The wonder of the Father

‘Is he not your Father..?’ Deuteronomy 32.6

These simple but profound words call us back to the wonder of how God feels about us.

They are wonderful words to remember when we feel blessed in some way, as they focus us on the one who is the source of blessing and the reason for it.  It is not down to anything we have done, but because of who he is – our Father who loves us.

The words are also wonderful to recall when things do not seem to be going well.  We have not been abandoned and God has not forgotten us – he is still our Father.  This knowledge brings with it the encouragement to dare to believe that we have the privilege to call upon him with confidence, knowing that his love for us has not changed one iota from times of blessing in the past.  He is still our Father and longs for us, his beloved children, to call to him for help.

Finally these are words to call to mind when we have wandered away.  The story of the Prodigal Son reminds us of the image of the Father who is waiting and longing for us to return to him.  It is the image of a Father who feels the pain of separation far more keenly than we ever will.

Whatever your situation, be encouraged: ‘Is he not your Father..?’

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As close as our clothing

‘Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ’ Romans 13.14

In this passage Paul was encouraging believers to take their faith seriously, even to the extent that they were not to indulge in sin as the world did, but rather to clothe themselves with Jesus.

To be clothed with Jesus is not something for specially anointed people who are particularly aware of God at every moment.  Instead it is an invitation for every one of us.  As one version puts it, ‘Let Jesus Christ be as close to you as the clothes that you wear.’  In other words, it is definitely possible for all of us to be this close to Jesus.  So an obvious question is, how?  How can this happen?  Believing that it is possible for you personally is the first step towards it becoming a reality.

Take a few moments to worship Jesus for his closeness, whether or not you are aware of it.  Choose to believe that he is actually as close to you as the clothes you are wearing.  Begin to pay attention to any words or pictures that might come to mind as he begins to communicate something of his love to you.

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Being a person of God

‘For from him and through him and for him are all things.’ Romans 11.36

We will never understand the wonder of God, but it is worth making an effort to understand more than we do!  In this verse Paul was not merely making an expansive statement, but was seeking to share something that he had come to understand about the enormity of who God is – and it is something into which we can begin to enter.

Paul was able to look at both himself and other people – and indeed at all creation – and speak these words; everything is from God, through God and for God.  Other translations put it like this:

‘All things were created by him, and all things exist through him and for him.’ (Good News Bible)

‘Everything comes from God alone.  Everything lives by his power, and everything is for his glory.’ (Living Bible)

What does this mean for you?  Look in a mirror and say these words as you look at your reflection: ‘I am from God, through God and for God’.  As you go about your business today, whenever you meet other people try to repeat these words under your breathe: ‘this person is from God, through God and for God’.  The chances are that it will make quite a difference to your outlook.

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What’s the catch?

“I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing.” Genesis 12.2

Imagine being told this by God!  You might be tempted to ask – what’s the catch?  In this statement God revealed everything that he was going to do for Abraham, and Abraham lived to see these great promises unfolding.  There was no catch!  However, Abraham had to hold on to the promises during some pretty difficult times, such as being within moments of sacrificing his son despite God’s promise to make him into a great nation.

When we look at some of the people in the Bible, we can’t help wondering just how relevant they are to us.  Their problems seem so different to our own and in any case, they actually feature in the Bible, which you may think is a far cry from where you are!  However, they were probably not so different from us.  They too had to live out their days relying on God’s promises, even though at times these must have seemed a million miles from being fulfilled – a fact we tend to overlook as we read their stories many years later, rather than before or during the action.

There are probably some periods in your life when you look back and have no idea how you got through such a difficult time, but you did, because God was with you.  This is what gives us confidence for today.  The same God who was with Abraham – and the same God who was with Jesus – is the God who has been with you all through your life, and is with you right now.  Thank him for the promises he has given you in the Bible, and trust him to see you through whatever you are facing in the days ahead.

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He has been there

“My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death.” Matthew 26.38

This is more than a simple description of someone having a bad day.  These words describe Jesus’ identification with the very bleakest moments of life.  If you sometimes experience the onset of darkness – feelings of oppression or depression, in whatever form or scale – you can rest in the truth that Jesus understands.  He has experienced it and knows to the utmost degree what it is that you are going through.

Realising that God himself, in human form, went through this is perhaps the first step to finding a way out.  If he experienced this darkness, then it can’t be sinful or bad to have such thoughts or feelings.  The passion of Jesus for us is a mystery.  We reduce it to simple sentences such as, “Jesus died for our sins”, but it is so much more than this.  It is about him experiencing the depth of feelings and despair that so many people feel.  When he offers the path of healing, it is not a cliché to latch onto but rather the embrace of the one who has been to the deepest part of the pit with us and knows what it is like.

If any of this rings true for you, sit quietly in the presence of Jesus and be honest with him about how you are feeling.  He understands and wants to help.

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The waiting is a blessing

‘You will not be allowed to eliminate them all at once’ Deuteronomy 7.22

A strange verse, but actually quite important!  A common cry from the hearts of most people who have ever prayed is along the lines of: “Why doesn’t God simply do what I ask?”  No doubt this was also the thought that went through the minds of the Israelites in their days of wandering in the desert, where they faced test after test, battle after battle.  Surely God could have made everything much easier for them?

In this passage, God was speaking through Moses to the people and saying that when they came into the Promised Land, they would defeat their enemies but they would do it slowly and not all at once.  A logical response would be to ask why they had to wait and not have victory straight away.  The answer God gave was that if he did as they suggested, something worse would happen – and in their case it would be a matter of the wild animals multiplying.

The point is this; God has promised to bless you.  This is his heart for you, and yet you may be looking at your life and wondering why his blessing is so slow in coming.  This verse is a reminder to us that the very way that God is bringing blessing, and the speed of it, is a blessing in itself.

God has his hand on every part of your life, to the amazing extent that even the speed at which prayer is answered is entirely in his hands.  God is doing it his way for a reason, and for this he can be thanked and worshipped.

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Letting the truth set us free

“If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8.31-32

We often hear this phrase mentioned – “the truth will set you free.”  However the words that Jesus spoke aren’t quite so simple.  Before this phrase, he gave an insight into what the truth is that will set us free, and it is this: truth comes from being disciplined in holding on to his teaching.  It is not about simply quoting the words to yourself, but rather letting them sink deeper within so that they actually release freedom to you.

So how can you put this into practice?  What are reading in your Bible today?  Whatever it is, does one particular phrase or verse stand out for you?  You may not know why it seems to be highlighted more than other phrases, but write it down.  This practical step seals it into your mind a little bit more.  Take a moment to memorise the words and then put the piece of paper somewhere that you will keep coming across it – maybe in your wallet or purse.  When you do see it again, even if it’s only for a moment, remind yourself of what it says and let the words make an impact upon your current situation.

The more you do this, the more Jesus’ words will become true for you, and the effect of this is that something of his freedom will be released within you.  If you want to begin now, try starting with this particular phrase – “the truth will set you free.”

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Relationship not rules

21feb‘But he brought us out from there to bring us in and give us the land that he promised’ Deuteronomy 6.23

Many people perceive the Christian life as a list of rules, usually about things they are not meant to be doing.  This gives the impression that God’s chief concern is to take things out of our lives and remove pleasure from us.

However, nothing could be further from the truth and this verse from Deuteronomy assures the people that it was not God’s sole intention to lead them into the desert where they were devoid of so much, but rather to give them something new and wonderful.

God wants to give you something special to really enjoy; a relationship with him.  He wants you to leave behind every vestige of your life that doesn’t have this relationship, so that in future your religion will no longer be based on rules and how well you keep them.  If this describes your life, then it is hardly a life of freedom.

God’s heartfelt desire is that you do whatever you can to discover the love that he has for you, and the treasure of his life within you.  This will bring him great joy – and you can begin right now.

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Choosing the name of Jesus

‘On my bed I remember you; I think of you through the watches of the night.’ Psalm 63.6

At those times when sleep seems to evade you, what do you think about?  Even when your mind is ‘idle’ during the day, what do you allow to fill your thoughts?  You may find that all too often your mind turns to worry, and you find yourself dwelling on something from your past or feeling anxious about the future that is creeping upon you.

In the Old Testament, David’s life was certainly not a bed of roses, yet in this psalm he reveals something that he had learned – to turn his thoughts to God, and not dwell on the past or future.

It is actually quite a straightforward choice.  Are you going to let worry consume you, or will you make the choice to fill your mind with something else?  The simple but powerful name of Jesus is enough.  As you lie in bed, or wherever you may be, let his name fill your thoughts.  You will soon discover that your anxieties begin to subside as you focus on Jesus – his character, what he has done for you and what he has promised to do.

It sounds so easy, but the hardest part is making the choice to do it.

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Counting your blessings

19feb‘…be careful that you do not forget the LORD’ Deuteronomy 6.12

At times in our lives we will all have been astounded by the goodness of God.  This may be thanks to a specific answer to prayer, or simply an awareness of his on-going kindness.  At such moments we feel certain that we will never forget what he has done for us.

However, we also know that there have been many other times when we have looked back over the day and realised that we had completely forgotten all about him.

Over the past couple of days we have been thinking about ways of trying to increase our awareness of God’s presence and goodness to us.  Another way of doing this, which may sound a bit mechanical but does have real value, is to take time to ponder the day just ending, or to look back over yesterday, and deliberately count off ten things for which you are grateful to God – and give reasons for your gratitude.  It may be that you are grateful for specific blessings that come to mind, or for more general blessings that are equally important, such as food or warmth.

It is amazing how much we do take for granted, and if we can begin to get into the habit of thanking God we will begin to see many more things being given by his generous hand.  All things come from him, and showing our gratitude is how we let this grow in our consciousness.

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