“How great is the love that the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!"
(1 John 3:1 NIV).
Our lives are a journey.
Much of our time and energy is spent on our day to day living. We are caught up in what we do and what we are trying to achieve or want to become. We want to do a good job at work, even if that only means showing up regularly and being on time. We want to look good both in terms of our outward appearance and the things we accomplish. We want to be noticed and to be thought well off. We like other people’s good opinions and their approval. It becomes important to us that our act looks as if it is all together.
The deepest longings of our hearts are only satisfied when we find what we are made for.
We are all searching for love. Our problem is not so much that we are searching but where we are looking to find the answer. There are many counterfeits which clamour for our attention and our time. They try to seduce us with the lure of easy pickings and quick gratification. They do not satisfy for any length of time and leave us wanting to come back for more. Counterfeit lovers are short term and need constant feeding!
We all need love. Ideally, it should be the very foundation of our lives. But in our journey through life many of us do not receive the love we need.
The truth is that we have all been loved with an everlasting love (Jeremiah 31:3). God draws us to himself with his love and his kindness. His love is unconditional. It is his love that will make us totally safe as we become hidden in him (Psalm 32:7). He becomes our light and salvation and we need have no fear (Psalm 27:1). God has a perfect plan for us, a good plan that is for our prosperity, not to harm us but to give us hope and a future (Jeremiah 29:11).
“You are worthy, O Lord our God, to receive glory and honour and power. For you created everything, and it is for your pleasure that they exist and were created.” (Rev 4:11 NLT)
“... everyone who is called by name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.” (Isaiah 43:7)
God’s original intention was that he would enjoy us and that we would enjoy him forever. When we read the Bible without any filters or preconceived ideas it is truly amazing what he says about us.
He made each one of us to bring him pleasure. All too often we believe that the “everything” in Revelation 4:11 excludes us! We picture God taking great delight in the creation of the natural world but it seems the creation of man has brought him nothing but trouble. We imagine him enjoying looking at the mountains and the forests or the seas and the lakes but frowning with contempt as he looks upon us. We see him enjoying the earth’s expanse but waving a stick of judgement over mankind.
Although everything was created to give God pleasure, sadly the fallen world and the fallen nature of humanity means that there are many things that sadden his heart. He delights in us glorifying him and bringing him pleasure. As we are awakened by his love we become aware of the glory resting on us and we can enter into the glorious inheritance which he has for his children.
God takes great delight in all of his children. None are excluded from his love; we were all made to bring him pleasure.
May our hearts be awakened to the truth of who we really are.
"Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world. Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me. I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them." (John 17: 24-26 NIV)
However much we remember of our early days, that is not the beginning of our story. It begins way back in time, in fact, before time began. Before the foundation of the world God had each one of us in mind (Psalm 139:16). He knew all about us. He knew where we would be born and where we would live (Acts 17:26). The prophet Jeremiah was told that God knew him before he had been formed in the womb. He knows each of us intimately and more importantly he has made us in order to have friendship with him!
So, our story begins in the beginning.
From before the creation of the world there has been a beautiful unity and harmony in the Trinity. Relationships between Father, Son and Spirit were based totally on love. There was no element of control or manipulation. There was no fear or insecurity, nor were there any divided loyalties. The Trinity was complete in itself. It was so complete, in fact, that God did not need creation as an object to love. Yet, Jesus prays that we will enjoy and be drawn into the same unity and the same relationship which the Trinity enjoys. Jesus’ prayer is, quite simply, that we would be like him!
So the beginning of the story is perfect love. Everything in creation was made by love and for love. Love was the foundation of the world. Love was the essence of the life that was breathed into us. Our story begins when a loving Father breathed love into the human race. It was what we should have enjoyed forever. God really is our Father. He knows everything about us. He chose the day we would be born and the places we would live. He knit us together in our mother’s womb. He is the Father of our spirit. We were conceived in his heart before the beginning of time. Not one of us is a mistake.
God has always been Father and he always will be Father. His heart’s desire is to be a Father to you!
"I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty." (2 Corinthians 6:18 NIV)
"I myself said, “‘How gladly would I treat you like my children and give you a pleasant land, the most beautiful inheritance of any nation.’ I thought you would call me ‘Father’ and not turn away from following me." (Jeremiah 3:19 NIV)
I am very privileged to have four lovely children. All our friends know that I am their father. Their friends know that I am their father; school teachers, bank managers, work colleagues – they too know I am the father of these four children. Many people know that I am a father but only four people know it intimately. Those four are my children. They have lived with me and shared my hopes, dreams and failures. They know what I like and what I am like. They know what I like doing, where I like going and the sort of food I like. They know what makes me cross and what makes me happy. They have experienced my care, my love and my provision. They are my three daughters and my son.
It is just the same in the church. Most people know that God is a Father in much the same way as people outside of my family know that I am a father. They know that fact because they have been taught it or because they see it in Scripture. But they may not have experienced it. Too many people in the church only have a theology of God as a Father but few have come to experience him as a Father to them.
God’s heart is that we come to experience him as Father. God, our Father, wants us to have a heart of sonship and to experience his love as Jesus did. After all, when we became Christians we became children of God. May the eyes of your heart be opened and the ears of your spirit tuned in to hear the voice of One calling you, the One who has always been Father and who wants to be a Father to you.
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 him. (1 John 4:16)
Lamentations is not one of those books we read very often. Most of us know the few verses from the middle of chapter three which remind us that the steadfast love of Lord never ceases and his mercies are new every morning. If we read the context of those few verses we see a picture of something that looks remarkably like a lot of our own days. The writer is having a bad day. In fact, he may be having a bad month or even a bad year as everything is going wrong and he cannot seem to find any relief.
In Lamentations 3:21-23, Jeremiah suddenly remembers something which once again brings him hope. He remembers that God's love never ceases and that his mercies never end. They are new every morning. He remembers that God is faithful. In the middle of his despondency he remembers that his Father is good and that he will not let him go. Even in the midst of pain and suffering there is hope.
We, too, can have hope. God is the same yesterday, today and forever and just as Jeremiah could remember and experience God's goodness, so too can we. Whatever our situation, we can call to mind the faithfulness, love and kindness of our Father. We can have hope. We can believe that, because of the Father's great love for us, we are able to be drawn back to the place of love. God does not stop loving us when we go through a hard or painful situation but sometimes we struggle to receive or live in the centre of his love for us.
Today, Father wants to remind you that his love for you is never ending.
Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, but whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night. That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither — whatever they do prospers. (Psalm 1:1-3 NIV)
When Father does something in our heart we need to find ways of guarding the treasure which has begun to grow. It is like a young plant, it needs protection and nurture to enable it to grow.
One way for us to do this is to keep coming back to the truth. What has he said to you? What has he done in your heart? Like the Psalmist, keep feeding yourself with words of life, they are like water on dry soil.
Our heart is very sensitive, fragile and easily wounded. It is either because of the wounds or pain we have suffered or because of the fear of more pain that we shut off areas of our heart. We do it for self protection and self preservation.
There is a battle for our heart. Just as Satan attacked Jesus’ heart so he attacks ours. He is a thief with one intent and that is to kill and destroy everything that Father is doing in us. He does not want us to enjoy relationship with Father, nor does he want us to walk as Jesus walked. He does not want us live in the centre of the Father’s heart knowing that we are the beloved.
There is a battle, but we are on the winning side. Jesus has paid the full price in order that we can enjoy our full inheritance as sons and daughters and also that we can live loved. He came to give us life and life to the full. Let us be open to receive more of his love so that we are transformed and enabled to live from a free heart.
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)
But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things! (Galatians 5:22 NLT)
Self-control has to be a fruit of the Spirit. It is pretty impossible to generate it ourselves - maybe we can for a day, a week or even a month, but can we sustain it? Without the Spirit of love in our heart it is very hard to.
As we live in love we discover that self-control is not an act of the will, or a conscious decision, but it is a heart response. It's the desire to see love triumph, to be silent when we would otherwise judge or condemn, to raise another up rather than push them down.
In our strength it's impossible, but as we live by the Spirit we find we are 'given desires that are the opposite of what the sinful nature desires' (Galatians 5:17 NLT)
Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing. (Matthew 23:37 NIV)
Instead, we were like young children among you. Just as a nursing mother cares for her children, so we cared for you.
(1 Thess 2:7-8 NIV)
These two verses show us something important about the heart of the Father. He is gentle and he gathers us to himself. His instruction does not push us away but rather seeks to be intimate and close to us. In Isaiah 40:11 we read that God is like a shepherd who gathers the lambs and holds them close to his heart. His gentleness is a strength and security for us as we are drawn into the shelter of his love.
He always deals kindly with us.
The fruit of living in love will produce the same within us. Love will seek to draw people to a safe place, it will not push away nor will it deal harshly with others. It seeks redemption and healing.
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor 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. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. (1 Corinthians 13:4-8 NIV)
I will praise you, Lord, among the nations; I will sing of you among the peoples. For great is your love, reaching to the heavens; your faithfulness reaches to the skies. Be exalted, O God, above the heavens; let your glory be over all the earth. (Psalm 57:9-11 NIV)
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. (Lamentations 3:22-23 NIV)
Faithfulness, like goodness, is an inherent quality which is the outworking of love. The Father's faithfulness is a great security for us because, despite our sin and failings, he does not destroy us but he continues to love us with an everlasting love. His love always seeks redemption and restoration, no matter how long it takes!
His faithfulness holds us and carries us all the time. When things are tough, when we think we are struggling on our own, when we've failed. He is always there for us and his love never changes, it never ceases. It is the only constant in an unsettled world. His faithfulness makes him totally dependent and reliable, never changing, always there for us.
The fruit of living in love is faithfulness. Faithful to the One who has saved us and redeemed us. Giving our whole life in grateful service to the Lover of our soul, truly understanding what it means to walk as Jesus walked. Faithful, also, to one another as we travel the path of life, supporting and encouraging our family and friends, being with them through thick and thin.
And the Lord said, “I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the Lord, in your presence. I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. (Exodus 33:19 NIV)
Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. (James 1:17 NIV)
In the 1970's there was a popular TV programme called "The Good Life" which was about a couple who abandoned the busyness of modern life and sought to become self-sufficient. They gave up their jobs, converted their garden to an allotment and began to live a simpler life. At first, their very middle class neighbours were outraged but eventually a great friendship grew up between the two couples. There was an innocence and vulnerability about them, an openness that took things on face value, something very uncomplicated and lacking any pretence.
There was a goodness about them. An inherent quality, not connected in any way to doing the right thing. Unselfish and motivated by something other than the normal rules of behaviour.
This, of course, is only a partial picture of the Father's goodness. The Psalmist reminds us regularly that the Lord's goodness is a result of his enduring love for us. He is motivated by love because he is love. He delights in blessing his children because he is love. His goodness releases mercy to us when we don't deserve it. His goodness does not come and go like the shifting sands. He is always good as goodness is the fruit of love.
We may do all the right things but that does not necessarily make us good. Goodness is the fruit of the spirit of love living in our heart. As we live in love we are transformed and our actions and lifestyle become motivated by righteousness and a desire to be a blessing. True goodness is not self-made but the outworking of the seed of love in our life which will cause us to 'love your neighbour as yourself' (Galatians 5:14). As the Passion Translation says, "love is revealed through a life full of virtue".
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.