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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Restoring love

"See what kind of love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called the children of God. For that is who we are!" (1 John 3:1 NIV)

Since before the beginning of time the Father has only had one plan and that was for a family. A family of sons and daughters who would live in relationship with him and be able to experience a perfect Father's love. His plan has always been that we would be like Jesus and would know and experience exactly the same love that Jesus knows and experiences.

Often we view the cross as the pinnacle of Jesus' ministry, the purpose for him coming to earth. In no way am I diminishing the power of the cross and the amazing work that Jesus accomplished on that cross. The cross was the only way for the Father's plan to be achieved. It was necessary in order to redeem us and bring us back to the Father.

The cross, though, is not an end in itself. It is the means to an end which means it becomes the doorway for the outpouring of Father's love into our hearts. Everything that Jesus spoke about in John 14 is fulfilled through the cross as the Father's love is poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit.

That love changes everything. It is a love that brings us freedom. It is a love that brings us relationship. It is a love that brings us into our eternal sonship.

It is the fulfillment of the Father's plan: that you and I may know we are loved as Jesus is loved.

I have revealed to them who you are and I will continue to make you even more real to them, so that they may experience the same endless love that you have for me, for your love will now live in them, even as I live in them! (John 17:26 TPT)



Sacrificial love

"This is how God showed his love among us: he sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins." (1 John 4:9-10 NIV)
This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers."
(1 John 3:16 NIV)

Last week we saw how we had been rescued; we saw that the Father sent a Saviour as it is impossible for us to save ourselves.

That was a big sacrifice for both the Father and the Son.

The Father knew that the only way for us to come back home was to have the burden of sin lifted from us and for it to be totally destroyed through the death and resurrection of Jesus. For that to happen the eternal, divine Son of God had to leave the beauty, peace and rest of Heaven and take on the brokenness of humanity. Despite leaving that place of eternal comfort he knew that his Father would be with him every step of the way, even through the agony of the cross.

Jesus made that sacrifice willingly. Not just because he loved the whole of the human race but more than that because of his love for his Father and his absolute desire to do and see his will accomplished.

It is this sacrificial love that draws us towards our eternal home. It draws us to the place of comfort and rest where we can experience the love of the Father and to know that he is loving us right now. 

Recently, in the UK, a prominent politician resigned from leading his party due to the attack on his faith by sections of the media. He concluded his resignation speech with these words:

"....what would lead me to voluntarily relinquish that honour. In the words of Isaac Watts it would have to be something ‘so amazing, so divine, it demands my heart, my life, my all’.

This person was the recipient of sacrificial love and he knew what it meant for him. It meant everything. My prayer is that we, too, will discover the joy of abandoning ourselves to our Father, not because we have to but because we want to. 


Redeeming love

"For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him" (John 3:16-17 ESV)

Most of the time we are unable to save ourselves. We are out of our depth, in something too deeply, unable to turn and swim against the tide. We need to be rescued. When we try and save ourselves we end up using a lot of energy and slowly we start to lose the battle. We need a Saviour. 

Thankfully that is what our Father did for us. The human race was stuck, it was unable to save itself from the pathway of sin and the orphan-hearted ways of the world. We needed to be rescued and that rescue is what we have just celebrated over the Christmas season. A Saviour who was given freely to the world in order to deal with the problem of our sin and in doing so, to make a way for us to come home to our Father. This was the only way that this rescue could happen. A sin-free Son coming into this world to save us from the power of sin and to open the way for us to live as sons and daughters. 

The coming of the Saviour was not to condemn but to bring freedom. 

The orphan-hearted system we have left behind is one of guilt, shame and condemnation. But the way of sonship is one of freedom. 

As we start 2018, my prayer is that we will all experience a greater level of freedom as we grow in our sonship and become more like our Saviour. 


A new revelation

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. (John 3:16-17 ESV)

I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. (John 10:10 ESV)

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor. (Luke 4:18-19 ESV)

I have revealed to them who you are and I will continue to make you even more real to them, so that they may experience the same endless love that you have for me, for your love will now live in them, even as I live in them! (John 17:26 The Passion Translation)

This is what we celebrate today. A very Happy Christmas to you all.

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A new beginning

And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” (Luke 1:30-33 ESV)

A birth announcement with a difference! A total surprise (and probably a shock) to Mary and Joseph but an annoucement which had been in the Father's heart since the deception in the garden in Genesis 3. The annoucement of a Saviour, a Redeemer, the One sent to bring us back home. The One who became the Way for us to come back into relationship with the Father, who came to give us and lead us into eternal life. 

Of course, when the angel told Mary the news she had no idea how it was all going to work out. She hears that he will be great, that he will be a King and that his throne will last forever. It's no wonder she pondered these things in her heart, there was a lot to grasp and try to understand. I wonder how long it took before Mary realised that she would never be able to fully understand all that the angel had said and all that then began to unfold once Jesus was born.

It was not as it first seemed. And that's the way it is for us. There is mystery as we seek to travel the path which Jesus opened for us. Discovering and living in Father's love cannot be based on any formula or set pattern; it's a growing relationship as we find that his love is immeasurable and that it goes beyond any expectations we may have had. Mary later said "My soul magnifies the Lord", as the revelation of God's goodness dawns in our heart so we too, can worship and find that place of contentment in the midst of the mystery.

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A new thing

Thus says the Lord, who makes a way in the sea, a path in the mighty waters, who brings forth chariot and horse, army and warrior; they lie down, they cannot rise, they are extinguished, quenched like a wick: “Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. (Isaiah 43:16-19 ESV)

What do you see when you look around or view your various social media feeds or even when you read the news? Information, maybe too much information, is being thrust at us all the time and I'm wondering what this does for our hearts. Our minds have a tremendous ability to process an incredible amount of information and to do it relatively quickly. Our hearts, however, tend to work at a slower place. It's a more gentle rhythm that is meant to nourish, comfort and build us up. It's a rhythm that renews and refreshes us rather than leaving us even more exhausted.

Information overload has made me pause, so much so that I'm not interested in reading the news or looking at facebook so often. It's become like a new religion - the need to know and to know now!

There is another way of looking at things and that is with the eyes of the heart. You will find that eyes of the heart work better when you are at rest and have allowed yourself time to settle and maybe even withdraw. After all, if it was good enough for Jesus then it should be good enough for us. As we come to the place of peace I believe we can see what Father is doing.

He is doing a new thing. It is bursting forth, but do we see or perceive it? He is revealing himself to his people. He is showing us that he is our Father and he is drawing us into the place of being loved. There is a huge difference between knowing God as a Father and knowing him as your Father. This is the revelation for today. It's all too easy to dwell on the past and all the things we consider to have been good but the good news of the gospel is God being a Father to us. This will not only change our lives but it will become a river into the wilderness of this world bringing life and healing wherever it goes. 

My prayer is that the eyes of our heart may be opened to see and receive the new thing that Father is doing.

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His favourite 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" (Matthew 6:7-8a ESV)

I understand there are 365 names for God in the Old Testament; most of these describe his nature, his character or something he does. I often imagine that the disciples came to Jesus one day, knowing that he knew God in a more intimate way than they'd seen or experienced and asked which one of these 365 names was the best one to use. Had they asked such a question I think Jesus would have smiled and then said 'oh, that's easy'. 

The answer to that question is contained in what we now call the Lord's Prayer. When we come to God, Jesus says, call him 'Father' because that's who he is. Jesus had lived in relationship with his Father for all eternity and in John 17 he tells us that his work on earth was simply to reveal his Father to us in order that we might know we loved just as he is loved. He came to show us and to make it possible for us to become sons and daughters. 

At the end of Matthew 6 Jesus tells us we have no need to be anxious or to worry about our life. Our Father knows what we need and we can trust him to provide it as and when we need it. We are precious to him simply because we are his children and he is our Father.

Of all his names, his favourite one is Father, because that's who he is. 

The Father's desire and his promise

“‘How gladly would I treat you like sons and give you a pleasant land, the most beautiful inheritance of any nation.’ I thought you would call me ‘Father’ and not turn away from following me." (Jeremiah 3:19 NIV)

“I will be a Father to you, and you will be sons and daughters to me, says the Lord Almighty.” (2 Corinthians 6:18 ESV)

Sometimes it is good for us to return to the simple gospel, the eternal truth of God's original plan for his people.

Nowhere is it summed up so simply as in these two verses. The desire of the Father from all eternity has been for a family, children who call him 'Father' because that is who he is. This desire has never changed despite his children wandering off in their own independence and rebellion; he has always been there drawing us back to himself. At the end of Genesis 3 it was not God who changed but it was the human race that chose to step into an orphan-hearted way of living. 

Despite that the Father never lost heart. He did everything to win us back to himself, including sending his son to become the way for us to return to the Father. 

And so the longing of the Father's heart was finally satisfied with a promise. If we turn back to him then he will be a Father to us and we will, once again, be able to live as we were always meant to live: as his sons and daughters. We can take up the right expressed by John when he wrote:

"But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God." (John 1:12 ESV) 

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What a faithful Father

The Lord passed before him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children's children, to the third and the fourth generation.” (Exodus 34:6-7 ESV)

For my father and my mother have forsaken me, but the LORD will take me in. (Psalm 27:10 ESV)

For I know the plans I have for you declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. (Jeremiah 29:11 ESV)

Our safety conscious world causes us to rely on others or to depend on rules and regulations. We can lose a sense of trust and sadly, if we are not careful that attitude can affect how we relate to, or rather don't relate, to the Father. 

The safest place for us is when we run into his open arms of love. As the Psalmist says in Psalm 27 we can be hidden in his shelter and tucked away in the safety of his tent. This is a place of security and safety where our enemies can't touch us. It is the place where we can resist the turmoil of the world around us and it is a place where we can begin to worship the One who is altogether lovely. 

When we are held in his arms we need not fear as we are in that place of perfect love which drives out all fear and anxiety. We discover a life of rest where we can depend on our Father. 

Through it all we come to experience the enormity of our Father's faithfulness towards us and can live in the goodness of his plans for us. He truly is a faithful Father. 

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You become like what you look at

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely. And let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:1-2 ESV)

I guess you may have heard people say "you become like what you look at" which is, of course, a paraphrase of 2 Corinthians 3:18. I saw an amusing picture on Facebook the other day; someone had posted a picture of several dog owners alongside their dogs with the caption 'spot the difference'. Obviously the selection had been chosen to make a point but the resemblance between owner and dog was uncanny.

Jesus is the exact representation, or likeness, of his Father. Like Father, like Son. If we want to know what the Father is like we only need to look at his Son and the way he lived his life. Jesus cares for the poor and needy, the Father, too, cares for the poor and needy. Jesus heals, the Father heals. Jesus is full of love and compassion as is the Father (Exodus 34:5-7). 

John, in his first letter, offers us a glimpse of what it is like to live in love. The fruit of living in love is that we begin to walk as Jesus walked, not doing what he did but having the same heart attitude as him. We become like him. 

The more we look at Jesus and gaze upon his beauty, the more we will become like him and in doing so we will be transformed from one degree of glory to another. In becoming like him we will also become more like our Father. It's easy to be distracted by the noise of the world but my prayer is that we can fix our eyes on Jesus and allow the radiance of his glory to change us. 

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Too much information!

You said, ‘Listen now, and I will speak; I will question you, and you shall answer me.’ My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you. (Job 42:4-5 NIV)

We are living in a time where we are bombarded 24/7 with information from a whole range of sources. In addition to the regular news channels we have 'social' media and the internet screaming at us all day. Sometimes it is all too much and we can easily lose the sound of that still small voice which is constantly drawing us to Him. Too much information can cause us to become judgmental as we pick through it all to try and discern what is true and what is applicable to us.

Very often our judgements come from our mind as we seek to work out what is right and what is wrong. With all this noise our spirit (or heart) becomes dull and we begin to miss the whisper of truth. Truth, as we know, comes from a relationship because Jesus is the Truth and knowing the person of Truth is the only way our hearts can be led through the complexity of life. 

The story of Job is a conversation and a struggle as Job seeks to find the cause of his suffering and the place of God within it. Finally, towards the end of the book there is a moment of revelation when God tells Job to listen! Job listens with his ears but there is a deeper encounter going on - he sees with the eyes of his heart. Job has come to the end of himself and, like us when we reach that place it becomes the place of revelation and healing. Suddenly the eyes of his heart are opened and his restoration and redemption begins. 

My prayer is that we will not lose the still small voice that is speaking truth to our hearts. Let us go beyond the noise and clutter of this world where we refuse to settle only for information about God but let us pursue the heart revelation of who he is. May the eyes of our heart be opened so that we see him for who he is, the perfect Father who we have been searching for.

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Raised with him

If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. (Colossians 3:1-4, 14 ESV)

I said a few weeks ago that this letter is more of a prayer where Paul is pouring out his heart of love for these believers. He encourages them, and therefore us, to find that the source of all life is Christ himself. He enourages his readers to discover the intimacy of being 'in Christ' and walking as Jesus walked. In John 14 Jesus describes this for us when he tells us that he is in the Father and the Father is in him, not only that but we are in him and he is in us. That sounds confusing and maybe a bit of a muddle but the point is we are in him where he is. We are taken, in him, to live in Father's presence. As Jesus is in the bosom, or at the side of the Father, so we are too. 

This is the best place for us to live, in intimacy with the Father where all our striving can cease and where we can find the rest and peace that so often alludes us. 

Paul knows this which is why he encourages us to look heavenwards rather than focussing on things that are on earth. We have been raised with Christ and can therefore live according to heaven's agenda. We do not have to be sucked back into the ways of the world however appealing they might seem but we can live with our eyes focussed on him who is love. 

We are clothed in love because of the redeeming work of Jesus and we have been given a heavenly home. Too often we see our lives as a mess, we feel the frustration of our pain and woundedness and we struggle to take hold of life. Today I encourage you to see your life from a heavenly persepctive - you are raised with Christ, your life is hidden with Chirst in God and you are clothed with love. 

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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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