LORD, OPEN THE EYES OF MY HEART.

David Adam, former Vicar of the Holy Island of Lindisfarne, has spent a lifetime exploring the depths of God’s love, expressed in the richly contemplative prayers and meditations he has written. He says, “We are nurtured at every moment of our existence in the encompassing love of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Whatever we might be facing, we can trust that God is before us and behind us. He is on our right and on our left; above us, beneath us – and gloriously alive within us. “
David was Vicar of the Holy Island of Lindisfarne for many years and has spent a lifetime exploring the depths of God’s love, expressed in the contemplative prayers and meditations he writes. In his book “Encompassing God,” he writes:
Lord, open my eyes to the newness of this day
Lord, open my eyes, clouded with night
Lord, open my eyes, misted with prejudice
Lord, open my eyes, misted to beauty
Lord, open my eyes, dimmed with sorrow
Lord, open my eyes, closed through fear
Lord, open my eyes and make me aware
Lord, open my eyes to be more sensitive
Lord, open my eyes and increase my appreciation
Lord, open my eyes to a vision of your glory
Lord, open my eyes to your presence within me
LORD, OPEN THE EYES OF MY HEART!

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Loved With Everlasting Love

‘What a person desires is unfailing love’ says the book of Proverbs (19:22 NIV). Our longing to be truly loved (and loved) is God-given. It is part of his image in us, and his purpose for us in creation. But that image and that purpose have been spoiled. I’ve written before about our ‘baptism’ into anxiety and shame through the doubting disobedience of Adam and Eve, in which we all participate. Until this is dealt with we cannot trust God to love us. We find it impossible to believe that he loves us simply because he is love. And so our longing for love drives us to try to earn it, in the form of approval and acceptance – if not from God, then from other people.
Having recognised that we are ‘made for love’, Proverbs is honest about the fact that things have not worked out as planned: ‘Many claim to have unfailing love, but a faithful person who can find?’ (20:6). We let one another down, and we let God down. I recall a conversation I had with God a few years ago. I can’t remember what led up to it, but at one point I asked: ‘Father, are you disappointed with me?’ The reply startled me: ‘I don’t do disappointment.’
That got me thinking, and I realised that it’s true. God can never be disappointed with us, because he has no false expectations of us! We can grieve him, even make him angry, but we cannot disappoint him. Just as Jesus knew that Judas would betray him, and Peter would deny him, God knows all about our weakness and ignorance and sinfulness, even when we deceive ourselves.
This brings us to the issue of truth (another recurrent theme throughout the scriptures). Jesus talked about ‘a time when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks’ (John 4:23). Father ‘delights in truth in the inward being’ and so the psalmist prays: ‘Teach me wisdom in my secret heart’ (Psalm 51:6).
We’re dealing here with a double truth – truth about ourselves and truth about Father. In regard to ourselves we are challenged to be honest about our sinfulness and our weakness – our inability to fix ourselves. In regard to Father we are invited to recognise and submit to his unconditional love. No matter how we may grieve him, he his faithful. His love for us never wavers. Through Jesus, at immeasurable cost, he has done all that needs to be done to restore us to himself, and to re-create us in his loving image. The problem is not his acceptance of us, but our acceptance of his acceptance.
What holds us back? Pride is one factor. It’s hard to admit honestly our utter dependence on God, to accept that to receive Father’s love we must admit that we are, and always will be, utterly undeserving of it. Then there is fear, for we know that we cannot be drawn into Father’s embrace without being changed, and that the change will be costly. Jesus told us and showed us what it means to live in Father’s love as a son or daughter means we must be ready to ‘laying down his life in order to take it up again’ (John 10:17; see also Philippians 2:6-11). ‘Those who try to make their life secure will lose it, but those who lose their life will keep it’ (Luke 17:33).
So often our hearts tell us that we have to work at making God love us. If we can only meet his conditions we will be accepted. We read the bible through this lens, and it becomes a burdensome rulebook. We find if hard to understand how the psalmist can talk about ‘delighting’ in God’s laws, and describe them as ‘sweeter than honey’. It was a turning point in my life when I began to understand what people meant when they said: ‘There’s nothing you can do to make God love you more, and nothing you can do to make him love you less.’ When we truly realise that Father loves and accepts us as we are, we can receive and abide in that love, and allow it to transform us in ways we can never change ourselves.
And so we become part of the divine plan revealed by Jesus: ‘I love each of you with the same love that the Father loves me. You must continually let my love nourish your hearts. If you keep my commands, you will live in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands, for I continually live nourished and empowered by his love. My purpose for telling you these things is so that the joy that I experience will fill your hearts with overflowing gladness! So this is my command: Love each other deeply, as much as I have loved you. For the greatest love of all is a love that sacrifices all. And this great love is demonstrated when a person sacrifices his life for his friends. You show that you are my intimate friends when you obey all that I command you. I have never called you ‘servants,’ because a master doesn’t confide in his servants, and servants don’t always understand what the master is doing. But I call you my most intimate friends, for I reveal to you everything that I’ve heard from my Father. You didn’t choose me, but I’ve chosen and commissioned you to go into the world to bear fruit. And your fruit will last, because whatever you ask of my Father, for my sake, he will give it to you! So this is my parting command: Love one another deeply.’ John 15:9-17 (Passion Translation)

A Prayer (based on 1 John 4:7ff)
Father, you are love. Thank you that you have showed your love among us by sending your one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved you, but that you loved us and sent your Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.
This is how we know that we live in you and you in us: you have given us of your Spirit. And we have seen and testify that your have sent your Son to be the Saviour of the world. When we acknowledge that Jesus is the Son of God, you live in us and we in you. And so we know and rely on the love your have for us.
You are love. When we live in love we live in you, and you in us. This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment.
You ask us to love one another, for love comes from you. We love because you first loved us.

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EASTER REFLECTION

Father, Lord of all creation
We praise you for your goodness and your love
When we turned away you did not reject us
You met us in your Son
Welcomed us as your children
And prepared a table where we might feast with you

In Christ you shared our life
That we might live in Him, and He in us
He opened wide His arms upon the cross
And, with love stronger than death
He made the perfect sacrifice for sin

Father of all, we give you thanks and praise
That when we were still far off
You met us in your Son and brought us home
Dying and living, He declared your love
Gave us grace and opened the gate of Glory

FATHER, YOU GAVE US THE PERFECT GIFT………THE PERFECT GIFT OF YOUR SON!

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ST VALENTINE’S DAY!

February 14th, St Valentine’s Day is a point in the year where the sales of cards, flowers and chocolates go through the roof. I am the first to acknowledge that this day is primarily perpetuated by commercial interests and profit margins. It is however worth noting that any reminder of the power of love can have some potential value. Yet, the ultimate expression of love is not expressed in the giving of cards, flowers or chocolates.
If you can take a moment today, reflect on the fact that our Father “IS LOVE,” (1 John 4:8) and, as Paul said, “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height, nor depth, nor anything in creation, will be able to separate us from the Love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8: 38-39). THANK YOU FATHER,THAT YOUR LOVE IS THE GREATEST MESSAGE OF LOVE!

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LIVING in the NOW.

I recently came across a quote on Facebook, which has stayed with me as a key part of what Jesus shared in Matthew 18:3, about the importance of having the heart of a child, living in the now, from a place of childlike dependence, loved and secure in that moment in time.
“Beware of destination addiction – a preoccupation with the idea that happiness is in the next place, the next job and the next partner. Until you give up the idea that happiness is somewhere else, it will never be where you are.” (Robert Holston). FATHER WOULD YOU ENABLE US TO LIVE WITH YOU, IN THE NOW, LOVED AND SECURE, SO THAT WE CAN LET GO OF THE IDEA THAT THE NEXT THING WE FIND FOR OURSELVES WILL BE THE BASIS OF OUR HAPPINESS.

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THOUGHTS FOR 2018.

For many the end of one year and moving into a new one is a period of reflection on times past while looking forward to a new season. It has become a time when we often make bold proclamations about how we intend to live in times to come.
Some years ago, I discovered a quote from James Jordan which I could embrace as a vision statement for a coming year. To date, it has been the only form of words that feel in harmony with how I am trying to live in childlike dependence. So, I offer it to you again as a possible vision statement as we look forward to 2018.
“I don’t expect to be fruitful. I don’t try to have a “productive life.” Trying to “be productive,” is a lot of pressure. Resting in the Father’s love is a place where He can be productive through you.” (James Jordan).
FATHER ENABLE US TO TAKE DEEPER STEPS IN THE REALITY OF LEARNING TO LIVE LOVED DURING 2018, SO THAT YOUR LOVE CAN OVERFLOW TO TOUCH OTHERS WE MEET.

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Mary Did You Know

At our November gathering we had an evening of worship, which included a few seasonal songs. Some of the lyrics of one song, “Mary, Did You Know?” really impacted me. I was aware that the song was familiar to me, but on that night the lyrics expressed something of the enormity of the ways in which her life would totally change after giving birth to Jesus:
Mary did you know that one day your baby boy would walk on water?
Mary did you know that your baby boy would save our sons and daughters.
Did you know that your baby boy has come to make all things new?
This child you’ve delivered, will soon deliver you.
Mary did you know that your baby boy will give sight to a blind man?
Did you know that your baby boy has walked where angels trod?
And when you kiss your little baby, you have kissed the face of God.
Mary did you know, Mary did you know, Mary did you know.
The blind will see, the deaf will hear and the dead will live again.
The lame will leap, the dumb will speak, the praises of the lamb.
Mary did you know your baby boy is Lord of all creation? Mary did you know that your baby boy will one day rule the nations?
Did you know that your baby boy is heaven’s perfect Lamb?
This sleeping boy you’re are holding is the great “I Am.”

Unless you are a part of the Catholic, Orthodox, or High Anglican parts of the Christian family, it is likely that Mary’s part in the gospel narrative has been overlooked or virtually airbrushed out of your awareness.
We think Mary was a young girl when she was visited by the angel Gabriel who told her she was going to give birth to a child, despite her being a virgin. She was to call Him Jesus. Gabriel declared, “This child, will be great” and will be called the “Son of the Most High.” And “His Kingdom will never end.” (Luke 1 v: 32&33)
Mary illustrated the ultimate response to God, when she replied to Gabriel, “I am the Lords servant, may it be to me as you have said.” WOW!
FATHER, THANK YOU FOR WONDERFUL EAMPLE WE HAVE IN MARY. WOULD YOU ENABLE US TO RESPOND TO YOU WITH THE SAME CHILDLIKE SIMPLICITY SHE DID?

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OUR WORK ASSIGNMENT – PART TWO.

In a recent blog we looked at a passage from John 6 as the basis of our work assignment. When Jesus was asked,” What must we do to do the work God requires? Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.”
A few weeks later a friend came across a quote by Henri Nouwen which I felt was helpful in illustrating the point that what we do with our lives does have value, but it is the internal motivation and value we place on such activities that determines their true nature and to what degree they are motivated by love.
“I do not want to suggest that productivity is wrong or needs to be despised. On the contrary, productivity and success can greatly enhance our lives. But when we value the work of our hands and minds, we become victims of the fear tactics of our world. When productivity is our main way of overcoming self-doubt, we are extremely vulnerable to rejection and criticism and prone to inner anxiety and depression. Productivity can never give the deep sense of belonging we crave. The more we produce, the more we realize that success and results cannot give us the experience of “at homeness.” In fact, our productivity often reveals to us that we are driven by fear. In this sense, sterility and productivity are the same: both can be signs that we doubt our ability to live fruitful lives.” (Henri Nouwen)
FATHER WE INVITE YOU TO ENABLE US TO LIVE FRUITFUL AND PRODUCTIVE LIVES SOURCED IN OUR RELATIONSHIP WITH YOU.

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OUR WORK ASSIGNMENT

In a recent blog, I mentioned my hazy memories of studying physics at school. One of the few things I still remember is that work is defined as happening when, “something is moved.” So, it seems we live in a world that tends to view work as primarily an activity, based upon, effort, and strain.
In John 6, we read that the primary work of the Kingdom is not located in our physical or mental effort, but is rooted in relationships. Jesus told a crowd, “Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. On him God the Father has placed his seal of approval. Then they asked him, “What must we do to do the works God requires?” Jesus answered, “The work of God is this; to believe in the one he has sent.” (John 6: 28-29 NIV).
In Matthew 16, Jesus tells us that HE will build HIS church. So, it looks like our primary task or work, is to get to know Jesus and build relationships with Him and learn to live within the Trinity as He does.
It seems that Father does not require us to wear ourselves out with toil and effort, rather He values the work of us getting to know His Son, who revealed the true nature of the Heart of God. In John 14, Jesus told Phillip, “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.”
SO, THIS IS OUR WORK ASSIGNMENT…. GETTING TO KNOW JESUS, WHO IS EMPOWERED BY THE HOLY SPIRIT, WHO REVEALS OUR FATHER…. THIS WORK BRINGS LIFE, JOY, PEACE, MEANING AND VALUE TO US.

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God’s First Book

In a recent blog (Our heart is glad in him, because we trust in his holy name’) I suggested that our hearts are opened to trust our heavenly Father and receive his love by the revelation, or renewed revelation, of his nature and purposes. That got me thinking about revelation. Just how does Father God reveal himself to his children?
We read in Hebrews 1:1 that God has spoken ‘at many times and in various ways’. I’m going to list briefly a few that have come to my mind. I’d like to explore one in particular in this reflection, and I may come back to some of the others in future months.
First, we find many instances In the Bible of God speaking to individual women and men in a variety of ways – in their thoughts, through dreams and visions, by an audible voice, through angels, even through a donkey! Sometimes the revelation was just for the individual concerned, sometimes it was to be passed on.
Second, we have the writings which the community of God’s people (first Israel, then the church) recognised as inspired by the Holy Spirit and carrying God’s authority for all his people (see 2 Timothy 3:16-17). They are contained in what Christians call the Old and New Testaments.
Third, the New Testament writers recognised Jesus as ‘the word made flesh’ (John 1:14), the Son ‘by whom God has spoken to us in these last days…, the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being’ (Hebrews 1:2-3). Jesus revealed the Father to his followers (Matthew 11:27, John 17:26). Following his ascension, the Holy Spirit continues this ministry of revelation (John 16:12-15).
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In Romans 1:19-20 Paul refers to a fourth medium of revelation which he clearly thought important, though I’m inclined to think that its significance has been downgraded in some parts of the Christian church today: ‘What can be known about God is plain (to men and women), because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made.’ (ESV)
Or, as it is expressed in The Message: ‘The basic reality of God is plain enough. Open your eyes and there it is! By taking a long and thoughtful look at what God has created, people have always been able to see what their eyes as such can’t see: eternal power, for instance, and the mystery of his divine being.’
A few years ago, at a Fatherheart Ministries gathering in New Zealand, James Jordan encouraged us to spend time in the open air reading what he called ‘God’s First Book’. Having been brought up in a thoroughly (even overly) bibliocentric Christian culture (which, somewhat ironically, failed to give proper weight to Paul’s words in Romans 1) I initially felt a little uneasy (and perhaps a little sceptical) about this invitation, but since that time, through both personal experience and reading in the Psalms and Wisdom books of the Old Testament, I’ve begun to realise that Father himself invites us to read his ‘First Book’ as one of the ways in which he chooses to reveal his nature and purposes.
In the book of Job, for example, it’s very striking that God, unlike Job’s human ‘comforters’, offers no theological, philosophical or moral answers to Job’s agonised questions. Rather he answers with questions of his own, which invite Job to explore the wonders of the world he created and sustains (Job chapters 38-41). As one commentator writes: God enjoys his world, and he wants us to enjoy it with him… Just as Jesus invited us to ‘consider the lilies of the field’, so the Lord is like a friend who asks you to join him in a walk around his garden… Job finds God in the world. ‘Now I’m satisfied’ he exclaims. ‘I’ve seen You with my own eyes’ (Job 42:5). Francis Anderson, Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries
(Of course, there’s much more to say about Job’s relationship with God. The point I’m emphasizing here is how God chose to reveal himself to Job through hiss created world.)
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The writers of the psalms also ‘found God in the world’. All around them they saw evidence of his goodness and compassion, his power and majesty, his wisdom and understanding, his justice and faithfulness, and their response was worship – reverent, joyful, grateful, trusting, exuberant worship!
O Lord, how manifold are your works!
In wisdom have you made them all;
the earth is full of your creatures. Ps 104:24
Great are the works of the Lord, studied by all who delight in them. Ps 111:2
God’s splendour is a tale that is told;
His testament is written in the stars.
Space itself speaks his story every day
Through the marvels of the heavens.
His truth is on tour in the starry-vault of the sky,
Showing his skill in creation’s craftsmanship.
Each day gushes out its message to the next,
Night with night whispering its knowledge to all.
Without a sound, without a word,
Without a voice being heard,
Yet all the world can see its story,
Everywhere its gospel
Is clearly read so all may know. Psalm 19:1-4 Passion Translation
I love the way in which so many psalms speak in the same breath of God’s majestic power and tender compassion. For example:
He heals the broken-hearted and binds up their wounds.
He determines the number of the stars and calls them each by name.
Great is our Lord and mighty in power; his understanding has no limit.
The Lord sustains the humble. Psalm 147:3-6
The Lord is good to all; he has compassion on all he has made.
All your works praise you, Lord; your faithful people extol you.
They tell of the glory of your kingdom and speak of your might,
so that all people may know of your mighty acts and the glorious splendour of your kingdom.
Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and your dominion endures through all generations.
The Lord is trustworthy in all he promises and faithful in all he does.
The Lord upholds all who fall and lifts up all who are bowed down.
The eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food at the proper time.
You open your hand and satisfy the desires of every living thing. Psalm 145:9-16
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A story
A little boy is standing by a flowerbed in the garden. For a long time he looks closely at a beautiful bloom. He smiles. ‘Well done, God!’ he says.
O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!
You have set your glory above the heavens.
Out of the mouth of infants and nursing babies you have prepared praise. Psalm 8:1-2
A Prayer
Father, thank you for the invitation to read your ‘first book’, to explore and enjoy your world with you.
Open our eyes, as you opened Job’s, to the revelation of who you are in the world around us.
Open our hearts and mouths to respond with reverent wonder, humble trust, and exuberant gratitude and praise.

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