God of My 20’s: The Father’s Love

(Post #3 in a collaborative series)

Guest Blogger Linda Nelson

I would love to say that I have been a passionate follower of Jesus all my life. However…..

I grew up on a farm in Minnesota. We learned to work hard, and did so to please and earn favor from my hardworking dad. Mom was a hard working, loving woman who loved to bake, cared for our home, and had a great since of humor. Both parents were very outgoing and enjoyed getting together with friends. We went to church and Sunday school from the time I was born. While growing up I was involved with our youth group and always loved hearing the Bible stories and prayed at meals. It was just something we DID. I attended the Lutheran church and was baptized as a baby and confirmed at 13.  I loved going to Sunday School and enjoyed all of the Bible stories. My Sunday School teacher game me a plaque that hangs on my wall to this day which says, “LOVE NEVER FAILS…For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting  life. John 3:16.”  I did not understand what that really meant, but I cherished it none the less.  I liked to study the catechism and learned much ABOUT God and Jesus but never had a Bible until age 13, until AFTER confirmation. It lay in a drawer and was never opened.

My parents were married at a very early age, and it was expected that we kids would also. I met the love of my life when I was 15. We dated through high school and married at age 17; Gaylord, my husband, was 20. We farmed with his parents, and by the time I was 23 we had 3 wonderful children.

Throughout my 20’s we continued to attend church weekly; and, of course, our kids were all baptized as infants. God was someone you read about, and I never doubted who He was.  I loved to hear about Jesus and all of the Bible stories.  I tried like crazy to obey the 10 commandments and ALWAYS felt I fell short.  We always prayed before meals, the “Come Lord Jesus, be our guest” prayer; but every prayer I ever prayed was written in a book or taught to me.  All throughout my 20’s God was just a far away God. I truly never doubted that Jesus was my Savior, BUT I knew I had to be GOOD or I would miss the mark. I came to realize that my view of God was shaped by my earthly father, that if I was good and worked hard I would win God’s love and favor.

It was not until I was 37 that I ever heard about a personal relationship with God.  I had never heard of God’s unconditional love for me. And when I did, it radically changed my life.

It was at that time we moved from Iowa to Chicago. We visited a church where the pastor and people were talking and singing songs TO God NOT just about Him.  The pastor told us that God longed to have a personal relationship with me not because I worked hard and was “good” but that He loved me unconditionally. I had never heard that before.  See what love the Father has lavished on us that we should be called the children of God. And that is what we are.” 1 John 3: 1.  (Tears fill my eyes even to this day when I hear this Good News!!!!!) I came to realize I had transferred that thought and feeling from my relationship with my dad to my Heavenly Father.  We were invited to a small group where we received such love, friendship, and best of all a new Bible. Small groups have been at the heartbeat of my walk with Jesus ever since. I was discipled to love God with my whole heart, soul, mind, and strength, and to spend time with God in His word daily.  As I spent endless hours each day devouring God’s Word, I became acquainted with my precious Lord Jesus. I also grew to understand that “we are saved by grace through faith, not by works.” Ephesians 2:8. You would have thought I was given a pot of gold. And indeed, as God opened my heart to the truth of His word, I received a Treasure more precious than gold and silver. I, at last, met my Savior, Redeemer, best Friend, and Lord.

God of My 20’s: Going All In

(Post #1 in a collaborative series)

Guest Blogger Vilma Cooper

To tell you who God was in my 20’s is to share with you a little about my upbringing. I was raised Catholic, and the entire family-dad, mom, my sister and brother-went to church every Sunday. I prayed every night and on Sundays went to the confessional booth to tell a Priest all that I had done wrong. I then stepped out, kneeled and prayed to God exactly what the Priest told me to say. I knew of God but did not desire to have a relationship with Him. I was taught to fear God because He would be angry with me because of my sins. Why would I even want to get to know this angry God?

In my early 20’s I was living in the Bible Belt, the Peach State of Georgia. I don’t know if living in the Bible Belt and surrounded by people that knew God differently than I had influenced me, but I knew there had to be more. I started questioning why I could not go directly to God to “talk” with him and started hearing about a loving God. That was something different that I had to know more about. With my parent’s approval, I started attending Baptist churches and heard of this God that loved me so much, that gave His son to die for me. That is when I desired to get to know the loving God. It wasn’t smooth sailing. In my mid 20’s, I got married and after two years, divorced. That is when things got a little crazy. I wasn’t going to church; I was hanging out with people and doing things that certainly were not pleasing to God. I still knew God as a loving Father and, through my “wildness,” often went to Him for forgiveness. I believed I was loved, and I believed I was forgiven, but there was still that tug of war between the World and Him. I thought if I went “all in,” I would miss out on something. I would miss out on fun.

30+ years later, I am married with adult children and grandchildren. My adult children are now in their 20’s, and I see their “tug of war.” The difference is that they have heard of this loving God. They have experienced His presence and love. I trust God and know that He loves them in their 20’s just as much as He loved me in my 20’s. My relationship with God has been a journey; it still is a journey. I believe that we need to always be growing in Him. I believe that we always learn from Him. To my friends in your 20’s, if you are not “all in,” know that there is nothing you can do that will separate you from God. He will forgive you. He will love you. This is your journey, and it will be worth it.

Before I close, I must share the lyrics of this song I heard today. I’m sure I’ve heard it before, but today God brought it to me to share with you.

The God Who Stays, by Matthew West

If I were You I would’ve given up on me by now

I would’ve labeled me a lost cause

Cause I feel just like a lost cause

If I were You I would’ve turned around and walked away

I would’ve labeled me beyond repair

Cause I feel like I’m beyond repair

But somehow You don’t see me like I do

Somehow, You’re still here

You’re the God who stays

You’re the God who stays

You’re the one who runs in my direction

When the whole world walks away

You’re the God who stands

With wide open arms

And You tell me nothing I have ever done can separate my heart

From the God who stays

I used to hide

Every time I thought I let You down

I always thought I had to earn my way

But I’m learning You don’t work that way

Somehow You don’t see me like I do

Somehow, You’re still here

You’re the God…

Known: By Conviction

(Final post in a series collaboration)

This series has been fun to read. I want to thank my four guest bloggers-Rick Howell, Frank Welch, Shelby Welch, and David Goodman.

Now it’s my turn to share how God made himself known to me in 2019. And my answer is quite different from theirs, but it is the core of mine and God’s 2019 connection. And it’s one word: Conviction.

Conviction is one of those lovely English words that has multiple meanings:

  1. Convicting
  2. Being convicted
  3. A firm opinion or belief

Conviction convicts. Shows me I have more room to grow.

Conviction convinces. Assures me I’m not alone.

Godly conviction is much like when a parent disciplines a child. If done right, the child knows they messed up, knows what is expected, and knows they are still in the family regardless.

2019 had plenty conviction for me. Most notably on a February day, but many times throughout the year. For me to say that is how God made himself known to me is actually quite comforting.

Why? Because of the manner and the result.

It was not, “Hey Boy! Don’t you hear me? Don’t make me come down there!”

It was more like, “Son, no matter what you do, you are mine. You are in the family. I believe you desire better. You agree? Let’s fix what when wrong and then figure out how to move forward better.”

Discipline done right includes a balance of grace and truth, love and correction.

I am known because of conviction. I am known by establishing conviction. I welcome being known even more in 2020.

Difficulty in Submission

(Day 19 in a 28-day series from First Bradenton)

We often find it difficult to pray. Many times we feel praying is next to impossible. If you really think about it, the very act of true praying is getting over ourselves and coming to the end of our stubborn sinful ways. When we pray, we die to self and engage in a warfare against the flesh that so often wants and seeks its own way.

Many times we find it difficult to pray because we focus on praying itself and not on the God who answers those prayers. We set our own rituals and habits in place when and how we pray and that sometimes keeps us from Him. By God’s grace alone, we know Him, and we know He is there and not only hears us but listens. He is not silent. He always answers our prayers and acts in accord with His perfect will for our good and His glory.

“And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him.” 1 John 5:14–15 (ESV)

It is not by prayer pattern or method that we reach God, it is by our submission. When we recognize God’s sovereignty in our prayer life, we are also reminded of His love, grace, holiness, and righteousness, and we are thereby faced with the harsh reality of our own sinfulness in the light of His glory and grace.

People have often said “I believe in the power of prayer” and there is merit to that statement. However, it may be more accurate to say that we believe in the power of God…so we pray. When we pray, we are reminded of our own insufficiency and lack of control. It is through prayer that we daily submit that insufficiency to someone greater than ourselves. God is able!

Think of it this way… God is omniscient (knows all things) and omnipotent (all powerful), and because He has our ultimate good and His glory in mind, we can trust Him with everything. You and I, however, are sinful. We don’t know everything, and can’t control everything. Our submission is a work that should be primary and given daily attention. It is difficult at times but critical to our relationship with God.

We will always to some degree find it difficult to let go and submit, but, nevertheless, we must always desperately seek God. We must also pray for God to help us pray, treating prayer less like a grocery list and more like a relationship.

Lord, help me swallow my pride and submit to your will. I recognize my own sinfulness and ask that you lead me, through your wonderful grace, to a more complete submissive prayer relationship with you.

By Doug Hull

You Are Not a Clone

You were created – you are not an accident, an afterthought nor an experiment

You were created by God – just like everything and everyone 

You were created uniquely – DNA

You were created with purpose – without flippancy but with design

You were created for a purpose – like a puzzle piece, a body part, a team member 

Your purpose is found through relation with your Creator – no one knows you better

Your happiness is found through experiencing your Creator’s purpose for you – all other sources will fail

Your happiness and purpose are not found by blindly following the same sources and directions as the masses – you are not a clone

As a uniquely, purposefully created being, find your happiness by not living like a clone but by pursuing knowing and experiencing your Creator through a growing relationship.