A Father to YOU is a signpost to the heart of the Perfect Father.

When we became Christians we were given the right to become children of God (John 1:12). Sadly, many of us fail to take up that right and instead continue to live as slaves or orphans. But our true destiny is being sons and daughters who have a permanent place in the Father's family. This blog is an encouragement to help you know who God really is and who you really are.

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Life in him

Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving. See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority. (Colossians 2:6-10 ESV)

Once again we have the encouragement to walk as Jesus walked. As we are rooted and grounded in him (or put another way 'planted in love') we will become more like him.

Walking as Jesus walked is not doing what Jesus did. It is not going through the gospels and writing a list of all the things Jesus did and then trying to work your way down the list, ticking them off once done. If that were it then most of us would not have achieved very much; after all, how many of us have turned water into wine or walked on water let alone raised the dead. No, walking as Jesus walked is having the same heart as he had, it is walking in relationship with the Father in the same that Jesus did. It is being 'in Christ'.

One of the most common phrases used by Paul is 'in Christ' - it is a simple description of what a Christian really is - we are hidden in Christ in God. We are caught up in him and we are with him where he is. That is back home with the Father.

When it is put like that it seems so simple. Yet we go on to read how easy it is for us to be distracted and sucked back into the ways of the world. Paul reminds us how easy it is to be pulled back into living from the mind and trying to work it all out according to 'human tradition'. How often do we find that we have slipped back into that old way of thinking and living, it leads us nowhere and, as Paul says, is an 'empty deceit'. Living from the strength of our mind is a lie of the enemy and one which he is quite successful at selling us.

No, we are in Christ. We are held in a relationship that will lead us into eternal life, because he is the source of life itself. As we live in him we discover that we have been made alive with him and we discover that the reality and substance of life itself is found in him.

This “realm of death” describes our former state, for we were held in sin’s grasp. But now, we’ve been resurrected out of that “realm of death” never to return, for we are forever alive and forgiven of all our sins! (Colossians 2:13 The Passion Translation)

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Full of life

And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him: bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; being strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy; giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. (Colossians 1:9-14 ESV)

Paul's letter to the Colossians is more like a prayer than a letter because, as you read it, you can feel the depth of his love and care for these people. He is pouring out his heart for this church in order to help them grow and walk in their faith. Although pastoral in nature it is not without its challenges and we shall look at a few of these over the next week or so. 

The first encouragement of this letter is for us to be filled with the knowledge of Christ which will cause us to walk as he walked. This is not a head knowledge where we assimilate facts and figures but it is a heart relationship where we are connected to the source of life in the centre of our inner being. It is the flow of life from the Godhead into our hearts, the result of which will be us beginning to walk as Jesus walked. We grow in our walk with Father only by seeking to do the things that we see him doing and discovering the eternal truth that Jesus lived in "My food is to do the will of him who sent me". 

Walking in relationship with the Father is the key to being fruitful. Fruit is something that seems to allude us, it's something we strive for but struggle to see. Maybe that's because we are living from our own strength and out of our own resources. That's the pathway to becoming worn out and losing your peace. The pathway Paul encourages his readers on is one of relationship where we are strengthened from within and where our relational knowledge of the Father increases. 

This is the pathway to life, joy, thankfulness and even patience. It is the pathway that will lead us into our inheritance and which will plant us in kingdom of love. This has to be the best way for us to live.

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Letting anxiety go....

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4;4-7 NIV)

Philippians is a very upbeat and joyful letter despite Paul writing it from prison. He doesn't focus on all the negative aspects of his life or the things which have gone wrong but he lifts his readers eyes to see the joy of being 'in Christ'. We are in Christ and that is our ultimate security and the source of our well-being. 

It's all too easy to look at the external circumstances of our daily life and to feel overwhelmed by them. They end up ruling our emotions or consuming our energy instead of us leaning into Christ and allowing the source of Heavenly life to be our strength. At the end of this joyful letter Paul encourages us to put aside our anxiety and to find rest and peace in him. The pressure of life can easily make us anxious but there is no need for us to be concerned for anything when we know who our Father is and that he knows what we need. 

"Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes" (Matthew 6:25)

We have a good, good Father and he will look after us. As we place our trust in him we will re-discover not only our rest and peace but also our joy. 

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The joy of knowing him

Yet all of the accomplishments that I once took credit for, I’ve now forsaken them and I regard it all as nothing compared to the delight of experiencing Jesus Christ as my Lord! To truly know him meant letting go of everything from my past and throwing all my boasting and all that I thought made me better than others on the garbage heap. I admit that I haven’t yet acquired the absolute fullness that I’m pursuing, but I run with passion into his abundance so that I may reach the destiny that Jesus Christ has called me to fulfill and wants me to discover. I don’t depend on my own strength to accomplish this; however I do have one compelling focus: I forget all of the past as I fasten my heart to the future instead. (Philippians 3:7-8, 12-13 The Passion Translation)

We are probably more familiar with some of the more traditional translations of this passage: "I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me" and I can't help but wonder if we have mis-understood what Paul is encouraging us to be. All too often we think it's about what we have to do or what particular gift we feel we have to perfect. If we feel called to be a prophet how can we become a better one, if an evangelist what must we do to be more productive, if a worship leader how can we do it better. 

Whenever we are given anything by Father or when we discover one of those good works which he has prepared in advance for us to do I believe we should do it with our whole heart. I'm not sure, though, that this is the context which Paul is addressing here. 

The whole letter is about us choosing to walk in love and so be changed to be more like Jesus. Paul is writing about us knowing and experiencing him. We run into relationship with him rather than running into activity for him. Paul sees, in his own life, that there is a greater intimacy and depth of relationship and it is this that he is pursuing. The destiny is knowing him and out of that relationship we can hear the voice of the Father calling us into his work. It's not the other way round. 

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Weakness the power of sonship

And consider the example that Jesus, the Anointed One, has set before us. Let his mindset become your motivation. He existed in the form of God, yet he gave no thought to seizing that alone as his supreme prize. Instead he emptied himself of his outward glory by reducing himself to the form of a lowly Servant. He became human! He humbled himself and became vulnerable, choosing to be revealed as a Man. He listened to the Father and was obedient to everything he heard. (Philippians 2:5-8 The Passion Translation)

Jesus was a very motivated person, in fact he was totally single-minded in everything that he did. We read about this single-mindedness in John 4:32 when his disciples had fetched some food for the group and they offered some to Jesus. Rather than taking the food and thanking them for their care he simply says "My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work". We see this same attitude when Jesus is in the wilderness being tempted by Satan. He is not distracted but remains focussed on walking in relationship with his Father and doing his will. 

Paul writes about this attitude for us in today's verses. He does not seek to put us under condemnation but wants to lift us up into a lifestyle that mirrors that of Christ. The Passion Translation urges us to 'consider' the example of Jesus. We are not commanded to be Christlike but rather invited to look and see the fruit of Jesus' life. Looking at Jesus shows us what sonship really looks like and what our lives can be like as we follow the invitation to be like him. We are invited into a journey of humility and vulnerability where we too can listen to the Father and be obedient to everything we hear. 

As we do, we discover that weakness really is the power of sonship. 

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Love growing within us

I continue to pray for your love to grow and increase more and more until it overflows, bringing you into the rich revelation of spiritual insight in all things. And with this revelation you will come to know God fully as he imparts to you the deepest understanding of his ways. This will enable you to choose the most excellent way of all—becoming pure and without offense until the unveiling of Christ. And you will be filled completely with the fruits of righteousness that are found in Jesus, the Anointed One—bringing great praise and glory to God! (Philippians 1:9-11 The Passion Translation)

Love is not meant to be a static thing, it is living and vibrant and is meant to grow and deepen. If it were static it would become stale and begin to lose its life. Love comes from the Father's heart, it is his nature and personality being poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit. His love is a living substance which will satisfy the deepest desires of our heart.

His love changes us. The more of his love we receive the more we will be changed into the likeness of his son, Jesus. This is what love does: it transforms.

In these verses Paul is praying that as we continue to experience Father's love in our hearts we will be led into a deeper revelation of who he is. Your love for someone becomes an expression of your personality, it shows the other person who you are. It's the same with Father's love, the more we experience him loving us the more we will discover his personality and nature. We will become familiar with him and his ways.

It is not through our own effort that we are changed but it is love that changes us, and when we are changed by love we will produce the fruit of the Spirit. 

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Becoming like our Father

Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. (Ephesians 5:1-2 ESV)

Children love to imitate their parents. It doesn't take too long before you notice that your children have some of your mannerisms or that they walk or talk like you. A lot of this they simply pick up because they are with you all the time. It becomes automatic. Of course, they don't only pick up the good habits; it is quite frightening to see some of our less attractive mannerisms being imitated, maybe unintentionally or as children grow up more deliberately to tease us!

Just as we iimitate our earthly parents so we are encouraged to imitate our Heavenly Father as well. As we are transformed by the power of love we start to walk as Jesus walked and we become like him. His nature and character dwell within us and the fruit of the Spirit, which Paul describes in Galatians 5, starts to grow in us. 

In Luke 15 at the end of the story about the Lost Sons the father says to his elder son: "you are always with me and all that is mine is yours". He says the same to us - we are always with him and all that he has is ours. he has made his home in our hearts and he never leaves us or forsakes us. As we rest in his presence we will be changed to be like him or as Paul says in 2 Corinthians 3:18 we are constantly being transformed into his likeness, from one degree of glory to another. 

As we live in love we become like our Father. 

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The family growing in love

There is one body and one Spirit - just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ's gift. (Ephesians 4:4-7 ESV)

In Ephesians 3:15 Paul tells us that every family takes its name from the Father. Within a family there is great diversity where a multitude of gifts and abilities are shared between the various family members. This diversity should not lead to division but rather should be the catalyst for unity which comes out of love for one another. Love has to be the hallmark for any family to work properly and it is love which motivates each member to support and encourage the others. 

As Paul begins to describe the variety of gifts which have been given to the body of Christ he once again lays the foundation of love. Despite the various giftings there is only one body (or family) and that family is joined together in love and bears with one another out of that love. Competition or comparison has no place in this family. 

As we walk together in love we discover a new way of living; one to which we have already referred in a previous week. We begin to live from our heart as the eyes of our heart are opened. As the family of Christ grows it builds itself up in love (v16) then a transformation takes place. We recognise the futility and emptiness of our mind (v17) and, as we out off our old self, we discover a greater reality of walking in love. This is not something we can discipline ourselves into - it is the fruit of us being constantly filled with Father's love. 

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Strengthened by love

For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. (Ephesians 3:14-19 ESV)

Throughout Paul's letter to the Ephesians he is explaining what it really means to be in Christ. It is the life of sonship which is rooted in the knowledge that we are planted in the Father's love and therefore part of his family. However hard we try we soon discover that it is too big for us to grasp which is why Paul prays that our spirit will be strengthened by the Holy Spirit. 

To comprehend the magnitude of our new relationship with Father, Son and Holy Spirit we need a stronger container within us. As we are strengthened by the Spirit, the life of Christ, or the ability to walk as Jesus walked, grows within us and we begin to discover the immeasurable nature of his love for us. There is no limit to his love, there is nowhere we can go that takes us outside of his love for us. 

We can't understand this with our own strength, we need the divine in-filling of his Spirit in us. This love goes beyond our knowledge and sets us free to live as his sons and daughters. 

My prayer is that we would see and experience more of his extravagant love and as we do we will be filled with all the fullness or presence of God.

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Transformed by love

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:4-10 ESV)

Love transforms. Those of you who know me will know that I often tell the story of the Sound of Music, a movie in which the love of Maria totally transforms the children and then the captain. And of course they end up getting married. 

Love is a powerful force and here we read that the love of the Father sets us free from our sinful lives and makes us alive with Christ. It is an abundant life and one we are meant to enjoy. Living with him is not only a secure place for us but it is also one of abundance and fruitfulness. The Amplified Version says that we are given "joint seating with Christ", it is as if we are placed on an equal footing with him. 

It is the Father's kindness, expressed in Jesus, that has set us free. Once again we see the generosity of our Father as the riches of his grace are immeasurable. He never rations his love, his grace or his mercy, they are an unlimited gift for us 

As we become filled with his life we are released to do the good works which he has prepared for us to do. Not everybody else's good works but the ones that have our name on. Doing only these things is the key to living a fruitful life where are hearts are at peace and rest. Let us look for these things and do them with all our heart.

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Seeing our glorious inheritance

I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts opened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints. (Ephesians 1:16-18 ESV)

Paul's prayer for each of us is that the eyes of our heart would be opened in order that we may be able to understand who God really is. In the garden, following the sin of Adam and his wife, we read that "their eyes were opened", they began to see something. Now, we know that this is not referring to their natural eyes but to the eyes of their mind as they began to grapple with what was right and what was wrong; the consequence of eating from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. As the eyes of their mind were opened so the eyes of their heart began to close and this is something that Paul prays is now reversed. 

This transformation is beyond our human understanding which is why we need the spirit of wisdom and revelation. This understanding is not contained in our mind but is a direct revelation from the Holy Spirit and a gift from the Father who lives in our heart. We understand this revelation of the Father when we allow the eyes of our heart to take over from the eyes of our mind.

As the eyes of our heart are opened we not only see who God is, but we also understand our true inheritance which is to receive the full rights of sonship through the Holy Spirit. 

My prayer is that we all would have a deeper revelation of who we are and that this revelation would lead us into our glorious inheritance. 

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Sons and daughters are blessed

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us in order to receive the full rights of sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will. (Ephesians 1:3-5 ESV)

For a moment, cast your mind back to Genesis 1 and the creation of mankind. The first thing God did, even before he said anything to them, was to bless them. It was only after he’d blessed them that they were set to work in the garden and told to be fruitful and multiply.

It’s always been the Father’s heart to bless his children and Paul reminds us of this here in Ephesians. This is an abundant blessing: we are blessed, in Christ, with every spiritual blessing that is contained in Heaven. To me, that sounds like a lot of blessing.

One of Paul’s common themes is the phrase “in Christ”. Put simply that is the definition of a Christian, when we are born again we are in him and we are with him where he is. It’s all too easy to pass over that little phrase and miss the power of its meaning. Our lives are hidden in Christ and we are with him in the Father’s presence. Our true home is with him and as we live as sons and daughters we discover a greater reality of what living in Father’s presence actually looks like.

Finally, we were chosen before the beginning of time to be sons and daughters of our Heavenly Father. Some translations use the word ‘adoption’ which is slightly misleading as a more correct translation would be to 'receive the full rights of sons’. God always wanted a family who he could bless, we do not have to work for this blessing because it is our inheritance as sons and daughters. 

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What's in a name

And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. Pray then like this: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. (Matthew 6:7-9 ESV)

All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. (Matthew 11:27 ESV)

On Jesus' last night with his disciples he takes some time to talk to his Father and this prayer is recorded for us in John 17. He starts off by acknowledging that he has completed all that the Father sent him to do which is summarised for us when Jesus says: "I have revealed you to those you gave me". This describes a relationship, one we are invited to be a part of. He has shown us the personality and nature of his Father, he has revealed who God really is and in doing so has cut through the legalism and religion of the day. Jesus shows us that relationship is more important than rules or regulations. 

At the end of his prayer Jesus says "I made known to them your name and I will continue to make it known". Why? In order that we may know that we are loved just as Jesus is loved.  In the Old Testament there are over 300 names for God. Most of these describe a part of his nature or character - they tell us what he does. When the disciples came to Jesus in Matthew 6 I imagine they wanted to know which of these 300 names Jesus would recommend; after all he seemed to know God in a more intimate way than the other teachers who were around at that time. Jesus' reply is "that's easy - when you come to him call him Father, because that's who he is". This was a radical statement which shocked most of his listeners but it was, of course, true. 

In Jeremiah 3:19 we read the longing of the Father's heart: that you and I would call him 'Father' because that's who he is. All the other names describe what God does, Father describes who he is

Jesus came to reveal the Father to us in order that we could know him in the same way as Jesus knows him. He came to reveal the Father so we can know we are loved like Jesus is. He came to reveal the Father to draw us into that intimate relationship where we know that God is being a Father to us. A daily, living giving relationship. 

What's in a name? Everything!


Living in Father's comfort (Psalm 27 part 3)

You have said, “Seek my face.” My heart says to you, “Your face, LORD, do I seek.” Hide not your face from me. Turn not your servant away in anger, O you who have been my help. Cast me not off; forsake me not, O God of my salvation! For my father and my mother have forsaken me, but the LORD will take me in. You have said, “Seek my face.”My heart says to you,“Your face, LORD, do I seek.”Hide not your face from me. Turn not your servant away in anger,O you who have been my help.Cast me not off; forsake me not,O God of my salvation!For my father and my mother have forsaken me,but the LORD will take me in. (Psalm 27:8-10 ESV)

Psalm 27 is a combination of what the Father does for us and how we can choose to respond to him. Our response is determined by the state of our heart and the peace in which we are living. 

We only see a small glimpse of the rejection that King experienced during his life but it was obviously enough to make him write “for my father and mother have forsaken me, but the Lord will take me in” (verse 10). The rejection he’d experienced was enough to leave him feeling totally abandoned by them, despite being the king he felt a loneliness of heart.

The loneliness of our heart is a desperate thing. We feel empty and devoid of love. That’s what makes us take over and embark on a lifetime of striving and performance. With no-one there for us we believe it is all down to us to make anything happen. Instead of resting in him our orphan heart takes over.

Despite the rejection King David felt he knew where to turn to in order to receive life. The cry of his heart is to the Lord to take him in. He knows that is the place of comfort and acceptance. He knows that is the place of total acceptance and love. And so throughout this Psalm he keeps seeking the Lord and his Presence. What about us?  We, too, need to receive comfort – not as a one off but we receive comfort and go on receiving comfort.  We, like David, need to know that he will take us in. as we keep seeking him we will find his presence and discover it is a place of safety, security and comfort. 

Throughout this Psalm we have seen many things that our Father longs to do for us. Our human nature will always default to us trying to do them for ourselves and so my encouragement is that you rest in his love and let him become your light and salvation, let him safe you from your enemies, let him fight for you and allow yourselves the luxury of living in that place of comfort and rest in him.  

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Let Father fight for you (Psalm 27 part 2)

Though an army encamp against me, my heart shall not fear; though war arise against me, yet I will be confident. Though an army encamp against me,my heart shall not fear;though war arise against me,yet I will be confident.

And now my head shall be lifted up above my enemies all around me, and I will offer in his tent sacrifices with shouts of joy; I will sing and make melody to the LORD. Psalm 27:3&6 ESV)

Psalm 27 is a combination of what the Father does for us and how we can choose to respond to him. Our response is determined by the state of our heart and the peace in which we are living. 

Last week we saw how our Father guides and leads us along the pathway of life and how he is the one who protects us by hiding us away in his presence. When we are hidden away we can allow him to fight for us. Rather than trying to fight for ourselves we can be confident in his ability to look after us and fight on our behalf. We need not fear when we are hidden away in his presence. In Deuteronomy 1 we read how he longs to carry us, all the way through the wilderness and desert and into and through the Promised Land. He will fight for us; the battles are his, not ours. 

Our response is that we can be confident in him. We have no need to fear when we allow him to be in charge. Handing over control of our lives can be scary if we don’t have a revelation of who he is and his goodness and kindness towards us. He is our Father and his heart is for us not against us. He will never leave us nor will he forsake us. His relationship with us is him being a Father to us and, as he is the perfect Father, we have the assurance that he is with us always and that his love for us is totally reliable. 

My encouragement is that you hand over your problems to him, let him fight for us and allow yourself to yield into his perfect love for you. 

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