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Showing posts from 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 abo…

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…

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 thinkin…

The Original Battlefield

Everyweek 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.2 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 commenda…

Approval Rating 5 Years On

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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 fo…

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 18:11Observation

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 t…

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 …

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 17:1Observation

'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 …

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 actu…

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 16:3Observation

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 fro…

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 15:10Observation

'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 fruitProve 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-h…

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 15:1Observation

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/w…

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 a 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 membe…

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 14:28Observation

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.'…

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 14:28Observation

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'…

God The Father, Son & Spirit

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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…

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: WillingSacrificialServantheartedBoldGenerousWorking for Restoration Committed  This is what the Father is as well. In Chapter 14 Jesus mentions the Father 21 ti…

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 a…

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 13:1-3Observation:

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 an…