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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Those Who Know Your Name

Our heart is glad in him, because we trust in his holy name
An earlier blog (10 August) posed the question ‘Will you trust?’ and suggested that learning to trust our heavenly Father is the key to experiencing his love.
‘But why should I trust him?’ someone might well answer, ‘and how can I learn to trust him?’
Some years ago, in one of his podcasts, Wayne Jacobsen referred to the tendency of Christian people, when we face difficult situations, to tell one other, and ourselves, just to have more faith. He suggested, somewhat to my initial surprise, that this is pointless, probably counterproductive and perhaps even harmful. He went on to explain that we can’t make ourselves believe by trying harder. We don’t learn to trust by our own efforts. Trust is a response to the revelation of Father’s love. Wayne then revealed that when he found himself in circumstances where he didn’t know what to do, or felt that he couldn’t cope, he no longer tried to screw up his courage or summon up increased faith. Rather, he prayed a prayer like this: ‘Father, please show me what I don’t yet know about you, that I need to know to help me through the problems I am facing.’
I was reminded of this prayer recently when I was reading Psalm 9: Those who know your name trust in you; for you, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you (Psalm 9:10). When the Bible refers to God’s ‘name’ it means the revelation of who he is, like the revelation Moses received in Exodus 34:4-7: ‘Moses rose early in the morning and went up on Mount Sinai, as the Lord had commanded him. The Lord descended in the cloud and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the Lord. The Lord passed before him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin.”’
Trust in God flows from this ‘knowledge of his name’, but my recent reading in the psalms, and my own experience over the years, have suggested a possible addition to Wayne Jacobsen’s prayer: ‘Father, please show me what I don’t yet know about you, or have forgotten about you, that I need to know to help me through the problems I am facing.’
Psalm 106 summarises the history of Israel from the Exodus to the Exile, with repeated references to Israel’s forgetfulness: ‘They did not remember the abundance of your steadfast love’ (v.7)… ‘they soon forgot his works’ (v.13)… ‘they forgot God, their Saviour, who had done great things in Egypt’ (v.21). (Just to make the point that this is not an isolated example, you can find a detailed account of the same pattern of blessing and forgetting in Psalm 78, and there are shorter references in Judges and 1 Samuel and in other psalms.)
Because they ‘forgot’ how good he is, the people lost their trust in God and had ‘no faith in his promise’ (v.24). In their fearfulness they grumbled and rebelled and repeatedly looked to other gods and/or other kings for comfort and security and protection.
They were deceived. When they rejected God’s protection ‘their enemies oppressed them, and they were brought into subjection under their power. Many times the Lord delivered them, but they were rebellious in their purposes and were brought low through their iniquity’ (vv.42-43). Later in Israel’s history the compiler of the book of Proverbs drew the lesson clearly: ‘Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord, and turn away from evil’ (Proverbs 3:5-7).
It is interesting that this passage in Proverbs makes the point positively – ‘trust God and be blessed’ – rather than negatively – ‘go your own way and suffer’ (though there are other places where it gives that warning). Psalm 106 ends on the same positive note. After the miserable history of repeated forgetting and rebellion, comes this glorious statement: ‘The Lord looked upon their distress, when he heard their cry. For their sake he remembered his covenant, and relented according to the abundance of his steadfast love. Save us, O Lord our God, and gather us from among the nations, that we may give thanks to your holy name and glory in your praise. Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, from everlasting to everlasting! And let all the people say, “Amen!” Praise the Lord!’ (vv.44-45,47-48).
We forget and forget and forget, but Father remembers! He is love, and he will always be true to his name and his nature! He never goes back on his word! When we cry out to him in our failure and need he reveals himself in mercy and compassion.
Those ‘many times’ of deliverance mentioned in Psalm 106 (v.42) culminated in the death of Jesus – the greatest expression of Father’s love for his forgetful and rebellious children. Just before his arrest Jesus prayed that the truth expressed in Psalm 9:10 would be real in the lives of his disciples (present and future): ‘Righteous Father, even though the world does not know you, I know you, and these know that you have sent me. I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them’ (John 17:25-26).
It is the revelation of God as our loving Father which renews our trust.
‘Our soul waits for the Lord; he is our help and our shield. For our heart is glad in him, because we trust in his holy name. Let your steadfast love, O Lord, be upon us, even as we hope in you’ (Psalm‬ ‭33:20-22‬).‬‬‬‬
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A prayer
Father, forgive us that we are so quick to forget how good you are. Forgive us that we find it so hard to trust you, and so easy to look elsewhere for comfort and strength and security and wisdom.
Thank you for your faithfulness; for your unchanging love; for your compassion and forgiveness.
May Jesus, who is the radiance of your glory and the exact representation of your being, make your name known to us as he promised, to renew and increase the revelation of your love and goodness in our hearts, and restore and strengthen our trust in you.

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LOVE FILLS EVERY VOID.

A few weeks ago, students all over the country received their much-anticipated exam results. When my results arrived in the post many years ago I never managed to pass a Physics exam. One of the few things I still remember from my years sitting at the back of a physics lab, was that darkness was defined as the absence of light. When you think about it, this makes sense, light eclipses darkness.
1 John 1:15, tells us that God is light and in Him there is no darkness. This is an important revelation, light and darkness are not equal in power, one consumes the other. When this fact has settled in our hearts it can radically alter the way we look at the world, and change how we pray. Stephen Hill has made an important contribution to this when speaking about prayer when he said:
“The energy of prayer goes into the solution, not the problem. The energy and dynamism of prayer works in the positive, not the negative. Do not pray against the negative, pray IN the positive. Do not seek to diminish what is wrong, but pray for the growth of the positive solution. Do not pray against the darkness, pray rather for the dawning of the light. Sin and evil are not substantial reality, they are the absence of substantial reality. Love fills every void.” (John: A Prophetic Revelation) DARKNESS IS THE ABSENCE OF LIGHT & FATHERS LOVE FILLS EVERY VOID.

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THE FATHER HIMSELF LOVES YOU.

Jack Winter was a true pioneer in sharing Father’s love across the globe. In November 1997, he was speaking at a conference at Toronto Airport Christian Fellowship Church, his topic was “The Father Himself Loves You,” Jack shared a prophetic word he received from Father which revealed so much about Father’s desire that we would walk in freedom as His sons and daughters, enjoying the gift of the life He has given us.
Father said, “All that I have ever purposed and planned, I have purposed and planned with you in mind. My love. I will never enjoy anything throughout all eternity but what I can share with you. I only ask that you enjoy nothing but what you can share with Me.”
This is the relationship Father is wanting to bring us into, as our life flows from this relationship.

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YOU ARE NOT MERELY ONE OF THE CROWD!

While attending a conference a few weeks ago in Holland, Trevor Galpin spoke about an aspect of the Parable of the Lost Son. When the younger son in the story was making his way home, his father was aware of his presence although he was still a distance away from the family home. “But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.” (Luke 15:20)
For many of us we can allow ourselves to believe that Father loves all His children, which He does. It can be more of a challenge to believe that He has a constant awareness of each of us and loves each of us as the individual He has created us to be. So, in the crowd of children He created, Father sees each of us, we are not invisible to Him, within the crowd of His creation.
The good news is that we have a Father who exists outside of time, who is aware of and is loving you as His child constantly. You are not merely one of a crowd, you have an individual place in His Heart that is yours and no one else can fill. I love the way this is expressed in the Shack, when Papa says, “I am especially fond of…… (insert your name).

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Will you trust?

The recent blog on ‘Seeking God’s Face’, which explored the value of stillness in God’s presence as a way of experiencing his love, might have given the impression that receiving and living in Father’s love is essentially a passive experience. That is very far from the truth, for through Jesus Father invites us into a vibrant relationship in which we experience the ‘more abundant life’ for which he created us. When we say that his love is a gift which we cannot earn, we are not saying that we have no part to play.
I suggested that ‘pursuing love’ or ‘seeking God’s face’ is not a matter of striving to gain access to his presence, or to earn his love by our efforts, but rather a positioning of heart and mind. His love constantly invites us to make choices – choices which are (or seem to be) risky and costly.
To put it very simply, the key to experiencing Father’s love is learning to trust him, for ‘the Lord delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in his unfailing love’ (Psalms ‭147:11‬). This truth is central to a book which I received as a birthday gift a few weeks ago – Patched Together by Brennan Manning. It is the story of Willie Juan, whom we meet as a boy, a young man, and in old age, as he learns and relearns, in the midst of brokenness, abandonment and disappointment, to trust in God’s love for him. ‘The question of your life has always been “Will you trust?” You are being asked once again, Willie Juanito. Don’t worry; all will be well.’1‬‬‬
When he invites us into his love, Father challenges us to let go the other things we rely on for significance and security. For me, that included a rewarding job which gave me both financial security and a sense of achievement. Over a period of time I sensed that I was being asked to give it up. My first reaction was to say: ‘Certainly, Father. Just show me what you want me to do instead.’ That sounds like trusting obedience, but it wasn’t. I was looking for a guarantee, but to experience the love he was offering I had to learn to walk by trust, not by sight.
More time passed. The feeling that I should leave my job grew stronger, but I had no sense of what was to come next. Then Father spoke to me through two Bible stories.
The first was the story of his call to Abraham, and Abraham’s response:
The Lord had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you” (Genesis 12:1).
By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going (Hebrews 11:8).
Those words ‘not knowing where he was going’ brought home to me the fact that our trust in Father, and with it our experience of his love, will only grow when we can’t see clearly what’s ahead. ‘Do we ever really trust when we can see?’ Willie Juan is asked towards the end of his life. ‘I’d love to tell you otherwise’, he replies, ‘but what faith I have has been strengthened in the dark. It’s just the way it is.’2
Then God nudged me again through Mark’s account of Jesus’ meeting with the rich young man:
As he was setting out on his journey, a man ran up and knelt before him and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. You know the commandments: Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honour your father and mother.’” And he said to him, “Teacher, all these I have kept from my youth.” 21And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” (Mark 10:17-22).
‘Jesus, looking at him, loved him.’ Those words caught my attention and my heart. I realised that in their challenge to the young man, and their invitation to me to give up the security of my job without knowing the next step, Jesus and his Father were motivated only by love. They were inviting me to step into ‘the dazzling darkness of sheer trust’3, and live in their marvellous love.
I handed in my notice, and some months later, when I finally left the job, Father spoke these amazing words of comfort and reassurance to my heart:
‘Let the beloved of the Lord rest secure in him, for he shields him all day long, and the one the Lord loves rests between his shoulders’ Deuteronomy 33:12. In the years which followed, he has backed up his words with faithful provision.
Willie Juan’s story, which Brennan Manning describes as ‘in many ways my story’, highlights two important aspects of our life in the ‘dazzling darkness of sheer trust’. They ring true with my own experience. First of all, the joyous comfort which we receive as we open our hearts to Father’s love utterly outweighs whatever risk or sacrifice that trust involves. It is the ‘pearl of greatest price’.
Second, however, is the reminder that our trust in Father needs to be continually renewed. It is so easy to forget his goodness. The voices which undermine trust are persistent, and they use every hurt and disappointment to draw us away from Father, to doubt his goodness, and to look for comfort and security elsewhere.
In the introduction to Patched Together Brennan Manning writes: ‘For years now I’ve written about how much Abba loves ragamuffins. Sometimes, these days, I wrestle to believe what I wrote. Knowing that you’re reading and wrestling along with me means more than you know.’4
How attractive and how important that honest declaration is. We are learning that when we acknowledge our weakness, to ourselves and others, our eyes are opened to receive a fresh glimpse of Father’s faithfulness and love, and our trust in him is rekindled.

1Patched Together, Brennan Manning, David Cook 2010, p 120
2ibid. p122
3ibid. p122
4ibid. pp15-16

A prayer
Father, you know us just as we are, in all our weakness and brokenness.
Thank you for your free and unfailing love for us, and for the promise of your presence and provision.
Give us day by day the grace and courage to choose to trust you and live in your love, like your son Jesus.
Set us from the fear and bitterness and unforgiveness which separate us from you and one another.

indled.
1Patched Together, Brennan Manning, David Cook 2010, p 120
2ibid. p122
3ibid. p122
4ibid. pp15-16
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A prayer
Father, you know us just as we are, in all our weakness and brokenness.
Thank you for your free and unfailing love for us, and for the promise of your presence and provision.
Give us day by day the grace and courage to choose to trust you and live in your love, like your son Jesus.
Set us from the fear and bitterness and unforgiveness which separate us from you and one another.

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Seeking His Face

Seeking God’s face
You have said, “Seek my face.”
My heart says to you, “Your face, LORD, do I seek.” Psalm 27:8
A previous blog (3 June 2017) ended with the paradoxical thought that the love we are invited to pursue (1 Corinthians 14:1) is already pursuing us (Psalm 23:6). This theme – that God seeks us and at the same time calls us to seek him – runs through the whole of scripture, and when we look closely we see that our heavenly Father always makes the first move. In asking us to seek his face, he is inviting us into continuous intimacy with him in response to the revelation of his love for us. Biblical examples of this pattern are not hard to find. In the Old Testament we see it in the stories of Abraham, Jacob, Moses, Samuel and David, and in the New Testament when Jesus calls the first disciples, visits the home of Zacchaeus, and confronts Saul on the road to Damascus.
Although they share a common underlying theme, every story is different, because Father relates to each one of us as a unique individual. His pursuing love is persistent, yet gentle. It does not coerce, but gives us a choice. When he tells us to ‘pursue love’ or ‘seek his face’, he is asking us to position ourselves to receive and live in his love.
‘Seeking God’s face’ is not a matter of striving to gain access to his presence, for we can never earn his love by our efforts. It is, rather, a positioning of heart and mind. In a well-known Old Testament verse ‘seeking God’s face’ is linked with humility and repentance (2 Chronicles 7:14). Humility is trusting dependence on God as our creator and redeemer, rather than on our own resources of wisdom and wealth. Repentance recognises that God’s image in us has been damaged by our choices and actions, and is willing to let his love work in us to heal that damage so that our lives and relationships reflect his goodness and faithfulness.
Humility and repentance are not about ‘trying harder’. Quite the opposite! As we learn to accept the futility of our efforts to please God and earn his love, and acknowledge our helplessness and dependence on him, our hearts are opened to recognise and receive his unconditional love for us. In 2 Chronicles 7:14, when God calls Israel to seek his face, he addresses them as ‘my people’. He has always loved them; they are already his ‘treasured possession’. He longs for them to experience his love and the blessing that goes with it, but their sinful self-reliance gets in the way.
That was my experience for many years as a Christian. I was actively involved in many church activities, but had little sense of intimacy with God or of any spiritual progress in my life. When that made me feel uncomfortable my response was to work harder or seek distractions. I recognised a longing in myself for a real experience of God’s love, but I didn’t know how to achieve it.
Over the past twenty years all that has changed. Looking back I can see clearly how Father God took the initiative to reveal his love to me in a new way. He led me, gently yet relentlessly, to lay down first my work in church, and then my job, as he brought me to a place where I realised that his love for me is utterly unconditional. For years my sense of self-worth had been based – precariously – on my activity and achievement. Father showed me that ‘he loves me when I do nothing’! For someone who had been raised in a culture imbued with the ‘Protestant work ethic’ these words seemed scandalous at first, yet they are true. God is love, and his love for us is an everlasting love, so nothing I do can make him love me any more or any less.
On one occasion some years ago, as I was resting quietly, enjoying God’s presence, I began to think about the story of the woman who anointed Jesus with expensive ointment (Matthew 26:6-13). The indignant disciples thought it was a waste, but Jesus said ‘She has done a beautiful thing for me.’ A question formed in my mind: ‘Father, what precious thing do I have that I can waste on you?’ The answer – both shocking and delightful – came instantly: ‘I want you to waste your time on me.’
A few months later a friend gave me the book Clowning in Rome by Henri Nouwen, in which I found the following passage:
‘Contemplative prayer is not a way of being busy with God instead of with people, but is an attitude in which we recognize God’s ultimate priority by being useless in his presence, by standing in front of him without anything to show, to prove, or to argue, and by allowing him to enter our emptiness… It is not useful or practical, but a way of wasting time for God. It cuts a hole in our busyness and reminds us and others that it is God and not we who creates and sustains the world… In this useless prayer, God can show us his love. When we are empty, free, and open, we can be with him, look at him, listen to him, and slowly begin to realize that he is our loving Father who loves us with a deep, intimate affection.’*
*Clowning in Rome, Henri J M Nouwen, Image Books 1979, p 53

A prayer
Father, thank you for your unconditional and everlasting love for me.
Give me the grace to recognise and lay down my self-reliance, and truly acknowledge my dependence on you.
You invite me to pursue love and seek your face. Bring my heart to that place of rest and stillness where it is open to receive and experience your love, and to be healed and transformed by it.
In the name of King Jesus, your Son, who shows us how much you love us, and brings us into your presence as he calls us to share his life of intimacy with you.

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YOU ARE NOT MERELY ONE OF THE CROWD!

While attending a conference a few weeks ago in Holland, Trevor Galpin spoke about an aspect of the Parable of the Lost Son. When the younger son in the story was making his way home, his father was aware of his presence although he was still a distance away from the family home. “But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.” (Luke 15:20)
For many of us we can allow ourselves to believe that Father loves all His children, which He does. It can be more of a challenge to believe that He has a constant awareness of each of us and loves each of us as the individual He has created us to be. So, in the crowd of children He created, Father sees each of us, we are not invisible to Him, within the crowd of His creation.
The good news is that we have a Father who exists outside of time, who is aware of and is loving you as His child constantly. You are not merely one of a crowd, you have an individual place in His Heart that is yours and no one else can fill. I love the way this is expressed in the Shack, when Papa says, “I am especially fond of…… (insert your name).

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