Last week I highlighted the restlessness we often settle for. The constant searching for more: either to do more, to have more or to be something more than we are. This desire for self-generated "more" will lead us into a shame based life which is so far removed from the way the Father intended us to live.
He wants us to live a life of rest where we can know there is nothing more we need to do in order to feel loved, valued or accepted. It has always been his intention to be with us; it is his presence that takes away the striving and leads us into a place of rest.
And he said, “My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” And he said to him, “If your presence will not go with me, do not bring us up from here. (Exodus 33:14-15 ESV)
Like Moses, I want to seek his presence and live in rest. This is nothing to do with being lazy or unproductive, it's bringing your heart to a place of stillness and contentment.
This is what Jesus talked about when he promised a light and easy burden. He wants to lead us to the Father so we have a revelation of who he is. That revelation leads to us taking on the mantle of the Father's work. It leads to us finding the ultimate place of security and peace where the inner turmoil in our soul can fall away and we find rest, true rest.
“All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 1:27-30 NIV)
This is what I want! What about you?
The Weekly Signpost will be back at the beginning of September - enjoy the summer!
It's not too long after Adam and Eve left the garden of Eden that we read of the consequence and implication of their actions. It's in the story of their two sons that we are given a vital glimpse into the state of mankind's heart after the fall. We see what our new nature looks like, the nature of a broken heart which continues to haunt us today.
After Cain has killed his brother, Abel, God comes to him and asks where his brother is. At first Cain tries to avoid the issue and in particular to take responsibility for his actions. He pretends it's nothing to do with him (a bit like his father did in the garden). Eventually he realises the truth can't be hidden from God and it's then he is told the consequences of that action.
Cain is to become a 'restless wanderer on the face of the earth' (Genesis 4:12) or as the Amplified Version says "a fugitive and a vagabond, roaming aimlessly on the earth, in perpetual exile, without a home, a degraded outcast".
What a tremendously sad outcome! A tragic end to a story which had begun so well.
This is how so many people feel today. It's how we all feel to some extent until we come to the Father. We know deep down, that we are unsettled, we are wandering, searching for something. We wonder if, or where, we belong. We are trying to find home.
The restlessness we feel can only be satisfied and taken away when we allow ourselves to come home to the Father. In Matthew 11 Jesus invites us to do that, to come home. "Come to me and you will find rest". That invitation is set squarely in the revelation of the Father. It is as we receive that revelation in our heart that we can come home and find the rest we yearn for.
When we are restless there is always something more we need to do in order to feel loved and accepted. When we are at rest, there is nothing more we need to do.
If you recognise that restlessness in your heart then I invite you to come home. To come to the Father and allow his love to replace the empty restlessness with the rest of his presence.
The tragedy of the story in Genesis chapter 3 is that it always seems to be blamed on God. Adam and his wife had been given very clear instructions on what they should do and more particularly what they shouldn't do. They made a choice, albeit under the deceitful lure of Satan, and they chose to disobey God.
Before moving on, let me make one very important point. They were able to make that choice because God, the Father, had given them the priceless gift of free will. In giving that gift God took a risk because it is only the gift of free will which enables us to love. Without it we could not love because love is always a choice, it is in our power to love or not to love.
And so at the end of Genesis 3, Father God has to make the painful decision to drive Adam and Eve out of the garden. Too often we view this as an act of judgement, the punishment for sin and a wrong decision. Can you view this not as judgement but rather as a tremendous act of mercy? It was an act, however painful, which prevented them remaining in the garden and being able to eat from the tree of life. The result of which would have been living forever in a fallen, broken state. God knew that was too much for mankind to bear. Death entered the human race to save us from ourselves, or at least to limit the extent of the damage we had caused.
In that moment God did not change, nor did he abandon his plan; the plan he'd had from before the creation of the world. The plan for relationship and family has not been shelved, it continues and is the same plan (the only plan) that the Father has for you and me.
For I the Lord do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed. From the days of your fathers you have turned aside from my statutes and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you, says the Lord of hosts. (Malachi 3:6-7 ESV)
It was mankind that chose to walk away from the Father's plan. The Father did not change. He is the same yesterday, today and forever. His plan and desire is the same today as it was in Genesis chapter 1.
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.
He leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake. (Psalm 23:2-3NIV)
Last week we saw how the Father provides for us in that place of stillness and rest. When we stop, or when we give up! It is then that he can take over and lead us. We, often, are busy and 'intentional' on trying to discover the right pathway through life; sometimes we get it right, other times we're maybe not so sure.
There is something reassuring about being led. When a father leads a child it's safe, the child does not have to make any decisions, they simply rest in being led. We have a Father who wants to lead us, he leads us in the comfort of a safe place and he knows the right way for us to follow.
Not only is this a safe place, it's also a place of refreshment or restoration. The tiredness and burden of our own effort can fall away as we walk with him on the pathway of contentment. He knows the way and it is a good way.
The LORD is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures. (Psalm 23:1-2 NIV)
I've recently been reflecting on Psalm 23. Of course, it's a very well known Psalm and one quoted by Christians and non-Christians alike. As I've read it, I've seen again how much it describes the loving nature of our Heavenly Father and his constant care and provision for his children.
In a turbulent world, it's very reassuring for us to know that we have a Shepherd who provides all we need. It is interesting to me that this provision is in a place of rest or stillness. To me, this means we have to stop and be still. We have to stop chasing after what we need and let Him be our Provider.
In fact the Psalmist is insistent. We are compelled to lie down in the safety of the pasture and then, in that place of rest and stillness, there is provision. This is re-iterated by Jesus in Matthew 6. If God cares for the birds of the air or the flowers of the field, how much more does he care for us and knows what we need.
This is a Psalm that speaks of God's presence and the provision we find as we rest in that presence. Today, I encourage you to find that place of stillness in which you will discover the Father's provision for you.
There is one thing that is attracted to an orphan heart more than anything else and that’s fear. Fear and an orphan heart are like two magnets that stick firmly together.
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. (1 John 4:18 NIV)
When Adam and Eve chose to walk in independence and to separate themselves from their loving Father the first thing they said was “I was afraid, so I hid” (Genesis 3:10). They realised their own nakedness, shame and vulnerability and for the first time they felt afraid. Fear took them into hiding.
That’s what fear does, it causes us to hide from the Father and like Adam, there is no hiding place for the Father knows exactly where we are. God calls Adam out of his hiding place and in love he covers his shame and the broken fig leaves of performance and self effort.
Two magnets will stick together if they are aligned in a certain way. However, if you turn one of them around it will push the other one away. That’s what happens with love and fear. Whilst fear is attracted to an orphan heart it will be pushed away when love comes. Love always drives fear away.
Whatever your fears, you can bring them to the Father and ask him, by the power of his perfect love, to drive them away. Fear paralyses, love will set you free.
There is nothing wrong with a bar of chocolate, a glass of wine or a cup of coffee. What, however, can be wrong is the place those things have in our heart. They can become false comforts.
“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.”
“I, even I, am he who comforts you. Who are you that you fear mere mortals, human beings who are but grass.” (Isaiah 51:3 & 12 NIV)
When we are not comforted by the only source of true comfort, the Father’s love, we will look for comfort in other areas. Food, clothes, shopping, our jobs, our family, possessions or our wealth. We reach for something we hope will satisfy the deepest longing our heart. We search, hoping to find the thing that will alleviate the pain, distress and affliction that we carry. These things may be good in their own right but if we give them the wrong place in our heart they become like a medicine. Something we take (regularly) as we seek relief from our internal restlessness.
True comfort, the lasting comfort that satisfies us within only comes from the Father. He is the only one who can transform the barren places of our heart into a fruitful garden. He is the only one who can replace sorrow with joy and gladness.
I encourage you to bring your false comforts to the Father. Hand them over in exchange for his comforting love that will truly satisfy. In letting go of these false comforts there is freedom.
The root of an uncomforted heart is an orphan heart. By its very definition, an orphan is a loner, striving to find a place in the world and consequently becoming self-centred and self-reliant. An uncomfortable existence!
“I will not leave you as orphans, I will come to you” (John 14:18 NIV)
“I will not leave you comfortless, I will come to you” (KJV)
During the last meal Jesus had with his disciples he promises to send the Holy Spirit as ‘another Comforter’, someone who will be with us forever and who will constantly remind us that we are not orphans but sons and daughters of our Heavenly Father.
The life of an orphan is very uncomfortable. We see a very clear indication of this in the story of Cain and Abel (Genesis 4:9-12) where, following the killing of Abel, Cain is told that he’ll be a ‘restless wanderer on the face of the earth’. That’s a tragic consequence: no place to call home, no security, no provision and no identity.
Sadly that describes many of us. We feel a continual restlessness in our heart which leads to us striving for position and recognition. We are, as Jesus says, without comfort. He knows our true identity as sons and daughters and he promises he won’t leave us but will come and comfort us through the Holy Spirit pouring the Father’s comforting love into our hearts. As we are comforted, the ‘Abba’ cry rises in our heart and we know that we are no longer orphans but children of God. Our comforted heart finds its place of safety and belonging.
I hope and pray this can become our daily reality.
When Moses asked to see the Lord's glory he had a revelation of the nature and character of God. The Psalmist summarises it for us:
Praise the LORD, my soul, and forget not all his benefits - who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.
The LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. (Psalm 103: 2-5,8 NIV)
Sometimes, it can be very good for us to go to these familiar scriptures and remind ourselves of who God is and what he is able to do for us. I read a book, many years ago, called "Praying the Scriptures" which encouraged us to take a familiar passage and then begin to pray through it and call it into being in our own lives. It's a very helpful thing for us to do. What does scripture say and what is it saying to us, today.
It's all too easy to lose sight of the goodness of the Lord, particularly when we are weighed down with burdens and the cares of life. They easily overwhelm us and we take our eyes off him. Like Peter, as he began to walk on water, when we take our eyes off him we begin to sink.
Today, in whatever you are facing can I encourage you to take hold of the stedfast love of the Lord. It's a love that never lets us go, it never fails us and it always lifts us up as we feel we are sinking.
But from everlasting to everlasting the LORD’s love is with those who fear him, and his righteousness with their children’s children (Ps 103:17)
As we look around we see so many people in need, displaced in human suffering. May we never become immune to the poor, after all when we look into our own heart we, too, are poor and needy.
All they asked was that we should continue to remember the poor, the very thing I had been eager to do all along. (Galatians 2:10)
The poor you will always have with you (Matthew 26:11)
Hear me, LORD, and answer me, for I am poor and needy. (Psalm 86:1)
It's easy to be overwhelmed by the poverty in the world and we ask ourselves what can we do that will make a difference. Particularly at the moment there are millions of people in real need or who are suffering deeply. The needs are huge and almost impossible to satisfy. Yet at times of natural or man-made disaster I am always amazed at the generosity of others. Those, often with little themselves, reach out to help others in greater need,
Let us not forget the poor. They are all around us: in our streets, in our communities, looking for us to be their safe haven. How can we reach out to help them?
After all, let us never forget that we, too, are poor and needy. Love reached down and rescued us, it redeemed us and brought us home.
It's all too easy for us to love with conditions! We love and want something back or we will only love once certain previous offences have been dealt with. That's not the way we are loved by the Father.
Love does not dishonour others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. (1 Corinthians 13: 5-6 NIV)
There is no score sheet so far as the Father is concerned. There is no notebook with a list of all the wrongs we've committed or all the things we've left undone. It's a clean sheet.
When we keep a list of offences (whether in our mind or written down) it's easy to come back and dwell on them. That can lead to bitterness or anger which festers in us, only producing bad fruit.
The Father's love constantly looks outward: it looks at us, sees the good in us and draws us into the truth. It's that truth which sets us free. It's the truth of our identity - that we are sons and daughters. As we are filled with this everlasting love we will be transformed and begin to reflect the love we have received. We can only be a loving people once we have become a loved people.
It's amazing to think that we are loved with an everlasting love. One that began before the creation of the world and one that will run through all of eternity.
“At that time,” declares the LORD, “I will be the God of all the families of Israel, and they will be my people.” This is what the LORD says: “The people who survive the sword will find favour in the wilderness; I will come to give rest to Israel.” 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 31:1-3 NIV)
What is this love like? In 1 Corinthians 13 Paul gives us a glimpse of what the Father's love is like. Of course, when we read this we try and measure love by our human standards. We can't grasp love with our mind, we need to receive it in our heart. When we try and measure it we will inevitably limit it to the extent of our own understanding. It is, however, limitless.
His love is infinitely patient. Our humanity has limits, our patience runs out or is stretched (and we all have a limit beyond which we don't want to be stretched). He constantly perseveres for us as his love "always protects, always trusts and always hopes" (verse 7).
He can be infinitely patient because he is infinitely kind. Kindness is not an 'on the surface reaction' it has depth. It sees a need and is prepared to take action; it goes beyond false cheer as we have a loving Father who wants to bring change in our lives. Not a change that seeks to condemn but one seeking our good. Kindness will always seek to do something.
Our Father is immeasurably kind as he draws us into a transformation whereby we are made more like his son, Jesus.
I have revealed to them who you are and I will continue to make you even more real to them, so that they may experience the same endless love that you have for me, for your love will now live in them, even as I live in them! (John 17:26 TPT)
Over the last few weeks, I have been looking at how Jesus revealed his Father and how this was the central purpose of his time on earth. John 17 is his final prayer before he is led away to the cross and, as we've looked at it together, I hope you can see how it represents a summary of Jesus' life and ministry.
He has shown us what the Father is like, he has given us the Father's words of eternal life, he has demonstrated how we can live in love and he wants us to be with him where he is.
Now, at the end of his prayer, Jesus concludes with these words: "in order that the love you have for me may be in them".
Jesus concludes his earthly ministry by reassuring us that he has made his Father known and that he will continue to make him known. We are not left in any uncertainty, Jesus will continue revealing his Father to us, to you and me.
It's a very powerful statement. You and I are loved by God, the Father, in exactly the same way as he loves Jesus. No if's or but's, just unconditional love which is totally dependent on him and not in any way on us.
We can't earn his love, we can't make him love us any more through our actions or words. We can't stop him loving us. We are loved as he loves Jesus.
Should this revelation make us lazy Christians? Of course not! It changes our hearts so much that we find we are motivated, or compelled, to walk in his ways and therefore to delight in doing his will (Ezekiel 36:27 and Psalm 40:8).
The revelation (or series of revelations) we've looked at from John 17 really do present us with a clear picture of the gospel. To me, it is so simple, we are loved by the perfect Father who wants to be a Father to us.
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.