Then I said to you, “Do not be terrified; do not be afraid of them. The Lord your God, who is going before you, will fight for you, as he did for you in Egypt, before your very eyes, and in the wilderness. There you saw how the Lord your God carried you, as a father carries his son, all the way you went until you reached this place.” (Deuteronomy 1:29-31 NIV)
One thing that has crept into the church from the world is the praise of strength and personal achievement. The world, whether our education, business or political systems, encourage, indeed strive towards strength. Strength and being strong is promoted whereas those who are weak are put down and treated with contempt.
If we can make something happen in our strength or through the force of our personality it is deemed to be a good thing.
In Deuteronomy we see Moses painting a very different picture. A picture of weakness where we allow our Father to reach down and carry us like a father carries a child. Not a picture of strength and self reliance but one of dependence on our Father where we allow him to not only take our burdens, but to carry us all the way. He carries us through both the good times and the tough times.
Jesus often took a little child to demonstrate the nature of the Kingdom. It is to little children that the secrets of Heaven are revealed and it is to them who more easily see the Father (Matthew 11). The simplicity and power of the Father's love is hidden from those who think of themselves as being wise and learned.
Paul puts it very clearly. The power of recognising our weakness is the key to seeing God's power released. God's power is not demonstrated when we try to be strong or self reliant but it's seen through our weakness.
As we recognise our own weakness we will discover the life of rest and peace which often alludes us. We will discover a life of freedom as we watch and see what our Father is doing. We just get to go along for the ride.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our trouble so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any trouble with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For just as the sufferings of Christ are ours in abundance, so also our comfort is abundant through Christ. (2 Corinthians 1:3-5 NASB)
One of the things we don't talk about very often, despite it being mentioned over a hundred times in the Bible, is comfort. Comfort is an incredibly powerful expression of love and it is something that we need to talk about, but more than that it is something we need to experience.
In Ecclesiastes 4, Solomon describes the desperate state of the human heart when we do not receive comfort. His shocking conclusion is that people are better dead rather than not being comforted.
Comfort is an expression of love which goes to the painful depth of our heart and brings relief to the trauma or grief that we've experienced. It is the only way that trauma or grief can be washed out of our heart to set us free. We lose an unwelcome friend that has made its home in our heart, often for many years. The Father's comfort is the only way that trauma can be permanently erased.
Comfort, however, is not something we purely need to receive for past hurts or wounds. It is something we can receive daily in order that a reservoir of comfort builds up inside of us giving us the strength and energy we need to face our daily lives. Without this surplus of comfort we struggle from one situation to the next. A comforted heart is one that has come home and found its place of rest in the centre of the Father's love. A comforted heart has undergone a transformation where the barren desert has been transformed into a joyful, fruitful garden.
I encourage you to receive comfort daily in order that your heart can undergo this much needed transformation.
This way, love has the run of the house, becomes at home and mature in us, so that we're free of worry on Judgment Day—our standing in the world is identical with Christ's. There is no room in love for fear. Well-formed love banishes fear. Since fear is crippling, a fearful life—fear of death, fear of judgment—is one not yet fully formed in love. We, though, are going to love—love and be loved. First we were loved, now we love. He loved us first. (1 John 4:17-18 The Message)
It has to be possible for us to live in love. We read so much about it in the gospels and in Paul's letters but we often ask ourselves whether it is attainable. It seems too far out of our reach. Yet it wouldn't be in the Bible if it was impossible, simply put there to tantalise us and leave us feeling miserable when we don't hit the target.
In John's first letter we read we can 'know and rely on the love God has for us'. These are not words that find a home in our intellect, they are experiential words which belong in our heart. They describe a relationship, one which we can prove time and time again as we rest in Father's love. It is, as Jesus said, 'remaining in love' (John 15) or as Paul puts it 'the resting place of his love has become the very source and root of our life' (Ephesians 3:17 TPT).
We see this expressed very clearly towards the end of John 17 when Jesus is praying that we would discover the reality of being with him where he is; in the bosom of the Father.
As we live in love, the spirit of sonship is released in us and we will begin to walk as Jesus walked. It is something that will completely transform us.
Living in love is not something we can manufacture in our own strength. Rather it is us opening our heart to receive the love of the Father which is poured out freely by the Holy Spirit. It is seeing with the eyes of our heart that God is love.
Loving me empowers you to obey my commands (John 14:15 TPT)
Those who truly love me are those who obey my commands. (John 14:21 TPT)
Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching". (John 14: 23 NIV)
We live in a rule based society where, from an early age, we are taught the benefit of obeying them and the consequences of disobedience. Even in my job as an accountant, there are many volumes of UK tax law which must be obeyed and yes, there are penalties if the rules are not followed.
Inevitably, rules are associated with control and one place we shouldn't see this is in the church. Any form of control will take away our uniqueness and try to squash us into the mould of conformity. The consequence of this is that obedience has become a behavioural issue rather than a heart one. In the Old Testament the law of Moses was given as a relational expression of the nature of God the Father. It shows us what he is like and our heart obedience would make us to become like him. Sadly, the law became behavioural rather than relational and so God the Father became distant from his people.
Our relationship with God started with love, all he has ever wanted is to be a Father to us. Jesus brings us back to the centrality of love by summing up the law in these words: "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and mind and love your neighbour as yourself".
It is all too easy for us to swap love for obedience. Rather than seeing obedience flowing out of our love we assume that any love has to be earned through our behaviour. That's the wrong way round and one that will stifle life rather than free us to live in love.
As we live in love we will be empowered to seek and to desire to do the Father's will.
Just then a man came up to Jesus and asked, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life ?” “Why do you ask me about what is good?” Jesus replied. “There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, keep the commandments.” “Which ones?” he inquired. (Matthew 19:16-18 NIV)
In the garden, Adam and his wife were tricked. They were basically told that if they did something (ate from the tree) then they would become like God. It sounded good, but it was a trap and one we have all fallen for.
I guess all of us, in our heart, want to be like God or want to please him. Maybe not a bad motivation but not the one that fashions our relationship with him. In fact, the lie told to Adam and his wife is the one we often listen to. "What must I do?" When we live like this it's tiring. In reality, we have no idea if we are doing the right thing. It may be the right thing on one occasion but completely wrong on another.
This trap has drawn us away from our eternal destiny where we were meant to live as sons and daughters. Walking like Jesus and only doing what we see the Father doing.
The secret is not to live from the tree of knowledge of good and evil but to live from the tree of life. The expression of life itself.
The rich young ruler had done the right things all his life yet he still asked the question "what must I do?" That question never satisfies because principally we are not doers but recipients of the flow of life from Heaven into our heart.
Now eagerly desire the greater gifts. And yet I will show you the most excellent way. If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing. (1 Corinthians 12:31-13:3 NIV)
When we look at the life of Jesus we see that his identity was not defined by what he did but by who he was. Satan's attack on Jesus, like those of the Pharisees, was that he said he was the Son of God.
Whilst spiritual gifts are important and necessary for the life of the church they are not the things which give us our identity. We desperately need more of the gifts of the Spirit and we should earnestly desire them (1 Cor 12:31).
Paul tells us they are good but he also tells us there is another way which is the more excellent way of love. In 1 Corinthians 13 he is not principally talking about our love for others but the Father's love for us. This is the best and most important way, more necessary and vital to us than the gifts of the Spirit. This is the way that leads to life. As we become rooted and grounded in love we will discover the ultimate gift that will never fail or let us down. It is the gift that goes beyond and outlasts all other gifts. A life of love is the one we should pursue with all our heart.
Whilst we desire the gifts of the Spirit, we should chase after love or make it our greatest aim. The gifts of the Spirit have their place but it is ultimately only love which transforms lives.
As our heart is filled with the love of the Father we will start to see him face to face and become known by him (1 Cor 13:12).
See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is who we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. (1 John 3:1 NIV)
Sadly, our image of God is often distorted as we view him through the filter of our earthly parents. When we've been looking through a filter the only way to see clearly is to remove the filter.
Sometimes it's not easy to remove the filter as the mindset it has created has become a part of us. However, we do not need to let our historical view of God define our future relationship with him.
Our true Father is the perfect Father and he is with us through the good times as much as the difficult times. He never leaves us, nor does he let us down. He is always faithful and his love for us is constant and unimaginably amazing. Too often we know him as a father, rather than knowing him being a Father to us. One is piece of information, the other describes a heart relationship.
His love for you and me is extravagant. It's like going to a feast where there is almost too much to eat. You feel you want to try a bit of everything that is laid out but there's just too much. You don't want to miss anything but you don't have the capacity to try everything. The Father's love is like that, it's overwhelmingly generous.
Traditionally, the religious and historical picture of God has not been a father but a distant (and often angry) God. This is not the Biblical picture. As we remove the filters we will see him as he really is. The eyes of our heart will see not just a father, but we will see and experience him being a Father to us. We will know that his eternal love is being poured into our heart and that we are truly loved.
Now this is eternal life: that they know you (the Father), the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. (John 17:3 NIV)
I have revealed you to those whom you gave me out of the world. They were yours; you gave them to me and they have obeyed your word. (John 17:6 NIV)
We have a revelation when we see something that was previously hidden. It's an experience which enables us to grasp something that we didn't know or understand. A revelation changes the complex into something blindingly obvious.
Reading through the Old Testament, we often see God described as a father but somehow his people could never see or experience him as one. In their mind, God remained distant and someone they were unable to have a personal relationship with.
It took the coming of God's son, Jesus, before we were able to glimpse the real nature of God as Father, as our Father. In Matthew 11:25-27 Jesus tells us that he came to reveal his Father and that revelation will lead to us discovering a life of rest and dependency on him. We can discover the easy yoke of relationship which will free us to walk as Jesus walked.
The wonderful thing is, Jesus goes on revealing the Father (John 17:26) and it is something he wants to do for us, I believe on a daily basis. Jesus reveals the Father's nature and character and he shows us that we are loved in exactly the same way as he is loved. He enables us to see who God really is.
We are personally invited to embrace all that Jesus reveals so we know we are truly loved by the Father and that we are rooted and grounded in his love for us.
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)
In order to know God as Father we need to meet him in our heart. Knowing him as Father is much more than simply knowing a fact. I guess we all know he is a father, maybe we know he is the Father but this is not enough. There is a massive difference between knowing that God is a father and to experiencing him being a Father to you. One is a fact whereas the other describes a relationship.
To know someone involves a choice and so it is for us to know God as Father. It goes beyond the fact, or knowledge that we have and it leads us into a personal relationship with the One who knows us intimately. It's allowing our fig leaves to be stripped away so we can stand before him in our vulnerability and dependence.
This might appear scary as we have become comfortable with our fig leaves, we feel safe hiding behind them. Although we may feel safe, this is not the life Jesus talks about when he offers us life in all its fulness (John 10:10).
Sadly, it's often all too easy to let our shame and condemnation prevent us from seeking life. When we fail, we tend to beat ourselves up rather than returning to the everlasting arms of the Father.
Knowing God as Father is to know him in the same way as Jesus knows him. It is far more than knowing about him. It is a heart relationship where we know his personality and nature, and maybe for the first time we begin to feel that we too, are known.
You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity. (Jeremiah 29:13-14 NIV)
When we look at the life of Jesus, we see that he knew his Father's heart. He knew it was a heart of total love and acceptance. The Father was continually pouring his unconditional love into his Son's heart and that is something he wants to do for you and me as well.
We tend to see God through a series of filters which have often been created through our experiences with our earthly parents. Whatever our background has been like, discovering the Father's heart is something for us all.
Knowing the fatherheart of God is to know the heart of God, who happens to be a Father, the perfect Father.
When we know someone's heart, we know them, we know what they think and more importantly we know what they feel. As we come to know his heart, we discover his care and compassion for us. We experience his affection and affirmation, we feel his presence with us and his pleasure towards us. We find that God has a heart and that his heart is turned towards us rather than being set against us.
When you know someone's heart you feel as if you are beginning to know the real them. As we seek the Father's heart, something in our own heart will be satisfied because we will discover more of him. We will be awakened to the truth of who we are and the reality of who he is.
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.