Pursue Love

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Love never ends.
1 Corinthians 13:4-8

A few years ago I was asked to read the thirteenth chapter of Paul’s first letter to the church at Corinth at my son’s wedding. In the weeks before the ceremony, as I prepared a brief introduction to the reading, I reflected on its meaning in the light of the revelation of Father’s love.
This familiar passage, with its eloquent description of love, is an understandably popular reading at weddings. When I read it or hear it read it arouses a longing in me to love and be loved in the way Paul describes. But there is a problem. If we see it primarily as a pattern to be followed, Paul’s picture of love seems beautiful, but idealistic. How are we to respond to the standard he appears to be setting for us? We may dismiss it as unrealistic – unattainable in this life. We may strive to live up to it, only to fall into cynicism or despair when we fail. Or we may deceive ourselves that we have succeeded, and be tempted to preen ourselves with pride.
Paul introduces his words about love by saying ‘I will show you a still more excellent way’ (1 Corinthians 12:31), but when we look carefully at what follows we see that he does not in fact lay down a set of rules. Rather, he speaks about his own experience:
If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing (1 Corinthians 13:1-3)
Paul states three times that his life has no significance or value if he ‘has not love’. It is clear that for him ‘having love’ is what gives life meaning. Nothing else is of value without love. It is, in Jesus’ words, the ‘pearl of greatest price’.
But what does he mean by ‘having love’? (In case you’re wondering, this is a literal translation of Paul’s words in Greek.) It seems to me that ‘having love’ can be understood in two ways. For years I had only thought of it as ‘having love for others’. But now I’ve come to think that when Paul speaks of ‘having love’, he is also referring to the love he receives from Father God. This is the love he (and we) cannot live without. Knowing this love gives his life meaning and value. Without it all his gifting and faith and devotion are worthless. (This reminds me of his words in Philippians 3:7-8: ‘Whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.’)
After this repeated declaration of the surpassing importance of ‘having love’, Paul goes on in verses 4-7 to describe this love, and it is surely clear that he is writing primarily not about the way we are to love one another, but about the way God loves us. He is describing the ‘unfailing love’ of the ‘Father of compassion and God of all comfort’ (2 Corinthians 1:3), who is ‘merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin’ (Exodus 34:6-7). It is the love which Jesus displayed in his life and death as he ‘loved us to the end’ (John 13:1). It is the love of the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, sent by the Father and the Son, through whom‘God’s love is poured into our hearts’ (Romans 5:5).
Of course Paul longs to have a love for others which reflects the love he receives from God; of course he longs for the Christians in Corinth to show that sort of love to one another. But he knows that we can never have love for others unless we first have God’s love in our hearts, and when he ends this section of the letter by urging his readers to ‘pursue love’, he is encouraging them to enter a deeper experience of God’s love for them, which is the only way in which they will have the spiritual resources to love others as they are loved. In the words of John Arnott, of ‘Catch the Fire’, he was inviting them to ‘walk in God’s love, and give it away’.
Paradoxically, the best way of ‘pursuing’ God’s love is to stand still, for his love is already pursuing us! ‘Surely,’ sang David, ‘your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life’ (Psalm 23:6). (The Hebrew word translated as ‘follow’ in this verse is translated as ‘pursue’ in more than 70 other Old Testament passages!)
When Saul (not yet Paul) was pursuing Jesus’ first followers, Jesus the Good Shepherd was pursuing him. He had to stop him in his tracks (Acts 9:3) in order to reveal his love to him. In stillness and brokenness and humility he became open to the flow of God’s love into his heart. From that moment Father’s love – revealed in King Jesus and poured into his heart by the Holy Spirit – was the motivating and compelling power in his life.
Back in Psalm 23, it’s no surprise that David, describing the blessings he receives from his Shepherd Lord, puts stillness and rest at the top of the list: ‘He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul’ (vv.2-3). It is in stillness that we discover just how much we are loved.
A prayer:
Father, like Paul, we want to ‘have love’. We want to know and experience your love for us, and to learn to love like you. Open our hearts to a fresh revelation of your steadfast love for us, and by your Spirit guide and empower us as we learn to love as we are loved. In the name of Jesus, who loved us and gave himself for 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 came to meet 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 GIFT OF YOUR PERFECT SON!

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THE DEPTH OF LOVE by MARK GYDE.

“You’ve learned to be a servant but
God wants you to be a son.”

Mark Gyde recently published his third book, The Depth of Love.” The sleeve notes provide a useful overview of the content.

“Many of us have learned to be servants and actually become quite good at it. Yet we all need to hear the Father calling us by name and speaking these words into our hearts: “you are my beloved son,” you are my beloved daughter.” When these words take root in our hearts, everything changes as we begin to discover the amazing depth of the Father’s love.”

Barry Adams is a co-host with Mark on a weekly webcast, he said of the book:
“Mark’s new book, the Depth of Love, wonderfully expresses this growing revelation of sonship. Mark does not shy away from some of the tough topics like hardship and suffering but deals with them in a very practical way. With the help of the Holy spirit, Mark has been able to put substance to the eternal love which predates creation, in order that we can tangibly experience it in our everyday lives.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who is longing to go deeper into the immeasurable ocean of Trinitarian love that Jesus Christ secured for us on the cross two thousand years ago.”

For more information regarding this book and Mark’s previous publications, his web address is www.afathertoyou.com

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The Heart of Prayer

At the very heart of Jesus’ vision of the kingdom — of heaven’s kingdom coming on earth — we have a picture of one person, secretly in their own room, praying.

Prayer is a mystery. I’ve often heard people saying, with a sneer, ‘It doesn’t go beyond the ceiling, you know.’ But the point of prayer, at least the way Jesus saw it, is that it doesn’t have to. Your father, he says, is there in the secret place with you. He sees and knows your deepest thoughts and hopes and fears. He hears the words you say. He hears, too, the things you can’t put into words but want to lay before him anyway. Prayer, in fact, isn’t a mystery in the sense of ‘a puzzle we can’t understand’. Prayer is a symptom, a sign, of the mystery: the fact that heaven and earth actually mingle together. There are times when they interlock; there are places where they overlap. To pray, in this sense, is to claim a time and place — it can be anywhere, any time — as one of those times, one of those places.

If prayer is about heaven and earth overlapping in time and space, it’s also about them coming together in matter, in the stuff of this world, the clay from which we are made. To pray, in this sense, is to claim — think about it and realize just how daring this is! — that the living God, enthroned in heaven, can make his home with you, within you. To make this point vividly, go into your room in secret and pray there. Take God seriously.

But, when you do so, realize one more thing. If prayer is about heaven and earth coming together at one time, in one place, within the lump of clay we call ‘me’, then it’s going to change this person called ‘me’. In particular, it’s going to make me a forgiver. Jesus was quite clear about this. All of us have been hurt, wounded, slighted, annoyed by other people. How much more have we ourselves done that to God! Yet we want him to be with us, to hear us, and — yes! — to forgive us. How can we not be forgivers too?

So the great prayer comes together. Utterly simple, utterly profound. A child can learn it; an old, wise saint will still be going deeper into it. Heaven is not far away, and it’s where we meet the God who, with breathtaking confidence, we can call ‘Father’. Familiarity must not imply contempt. His very name is holy, and we must honour it as such. And what we most want — the strange phenomenon of which prayer itself is a supreme example! — is that his kingdom should come and his will be done on earth as in heaven. When we pray, we pray for that goal but we also pray within that promise.

We then place our needs, whether simple or complex, within that framework. Bread for the day ahead. Forgiveness of debt — the debts we owe to God, the debts too (this may surprise some) we owe one another. And then, importantly, rescue: rescue from the time of testing, of trial, whether that be personal temptation, frequently repeated, or the ‘tribulation’ which Jesus, like many others of his day, believed would come upon the world before God’s deliverance finally dawned.

And rescue, too, from the evil one. Much of Jesus’ public career was a battle with the powers of darkness. That isn’t surprising, since he was announcing that God was taking back control of the world from those powers. When we pray this prayer, we are caught up in that battle, too. But we don’t face the danger alone. We claim his victory, his rescue, rather than face danger alone, his deliverance. The mystery of prayer. This prayer lies at the very centre of the ‘sermon on the mount’. It should be at the centre of our life, our own kingdom-obedience.

Lord, teach us to pray; teach us to forgive; make us your people. Yours is the kingdom, the power and the glory.

Tom Wright, commenting on Matthew 6:5-15 in Lent for Everyone (SPCK)

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JESUS SAID, “I AM THE VINE.”

I was recently reminded of a story told by Paul Reid, the former senior pastor of Belfast’s largest charismatic church, C.F.C.
Paul met with a friend who was an apple grower from Co. Armagh. Paul engaged him in a lengthy discussion on the complexities of growing apples. Eventually his friend said to Paul, “I don’t really focus much time or attention on apples, I just look after trees.”
This story really impacted me, in that it seems to say a lot about the futility of us being preoccupied with the fruit of our lives rather than seeing good fruit as the outcome of the care and attention from a skilled and attentive gardener looking after a plant, and good fruit is just the outcome of this tender care.
In John’s gospel, Mirror Bible Translation we have a beautiful picture of this process. Jesus said, “I am the authentic vine! My father is the farmer. Every offshoot in me that does not bear fruit, He lifts from the ground and fastens it to the stake and every fruit bearing part he dresses to maximise its yield, (# see footnote). Your personal pruning and dressing already happened in your conversion; The word made flesh in my person and language is how the Father prepares and sets you up for fruit bearing. Our seamless union, You in me and I in you, is pictured in the vine: the shoot cannot bear fruit outside of this union. In its abiding in the vine, fruit happens naturally – as with your abiding in me. I am the vine and you are the branches; it is the one who understands this mutual union that naturally bears much fruit – which is impossible to happen apart from me. Every area of human life that does not continue to be entwined in this place of seamlessness in me, was already cast forth where it was withered away and is gathered to be burned as firewood. My words find voice in you. With your abiding in me and my words abiding in you a conversation is inspired where you will request that which arises in your desire from our union and it shall come to pass for you! These unions – inspired desires bear the very fruit that endorses the Father’s glory. This is where true discipleship is born. The love of the Father for Me is my love for you – abide in my Love for you!” (John 15: 1-9).
(#) Footnote. Many translations of the Greek in verse two state “He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, as in the NIV. This is an inaccurate translation of the Greek words “airei and “kathairei” These words “airei” and “kathairei” are employed to suggest the lifting of the branches as well as the dressing process which includes pruning. On other occasions when “airei” is used it is translated as “lifted up.” Father doesn’t cut us off, He tenderly deals with us until, in our knowledge of our union with Jesus, we can rest in His love and naturally bear the fruit He desires.
THANK YOU, FATHER, AS THE SKILLED AND TENDER GARDENER YOU CARE FOR US WITH LOVE AND KINDNESS AND THIS PRODUCES THE GOOD FRUIT.

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ALL ENCOMPASSING GOD

Another beautiful reflective prayer by David Adam

THE HOLY THREE
Encircled by the Holy Three,
Encircled within the Trinity
All around me at this hour
Is the Lord’s almighty power.
The father’s strength with grace upholds
The Son’s deep love with warmth enfolds.
The Spirit’s light shines clear to guide
Encircled by the Holy Three
Enclosed within the Trinity

Day and night I know I’ll be
Surrounded by the Trinity
The Father ever loving me
The Son ever saving me
The Spirit ever leading me
Encircled by the Holy Three
Enclosed within the Trinity

I rejoice now in the Holy Three
Their presence all about me
God’s eye to watch, His hand to hold
His ear to hear, His heart to love
Encircled by the Holy Three
Enclosed within the Trinity.

THANK YOU FATHER, JESUS & HOLY SPIRIT

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St Valentine

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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THOUGHTS FOR 2017.

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 2017.
“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 2017, SO THAT YOUR LOVE CAN OVERFLOW TO TOUCH OTHERS WE MEET.

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YOU ARE FATHER’S GIFT!

The media have been referring to today as “Frantic Friday,” as many of us do the final hectic round of food shopping and buying last minute gifts.
This is a season we associate with gifts, especially Jesus being Father’s amazing gift to us. As you hold that thought with gratitude in your heart, have you ever considered the possibility that we are Father’s gift to Jesus?
In Isaiah 53 in the Amplified Bible, we read about Jesus and His response to what His death accomplished, “He shall see (the fruit) of the travail of His soul and be satisfied,” (V11). YOU ARE THAT FRUIT!!!! You are a gift from Father to His Son Jesus, that was received with joy and pleasure!
At this holiday season, that is a truth worthy of reflection. Your response could be an invitation to the Holy Spirit to write it in your heart, so that you can experience in an ever-deeper way, being enjoyed as the gift you are.
On behalf of the Father Heart Ireland team, I hope you have a special Christmas.

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WHAT’S ON YOUR HEART?

You may have noticed that living in the Revelation of Father’s love has simplified your prayer life.
For year’s many of us have viewed prayer as a way of hopefully persuading God to do good on behalf of those we had on our prayer list. Our hope, often being that if we constructed the prayers correctly, then we would have a better chance of success.
While attending a church service last Sunday, cards were distributed to assist the congregation to pray for those we were holding in our hearts. I was struck by the childlike simplicity of the prayer that was sourced in a book of reflective meditation compiled by an Irish Franciscan order.
I hope you find it helpful in bringing those you love to the source of all love in a simple way.
“Lord, all who are in my heart, I bring to your heart. You know their need better than I, or even they know them. I hand them over now to Your Limitless Goodness.”
THANK YOU, FATHER!

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