God The Father: Beyond Death’s Door

Scripture

Today’s full reading is John 14:1-14

If you loved me, you would have rejoiced, because I am going away to the Father, for the Father is greater than I.
John 14:28

Observation

We’re going to spend a couple of days on this one verse noting two different things about the Father. The first has to do with the destination Jesus believes he going to and the second about the nature of the relationship between the Father and the Son.

Jesus’ Destination

Instantly I’m struck by Jesus’ thoughts about the Father. He’s talking about his death, he’s talking about dying and yet he doesn’t say ‘I’m going to better place’ (like a sentimental Englishman). Instead he says ‘I’m going to the Father.’

Jesus is enthusiastic not about dying, nor about ‘being at peace’, nor about ‘going to a better place’. He’s enthusiastic and optimistic about going to be with the Father.


For Jesus dying is but a doorway to the Father. It’s unpleasant and in his case it’s going to be excruciatingly painful (literally ex-crux – ‘from the cross’) but it’s the person of his Father that he’s most mindful about being with. He’s not looking forward to the pain of the cross but he is looking past that to the reality and pleasure of being with his Father.

This is what the Father is like then. He is one whose company is to be desired. Jesus said ‘if you love me… you’d rejoice.’ Rejoice!? He wanted his disciples to celebrate. He wanted them to be glad. They were to celebrate not that he’s dying but that he’s going to be with his Father.

In all likelihood when the disciple first heard Jesus say this all they probably heard was ‘I’m going away’ – but what filled Jesus’ mind wasn’t the leaving but the arriving, arriving in his Father’s presence once again.

Application

This is what death is for the Christian. Death is going to be with our Father. It isn’t just going to a ‘better place’ nor even is to just go and be with ‘God’. Rather it is our ‘Father’ who is the object of death’s destination. The person, the presence, the intimacy, the reality of our Father.

Thinking about death like this comforts me when I consider those I’ve known who’ve died, especially those who’ve died in Christ. It also gives me comfort when thinking about my own death. It helps me to believe that death isn’t the end, a full stop after the final chapter of my life. Death is what leads me to be with the one I love and who loves me and who created all things out of the overflow of his love.

All this also reinforces to me the importance of changing the way I think about God. If I believe that God is a mean, strict and cold ‘man in the sky’ then death has nothing for me to look forward to. But he isn’t like that. He is a Father that the Son was enthusiastic about going to be with.

Prayer


Father I’m comforted and encouraged by your Son’s attitude to death. It helps me dispel some of my own doubts about death and fear of death. Thank you that the people I love aren’t lost, that they aren’t even just ‘at peace’. Thank you that those I love are with you, in your company seeing you face to face. I love you. Amen.

How to Be A Good Local

small town

Jesus was a small town man who spent the majority of his time in small towns and villages no bigger than 1000 people in population.

How to be a good local*:

1) Learn to enjoy small talk (lots of it)

  • People in small towns like Seaford love to chat and often are a lot more open to making conversation than those who live in larger cities. Use this to your advantage: ask about people’s well being, throw parties and learn people’s names. Writing in 1936 Dale Carnegie points out in ‘How to Win Friends and Influence People’ that a person’s name is the sweetest sound that they hear. People love it when you use their name, do it often.
  • Donnie Griggs points out: ’always acting like you have somewhere better to be will eventually lead you to unnecessarily offending residents in s towns.’

2) Shop local as much as possible

  • Temptation is always to buy the cheapest and most convenient, but try where possible to shop local.
  • Buy the local newspaper, browse the FaceBook pages often to see what’s going on.

3) Eat local, love local food

  • Seaford: 53 places to eat. 2 bake, 1 butchers,  1 fishmonger.
  • Newhaven: 35 places to eat
  • Peacehaven: 23
  • Have you been to them all? Be a great tipper, treat staff like real people,
    Don’t give bad reviews. If you don’t like a place, don’t go back; you’re not a food critic.
  • Food is a fast track to people’s hearts: bake cakes for neighbours, always have something available to offer people.

4) Identify local.

  • Show interest in neighbours activities.
  • Cross social barriers.

5) Be a blessing not a burden

  • Offer help, volunteer, be reliable…

My vision and dream for the members of this church is that people joke about us that we should be mayor since we love our town so much. It may take time, but it is possible. I believe that. Love where you live, take time for the people around where you live.

Be a small town gal/guy like Jesus was.

*Points taken from Donnie Griggs’ book ‘Small Town Jesus’

God The Father: Trinity

Devotional studies on God the Father from John’s gospel


Scripture

Today’s full reading comes from John 14:1-31.

The words I say to you I do not speak on my own authority, but the Father who dwells in me does his works.
John 14:10

Today’s reading reveals something pretty heady about God;  get ready…

In this verse and in the one previous to it Jesus is replying to his disciple Philip’s request that they might see the Father, ‘show us the Father’ Philip pleads. Jesus is trying to help Philip see that he (Jesus) is the Father made manifest, that he’s not only the Father’s representative but is one with him in thought and deed.

In that sense, Jesus is different from an ambassador and speaking to him is different from speaking to an ambassador. Ambassador’s speak on behalf of another person or country. They are given authority to act on behalf of and as a representative of their sending party. So far so good, so far so similar to Jesus. But Jesus claims a different level of familiarity with the one he’s representing.

Jesus claims to not only do the things that come from above, he claims that he is ‘one’ with the Father. Having done that Jesus goes further still and says that he is in the Father (ie he exists within the Father’s essence). Then, even more shockingly, he claims that God the Father, Yahweh, the Creator is also in him.

The Son is in the Father

but also

The Father is in the Son

Jesus is not saying, as Eastern thinkers have done, that everything is god; that we are gods. He is not even saying ‘we are gods & God is in us’. What he is saying is:

I am in God and God is in me.

This, said in response to Philip’s question, has to do with Jesus’ identity and therefore (by implication) the Father’s identity.

Application

This morning, sitting where I am outdoors on a sunny day, I lift my head to take in my surroundings and I’m struck by the beauty and majesty of the created world. Then as I take in the blue sphere above me and as I consider the vast, and as yet unexplored, universe beyond it I have to catch myself and stop a train a thought that develops. Tempted as I am to stop and soak it in and consider it to be awesome and marvellous, I mustn’t. Creation is a signpost that points beyond itself to the creative & powerful mind of the Father. The difference is comparable to the majesty of a lego city being placed alongside the intricacies and complexities of a real city, one with all the organisms that live there. God is far greater than anything he has made.

And then I have stop myself once again.

The God who made this universe is, in essence, a Father. The Father is in the Son and if I can conceive who and what Jesus is then I can conceive who and what the Father is. Therefore creation may help me to marvel, but the Son enables me to relate.

The Father-in-the-Son and the Son-in-the-Father makes me both marvel and relate and finally it makes me, stop. It makes me put down my pen and relax. I can rest in the confident loving arms of my Father.

But my journey doesn’t end there. ‘What about the Holy Spirit?’ I wonder ‘surely he ought to figure too in this ‘me in him and him in me…’ description of God’. God isn’t only Father and Son but Father, Son & Spirit. Glance back at the scripture in front of you and it seems that Jesus is tracking our train of thought. Two verses after the one we’re focusing on, having explained part of the mystery of the Godhead Jesus helps his listeners to grasp even more:

‘I will ask the Father and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever.’ 

The Holy Spirit, the Helper, is described here as ‘he’. He is sent by the Father at the request of the Son. He dwells/lives with us and will be ‘in’ us. In these verses both the Son & the Spirit are said to be ‘in’ us. The Son is in the Father and the Spirit comes from the Father.

Trying to wrap my mind around all this is hard for me. That’s where historic diagrams of the Trinity come in handy:

God is one but three persons who each exist ‘in’ the other without being dissolved into a non-distinct blend of bland monotheism. 

This is the nature of God and then Jesus ‘drops a bombshell’ when he says that: he (v20), the Spirit (v17) and the Father (v23) will be in us. The scandalous truth is that in some profound and mysterious way the triune God lives in me, lives in you.

Jesus effectively says of God ‘we will makes our home with and in them.’

God is committed to us. He is with us, in us, for us, at home in us, loving us, leading us, teaching us.

This isn’t because of intellect and learning or moral perfection. This is because of grace, because of Christ and because of the Father’s unrelenting love toward us.

The Father covers us with his love. He surrounds us, lives in us – and us in him.

Prayer


Father such thoughts are almost too much for me to take in. Help me to enjoy the reality that these words are pointing to. Help me to know you, delight in you and enjoy relationship with you. Fill me with your Spirit, help me to love your Son and cause me to trust you for everything I need today. Amen.

God The Father: Known Through the Son

No one comes to the Father except through the Son. If you had known me you would have known the Father as well.
John 14:6

Again we see the unity of person and mind of the Father and the Son.

The Father is inaccessible except by coming through and with and by the Son. Why?

  • Righteousness – the Son is the righteous one.
  • Relationship – the Father isn’t after people who keep his rules and thus enter his presence. He is looking for worshippers and faith. He wants people who will trust him.
Similar to the second half of this verse, is this statement Jesus makes elsewhere: ‘if you’ve seen me you’ve seen the Father’ 
Again an outrageous statement to make for a cerpenter’s son. If that’s all he is. But he isn’t just Joseph’s boy.
The Father and the Son are on. Whatever the Son is like, the Father is too:
  • Willing
  • Sacrificial
  • Servanthearted
  • Bold
  • Generous
  • Working for Restoration 
  • Committed 
This is what the Father is as well. In Chapter 14 Jesus mentions the Father 21 times in a range of different ways. Where religious people and Christians included talk about God, Jesus speaks about the Father.
This is my God, the servant king, the sacrifical Father, the generous dad, This is who I sit before, live before and talk to. Father 21 times in one discourse, 21 times in one conversation.
Father, Father, Father, Father, Father, Father, Father, Father, Father, Father, Father, Father, Father, Father, Father, Father, Father, Father, Father. 

A testimony of healing

By Rodney and Ann Reed

We were called to be long term missionaries in Bangladesh from the Baptist Church Centre in Handsworth, our home church, in Birmingham. Following our two-week visit to Bangladesh in the Autumn of 2005 the Candidate Board of BMS World Mission (the Baptist Missionary Society) confirmed our ‘Call’ and we competed our training at the BMS International Mission Centre in early 2006 and were then ‘Commissioned for Service’ in Bangladesh.
Before being sent to Bangladesh we were required by BMS (as with all BMS long term mission personnel) to amend our Wills to specify our preferred funeral arrangements and place of burial in case of our deaths in service overseas – we opted for the cemetery of the Baptist Chapel at the Chandraghona Christian Mission Hospital near Chittagong. All those being commissioned for long-term service were also encouraged to have a ‘good’ goodbye with our immediate family members in case our ‘death in service’ prevented us meeting them again. At this time in our lives and missionary experience we knew that road crashes were the most frequent cause of ‘death in service’ with few our predecessors in the recent past dying from tropical diseases or non-road accidents. We were in essence were making a commitment to be ‘faithful unto death’ as had been promised by our BMS missionary predecessors. BMS was originally known as the Particular Baptist Society for the Propagation of the Gospel Amongst the Heathen and the first missionaries, William Carey and John Thomas, were sent to Bengal, India in 1793, long before Bangladesh won its independence and received the present-day name. We left Birmingham for Dhaka in May 2006 and Incorporated a BAM (Business as Mission) company in Bangladesh in July 2006.
With our commitment to long term service in Bangladesh we expected ‘risky’ traffic and travel by unsafe vehicles (and in fact were kept safe through many near death experiences on the roads of Bangladesh). We also expected health challenges from life in a steamy delta and residence in one of the world’s most polluted cities but other than one eight-week bout of typhoid for Rodney we were kept safe from the many water and insect borne diseases prevalent in a city of 17million people with its regular floods and temperatures reaching 40 degrees and humidity topping out at 90% in some months of the year.

What we had not anticipated was the emergence of terrorism both ‘home grown’ in Bangladesh and ‘imported’ by ‘Al Qaeda in the Indian Sub-Continent’. First were the reports of murders of members of ethnic minority communities in Bangladesh – Buddhist, Hindu, liberal/free-thinking Moslem, Christian also the vandalism and burning of several Buddhist monasteries and many Hindu temples. Then came attacks on foreigners. An Italian aid worker was gunned down in the early evening in the street outside Rodney’s office gates less than 10 minutes after Rodney left the office through those gates. More attacks on local people were followed by the murderous attack on the Holey Bakery (a restaurant frequented by foreigners and middle-class Bangladeshis) where 20 people were murdered by an ‘Al Qaeda cell’ using sharp bladed weapons. In addition to these customers the victims included three police officers, killed by an IED bomb, who had attempted to negotiate with the terrorists, assuming them to be hostage-takers. A hundred commandos from the Bangladesh Army blasted their way into the Holey Bakery the following morning and killed all of the terrorists but sadly they soon discovered that the terrorists had killed all of the assumed ‘hostages’ within hours of their storming of the restaurant the previous evening.

For our final nine months in Bangladesh Rodney was contracted to lead an Environment Team for a German Government project GIZ PSES Promotion of Social and Environmental Standards in Industry (Deutsche Gesellschaft Für Internationale Zusammenarbeit GMBH). The security situation was beginning to deteriorate so we were required to attend a three-day residential security training course located near Dhaka focussed on ways to keep safe during armed attacks on cars we might travel in and as preparation for being caught up in any hostage taking. We were also required to curb our movements outside of our apartment e.g. no visits to places where foreigners might gather i.e. hotels, restaurants, gyms/fitness centres, foreign mission clubs, walking in the streets was not permitted and no travel allowed in open vehicles. Rodney was also required to travel to and from his office only in a GIZ vehicle, by which time all GIZ drivers had been trained in ‘defensive driving techniques’ by the UN Security Team in Dhaka. Ann was virtually ‘house bound’ for the last few months of our time in Dhaka.

Shortly before the end of this contract we were on holiday in Western China, just back from a short trip into Tibet, when we heard on CNN news of the Holey Bakery ‘siege’ and the deaths of the ‘hostages’. Within a few hours we were shocked to discover that Claudia, one of Ann’s close friends from the Cantemus International Choir in Dhaka, an Italian garment factory owner was one of those brutally murdered and that two of the other women murdered were also known to us. Rodney’s employers GIZ taking advice from the German Embassy then instructed that we must remain in China until the security situation in Dhaka could be carefully risk assessed. Other GIZ PSES ex-pat personnel had been evacuated from Dhaka on the morning of the Commando’s regaining control of the Holey Bakery because it was not known at that stage whether this terrorist attack was a ‘one off’ or the start of an increase in terrorist attacks on foreigners. We were in fact allowed to return to Dhaka a few days later when it became clear to the security experts that the Army had killed not only the terrorists who had committed the murders in the Holey Bakery but also the members of their support cell who had facilitated the attack. On the day following our return to our apartment in Dhaka we discovered that we were supposed to have waited at the Dhaka International Airport for an Armed Police Patrol to escort us from the airport to our apartment situated some 2 miles from the airport!

In August 2016, we retired and returned to the UK where we had the usual ‘end of service’ medical conducted by InterHealth in London and a debriefing conducted by BMS World Mission personnel in Didcot. Then unusually we were referred for a more professional and in-depth debriefing by a Christian Clinical Psychologist in Derbyshire. During a subsequent GP appointment for Rodney in Birmingham it became clear that while Ann was stressed by her end of service security experiences in Bangladesh and needed time to ‘rest and recover’ he was diagnosed as suffering from PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) and was then prescribed a 6+month course of drug based treatment which was continued by his new GP in Seaford. By this time early in 2017, we had relocated from Birmingham to Seaford and were regular members of the Kings Church Seaford fellowship.
During a series of ‘sermons’ and Sunday morning ‘exhortations’ by Kings Church Eastbourne and Kings Church Seaford leaders Rodney became convinced that it was time to ask for prayer for healing and then to inform his GP that he intended to stop the drug based treatment.
Jez with Ross then met with me at home to talk through the PTSD and its causes and importantly to pray for deliverance from it and for healing. This healing ministry was fully successful, and as soon afterwards as the Seaford Doctor’s Surgery could offer me an appointment I informed my GP about the healing and my intention to stop the drugs. He was a little bemused but agreed to reducing the dosage over a fortnight to zero. I had no adverse reaction to stopping this 6-month course of treatment and am now fully free of the PTSD, including being able to rest and sleep well and am free from the negative thinking triggered by the PTSD.

Twelve months have now passed since the end our service with BMS and our retirement from Bangladesh. Rodney is healed and so we now give thanks to the Lord for his blessing for the reality of that psychological healing.

Rodney and Ann
July 2017

God The Father: The Slave God

Devotional studies on the Father from the gospel of John.

Scripture:

This morning’s full reading is from John 13:1-19 and can be found here:

The verses we’re focusing on are:

Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father… During supper… Jesus knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands and that he had come from God and was going back to God, rose from supper.
John 13:1-3

Observation:

I love this chapter. I’m gonna’ put it out there – this is one of my personal favourite moments in the life of Jesus. Listen to the words Jesus says here and allow the rich implications of it drip like honey onto your lap… (too far with the enthusiasm?). Still, there is some great treasure to be mined here. The image of Jesus with a slave’s towel around his waist seems just about as shocking today as it would have done then. The saviour of the world, the creator of the world, God – dressed as a slave?

God is the God who slaves over us and slaves after us. Incredible.

Verse 1 – Jesus knew that where he was going wasn’t just death, or even ‘heaven’ but to the Father. From Jesus’ perspective this is how he saw things. For Jesus, to live meant to trust the Father and to discern his plan. Discerning that his plan meant to suffer didn’t seem to put him off since he understood that even in that suffering he would still have the Father with him. Plus, to die was to go and be with the Father – permanently, and that was Jesus’ greatest delight.

Reality for Jesus was defined around his Father.

The overarching emphasis of life and the underlying theme of life, has to do not with some mystical far off and remote ‘God’ but rather with the Father. The Father is a wildly different God to the ones invented by religion,

Verse 3 – The Father gave all things into his hands.

I watched a business coaching video this morning entitled: the ‘right sort of delegation.’

The ‘right’ way of releasing people to achieve their full potential and their company’s full potential, it said, was not to give people tasks and jobs but to give them authority. Releasing people into areas of responsibility empowers them and creates leaders rather than followers.

To say that the father ‘delegated’ the work of redemption to the Son isn’t right but it is true to say that the Father empowers and releases the Son in what he sends the Son to do. The Father, we learn here, gave Jesus authority over everything, you can’t get more empowering than that!

The Father trusted Jesus and told him so.

Jesus knew (verse 3) that the Father had blessed him, knew that everything had been given to him, and knowing it – he acted on it. It was not just the authority but the knowledge of the authority that enabled Jesus to act courageously. Knowing that his destiny was to be with his Father and knowing that his Father had empowered him and trusted him meant that he could reach down, pick up a towel and serve.

Knowing all this meant that he could identify with and so dignify even those in slavery.

Application


Seeing our identity in our Father enables us to serve and it enables us to associate with people we might not otherwise want to. Knowing how the Father feels toward us, frees us from other people’s expectations of us. The Father’s love toward us gives us confidence and courage. How will that influence you today and your decision making today?

Do you see in this text the Father who Fathers you?

Prayer


Father. Thank you. Thank you that you are one who empowers and releases us into what you made us for. Thank you that your Son came to serve and wasn’t afraid even to be associated with slaves. I want to know you like he does. I want to have such confidence in your fatherly affection toward me and my place of security before you that I am willing and able to serve and even suffer indignity for you. Amen.

God The Father: Hears the Son

Devotional studies in the character of the Father from the gospel of John.

Scripture

This morning’s full Bible reading can be found here.

Jesus lifted up his eyes and said, ‘Father, I thank you that you have heard me, but I said this on account of the people standing around, that they may believe you sent me.’

John 11:41

Observation

I love listening in on Jesus’ prayer life. When he talks to his Father you can sense the familiarity and intimacy that exists between them and yet also the authority Jesus has in prayer, it’s majestic.

At Lazarus’ tomb, we can learn a lot about Jesus’ relationship with the Father, and also learn something about what the Father is like as well.

‘Father I thank you.’

Jesus begins by lifting his head, a physical act that focuses his mind and makes it clear to all onlookers that he’s praying.

He then begins by addressing his Father. Up until now he has been talking about God using the word ‘God’ to discuss him. As he prays suddenly it’s ‘Father’ – Abba. He speaks with tenderness and familiarity to God.

‘Thank you.’ 

Jesus begins with gratitude. It isn’t for the sake of maintaining an appearance of piety that he does this or because he knows it’s ‘appropriate’ but because he’s got his eyes open to God’s work in the world. Saying ‘thank you’ can only happen as you look around and notice the things you’ve got to be thankful for. A mouth that says ‘thank you’ reveals a heart that’s free from bitterness and selfish self-righteousness.


What is he thankful for?

Jesus is thankful – that God has heard him. This means both that God was aware of his plea but also that God granted it. God granted his request to glorify his Son. This is a recurring theme. It is becoming almost too repetitious to mention. The Father is motivated by the idea of drawing positive attention to his Son. Time and again this is the case:

The Father loves the Son
The Father listens to the Son
The Father grants the Son’s requests.

Paul says in the letter to the Colossians that it is ‘Christ in you, the hope of glory.’ and to the Corinthians ‘In Christ you have become the righteousness of God.’

This is how it is that Jesus can affirm as he does several times in John’s gospel ‘whatever you ask in my name, you will receive’ the emphasis falling on the ‘in my name’.

He knew that his Father loved him and knew that his Father would hear him when he prayed. It was this double knowledge that gave him confidence and boldness when he prayed.

Application

I see it so clearly. I’m convinced of it. Jesus, far from being my only hope, is the greatest hope. He is the apple of the Father’s eye. The Father delights in him, and since I’m in him – the Father delights in me too.

When we pray we can pray with the same level of confidence and gratitude knowing that our Father hears us and welcomes us when we come on the basis of his Son.

Prayer


Thank you Father. Thank you for all that you do for me. Thank you for all that you’re going to do for me and thank you that you hear me when I pray. You listen to me, you grant my requests and you welcome me to keep coming and asking you for various things. I come in the name of Jesus and for his sake and for his glory I ask everything I ask. Amen.

God The Father: Won’t Let Go

Devotional studies on the Father from John’s gospel


Scripture


Today’s full Bible reading can be found here:

‘No one will ever snatch them out of my hand. My Father who has given them to me, is more powerful than all, and no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.’

John 10:29-30 

Observation

There is a lot of devotional wealth to be mined in these verses and there is a lot that can be said about the Father.

First. In this passage we’re given the assurance from Jesus that the Father is more powerful than all the forces that would try to snatch his sheep away. There is the reassurance that those under Jesus’ care will not be lost.

Jesus says ‘no one can snatch them from my hand‘ and then ‘no one can snatch them from my Father’s hand‘. Well, which is it? The answer comes – ‘I and the Father are one.’ Jesus and the Father are of one mind and heart in this regard. The sheep in his care will remain in his care. Case closed, matter settled.

Now, I have plenty of questions about this – especially in light of friends I’ve known who’ve walked away from God. Friends who it seems were ‘snatched’ from God’s hands. What about them, I wonder?

Questions like this are important but cannot easily be answered in a general Bible study like this, especially since in the Bible passage we’re looking at it’s not a question that is asked. The truth announced by Jesus here is that ‘no one can be snatched’ from his hand.

How we examine the lives and faith of others must not contradict that statement of his. Besides I’ve been a Christian long enough to know that ‘the end has not yet been written.’ I often say to people ‘God is good and by his grace, life is long’ – who knows what will happen in the future. Besides that, answers to these questions are found most commonly through prayer and reflection. For this morning’s devotion let us draw out from the text the truth about the Father revealed in these words:

  • The Father gives ‘sheep’ to the Son.
  • The Father is more powerful and greater than all.
  • The Father won’t let go of those in his hand.
He is a rescuing, generous, strong, active, protective Father. We also learn from Jesus that:
  • Jesus and the Father are one.
Is that ‘of one mind’ or ‘of one being’? The doctrine of God as Trinity is a tricky one to understand but the answer to those questions is found by looking at what happened next in the Bible passage: ‘they picked up stones to kill him.’ Whatever Jesus meant, his audience clearly understood him to be assuming a place of privilege that had up until now only been reserved for God. They heard the apparent blasphemy in what he was saying; the claim to divinity. Whether of one substance or mind, Jesus is claiming a harmony with God the Father that no human being has ever had before.

Application

The Father is saving, loving, protecting and preserving the people he loves. We were once straying like sheep but now have returned to the shepherd and overseer of our souls. 
The Father is my shepherd and the reason Jesus behaves so ‘shepherdly’ toward us is because he is ‘one’ with the Father.

Prayer


Thank you Father. Thank you that keep us safe in your care, that you love me and have shown me great kindness. Today I choose to trust you and look to you as the one who is able to answer all of my deepest questions. Please help me to understand many of the big questions I can’t work out on my own. Amen.

God The Father: The Reason for His Love

Devotional studies on God the Father from John’s gospel

Scripture

Today’s full Bible reading can be found here.

‘For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. This is the charge I have received from my Father.’
John 10:17

Jesus says the words ‘For this reason…’ when describing why it is that the Father loves the Son. I’ll be honest, these words jar in my mind. ‘For this reason?’ It sounds initially like Jesus is saying ‘this is the reason he loves me.’ which sounds like a love based on a job Jesus does. This is out of step with everything else Jesus has said about his father up until this point. So it can’t mean what I might initially think it means. In which case, what does it mean?

The thrust of the sentiment Jesus is conveying is more like: ‘this is what my Father loves about me…’ or maybe even ‘the reason for my Father’s love is because of how I trust him even to the point of laying my life down.’

The Father loves the Son and one of the main reasons for this love is because of the Son’s complete and utter trust in the Father. He is willing to obey him even when that obedience costs him his life. Who wouldn’t say ‘I love that about you?’ to someone who does that?

This is astonishing. The Son here shows a trust and obedience that means (in his case) death by crucifixion. Speaking, as he is here, a short time before his death, the Son clearly shows a single minded awareness of and compliance with his destiny.

He lays his life down because he loves the sheep, certainly; but also and most remarkably of all, he does it because he trusts his Father. Jesus was fully God, but he was also fully man. As a man he would quite likely have received his destiny to die simply from reading about it in the scrolls. He would have read Isaiah 53 and concluded ‘that’s me, that’s what I shall do and shall have done to me.’

Wonderful Jesus. Is it any wonder the Father is made up with delight over him? The Father loves the Son… and so do I!

Application


The Son is glorious but the Father is utterly trustworthy. Jesus read about his destiny in the scrolls and didn’t deviate from it even though it would likely have been hard to do so. What is there in your life that you know the Father wants you to do? What habits is he asking you to give up? What people is telling you to love that you don’t want to?

Jesus trusted him because he is trustworthy. He hasn’t changed. You can still trust him today.

Prayer


Father thank you for Jesus. Jesus thank you for the obedience to your Father’s plan you demonstrated. Holy Spirit please help me to trust my Father in the same way that Jesus did. I love you Father, I need you. I trust you. Amen.

God The Father: Knows Me

Devotional studies on the Father from John’s gospel.

Scripture

This morning’s full reading can be found here.

‘I am the Good Shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay my life down for the sheep.’
John 10:14

Observation

Jesus speaks these words immediately after explaining that ‘bad shepherds’ (hired hands) run for the hills at the first sign of trouble. He, the Good Shepherd, (in contrast to the hired hands) knows his own and his own know him.

The contrast draws out the meaning of exactly what this ‘knowledge’ is.

When you truly know someone you can’t just up & leave them at the first hint of trouble. The knowledge that Jesus is talking about here is an intimate familiarity with someone. It involves commitment and belonging. In the Bible ‘knowing’ is a euphemism for having sex with them:

‘Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain,’

Genesis 1:4

Jesus’s knowledge of us isn’t sexual of course but the euphemism helps all the same. Jesus knows (read: is committed to and joined with) his people and us to him – our fates are one and the same. Jesus knows me and I know him. In other words – he has looked into the depths of my soul and into the whites of my eyes and said ‘I’m never giving up’ and he has said to me in effect: ask me any question you like.

This is wonderful but it doesn’t stop there.

Jesus then reveals that the committed knowing, faithfulness and intimacy that he has with those he loves; he also has with the Father:

‘…just as the Father knows me and I know the Father.’

Amazing.

We are brought into the relationship Jesus has with the Father. The model Jesus uses for how he interacts with and knows his people is the relationship he has with the Father.

For as the Father loves the Son and the Son loves the Father, in that way the Son loves the church

Application

This is what the Father is like, imaged and presented to me in the form of Jesus’ sacrificial generous knowing of myself.

The Father loves with a deep, committed, familiar love. He loves without regard for his own well-being. He loves by laying down his life. He loves by not giving up or leaving when trouble comes. What a good God we have. How wonderful it is to be loved by him!

Prayer


Father I am lost for words when it comes to expressing how grateful I am for you and your love. My brain cannot fully understand how rich and deep your love is. Thank you that in the way Jesus behaves toward me I see a picture of what you’re like. Please help me to know you more and to love you more today. Amen.