Do you know how much He loves you? Part 2

Last week I started to share how I came to really know that God the father loves me, that I am not an orphan but the beloved daughter of a loving heavenly Father. This week I want to help you understand even more.

 

Every time I talk about that truth, even as I’m writing this, I can’t help grinning at the sheer wondrousness of the statement. It encompasses a lot of what I learnt:

  • I can call Him Daddy, because He wants to be in intimate relationship with me and ‘Our Father who art in Heaven’ can put serious distance between us. Sometimes it’s more appropo to address Him as king, and certainly it is true; but I learnt that if God is the King of kings, I am His princess! What a wonder!
  • He loves me. He loves me. He loves me. He knew me before the beginning of Creation, He planned and thought out every aspect of me and my life. His thoughts concerning me are uncountable, and His hand was on me from the moment I was conceived. I don’t have to change to please Him, He made no mistakes in my design. With the death and resurrection of Christ, I am made new and perfect in His sight. He loves me a just as much as He does His Son, and sees us in the same light.
  • So much. So so much. His grace is enough, I’m sure you’ve heard. His grace is enough and more for every single sin of every single person. His grace is simply the expression of His love and enormous desire to be close to us. Christ has done the work to get rid of what stands in the way of that, we just have to let the Spirit work in us and accept His love.

 

Day by day, I worked through specific issues the Spirit highlighted in me. I experienced extraordinary revelation of God’s thoughts concerning me. Sometimes I would pray the dangerous prayer at the end of a talk, and the Spirit would say ‘Let’s bookmark this one. Listen to this bit again.’ I’d almost be disappointed; keen to remove as much gunk as possible, but really it was a great kindness. Every thorn pulled hurt and ached somewhere in my soul, and Daddy was giving me the chance to rest and meditate on some other truths rather than pull another one out and bleed some more. And, He pointed out; we have 24 years of wounds and issues to get through. Five days isn’t really enough time to manage all that, and anyway, He wants to take His time, and really make sure the healing He’s giving me can grow and sink in.

 

Things are different for me now. I look at old habits and while they’re far from broken they just don’t seem so important. Sometime between waking and breakfast I find myself thinking ‘Morning Abba. Let’s be together today’. Songs I’ve sung hundreds of times and thought I understood I’m rethinking and praying into in new ways. He’s on my mind more and more. It’s very much like falling in love. It’s hard not to love someone when they loved you so much before you even knew them.

 

One of the best gifts this has woken in me is letting go a bit more of ‘should’. I should read the bible more often, I should make time for prayer and meditation, I should journal more, I should soak, etc etc. Instead I do these things through love, and through the Spirit in me, and because I’d honestly rather read and meditate on that Psalm than watch the latest movie. And if I’d rather watch the movie? That’s ok too. What I’ve found is that God’s not holding any of it against me, so why should I? He doesn’t want me to tick boxes, He wants me to love Him and do things out of love. Thank God! It’s much easier that way!

 

There’s more. So much more. But this is already enormously long, so perhaps another day. I’ll leave you with this, of which I am completely confident:
No matter how well you think God loves you, He loves you more. No matter how you have encountered His grace, you can encounter it more. He loves you far better than any parent has ever loved their child. Open your heart just a crack more, and He’ll show you.

 

Find out more about the school here: http://www.encounteringthefatherslove.org/

My blog here: http://livinginfatherslove.tumblr.com/

 

A book that you may like to read that covers similar ground to the course is “Spiritual Slavery to Spiritual Sonship” by Jack Frost. This comes highly recommended!

 

by Bethany Wong, part of Hope Church Luton

 

 

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Do you know how much He loves you? Part 1.

At 9am on the 7th April 2014, I was pretty sure God loved me. I mean, I’d had this amazing conversion experience in 2011, and since then had been a happy church-goer and worshipper of my Father in Heaven. I had a strong belief in the power of the Holy Spirit to do supernatural things here on Earth. By my faith, I had come through and mostly out of depression, I had trusted in God’s will to move to a new town. I had experienced words and pictures of knowledge. I had testified and witnessed to other Christians and to non-believers. I’d read and believed the Word that I was a child of God, redeemed by Christ’s sacrifice and restored to relationship with God.
I thought I was doing pretty well, all-in-all.

 

At 9.30am on the 7th April 2014, I began a 5-day ministry school called ‘Encountering the Father’s Love’. Honestly, I think it would be fair to call it a spiritual detox or even boot camp. I went through the emotional wringer, Father and the Spirit holding my hand every step to show me just how much He loves me. I can say I’ve a greater glimpse now, but a glimpse alone is enough to floor me whenever I think about it.
Do you know that your Daddy loves you? Do you know what that means?
Despite my experiences, I did not have a clue.

 

The first thing we did was pray to dethrone the mind, and to open the eyes of our hearts. This was not to be a week of reasoning our way through, of trying to understand with logic. This was to be a week of encounter, of heart-to-heart experience of God. Furthermore, we were to experience things for which there is no logic, no reason, and which is it impossible for the human mind to understand. One thing in particular: God’s amazing, irrational, and unfathomable love.

 

As the week went on, we heard how forgiveness is the key to unlocking our hearts to Him. How judgements made even in the heat of a moment, or made as a little child, can continue to twist our lives under Old Testament laws until we repent. We learned about how our earthly fathers can wound us simply by being imperfect, and how we can imagine Father is like our earthly fathers without even realising it. We learned how shame and guilt can wound us and cause us to hide our hearts away. We learned about having an orphan heart, about believing without really feeling that we are sons and daughters of God.

 

And for each thing, we prayed a dangerous prayer: Holy Spirit, show me what it is I must work through with You about this. And the Lord showed us, and we forgave and repented and were never for a second without the support of the Spirit in what we were doing. For five days, the church building we were in was thick with the presence of God as He displayed His truly amazing grace.

 

I could go on. I could transcribe all the notes I made, and show you the pictures I drew. I could tell you that my life will never be the same. But honestly words cannot convey what happened to me and about 40 others that week.

 

I went in with a good idea of where I stood with God. I came out with the simple statement that speaks to a greater depth of faith in me: ‘My Daddy loves me… so much!’.

 

Next week I will give more details of how God changed me.

 

by Bethany Wong

 

 

Bottoms Up

Jesus has been at it again ... in Tesco

I like a drink: white wine, red wine, rose wine, I’m not fussy. Gin and tonic with a splash of elderflower cordial is the way to my heart, and I’ve been known to sip from one of those cans of ready made Pimms and lemonade in the cinema with my girlfriends. Never been a fan of beer, though, and can take or leave cider, but Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without Baileys. And Cliff Richard. The pub has always played a big part in my culture, and now that there’s the limitation of young children on going there as often as before, my fridge is usually well stocked, as are those of most of my friends: the names of the mummies I know who don’t survive the kids’ tea and bathtime by dreaming of Wine O’Clock can be written on the sticky fastener of a Pamper.

 

I’m happy with liking a drink, and I’m pretty sure God is happy with me liking a drink. I’m not called to church leadership (unless God has one almighty shock in store for me, and even then, I’d still like a drink!) and I don’t operate heavy machinery after 6pm. Unless you count my Dyson.

 

But…

 

There are times when liking a drink can step over a line, and God is quick to let me know when my toes have crept onto that line. We’re not talking about addiction here – that is a topic of gravitas that I’m not qualified to tackle – rather, the way booze fits into the day to day lives of the average Christian, and what God’s thoughts on it might be.

 

Because he does have thoughts on it, lots of them. The Bible is laden with references to alcohol, many of them positive, from Jesus turning the water into wine at the wedding at Cana (John 2:1-10) to the young woman describing her lover’s kisses as ‘sweeter than wine’ (Song of Songs 1:2). Her friends reply by praising his love ‘even more than wine’ (1:4). We’re told that a result of us honouring God with our wealth is that our ‘vats will overflow with the finest wine’ (Proverbs 3:9-10), and Paul advises Timothy to ‘use a little wine because of your stomach and frequent illnesses’ (1 Timothy 5:23). But God’s heart on the subject is best illustrated by, ‘He makes grass grow for the cattle, and plants for people to cultivate, bringing forth food from the earth: wine that gladdens human hearts, oil to make their faces shine, and bread that sustains their hearts.’ (Psalm 104:14-15).

 

It’s traversing the line between enjoying a drink and letting wine making us glad, and wine making us drunk and coming between us and God that needs to be at the heart of any discussion on Christians and booze: at what point are we straying from healthy pleasure, to problem territory. Because, as with all pleasures, we can unconsciously (excuse the pun) stray from enjoying it, to putting it before God in our attentions and affections. I’m prone to letting this creep up on me in many areas of life I get pleasure from: food, drink, spending money, television, the internet, Facebook (hello!), and regularly feel a check from him when one of these areas is crossing that line, starting to come between us and infringing on our intimacy.

 

Because, we know, he is a jealous God, our friend who sticks closer than a brother, who demands – no, deserves – to come first in our hearts, and if liking a drink is starting affect that, then it’s time to take a stock check.

 

The Bible doesn’t say how many drinks is too many drinks. Of course, a handful of figures in both testaments were called to never touch a drop, but for the rest of us, the parameters seem to be somewhere between enjoying a drink (glad) and getting drunk (bad), because God is clear that he doesn’t want us to get drunk, at least not on booze: ‘Don’t drink too much wine. That cheapens your life. Drink the Spirit of God, huge draughts of him. Sing hymns instead of drinking songs! Sing songs from your heart to Christ. Sing praises over everything, any excuse for a song to God the Father in the name of our Master, Jesus Christ.’ (Ephesians 5:18. TM).

 

But what has God got against us getting drunk? Let’s face it, it can be fun! Because he has given us ‘the spirit of…a sound mind’ (2 Timothy 1:7), and when we voluntarily mess about with that sound mind, by giving control over it to alcohol, we are tampering with our ability to hear from him, our ability to pray and to allow him to use us as his vessel to reach others, for, ‘You realize, don’t you, that you are the temple of God, and God himself is present in you? No one will get by with vandalizing God’s temple, you can be sure of that. God’s temple is sacred—and you, remember, are the temple.’ (1 Corinthians 3: 16, 17 TM)

 

Not to mention the messes we can get ourselves into when drunk – the things we do, the things we say – and those of us not brought up in the church could surely fill a blog or two with some stories on that front! But were all of those occasions fun, if you’re honest? No regrets? What…absolutely none? God wants to protect us from those regrets, those embarrassing episodes most of us have had as a result of too much booze: ‘Wine makes you mean, beer makes you quarrelsome, a staggering drunk is not much fun.’ Proverbs 20:1), and he knows the sting in its tail: ‘Don’t judge wine by its label, or its bouquet, or its full-bodied flavour. Judge it rather by the hangover it leaves you with—the splitting headache, the queasy stomach. Do you really prefer seeing double, with your speech all slurred, reeling and seasick, drunk as a sailor?’ (Proverbs 23:31, 32 TM).

 

That point, where booze goes from making us glad, to making us drunk (glad to bad, remember) is an individual thing. I have a two very godly, spirit filled (again, excuse the pun) Christian friends, who we’ll call G and T. G rarely touches drink, because, in her words, ‘One sniff of the barmaid’s apron’ and she’s gone. She’s also a very cheap date. T, on the other hand, will happily have two or three glasses, and as far as she’s aware, God has never let her know that it’s not OK. Personally, my limit is somewhere in between these ladies, and can differ depending on the drink and how tired I am.

 

A few weeks ago, though, as I reached into the fridge for another glass of wine, he spoke to me with such grace and patience that I want to share it: as I was about to open the fridge door, I spotted a note from school that needed to be stuck there and went to secure it under a magnet behind which were already several sheets of paper. Those sheets of paper still allowed for just enough of a connection between the door and the magnet, but this one extra weakened the magnetic field, tipped the balance, and connection was lost. I closed the fridge door and made a cup of tea instead. He was showing me that I had reached my own personal line, from glad to drunk, and that crossing it would damage my connection to him.

 

So, if you like a drink, do pray and ask him, and he will show you where your line is. And if you need help keeping your toes in ‘glad’ territory, pray again, and don’t be afraid to ask others to pray for you: know that God understands and will help you, because: ‘the spirit indeed is willing, but how weak the body is!’ (Matthew 26:41)

 

And if you get it wrong from time to time, if God’s shown you your personal line between gladness and drunkenness, and you’ve crossed it…and the chances are you will…and I will…then let’s remember that we have ‘a God of forgiveness, always ready to pardon, gracious and merciful, slow to become angry, and full of love and mercy.’ (Nehemiah 9:17)

Karen Roy
Karen Roy

 

 

Ministering into the UK. Part 8: What Difference Does Hope Make?

We have been looking at suffering as it is relevant to us in our context. We have looked at the world’s problems with suffering and how Christians view things differently.

This week we look at the difference that hope makes.

The secular consolation that “the dead do not suffer” seems thin in comparison to the Christian consolation of the resurrection.

We view things differently from the way the world views things, as previous blogs have maintained we need to be different from the world, distinctive. We are not likely to bow down to worship a statue; the alternative gods we face are money, sex and power.

Hope enables us to overcome the idol of money. The material world isn’t the only one. For those for whom this is the case – things provide pleasure and identity.

Loosing such things is “the end of the world” – therefore causes suffering. For us this is not the case – we have a hope beyond money and possessions.

As Jesus said

The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field. Matt 13v44.

Adverts seek to persuade us that meaning and fulfilment are in things, possessions. Jesus says “where your treasure is there your heart will be also.” Matt 6v21

Our treasure is elsewhere. We know everything we have is a gift from God, we are stewards of it. It doesn’t belong to us, we hold it lightly.

There are more important things to us in this life than money, sex and power! When we suffer we realise that, we realise we have a hope, a hope now but also beyond the grave.

At Easter we celebrate the fact that Jesus rose again from the dead. We too will be resurrected into a new world where there will be no more tears, no more suffering, no more pain. We are not like people who have no hope.

I hope you have benefited from this series of blogs. I have sought to describe how we can minister to the context we find ourselves in within the UK. I have sought to encourage people that our situation is full of hope, we have a message to share. A message we share by our very lives even more than by our words.

We have so much to offer the world around us. Let our primary focus not be on inviting them into our events, but let us seek to build loving communities that communicate the gospel.

 

WRITTEN BY TONY THOMPSON

tonyt

Tony is an Elder at Hope Church Luton and part of the Leadership team.

He works full time for the church and is married to Anne and they have 2 sons.