Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations. (Jeremiah 1:5 NIV)
Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. (Psalm 139:16 NIV)
What a tremendous security these verses bring. Before we were a dream of our parents, our Heavenly Father knew us. He knew all about us: where we would be born, who our family would be, what we would grow up to do and what we would be like.
I don't believe this was purely a factual knowing. It was a creative knowing. It wasn't just that God could read a book about you, he actually wrote the book. He knows you because he created you.
Of course, the picture God has of you is the perfect, unpolluted, unblemished one. The one that he determined before the broken world changed everything. Our Father is bigger than the mess in the world and whilst he knows the impact it has on you, it doesn't diminish his love for you.
Our Father sees beyond the brokenness in our lives, in our families and in our world system. He sees us as we are, yet he continues to draw us into his love and into the security of knowing that he is being a Father to us. Not only does he know all about us but he knows the plans he has for our lives. He will always be with us as walk the pathway of life.
For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. 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 3:14-19 NIV)
The Father's love for us is immeasurable. It goes beyond anything we can imagine or comprehend. In fact, it is not meant to be understood as that would limit it to the extent of intellectual ability. Yet, it is something we can experience and go on experiencing. It is something we can live in.
Paul's prayer is that we would be rooted and established in this love. That our lives would be planted in the Father's love so that we can begin to experience the transforming power of that love in our heart. The Passion Translation describes it as "the resting place of his love will become the very source and root of your life".
The Father's love is wide enough to encompass every situation we may go through, it is long enough to stretch back through our history and it goes before us into our future. It is high enough to celebrate our joys and achievements and deep enough to carry us through our pain, grief and mourning. Our lives contain a lot of uncertainty and this can cause us to worry or live in fear. When we are planted in love we know a security greater than our own, we are able to trust the One who knows everything of our past AND our future.
His love will never leave us, nor forsake us. It is the only thing able to carry us through every circumstance we will face.
"Now to him who is able...." may our Father fill you with his love today and everyday.
For this reason they could not believe, because, as Isaiah says elsewhere: “He has blinded their eyes and hardened their hearts, so they can neither see with their eyes, nor understand with their hearts, nor turn—and I would heal them.” (John 12:39-40 NIV)
The words Jesus quotes were spoken many centuries earlier by both Moses and Isaiah. Jesus gives a fuller explanation of them in Matthew 13 where he explains to his disciples that they are able to hear and receive what he is teaching because their hearts are open. What we are seeing is the consequence of a hard heart. The inability to receive and live in the truth. The words of life Jesus is speaking are not having any effect on the people because of the hardness of their hearts. They are blinded to the truth of the gospel.
As we open our heart we are able to receive truth. That truth will change us and lead us into the fullness of life promised by Jesus, it will cause streams of living water to rise up within us and flow out to a hurting and broken world.
In opening our heart we need to recognise how sensitive it is. It is easily wounded and therefore we must take steps to protect or guard it. Solomon highlights this for us - “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it” (Proverbs 4:23). A guarded heart is very different to a closed heart. I see a closed heart as one that keeps love out and the stuff of life in. A guarded heart is one that keeps the love in and the rubbish out! Spending time with our Heavenly Father, the lover of our soul, is the best way to foster a guarded heart. It will enable us to live from our heart and in doing so we discover the joy of walking in relationship with him.
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)
We have seen over the past few weeks how the heart is not only central to who we are, it's where all our important relationships live. We relate to our husband or wife from the heart, we relate to our children from the heart, we relate to our close friends from the heart. Whilst I have a genuine care for the clients in my accountancy practice, our relationship is much more one of the mind as they are paying for me to impart my knowledge to them. Life-giving relationships are all rooted in the heart.
There are things we understand with our mind and that is good and right. But we do not relate to God with our mind, we have a heart to heart connection with him. Too often we admit to knowing the love of God in our mind and wonder when it will drop from there into our heart. It’s a question I’m often asked and I now believe it is the wrong question. God pours his love directly into our heart not into our mind in the hope that one day it might find its way into the heart. Many of us have learned to believe with our mind which leads to us rationalising everything. When we believe with our heart we will be transformed.
Opening our heart requires faith as we learn to trust our Father’s goodness and kindness towards us. As we open our heart we find that he puts his finger on some blockages or hindrances to receiving which he wants to remove. Opening our heart and seeking to keep it open is a doorway for us to go through as we seek to live in love. An open heart is a container for his love, the more open it is the bigger the container will become.
As we open our heart to his love we will start to live differently. We create a new wineskin that he fills with his love.
For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. (Jeremiah 29:11-13 NIV)
Jesus offered life (John 10:10), he offered streams of living water (John 4:14) that would be life-changing and life-giving to those who could receive it. He was not necessarily showing people how to live properly by doing the right things, he was showing people how an encounter with him would change their heart for ever.
Our heart is central to everything. Our heart is deeper than our soul which comprises of our mind, will and emotions. Our heart is akin to our spirit, it is the place where the Father makes his home and it is the deep place that defines who we really are. Our soul (mind, will and emotions) belong to us but they do not define who we are. That’s done at a deeper level, in our heart.
It’s when we seek him in the deep place of our heart that we can begin to discover the plans he has for us. They are good plans, they give us hope for our future. At the same time though, we know we live in a fallen world which often tarnishes and confronts his plans for us. Yet, we can take heart knowing that he is always good. The journey we are called to take is one of the heart. It is not one of reason or emotion but a deep longing inside of us to discover the heart of our Father and then to pursue it with all our soul. It is our heart joining with his heart and through that we discover his ways.
So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, and they are full of greed. (Ephesians 4:17-19 NIV)
Last week I talked about the importance of allowing the eyes of our heart to be opened to the truth of who God really is and who we are. To see these truths requires a revelation which comes as a gift from our Father. It is with the eyes of our heart that we see the truth.
This week we look briefly at the opposite. The futility of our own understanding. The picture Paul paints is not very attractive: we don’t see clearly, we are separated from the life of God, we lose a sensitive heart and end up with a hard heart. How different to what we read last week. The trouble is we like to boast in our own wisdom and understanding, it draws attention to us and makes us look good. Paul only has one word to describe this: futile.
When we see with the eyes of our mind we see what God does and so may miss who he is, our Glorious Father. When we see with the eyes of our mind we focus on what Jesus does rather than allowing him to lead us to the Father.
When we see with the eyes of our heart we see who God is, the glorious Father. When we see with the eyes of our heart we allow ourselves to be led to the Father. We focus on relationship rather than on activity. As the eyes of our heart are opened, I believe it is inevitable that the eyes of our mind will begin to close and we lose our hard heart and regain a sensitive heart tuned into the heart of the Father.
For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all God’s people, 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 1:15-18 NIV)
In Paul’s prayer, he is praying for two specific things which he longs would be the experience of each and every Christian. The only way we can receive these is through the gift of the Spirit of wisdom and revelation and it is the Father who gives us this gift. We will not experience these things through our own wisdom or knowledge but through an encounter with our Heavenly Father. What then does Paul want us to receive?
Firstly, he wants us to know God better. It is truly amazing that the Father gives us the very gift we need in order to really know who he is. He is so keen for us to discover the truth that he gives us the spirit of revelation so our eyes might behold who he really is. We are given a clear pointer to who God really is by Paul himself; he introduces his prayer by telling us who he is talking to: the God of our Lord Jesus Christ and if there is any doubt, this God is the Glorious Father.
Secondly, he wants us to know who we are, “the hope to which we have been called”. Paul wants us to know our true inheritance which is to live as sons and daughters to our Heavenly Father.
These two factors are fundamental. The only way we can see them is when the eyes of our heart are opened. We can’t understand them with our own (limited) understanding but we need a divine revelation, given to us by the Father and one which finds its home in our heart. I pray today, that the eyes of heart may be more fully open to these amazing truths.
My son, do not forget my teaching, but keep my commands in your heart, for they will prolong your life many years and bring you peace and prosperity. Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart. Then you will win favour and a good name in the sight of God and man. Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. (Proverbs 3:1-6 NIV)
These verses are a conversation between a father and his son where the father is imparting wisdom to the younger man. Each instruction is followed by a blessing.
Don’t forget my teaching, it will bring peace and blessing.
Be loving and faithful, you will find favour with both God and man.
Don’t rely on your own knowledge, instead rely on the Lord; that’s the best way to live.
Do you see how often the heart is mentioned? The father is not trying to impose a set of rules that must be obeyed, nor is he seeking to encourage the son to live out of his own strength or resources. Rather he is showing the way of the heart. The blessings and fruitful life that flow from a heart relationship.
This, too, is important for us. We are not called to a life of slavish duty and obligation but to a relationship built on love. We can only ever love because he first loved us and it is as we open our heart to love that we enter into the blessings described for us in Proverbs. I encourage you to look at your life? Are you ruled by duty or are you led by love? Being led by love will lead us into a wide open space where there is freedom and rest.
See, the Sovereign Lord comes with power, and he rules with a mighty arm. See, his reward is with him, and his recompense accompanies him. He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young. (Isaiah 40:10-11 NIV)
This chapter is a wonderful picture of a strong and mighty God. It shows us his power and majesty and how incredibly big he is. It recounts his marvellous deeds and how he can do anything he wants to do. It also shows us how small we are, how minute our strength and ability is when compared to him. We are like a speck of dust or a drop in a bucket.
We often see people like that in the world, who use their power and position to be controlling and manipulative. They only want to see their will being done and they don’t mind who they hurt or trample on to achieve their aims.
My question today is do you view God like that? Is he someone you think is controlling and manipulative, seeking to force you to do his will? That’s a wrong view of God and not one borne out by the Isaiah 40. Yes, he is strong and mighty but he demonstrates his strength in ways that show his heart for us.
The chapter starts with the word COMFORT. His strength comforts us and therefore his power is for our good, it is to build us up and encourage us.
In verses 10 and 11 there is a description of a strong God, yet he reaches down and carries his people like a shepherd would carry a lamb. Great strength expressed through tenderness and compassion.
Finally the chapter ends with rest and renewal as we wait upon the Lord.
Yes, God is all powerful but he channels his strength, not into control and manipulation but into comfort, tenderness and renewal.
Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. 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 5:1-5 NIV)
It is clear from this passage that we have been brought back into relationship with the Father. Through Jesus, we now have peace with God and this enables us to come freely to him irrespective of how we feel or what we think we might have done. We have the assurance, not only of our sins being forgiven but also a right relationship with God, our Creator and Father. Despite this (which, of course, is very good news) we live in a world where there will be suffering. It is because of the assurance of our right relationship with God, the Father that we are able to hang on and endure the suffering that is thrown at us. As we do, we are inevitably changed. Hope, that for which we long for, the certainty of our future with him can be drawn into the reality of our day to day life.
What I particularly want to draw out of these verses is that the ability to go through suffering is based on his love being poured freely into our heart. It is not the consequence of our own works.
The Father’s love is not the end of the journey. It is not a reward for persevering through suffering, allowing our character to change and somehow finding hope for the future. No, it is because his love has been poured into our heart that we are able to endure suffering (through which we are changed). I often say that God does not pour his love into our mind in the hope that, one day, it will drop into our heart. Receiving his love is not an exercise of our will or mind, it is the free gift of HIM pouring HIS love directly into our heart.
It does not end with love but begins with love. His love is the foundation on which we build our lives, it is a solid rock, anything else is shifting sand.
The Passion Translation says: “we can experience the endless love of God cascading into our hearts through the Holy Spirit”.
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.