Friday, 31 January 2014

Our Father (3) We are Family

Jesus said when you pray say ‘Our Father…’
Thank God for the personal witness that he gives to each one of his children that we are indeed his children and entitled and enabled to say those amazing words ‘Abba, Father.’
Thank God too for personal prayer, that each one of us can come to God through Jesus Christ and through the Spirit personally pray, ‘Father…’
But there is more to it than that. Jesus taught us to pray ‘our Father.’ He’s not just my Father, he is your Father, he’s our Father. So in the prayer that Jesus teaches his disciples there is that calling to attention of one-another, of our brothers and sisters in Christ, of the Father’s family.
In a self-centred world then this prayer calls us to think about more than ourselves, to think also, and especially, about others. It’s not a you in your small corner and I in mine prayer. It’s not about a private faith but a shared one. It’s not about being in it on our own, but a shared life where we bear one another’s burdens, weeping with those who weep, rejoicing with those who rejoice.
To say ‘Our Father’ calls for the recognition and appreciation of our brothers and sisters in Christ. They have been given life by and share the same wonderful and glorious Father, they are part of the same family. They may be rich or poor, black or white, educated or uneducated, got a handle on life or struggling with it, introvert or extrovert, like pop (whatever that is these days) or classical music, etc.. Whoever they are, they are family, our brothers and sisters in Christ.
Let me ask you, do you appreciate your church, your family, everyone of them in all their great variety? A bigger question still is, are you joined to one, do you know the fellowship of true commitment?
Someone once said that ‘no man is an island,’ too true, but many try to live as if they are, even Christians. The prayer that Jesus taught us reminds then that we are called to live a shared life, to be a family sharing communion together with Father.

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

The Lord's Prayer - Our Father

Jesus said when you pray say, “Father/our Father.” What a wonderful way to begin a prayer, from the beginning it speaks of one who gives us life and secondly cares for the life that he gives us. We are his children – wonderful! A relationship has been established, a relationship that can never be lost, however young or old, however weak or strong etc.. God is our Father, we are his forever children. There’s no need for striving here, we are not trying to become his children, we are, and he is our Father.
The problem is so much of our Christianity can be about performing up to God, earning his love, earning the right to pray and get our prayers answered. We end up concerned with saying it the right way, doing it the right way, saying it long enough, saying it loud enough, but in the model prayer that Jesus gave us there’s none of it – none. Jesus just says, “when you pray say, ‘Our Father…’”
That’s it. That phrase enables us to relate to God the Father just as Jesus the Son does. To be with him as he is, to talk to him as he does. It gathers us up and draws us into the very fellowship of the Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Prayer before anything else is about encounter and relationship with God the Father, and the Father with his children. It’s about being, rather than doing. And that’s part of our problem, we live in an action world, there’s stuff that needs to be done, and our praying can be more about doing, getting something done, albeit for the kingdom. We are more interested in the gifts than the Giver.
The Psalmist spoke about being still and knowing God. I wonder whether we might reinterpret that in a New Testament way and say, “Stop, be still, stop your activity – even all your prayerful activity – and know that God is Father.”
Why not find some time, and just pray, “Our Father..” No more, just be with him. Get to know him. Talk to him without request, delight in him and what it means to be Father/son or Father/daughter.

Thursday, 16 January 2014

Our Father

We’ve just started a new series at church focussing on the Lord’s Prayer, and in turning afresh to it I’ve been impacted by the sheer simplicity and profoundness of it.
Many of us if not all (truth be known) struggle with, or have struggled with prayer – it sounds simple but how do you do it. I remember as a young Christian tying myself in knots over it. How should I address God? How should I structure/order my prayer? There’s ACTS: Adoration, confession, thanksgiving and supplication. There’s silence, contemplation. Some said confession first, others said praise – you know how it goes, the list goes on…
But hey, following the disciples request, Jesus gave us a pattern, a model, and one thing that strikes you about it is the lack of religious phrasing and it’s sheer simplicity, I mean it’s so natural, so relational. In fact the Jews of the day would have been stunned to hear Jesus say, “when you pray say, ‘Our Father’”. Yes they had a general concept of God’s fatherhood, but they certainly didn’t relate to or speak to him in this way.
The disciples had observed Jesus, the Son of God, the second person of the Trinity, and they had been staggered by the way he prayed, the way he related to God. I mean it was so... intimate, so... real, so... meaningful, so... personal, and they wanted to know how to have the same relationship.
Some desire, but Jesus doesn’t hinder them, he leads them right in!
When you pray, say, “Our Father…”

Saturday, 11 January 2014

New Beginnings

New years like new days provide new beginnings, new opportunities.
Some would have us believe that we are caught up in an unending repetitious cycle of events, but that is not the way the Bible has it.
Yes there are seasons that come round year by year, that’s good, there is order to life.
But there is also movement, advancement.
The story of the Bible is just that – that the God who created has a purpose in it all. He made us for himself, to enjoy him and serve his unfolding purposes. His desire has always been to bless and make us a blessing. The enemies (Satan) is one of cutting us off from God, of curse and cursing, of being locked into a fallen, downward hopeless cycle of life.
Praise God that’s where the Christmas story comes in (though it begins way before that!). God came in Jesus to break the curse, the endless cycle of fallenness and hopelessness – Jesus came to destroy all the power of the evil one and in doing so to bring the reign of God and therefore his Fatherhood, blessing and purpose back into our experience.
It’s a lie of the enemy that ‘whatever will be, will be.’  God can and does breaks in! Jesus saves and delivers, and gives power to live a new kind of life. And if you know him and have messed up (as we all do) the Father’s still loving you, you are still his child, and like any good father he wants to clean you up and set you on your feet again.
With God everyday is a new beginning, his mercies are new every morning and his lovingkindness makes everyday worth living, and with him advancement is on the agenda!