December 2015 baptisms

Here are the baptisms from our December 2015 meeting, featuring: Paul (00:00), Tracy (04:19), Grace (11:01), Sarah (12:43) and Nancy (15:46). (Unfortunately there was a technical issue with the main camera, so only the footage from camera 2 has been used in this recording).

Day 26: The Father Who Bruises the Son

Scripture

Today’s full reading is John 18:1-14

“Jesus commanded Peter, ‘put your sword away! Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me?”
John 18:11

Read More

Observation

Jesus is clear. What’s happening to him is from the Father.

He rebukes Peter on that basis: ‘this has come to me from the Father.’ Jesus trusts his Father and desires to do what the Father sent him to do. His rebuke of Peter is a question that sounds a little like ‘do you know better than my Father?!’

Jesus is incredulous. The Father is in charge of all things and is over all things. The Father has given his Son this ‘cup’ and now the Son must drink it.

The cup he mentions is the same cup he was agonising over in the Garden of Gethsemane. The cup is the wrath of the Father, the cross and the abandonment Jesus will experience by his Father. Having already asked for ‘another way’ Jesus is now convinced that this is the only way. It is certainly the way his Father wants him to travel. Having prayed that prayer and arrived at his conclusion, Jesus is ready.

Peter on the other hand hasn’t been on this emotional journey and arrived at the same conclusion. Peter is only concerned with protecting Jesus and getting him enthroned in place of the Romans.

Let’s consider the Father mentioned here.

We begin by reminding ourselves that everything else we’ve seen about him until this point is still true. At this moment it’s extremely important for us to keep that in our minds.

With that in place it’s clear that this moment, this cup, is not something the Father has issued to his Son easily. This is difficult and costly for both of them, and true as that is — Jesus still drank it, the Father still gave it.

Here we see a God who willingly and without coercion gives up his Son to death. See the Father who allows his Son to drink poison in order that we all may be reconciled to him. This is the final nail in the coffin of the austere, strict and malicious Father God of our nightmares.

This act by the Father was on that broke his heart. This act of braking his Son, broke him. A Father like the one Jesus has been describing to us throughout this series certainly couldn’t have been left unaffected by these events.

Prayer

Father Thank you. Thank you for the glorious truth contained here. Thank you for your commitment to me and to us. You’re a good good father and I am thrilled to belong to you. I gladly bow my knee to you today, gladly trust you knowing that you would not ask me to do anything you’ve not been through yourself. You’re a Father who identifies with us in our pain. Thank you.

Day 25: The Father: An Overview

Scripture

Today’s reading is the whole of Jesus’ prayer in John 17. Since the Father is mentioned throughout the prayer we’re not going to focus on one specific verse but instead provide a birds eye overview of some of the themes Jesus draws out. Take some time now to read the chapter, making some observations of your own and then come back and go through it with me.

Read More

Observation

Verse 1 — Knowing the Father is eternal life. This is something that is so exciting it demands a whole extra blog. You can read that blog here if you want to.

Verse 5 — The Father and the Son were together in glory (majesty and splendour) before the world began.

Verse 6 — The Father gave the Son his disciples. He gave the Son those people who are right now believing in him and following him. It can therefore be said that the disciples or believers belonged to the Father since you can’t give something you don’t have.

Verse 8 — The Father sent the Son. Jesus wasn’t acting just out of his own good idea.

Verse 9 — Jesus saw himself as a steward of the things and people that the Father had given to him.

Verse 10 — The Father shares everything with the Son.

Verse 11 — The Father is holy. Holy means pure, untouchable, unapproachable and reserved entirely for God. We also see here that the Father and the Son are one.

Verse 17 — The Father is able to sanctify, that is he is able to make holy. The Father’s word is truth.

Verse 21 — The Father is in the Son and the Son is in the Father.

Verse 24 — The Father has given the Son glory. The Father loved the Son before the world began.

Finally we can observe from verse 25 that the Father is righteous and that the Father is unknown by the world. The world does not know him. For all its ideas about God they fall a long way short of truthfully speaking about the Father and for all its knowledge about God they do not know the Father.

To conclude this devotional series on the Father let’s put in front of us all of the descriptions of the Father from the titles of our daily entries:

  • The Forgotten Father
  • The Father of Grace & Truth
  • The Father’s Side
  • The Father Hasn’t Walked Out On Us
  • The Father and the Son
  • The Father At Work
  • The One the Son is Tethered To
  • The Father Who Raises the Dead
  • The Father Who Honours the Son
  • The Father Who Provides Bread From Heaven
  • The Father Who Gives Eternal Life
  • The Father Who Draws People to the Son
  • The Alive and Life Giving Father
  • The Father Who Seeks His Son’s Glory
  • The Father Who Glorifies the Son
  • The Father Who Knows Me
  • The Reason the Father Loves the Son
  • The Father Who Won’t Let Go
  • The Father Who Hears the Son
  • The Father Who Honours Us
  • The Father to Trust Unto Death
  • The Slave God
  • The Father, Son & Spirit
  • The Father Death Leads You To
  • The Father is Greater than the Son
  • The Gardening Father
  • The Father to Be Known

We haven’t ‘made up’ any of these. These are all insights from the mouth of Jesus. I trust Jesus. Jesus died on Good Friday and was raised to life on Easter Sunday and is in charge of all things. Jesus can be trusted to speak truthfully about God. He is my primary basis for speaking about the Father. He is my authority for saying anything at all about God.

Let me finish by quoting again from Doug Wilson’s masterful book ‘Father Hunger’ where he lists the attributes of God’s generosity seen in John’s gospel:

The most obvious feature of the Father is his generosity. He is generous with his glory (1:14), with tasks (5:18), with his protection (10:28-32), with his home (14:1-2), and with his joy (16:23-24). The Father gives (3:34-36). The Father gives his Son (3:16; 18:11); the Father gives his Spirit (14:16-17); the Father gives himself (14:22-24).

He then goes on to say that God is seeking worshippers who will become like he is, and what is he:

He is generous with everything. Is there anything he has that he has held back? And what should we — tangible fathers — be like? The question is terribly hard to answer, but not because it is difficult to understand.

I hope that these devotional studies have been of benefit to you. Thanks for coming along for the ride!

Jez

P.S. For more devotional studies on the Father you’re welcome to visit my own blog site www.jezfield.blogspot.co.uk or come back tomorrow for a final (bonus edition) post.

Day 24: The Father Who Loves Me

Scripture

Today’s full reading is John 16:25-33

“The hour is coming when I will no longer speak to you in figures of speech but will tell you plainly about the Father. In that day you will ask in my name, and I do not say to you that I will ask the Father on your behalf, for the Father himself loves you, because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God. I came from the Father and have come into the world, and now I am leaving the world and going to the Father.”
John 16:25-28

Read More

Observation

I don’t know if you’ve had this experience before, there’s every chance that I’m just a little odd, but as I sit here writing this my heart is beating fast at the truth contained in these words. I feel as though an answer to a question I’ve wondered about for some time has at last arrived.

It’s a question Amy and I were discussing together recently: ‘since the Father loves the Son so much (and it’s clear from John’s gospel that he loves him a lot), does he actually love me or is it only the bits of his Son he sees in me that he likes?’ Does he love me for me or does he just tolerate me because the Son softens his heart towards me?

Does God know me and love me for me?

It’s a valid question.

There are several ways of answering that question but in my opinion none of them are quite as definitive as this one from the mouth of Jesus.

When we come to God and ask him for things ‘in the name of Jesus’ that means we’re asking on the basis of who Jesus is; it’s on his reputation and authority that we stake our claims and requests.

What we’re not doing (as Jesus points out here) is asking the Son to ask the Father as though he’s in the next room. We don’t hand our requests to the Son and then wait nervously in the corridor for the Father’s answer. Jesus says that explicitly: ‘I won’t ask him on your behalf’ but rather, he says ‘the Father loves you.’

It may be temping to skip onto the next phrase from Jesus mouth ‘because you love me’ and have it sour the statement ‘the Father loves you’ but before we do, allow this to sink in — the Father loves you. Jesus says so, explicitly.

You. The personal pronoun, you. The you mentioned here are the disciples he’s speaking to, so do we have permission from the text to apply that ‘you’ to well, me? Let’s hold that question for now.

We can come to the Father (in Jesus’ name) and ask knowing that he loves us, individually.

God the Father lavishes us with his love and kindness and generosity; based on what? Based on the fact that we share a common love: ‘because you love me’ he says.

Understood like this the phrase that could sound like a reluctant condition to the Father’s love ie ‘only because you love me’, starts to taste a little less bitter and a lot more sweet. It isn’t ‘I love youBUTonly because you love him!’ but rather ‘I love you because you have turned away from loving the things that stop me from knowing you and have come to love the object of my affection as well.’ It is this phrase (the ‘because you love’ the Son phrase) that gives me permission to claim the first part of Jesus’ statement for myself: The Father loves you. This makes it true not only of Jesus’ original hearers but of me as well since I also love the Son as they did (and this answers the question above that we put on hold).

Application

The Father loves me. The Father loves you. We don’t pass our prayers onto the Son who reads them to his Father. We can come in, we can have an audience with him. Why? On what basis can we be so bold? Because he loves us. He loves us. The good and pleasant things we receive in this world do not come to us neutrally. They come from a Father who is good and who does good and who loves us. You are loved.

This also means that the bad and unpleasant stuff in life doesn’t come to us as punishment or as evidence of God’s disdain toward us. These things come but they do not change the truth of Jesus’ words one bit. He loves you.

Prayer

Thank you that you love me Father. Thank you that you are always inclined to bless me, to shower me with goodness, to lavish me with your kindnesses. Thank you Father that I can stand before you, or sit or kneel (or sleep!) and know that you love ME. Me. Little old, smelly old, flawed ME. Yippee.

Day 23: The Gardening Father

Scripture

Today’s full reading is John 15:1-17

“I am the true vine and my Father is the vine dresser.”
John 15:1

Read More

Observation

This is quite a clear ‘here’s what the Father’s like’ sort of verse. The Father is the ‘vine dresser’ or sometimes the translations say ‘the gardener’.

He is as actively involved with his people as a vine dresser or gardener is with his plants. Daily a gardener waters, prunes and shapes his plants and depending on the season of the year he treats it differently. In winter the vine gets very little attentions from a gardener apart from perhaps some protection from the frost. In spring time there is weeding and shaping, in summer there is watering and gathering and in autumn there is preparing for winter.

As a vine dresser he knows the vine, knows its needs and is committed to the vine’s wellbeing. The vine after all is Christ, not us; that is perhaps a useful idea and one for us to stay with for a while. I am/we are branches on the vine and get the attention and dedication of the vine dresser purely because I’m part of the vine and the gardener loves the vine.

Again we see how much the Father is committed to his Son and how my benefits come from being in the Son. Plead the Son therefore, have confidence in the Son. Dote on the Son, delight in the Son, have the love and affection of the Father toward the Son.

The Father tenderly prunes, shapes, harvest, waters and waits over the vine. Those are all words then that describe the character and personality of the Father, my Father.

Application

The vine dresser always acts in such a way to try and bring about more fruitfulness from the vine. The Father, by implication, will always work and act in our lives to try and bring about more fruitfulness for us. Fruitfulness of Christ-like character, fruitfulness of intimacy with the Father, fruitfulness of answered prayer and personal joy in God.

Given that that’s his motive it allows me to surrender to his ways and submit myself to what he wants to do. But surrender in the Christian life isn’t ‘let go’, surrender is ‘go on abiding’. When I surrender to God and submit myself to his plans that doesn’t mean that I ‘coast’ through life or that I simply shrug my shoulders and say ‘whatever will be, will be’. Rather it looks like a practical and intentional pursuit of Jesus. I am promised the vine dresser’s good will by virtue of ‘abiding’ in the vine and so I shall ensure that I, in as many ways and means, abide in the vine.

Prayer

Father. Thank you so much that you are committed to the careful working and pruning and shaping and trimming of my life, with the intention of bringing about more fruitfulness. Thank you that you give what I desire, fruitfulness, purpose and intimacy. Help me to surrender, not in the sense that I ‘give up’ but in the sense that I ‘press in’ to Jesus more and more. Amen.

Day 22: The Father is Greater than the Son

Scripture

Today’s full reading is John 14:1-14

“For the Father is greater than I.”
John 14:28

Read More

Observation

Yesterday we looked at the destination of the Son, today we’re considering the relationship of the Father and the Son.

The greater Father.

This seems like a strange phrase to hear Jesus say. Is Jesus saying that the Father is ‘better’ as in ‘more godlike’? Is he saying that the Father is stronger or more powerful?

Whatever Jesus means it must be held consistently with everything else he’s said about the Father up until now:

‘obey me and the Father will honour you’ — John 12:26
‘I and the Father are one.’ — John 10:30
‘Before Abraham was, I am.’ — John 8:58

All this leads me to rule out interpretations and explanations of our verse that might end up with a Jesus who is less than God. Therefore he is not saying ‘The Father’s the real deal, I’m just his mouthpiece, nothing more than a vessel of his will.’ He can’t be saying that having also said the above statements about himself and the Father.

What Jesus is doing instead is pointing to the inner workings of the relationship between him and his Father. He is giving us some insight into the Godhead. There is total equality in God, each person is God, there is one God. But, within the Godhead of Father, Son and Spirit there is also deference and submission. ‘The Father is greater than I’ means ‘I’m submitted to him and his authority’.

This appears to me as a strange concept since a lot of the things Jesus has said up until now has implied the opposite:

‘The Father has given all things into my hands’ — John 3:35
‘My Father glorifies me.’ — John 8:54

As much as the Son defers to the Father and submits to him there is also a clear delight in and deference to the Son by the Father. The Father has given the Son authority, rule and dominion over the earth. It is as though the Father has said ‘I won’t do anything on Earth without your permission,’ or even just ‘you’re in charge here.’ and in response Jesus says ‘I’ll only do what I see my Father doing, or what I know my Father would have me do.’

This is mind-stretchingly beautiful. The Father is a Father secure enough in his greatness and happy enough in his Son that he wants to give his Son as much authority and freedom as possible. How does the Son respond to such a Father?

‘The Father is greater than I.’

Who wouldn’t want to surrender to a Father like that?

Application

It’s that question that leads nicely into our application today. Who wouldn’t want to surrender to a Father like that? The answer that comes to my mind is: ‘I don’t’. What I mean is that although I see the trustworthiness of the Father and although I can understand why the Son wants to submit to him, my rebellious self still would rather seek self-glory and self-reliance than the Father’s plan. Acknowledging this is perhaps the first step along the way. Having acknowledged the goodness of the Father and the rebelliousness of my nature I am better able to pray and build an honest relationship with him.

Prayer

I love you Father, I am yours. Today I choose to trust you and submit to you. When I don’t want to obey you and when my passions run wild help me to remember the Son who submits to the Father and help me to also bring my will under your rule. You are a Father who cares and who knows best. I trust you today. Amen.

Day 21: The Father Death Leads Us To

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

Read More

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 disciples 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.

Day 20: God The Father, Son & Spirit

Scripture

Today’s full reading is 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

Read More

Observation

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. Ambassadors 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 (i.e. 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 and 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 of 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 to 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:

trinity

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 make 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.

Day 19: The Slave God

Scripture

Today’s full reading is John 13:1-19

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

Read More

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 3The 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.