Monday, 16 February 2015

The Father and the Son

devotional studies on the nature of God the Father from John's gospel

Scripture

This morning's full reading can be found here.

'The Father loves the Son and has given all things into his hand.'
-- John 3:35

Observation

Before we comment on this specific verse, notice in your Bibles what Jesus says in the verse immediately before it. In verse 34 it says that God has given Jesus the Spirit without measure. Without measure; another way of saying it would be to say 'without limit.' Jesus lived as a man filled with the Spirit without measure or limit.

It is immediately after Jesus says this that he makes the statement that he does in verse 35. Jesus, the one who has been given the Spirit without limit, has also been given all things. Whatever Jesus could wish for or ask for he could have. What makes this statement even more fascinating is that this is a pre-resurrection statement. In other words, before Jesus died and rose again he could say this 'the Father has given me all things.' 

The Son of God has been given all things by his Father, nothing has been withheld from him. He is bountifully and inexhaustibly full of the Spirit, but also the possessor of whatever he wants or desires. 

God the Father is not waiting for him to do a good job or waiting for him to be 'successful' in ministry.

Psalm 2:8
                 Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage,
                                                   and the ends of the earth your possession.

The only prerequisite here (in Psalm 2:8) for the Son receiving 'the nations' is simple: asking. It isn't 'do this and this and this and then... feel free to ask.' It is simply 'ask me and I'll give it to you whatever you desire!'

So, if this authority and power isn't the result of a job well done what is it the result of?

Look again at verse 35:
'The Father loves the Son and has given all things into his hand.'
Love. Because the Father loves the Son he gives the Son all things.

God the Father isn't acting out of character when he does this and as such it reveals a few things about his character:
  1. He is loving. He has always loved, will always love and never was there a time when he didn't love. 
  2. He is a generous gift giver motivated to give by his love and not by our (or his son's) performance.
  3. The apple of his eye, the centre of his affection is his Son, and if you're a believer, you're hidden 'in the Son' (Col. 3:4
Application

This is brilliant, brilliant and refreshing. This is a breath of fresh air to me and reveals a God so desirable that I feel as though I was made to know him. The loving, generous, gift giving Father is God.

Apart from giving me confidence to pray it makes me ponder. If God the Father has loved his Son like this, if the Son is the object of the Father's affection, if the Son is a source of delight for the Father then there must be plenty more to Jesus than I have at first realised. This thought draws my mind deeper into the intoxicating goodness of God the Trinity and it is here that I find perfect contentment and rest for my soul.

Prayer

Father show me exactly what it is about Jesus that has captured your love like this. I want to to know him more like this and I want to love him more. Thank you that you are a generous and loving Father, please help me to reflect your generosity and kindness to the people in my life today. 

Friday, 6 February 2015

The Father Hasn't Walked Out On Us

devotional studies on God the Father from John's gospel.

Scripture

This morning's full text can be found here.
And he told those who sold pigeons, 'take these things away; do not make my Father's house a house of trade.' 
-- John 2:16
Observation

It's clear from the story that there must have been some under-handed activity taking place in the temple. Jesus would not have been angry simply at the presence of trade in the temple since it was something permitted for pilgrim worshippers in Moses. There must have been something else going on for him to get so angry.

It can only be for a couple of reasons. Either there was a lot of dishonest practise taking place, or (and this is perhaps more likely from the actual words themselves) the trade had grown and taken priority over the worship. The trade had become primary and worship and prayer, secondary. What was at first a permitted necessity (to ensure that travellers to the temple wouldn't have to transport their animals for sacrifice from miles around) had become the main focus. The outer courts had become the equivalent to a shopping mall. Buy your animals for sacrifice yes, but buy also a new outfit for the party or snap-up this great deal on this and that.

I can well imagine that whereas before people would have gone to the temple only for temple things, now people would go to shop and run errands. Worship & prayer was just one of the many things a person could do at temple.

All of which is useful background as we home in on the Father mentioned here:

So what can we learn about the Father from these verses?
  • The Father had a house.
  • The Father could be approached by sinful men and women.
  • The Father could be known by sinful men and women. 
Application

This impacts me in a couple of ways:

Firstly I can see that God the Father has always sought a way to live with us in much more than simply a general omnipresent way. As the light of the sun is both everywhere and yet has a specific source so it is with God. The Father is both everywhere and yet also somewhere specific. He has always wanted for that 'somewhere specific' to be among us, his creation. In the Garden of Eden God walked with Adam and after the Fall God laid out plans to make it possible to still live among us despite our sin. This is how the Father behaves.

Secondly although there are great things to be said about him and great things to be known about him, the more startling reality is that we can know him and experience him personally - everyone can.

The Father is a father who is near and locatable. He hasn't left us. That needs to be said again:
He hasn't left us.
If that was true of him then, how much more is it true now that Christ has come? Jesus has shown us more clearly what the Father is like. In fact we can take it further than that; he has sent his Spirit into us so that we are now individually and corporately as the church the temple of God. We are the dwelling place of God. The Father has taken up residence by his Spirit in each one of his followers.

The Father hasn't left us, he is in you by his Spirit.

Prayer

Thank you Father. Thank you that you are near to me, thank you that you have made yourself known to us and made yourself available to us. Thank you that by your Spirit you live with me today. Please fill me with your Spirit an help me to do all that you have for me today. I need you, I want you and I'm amazed that you would make yourself so near to me. Amen.


Tuesday, 3 February 2015

Dear God, They Say That You're A Monster

Dear God,

They say that you're a monster. They say that you're a bully and a wicked villain of fiction, 'utterly evil' they say.

They say you changed between 400BC & 30AD, that you went to counselling (or something) and sorted out your mood swings. They say that the Old Testament you is wildly different from the New Testament you.

Is it?

They also say that I'm a fool to believe in you. They say that I'm wasting my life on religious fairy tales that they're keeping me captive to simplicity & conformity.

Am I? Are they?

I'll admit God, there's a lot I don't understand about you and a lot about the world that doesn't make sense to me. There's much about life that seems cruel and cold, and many of the things I pray for don't turn out how I'd like. But not understanding something isn't a reason to reject it, is it? The trouble is God I live under the Tyranny of the Now; a cruel despotic ruler who insists I have permission enough and perspective enough to judge anything from the past and find it wanting. The Tyranny of the Now insists that us post-moderns are the enlightened ones, that this is the enlightened age and that everything else was darkness. Especially all ideas about you.

I'm just not sure though.

Let's take what they say about your Old & New Testament selves. I just don't see the difference. The people who wrote the Old Testament are better positioned to judge you than me, and yet they described you as someone 'filled with loving kindness, slow to anger, abounding in steadfast love.' Did they know some things about you that we don't? That's the you I know anyway, that's the you of the New. But then again in the New, Jesus you said some pretty Old Testament like things. You cursed cities and they became extinct, and you described in greater detail than anyone in the Old just how horrible the place of the unrighteous dead is. It seems the people who call you capricious don't really know you do they? You're just as creative, forgiving, loving and generous in the Old Testament as you are in the New. You're just as holy, sovereign and powerful in the New Testament as you are in the Old. Where's the conflict?

It seems to me that those who place such claims at your door aren't willing even to consider the whole picture. It's as though they've never even entertained the idea that ancient texts and ancient civilisations are different from today. They don't seem to think that to understand them might require a bit more thought than a mere superficial glance from the lofty heights of 21st Century post-modernity allows for. Mind you, I can sort of understand why they might just throw rocks and leave without waiting for a reply.

To be honest God, it'd be much more convenient for us if you weren't around. I could live however I wanted to, I could be my own boss. I could centre the universe around me... I'd love that! You see God, left to myself I don't want to be accountable to you. My self-centredness wants to be rid of you and I suppose if calling you a monstrous villain of fiction does that, then great! If you're not really there it would seem that I'm free to be free of you. Autonomy beckons me then, and that's what I've always wanted. It's what we've always wanted isn't it?

God, I haven't always liked you either.

I used to curse you any opportunity I had and I used to pity the people who identified themselves as yours; Christians. They made me feel so embarrassed, I felt ashamed for them. Now I am one; a Christian that is. I can remember the first time someone identified me as one, I flushed with embarrassment. How things have changed.

God, now that I know you I love you. It seems strange to say but it's true. My soul has found the object of its longings, my heart has met the completion of its affection. Do I love a monster? Has my soul found rest in the arms of a villain?

Hardly. The presence of natural hunger points to the existence of food, thirst to water and longing to love. The sheer fact that our souls long for you, for significance, for home, for peace is evidence enough that there is such a thing/One who can quench those thirsts.

Thank you God for searching me out, for not relenting in pursuing me. Thank you God for fulfilling my longing.

Thank you for forgiving my rebellion, my acting as though I'm the only king on the throne of the universe. Thank you God for Jesus. In him I see you more clearly than I could ever had done before.

In him I don't see anything even faintly resembling a beast.