I don’t know if you’ve read the whole of Lamentations 3. If you have, you may feel it describes what a lot of your days are like. The writer is having a bad day, maybe a bad week or year; nothing seems to be going right for him. Maybe this is how you are feeling in this season.
Verse 18 sums it all up: So I say, “My splendour is gone and all that I had hoped from the LORD.” It is a sign of great despair when we lose hope, we feel trapped in a pit with no way out. Lost, lonely and hopeless.
That moment of hopelessness though, is the beginning of a transformation. In his hopelessness the writer begins to remember something. As he remembers he begins, once again, to have hope.
“Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope” (v21)
What he remembers is the steadfast, eternal love of the Father. That changes everything. Once again he recognises that God is faithful, that he is loving and compassionate, and that he is the provider.
Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, “The LORD is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.” (Lamentations 3:22-24)
That recognition brought redemption for Jeremiah and it will do so for us.
Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. (Psalm 23:6 NIV)
As I conclude this look at Psalm 23, I remind you of the Father's provision whether you're sitting in 'green pastures' or whether you're walking through the 'valley of the shadow of death'. The Lord is always with us.
We are provided for, we are comforted and we can live in his presence. It's his presence which is the only safe and secure place for us to be. We are enveloped by his love; in fact, his love chases us and pursues us until it becomes our resting place.
One of my favourite Psalms is Psalm 27 and in particular verse 4: "One thing I ask from the Lord, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple." This is the homecoming our heart desires and, today, I simply encourage you to pursue this just as you are pursued by love.
Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. (Psalm 23:4-5 NIV)
This Psalm is a description of the Lord's provision and his care for his people. We've seen how he provides for us in times of rest, when we sit in a still place, the place of contentment. Now we see how his presence and provision is as real in the turbulent times as it is those of stillness and peace. Right in the shadow of death there is the same provision and presence.
In times like that we can't see so clearly, maybe the path ahead appears hidden. In such times we have the added assurance of his shepherd's staff gently prodding us and steering us into the right path.
It is in moments of pressure and darkness that we experience his comfort. Even with our enemies all around us we can know his abundant provision. What an amazingly secure place to be: right there with all our enemies circled around we can sit, in peace, at a table full of good things. You really have to trust in order to sit down and enjoy a meal when all the turmoil of life is very real around you. That's the overwhelming peace of the Father's presence and it can be very real for you today.
He leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake. (Psalm 23:2-3 NIV)
Last week we saw how the Father provides for us in that place of stillness and rest. When we stop, or when we give up! It is then that he can take over and lead us. We, often, are busy and 'intentional' on trying to discover the right pathway through life; sometimes we get it right, other times we're maybe not so sure.
There is something reassuring about being led. When a father leads a child it's safe, the child does not have to make any decisions, they simply rest in being led. We have a Father who wants to lead us, he leads us in the comfort of a safe place and he knows the right way for us to follow.
Not only is this a safe place, it's also a place of refreshment or restoration. The tiredness and burden of our own effort can fall away as we walk with him on the pathway of contentment. He knows the way and it is a good way.
The LORD is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures. (Psalm 23:1-2 NIV)
I've recently been reflecting on Psalm 23. Of course, it's a very well known Psalm and one quoted by Christians and non-Christians alike. As I've read it, I've seen again how much it describes the loving nature of our Heavenly Father and his constant care and provision for his children.
In a turbulent world, it's very reassuring for us to know that we have a Shepherd who provides all we need. It is interesting to me that this provision is in a place of rest or stillness. To me, this means we have to stop and be still. We have to stop chasing after what we need and let Him be our Provider.
In fact the Psalmist is insistent. We are compelled to lie down in the safety of the pasture and then, in that place of rest and stillness, there is provision. This is re-iterated by Jesus in Matthew 6. If God cares for the birds of the air or the flowers of the field, how much more does he care for us and knows what we need.
This is a Psalm that speaks of God's presence and the provision we find as we rest in that presence. Today, I encourage you to find that place of stillness in which you will discover the Father's provision for you.
And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. (Romans 5:5 NIV)
For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.(Romans 10:10 NIV)
How important it is for us to live from our heart. It is the place of deep encounter with God, it is the place where all significant relationships are held. It is deeper than our mind or emotions take us. Our heart is the place of true connection. Of course, our emotions and mind are very important, they are a vital part of our makeup or temperament but they are not the core of who we really are. They belong to us but they don't define us. Or do they?
If we are not able to live from the heart then maybe we do allow ourselves to be defined and controlled by our mind or emotions. Maybe they become more a part of us than they should.
It is as we live in love and experience an ongoing homecoming with the Father that we discover (perhaps for the first time) the need for a renewed heart. A heart transformed by the power of love where the Holy Spirit motivates, or causes, us to walk in the Father's ways.
I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. (Ezekiel 36:26-27 NIV)
Love always transforms. The Father is constantly pouring his transforming love into our heart; it will change us. As we receive this free gift we are set free to walk in the glorious freedom of our sonship. And so today, I encourage you to find time to make a simple, yet life-changing request, "Father, will you pour your love into my heart".
Last week I highlighted the restlessness we often settle for. The constant searching for more: either to do more, to have more or to be something more than we are. This desire for self-generated "more" will lead us into a shame based life which is so far removed from the way the Father intended us to live.
He wants us to live a life of rest where we can know there is nothing more we need to do in order to feel loved, valued or accepted. It has always been his intention to be with us; it is his presence that takes away the striving and leads us into a place of rest.
And he said, “My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” And he said to him, “If your presence will not go with me, do not bring us up from here. (Exodus 33:14-15 ESV)
Like Moses, I want to seek his presence and live in rest. This is nothing to do with being lazy or unproductive, it's bringing your heart to a place of stillness and contentment.
This is what Jesus talked about when he promised a light and easy burden. He wants to lead us to the Father so we have a revelation of who he is. That revelation leads to us taking on the mantle of the Father's work. It leads to us finding the ultimate place of security and peace where the inner turmoil in our soul can fall away and we find rest, true rest.
“All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 1:27-30 NIV)
This is what I want! What about you?
It's not too long after Adam and Eve left the garden of Eden that we read of the consequence and implication of their actions. It's in the story of their two sons that we are given a vital glimpse into the state of mankind's heart after the fall. We see what our new nature looks like, the nature of a broken heart which continues to haunt us today.
After Cain has killed his brother, Abel, God comes to him and asks where his brother is. At first Cain tries to avoid the issue and in particular to take responsibility for his actions. He pretends it's nothing to do with him (a bit like his father did in the garden). Eventually he realises the truth can't be hidden from God and it's then he is told the consequences of that action.
Cain is to become a 'restless wanderer on the face of the earth' (Genesis 4:12) or as the Amplified Version says "a fugitive and a vagabond, roaming aimlessly on the earth, in perpetual exile, without a home, a degraded outcast".
What a tremendously sad outcome! A tragic end to a story which had begun so well.
This is how so many people feel today. It's how we all feel to some extent until we come to the Father. We know deep down, that we are unsettled, we are wandering, searching for something. We wonder if, or where, we belong. We are trying to find home.
The restlessness we feel can only be satisfied and taken away when we allow ourselves to come home to the Father. In Matthew 11 Jesus invites us to do that, to come home. "Come to me and you will find rest". That invitation is set squarely in the revelation of the Father. It is as we receive that revelation in our heart that we can come home and find the rest we yearn for.
When we are restless there is always something more we need to do in order to feel loved and accepted. When we are at rest, there is nothing more we need to do.
If you recognise that restlessness in your heart then I invite you to come home. To come to the Father and allow his love to replace the empty restlessness with the rest of his presence.
The tragedy of the story in Genesis chapter 3 is that it always seems to be blamed on God. Adam and his wife had been given very clear instructions on what they should do and more particularly what they shouldn't do. They made a choice, albeit under the deceitful lure of Satan, and they chose to disobey God. It was their choice that led to the action of them taking the fruit from the tree.
Before moving on, let me make one very important point. They were able to make that choice because God, the Father, had given them the priceless gift of free will. In giving that gift God took a risk because it is only the gift of free will which enables us to love. Without it we could not love because love is always a choice, it is in our power to love or not to love. Without that gift we would be programmed to live according to a set of predetermined rules or values.
And so at the end of Genesis 3, Father God has to make the painful decision to drive Adam and Eve out of the garden. Too often we view this as an act of judgement, the punishment for sin and a wrong decision. I would like to ask you to view this not as judgement but rather as a tremendous act of mercy. It was an act, however painful, which prevented them remaining in the garden and being able to eat from the tree of life. The result of which would have been living forever in a fallen, broken state. God knew that was too much for mankind to bear. Death entered the human race to save us from ourselves, or at least to limit the extent of the damage we had caused.
In that moment God did not change, nor did he abandon his plan; the plan he'd had from before the creation of the world. The plan for relationship and family has not been shelved, it continues and is the same plan (the only plan) that the Father has for you and me.
For I the Lord do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed. From the days of your fathers you have turned aside from my statutes and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you, says the Lord of hosts. (Malachi 3:6-7 ESV)
It was mankind that chose to walk away from the Father's plan. We chose a pathway of independence and self-sufficiency. The Father did not change. He is the same yesterday, today and forever. His plan and desire is the same today as it was in Genesis chapter 1.
“I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. (John 17:20-21 ESV)
The only relationship that God has ever wanted to have with you is to be a Father to YOU. He wants to be one with you, fully and totally united with you. Jesus describes that unity on his last evening before he is taken away to the cross. Just as the Father and Son are one, so we can also be one with them: "just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us".
A few verses later (v24), Jesus prays that we may be with him where he is (and that is at the Father's side). As we know, Jesus only said the words he heard his Father say and therefore this desire, expressed by Jesus, is one that is deeply rooted in the Father's heart. This is the relationship the Father desires. He does not want us to be distant, fearing him or living in independence. He is longing for relationship with us where we know that we can be, and indeed are, one with him.
We often talk about being one with one another. That is only something that truly flows out of our oneness with the Father. This is the Heavenly reality and I encourage you to embrace it in your heart today. You and the Father are one, just as the Father and Son are one. This is our sonship.
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.