Wednesday, 30 December 2015

Angst

Allow me to be honest online. 

I doubt. I struggle emotionally and philosophically to make life make sense, I always have done. But I also believe. I believe deeply and wonderfully and passionately, I always have done. 

I don't know why I live with these two opposites so often. Maybe it's a personality defect, maybe I'm just not clever enough or well informed enough to figure it out. Whatever it is this is the headspace I live in and here's how I process some of the angst it creates.

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I was helped recently by reading something Chris Evans (the TV personality & DJ) wrote in his new book: 'What to Do in a Midlife Crisis' (actually named 'Call the Midlife' but my title sums it up better). In his chapter on religion he wrote 
'I've often wondered - and when I say often, I mean several times a day for as long as I can remember - whether I'm a man of faith or not.
It helped me since it told me I'm not alone; non-religious people worry about religious questions too. This may be a silly thing to say, of course they do, but then people give off this 'we've got it all sewn up' kind of attitude when it comes to belief and rarely show weakness in this area. That's why Christians jump all over any statement of faith/uncertainty made by a celebrity or media mogul: aha! It's not just us. See, you do have questions! Retweet, repost, share link...

James Smith wrote in his book 'How Not to Be Secular' that:
ours is an age where believers are beset by doubt and doubters, every once in a while, find themselves tempted by belief.
I don't know what goes on inside other people's heads, I can only see life in my eyes, but I find it very encouraging that people of all creeds share some anxiety in this area. I don't know why I do but I do. I like it that I'm not alone, maybe that's it. 

'Darwin made it possible to be an intellectually satisfied atheist' wrote Dawkins and it seems like most popular believe this. I don't for one second think evolution = no God but a lot of people take it as read that it does. People act like, since we have an alternative origins story to Genesis we have all the answers we could want. Everything can be explained along a purely naturalist and materialist way of reasoning. Paul Hollywood in the introduction to his bread baking book comments that 'even neanderthal man baked'. PaulflippinHollywood for crying out loud, (in a book on baking) felt it necessary to throw in the 'our shared ancestry gives credibility to my profession' line. We've defined ourselves so sharply now that credibility can be given to anything just so long as we can draw a straight line from cave dwellers to the present. The reverse is true as well, if you can't then it's not. 

Such is the power of an explanation of our origins and this reductionist way of explaining human existence is everywhere. The 'Big Story' or meta narrative that our life fits into has nothing to do with God and purpose any more; but we're not supposed to let that phase us.  

Comedian and writer Tim Minchin in a speech at UWA said:
13.8 billion years worth of unguided events. Leave it to humans to think this universe has a purpose for them.
and also:
it's an incredibly exciting thing, this one, meaningless life of yours. Good luck.
I hear it more and more: life is meaningless but that's ok, just enjoy it. It seeps out in everything we make and do and buy and break. 

The grave looms ever closer therefore cycle that exercise bike like you're getting somewhere!

I spoke with a friend once and admitted that 'in the moments when I doubt I wonder if I'm not better off doing something that adds more obvious value to society than being a pastor and preacher. I mean, what if there's no God. I've made a life out of deceiving people. Maybe I should become a teacher and contribute that way.' My friend responded by saying:
if there is no God then nothing really matters anyway, there is no meaning in anything. We only pretend there is. 
I think he's right. Meaning is up for definition once we've first agreed there is no real meaning, no instruction manual in the first place. Do whatever the heck you want and convince yourself it matters, that's what's really important isn't it?  

Nihilism (extreme pessimism and meaninglessness) may be reasonable but it's not practical mind you. No one lives like that and besides which, it's still an attempt at meaning. Perhaps Minchin is right though, we all ought to just: exercise, teach, love, respect etc. 

I can identify with Steve Carrell's character in 'Seeking A Friend For the End of the World'. He gives this bemused, existentially desperate and yet quietly resigned portrayal of what it would feel like if you knew your world was ending and yet you still wanted life to mean something. It's a good film.

Have you ever just stood back and watched what we humans do for fun? 

What am I to do then? There are so many voices telling me 'the answer':
Empirical evidence only... except where love and truth and beauty and morality are concerned.
God's not interested in us: pain, inequality, injustice and an unimpressive church prove it.
God does love us, he does care, he is involved, we must trust him.
My God wants me to blow up people who don't fall into line with my interpretation of what he said to my religion's founder.
Eat, drink and be merry - for tomorrow we die anyway. Play golf anyway and enjoy it.
We're nothing more than evolved animals. Our meaning comes from our shared ancestry and primate commonalities.
I think a lot of us are just after consensus. 

We surround ourselves with people who think and believe the same as us, people who reinforce our values. Or maybe we just believe the things that cause us the least resistance: Ok so I can do what I want then? So I can square that circle like that then, that works? Ok so they'll stop calling me names then? And then I'll be allowed to have tea at that table then? And people won't think me weird?

Mind you, I must to stop making assertions about 'we' and 'us'. All I really know about is 'me' and 'my'. That's why I find 'angst acknowledgement' so encouraging, especially from people perceived to be in a different tribe to me.

The real lie I think I tell myself is that 'everyone else has got it sewn up.' The real lie our intellectual and celebrity elite tell us is that 'they have it all sewn up.' I believe that tension and mystery cannot and must not be squeezed out of life. Fundamentalists flatten our landscape into binary, on or off, right or wrong stuff and life doesn't neatly get boxed like that.

Don't get me wrong, I believe what I preach. I'd say I believe it strongly. I believe that a personal knowing, enjoying and trusting God the Father, Son and Spirit is what we were all made for, that it's the meaning of life even. But being convinced about something is not the same thing as being certain of it. No one is certain, not Chris Evans, Paul Hollywood, Tim Minchin nor Richard Dawkins and anyone who tells you they are is possibly worth avoiding. 

Life is a lot more colourful than that. It contains a lot more adventure and daring and mystery and uncertainty. The real challenge is trying to keep your head and forge your path while grappling with all these questions along the way.

I think Jesus was/is right. I think so because of Easter Sunday and because the Universe had a beginning. But that doesn't mean I don't have plenty of questions still. My worldview allows for it, answers for it even. Existential angst, bizarre as it may be for outgrown animals, is part of life. Sit in silence long enough and you'll feel it. 

Sure it's uncomfortable this oscillating between boldness and uncertainty, truth and doubt. It's uncomfortable but it's not unusual; at least that's what I'm learning.

Let me end this post with this, a beautiful description of how Sheldon Vanauken (American writer) became a Christian whilst at University in Oxford:
There is a gap between the probable and the proved. How was I to cross it? If I were to stake my whole life on the risen Christ, I wanted proof. I wanted certainty. I wanted to see him eat a bit of flesh. I wanted letters of fire across the sky. I got none of these... It was a question of whether I was to accept him - or reject. My God! There was a gap behind me as well! Perhaps the leap to acceptance was a horrifying gamble-but what of the leap of rejection? There might be no certainty that Christ was God - but, by God, there was no certainty that he was not. This was not to be borne. I could not reject Jesus. There was only one thing to do once I had seen the gap behind me. I turned away from it, and flung myself over the gap towards Jesus. 
I hope that in 2016 you find what you're looking for.

Wednesday, 23 December 2015

Essence: Saints


This week we're considering why it is that Paul addresses his letter to the Colossians to saints. To help us engage with this idea there's a video (above) and a blog (below), as well as our Weekly Challenge to complete (see bottom of the page).

Saints

Below are some reflections from Ephesians, a letter addressed to the saints living in Ephesus (a town in what is now Turkey). Before reading it write down on a separate sheet of paper or in a separate computer window everything that comes to your mind when you hear the word 'saint' as well as some questions you may have concerning the topic.

Scripture
Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God. To the saints who are in Ephesus and are faithful in Christ Jesus.Ephesians 1:1

Observations:

I’ve often heard it said that Paul uses the term ‘saint’ to include every Christian and that in doing so, he is viewing us as God does, as holy and set apart, fully righteous in Christ.

I’ve heard it said, but is it really true? Let’s have a look by considering the letter of Ephesians as a whole.

Paul's writing to the ‘saints’ in Ephesus. One question I have is: 
Does this refer simply to a group of leaders within the Church, a group who were more holy than others?
Within the letter he goes on to address different types of people, all of whom fall into this category of saints. The saints he addresses here are: 
  • non Jews 
  • immature (4:4),
  • thieves/former thieves (4:28),
  • wives (5:22),
  • husbands (5:25),
  • children (6:1),
  • parents (6:4),
  • slaves (6:5),
  • masters (6:5),
Within this list is perhaps every group necessary to make the confident assertion that when Paul says saints, he means everyone in the Church.

The word saint, then, includes me and you! If you're a Christian you are a saint. You're a holy one, meaning you have been set apart by God and for God. You're his; he owns you. You're his child, his friend, his dwelling place, a member of his body and his Spirit is within you. 

You are a saint.

You're totally secure and accepted in God. This is true and is a correct perspective on life. Isn’t this just amazing? You and I are saints!

Prayer

Thank you Father. You have done what I could never have done on my own. I have been made holy and clean before you, acceptable in your sight. I choose to accept this as the label of my life. Although I often feel as though I'm not holy and not acceptable to you, I choose today to accept the truth and live in the good of it. Amen.

Weekly Challenge

To help, here's a little challenge to complete...

By Friday have memorised the statement of truth below taken from the Freed For Purpose course. Find a friend who's doing the same and at the end of the week, test each other:
I recognise that there is only one true and living God, who exists as the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. He is worthy of all honour, praise and glory as the one who made all things and holds all things together. (see Exodus 20:2,3; Colossians 1:16,17)





Friday, 18 December 2015

FIGHT: Tigers & Puppies

Scripture

Read Philippians 4:4-7
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice.  Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Observation

Have you ever noticed how difficult it is to not think about something, especially something you're worried about? I well remember a few years ago when I was speaking at church on the subject of anxiety. The Bible passage said 'do not be anxious about anything...' and my message, it followed, was on 'freedom from anxiety'. Well, I was a mess. I was so nervous about it that I couldn't prepare for the sermon. Anxious thoughts about 'how not to be anxious' flew round and round my head. I couldn't sleep, couldn't pray, couldn't escape thinking about it. The irony wasn't lost on me 'physician heal thy self' was all I could hear spinning back and forth around my brain, it was horrible.

Where worry is concerned our thought life can behave badly can't it? We don't try to obsess about missing that flight or not completing that essay in time, it just happens. And of course worry is a very reasonable virus, it uses all the right logic and explanations. Anxiety convinces us that it's not only permitted to consume our thought life, but that it's entirely appropriate and commendable that it does so!

Paul's answer to anxiety, as he explains it in the above Bible reading, isn't to use reason and persuasive argument. He doesn't try to out argue anxiety, he knows that's a lost battle. Reasoning against anxiety isn't a fair fight since we're emotionally compromised from the start. Anxiety, you see, has a head start on us and anxiety has access to the arsenal of our emotional life making it a very powerful foe indeed. If it was only a question of explaining politely to worry why it is that we're not going to go where it wants us to go then I'm sure many a worry would be stopped dead in its tracks. But it doesn't work like that does it?

'Goodness did you hear yourself just then?' Anxiety says 'you made a complete fool of yourself. Is it any wonder why NO ONE wants to be your friend?! I'm amazed you have any friends at all, or do you? I can't see those supposed friends of yours hanging around too long after they find out exactly what you're like. Can you see that happening?' 

After that comes the hot flushes and clammy palms, followed by the loss of all colour from our face, an ice cold forehead and then that all too familiar knot in the stomach - the permanent resident in the body of serial worrier. Sound familiar?

So what's the answer to anxiety? Sadly for us there isn't a pill to fix it. It isn't a case of praying a particular prayer (perhaps five times a day), or singing a particular song. Anxiety is tiger that needs taming rather than a puppy that needs training. Puppies aren't too ferocious, they can be quite cute and (after much effort) they can be house trained. We're bigger and stronger and more powerful than puppies and so in the end, they will obey us. Not so with a tiger. Tiger's are ferocious and strong and move at a lightning quick pace. They will run rings around us and destroy us if we're not careful. Taming a tiger isn't just a matter of persistence, it requires courage, strength and nerves of steel (I speak from experience of course).

Getting our thought life in order involves more energy and effort than puppy training (and even that can be pretty full on). Getting our thought life in order requires determination and courage, and supernatural power.

Just prior to the above Bible passage Paul explains that he's 'learned the secret of being content whatever his circumstances' something I'm sure many of us would like to know.

In our Bible reading three big clues are offered, three things that will aid us in our fight against anxiety: Rejoicing, asking and thanking.

Celebrating what God has done in the past and asking (petitioning) God to help us in the present. Mixed with a helpful amount of thankfulness, creates quite a powerful concoction. It enables us to stand our ground against anxiety and positions us to receive peace from God in the midst of worry.

Celebrate, ask, thank.

It isn't easy (tigers don't give up without a fight), but it is possible. With the help of the Holy Spirit we can be free from life crippling worry.

Weekly Challenge

Read Philippians 4:8-9:
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practise these things, and the God of peace will be with you.
The first step toward enjoying your status as a forgiven, loved, adopted and empowered child of God is to start taking seriously what you think about. Do your thoughts past the Philippians 4 test? 
  • True
  • Honourable 
  • Just
  • Pure
  • Lovely
  • Commendable
  • Excellent
  • Worshipful 
Take some time this week to write down as many things as you can that meet the above criteria. List areas of your life, perhaps things you're consistently worried about, and write things that might pass the Philippians 4 test. Do it over a few days and see what the Holy Spirit brings to mind each time:

For example:

Myself: What's true is that I'm a Christian, I'm loved by God, I've been adopted into his family...

Difficult circumstances: What's true is that my Father promises to be with me throughout every difficulty I face. What's worshipful is that he's always got me through things in the past, he's worthy of my worship

Others: What's commendable is that I'm grateful for my wife, for how she loves me and cares for me. I'm thankful I've got friends who, despite knowing the worst bits about me, have stuck by me and pray for me...

I might also list: my future, my job, my kids, my self image, my past, my money... Adding to this list daily will force your mind to think about and dwell on true and good things as opposed to the destructive and anxiety laden things we often think about.

Have fun!


The Original Battlefield

Every week for the next 7 weeks as part of the Essence teaching series we'll be posting videos & blogs to help us get to grips with our new identity in Christ. Be sure to visit our Facebook pages regularly for resources designed to help you grow.
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Let's start by considering an important principle.

Take a few minutes to read over the Bible verses listed below. Consider as you read them what they might have in common:
I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
Romans 12:1-2
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practise these things, and the God of peace will be with you.
Philippians 4:8-9 
For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds.We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ,
2 Corinthians 10:4-5
Did you find a common thread woven through? I'm sure there are plenty of things they have in common but the reason I picked them is because of their mention of the mind and our thought life:
  • Be transformed by renewing your mind (Romans 12:2)
  • Whatever is honourable, whatever is... think about these things. (Philippians 4:8)
  • Take every thought captive to obey Christ. (2 Corinthians 10:5)
The principle is this:
What we think about matters. What we allow ourselves to dwell on, matters. What we play on repeat in our heads over and over, matters. It all matters.
In my experience, what goes on in the grey matter between my ears has a huge impact on my joy, faith, peace, and contentment. My thought life greatly affects the quality of life I'm enjoying. 

As a new Christian I kept a journal in which I documented my thoughts about faith. I remember on one occasion after seeing something quite miraculous take place, writing in my journal: 'never forget! God is real, God is Good. Never forget! I'm going to live for God, wholeheartedly, 100%!!'

That ought to have settled it then; wholehearted, determined Christianity from then on. Except that it wasn't, and it didn't. 

A few weeks later I'd done exactly what I'd told myself not to do, I'd forgotten. I'd concluded that God wasn't real, that if he was real then he didn't love me and wasn't helping me. As such I wanted to quit as a follower of Christ. 

That process has been (and still is to some extent) a common one for me. It's a process of remembering and forgetting, remembering and forgetting, remembering and... you get the idea. What I find reassuring however is that I'm not the only one who battles like this. For the past 10 years I've had a front row seat on many people's different experiences and Christian lives. I've watched again and again as others have gone through the same cycle I've just described. 

The apostle Paul (who wrote the Bible verses above) seemed to be aware of this problem as well. He understood that being a Christian requires a diligent and careful approach to our thought life. That's why he wrote so often about it.

Here's some questions to consider:
How much are you aware of the positive or negative impact of your thoughts? 
Do you ever find yourself walking to the shops but daydreaming about disaster?
Are you aware of where your mind wanders to most often?
At the end of the day, if I were to present you with a highlights tape of your thoughts what would the repeating themes be? 
We must start to take seriously the responsibility to discern the truth from the lies in our minds. There is a call to arms in the whole area of our thinking and we can't afford to go AWOL - too much is at stake.

Weekly Challenge

To help, here's a little challenge to complete...

By Friday have memorised the statement of truth below taken from the Freed For Purpose course. Find a friend who's doing the same and at the end of the week, test each other:
I recognise that there is only one true and living God, who exists as the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. He is worthy of all honour, praise and glory as the one who made all things and holds all things together. (see Exodus 20:2,3; Colossians 1:16,17)

Wednesday, 4 November 2015

Approval Rating 5 Years On

Several months ago in an idle moment I took the back off a picture dad had drawn for me. The picture was of our family home and he'd presented it to me 10 years ago when I first moved to Eastbourne: 'the front door is open' he said 'to show you that you can come home whenever you want.' He then told me he'd written a note for me on the back of the picture. I read it that night when he'd gone home.

10 years on I thought I'd reacquaint myself with what he'd written. I had an idea that whatever was written on the back might result in my emotional undoing (crying for the more emotionally secure) but I was curious all the same; 'What can it hurt?' I reasoned, 'he's been gone for a long time now, surely I've finished grieving.'


My fears were right, it got me. I was a mess for a while after reading that.

The note 'got me' but in a different way than I was expecting. There were tears for sure, a tap load in fact but what I found most unexpected was the way I felt before the tears.

For a moment after reading the note I felt unusually calm a sort of rest in my soul, in a part of me I didn't even realise was busy. It was as though the world went still and in that brief moment dad was there in the room. He was there and he was speaking to me.

In the past 5 years I've grown familiar with the idea of him not being here any more, familiar with the reality that he doesn't say anything new these days; and yet in that moment he was speaking. He was speaking new words of love and affirmation and oh how I hadn't realised I needed to hear them.

Now, my reaction may just stem from me being a desperately needy, attention seeking middle child (entirely plausible) but it may also be that what I experienced is typical of more people than just me.

It seems to me that in some real, but often unacknowledged way, many of us live out our lives with a subconscious 'I hope dad/mum would be proud and impressed,' ticking away in the background. The more people I speak to the more I realise how this is part of our human condition.

I read an article today by a popular atheist columnist reflecting on how much of a longing for his own father he still experiences five years after his death. What was interesting to me was that only a couple of months before this I read another article by this same writer arguing for what he considers to be the social good and virtue of natural selection being exacted upon a society's elderly and infirm. It seems that for all his bravado about the value of a person to society there is still a valuing and longing for his five-year deceased father. It seems that our love of loved ones isn't conditional upon their economic value to a society. We know that but some of our leading thinkers seem to be forgetting it.

Apart from anything else I experienced in the moment I read those words I learnt that I'm still living with an internal ache for approval. What's more I learnt that for all the contentment and joy I get from being loved and approved by God the Father there is still a part of me reserved for dad, a part that only he can reach. Our close relationships define us in many ways. We aren't islands and we don't 'find ourselves' by hiding from the people in our lives. We are relational beings who reflect the nature of our relational God. This gives me cause to ponder for my own children and wonder what sort of hole or mark I might be leaving on their soul.

I've learnt the significance and impact that affirmation and approval plays in our emotional health.

I'm grateful that five years on I can still give thanks for the way dad expressed his feelings toward me. Would I have liked him to have said more whilst he could? Sure but then as I said, I'm a middle child.

Today, five years after his funeral I'm thanking God for the model of fatherhood dad left for me and I'm wanting to do all that I can to leave my boys without any shadow of a doubt about the way I feel toward them.

Friday, 16 October 2015

The Father Who Bruises the Son

Scripture

Today's full reading is John 18:1-14
Jesus commanded Peter, 'put your sword away! Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me?'
John 18:11
Observation

Jesus is clear. What's happening to him is from the Father.

He rebukes Peter on that basis: 'this has come to me from the Father.' Jesus trusts his Father and desires to do what the Father sent him to do. His rebuke of Peter is a question that sounds a little like 'do you know better than my Father?!'

Jesus is incredulous. The Father is in charge of all things and is over all things. The Father has given his Son this 'cup' and now the Son must drink it.

The cup he mentions is the same cup he was agonising over in the Garden of Gethsemane. The cup is the wrath of the Father, the cross and the abandonment Jesus will experience by his Father. Having already asked for 'another way' Jesus is now convinced that this is the only way. It is certainly the way his Father wants him to travel. Having prayed that prayer and arrived at his conclusion, Jesus is ready.

Peter on the other hand hasn't been on this emotional journey and arrived at the same conclusion. Peter is only concerned with protecting Jesus and getting him enthroned in place of the Romans.

Let's consider the Father mentioned here.

We begin by reminding ourselves that everything else we've seen about him until this point is still true. At this moment it's extremely important for us to keep that in our minds.

With that in place it's clear that this moment, this cup, is not something the Father has issued to his Son easily. This is difficult and costly for both of them, and true as that is - Jesus still drank it, the Father still gave it.

Here we see a God who willingly and without coercion gives up his Son to death. See the Father who allows his Son to drink poison in order that we all may be reconciled to him. This is the final nail in the coffin of the austere, strict and malicious Father God of our nightmares.

This act by the Father was on that broke his heart. This act of braking his Son, broke him. A Father like the one Jesus has been describing to us throughout this series certainly couldn't have been left unaffected by these events.

Prayer

Father Thank you. Thank you for the glorious truth contained here. Thank you for your commitment to me and to us. You're a good good father and I am thrilled to belong to you. I gladly bow my knee to you today, gladly trust you knowing that you would not ask me to do anything you've not been through yourself. You're a Father who identifies with us in our pain. Thank you.

The Father: An Overview

Scripture

Today's reading is the whole of Jesus' prayer in John 17. Since the Father is mentioned throughout the prayer we're not going to focus on one specific verse but instead provide a birds eye overview of some of the themes Jesus draws out. Take some time now to read the chapter, making some observations of your own and then come back and go through it with me.

Observation

Verse 1 - Knowing the Father is eternal life.  This is something that is so exciting it demands a whole extra blog. You can read that blog here if you want to.

Verse 5 - The Father and the Son were together in glory (majesty and splendour) before the world began.

Verse 6 - The Father gave the Son his disciples. He gave the Son those people who are right now believing in him and following him. It can therefore be said that the disciples or believers belonged to the Father since you can't give something you don't have.

Verse 8 - The Father sent the Son. Jesus wasn't acting just out of his own good idea.

Verse 9 - Jesus saw himself as a steward of the things and people that the Father had given to him.

Verse 10 - The Father shares everything with the Son.

Verse 11 - The Father is holy. Holy means pure, untouchable, unapproachable and reserved entirely for God. We also see here that the Father and the Son are one.

Verse 17 - The Father is able to sanctify, that is he is able to make holy. The Father's word is truth.

Verse 21 - The Father is in the Son and the Son is in the Father.

Verse 24 - The Father has given the Son glory. The Father loved the Son before the world began.

Finally we can observe from verse 25 that the Father is righteous and that the Father is unknown by the world. The world does not know him. For all its ideas about God they fall a long way short of truthfully speaking about the Father and for all its knowledge about God they do not know the Father.

To conclude this devotional series on the Father let's put in front of us all of the descriptions of the Father from the titles of our daily entries:


  • The Forgotten Father
  • The Father of Grace & Truth
  • The Father's Side
  • The Father Hasn't Walked Out On Us
  • The Father and the Son
  • The Father At Work
  • The One the Son is Tethered To
  • The Father Who Raises the Dead
  • The Father Who Honours the Son
  • The Father Who Provides Bread From Heaven
  • The Father Who Gives Eternal Life
  • The Father Who Draws People to the Son
  • The Alive and Life Giving Father
  • The Father Who Seeks His Son's Glory
  • The Father Who Glorifies the Son
  • The Father Who Knows Me
  • The Reason the Father Loves the Son
  • The Father Who Won't Let Go
  • The Father Who Hears the Son
  • The Father Who Honours Us
  • The Father to Trust Unto Death
  • The Slave God
  • The Father, Son & Spirit
  • The Father Death Leads U To
  • The Father is Greater than the Son
  • The Gardening Father
  • The Father to Be Known
We haven't 'made up' any of these. These are all insights from the mouth of Jesus. I trust Jesus. Jesus died on Good Friday and was raised to life on Easter Sunday and is in charge of all things. Jesus can be trusted to speak truthfully about God. He is my primary basis for speaking about the Father. He is my authority for saying anything at all about God. 

Let me finish by quoting again from Doug Wilson's masterful book 'Father Hunger' where he lists the attributes of God's generosity seen in John's gospel:
The most obvious feature of the Father is his generosity. He is generous with his glory (1:14), with tasks (5:18), with his protection (10:28-32), with his home (14:1-2), and with his joy (16:23-24). The Father gives (3:34-36). The Father gives his Son (3:16; 18:11); the Father gives his Spirit (14:16-17); the Father gives himself (14:22-24).
He then goes on to say that God is seeking worshippers who will become like he is, and what is he:
He is generous with everything. Is there anything he has that he has held back? And what should we- tangible fathers- be like? The question is terribly hard to answer, but not because it is difficult to understand.
I hope that these devotional studies have been of benefit to you. Thanks for coming along for the ride!

Jez


P.S. For more devotional studies on the Father you're welcome to visit my own blog site www.jezfield.blogspot.co.uk or come back tomorrow for a final (bonus edition) post.




The Father Who Is Eternal Life

Scripture

Today's Bible verse is:
'Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son so that your Son may glorify you, since you have given him authority over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to all those you have given to him. And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you sent.'
John 17:1
Observation

'This is eternal life' Jesus says, and surely whatever follows next must get our full attention.
This is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you sent.
Eternal life, that is never ending, full blooded, never giving up, never running out, enhanced life in HD, that sort of life comes from and is found in knowing the Father and the Son. Not just knowing about them, not occasionally firing off a prayer to them when we're in need but knowing them. God is a person after all.

This sort of knowledge is less like knowing a recipe or knowing a map and more like knowing my wife. I know her but I'm also always getting to know her. My knowing of her deepens as our intimacy increases. Although I would say that I know her quite well now, I also know that I will never reach the point of saying 'I know enough about her now - she is fully known.'

How much more is that true about God the Father? God is infinitely more exciting and mysterious, perplexing and familiar majestic and nearby.

Application

Jesus says that this is eternal life. Eternal life is not something that happens when I die, it is something that 'happens' (or begins) the moment I begin a relationship with the Father. 'When I met her I felt as though my life had finally begun' is a sentiment often expressed by someone in love, it's just that that sentiment finds its fullest expression and fulfilment in knowing the Father.

When we enter into a relationship with him it is as though Shakespeare's words become true of our lives: all that's past is preface.

Everything that went before is merely the beginning and introduction of what can happen now.

So how do we come to know the Father? First of all we admit. We admit that we've been living a life of worshiping other gods. By that I mean we admit that we've been searching for meaning and fulfilment in everything and anything other than God, the Father who made us and loves us. Second of all we turn away from that life. We're sorry for our idolatry. Thirdly we ask him to forgive us. We believe that Jesus' death on the cross was the payment and punishment that our idolatry deserved. We reach out to Jesus and take hold of him, trusting his sacrifice for our acquittal. Fourthly we begin. We begin a life of knowing him, we ask him to teach us, lead us, and fill us with his Spirit.

Admit. Turn. Ask. Begin. Simples.

Prayer

Thank you Father for the eternal life that is mine in Christ. Thank you that by repenting of my old way of life I entered into a new life of knowing you. Thank you that that life is eternal. Please help me to know you all the more. Amen.

Monday, 12 October 2015

The Father Who Loves Me

Scripture:

Today's Bible reading is John 16:25-33
The hour is coming when I will no longer speak to you in figures of speech but will tell you plainly about the Father. In that day you will ask in my name, and I do not say to you that I will ask the Father on your behalf, for the Father himself loves you, because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God. I came from the Father and have come into the world, and now I am leaving the world and going to the Father. 
Observation

I don't know if you've had this experience before, there's every chance that I'm just a little odd, but as I sit here writing this my heart is beating fast at the truth contained in these words. I feel as though an answer to a question I've wondered about for some time has at last arrived.

It's a question Amy and I were discussing together recently: 'since the Father loves the Son so much (and it's clear from John's gospel that he loves him a lot), does he actually love me or is it only the bits of his Son he sees in me that he likes?' Does he love me for me or does he just tolerate me because the Son softens his heart towards me?

Does God know me and love me for me?

It's a valid question.

There are several ways of answering that question but in my opinion none of them are quite as definitive as this one from the mouth of Jesus.

When we come to God and ask him for things 'in the name of Jesus' that means we're asking on the basis of who Jesus is; it's on his reputation and authority that we stake our claims and requests.

What we're not doing (as Jesus points out here) is asking the Son to ask the Father as though he's in the next room. We don't hand our requests to the Son and then wait nervously in the corridor for the Father's answer. Jesus says that explicitly: 'I won't ask him on your behalf' but rather, he says 'the Father loves you.'

It may be temping to skip onto the next phrase from Jesus mouth 'because you love me' and have it sour the statement 'the Father loves you' but before we do, allow this to sink in - the Father loves you. Jesus says so, explicitly.

You. The personal pronoun, you. The you mentioned here are the disciples he's speaking to, so do we have permission from the text to apply that 'you' to well, me? Let's hold that question for now.

We can come to the Father (in Jesus' name) and ask knowing that he loves us, individually.

God the Father lavishes us with his love and kindness and generosity; based on what? Based on the fact that we share a common love: 'because you love me' he says.

Understood like this the phrase that could sound like a reluctant condition to the Father's love ie 'only because you love me', starts to taste a little less bitter and a lot more sweet. It isn't 'I love you - BUT - only because you love him!' but rather 'I love you because you have turned away from loving the things that stop me from knowing you and have come to love the object of my affection as well.' It is this phrase (the 'because you love' the Son phrase) that gives me permission to claim the first part of Jesus' statement for myself: The Father loves you. This makes it true not only of Jesus' original hearers but of me as well since I also love the Son as they did (and this answers the question above that we put on hold).

Application

The Father loves me. The Father loves you. We don't pass our prayers onto the Son who reads them to his Father. We can come in, we can have an audience with him. Why? On what basis can we be so bold? Because he loves us. He loves us. The good and pleasant things we receive in this world do not come to us neutrally. They come from a Father who is good and who does good and who loves us. You are loved.

This also means that the bad and unpleasant stuff in life doesn't come to us as punishment or as evidence of God's disdain toward us. These things come but they do not change the truth of Jesus' words one bit. He loves you.

Prayer

Thank you that you love me Father. Thank you that you are always inclined to bless me, to shower me with goodness, to lavish me with your kindnesses. Thank you Father that I can stand before you, or sit or kneel (or sleep!) and know that you love ME. Me. Little old, smelly old, flawed ME. Yippee. 

Friday, 9 October 2015

The Father to be known


Scripture
Today's reading is John 16:1-15.
Our verse for the day is verse 3:
And these they will do because they have not known the Father nor me.
John 16:3
Observation

The reason, Jesus says, that people (and indeed do) persecute disciple of his is that they do not know the Father. We might have been tempted to say it was because of other things: pride, jealousy, the devil or even a whole manner of things. For Jesus however it's simple: they don't know the Father. They think they're pleasing God, but they don't even know him. Serving God is one thing but knowing him is what really matters. Because you can't actually serve him and do his will until or unless you know him.

Know the Father. When you know him, you'll behave differently. It is knowing the Father and not simply knowing God that counts. Sin comes from not knowing the Father. Prejudice comes from not knowing the Father. Jealousy comes from not knowing the Father.

The Father Is Generous

Scripture

Today's Bible reading is John 15:1-17

'All that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.'
John 15:15
The Son brings us into his confidence. He tells us, or at least he told them who later passed it on to us, all that he heard or hears from his Father.

About the Father we learn that he is a speaking Father who taught and instructed his Son clearly.

The Son is not treated like a servant but a friend. He is told about his Father's business. His Father hasn't kept him in the dark. This then is how the Trinity behaves. God speaks and share with his own. Those who might be outsiders he brings in. Servants become friends and Sons who are invited into and share ownership of the family business. Then, following on from this specific mention of the Father is the next time he's mentioned:

Whatever we ask the Father in Jesus' name. he gives to us.

We've been brought into friendship with Christ so that we bear fruit, lasting fruit and receive from the Father. We receive by being able to ask in the Son's name, authority, authrship and confidence. We're able to ask in the Son's name because he's revealed his 'business' to us and made us friends. We're able to be in the right task in our asking that means the Father will approve our requests.

The Father is generous. God is generous. I am a recipient of his Generosity.

The Father To Obey

Scripture

Today's reading is John 15:1-17.
'If you keep my commandments you will abide in my love, just as I have kept the commandments of my Father and abide in his love.'
John 15:10
Observation

'I love you!' we might declare to God, or sing in a song,
'Then keep my commandments, do as I say.' He'd perhaps say back to us.

For Jesus there is a close link between loving God and doing what he says. To obey someone shows that you trust them. Jesus wants us to do what he has done. He obeys his Father and so abides in his love.

Do I want to know God more? Do I want to rest in God? Do I want to rest in God? Do I want to experience his love in an ongoing never ending way? Then I must obey him. Obedience doesn't always come from a place of love, we obey for many different reasons. But love is not love if it doesn't look to obey and honour the object of its affection.


The Father who wants fruitfulness

Scripture

Today's full Bible reading comes from John 15:1-17.
By this is my Father glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.
John 15:8
If we've learnt anything from this devotional study it's that the Father is always wanting to glorify the Son and the Son is always wanting to glorify the Father.

So when the Son says 'my Father is glorified when you bear much fruit' he's essentially saying 'bear as much fruit as possible.' and fruit (whatever it is) is clearly something good, something that I'd want.

Again we see the round about and constant Other affirming nature of the Godhead:

  • Glorify my Father by bearing fruit
  • Prove to be my disciples (thus glorifying the Son)
The Son says 'glorify him', the Father says 'glorify him!' each about the other.

This is good for us too for since God is Other-centred and outwardly life giving we benefit from him when he is glorified by and in us. As a result of the 'glorify-him no glorify-him!' nature of God we get to 'bear fruit'. But what exactly is 'fruit'? It's obviously a good thing, but other than that what can we say, what are we talking about? Let's look into the passage to find out.

Let's look at v12-15:
  • The first thing suggested from these verses it that it's obedience, but not just cold and plain obedience, it's obedience that's born out of intimacy and familiarity with God. So, stating it more clearly, part of the fruit is intimacy and friendship with God.
  • Also in our mind at this point, and not inconsistent with the above statement, it's the Fruit of the Spirit laid out by Paul in Galatians 5:22. It is character that is Godlike. We become more life giving, generous, warm hearted and joyful - that's fruit I'd be keen to produce!
  • Fruit also has something to do with answered prayer. The Father wants and will answer our prayers.


 

The Gardening Father

Scripture

Today's full Bible reading is John 15:1-17
'I am the true vine and my Father is the vine dresser.'
John 15:1
Observation

This is quite a clear 'here's what the Father's like' sort of verse. The Father is the 'vine dresser' or sometimes the translations say 'the gardener'.

He is as actively involved with his people as a vine dresser or gardener is with his plants. Daily a gardener waters, prunes and shapes his plants and depending on the season of the year he treats it differently. In winter the vine gets very little attentions from a gardener apart from perhaps some protection from the frost. In spring time there is weeding and shaping, in summer there is watering and gathering and in autumn there is preparing for winter.

As a vine dresser he knows the vine, knows its needs and is committed to the vine's wellbeing. The vine after all is Christ, not us; that is perhaps a useful idea and one for us to stay with for a while. I am/we are branches on the vine and get the attention and dedication of the vine dresser purely because I'm part of the vine and the gardener loves the vine.

Again we see how much the Father is committed to his Son and how my benefits come from being in the Son. Plead the Son therefore, have confidence in the Son. Dote on the Son, delight in the Son, have the love and affection of the Father toward the Son.

The Father tenderly prunes, shapes, harvest, waters and waits over the vine. Those are all words then that describe the character and personality of the Father, my Father.

Application

The vine dresser always acts in such a way to try and bring about more fruitfulness from the vine. The Father, by implication, will always work and act in our lives to try and bring about more fruitfulness for us. Fruitfulness of Christ-like character, fruitfulness of intimacy with the Father, fruitfulness of answered prayer and personal joy in God.

Given that that's his motive it allows me to surrender to his ways and submit myself to what he wants to do. But surrender in the Christian life isn't 'let go', surrender is 'go on abiding'. When I surrender to God and submit myself to his plans that doesn't mean that I 'coast' through life or that I simply shrug my shoulders and say 'whatever will be, will be'. Rather it looks like a practical and intentional pursuit of Jesus. I am promised the vine dresser's good will by virtue of 'abiding' in the vine and so I shall ensure that I, in as many ways and means, abide in the vine.

Prayer

Father. Thank you so much that you are committed to the careful working and pruning and shaping and trimming of my life, with the intention of bringing about more fruitfulness. Thank you that you give what I desire, fruitfulness, purpose and intimacy. Help me to surrender, not in the sense that I 'give up' but in the sense that I 'press in' to Jesus more and more. Amen. 

Thursday, 3 September 2015

The Forgotten Father

"Now when all the people were baptised, and when Jesus also had been baptised and was praying, the heavens were opened, and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form, like a dove; and voice came from heaven, 'You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.'"
Luke 3:21-22
All of us are the son or daughter of some father but very few of us have ever heard words from our fathers like Jesus hears here at his baptism.

This is a problem.

Jesus' coming and revealing God to us is the crowning moment of human history. It is the moment the Earth had been waiting for, the moment that creation up until that point had been holding its breath in anticipation of. At that moment, when the Son of God walked upon the Earth we saw more clearly than any previous generation had ever done that God the creator, ruler, author and sustainer was originally and eternally, Father.

According to Doug Wilson (no relation to Andrew I'm afraid) 'The Father is the forgotten member of the Trinity.' We talk about having a 'personal relationship' with Jesus and are familiar with being filled with the Holy Spirit but whoever heard an altar call to come and 'know the Father'?

There's a lot we're missing out on in our Christian lives if we don't learn to love and appreciate God as Father; and depending on our experience of Fathers that may be a difficult and unappealing idea in the first place. Having said that, all of us have a father hunger within us. All of us have an immaterial invisible ache that longs to be fathered, but not by just any father - we long for the true Father.

For the next 5 weeks we want to invite you to join us on a journey of discovery. I want us together to explore through the pages of John's gospel exactly what God the Father is like. I want those of us who are Christians to discover just how good and affirming our Father is and I want those of us who aren't Christians to learn what the person of God is like. I want us to hear those words the Father spoke over Jesus; spoken over us as well.

To draw out the richness of John's gospel and to help us become transformed by it, each day we'll publish a scripture for you to read, a verse to focus on and some observations to go along with it. We'll use the method of Bible reading I've always found helpful, explained by the acronym S.O.A.P.

S - scripture
O - observation
A - application
P - prayer

I'd like to encourage you to read the text for yourself, jot down your own observations and applications, and then read our blogs or watch our videos to hopefully get a little more out of it for yourself.

The daily readings and verses for the first week are:

Day 1: John 1:1-17
Day 2: John 1:17-24
Day 3: John 2:13-25
Day 4: John 3:31-35
Day 5: John 5:1-17

We're praying that all of us discover God the Father as he actually is: generous, loving, life-giving and good. I'm hoping that we'll find our father hunger satisfied, maybe for the first time, not by a counterfeit god or an imitation father but but by the true and living eternal God.

Here goes.

Tuesday, 1 September 2015

The Father is Greater than the Son

Scripture

Today's full Bible reading is John 14:1-14
'For the Father is greater than I.'
John 14:28
Observation

Yesterday we looked at the destination of the Son, today we're considering the relationship of the Father and the Son.

The greater Father.

This seems like a strange phrase to hear Jesus say. Is Jesus saying that the Father is 'better' as in 'more godlike'? Is he saying that the Father is stronger or more powerful?

Whatever Jesus means it must be held consistently with everything else he's said about the Father up until now:
'obey me and the Father will honour you' - John 12:26
'I and the Father are one.' - John 10:30
'Before Abraham was, I am.' - John 8:58
All this leads me to rule out interpretations and explanations of our verse that might end up with a Jesus who is less than God. Therefore he is not saying 'The Father's the real deal, I'm just his mouthpiece, nothing more than a vessel of his will.' He can't be saying that having also said the above statements about himself and the Father.

What Jesus is doing instead is pointing to the inner workings of the relationship between him and his Father. He is giving us some insight into the Godhead. There is total equality in God, each person is God, there is one God. But, within the Godhead of Father, Son & Spirit there is also deference and submission. 'The Father is greater than I' means 'I'm submitted to him and his authority'.

This appears to me as a strange concept since a lot of the things Jesus has said up until now has implied the opposite:
'The Father has given all things into my hands' - John 3:35
'My Father glorifies me.' - John 8:54
As much as the Son defers to the Father and submits to him there is also a clear delight in and deference to the Son by the Father. The Father has given the Son authority, rule and dominion over the earth. It is as though the Father has said 'I won't do anything on Earth without your permission,' or even just 'you're in charge here.' and in response Jesus says 'I'll only do what I see my Father doing, or what I know my Father would have me do.'

This is mind-stretchingly beautiful. The Father is a Father secure enough in his greatness and happy enough in his Son that he want to give his Son as much authority and freedom as possible. How does the Son respond to such a Father?
'The Father is greater than I.'
Who wouldn't want to surrender to a Father like that?

Application

It's that question that leads nicely into our application today. Who wouldn't want to surrender to a Father like that? The answer that comes to my mind is: 'I don't'. What I mean is that although I see the trustworthiness of the Father and although I can understand why the Son wants to submit to him, my rebellious self still would rather seek self-glory and self-reliance than the Father's plan. Acknowledging this is perhaps the first step along the way. Having acknowledged the goodness of the Father and the rebelliousness of my nature I am better able to pray and build an honest relationship with him.

Prayer

I love you Father, I am yours. Today I choose to trust you and submit to you. When I don't want to obey you and  when my passions run wild help me to remember the Son who submits to the Father and help me to also bring my will under your rule. You are a Father who cares and who knows best. I trust you today. Amen.

The Father Death Leads Us To

Scripture

Today's full reading is John 14:1-14
If you loved me, you would have rejoiced, because I am going away to the Father, for the Father is greater than I.
John 14:28
Observation

We're going to spend a couple of days on this one verse noting two different things about the Father. The first has to do with the destination Jesus believes he going to and the second about the nature of the relationship between the Father and the Son.

Jesus' Destination

Instantly I'm struck by Jesus' thoughts about the Father. He's talking about his death, he's talking about dying and yet he doesn't say 'I'm going to better place' (like a sentimental Englishman). Instead he says 'I'm going to the Father.'

Jesus is enthusiastic not about dying, nor about 'being at peace', nor about 'going to a better place'. He's enthusiastic and optimistic about going to be with the Father.

For Jesus dying is but a doorway to the Father. It's unpleasant and in his case it's going to be excruciatingly painful (literally ex-crux - 'from the cross') but it's the person of his Father that he's most mindful about being with. He's not looking forward to the pain of the cross but he is looking past that to the reality and pleasure of being with his Father.

This is what the Father is like then. He is one whose company is to be desired. Jesus said 'if you love me... you'd rejoice.' Rejoice!? He wanted his disciples to celebrate. He wanted them to be glad. They were to celebrate not that he's dying but that he's going to be with his Father.

In all likelihood when the disciple first heard Jesus say this all they probably heard was 'I'm going away' - but what filled Jesus' mind wasn't the leaving but the arriving, arriving in his Father's presence once again.

Application

This is what death is for the Christian. Death is going to be with our Father. It isn't just going to a 'better place' nor even is to just go and be with 'God'. Rather it is our 'Father' who is the object of death's destination. The person, the presence, the intimacy, the reality of our Father.

Thinking about death like this comforts me when I consider those I've known who've died, especially those who've died in Christ. It also gives me comfort when thinking about my own death. It helps me to believe that death isn't the end, a full stop after the final chapter of my life. Death is what leads me to be with the one I love and who loves me and who created all things out of the overflow of his love.

All this also reinforces to me the importance of changing the way I think about God. If I believe that God is a mean, strict and cold 'man in the sky' then death has nothing for me to look forward to. But he isn't like that. He is a Father that the Son was enthusiastic about going to be with.

Prayer

Father I'm comforted and encouraged by your Son's attitude to death. It helps me dispel some of my own doubts about death and fear of death. Thank you that the people I love aren't lost, that they aren't even just 'at peace'. Thank you that those I love are with you, in your company seeing you face to face. I love you. Amen.

God The Father, Son & Spirit

Devotional studies on God the Father from John's gospel

Scripture

Today's full reading comes from John 14:1-31.
The words I say to you I do not speak on my own authority, but the Father who dwells in me does his works.
John 14:10
Today's reading reveals something pretty heady about God;  get ready...

In this verse and in the one previous to it Jesus is replying to his disciple Philip's request that they might see the Father, 'show us the Father' Philip pleads. Jesus is trying to help Philip see that he (Jesus) is the Father made manifest, that he's not only the Father's representative but is one with him in thought and deed.

In that sense, Jesus is different from an ambassador and speaking to him is different from speaking to an ambassador. Ambassador's speak on behalf of another person or country. They are given authority to act on behalf of and as a representative of their sending party. So far so good, so far so similar to Jesus. But Jesus claims a different level of familiarity with the one he's representing.

Jesus claims to not only do the things that come from above, he claims that he is 'one' with the Father. Having done that Jesus goes further still and says that he is in the Father (ie he exists within the Father's essence). Then, even more shockingly, he claims that God the Father, Yahweh, the Creator is also in him.
The Son is in the Father
but also
The Father is in the Son
Jesus is not saying, as Eastern thinkers have done, that everything is god; that we are gods. He is not even saying 'we are gods & God is in us'. What he is saying is:
I am in God and God is in me.
This, said in response to Philip's question, has to do with Jesus' identity and therefore (by implication) the Father's identity.

Application

This morning, sitting where I am outdoors on a sunny day, I lift my head to take in my surroundings and I'm struck by the beauty and majesty of the created world. Then as I take in the blue sphere above me and as I consider the vast, and as yet unexplored, universe beyond it I have to catch myself and stop a train a thought that develops. Tempted as I am to stop and soak it in and consider it to be awesome and marvellous, I mustn't. Creation is a signpost that points beyond itself to the creative & powerful mind of the Father. The difference is comparable to the majesty of a lego city being placed alongside the intricacies and complexities of a real city, one with all the organisms that live there. God is far greater than anything he has made.

And then I have stop myself once again.

The God who made this universe is, in essence, a Father. The Father is in the Son and if I can conceive who and what Jesus is then I can conceive who and what the Father is. Therefore creation may help me to marvel, but the Son enables me to relate.

The Father-in-the-Son and the Son-in-the-Father makes me both marvel and relate and finally it makes me, stop. It makes me put down my pen and relax. I can rest in the confident loving arms of my Father.

But my journey doesn't end there. 'What about the Holy Spirit?' I wonder 'surely he ought to figure too in this 'me in him and him in me...' description of God'. God isn't only Father and Son but Father, Son & Spirit. Glance back at the scripture in front of you and it seems that Jesus is tracking our train of thought. Two verses after the one we're focusing on, having explained part of the mystery of the Godhead Jesus helps his listeners to grasp even more:
'I will ask the Father and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever.' 
The Holy Spirit, the Helper, is described here as 'he'. He is sent by the Father at the request of the Son. He dwells/lives with us and will be 'in' us. In these verses both the Son & the Spirit are said to be 'in' us. The Son is in the Father and the Spirit comes from the Father.

Trying to wrap my mind around all this is hard for me. That's where historic diagrams of the Trinity come in handy:


God is one but three persons who each exist 'in' the other without being dissolved into a non-distinct blend of bland monotheism. 

This is the nature of God and then Jesus 'drops a bombshell' when he says that: he (v20), the Spirit (v17) and the Father (v23) will be in us. The scandalous truth is that in some profound and mysterious way the triune God lives in me, lives in you.

Jesus effectively says of God 'we will makes our home with and in them.'

God is committed to us. He is with us, in us, for us, at home in us, loving us, leading us, teaching us.

This isn't because of intellect and learning or moral perfection. This is because of grace, because of Christ and because of the Father's unrelenting love toward us.

The Father covers us with his love. He surrounds us, lives in us - and us in him.

Prayer

Father such thoughts are almost too much for me to take in. Help me to enjoy the reality that these words are pointing to. Help me to know you, delight in you and enjoy relationship with you. Fill me with your Spirit, help me to love your Son and cause me to trust you for everything I need today. Amen.

The Father Known Through The Son

No one comes to the Father except through the Son. If you had known me you would have known the Father as well.
John 14:6
Again we see the unity of person and mind of the Father and the Son.

The Father is inaccessible except by coming through and with and by the Son. Why?

  • Righteousness - the Son is the righteous one.
  • Relationship - the Father isn't after people who keep his rules and thus enter his presence. He is looking for worshippers and faith. He wants people who will trust him.
Similar to the second half of this verse, is this statement Jesus makes elsewhere: 'if you've seen me you've seen the Father' 

Again an outrageous statement to make for a cerpenter's son. If that's all he is. But he isn't just Joseph's boy.

The Father and the Son are on. Whatever the Son is like, the Father is too:
  • Willing
  • Sacrificial
  • Servanthearted
  • Bold
  • Generous
  • Working for Restoration 
  • Committed 
This is what the Father is as well. In Chapter 14 Jesus mentions the Father 21 times in a range of different ways. Where religious people and Christians included talk about God, Jesus speaks about the Father.

This is my God, the servant king, the sacrifical Father, the generous dad, This is who I sit before, live before and talk to. Father 21 times in one discourse, 21 times in one conversation.

Father, Father, Father, Father, Father, Father, Father, Father, Father, Father, Father, Father, Father, Father, Father, Father, Father, Father, Father. 

The Father's House

In my Father's house are many rooms... I go to prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself.
John 14:2

We are being invited to be with the Father. Just as the Son loves the Father and the Father the Son we are being offered the same access to intimacy and friendship as that.

Jesus is returning to his Father but promises to take us with him, which is what he sees as the highest good he could do us.

The Father owns a house. The house has rooms currently unused as places of residence. The Father is happy for us to go and live in one of these rooms. I don't get the impression that Jesus is acting against his Father's wishes when he says this. Jesus sees us living with him and his Father, something he sees as a desirable good: 'You'll want this, this is the culmination of 3 years on the road with me.'

The Father is relational. We relate to him by being with the Son and where the Son is. God the Father is expecting us to live with him, he allows it which means he wants it.

This is the Father. This is our final destination, not heaven but home with the Father.

The Slave God

Devotional studies on the Father from the gospel of John.

Scripture:

This morning's full reading is from John 13:1-19 and can be found here:

The verses we're focusing on are:
Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father... During supper... Jesus knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands and that he had come from God and was going back to God, rose from supper.
John 13:1-3
Observation:

I love this chapter. I'm gonna' put it out there - this is one of my personal favourite moments in the life of Jesus. Listen to the words Jesus says here and allow the rich implications of it drip like honey onto your lap... (too far with the enthusiasm?). Still, there is some great treasure to be mined here. The image of Jesus with a slave's towel around his waist seems just about as shocking today as it would have done then. The saviour of the world, the creator of the world, God - dressed as a slave?

God is the God who slaves over us and slaves after us. Incredible.

Verse 1 - Jesus knew that where he was going wasn't just death, or even 'heaven' but to the Father. From Jesus' perspective this is how he saw things. For Jesus, to live meant to trust the Father and to discern his plan. Discerning that his plan meant to suffer didn't seem to put him off since he understood that even in that suffering he would still have the Father with him. Plus, to die was to go and be with the Father - permanently, and that was Jesus' greatest delight.

Reality for Jesus was defined around his Father.

The overarching emphasis of life and the underlying theme of life, has to do not with some mystical far off and remote 'God' but rather with the Father. The Father is a wildly different God to the ones invented by religion,

Verse 3 - The Father gave all things into his hands.

I watched a business coaching video this morning entitled: the 'right sort of delegation.'

The 'right' way of releasing people to achieve their full potential and their company's full potential, it said, was not to give people tasks and jobs but to give them authority. Releasing people into areas of responsibility empowers them and creates leaders rather than followers.

To say that the father 'delegated' the work of redemption to the Son isn't right but it is true to say that the Father empowers and releases the Son in what he sends the Son to do. The Father, we learn here, gave Jesus authority over everything, you can't get more empowering than that!

The Father trusted Jesus and told him so.

Jesus knew (verse 3) that the Father had blessed him, knew that everything had been given to him, and knowing it - he acted on it. It was not just the authority but the knowledge of the authority that enabled Jesus to act courageously. Knowing that his destiny was to be with his Father and knowing that his Father had empowered him and trusted him meant that he could reach down, pick up a towel and serve.

Knowing all this meant that he could identify with and so dignify even those in slavery.

Application

Seeing our identity in our Father enables us to serve and it enables us to associate with people we might not otherwise want to. Knowing how the Father feels toward us, frees us from other people's expectations of us. The Father's love toward us gives us confidence and courage. How will that influence you today and your decision making today?

Do you see in this text the Father who Fathers you?

Prayer

Father. Thank you. Thank you that you are one who empowers and releases us into what you made us for. Thank you that your Son came to serve and wasn't afraid even to be associated with slaves. I want to know you like he does. I want to have such confidence in your fatherly affection toward me and my place of security before you that I am willing and able to serve and even suffer indignity for you. Amen.