That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched —this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us. We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. (1 John 1:1-3 NIV)
This letter of John's is a very intimate appeal to his readers. He is inviting them into the same experience of love that he has lived in for many years. As I said last week, this is not a concept or set of principles but a relationship. It is a relationship we are invited to be part of. Simply put, it is knowing that God is a Father and that he wants to be a Father to us.
All of our significant relationships are heart relationships. We don't love our spouse or children from our heads, we love them from the heart. A heart relationship is prepared to cover the mistakes and failings (1 Peter 4:8) and seeks no pleasure in judging or forming opinions. Jesus tells us that the secrets of the kingdom are hidden from the wise and learned (those who approach things with their mind) and are revealed to little children (those who live from the heart).
John encourages us to touch, see and hear. He invites us to experience. He invites us to join him in a relationship with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit; one that we, too, can experience rather than simply learn about.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:1-5, 14 NIV)
I know this is something that I write about often but I believe it's important for us to fully grasp as we seek to live in love. Love is an experience, it is not a concept or set of principles. To experience love we need to know who is loving us. That is true for our relationships in our families and with our friends. Love is personal and it always leads us to the one who is loving us.
Just as that is true for our human relationships so it is true in our relationship with God. My children don't call me 'sir' or the boss, they call me 'daddy'. They use a relational name and not a functional one. I believe the term 'God' expresses a functional relationship of what God does: he creates, he heals, he rules, he is Lord and Master. It does not, however, reveal who he is and who he wants to become for us. He is Father, he has always been Father and he wants to be a Father to you and me. That is a relationship and it goes way beyond a function.
We've recently celebrated Christmas, the coming of Jesus, the son of God who stepped into our humanity. The very Word of God became a man for one simple reason. He came from the Father in order to reveal the Father to us.
No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known. (John 1:18)
This revelation brings light and life. It shows us, with complete clarity, who God is and the relationship he wants to have with each one of us. Take a moment to consider your view of God: is he God or is he Father?
That’s a very well known phrase which tries to make us optimistic when everything seems to be going wrong. Take something sour and unpalatable and turn it into something desirable. I guess we all wish we could do that right now.
For many of us our Christmas celebrations had to be cancelled. Seeing family, many of whom we hadn’t seen for months, had to be put on hold and that glimmer of light we thought we’d seen seemed to be snuffed out. As we enter 2021, we continue to see uncertainty all around us.
In the week before Christmas I listened to an interview by the Archbishop of Canterbury in which he said ‘Christmas is not cancelled, just our Christmas celebrations; Christmas is a message of hope, of Christ coming into our world’. Christmas is over, we’ve started the new year and maybe it feels like another long, hard slog has become. However, hope is not just for Christmas. Hope is something we carry in our heart. Our hope is not dependent on our circumstances, nor on our feelings. Our hope is the result and the outcome of the Father pouring his love into our heart (Romans 5:5).
We have lived through many months of loss, grief and hardship. But we can have hope, not in Governments or vaccines but in our Father who holds our lives in his hand and who carries us through all the uncertainties we face. It is the certainty of his love for us which is the only thing that gives us true hope.
My soul is bereft of peace; I have forgotten what happiness is; so I say, “My endurance has perished; so has my hope from the LORD.” Remember my affliction and my wanderings, the wormwood and the gall! My soul continually remembers it and is bowed down within me. But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. “The LORD is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.” (Lamentations 3: 17-24 NIV)
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16)
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 4:10)
As a father myself I know the joy of giving, it’s something I enjoy doing for our children and now our two grandsons. It’s fun to watch the pleasure of others receiving and seeing the delight on their faces. Maybe our giving involves a small amount of sacrifice but that is often out-weighed by the pleasure of the moment.
In a few days time we’ll be celebrating Christmas and the greatest gift of all. This was a gift that cost the giver everything, it was probably not easy and, knowing the outcome, it possibly was painful. Yet our Father gave. He gave his only son who came to the world, embracing our humanity, with one simple aim in mind. He came to become, and to show us, the way that we could be reconciled to the Father. He came to bring us back home. He came to show us we are loved in the same way as he is loved.
This gift cost the Father everything but he did it because he wanted a family. He wanted his family to return to him.
And so at Christmas, we celebrate the beginning of our journey home. It started as it continues, in simplicity and weakness. It is a gift for those whose eyes can see, for those who have a childlike heart to receive the greatest gift of all.
Have a wonderful Christmas with family and friends, the next Weekly Signpost will be in the New Year.
And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. (1 John 4:16)
There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. We love because he first loved us. (1 John 4:18-19)
The love of the Father is totally reliable. It is not fickle, swayed by the uncertainty of circumstances or emotion. When John writes that we can 'know and rely' on the love that God has for us, he is using words that describe a relationship, they describe an experience. They are words that go beyond facts or knowledge resting in our mind. John starts this letter by telling his readers about the things that he himself has seen, heard and touched. He is describing his experience and is inviting us into a similar and personal encounter with God, as Father.
It's a relationship of life that is rooted and grounded in love. One of the biggest hindrances we face is fear. Fear paralyses and seeks to destroy the life of God in us. It holds us back and prevents us living fully as sons and daughters.
As we rely on the Father's love, fear has to go. The more we live in love the more our fears are driven away. Fear condemns but love releases and sets us free. Too often we try and face our fears which that can be draining. Instead, let us turn into love for it is love that will drive the fear away.
Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is 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 4:7-10)
The Father lavishes his love on us. This means it’s an overwhelming, generous torrent of love that is constantly cascading into our heart. I encourage you to go on asking for more as there is no limit nor end to the Father’s love for us. It is an everlasting love.
As we become at home with and in love, that love begins to transforms us. Love works the nature of Christ in us and we become free to walk as Jesus walked. We live a life rooted and established in love, where love is the foundation of everything we do and everything we are. Love cannot help but transform.
We, therefore, are not the source of love, it is not generated in our heart. God, the Father, is the source of love and we can only love because he first loved us. For us to love one another we need first to be planted in his eternal love. We need to be the constant recipient of love in order that it can work in us and then flow outwards to others. We can’t make ourselves love others, we do so as his love flows through us.
If you are in a situation where you feel you need more love for someone. Why not turn your gaze on the Father and ask him to fill you with more of his love. Ask purely for your own benefit and not with the aim of becoming a more loving person. That will automatically follow as you live loved.
See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. (1 John 3:1)
Some of the translations of the Bible say “see what kind of love”. Let’s take a look at the nature of the Father’s love and, as we do, we’ll see that it is more than a fact or theological concept. We’ll see the substance of love being poured into our heart.
It is an extravagant, generous and marvellous love. Nothing is spared or held back. It’s like going to a feast where there is almost too much to eat. You want to try it all but you know you don’t have the capacity to do so.
His love is redemptive. In order for us to become his children we have to be redeemed (or bought back) from the enemy who’d stolen us. The Father takes us from the destructive life of sin and brings us into his family.
The Father’s love is a sacrificial and giving love. It cost the Father his Son, he paid everything in order that you and I might be brought home, into the centre of his love.
And finally, it is an eternal love. God has always been and will always be loving, he is our true Father. That is the love with which we are loved. It’s not dependent on us, on how we feel or behave. It’s a love that originates in the Father’s heart and it’s a love which is generously poured out, without limit, into our heart.
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.
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.