The ever-present Father

“Yet I am not alone, for my Father is with me.” John 16.32

It is very easy to look at some of the things Jesus says about his relationship with his Father and think that it’s all very well for Jesus to say them, but he was different from us!  Of course it’s true that in so many ways Jesus was different from us, but there are also ways in which he was desperate to reveal that we too can share in what he experienced.  His relationship with God was one of them.

At the very end of John 17, Jesus states something wonderful: that the relationship he wants us to have with God is exactly the same as his relationship with God (John 17.26). If this is what he really wants, then it must also be true that we share in what today’s verse reveals – and which Jesus knew so well – that the Father is always present.

We often think of Jesus being with us, or of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, but we may not have such an awareness of the Father’s presence with us; yet he is here.  At any time of the day or night you can whisper these words: ‘Abba, Father’, knowing that the source of all love and power is intimately present with you.  Wherever you are, you are never alone – the Father is with you.

God’s mercy and not our goodness

“We do not make requests of you because we are righteous, but because of your great mercy.” Daniel 9.18

In this moving prayer, Daniel touches on a lovely truth about God: we approach him because of who he is and not because of what we have done.  Suppose you are seeking God for healing – and have been doing so for a while.  It is tempting to assume that in order for the mercy of God to flow unimpeded, there must be more that you can do; more bible reading, longer times of prayer, more repentance and a fresh resolve to lead a godly life.

However, to think like this undermines one of the greatest truths about our faith – that we are saved, helped and healed by grace and not by our works.  Of course, no Christian deliberately plans to live an ungodly lifestyle, but the basis of turning to God is that he is a God of such great mercy.

It is a prayer of courage and honesty to come before him and say: “Father, I come to you today, not because of anything I have done but simply because you are a God of mercy.”

Good news in times of trouble

“In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16.33

Are these words of Jesus good or bad news?  No-one likes to be told that there is going to be trouble and we would much rather be told that from now on life is going to be wonderful!  However, Jesus is no deceiver and he told us the truth when he said that there would be trouble in this life – and he was right.

The first reassurance in this is that when trouble does come to us, we need not go down the road of wondering what we have done wrong to deserve it – it just happens.  Jesus said it would and he certainly does not judge us for going through hard times.

The second lesson is that whatever trouble we are going through, it is not as big as the person of Jesus.  This can sound like a well-meaning cliché, but Jesus was pointing out the truth when he said that he had overcome the world by rising from the dead – a vision that we are invited to hold before every trouble that we go through.  God is able to pour power into every situation we face – a power that is beyond our wildest comprehension.

Whatever troubles you may be going through right now, in your mind place them in one hand, and in the other hand hold on to the power that God released through the resurrection of Jesus.  As you bring your two hands together the promise of Jesus is that the power of God will be at work in your life in some glorious way.

Past, Present and Future

‘Grace and peace to you from him who is, and who was, and who is to come’ Revelation 1.4

This powerful phrase gives us a picture of Jesus in his entirety, not as a King currently enthroned on high but as one who spans all of time – present, past and future.  Even more is added to this image: grace and peace flow from the one who stands throughout all time.  Let’s make this more relevant for us!

You may be going through anxieties or difficulties at the moment and perhaps there are things you are not even telling those closest to you.  The hope for you is that grace and peace can flow from Jesus into your present situation.  You also have a past, some of which might bring happiness as you think about it, but some that brings hurt – and perhaps there are even memories that you simply do not want to re-visit.  The invitation is that grace and peace can flow into your past.  The future is unknown, but sometimes fears about what might lie around the corner can cause anxiety.  Again, the hope that you can cling to is that the grace and peace of Jesus will be there.

Grace and peace for your present, past and future flow from Jesus.  He is the source and to find him is to find what flows from him.  Take a moment to hold your present, past and future before him and whisper his name over them.

Being Honest

“I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so that you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so that you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so that you can see.” Revelation 3.18

It can be hard to be honest about our spiritual lives.  It is never easy for us to admit that our lives with God are not as good as we think they should be – but honesty is a sign of humility.  Today’s verse contains some words of Jesus spoken to the church in Laodicea.  He was speaking to people who thought they were doing fine, but in reality they were not.  The good news that he shared was that despite their failings there was more; a closer relationship with Jesus, a richer experience of God and a new sense of purity and vision.

So how do we access all this?  Jesus indicated the means by sharing a picture of him standing at the door knocking, eager to come in when the door was opened.  The starting point is the image of Jesus wanting to come in: he wants more!  He is longing for us to let him come in and share a deeper intimacy and friendship with us.  Unless we believe that he wants more, perhaps we will not hear him knocking – and even if we do we may not recognise that it is him at the door.

It is a humbling thought that Jesus is seeking a deeper relationship with us simply because he loves us.  How does this make you feel and what are you going to do about it?

Asking for healing

“Very truly I tell you, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name.” John 16.23

So many people have probably read this verse and thought something along the lines of – “I wish!”  It seems so simple, yet in reality we have to ask whether it really works?  We do what we can to pray in the name of Jesus, but if we are honest it doesn’t seem to make any real difference to what happens.

However, Jesus was not talking about a formula for success and there is something about this verse that can be all too easily overlooked; prayer is in the context of relationship.  There is a deep relationship between Jesus and his Father that is at work in prayer, and it is this relationship that we need to begin to explore more in order to learn to have increased confidence in our prayers.

The desire of Jesus is that we discover the extent of his Father’s love for us and catch a sense of just how loved we are, just as he experienced it.  When we are captivated by his love, we are more naturally going to be able to capture the heart and will of Jesus for those things for which we pray.

This can begin right now!  Before you bring anything to God in prayer, begin by spending a little time reflecting on the love that the Father has for you.  This is not just something to soften his heart towards you, but is because knowing more of his love will affect your prayers for healing and for anything else, as well as being something that will change your life for ever.

Being used by God

“This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.” John 15.8

A question we often ponder is why would God use us?  No doubt he has big plans and dreams and as we look back through history he has raised up great people to bring them about.  Could we ever be included in what he wants to do?

By asking such questions, one of the problems is that we are putting the emphasis on ourselves; looking at our own lives and situations.  In this verse from John 15, Jesus puts it quite another way – in the context of the glory of God.  We are tempted to see God’s ability to use us almost as a result of our good behaviour, whereas he sees it in the context of his glory.

Today God wants to use you to bring glory to him.  This is not a matter of you being good enough for this to happen, but rather of you being open.  A simple prayer before you do anything is, “Father, use me.”  It might be before you go to see someone or even as you leave your front door.  What God does with you might not seem very dramatic to you, but even a simple act of kindness to someone else brings glory to him.

The alternative to worry

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me.” John 14.1

Many people can identify with troubled hearts!  For the disciples gathered around the table with Jesus, their troubled hearts were trying to make sense of what he was revealing about his departure from them.  In other words, their security was being shaken.  Perhaps this sometimes happens to you and people or things that you once trusted are now looking shaky?  Maybe you are aware that you have no idea what the future really holds for you?  Yet having our security shaken need not always be bad.  Often it is a means of encouraging us to walk into new opportunities or recognising a fresh call into a new life or a different way of thinking.

Being told not to be anxious is not very helpful – unless we are given an alternative.  Jesus does just this: he tells us not to be troubled and that the alternative is to trust.  The challenge is not just to trust in the concept of a God who is bigger than us, but in Jesus who enables trust to be personal.  The disciples were invited to put their trust in him, the one they had witnessed performing outstanding miracles and whom they had seen reaching out to touch people with such tenderness and love.  This is the one in whom they were invited to trust – and so are we.

Whatever new challenges you face, you are invited to turn to the one that you read about in the pages of the New Testament.  In the same way that Jesus came to the help of so many people back in those days, you can trust in his help for you now.

There is more!

“…they exchanged their glorious God for something disgraceful.” Hosea 4.7

When God spoke these words to the priests of the land, he was giving them a glimpse of his vision when he looked at their lives.  He was saying that he could see the potential and what could be shining out of them, but they had let it go.

There is probably an element of truth in this for all of us.  I don’t think Jesus would want to call us disgraceful, but perhaps he does look at our lives and see that there could be more.  There could be more awareness of the Father’s love, more yielding to his grace and more times of turning to him to find his presence.  What we do have in common with the priests who were being addressed in this verse is that the decision is ours.

There is always more.  The words of Jesus, ‘Come to me’, are a continual refrain urging us to turn and find the ‘more’ that he offers.  How much more is there?  In any situation you face today, if Jesus was standing in your shoes what could happen?  This is how much more there is.

Coming back to our first love

‘As for you, see that what you have heard from the beginning remains in you.’ 1 John 2.24

Sometimes you may wish that you were closer to God or you may look back to times when your relationship with him seemed more intimate than it is now.  All relationships change and certainly you may discover new things about prayer as you grow in your faith, but if you feel there should be more than you are currently experiencing, the problem may not be due to God withholding anything but rather that you have let go of things that you once held dear.

The book of Revelation begins with Jesus speaking to a number of churches and to one of them he says these challenging words, ‘You have forsaken the love you had at first.’ (Revelation 2.4).  It is not that God had moved or withdrawn his love in any way, but rather that the church had let their enthusiasm for the love of God slip away.  This is what John was writing about in his letter; we have a responsibility to hold on to the foundations of our faith and if we neglect them we will lose something very important.

Today, come back to the foundation of your faith: God loved you so much that he gave Jesus for you, not to judge you but to reach into your life and transform you and show you what he is like.