Resting in the Father’s love

Those who are in Christ Jesus are children of God.

See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. (1 John 3:1)

But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. (John 1:12-13)

My main focus this year is seeking greater intimacy with our Father. This has led me to constantly evaluate my walk with God. It is easy to start judging my relationship with Him as short of the mark – my mark. I can’t do as much in the community we are serving as I would like to; we have our fingers in too many pies; my “quiet times” with God are never quiet, but outside whilst my busy toddler runs past me shouting: “Mummy look!! Loooook at me!!!” . . . Yet God is quietly reminding me that He died to save me for adoption. He didn’t free me from one slave master to be my new taskmaster. He died so that I may be His beloved child. WOW!

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)

If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him! (Matthew 7:11)

And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God. (Galatians 4:6-7)

Sitting in the Father’s love

A side note on Roman adoption is important here. Today, we tend to see examples where adopted children are either treated the same as the biological child or, sadly (especially in the third world), taken is as a form of glorified slave. This was NOT the case in Roman culture. By Roman Law, an adopted child had MORE rights than the biological child. For example, a biological child could be disowned, and adopted child never could be; an adopted child was one hundred percent secure in their relationship with their adopting father! (I advise you to look into Roman adoption as there is a lot more to unpack, just not so relevant to this train of thought).

Pursuing intimacy with God is discovering Him as my loving, gracious, merciful Father. It is finding Him to be a Father who delights in time with me, however it looks. He loves being part of my play time with my son; He doesn’t need me to wear myself out pursuing unrealistic expectations; He achieves His purposes in His time and by His strength – not mine. He wants me to rest in His presence and enjoy His love.

For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. (Romans 8:13-17, emphasis added)

Yes, He has set me tasks to do. Yes, we suffer for the Gospel, too. And, yes, there is an urgency in my spirit for the lost. But it is in His strength that we build His kingdom, not our own. It is through His Spirit that we endure. He is our daily bread; He is our sustenance; He is our first priority. The first commandment is “love God”, the second is to “love others”. Everything else will flow out from this.

“‘I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance, and how you cannot bear with those who are evil, but have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and found them to be false.I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name’s sake, and you have not grown weary.But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. (Revelations 2:4, emphasis added)

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 13:3)

I am learning a lot about Abba Father’s love through watching Glenn with our son ❤

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Choosing intimacy

December seems to be the month of relaxation. Christmas time can be hard for many, due to absent loved ones, but overall the season is one where people relax. Work slows down. School is out. Beaches (in the Southern Hemisphere) are full. This year we noticed that it was also a season where many people seem to take a spiritual holiday. I found this an interesting observation, given it is meant to be when we remember Emmanuel, God come down to be with us.

This year, I realised that I was amongst the spiritual vacation-ists. I certainly spent plenty of time reflecting on what Christ did for us, and had fun starting to teach my toddler about Christ’s birth, the Word made flesh. Yet, as church activities wound down for the year and many of our congregation went away to their family homes, I noticed that my form of relaxation also took me away from intimacy with my Father. I reflected on the story, but didn’t engage with our God, the centre of the story! It was easier to enter my usual form of escapism – reading fiction. (Perhaps, for you, it is social events, computer games, beach time, cooking, . . .).

Book worm disengaging

Now, don’t get me wrong, reading wholesome novels in itself is not bad. The fault lay in that I became completely absorbed in them, taking all my free time (not much with a toddler!); there was no time left for conversing with my Father. I put myself before God. I didn’t trust Him to fill up my cup, which was feeling mighty empty at year’s end.

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. (Psalm 23:5).

These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. (John 15:11).

The Spirit started prompting me. He started gently reminding me of my need for time with Him. My soul cried out for more time in His presence.

A Psalm of David, when he was in the wilderness of Judah. O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water. (Psalm 63:1)

It is easy to ignore the Spirit’s nudge and choose not to return to a place of intimacy with God. It takes effort to engage in any relationship; effort I didn’t feel I had the strength for. I hope that if you are feeling similar promptings that you will prick up your ears at this point. Thankfully this time I am choosing to heed the gentle nudge. If you’re in a similar place, thinking it easier to put it aside for “tomorrow”: don’t. We need God daily. We need to interact with Him daily. He is our daily bread. He is our sustenance.

Give us this day our daily bread, (Matthew 6:11).

Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. (John 6:35-36).

Choosing to submerge yourself again into a deep relationship with God can seem tiring. It is tempting to continue to pursue your escapes – whether wholesome or worldly – but they will not satisfy. God is the One who satisfies the longings of our souls.

My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food, and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips, (Psalm 63:5).

More satisfying than rich food

So, as this new year starts, choose to renew your relationship with God. Choose to make time to sit and dwell in the presence of the Almighty. Seek Him. Meditate on His Word. Sing songs of praise. Intercede for family. Listen to His wisdom for your work, family, finances, free time. Enagage in Bible study. Listen to Bible teachings. Allow Him to mould your character into that of Christ.

when I remember you upon my bed, and meditate on you in the watches of the night; for you have been my help, and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy. My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me.  (Psalm 63:6-8).

Yes, it will take discipline of mind and body, but this is part of being a child of God. Self-control appears repeatedly in the epistles as a fruit of the Spirit, and a part of a godly life (1 Cor 9:25, Gal 5:23, 1 Tim 2:9, 1 Tim 2:15, 2 Tim 1:7, 2 Tim 3:3, 2 Pet 1:6). Proverbs sums up the alternative, what we’re like if we choose to live an undisciplined life:

Like a city with breached walls is a man without self-control. (Proverbs 25:28; ISV*)

It takes discipline to cut off the areas in our life that hold us back from intimacy with God. Do you have such self-control? Do you think God worth pursuing? Cut off what holds you back and enter into the presence of the King of kings. Make a commitment to escape into daily times of intimacy with God and enjoy the rewards. 

So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary, beholding your power and glory. Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you. So I will bless you as long as I live; in your name I will lift up my hands. My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food, and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips, (Psalm 63:2-5).

 

*Scripture taken from the Holy Bible: International Standard Version® Release 2.0. Copyright © 1996-2010 by the ISV Foundation. Used by permission of Davidson Press, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED INTERNATIONALLY.

Intimacy rekindled

New Year’s Eve is often a time of reflection. I try to take it as a time to reflect on all God brought me through during the year and to pray into the next one. This year has been another busy one (Does life continue to get busier every year? I’m telling myself it will start reversing speed once I pass the mother-of-toddler-years . . .). It seems appropriate that God would speak to me from Luke 5:16 as this busy year concludes. This past week God has reminded me of the most important part of our life: intimacy with Him! Jesus modelled this to us:

But now even more the report about him went abroad, and great crowds gathered to hear him and to be healed of their infirmities. But he would withdraw to desolate places and pray. (Luke 5:15-16)

The world is becoming a busier place, with more distractions than ever. God had me give up Facbook the past three months and I’m not sure that I want to go back onto it in the new year, and this is just one example of (what can be) a glorious time waster in my life. The world likes to distract us from God, yet He is the most important part of our daily life.  He should be our most treasured relationship, and the most pursued one.

As the new year begins, He is reminding me to find the desolate places in my world to which I can run away and pray. My current “desolate places” are early morning before workers arrive (our house is being transformed into a mission station, so lots of noisy renovations!), toddler nap time, and late evening. In the past, it has been a favourite walking track, quiet forest spot, and evening journalling sessions. We are all different; God is an intimate God. Where are your desolate places? Do you go out to the desolate places to pray? Do you find the quiet places you can listen to Him?

In the new year, my heart’s desire is to do all that the Father tells me, doing nothing of my own accord. This can only be achieved through intimacy, and constant time in His presence, both talking and listening to Him.

So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise. (John 5:19)

I also have had certain flaws in my character highlighted (don’t we all!) where I pray for growth. Again, this can only be achieved by time in His presence. We usually take on the characteristics of who we spend the most time with. Spending time with Jesus, in prayer and His Word, is how we will be transformed into His likeness.

Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience,  bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.  And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. (Colossians 3:12-17).

This new year, withdraw to the desolate places, and pray!

Where is your desolate place?

 

Christmas tree time of year

There are many opinions within the church surrounding Christmas and what we should and shouldn’t do. Some believers think we should change the date because it is unlikely that His birth was in December. Others feel we shouldn’t have one day set aside to celebrate it. Whilst still others abhor anything related to the old pagan celebration of Yuletide. The Eastern Orthodox churches celebrate on different days to the Western churches.

Even Glenn and I have different preferences surrounding celebratory days such as Easter and Christmas. Glenn counts all days the same, where I love keeping special baking treats, music and decorations for certain times of the year. For me, it is a time of reflecting on certain aspects of the Gospel message; keeping these days as special pushes me into a special season with God. Glenn, on the other hand, does not speak to God in the same way and so the days are not made special for his faith.

So what is right, what is wrong, and does it matter?

This morning I reflected on our differences as I put on Christmas music and painted play-dough decorations with my toddler. During this time, I was reminded of Romans 14.

Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand. One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. The one who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord. The one who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God, while the one who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God. (Romans 14:4-6).

That makes it fairly clear, doesn’t it? We get to make the decision for ourselves and we aren’t to judge our fellow believers. The important thing, according to Paul, is that we seek to honour God. Please note that I am not talking about people celebrating in ways that contradict Scripture (drunkenness, orgies, pagan worship . . .)! I am talking about how we honour God, from believer to believer, can vary. For example, some of us find special days call us to reflection and remembrance, where others do not.

I highly recommend you read through the whole passage of Romans 14 this week and keep it in mind when you come across someone celebrating (or not celebrating) Christmas as you do. By all means, discuss your varying views with others, but only so far as it does not cause another believer to stumble. Let us walk in love, peace and mutual upbuilding. 

Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother (Romans 14:13).

So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding (Romans 14:19).

Christmas crafts

Forgiving His child

God gave me an interesting, yet powerful, image for my marriage a few days ago:

God asked me how I would respond to our child if he made a mistake (no matter how large) and came to confide in me, repentant. Of course, I would forgive immediately, open my arms wide, embrace him, and shower him with love, comfort, and a mother’s tenderness.

As this was running through my mind, God kept an image of Glenn as a gap-toothed, primary school aged boy before my mind’s eye. As these feelings and thoughts of protectiveness and love overflowed for my son, God reminded me that Glenn is His beloved child. What beautiful tenderness came into my heart at that moment; what protective love appeared; what a strong, nurturing desire.

and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 18:3-4)

“Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea. (Matthew 18:5-6)

Glenn is first God’s child, then my husband. God desires me to love Glenn with His love for him, which includes understanding that Glenn is a spiritual child (like I am) and needs my “mother’s heart” more than wifely criticism. Seeing him as a child also helps me to be quick to forgive and to look beyond myself towards the purposes of God.

All of us, as children of God, are still growing up. God’s love and grace embraces us when we stumble on the path of righteousness. Like a loving Father, He picks us up, brushes the dirt off, and sends us onwards towards holiness. We are to extend this same love towards our brethren in Christ, and especially our spouses. I find that viewing Glenn as a child – God’s child – helps me to champion him forward with the same loving tenderness, understanding and quick forgiveness that I extend to our boy.

I married a child of God

My stewardship

[This was written a while ago now, but I’ve been unable to post it before now].

Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb a reward. Psalm 127:3

My baby boy turns one tomorrow. I’m not sure how I feel about it. There is a beautiful, yet painful, kaleidoscope of emotions twirling around and around in my heart. And through all these feelings and thoughts runs a theme: “stewardship”, just as it has all year.

Happy birthday, my boy!

His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ Matthew 25:21

God bestowed upon me a great honour when He gave me a son to steward. Yet, from the beginning, I have been acutely aware that it is only that – a stewardship. When he is grown, I must release him into the world to go and bear fruit of his own, and, when he marries, I must watch him leave us in order to cleave to his wife.

But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’ ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” Mark 10:6-9

There is an apt phrase circling around cyber space, going something like this: “The days are long, but the years are few”. Oh, to have more years with my baby! But the reality is that my time mothering my son is going to feel very short. God has granted me these precious years and it is up to me to treasure them, stewarding the time well. Our children are our first “call” as parents. Man and woman have been put together to raise godly offspring. What an awesome task to be set.

Did he not make them one, with a portion of the Spirit in their union? And what was the one God seeking? Godly offspring. So guard yourselves in your spirit, and let none of you be faithless to the wife of your youth. Malachi 2:15

I want nothing more than to excel at this task. And I know that, in order to do this, it starts by ensuring I enter fully into my relationship with God each and everyday, and then fully invest into my relationship with my husband (as a side note, this is also backed up by studies by clinical scientists – the marriage relationship is the biggest indicator of children doing well in soceity and feeling loved!).

If you’re a parent, how are you going in your stewardship? Is it time to till or to fertilise? Or perhaps it’s time to plant seeds of faith, or nurture character? Or maybe even time to release – to acknowledge they belong to the Lord and are a new creation with their spouse? Maybe it’s time to invest in your marriage? Maybe it’s time to get away as a family from life’s busyness and refuel yourself in God? What must you do to be faithful in your stewardship?

Respect dare series – day 40 – Press in

Luke 4:5-8

And the devil took him up and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time, and said to him, “To you I will give all this authority and their glory, for it has been delivered to me, and I give it to whom I will. If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.”

And Jesus answered him, “It is written, “‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve.'”

Ultimately, this dare is not about honouring Glenn as much as it is about honouring God through my marriage. As I finish up the blogging, I am reminded that God is my source. In Him, all things are possible. In Him, respect is possible. In Him, perfect love is possible. I cannot succeed in honouring Glenn everyday without the Spirit’s help.  I also cannot honour Glenn above God. It is in God that I trust. He is the One I must turn to at the start of each day, and the One whose wisdom I must seek continually.

My action for today: Put God first. Press into the Word. Seek His wisdom. Listen to the Spirit’s whispering.

This is the last day of the dare blog, but not of the dare. This dare must continue every day of my marriage. I choose to walk in respect and love towards Glenn.

My prayer for today:  Father, be my first love. Be my first desire. Be the One I seek in all things. Keep me hungry for you and thirsty for your ways. From this place, let me love my husband and walk in respect an d honour of him. In Christ’s name, Amen.

In covenant with God and each other