allow the enemy to discourage me while I wait for answers.  Therefore, I have asked many to pray for me over this past week and throughout the waiting and treatment period ahead.  Of course I ask God to completely heal me; I rest in the fact that He is Sovereign, whatever His Will is, I am confident He is in control.  It is the waiting on the medical reports that is the hardest for me at this present time and the not knowing what’s next.  It is my speculating and worrying about what is to come that sometimes overwhelms me.  It is imperative I am patient in the midst of this unsettling time.

So, I am asking my loyal readers to send me their prayers and encouragement while I wait.  Pray I have patience, (and all the attributes of the word).  The more people praying the better.  I will update you over the next few weeks how your prayers are being answered.

“In the morning, Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly.”  Psalm 5:3

 

 

 

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How to Create a Successful Blog

As Journey Thoughts’ reading audience continues to climb with thousands of followers and over 12 million hits, someone asked me recently how and why my blog has become so “successful”.  I put quotations around that word because success is measured differently by some people.  In this case, it’s all about the numbers I guess.  A huge readership may translate into a successful blog.  However, I have seen millions of people read blogs that have little to no content and are basically marketing ploys to buy products.  The bloggers are exceptional marketers I suppose but not very good writers.  Then there are phenomenal blogs, that have few readers.  A shame.  In this case, the writing is spectacular but the bloggers spend little time marketing their blog.  I like to think that I have found a happy (successful) middle ground, of marketing and writing, so that Journey Thoughts appeals to a large group of readers who want to keep coming back because they appreciate the content.  It goes without saying that I can’t take full credit for this success.  I give all Glory to God. 

In 2009, I published my first book, “Shoot the Wounded,” a young adult novel that led me to write two more books in my “Wounded Trilogy” series. This series has gone on to win several book awards, but as I have learned, book awards don’t necessarily translate into book SALES. I discovered that the only way I could showcase my books effectively was to promote them online. This led to my journey into the blogosphere.

To be honest, I didn’t even know what a “blog” was when I began writing it. I was a rookie author doing everything humanly possible to get my books into the hands of young readers. I didn’t have a lot of money to spend on advertising, marketing, or touring. I did a few book signings and spoke at several venues and schools in my area. I was interviewed by local papers and tried to sell my books at flea markets and trade fairs. It cost me a lot in time and effort, but didn’t always translate into sales. In a market flooded with both well-known and Indie Authors, I needed to somehow stand out. That led me to writing my blog: “Journey Thoughts.” It has not only helped promote and sell my books, but God has grown and expanded the message and ministry of that blog in ways I never would have imagined.

Starting a blog is one of the simplest ways to share your writing online. There are numerous “free” weblog-hosting sites that allow even the most technologically challenged to create a blog in very little time.  “Free” blog platforms are great but consider acquiring your own domain name if you’re serious about driving traffic to your blog. Like everything in life, you get what you pay for. That said, WordPress allows me to have my own domain name, lynndove.com, for under $100 a year.

For a beginning blogger it’s important to determine why you want to blog in the first place. My original intent was two-fold: to promote my books to a larger reading audience and showcase my writing in general. Once you’ve decided on your goals and weblog hosting site, the next step is writing content that appeals to your target audience. If it looks like you’ve put very little thought or effort into your blog posting, readers will assume your books aren’t worthy of consideration either. Blog posts must capture a person’s attention instantaneously. You must capture the reader’s attention in the opening paragraph for them to read (not just scan through) to the end. Your writing must be polished; free of grammatical and spelling errors; have a beginning, middle, and end; and be…well…interesting! Content is king! There are close to 200 million blogs, but only a rare few have a large readership. The challenge is to get people to enjoy the content enough to keep reading it!

I quickly discovered that teens and young adults do not read blogs the way a more mature audience does. Young adults want instantaneous gratification, game-play, and viral videos to keep them coming back.  When I started writing about my journey with walking with God on a daily basis, I could reach both my target audience as well as attract more mature readers.  It meant learning how to include graphics and using “tags” (keywords) so search engines could find my content quickly.  Tags provide a useful way to group related posts together and to quickly tell readers what a post is about.  If you’ve never used tags before, think of words that a person might use in a search online that would bring up related content.  A tip here: don’t use too many tags but be precise.

Using graphics that are tagged will also drive traffic to your site. I use my own photos or royalty free images and I ensure my domain name is printed somewhere on the graphic.  There are several apps, programs, and meme generators you can use to do that.  The one I use predominantly is: FotoSketcher.  I use these graphics on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram with the goal to get others to share or “like” the graphics that link back to my blog.

It is important to use social media to drive traffic to your blog site. Sharing your post in writing/author groups on Facebook for example, not only gains you followers, but you join a like-minded community who will encourage you in your writing.

Readers may note that I have a bit of advertising on my blog through WordAds.  I appreciate the bit of revenue that this brings in, but it has never been my goal to make money on my blog.  I could do much more to monetize it if that were the case.

My last piece of advice is to be true to yourself.  If God has gifted you with a talent for writing and you are sharing your gift with others…I call that being successful!

 

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