'Call to me and I will answer you. I'll tell you marvellous and wondrous things that you could never figure out on your own.' (Jeremiah 33:3 The Message)
What a tremendous promise. In this verse, I believe that Jeremiah is opening up a deep truth for us as we call out to our Father. Our cry is often 'Father, help!' and he will. But there is another cry we can have and that is 'Father, what do you want to say to me?' or 'What do you want to show me?'
When we ask the Father to show us something, we then need to pause and listen. We need to rest and wait, for it is in the stillness and quietness that he reveals the marvellous and wonderful things he wants to show us. Often these revelations come as a whisper, the still small voice speaking to our heart. I am finding that revelation is received slowly as it needs to find its home in our heart. A revelation received too quickly often finds a place in our mind which leads us to try and work out what it means, rather than letting the Spirit grow it within our heart.
The world has become quiet. Can I encourage you to listen to the voice of love which wants to take you to a deeper place of revelation. The Father longs to reveal his heart; for you and for the world around you. He wants to show you more of his nature and personality. He wants you to soak in his love and for your heart to be strengthened and encouraged. He wants to show you things that you could never work out on your own. May I encourage you, allow your heart to listen.
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. (John 15:1 NIV)
“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. (John 15:5 NIV)
As with last week's verse, Jesus is reminding us that we are connected to him, the source of life. There is life flowing through him into us but sadly some are unable to receive it. In a way, if we are unable to receive life then we are cut-off and separate to the source of life. Others who do receive life are pruned and therefore able to carry, or contain, more life.
The key word in this passage though is 'remain'. Seven times we are encouraged to remain. How easy it is to drift and wander away, back into our own independence and self-sufficiency, yet Jesus constantly says “remain". Remain in him, allow his word to remain in us and for us to remain in his love.
To me this speaks of rest, of being settled and content. It speaks of trust and dependency on someone greater than us. It’s a denial of self and a recognition that fruit does not come from our own effort but from remaining, or abiding, in him. In fact, Jesus says as we remain in him so the fruit we produce will be abundant and lasting. I think that’s something we have strived for but not yet fully seen. We have seen fruit but there are not that many of us that can say it was abundant or lasting.
There is a rest and contentment in him which surpasses our human understanding. It is the peace we find as we rest in him who is our Overcomer (John 16:33).
Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.” (John 14:6-7 NIV)
Here is another very well known saying that Jesus said of himself. He is the way. It’s such a familiar saying that we often forget to delve a little deeper to see what these words really mean. A pathway leads somewhere, the path is not usually the point of the journey, it’s the destination that is really important. Jesus doesn’t leave us in suspense, he tells us that the purpose of our journey is for us to come to the Father. How many of us see that as we read these verses?
Being the Way is not the only thing that Jesus says of himself. He is also the Truth. At the beginning of John's gospel we are told that Jesus, who came from the Father, was full of grace and truth. Absolute truth, as sure as two plus two equals (and always equals) four. Not a relative truth that is prevalent in the world today, where we each define truth according to our viewpoint. What Jesus says is true, correct, right - the only option. What then is the truth we are being told? Firstly, the purpose of Jesus' life is to take us to the Father so we know him as Jesus knows him. And secondly, the only way is through him, no other way, religion or means will get us anywhere near close to the Father. Every other way fails, the only way to the Father is through Jesus.
Finally Jesus tells us that he is the Life. As the eyes of our heart are opened to see the Father, as we have a revelation of who he is and so realise we are loved as Jesus is loved, we will discover life. The enemy comes to kill, steal and destroy but Jesus came that we would have life. Not just a taster, but the fullness of the abundant life in which Jesus himself lived. At the moment there is so much going on that is seeking to destroy our life but we are able to fix our eyes on him. He is our life.
Today I encourage you to let Jesus reveal the Father to you. As he does, you will discover the place that has been made for you in the Father's house.
Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25-26 NIV)
Jesus heard that his friend Lazarus was sick but rather than rushing back to be with Martha and Mary and heal his friend he delays two days. As he hears the news, he declares “this sickness will not end in death”, somehow through this Jesus is going to bring glory to his Father.
Eventually he returns to Judea and on the way he hears that Lazarus has died. Jesus is not bothered by this news because he knows the Father's plan.
When Martha greets him they start off with a bit of a theological discussion about the 'last days'. That’s not good enough for Jesus, he brings it back to the present and grounds it in the reality of who he is. He is the resurrection and the life, he came that we might have life and life in all it’s fullness.
You may be struggling, you may be carrying a heavy burden, you may even feel spiritually dead. That's ok; it’s how it is sometimes.
Today, I want to encourage you: he is our life. Go to the source of life and open your heart before him, ask him to fulfil his promise in your life. Your circumstances may not change but your heart will. As Jesus spoke life into Lazarus so he can for you.
I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me— just as the Father knows me and I know the Father —and I lay down my life for the sheep. (John 10:14-15 NIV)
Last week we looked at how Jesus is the Gate for the sheep and how he protects them but also releases them into the freedom of the pastures. Here is another saying from Jesus - he is the good shepherd. A shepherd is responsible for the flock of sheep and it is his job to keep them safe, to ensure that they are healthy and well fed. He keeps the wild animals away and may even have to fight them off. As we know from another parable of Jesus, a shepherd is always counting the sheep to make sure he hasn't lost any.
In describing himself as a shepherd, Jesus is showing us how he looks after us. He longs to keep us safe, to ensure that we receive the food we need and to keep our heart safe, providing us with all that we need. As we come to him, in weakness and vulnerability we can allow ourselves to be gathered in his arms (Isaiah 40:11).
In the time of Jesus, it was very common for the shepherd to be employed by someone else who was the owner of the sheep. The shepherd stewarded the flock but, very often, he cared for the sheep as if they were his own. So it is with Jesus, he looks after us on behalf of his Father. Ultimately this Good Shepherd laid down his life for the sheep, he put them before himself because he was primarily concerned with doing the work of the one who sent him, his Father.
Therefore Jesus said again, “I tell you the truth, I am the gate for the sheep. All who ever came before me were thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. He will come in and go out, and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. (John 10:7-10 NIV)
These verse contain some incredible promises for us. They describe the safety and security of coming into his presence, the shelter that we find when we come to him. But more than that they show us the pathway to salvation. The only way in which it is possible for us to be saved, and therefore to be reconciled to the Father, is to come through Jesus, he is the Gate. He is the source of our salvation. Placing our trust in him is the way our sin is dealt with and we then receive the gift of eternal life.
We also have a promise of freedom and security. We are kept safe, like sheep in a sheep pen but we have freedom to come and go, to find safe pasture. Jesus, as our Shepherd, knows when we need to be drawn into a safe place and he also knows when it is safe for us to explore our freedom. In fact, being kept safe in his presence and being free to explore are both an expression of our freedom. Without these two things operating in tandem we would not be free, we would be trapped back into a cycle of self reliance and performance.
And finally, we have the promise of life and not just life but life to the full. We do have a very real enemy and he has one aim: to rob us of the life that is ours to enjoy. As we rest in the shelter of his wings, in the safety of his presence we will discover the source of our life. Even in the midst of tragedy and sorrow we can experience this abundant life. The reason is that this life does not originate inside of us, it is a gift to us from the Source of all Life. My prayer today is that you would draw back into the arms of love and allow his life to wash over you and through you.
When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12 NIV)
What does a light do? Well, a number of things. A light shows the pathway when it is dark, enabling us to find our way when otherwise we might stumble. It helps us avoid the pitfalls and potholes so we are kept safe on our journey. Many of us live in cities or towns where it is never truly dark, there are always streetlights or buildings which provide some light to our pathway. Once out in the countryside it can be totally dark and without light this can be a frightening experience.
Jesus is our light. He guides us along the unknown and unexpected journey of our life. He guides us when we can’t see for ourselves. He shows us the pathway of life which, we later read in John 14, is the path that takes us home to the Father.
But a light does something else. It illuminates a room so we can see what is in it. We are not drawn to the light but to the things which the light reveals as the darkness is banished. In John 1, we read of the coming Light, the Light that would not draw attention to itself but which would reveal another, One who was greater. This, we discover, is the Father (John 17). May the Light of the world shine on your daily path to lead and guide you through the ups and downs of life. But may his light also reveal the One who sent him, the One who longs that we would know him being a Father to us.
Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty. (John 6:35 NIV)
Shortly after Jesus had fed the five thousand, the crowds follow him to the other side of the lake where they ask him a question: “what are the works that God requires us to do?” Jesus’ reply is very simple. It is not about the works that we do but rather our belief in him (verse 29). Jesus is inviting the crowds to see who he really is and to have a desire to follow him. For too long, the Pharisees had placed a burden of compliance with duty and behaviour on the people. They were conditioned to believe that faith was about works rather than faith. Jesus brings them back to faith and belief which are centred in relationship.
Yet, even with it explained simply to them they needed something else. They needed a sign. A sign like the provision of manna in the desert. They needed something tangible upon which to hand their belief. Responding to their request, Jesus reminds them it was not Moses who provided the manna but God, the Father. And as in the desert, the Father longs to provide bread from Heaven. Bread speaks to us of nourishment, the source of life and well-being; it comes to us in the person of Jesus. He is the bread from Heaven, given to us by the Father. He will sustain us, give us energy and be the source of our abundant life.
He has already told his disciples that his food is to do the will of the Father (John 4:34). He is the living bread sent from Heaven to give us eternal life. As we consider this truth, let us not be like the crowds who wanted to know what they had to do. My prayer is that we respond in faith, seeking out the person who gives us life from Heaven. Life centred in a relationship with the Father brought to us by the Son. We, too, can live like Jesus, making it our food (the thing that nourishes us) to do the will of the Father.
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. We love because he first loved us. (1 John 4:9-10, 19 NIV)
"This is love" - John makes a statement which he is very clear about. He is about to define love for us based on his long and intimate personal experience. I feel as if John is so clear about this that he is not expecting there to be any dispute.
"This is love" - not that we love, but that we are loved. Love originates in the heart of the Father. In fact, it was only because of love that the Father sent the Son to bring us back to himself. He didn't want us to live in independence and rebellion; he wanted a family. He therefore did everything possible to bring us back into that family.
We all want to be more loving of ourselves and of others. No matter how hard we try we will not be able to manage this without first recognising that we need to be loved. We don't receive love in order to give it away. We receive love because we need to receive it for ourselves.
As we are loved it is an inevitable consequence that the love we have received will begin to overflow and touch others. The only way to be more loving is to be loved. We often quote these verses and seem to recognise love comes from the Father. What we fail to do is put it into practice, the practice of being loved.
A simple prayer I often pray and I encourage you pray it too. You can pray this anywhere and at any time of the day.
"Father, will you fill me with your love".
He is wooing you from the jaws of distress to a spacious place free from restriction, to the comfort of your table laden with choice food. But now you are laden with the judgment due the wicked; judgment and justice have taken hold of you. (Job 36:16-17 NIV)
These verses are probably not well known yet they describe a recurring theme and that is freedom. Here we are in a place of distress (which can also mean anguish, torment, suffering or exhaustion) and there is a promise of something better for us. There is hope. We don't have to remain in this very negative place but we are drawn into a wide open space where there is freedom and the things that have restricted us fall away.
What draws us away from and out of this distressful place? Love. We are wooed; that's an intimate expression of love, gentleness and kindness. As Hosea writes, we are drawn with cords of loving kindness.
We are drawn out of our distress, a place where we feel restricted and into a wide open space where we are free from restriction. Not only that, before us is a table of choice food. This place of refuge is a place of comfort, provision and safety. It sounds a bit like Psalm 23:5 where we see a table of goodness laid out for us in the presence of our enemies. If we are expected to sit at a table and eat whilst our enemies surround us there must be someone else looking out for us. Our Father and his angels are there to protect and comfort us whilst the storm rages around us.
If you feel in distress (or any of the other words that I mentioned above) then allow your heart to come to a place of rest. Can you trust him to bring you through the storm and into a wide open space of freedom? He will comfort and provide, even in the middle of a storm. He can do for us what we are unable to do for ourselves.
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.