“Guess what! Georgiana said ‘Mama,’ ‘Mama!’ She said it this morning, and she’s been saying it all day, and she even said it when I left for work. She knows my name. Isn’t she incredible?” The voice bounding from the other end of the phone is that of my grown daughter, Rachel. Her delight is infectious, and it fills me. My mind flashes to my own babies. So many precious moments, from all-consuming infancy, with its constant care and lack of sleep, to the teen years with the preaching and teaching and letting go. All are as real to me as is the present reality of who they are.
Before we ever knew His name, God was with us in all of our moments. 1 John 3:1 says, “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!…” Imagine the joy in the heart of the Father when you first called His name, when you sought out the Lord Jesus and took God at His Word. Did they call out their joy to the angels of heaven? Scripture paints just such a picture. In Luke 15:8 Jesus tells the parable of a woman who, after much searching and despair, finds her priceless lost silver coin. She calls together all of her friends and neighbors to share in her joy. Luke 15:10 says, “In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” Can’t you almost hear the Father’s joyous exclamation when you turned to Him? “Did you hear? She called out my name, and she’s turned her face to me and she is listening for my voice!”
God calls us His children. Think about what that means, and what God would have us learn from it. Everything we have, we have from Him. What can we possibly offer in return? Hebrews 13:15 and 16 (KJV) provides an answer. “By him (Jesus) therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name. But to do good and to communicate forget not: for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.”
God calls praise an act of sacrifice. When I think of sacrifice, my mind immediately turns to Jesus. Hebrews 12:2 and 3 says, “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” Jesus Christ had a true relationship with his Father. In that relationship, he followed God’s will, even enduring the cross. Because of his sacrifice, we are simply asked to offer “…the sacrifice of praise to God…,” which we are to offer “continually.”
How can we possibly accomplish this? How do we praise God continually? Once again I am reminded that God calls us His children. That alone is an invitation to, and an instruction about, the kind of relationship that He wants with us.
My husband and I have two grown children. They have jobs, and commitments, and schedules to keep. Whereas we certainly do not seek to control them, we are always honored to be included in their lives. Each time they call, our hearts are lifted. Sometimes they call with happy news, sometimes ordinary, and sometimes with a need, but it makes no difference. To be invited into their lives is the warmest blessing.
As His children, God wants that invitation from us as well. He seeks relationship. Not just a fleeting connection that surfaces only when we have need, but real, enduring, relationship. He wants our hearts. Mark 12:30 says, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” How do we have this relationship with God? We do it in the same way that we have relationship with those we care about. We invite Him into our lives.
How does your day begin? Sometimes my alarm rings and I bound out of bed with only thought for myself and the list of things that I want to accomplish. After getting showered and dressed, it’s off to work in a rush. I jump in the car, and when I start the engine, the radio news is already blaring. How much relationship with my Father have I already missed? At least my husband got a, “Good morning dear,” and a kiss goodbye. If I had hit the snooze button one less time, I would have thought to say, “Good Morning, Lord. Thank you for this beautiful day.” In my car, what a perfect opportunity to spend some time alone with my Father. Without the distraction of the news, maybe I would have noticed the beauty of His creation all around me. How different is my outlook when I recognize God’s blessings and allow gratitude to permeate my soul. How much better I treat others when I take stock of the blessings in my own life. Does this involve sacrifice? Five minutes less sleep, missing a section of the radio news, and focusing less on myself? Such small things for a Father to ask.
Relationship also requires communication, and part of communication is listening. If we listen for our Father’s voice, especially taking the time to read the words that are written to us in the Scriptures, then we will begin to recognize His voice and to follow His will in our lives.
For example, when I get to work, do I remember who I work for? “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving” (Col. 3:23 and 24). Work becomes a much more pleasant environment if I don’t lose sight of the One for whom I work and if I do what He would have me do. Martyred attitudes and petty comparisons drop away when I focus on serving God through service to others. Remember Hebrews 13:16 (KJV): “But to do good and to communicate forget not: for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.” Is this sacrifice, to give up a little of myself in the service of others? Perhaps, but even so, God promises that I will “…receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward….”
As a loving parent, God is right there with us through the milestones and the mundane. You will see Him if you look, His arms outstretched and His face looking into yours. Let us take every opportunity to look to Him and to fall into those arms. Let us praise Him when we wake up and when we lie down, in our work and in our play, in our songs and in our hearts. He is our Father. Let us invite Him into every part of our lives and let us develop a relationship that endures.