See, I will bring them from the land of the north and gather them from the ends of the earth. Among them will be the blind and the lame, expectant mothers and women in labour; a great throng will return. They will come with weeping; they will pray as I bring them back. I will lead them beside streams of water on a level path where they will not stumble, because I am Israel’s father, and Ephraim is my firstborn son. (Jeremiah 31:8-9 NIV)
We are loved with an everlasting love and last week we saw how that love restores and brings fruitfulness. Today we see how this extravagant love brings us home.
The love of the Father goes to the ends of the earth in order to seek us out, gather us and bring us back to the loving embrace of the Father. There is nowhere we can hide. The Father wants a family and he does everything to bring us into that family, in order that we can know we are his sons and daughters. Home is very important; it is the place of belonging, identity and security. It is the place where we can be ourselves, letting go of any pretence and just being.
Everyone is welcome. There are no exclusions - all may come. The poor and needy are especially welcome and if we're honest, that's all of us. To pretend otherwise is simply us hiding behind our veneer of pride and self-sufficiency.
Home is beside streams of living water which always speak to us of life. When we come home into the embrace of the Father we find life and, as Jesus said, it's life in all its fullness.
I will build you up again, and you, Virgin Israel, will be rebuilt. Again you will take up your timbrels and go out to dance with the joyful. Again you will plant vineyards on the hills of Samaria; the farmers will plant them and enjoy their fruit. (Jeremiah 31:4-5 NIV)
Last week I introduced the eternal love of the Father. Today I want to start looking at what this love can do in our heart.
Firstly, it rebuilds the broken ruins. If that's you, then please take heart. It's not all hopeless. The Father's kindness toward you will draw you to him and he will (not might, or may do - but WILL) rebuild and restore the broken parts of your heart.
However hard or painful it might be, can I encourage you to come to him in your brokenness and let him redeem what you feel has been lost.
Secondly, his love restores. Where there has been sorrow or sadness there will be joy and celebration. His joy coming and filling your heart so that, out of this restoration, there will be fruitfulness.
Often it's not easy to come. As we come to the place of letting go we experience the eternal love of the Father doing a deep work in us.
Why not take a few moments to receive more of this everlasting, eternal love. The substance of love being poured into your heart. (If you have a few moments here is a soaking video which may be of help).
The Lord appeared to us in the past, saying: “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness. (Jeremiah 31:3 NIV)
God is love! From all of eternity before Genesis, right through world history and on into all of eternity beyond Revelation - God is LOVE.
It is the fullness of that eternal love which is constantly being poured into our heart by the Holy Spirit. It is not a small segment of love, representing the minute segment of time for which we are alive. It is the completeness of eternal love, which is the Father, who makes his home in our heart.
It is his unfailing kindness (an attribute of love) that draws us toward him. It's not the product of our behaviour, our actions or anything we feel we do for him; it's his kindness towards us, expressed in Jesus. Our reconciliation to him is initiated by him, from his heart of love and his desire for relationship with us.
May I encourage you to take a few moments to receive more of this everlasting, eternal love. The substance of love being poured into your heart. (If you have a few moments here is a soaking video which may be of help).
Now eagerly desire the greater gifts. And yet I will show you the most excellent way. (1 Cor 12:31 NIV)
And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. (1 Cor 13:13 NIV)
There are many gifts which have been given to the church. All of them are necessary and, I believe, vital for us to receive and continue to desire. In fact, we desperately need them in a greater measure.
As good as they are, Paul is keen, even insistent, that we pursue a greater gift. The gift of love. The most excellent way. The best choice we can make.
As he writes about the gifts, Paul pauses to stress the importance of love. It is upon love that everything else is built. Without the foundation of love, all the gifts in the world will come across as a clanging cymbal - an unholy noise!
The gifts, though important and necessary, are only temporary. One day we won't need them, we will be complete. Not only complete but fully known, in love. As encouraged by Paul, let us make love our greatest aim. Let's pursue the greatest gift of being loved by our Heavenly Father and then letting that love change this world.
"The blameless spend their days under the Lord’s care, and their inheritance will endure forever. In times of disaster they will not wither; in days of famine they will enjoy plenty." (Psalm 37:18-19 NIV)
Last week my encouragement to you was that our Heavenly Father 'knows'. He knows what we are going through, he cares and that gives us hope.
Psalm 37 is one I read often as it is a reminder to us of our Father's provision and protection. When evil seems to prosper we have the eternal assurance that he is our helper and deliverer. We have a secure future as we rest in him and trust him. Such is our hope that we can have the confidence to be a giver rather than a borrower. We can be generous to others rather than living in fear. Fear will always cripple us, trusting our Father sets us free from that fear and leads us into life.
Why do we have this hope? Because we are under the Lord's care. For us, that is a place of abundant security and safety, it is the source of our provision, we are held close to him as a shepherd carries a lamb. It means we have found home.
As I read these two verses, I feel the peace that is conveyed from that sense of belonging. The security of knowing our Father is in control, that he cares for us, he provides for us and that, as we rest in him, he will be our salvation. What a good Father!
If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. (Matthew 6:30-32 NIV)
Unfortunately we live in an uncertain world where so much is unpredictable and unknown. It's easy, and almost expected, for us to succumb to the uncertainty and this is something which easily leads us into fear. Today, I want to remind you that you belong to your Heavenly Father; he created you and knew you before you were formed in your mother's womb. He knows the challenges we face, for, in Isaiah 43 he says "when you pass through the waters, I will be with you". There is a certainty (sadly) of adversity but there is the assurance of his "I WILL BE WITH YOU".
My question for you to consider today is which one of those is bigger? The adversity or his "I will". Isaiah declares the goodness, the greatness and the power of our Father and invites us to trust him rather than allowing the adversity to overwhelm us. His "I will" is always more powerful than the adversity we face.
In fact, as we read through Isaiah 43 we see that the only way to walk through the trials of life is to allow the Father to gather us to himself (verses 5-7). It is there, held in that place of intimacy that we can rest in his protection, provision and his presence. We can swap our anxiety for the gift of Heavenly peace which goes beyond our human understanding.
We read the key to our certainty and hope in Matthew 6 - "Our Heavenly Father knows....." He knows what we are facing and our hope comes from the knowledge of who he is to us. He is a Father to us and so he provides, protects and wraps us in his presence. How then do we enter this certainty? I believe the only way is with a childlike heart. A child does not concern itself with uncertainty, it simply rests in the certainty of knowing its Mum and Dad will provide and look after them. A child can receive, whereas we adults tend to reason and apply logic. We are invited to go beyond that, into the realm of faith where we simply know we have a Father who loves to give us good gifts.
'Call to me and I will answer you. I'll tell you marvellous and wondrous things that you could never figure out on your own.' (Jeremiah 33:3 The Message)
What a tremendous promise. In this verse, I believe that Jeremiah is opening up a deep truth for us as we call out to our Father. Our cry is often 'Father, help!' and he will. But there is another cry we can have and that is 'Father, what do you want to say to me?' or 'What do you want to show me?'
When we ask the Father to show us something, we then need to pause and listen. We need to rest and wait, for it is in the stillness and quietness that he reveals the marvellous and wonderful things he wants to show us. Often these revelations come as a whisper, the still small voice speaking to our heart. I am finding that revelation is received slowly as it needs to find its home in our heart. A revelation received too quickly often finds a place in our mind which leads us to try and work out what it means, rather than letting the Spirit grow it within our heart.
The world has become quiet. Can I encourage you to listen to the voice of love which wants to take you to a deeper place of revelation. The Father longs to reveal his heart; for you and for the world around you. He wants to show you more of his nature and personality. He wants you to soak in his love and for your heart to be strengthened and encouraged. He wants to show you things that you could never work out on your own. May I encourage you, allow your heart to listen.
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. (John 15:1 NIV)
“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. (John 15:5 NIV)
As with last week's verse, Jesus is reminding us that we are connected to him, the source of life. There is life flowing through him into us but sadly some are unable to receive it. In a way, if we are unable to receive life then we are cut-off and separate to the source of life. Others who do receive life are pruned and therefore able to carry, or contain, more life.
The key word in this passage though is 'remain'. Seven times we are encouraged to remain. How easy it is to drift and wander away, back into our own independence and self-sufficiency, yet Jesus constantly says “remain". Remain in him, allow his word to remain in us and for us to remain in his love.
To me this speaks of rest, of being settled and content. It speaks of trust and dependency on someone greater than us. It’s a denial of self and a recognition that fruit does not come from our own effort but from remaining, or abiding, in him. In fact, Jesus says as we remain in him so the fruit we produce will be abundant and lasting. I think that’s something we have strived for but not yet fully seen. We have seen fruit but there are not that many of us that can say it was abundant or lasting.
There is a rest and contentment in him which surpasses our human understanding. It is the peace we find as we rest in him who is our Overcomer (John 16:33).
Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.” (John 14:6-7 NIV)
Here is another very well known saying that Jesus said of himself. He is the way. It’s such a familiar saying that we often forget to delve a little deeper to see what these words really mean. A pathway leads somewhere, the path is not usually the point of the journey, it’s the destination that is really important. Jesus doesn’t leave us in suspense, he tells us that the purpose of our journey is for us to come to the Father. How many of us see that as we read these verses?
Being the Way is not the only thing that Jesus says of himself. He is also the Truth. At the beginning of John's gospel we are told that Jesus, who came from the Father, was full of grace and truth. Absolute truth, as sure as two plus two equals (and always equals) four. Not a relative truth that is prevalent in the world today, where we each define truth according to our viewpoint. What Jesus says is true, correct, right - the only option. What then is the truth we are being told? Firstly, the purpose of Jesus' life is to take us to the Father so we know him as Jesus knows him. And secondly, the only way is through him, no other way, religion or means will get us anywhere near close to the Father. Every other way fails, the only way to the Father is through Jesus.
Finally Jesus tells us that he is the Life. As the eyes of our heart are opened to see the Father, as we have a revelation of who he is and so realise we are loved as Jesus is loved, we will discover life. The enemy comes to kill, steal and destroy but Jesus came that we would have life. Not just a taster, but the fullness of the abundant life in which Jesus himself lived. At the moment there is so much going on that is seeking to destroy our life but we are able to fix our eyes on him. He is our life.
Today I encourage you to let Jesus reveal the Father to you. As he does, you will discover the place that has been made for you in the Father's house.
Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25-26 NIV)
Jesus heard that his friend Lazarus was sick but rather than rushing back to be with Martha and Mary and heal his friend he delays two days. As he hears the news, he declares “this sickness will not end in death”, somehow through this Jesus is going to bring glory to his Father.
Eventually he returns to Judea and on the way he hears that Lazarus has died. Jesus is not bothered by this news because he knows the Father's plan.
When Martha greets him they start off with a bit of a theological discussion about the 'last days'. That’s not good enough for Jesus, he brings it back to the present and grounds it in the reality of who he is. He is the resurrection and the life, he came that we might have life and life in all it’s fullness.
You may be struggling, you may be carrying a heavy burden, you may even feel spiritually dead. That's ok; it’s how it is sometimes.
Today, I want to encourage you: he is our life. Go to the source of life and open your heart before him, ask him to fulfil his promise in your life. Your circumstances may not change but your heart will. As Jesus spoke life into Lazarus so he can for you.
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.