God the Father: The Woman At The Well

devotional studies on the Father from John’s gospel


John 4. There are several references to the Father in this one story:

‘Jesus said to her ‘woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father.’ 4:21

‘the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him.’ 4:23

There is so much to be said here. Three times in four short verses the Father is mentioned. The flow of conversation suggests that Jesus’ first mention of the Father relates to the woman’s talk of ancestors; ‘Our fathers worshipped on this mountain’ she says.

This statement of hers is a ‘I’m just doing what was handed to me from my people…’ ie firstly if this is wrong, it’s not my fault and secondly the higher powers (of my people and the past) decide who we are and what we do.

Jesus’ reply to these statements is essentially: I’m talking about God. Let’s not miss the point of it all – you and God the Father. Where people would like to talk in abstract, third person terms Jesus makes things personal. ‘God the Father is my father, he’s who I listen to and you should too’.

The woman may have thought that referencing her ‘fathers’ (ancestors) was enough to shift the discussion away from here, Jesus isn’t satisfied with her doing that. God isn’t a remote and religious idea, he is a father. In fact he is the Father. He is the one from whom all fathers derive the name father and Jesus is quick to bring things round to this personal, everyone’s true heritage and ancestry, father. But things don’t end there. Jesus then says that the time is here when we will worship the Father in spirit and truth before going on to reveal that the Father is in fact seeking such people to worship him.

What does the phrase ‘in spirit and in truth’ actually mean though?

Worship ‘in truth’ seems abvious enough and in the context seems to mean ‘rightly’. She’s raising the dispute over where people ought to worship God (as in ‘where is right?’). Since, her argument goes, we’ve worshipped God on this mountain for hundreds of years surely God doesn’t mind. He hasn’t stopped us doing it, after all. Surely there’s the some truth in that, she argues.

Jesus doesn’t get into a discussion over that. Instead he says in effect ‘that may be, but now God is seeking worship in spirit and in truth. The reply makes it sound like he’s saying ‘you worship in spirit,  (as in you worship where you think is right, with honest intentions) they worship in truth (the ones who worship in Jerusalem), but God wants both.

Taken this way ‘spirit’ refers to integrity of motive – with your whole heart. But lest this becomes reduced to ‘do whatever feels best and God will like it’ he says that truth matters as well. In other words ‘obeying God and coming to him on his terms and in the way that he has described’ is important too.

True worshippers do both. True worshippers have their heart and soul in it and also their heads and their will. Because you care about God, (your heart and soul) you surely also care about what’s right by him too.

For the purpose of my study on the Father all this leads me somewhere rather exciting.

  • The Father values truth and tenderness equally. He wants right feeling and right thinking from his people. By right feeling I mean simply that feelings are involved and not left on the shelf/at the door. God is not after cold robots dutifully singing songs but people who allow their hearts to get caught up with him. To get caught up in him.
  • The Father is seeking and desires. Dos does not want robotic worship because he it not robotic. The Father desires and seeks and feels and cares and loves. He is not cole and distant, emotionless and driven by base animal instincts: ‘Must have more worship!! Must have more worship!’ – No! My Father seeks what he desires since he is a being full of ‘heart and soul’. He is a person after all.
Wow. Father you desire to give what I long to receive. Since you’re a person and a personal God. Today I give you my will and obedience and also my passions and my desires. 
Together. Let me live with you, together with you.

God the Father: Father & Son

devotional studies on the nature of God the Father from John’s gospel

Scripture

This morning’s full reading can be found here.

‘The Father loves the Son and has given all things into his hand.’

— John 3:35
Observation

Before we comment on this specific verse, notice in your Bibles what Jesus says in the verse immediately before it. In verse 34 it says that God has given Jesus the Spirit without measure. Without measure; another way of saying it would be to say ‘without limit.’ Jesus lived as a man filled with the Spirit without measure or limit.

It is immediately after Jesus says this that he makes the statement that he does in verse 35. Jesus, the one who has been given the Spirit without limit, has also been given all things. Whatever Jesus could wish for or ask for he could have. What makes this statement even more fascinating is that this is a pre-resurrection statement. In other words, before Jesus died and rose again he could say this ‘the Father has given me all things.’ 

The Son of God has been given all things by his Father, nothing has been withheld from him. He is bountifully and inexhaustibly full of the Spirit, but also the possessor of whatever he wants or desires. 
God the Father is not waiting for him to do a good job or waiting for him to be ‘successful’ in ministry.

Psalm 2:8
                 Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage,
                                                   and the ends of the earth your possession.

The only prerequisite here (in Psalm 2:8) for the Son receiving ‘the nations’ is simple: asking. It isn’t ‘do this and this and this and then… feel free to ask.’ It is simply ‘ask me and I’ll give it to you whatever you desire!’

So, if this authority and power isn’t the result of a job well done what is it the result of?

Look again at verse 35:

‘The Father loves the Son and has given all things into his hand.’

Love. Because the Father loves the Son he gives the Son all things.

God the Father isn’t acting out of character when he does this and as such it reveals a few things about his character:

  1. He is loving. He has always loved, will always love and never was there a time when he didn’t love. 
  2. He is a generous gift giver motivated to give by his love and not by our (or his son’s) performance.
  3. The apple of his eye, the centre of his affection is his Son, and if you’re a believer, you’re hidden ‘in the Son’ (Col. 3:4
Application

This is brilliant, brilliant and refreshing. This is a breath of fresh air to me and reveals a God so desirable that I feel as though I was made to know him. The loving, generous, gift giving Father is God.

Apart from giving me confidence to pray it makes me ponder. If God the Father has loved his Son like this, if the Son is the object of the Father’s affection, if the Son is a source of delight for the Father then there must be plenty more to Jesus than I have at first realised. This thought draws my mind deeper into the intoxicating goodness of God the Trinity and it is here that I find perfect contentment and rest for my soul.

Prayer


Father show me exactly what it is about Jesus that has captured your love like this. I want to to know him more like this and I want to love him more. Thank you that you are a generous and loving Father, please help me to reflect your generosity and kindness to the people in my life today. 

A Promise to All

There is an attitude in the mind of the Christian that needs to be dealt with. It’s an ‘us’ and ‘them’ that divides the church into two groups – the clergy and the laity/the professionals and the amateurs (or producers and consumers!).

It isn’t a healthy or biblical way to think and not ‘killing it’ disables us from living an effective Christian life and it robs the church of its power.

Jesus said ‘my sheep hear my voice and they follow me’. All of us in the same camp/category, all of us ‘sheep’.

In John 15, speaking to his disciples, he said:
Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. 5 I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. 6
Every Christian is a disciple and every disciple is called to ‘abide’ in Jesus. Abiding (some translations use the word remain) is an ongoing and conscious relating to Jesus, fellowshipping with him and drawing from him as your life source everyday.

The promise we’re given is that as we do this, we will bear much fruit and not only a high quantity of fruit but quality fruit – fruit that will last. Here, from the mouth of Jesus, is a statement affirming that we have all been called (‘taken hold of’ by Christ) in order that we would all produce good fruit – fruit being Christian character and behaviour that results in the kingdom of God being more fully present on earth.

Every disciple of Jesus is a fruit-bearing disciple. There is no favouritism in God’s family, all of us occupy the position of branch in the vine, all of us need to remain attached to the vine if we’re to do what we want to do and have been commissioned by Jesus to do.

by Jez Field

God the Father: He Hasn’t Walked Out On Us

devotional studies on God the Father from John’s gospel.

Scripture


This morning’s full text can be found here.

And he told those who sold pigeons, ‘take these things away; do not make my Father’s house a house of trade.’ 

— John 2:16

Observation

It’s clear from the story that there must have been some under-handed activity taking place in the temple. Jesus would not have been angry simply at the presence of trade in the temple since it was something permitted for pilgrim worshippers in Moses. There must have been something else going on for him to get so angry.

It can only be for a couple of reasons. Either there was a lot of dishonest practise taking place, or (and this is perhaps more likely from the actual words themselves) the trade had grown and taken priority over the worship. The trade had become primary and worship and prayer, secondary. What was at first a permitted necessity (to ensure that travellers to the temple wouldn’t have to transport their animals for sacrifice from miles around) had become the main focus. The outer courts had become the equivalent to a shopping mall. Buy your animals for sacrifice yes, but buy also a new outfit for the party or snap-up this great deal on this and that.

I can well imagine that whereas before people would have gone to the temple only for temple things, now people would go to shop and run errands. Worship & prayer was just one of the many things a person could do at temple.

All of which is useful background as we home in on the Father mentioned here:

So what can we learn about the Father from these verses?

  • The Father had a house.
  • The Father could be approached by sinful men and women.
  • The Father could be known by sinful men and women. 
Application

This impacts me in a couple of ways:

Firstly I can see that God the Father has always sought a way to live with us in much more than simply a general omnipresent way. As the light of the sun is both everywhere and yet has a specific source so it is with God. The Father is both everywhere and yet also somewhere specific. He has always wanted for that ‘somewhere specific’ to be among us, his creation. In the Garden of Eden God walked with Adam and after the Fall God laid out plans to make it possible to still live among us despite our sin. This is how the Father behaves.

Secondly although there are great things to be said about him and great things to be known about him, the more startling reality is that we can know him and experience him personally – everyone can.

The Father is a father who is near and locatable. He hasn’t left us. That needs to be said again:

He hasn’t left us.

If that was true of him then, how much more is it true now that Christ has come? Jesus has shown us more clearly what the Father is like. In fact we can take it further than that; he has sent his Spirit into us so that we are now individually and corporately as the church the temple of God. We are the dwelling place of God. The Father has taken up residence by his Spirit in each one of his followers.

The Father hasn’t left us, he is in you by his Spirit.

Prayer


Thank you Father. Thank you that you are near to me, thank you that you have made yourself known to us and made yourself available to us. Thank you that by your Spirit you live with me today. Please fill me with your Spirit an help me to do all that you have for me today. I need you, I want you and I’m amazed that you would make yourself so near to me. Amen.

5 Things I’ve Learnt Since Becoming a Dad

I know I’ve only been doing this dad thing for 4 years so I’m not pretending to know much about it, but here’s some things I’ve learnt in these 4 years.

1. Pants Matter

I don’t know why but they do. Some of the biggest outbursts in recent months have been to do with Riley’s pants. Apparently having boring pants is not only possible, but terrible. Every few months we have to make trips to buy new pants – just to preserve the peace. For a while it was pirate pants, then it was Spiderman pants and now it’s superheroes. Valuable lesson #1 don’t settle for boring pants. You never know when your friends might ask you what pants you’re wearing and if at that moment your pants have only got stripes on them, you’re going to feel a fool!

2. I Want To Be A Kids TV Presenter

I’ll be honest, I feel a slight twinge of jealousy every time a new presenter is introduced on CBeebies. I want to be Andy Day of Andy’s Wild/Dinosaur Adventures fame.

It just looks like such a fun job to have and they seem like such a fun group of people to belong to. The CBeebies team are awesome and I want to be part of them. Milkshake (the C5 alternative) is a different matter all together, don’t get me started. They make me want to be a kids TV presenter but for entirely different reasons, they’re all just so… bad, and the production so amateur (sorry).

3. My Past Matters

To them as a source of fascination, and to me as a model to copy.

Riley loves it when Amy or I talk about what we did ‘when we were little’. His eyes light up like he’s discovering treasure. In time, I’m sure that’ll wear off but for now it’s fun and I feel like a celebrity.

Secondly my past matters as providing a source of advice on how I parent and a list of ideas for what games we play/trips we go on. Being aware of this is useful. It means I can be more intentional about mining my memory for wisdom and ideas, but it also means I’m a little more humble about my task of parenting. I recognise that the reason that I think this way of disciplining is right and that way of instructing is wrong may just be because that’s what my parents did. It doesn’t make it right or wrong it just makes it familiar. In parenting I’ve learnt that my upbringing makes a good servant but a bad master. Learn from it, take the good bits from it, but don’t let it rule the way you do it. I am not my parents, and my kids aren’t me. Amy and I both draw upon our different sources for advice and wisdom but must forge our own path up the mountain.

4. Society DeValues Dads

I didn’t notice this before I had kids, but I think it’s true. I knew that dads were significant to the way a child turned out and I knew about the negative impact that absent fathers have on children but I didn’t see all of the different ways that dads are devalued. In our kids TV shows Dads are often clumsy, forgetful and irresponsible, and in adult TV shows they’re often absent, violent or cruel. Watching (with Amy you understand) a recent episode of One Born Every Minute one of the midwives commented that: the best dads, are mums – as if that therefore legitimised same-sex parenting. I’ve also observed that many a mum thinks nothing of making sarcastic comments about dad and his latest moment of parenting incompetency, often with him present and in the room. This is sad.

Ok, so I often take twice as long as Amy to make the sandwiches, or get them dressed, or get them in the car… or a lot of things for that matter. Ok so I often dress them badly and go out without the necessary supplies, and ok so I like to goof about and wrestle with them but still, dads matter. Maybe we can’t do dad-jokes & dad-dancing and still expect respect but still I know that I’m having a positive impact on the way my boys turn out, the way our home runs and the way Amy flourishes as a mum. Besides that studies have shown a direct correlation between fatherlessness and poverty, obesity, alcoholism, incarceration and crime (I’m sure there’s also a correlation between motherlessness and those things but I don’t think their value is ever called into question or undermined like a dads is).

1 in 3 children in the UK are being raised without a dad at home and I don’t think our cultural attitude is helping the situation. We can’t change the way men & dads are presented in the media but we can ensure that we don’t devalue them in the conversations and communities/churches we’re part of.

The truth is that we do often need more help in becoming good dads than mums do. It doesn’t seem to come as naturally to us, and we’re not often endowed with as much natural wisdom or plain common sense ;) as them. But the sarcasm and jokes and public belittling isn’t helping us get better either. Joking about someone’s incompetency doesn’t help them get better, it only reinforces what they’re not.

5. Life Sparkles

I tried to find a less flouncy and camp way of saying it but couldn’t – it’s true.

Having kids means that I appreciate the wonder and beauty and potential adventure in all the things around me. A wooden spoon becomes a sword again, the rocks in the garden become mountains for intrepid explorers to climb and the dining table becomes a den to hide under. Visiting places with kids is chaotic for sure but it’s also exciting. I love being able to appreciate everything again because I’m seeing it through their eyes. It’s as though I’m seeing much of life for the first time. The rain, the sea, the woods, the mud – all take on a new magic and fascination.

I’m reminded of Chesterton’s comment about fairy tales. He argues for the value of them to remind us of the everyday magic in life that we’ve become too familiar with to see. The reason, he says, that in fairy tales the rivers flow with wine is to remind us that they flow with water. Having children has the same effect on life. I’d forgotten how fascinating nature was and how magical life is.

6. Whilst writing this blog I’ve neglected my kids

Riley’s starting hitting Zach, Amy’s had to do the breakfast battles on her own and now the toys are being thrown around the room – I think I should put the computer down and engage in the room :)
Maybe that explains no. 4!

by Jez Field

God the Father: The Father’s Side

Devotional studies considering the revelation of the Father in John’s gospel.


Scripture


This morning’s full text can be found here

No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.

John 1:18

Observation

Let’s look at this verse together and walk through what it means. Keep it in front of you if you can as we go.

The statement contained in this verse is linked to the statement about grace and truth mentioned in the previous one. The law, we’re told, came through Moses whereas grace and truth came through Jesus. It’s interesting to note that the arrival of grace and truth, in the way it’s written here, reads as though it is comparable to the promise made by God in Moses’ day. The word that’s often used for this promise is ‘covenant’ which means ‘binding promise’. In the way that John introduces the idea here it seems that grace and truth is not just a nice concept it’s a new covenant, a new binding promise between man and God. It’s a covenant based not on the written law but on the character of God, the one abounding in grace and truth.

The Father’s side.

The word used here for ‘side’ can also be translated as ‘bosom’. Elsewhere it’s used in the parable of Lazarus and the rich man (Luke 16:19-32). When Lazarus dies it is said that he is taken by the angels to Abraham’s side, a euphemism for the place of rest and peace after death. To be at someone’s side seems to have that meaning attached to it. It’s an intimate place of identification and belonging after death.

Now, let’s focus on the Father.

Here, in verse 18, the Father is described as one who is able to be known by and because of the Son. The Son is full of the same stuff as the Father (v14) and has come from the place of intimate nearness to him (his side), to make him known (this otherwise unseen God). So the Father, it can be said, is seen in the Son and because of the Son. This reveals a Father who is familiar and tender, allowing the Son to reside in his bosom. The image that springs to mind is of John (the writer of this gospel) reclining at the table with Jesus at the Last Supper, his head resting on his chest in an intimate expression of friendship and acceptance.

This is what God the Father is like. He is someone who, though unseen and invisible, sent his Son from the place of intimate friendship and nearness to be with us in order that we might see him and be drawn to him and his side, just like the Son is.

Application


Do you relate to the Father like that, as one you can be affectionately familiar with? The sheer fact that the Father has a ‘side’ at all reveals an aspect of God we may not be too used to relating to. If you’re a Christian then you can approach him confidently (Heb. 4:16) today and enjoy friendship with him.

Why not express that boldness today by jumping into random moments of praise and thankfulness at regular intervals in the day. Why not set an hourly alarm (on your watch or phone perhaps) and every time it goes off (or vibrates in your pocket!) thank the Father for something from the hour just past and ask him for something you need help with.

Prayer


Father, thank you that you love me. Today I want to know you more, delight in you more and grow in friendship with you more. Help me to remember you and enjoy your company throughout the day today. 

Story Born Wonder

Stories. I love stories. I love the feeling of clarity a good story gives me. I love that feeling I get when a good story touches some deep part of me and opens my eyes again to wonder.

The common threads in stories that evoke such emotion are overcoming adversity, break through in discovery, achieving something of immense value, and love.

I resonate with what I’ve heard described by Chesterton about the true myth. The reason I think I love stories so much is because they are able to reach a deep part of me that longs for and aches for the true story of God’s love for me. As much as I talk about and think in terms of ‘significance’ and ‘meaning’, ‘purpose’ and other grand themes, I think that what I really need and long for is Love.

A mother’s love for a child that empowers that child to achieve excites me in as much as it reminds me of God’s love for me. I see in her smile and her embrace, His. Her resilience is a shadow of His.

A man working and striving to overcome all the odds to achieve his dream, to become famous and successful and popular and, significant. It stirs me to believe for myself of course, but deeper than this it touches the part of me where the gospel scratches deepest. It reminds of the ultimate pot of gold at the end of the only rainbow that really matters; knowing Jesus.

He is the home the hobbit longs for and the goal the athlete shoots for. He is significance and meaning.

I loves stories because in stories I discover the most truly human part of me. Stories remind me of my God-imaged-ness. They remind me that I was made with appetites nothing in this world will ever be able to satisfy. They remind me of the wonder God sprinkled every part of human existence with, the hurt and the pain, the joys and delight. Stories, the best stories, raise me above the average flat landscape of most moments. Stories allow me to encounter God.

And that’s why I daydream of preaching. The gospel is the ultimate story, the interface between longing and satisfaction. It is this gospel I was made to communicate and when I say ‘made’ to I mean, love to. I’m not making a statement of competency but of satisfaction.

He satisfies more than anything else and his gospel enriches life, indeed it enables me to fully enjoy life and fully appreciate and enjoy other people.

Stories are more than folklore passed on to enable our species to survive. They give us meaning, balance and purpose and the ultimate story gives us the ultimate meaning, balance and purpose possible.

The gospel is my ballast in life. I pray I never stray far from this tree.

by Jez Field