The book of Philippians is about trust. Do we trust the Father enough to allow ourselves to come to a place of rest where we can rely on the peace that passes all understanding? Do we trust enough to believe that he will work his purpose out for us, rather than us having to try and make it happen?
The LORD will fulfill his purpose for me; your steadfast love, O LORD, endures forever. Do not forsake the work of your hands. (Psalms 138:8 ESV)
And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. (Philippians 1:6 ESV)
At the end of Philippians, Paul talks about being content (and we'll look at that in a few weeks time). That contentment can only flow from us receiving and living in the assurance of these promises. He has started something in our lives and he will make it happen. His purpose is not so much the journey we might take but it is the end result, it is the destination. Proverbs tells us that we make plans but God has a purpose that will stand forever (Prov 19:21).
Sometimes our journey is not linear. We make mistakes, we take diversions, we wonder where we are going and what is happening. The twists and turns of life's journey can sometimes be confusing and maybe we begin to doubt. We doubt ourselves, we doubt God.
He is not bothered about our diversions because his purpose is bigger and goes beyond our plans. His purpose for us is rooted in eternity and he has promised to accomplish it. That's where trust comes in - can we trust him enough to lay aside our plans and allow him to lead us? He will complete what he has started. That's my prayer today.
Truth: Hard to find and sometimes even harder to define. Yet Jesus makes it much more simple than we have made it.
Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.” (John 14:6-7 ESV)
So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:31-32 ESV)
We are bombarded with opinions: social media, news broadcasts, what other people think and all presented as being the 'gospel truth', yet deep down we know are being sold a lie. How do we shift through all of this to discover the truth. Our definition of truth is skewed because it's influenced by a series of filters we create, the desire to please other people, our belief or bahviour patterns our struggle with an orphan world. Jesus strips all that away; he is the Truth. Truth is not so much found in a collection of facts but in a person.
The desire of Jesus is that we would be with him where he is, he has taken us into himself and therefore we are with him where he is: the bosom of the Father. That is the place where discover Truth and it sets us free. The truth we discover is that we are brought into the same relationship with the Father that Jesus has. We are sons. We have a place in the family forever. We are not slaves. We belong.
This very well knnown verse in John 14 is simple , yet profound. We are shown that the way to the Father is through Jesus. As we start that journey, heading towards this amazing destination, we find the truth of who we are and then we find the life that our hearts long for. Jesus is the Life. The Life of the Father, the life of the Trinity is made available to us through Jesus. It is life to the full, abundant life.
Every now and then it's good to remind ourselves of the main thing. The substance of love which is being poured into our heart through and by the Holy Spirit. Not only do we need reminding, we also need to give ourselves the opportunity to receive.
And this hope is not a disappointing fantasy, because we can now experience the endless love of God cascading into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who lives in us! (Romans 5:5 TPT)
Jeremiah tells us we are loved with an everlasting love (Jer 31:3). All of the love that was in the Father's heart before the creation of the world, all of the love that runs through time and all of the love that will run through eternity future is being poured into our heart by the Holy Spirit. That's a lot of love. It's very reassuring for us as this means there has never been a time when we've not been loved nor is there anything we can do (or not do) that will take us outside the love of God.
Sometimes we doubt God's love. Sometimes we feel condemned and unworthy of love. Other times we feel that our sin stops the flow of love until we prove ourselves through our works. All of those feelings are real to us and they affect what we think or believe. They don't, however, determine what God thinks or feels. He does not change; he is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. Our behaviour may not be in accordance with his will but it does not change the fact that we are loved.
Most translations say the love of God is 'poured' into our heart. I like the Passion Translation's use of the word 'cascade'. It describes a generous and constantly flowing torrent of love. It's similar to John who writes 'see what kind of love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God' (1 John 3:1).
Let's make the main thing the main thing. Why not enjoy being loved today! Let the Father lavish or cascade his love into your heart.
Last week I looked at how comfort helps us to keep an open heart. Today I'm taking this a step further as a comforted heart brings change in us. It enables us to walk as Jesus walked.
Even if I caused you sorrow by my letter, I do not regret it. Though I did regret it—I see that my letter hurt you, but only for a little while— yet now I am happy, not because you were made sorry, but because your sorrow led you to repentance. For you became sorrowful as God intended and so were not harmed in any way by us. Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death. (2 Corinthians 7:8-10 NIV)
There are two kinds of sorrow. Godly sorrow which leads to life and worldly sorrow that leads to death. How are they separated?
Paul's exhortation does not come from a judgemental or critical heart. He comes to the church in Corinth with an overwhelming desire to encourage them and to lead them back into a right relationship with God. He wants them to know that God is a Father to them and they are sons and daughters. For them to enter into this reality they need to change, they have to allow the sorrow Paul feels to bring them to a place of repentance through which they will have an encounter with the Father.
Too often when we deal with other people we do so from a critical heart and all that does is judge and condemn. That's the worldly sorrow that leads to death, not life. It goes back to the two trees in the garden: one brings life, the other death.
Godly sorrow will lead us to repentance, it will restore relationship and it will bring us to an encounter with the love of God where we know that he is being a Father to us. It brings life! We don't have to fear repentance or change as it takes our heart deeper into love.
I've recently been reading through 2 Corinthians and have seen how the apostle Paul has a soft, tender heart towards the church in Corinth. Despite everything that he's been through he has not allowed his heart to become hard; in fact, his circumstances have not made him rely on his own strength but rather he has discovered the power of comfort and weakness.
We have spoken freely to you, Corinthians, and opened wide our hearts to you. We are not withholding our affection from you, but you are withholding yours from us. As a fair exchange—I speak as to my children —open wide your hearts also. (2 Corinthians 6:11-13 NIV)
Paul has had to write to the Corinthians about some pretty major things and, no doubt, it would have been easy for him to be judgemental or critical. That, however, is not his posture. He appeals to them to change, "to come out from them and be separate" (verse 17), he appeals to them to open their hearts in the same way as he and Titus have opened their hearts to them.
I have often wondered how Paul managed to maintain an open heart after he had been through so much hardship. The key is found in the first few verses of chapter 7: he is greatly comforted. Paul had found the power of living from a comforted heart. He receives that comfort once again as Titus visits him and is able to comfort him with the comfort that he himself has received. The fruit of a comforted heart is also seen in Titus - he has been refreshed by being with them.
Comfort is contagious! When we are comforted we are able to comfort others. I believe we receive, first and foremost, because we need to be comforted. We don't principally receive comfort in order to give it out although that is the natural consequence. Comfort restores us, it encourages us, it enables us to face the hardships of life and, importantly, it is the key to us keeping an open, tender heart.
All too often peace seems in short supply. We live busy lives with so much going on, we face the every day challenges of the world (which these days seem pretty immense) and on top of that we have to cope with all the internal stuff going on in our heart and mind. It can all feel very unpeaceful!
"Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid." (John 14:27 NIV)
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33 NIV)
Jesus recognises that trouble will come our way. He knows how easy it is for us to lose our peace and to be caught up with the turmoil of the world. Trouble, hassle - whatever word you choose to use it's inevitable, we are never going to be immune from it.
Along with the recognition that trouble is heading our way there is the wonderful assurance and promise, that in the midst of it we can find peace. A calmness and rest that is a supernatural gift. Jesus lived in peace despite everything that was going on around him and it's that same peace that he gives to us. Not only does Jesus give us his peace but he reminds us that he has overcome the world; he has done what we're unable to do.
It's a peace that takes our fear away. It's a peace that is not based on worldly qualities or events. It's a peace that goes beyond our understanding.
It's the peace that flows from the heart of the Father, it's part of his nature. Today that gift of peace is available to you.
Picture the scene: the people return home to a broken country, they rebuild their city against a lot of opposition, they may be fearful of the nations around them, they're trying to resettle and are no doubt apprehensive. Then they gather together to be reminded of who they are and, more importantly, who their God is.
Then Nehemiah the governor, Ezra the priest and teacher of the Law, and the Levites who were instructing the people said to them all, “This day is holy to the LORD your God. Do not mourn or weep.” For all the people had been weeping as they listened to the words of the Law. Nehemiah said, “Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is holy to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the LORD is your strength. (Nehemiah 8:9-10 NIV)
They hear about the goodness and faithfulness of God and that must have re-kindled hope and expectancy within their hearts. I think they could begin to believe that it was all worthwhile, that maybe, once again, they could live in peace and prosperity.
There is someone greater than themselves, someone with bigger resources, someone who will get them through. They are not on their own, nor do they have to get through relying on their own strength.
The situation you may be facing might be daunting, it might feel too big for you to cope with. You may not know which way to turn. Like Ezra and Nehemiah's audience you can turn to your Father. You can be reminded of his greatness and faithfulness towards you. And that supernatural joy which is part of his nature can flow into you and become your strength, enabling you to face whatever is in your path today. It's his joy, not your's!
Last week we saw that we have not been left on our own, as orphans in an orphan-hearted world, but that Jesus came to make a way for us to know the Father and that we are truly sons and daughters. This is a great comfort to us. We are not alone; in fact, we have a Helper who is with us every moment of every day. That Helper (also called a Comforter) is the Holy Spirit.
And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper to help you and be with you forever— the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. (John 14:16-17 NIV)
This is one of the first times in the New Testament that we read of the way the Holy Spirit comes and helps us. It's before any of Paul's teaching on the importance of the Gifts of the Spirit in Corinthians and Romans. Jesus doesn't talk about the gifts of the Spirit but, rather he dwells on the person of the Spirit who is our Comforter, Helper, Guide and the One who enables us to know that we are one with the Father. The gifts follow but the important thing that Jesus is communicating is that the Holy Spirit is like a bridge between us and the heart of the Father. In fact, I see him as an elastic bridge; not only does he bridge the gap but he then draws us right into the heart of the Father.
The Holy Spirit, living in us, is the reality of the continuity of God's presence with us. He reminds us of everything that Jesus has taught, he continues to bring it alive for us and he is the enabling power to help us walk as Jesus walked. Ezekiel saw this when he prophesied that God's own Spirit would live in us and cause (or motivate) us to walk in his ways (Ezekiel 36:27).
Living in the Spirit is the hallmark of our sonship. It is our inner confirmation that we are sons of God and therefore we're enabled to cry "Abba, Father!" "The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God" (Romans 8:16). And so, my encouragement today is to go on being filled with the Spirit.
I think we would agree we live in an orphan hearted world. We recognise the symptoms in other people, in our world systems and probably in ourselves. So, what is an orphan?
An orphan is separated from or taken out of a family, it has a lack of identity, it lives a lonely, fear based life leading to performance and striving. An orphan sees God as a master or judge and so everything has to be worked for and becomes a reward. An orphan seeks position, acceptance and validation which, once achieved, will be hung onto, whatever the cost.
Jesus understood all this, which is why he says:
I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. (John 14:18-20 NIV)
Even although the disciples had been with Jesus for three years, during which he had taught them, discipled and counselled them, he still sees them as orphans. In essence he sees them as being fatherless. He recognises the longing of each person to find and know a father. This longing has been in each human heart since Adam and Eve walked out of the garden, having chosen independence and separation from God.
Jesus comes to put all this right. He reveals the Father, not only to the disciples but also to us. He tells us that both he and the Father will come and make their home in our heart (John 14:23). We are not left fatherless, he has come to us and will be a Father to us.
Today I encourage you to open your heart to this amazing truth. Not only is God 'a' father but he wants to be a Father to YOU.
Last week I ended by encouraging you to discover the resting place of the Father's love. I am convinced that the enemy seeks to rob us of two major parts of our inheritance: our rest and our freedom. Of course, these are interwoven; the more at rest we are, the freer we are and vice versa. Rest is our inheritance and I'm not talking about sitting on a couch and doing nothing. I'm talking about the stillness and peace in our heart.
"There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from their works, just as God did from his. Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will perish by following their example of disobedience." (Hebrews 4:9-11 NIV)
"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest." (Matthew 11:28 NIV)
An inheritance is a gift, it's not a right. A gift is given, but for it to be a gift it has to be received. We are promised a life of rest but we have a choice whether we receive the gift or not. The writer of Hebrews is very clear: we can continue a life of works and religious duty or we can jump from the hamster wheel of works into the resting place of his love. In fact, the writer of Hebrews thinks that this is really important for us to do as he says 'make every effort' - some translations say 'strive' or 'be diligent' to enter your rest.
Paul's pretty clear about this, as he, too, reminds us not to focus on the results of our own works (Eph 2:9) but rather to seek out those things which God has already prepared for us to do (Eph 2:10). This is the point of what Jesus said in Matthew 11. "Come to me, take my yoke upon you, you will find rest for your souls".
What has been stolen can be restored. As we look to him he becomes the source of our life. We begin to live like Jesus, only doing what the Father gives us to do. It's then that our heart finds its resting place.
We are made alive in Christ! (Eph 2:4) What a glorious statement and its impact has clearly caught Paul's attention. He's so excited about this revelation that once again he pauses and launches into another of his famous prayers. A prayer for us. Just as we saw last week he starts off with the words "for this reason". Because we are made alive in Christ...
"...I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge —that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. (Ephesians 3:16-19 NIV)
Our salvation is a gift, it is not achieved through our works - if it were some would inevitably score more highly than others. No, our salvation is a gift which comes to us through our faith in him. Even our own faith is not self-generated, that, too, is a gift. Everything we need is made available to us and we simply need to appropriate it for ourselves. We are no longer distant but have been brought into the Godhead through Jesus. Not only joined to the Father, Son and Holy Spirit but being joined, as a family, with one another.
This is the backdrop for Paul's prayer. This divine revelation of unity leads to our hearts being strengthened by the Holy Spirit in order that it can become a place for the Father to live. It's a home of love where our heart comes to rest. This love is immeasurable yet it is strong. It becomes the foundation of our lives and therefore everything we do comes from and out of love.
The Passion Translation puts it like this: Then, by constantly using your faith, the life of Christ will be released deep inside you, and the resting place of his love will become the very source and root of your life. (v17)
Today, I encourage you to make his love your resting place. It is safe and secure.
What an amazing list of blessings Paul gives at the start of Ephesians chapter one. As you read this list (and I encourage you to take some time to do so) you feel his excitement and joy as he recites the goodness of the Lord. At the end of this great list he pauses for breath before launching into his famous prayer which starts with these words: "for this reason". Because of all these great blessings...
"...I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers. I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people." (Ephesians 1:16-18 NIV)
Paul asks that we would receive two things which will enable us to live in the blessing he's just recounted. First though, we need to note to whom Paul is praying, who is the Giver? Paul makes it very clear that the Giver is the Father. And so he asks that we would receive a spirit of wisdom and revelation which will enable us to know the Glorious Father better than we do at present. Secondly, Paul asks that the eyes of our heart would be enlightened in order that we would know who we really are! The word enlightened means to see with understanding - this prayer is about our heart understanding something profound which has previously been hidden.
When we read this prayer in the context of the whole passage, we see that the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ is also our Father and that (from before the creation of the world) we were meant to live as sons and daughters. We can only see this by revelation and, thankfully, the ability to receive revelation is a gift from the Father. This is not an intellectual understanding but an encounter that touches and changes our heart. We see, and understand, with our heart.
We have been blessed with every spiritual blessing simply because God is our Father and we are his children.
Comfort, what we desperately need and yes, it is possible for us to find and receive it. What has been devastated can be transformed and made beautiful. The emptiness and desperation can become a place of joy and gladness.
The LORD will surely comfort Zion and will look with compassion on all her ruins; he will make her deserts like Eden, her wastelands like the garden of the LORD. Joy and gladness will be found in her, thanksgiving and the sound of singing.
Those the LORD has rescued will return. They will enter Zion with singing; everlasting joy will crown their heads. Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away. (Isaiah 51: 3&11 NIV)
This is our hope. The stedfast love of the Lord never ceases and his mercies are new every morning. This is the only thing that gives us true hope in the midst of our suffering. As we allow ourselves to be comforted (for as long as it takes) our heart will undergo a transformation. What we felt was barren or had become like a desert will be transformed into a beautiful garden. Where there was sorrow and sadness there will be joy and gladness. There will be life which Jesus promised was life in all its fulness.
How do we receive comfort. It's different for everyone but let me give one or two suggestions. Trauma often occurs suddenly, comfort comes more slowly and gently. We feel like our life has become a wilderness, we may need to go to the wilderness for our healing: not literally, but we may need to withdraw and have time alone (that can be difficult to plan and arrange but it will be worth it). We need friends, not like Job's but those who will sit, say nothing, do nothing (well, maybe make a cake or some coffee) - who are just there for us when we need them.
Above all we need to turn our heart to the Father of all comfort who will comfort us in all our troubles. Here is a soaking video you may wish to put on and simply ask the Father to pour his comforting love into your heart. He is faithful and he will do it.
These posts have only skimmed the surface, if you would like more you can download my free booklet, "The Father's Comfort" or go to the seminars on my website where we've covered this in a lot more detail.
Comfort, the expression of love we desperately need, yet rarely talk about. We all suffer loss, it often comes unannounced, it's always significant and it affects us more deeply than we allow ourselves to acknowledge.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
You're blessed when you feel you've lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you. (Matthew 5:4 NIV/Message)
When we suffer loss we need to be able to mourn that loss. Let me try and define how I see grief and mourning. Grief is the onslaught of emotions that we face in the teeth of our loss: bereavement, immeasurable pain, anger, fear, paralysis, despair, hopelessness. These emotions (and all the others I've not mentioned) are all valid and don't let anyone tell you otherwise. Mourning is our journey through the grief and our coming to terms with all these conflicting emotions. It's facing them, acknowledging that they are (very) real and then giving yourself time to walk through them. My friend, Jane Trentham, says: "allow yourself to go to the 'ouch' moment". That's not easy, it can be very painful but it's also the start of the journey that leads to healing.
It's on that journey of mourning, as we process the pain of loss and the deep experience of grief, that we are comforted. How long does it take? It takes as long as it takes and you mustn't rush, as, in your haste, you will bury your grief and it will only surface at another time (probably more forcefully and when you least expect it).
There is, however, a beautiful promise of redemption and restoration which I'll look at next week. In the meantime, once again, come to the Father and ask him to wrap you in his arms of love and comfort you.
We don't talk about it, but we should. Comfort, in one form or another, is mentioned over one hundred times in the Bible yet we rarely talk about it, let alone receive. It's important, very important. However, it's not a topic for us to learn about; it's an expression of love that we experience as it brings healing to the deepest wounds in our heart.
Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her that her hard service has been completed, that her sin has been paid for, that she has received from the LORD’s hand double for all her sins. (Isaiah 40:1-2 NIV)
Comfort, comfort my people: what that really says to us is that we can be greatly comforted.
We all experience trauma and we experience it differently. What may be traumatic for one person may be inconsequential for another. We react differently. We may try and cope, to fight through it or pretend that the trauma never happened. Ultimately there is only one solution and that is we need to receive comfort. Trauma will always leave us empty and in despair, we feel as if we have lost hope and have nowhere to turn. In fact, Solomon writes about the desperation we feel when we are not comforted, I encourage you to read it in Ecclesiastes 4:1-3, frankly it's a tragedy.
I have come to see that every trauma has to be met with a greater level of comfort. If we don't receive more comfort than the trauma we've experienced we will be left in pain or discomfort. Our heart is like a container and trauma sits in the depth of our heart like a heavy weight. Comfort comes down the inside edges of that container, comes underneath the trauma and gradually lifts it up, ultimately being able to wash it away. That's why we need more comfort than the trauma.
Even although we don't talk about it we all need to be comforted. It is as we grieve and mourn our loss that we are comforted and that's something I'll look at next week. In the meantime, ask the Father to come and wrap you in his arms and comfort you. He will!
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.