Janet’s Joy

Today, I went to a funeral service for Janet, the mother of a friend and a faithful servant to God.  I was lucky enough to meet Janet and to speak with her on a few occasions.   On one such occasion she shared her love of God with me and she shared this verse:

Yet even now—oracle of the LORD—return to me with your whole heart, with fasting, weeping, and mourning.  Rend your hearts, not your garments, and return to the LORD, your God, For he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, abounding in steadfast love, and relenting in punishment.

Joel 2:12-13

She shared this with me when I was questioning whether God was the God of the Old Testament (who often seems angry and maybe even mean) or the God of the New Testament (who seems to be all about love).  Janet cited this verse to assure me that God was the same throughout time — all about love.

Return to me with your whole heart, He tells us.  No matter what we have done.  No matter where we are.  God invites us to return to Him.  He tells us to rend our hearts, not our garments and return to Him.    Sometimes our hearts and minds are fixed on something other than God.  Rend your heart, fast, weep, mourn and return to God.  I think sometimes we are afraid to make the change necessary to return our hearts to God.   It needs to be a conscious decision.  We need to fast and cleanse our body, weep and cleanse our inner spirit, mourn and say goodbye to something in our life.  We change our heart, change our life and follow God.  And the good part is…  He will take us back.  He is gracious and merciful.  He is slow to anger.  Look around at the world.  He has lots to be angry with.  But He still loves us, all of us!  He is abounding in steadfast love.  That is my favorite part.  Abounding in steadfast love.  God is love (Old Testament or New Testament — He is love).

And He is constantly calling us to Him.

Janet’s body is now returning to God, but I believe her heart, her whole heart, has long been with God.

God,

Thank you for your abounding and steadfast love.  Show me how to share the same with others.  I am sorry for the times I turn away.  Help me to rend my heart.  Help me to return to you whenever I turn away.

(And God, thank you for Janet.  No matter her struggle she remained steadfast in you.  Welcome her into your kingdom.  We will miss her here, but know that she is finding everlasting joy in you.)

God loves you

I was reminded of this today.  A fairly simple thought.  God loves you.  God loves me.  What else do we need?

A friend reminded me of this verse from Joel:

Yet even now—oracle of the LORD—return to me with your whole heart, with fasting, weeping, and mourning.  Rend your hearts, not your garments, and return to the LORD, your God, For he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, abounding in steadfast love, and relenting in punishment.

Joel 2:12-13

God loves us and is always asking us to return to Him.  He is always waiting for us.

Whenever my son did not know the answer to a religion test question, he would answer “because God loves us very much.”  We still laugh about it — but he was right every single time.  Why?  Because that is the answer . . . to everything.

Tonight, I opened the Bible to Psalms:

My God, my God, why have you abandoned me? Why so far from my call for help, from my cries of anguish? My God, I call by day, but you do not answer; by night, but I have no relief.

Psalms 22:2-3

Although the Psalm started off in what seemed like a cry of despair.  It actually foretold of God’s greatest act of love: sending His only son to die on the cross for us.  The Psalm goes on to state:

They have pierced my hands and my feet I can count all my bones.  They stare at me and gloat; they divide my garments among them; for my clothing they cast lots.

As Good Friday approaches, the similarities between the psalm and Jesus’ suffering are fresh in my mind.  In the gospels, Jesus tells us that he must fulfill what is written.  This never made sense to me, until I read the rest of this Psalm:

Then I will proclaim your name to my brethren; in the assembly I will praise you: “You who fear the LORD, give praise! All descendants of Jacob, give honor; show reverence, all descendants of Israel!  For he has not spurned or disdained the misery of this poor wretch, Did not turn away from me, but heard me when I cried out. I will offer praise in the great assembly; my vows I will fulfill before those who fear him. The poor will eat their fill; those who seek the LORD will offer praise.  May your hearts enjoy life forever!”

All the ends of the earth will remember and turn to the LORD; All the families of nations will bow low before him.  For kingship belongs to the LORD, the ruler over the nations.  All who sleep in the earth will bow low before God; All who have gone down into the dust will kneel in homage. And I will live for the LORD; my descendants will serve you.  The generation to come will be told of the Lord, that they may proclaim to a people yet unborn the deliverance you have brought.

The Lord is great!  Although God may not answer every prayer in the way that we hope (we are often wrong in what we think we need or want), through His greatest act of love He has shown us without question that He does not turn away from us.  He hears us when we cry out.  He hears us, He loves us, He sacrificed for us, so that we would know.

All glory and praise to God! God, I wish I knew how to rightly pay you homage — but nothing seems adequate.  I find guidance in the Psalm: “And I will live for the Lord.”

Lord, may I show you homage through my life!  I love you.