Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Dear Pilgrim, are you in fear of your enemies?

Dear Pilgrim, are you in fear of your enemies? Is your heart in anguish within you? Have fear and trembling beset you?

Then the Lord has brought you to the Valley of Elah, dear Pilgrim, so that the proven genuineness of your faith – of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire – may result in praise, glory and honour when Jesus Christ is revealed (1 Peter 1:7).

The Valley of Elah – the place where the Israelites were dismayed and terrified as they listened to the words of the Philistine giant as he defied the armies of the living God. The place where the Israelites fled from their enemy in great fear whenever they saw him.

You know the story well, dear Pilgrim, you know how the young shepherd, David, came and stood against the heavily armoured Goliath with nothing more than five stones and his sling. What gave David the courage to stand against his enemy when all others were filled with terror? He knew the Name of his God, dear Pilgrim. He knew His Name.

“I come against you in the Name of the Lord of Hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied!”
(1 Samuel 17:45)

The Lord Almighty – Yahweh Sabaoth –the Lord of Hosts.

The Lord of Hosts, dear Pilgrim. Oh, lift up your eyes and look to the heavens: who created all these? He who brings out the starry host one by one and calls forth each of them by name. Because of His great power and mighty strength, not one of them is missing (Isaiah 40:26). He is the One who appoints the sun to shine by day, who decrees the moon and stars to shine by night, who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar – the Lord of Hosts is His Name (Jeremiah 31:35)! He is not like the images, the worthless idols which will perish when their judgement comes. He is not like these, for He is the Maker of all things, including Israel, the people of His inheritance – the Lord of Hosts is His Name (Jeremiah 10:16)! He who forms the mountains, who creates the wind, and who reveals His thoughts to mankind, who turns dawn to darkness, and treads on the heights of the earth – the Lord of Hosts is His Name (Amos 4:13)!

Pilgrim, has He revealed Himself to you as the Lord of Hosts? Have you asked Him to reveal Himself in this way to you? He will surely answer! Joshua received revelation when the Commander of the army of the Lord came and stood in front of him with a drawn sword in his hands (Joshua 5:13-14). Elisha prayed and asked for revelation for his servant, whose eyes were then opened by the Lord to see the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around, and he finally understood that those who were with them were more than those with their enemies (2 Kings 6:16-17).

Once your eyes have been opened to see the Lord of Hosts, dear Pilgrim, they will forever reflect this encounter. Isaiah’s eyes looked upon the Lord of Hosts, and it was through him that the Lord declared: “The Lord of Hosts is the One you are to regard as holy, He is the One you are to fear, He is the One you are to dread” (Isaiah 8:13). Job had heard of the Lord God, but it was after he saw the One who had laid the earth’s foundations, while the morning stars sang together and all the angels shouted for joy, that he despised himself and repented in dust and ashes (Job 42:5-6).

O Pilgrim, take courage! For He is our Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel – the Lord of Hosts is His Name (Isaiah 47:4)! For the Lord of Hosts took David from the pasture, from tending the flock, and appointed him ruler over His people, Israel. He promised to establish the throne of the Son of David forever (1 Chronicles 17:7,14), and the zeal of the Lord of Hosts would accomplish this (Isaiah 9:7). When the Son of David was born at Bethlehem, a great company of the heavenly host appeared and proclaimed peace to those on whom His favour rests. Peace, Pilgrim! You have peace with the Lord of Hosts now that you are trusting in Him! Blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord of Hosts (Psalm 84:12)!

The Valley of Elah is the place where David’s trust in the Name of the Lord of Hosts was proclaimed before Israel. It is the place where hearts that had been melting with fear and hands that had been hanging limp were strengthened and encouraged as the faith of the young shepherd in his God shone brightly for all to see. It is the place where a spirit of despair was changed into garments of praise, where oaks of righteousness were a planting of the Lord for the display of His splendour. The Valley of Elah – the Valley of oaks, of strength. Be strengthened, dear Pilgrim, in the Valley of Elah! 

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Dear Pilgrim, are you keeping in step with the Spirit?

Darfo Boario Terme [source: wikicommons. Photo: Luca Giarelli]

Dear Pilgrim, are you keeping in step with the Spirit? Or are you running ahead up the mountain? Are you ever mindful of your need for Him and dependence upon Him, or have you returned to the folly of trusting in your own strength?

O Pilgrim, it is glorious to be atop the mountain peaks where He reveals Himself to His children. To feast your eyes upon magnificent panoramic views, to feel the breeze on your face, to taste the fresh air in your mouth – there is nothing more exhilarating. But take care, precious Pilgrim, that you ascend in step with Him, in response to His call. It may yet be His desire for you to dwell in the valleys awhile. Do not despise the valleys, O Pilgrim. He goes down to look at the new growth in the valley to see if the vines have budded or the pomegranates are in bloom (Song of Songs 6:11). The valleys are a place of growth!

Pilgrim, heed the warning – do not allow the pride of your heart to deceive you, that you make your home on the heights (Obadiah 1:3). Unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labour in vain. Do not yield to the temptation to trust in your own strength, your own flesh. Take heed, Pilgrim, for there is another who makes use of the mountain summits - the enemy of our souls.

It was he who, through Balak, called Balaam to the rocky peaks that the people of Israel might be cursed. Balaam, a sorcerer and diviner, was called up to Bamoth Baal, the heights of Baal, from where he could see part of the people of God (Numbers 22:41). They were camped in the Valley of Shittim below, along the east side of the Jordan across from Jericho in the plains of Moab .  O, what a foolish endeavour this was, to attempt to curse those whom the Lord had blessed! For the Lord would not listen to this sorcerer and practiser of divination who loved the wages of wickedness.  Instead, the Lord caused Balaam to bless the people of Israel.

Balaam was called up the mountain by the enemy of our souls a second time, this time to the field of Zophim on the top of the Pisgah mountain range. A second time the Lord ensured that Balaam blessed the people of Israel. God is not a man, that He should lie, nor a son of man, that He should change His mind. He had blessed His people, and no mere man could change that.

Balaam responded to a third call up the mountains from the enemy of our souls, to Peor, another Moabite mountain. This time, Balaam did not resort to sorcery but turned his face towards the desert and looked out. When he saw Israel encamped tribe by tribe, he saw the tabernacle of the Lord at their centre, the dwelling-place of God amongst His people. Israel, encamped in the Valley of Shittim, had the presence of God with them! As the eyes of Balaam took in this glorious sight, the Spirit of God came upon him and he uttered words of profound depth and revelation – expressing the truth that this people of God encamped in the Valley below were blessed in abundance, as had been true of the first people of God on the mountain in Eden – for the Lord their God was with them.

“How beautiful are your tents, O Jacob,
your dwelling-places, O Israel!

Like valleys they spread out,
Like gardens beside a river,
Like aloes planted by the Lord,
Like cedars beside the waters.
Water will flow from their buckets;
Their seed will have abundant water”
(Numbers 24:5-7)

There are many occasions when the Lord calls His people to dwell in the valleys that His purposes might be fulfilled through them. Those on the mountain were working against the purposes of God, yet in His Sovereignty the Lord caused them to bless His people in abundance. The Lord foils the plans of the nations and thwarts the purposes of the people (Psalm 33:10), because it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails (Proverbs 19:21).

It was on this same mountain range not long afterwards that the Lord Himself called His own servant up the mountain. Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face, ascended Mount Nebo in response to the call of the Lord, in step with His Spirit (Deuteronomy 34:1). And when Moses was atop the mountain peak, having climbed it in the strength of the Lord alone, the Lord Himself came and showed Moses the whole land of Promise –  a land of mountains and valleys that drinks rain from heaven (Deuteronomy 11:11). For precious Pilgrim, the truth is that when we dwell in the valleys, having had revelation from the peaks, we can see more clearly that He tabernacles with us – and He fills us with joy in His presence whether we are on the mountains above or in the valleys below. For the valleys drink rain from heaven, just as the mountains do.

So Pilgrim, remember that those who are led by the Spirit are the children of God. Allow Him to lead you – whether it be to the mountains or the valleys, to the deserts or to the fertile fields. For blessed are those who have learned to acclaim Him, who walk in the light of His presence (Psalm 89:15).

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Dear Pilgrim, is He your song in the night?

Dear Pilgrim, is He your song in the night? Is He the theme of your song both by day and by night? Your spirit longs for Him in the morning – does your soul yearn for Him in the night?

O Pilgrim, how our heart rejoices to sing His praise in response to His great deliverance, in the light of the day! Dawn breaks forth across the land, sending the darkness and shadows scurrying away, and just like Miriam, we take our tambourines and dance before the Lord - “My lips will shout for joy when I sing praise to You – I whom You have delivered” (Psalm 71:23). Just like David, we sing the words of our song when the Lord has delivered us from the hand of our enemies (2 Samuel 22:1). Just like Deborah, we sing a new song to Him in praise of the marvellous things He has done. The songs of the day are glorious! With His light shining on all His creation, the sea resounds and everything in it, the rivers clap their hands, and the mountains sing for joy! Oh, shout for joy all the earth!

Pilgrim, when the evening fades, when darkness closes in, when the terrors of the night come along and your enemies are gathered against you, can your soul still find it within you to sing His praise? Do the songs of Zion continue to tumble from your lips? Or are the joyful tambourines stilled, is the joyful harp silent?

O Pilgrim, let me offer you this encouragement for those times of darkness – it is not you who has to find this song from within. For listen to this great truth – God your Maker is the One who gives songs in the night (Job 35:10)! By day the Lord directs His love – at night His song is with you (Psalm 42:8)! He is the One who will give you a song to sing at this time of great darkness. For it is He who instructed the temple musicians to be responsible for their work both by day and by night (1 Chronicles 9:33). And as the servants of the Lord ministered by night in the house of the Lord, lifting up their hands in the sanctuary and praising the Lord, He blessed them from Zion (Psalm 134:1-3)! The Maker of heaven and earth blessed them from Zion with songs from Zion!

The people of Judah gathered before the Lord at a time of darkness – as a vast army approached them. King Jehoshaphat called out to the Lord from within the darkness: “We have no power to face this vast enemy that is attacking us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are upon You.” All the men of Judah, with their wives and children and little ones, stood there before the Lord (2 Chronicles 20:12-13). The Spirit of the Lord spoke to a descendant of Asaph, whom David had appointed to lead the praise of the Lord (1 Chronicles 16:5), encouraging them to go and face their enemies, “for the battle is not yours, but God’s” (2 Chronicles 20:15). As they headed out to meet their enemies, Jehoshaphat appointed men to sing to the Lord and to praise Him for the splendour of His holiness as they went out at the head of the army. God their Maker gave them songs in the night. And as they began to sing and praise, the Lord set ambushes against their enemies (2 Chronicles 20:21-22).

Paul and Silas had been severely flogged and thrown into prison, for they had been counted worthy of suffering for the gospel. God their Maker gave them songs in the night. And about midnight, as they prayed and sang hymns to the Lord, a violent earthquake shook the foundations of the prison and loosened their chains (Acts 16:25-26)!

O Pilgrim, think of Him through the watches of the night, meditate on His promises as your eyes stay open through the watches of the night, and as He comes alongside you in the darkness, sing in the shadow of His wings (Psalm 63:6-7)! As He draws near to you, so near that you reach out and cling to Him, sing for joy on your bed! May the praise of God be in your mouth and a double-edged sword in your hands (Psalm 149:5-6). For as you sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, as you sing psalms, hymns and songs from the Spirit (Ephesians 5:19), you are holding a sword in your hands (Ephesians 6:17). And He will use this sword to defeat your enemies – for “not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit” says the Lord of Hosts (Zechariah 4:6). The darkness will pass, and the light will return.

O Pilgrim, sing praises to the Lord! Sing praises in the Valley of Berakah, in the Valley of Praise (2 Chronicles 20:26)! The whole earth is filled with awe at His wonders, for where morning dawns, and where evening fades, He calls forth songs of joy (Psalm 65:8)!

Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Dear Pilgrim, has He baptised you with fire?

Dear Pilgrim, has He baptised you with fire? He came not only to baptise with the Holy Spirit, but to baptise with fire. Have you experienced the fire of His baptism?

For the Lord our God is a consuming fire. His voice spoke out of the fire with which He set Mount Sinai ablaze, and terrified the people of Israel. Ezekiel saw a vision of the likeness of the glory of God. He saw high above on the throne a figure like that of a man, who from His waist up looked like glowing metal, as if full of fire, and from there down He looked like fire (Ezekiel 1:27). Daniel saw a vision of the Ancient of Days. His throne was flaming with fire, its wheels were all ablaze, whilst a river of fire was flowing, coming out from before Him (Daniel 7:9-10). O Pilgrim, our God is a consuming fire!

He is a God who answers by fire. He answered by fire when Elijah called out to Him from Mount Carmel that the people might know He was the God of Israel. The fire of the Lord fell and burned up the sacrifice, the wood, the stones, the soil, which were all drenched in water (1 Kings 18:36-38), for He makes flames of fire His servants.

He is a God whose fire burns amongst His people. O Pilgrim, come with me to Taberah – the place of burning. See the Israelites, redeemed out of the hands of their enemies, brought to the wilderness. They have just left the base of Mount Sinai from where God has been speaking to them out of the fire, and now just 3 days into their journey to the promised land, they are complaining of their hardships. See, Pilgrim, He has heard their complaining and it has aroused His anger. Look, Pilgrim – how fire from the Lord has come and has burned among them and consumed some of the outskirts of their camp. But listen, Pilgrim – they are crying out to Moses, and now he is crying out to the Lord – and the fire has died down (Numbers 11:1-3).

O Pilgrim, what a picture, what a picture for us of Christ. Yet first, He had a baptism of His own to undergo. For the wrath of God burns like fire against all sin, and so the Passover Lamb, the Lamb of God, was roasted over a fire of wrath as He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross. But just as the bush did not burn up even though it was on fire, just as the four men in the blazing furnace were untouched by the flames, so our Lamb of God was not consumed by the fiery furnace of wrath, but emerged triumphant and victorious from the grave! And now we can cry out to Jesus to deliver us from the fires of the wrath of God!

Saved from the fires of the wrath of God – yet everyone will be salted with fire (Mark 9:49). Now that we have been saved from the fires of His wrath, what is this fire with which we will be salted? Pilgrim, is it not the fires of His jealousy? For He says, “I am very jealous for Zion; I am burning with jealousy for her” (Zechariah 8:2). The Bride calls out to her beloved, “Place me like a seal over Your heart, like a seal on Your arm; for love is as strong as death, its jealousy unyielding as the grave. It burns like blazing fire, like a mighty flame” (Song of Songs 8:6). For we have been promised to one husband, Christ, and we are to be presented as a pure virgin to Him. So the Lord will wash away the filth from Zion; He will cleanse the bloodstains from Jerusalem by a spirit of judgment and a spirit of fire. 

O Pilgrim, would you return to the Garden of Eden, the Garden on the mountain from which man fell? Would you return to the Garden that He planted, that you may walk with Him, in unity with Him? Then you must walk through the flaming sword that flashes back and forth guarding the way to the tree of life (Genesis 3:24). The flaming sword fell on Him as He died our death, paying the penalty for our sin. We must also walk through the flaming sword, the sword of fire, as we die with Him that we may also live with Him.

Come, Pilgrim, come to the refiner’s fire! For after He provided the sacrifice for our sins, He sat down at the right hand of God, and now He sits as a refiner and purifier of silver, as He refines us like gold and silver (Malachi 3:2-3). He sits, paying careful, unhurried attention to His task, as all the impurities are burned away through the grief we may have had to suffer in all kinds of trials, that we might better reflect His glory. He counsels us to come and buy from Him gold refined in the fire, that we might become rich. Take heart from His words of comfort to us, that when we walk through the fire, we will not be burned; the flames will not set us ablaze, for He will be with us (Isaiah 43:2). O Pilgrim, rejoice that He would take such care and attention over His Bride, that we might be found spotless, blameless and at peace with Him when He returns in blazing fire!

For it is only as incense is burned that its fragrance rises as a pleasing aroma. It is only as the oil in the lamp burns that the light shines in the darkness. It is He who keeps our lamps burning, it is He who keeps the incense burning. And as His Word burns like fire, we will find that our hearts burn within us as our Refiner talks with us and opens the Scriptures to us.

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Dear Pilgrim, have you seen His glory?

Dear Pilgrim, have you seen His glory? Just as Moses was emboldened, have you asked Him to show you His glory (Exodus 33:18)? Have you desired to see His glory?

Pilgrim, because you take delight in the Lord, He will give you the desires of your heart (Psalm 37:4). He fulfils the desires of those who fear Him (Psalm 145:19). If you desire to see His glory, this is a request He will honour. Pilgrim, will you be bold and ask Him to show you His glory? Even though you are nothing but dust and ashes, you can be so bold as to make such a request. For your confidence does not come from yourself, but through Christ. In Christ and through faith in Him you may approach God with freedom and confidence! Will you be bold to ask Him to show you His glory? The God who reveals Himself to those who did not ask for Him will surely delight to reveal Himself to those who desire to see His glory.

The Lord revealed His glory to Moses on the mountain (Exodus 34:2). It is on the mountains that the Lord reveals Himself! Ascend the mountain, Pilgrim, and present yourself to Him…and He will come.

But first, hide yourself in the cleft of the rock, dear Pilgrim, for no-one may see His face and live.

Come, climb up, Pilgrim, higher, still higher, keep going….oh, persevere now, dear Pilgrim! The climb is difficult, but it must be done. Here now, here is the cleft in the rock. Come, take shelter. Hide in the cleft of the Rock, Pilgrim. See, the glory of the Lord is about to pass by (Exodus 33:22).

This rock…my Rock, my Saviour (Psalm 18:46)! My Rock, my Redeemer (Psalm 19:14)! The Rock of our Salvation (Psalm 95:1)! Could it be that this cleft in the Rock is pointing to the One who is the mediator between man and God, the man Christ Jesus?

This rock… He made water flow for His people who drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them in the desert, that rock which was Christ (1 Corinthians 10:4). He split the rock and water gushed out (Isaiah 48:21) – and as Jesus died on the cross, a spear split His side and water gushed out (John 19:34).

This rock…this rock that makes those who do not believe fall, because they do not obey the message of salvation (1 Peter 2:8).

O Pilgrim, this cleft in the Rock…it too is filled with glory! Shield your eyes, Pilgrim! Fall to your knees! The glory of the Rock…..the glory of Christ!

For He had glory with the Father before the world began (John 17:5). When He became flesh and made His dwelling among us, His glory was seen, the glory of the Only Begotten Son (John 1:14). His glory was revealed at His birth, when the glory of the Lord shone around the shepherds in the fields nearby, and a great company of the heavenly host appeared, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest!” (Luke 2:13-14). He revealed His glory when He performed the first of His miraculous signs at Cana in Galilee, when He changed water into wine (John 2:11). He was glorified when He raised Lazarus to life (John 11:4). He revealed His glory when He was transfigured on a high mountain (Luke 9:32). He will come in His glory when He returns to earth, and He will sit on His throne in heavenly glory (Matthew 25:31). He is the radiance of God’s glory (Hebrews 1:3). We see the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ (2 Corinthians 4:6)!

O Pilgrim! Is your reaction to this the same as the apostle John when he had a revelation of the glory of Jesus (Revelation 1:12-16): “When I saw Him, I fell at His feet as though dead” (Revelation 1:17). Is your reaction to this the same as the apostle Simon Peter who, when he had a revelation of the glory of Jesus, fell at His knees and said, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” (Luke 5:8). For when we receive a revelation of His glory, we realise how far short we have fallen of His glory. His glory reveals to us our sin. The light of His glory exposes our darkness.

Feel the weight of His glory, Pilgrim. Feel it. Allow Him to reveal His glory to you, that you might clearly see all that He is, even as you lie face down on the ground at His feet. Then allow Him to touch you and to tell you not to fear (Revelation 1:17) and remind you of the hope you have for the future – for that day when our bodies of sin will finally be destroyed, and as part of the bride of Christ, clothed in our glorified bodies, we will be able to sit down at the wedding feast of the Lamb, and see Him face to face! Allow Him to raise you to your feet, to send you out to do good works that He has prepared in advance for you to walk in, able to proclaim with David, “I have seen You in the sanctuary and beheld Your power and Your glory” (Psalm 63:2), glorifying Him with your lips. And as you go out into the darkness, where thick darkness is over the peoples, the Lord will rise upon you and His glory will appear over you (Isaiah 60:2).

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Dear Pilgrim, what measure are you using?

Dear Pilgrim, what measure are you using? Is it a generous helping, pressed down, shaken together and running over? Is it a full measure in response to the full measure He has poured upon you?

For He has not treated us as our sins deserve, or repaid us according to our iniquities (Ps 103:10). For the Lord our God weighs our deeds, our motives, and our hearts – and in all cases we were weighed on the scales and we were found wanting. But where sin and wickedness increased, the grace of God increased all the more. For it was His Servant who drank the full strength of the cup of wrath as all our sins were laid upon Him. It was He who received the full measure of all that our sins and iniquities deserved. Oh, Pilgrim, let our tears overflow as we take in this glorious gospel truth. For He has not given us just grace and a gift through Jesus Christ – He has given us an abundant provision of grace, an abundant provision of the gift of life that we might reign in life through Jesus Christ (Rom 5:17)! As Boaz poured into Ruth’s shawl six measures, six whole measures, of barley when she approached her kinsman-redeemer seeking His favour (Ruth 3:15), so this points to the abundant provision that is poured into us as we approach our Kinsman-Redeemer seeking His favour!

For the grace of our Lord has been poured out on us abundantly! God is rich in mercy, and in Christ we have been given mercy in abundance (Jude 1:2)! Faith, love and peace are also ours in abundance! How abundant are the good things that He has stored up for those who fear Him, that He bestows in the sight of all, on those who take refuge in Him (Ps 31:19)! Let us celebrate His abundant goodness and joyfully sing of His righteousness (Ps 145:7)!

For it is His desire to give a full measure. Jesus wanted His disciples to have the full measure of His joy within them (John 17:13). Paul prays that the Ephesians might not only have the power to grasp the love of God, but that they would know the love of God,  that they might be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God (Eph 3:18-19). As the fullness of the Deity lives in Christ in bodily form, so too in Christ we have been brought to fullness (Col 2:9-10). Oh, Pilgrim, listen to that again – as the fullness of the Deity lives in Christ in bodily form, so too in Christ we have been brought to fullness. Fullness! Oh, Pilgrim, are we filled with the fullness of Christ?

Just as Jesus filled the jars with water to the brim in Capernaum, so too He longs to fill us to the brim with His Holy Spirit, that rivers of living water may flow from us. Let us ask Him to fill us with the Holy Spirit, that we may be filled to the brim! And as our love abounds more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, we will be filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ – for all those who hunger and thirst for righteousness will be filled! As we come to Christ, He will fill us with an inexpressible and glorious joy (1 Pe 1:8), He will fill us with all joy and peace as we trust in Him, so that we may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit (Rom 15:13). Oh, Pilgrim, be filled, be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God!

For we worship a God who fills heaven and earth (Jer 23:24). Christ descended to the lower, earthly regions, and He ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe (Eph 4:10). And there is a day coming when Israel will bud and blossom and fill all the world with fruit (Isa 27:6). There is a day coming when the vineyard will be fruitful, and the world will sing about it as the Lord watches over it, watering it continually. The wedding hall will be filled with guests (Mt 22:10), it will be filled with the fragrance of perfume (John 12:3), it will be filled with His love (Ps 119:64), it will be filled with glorious sounds of praise coming from the mouths of those whose lips are filled with His praise, declaring His splendour all day long (Ps 71:8) – it will be filled with the glory of God!

Pilgrim, as we look for this day to come, let us ensure that we are living as children of the Most High God, using the same measure as the measure we have been given. Let us never be satisfied with anything less than a full measure! Let us make sure we are not those who would skimp on the measure (Amos 8:5). Let us love our enemies, let us show mercy, let us forgive and let us give, not holding anything back. For whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them (Mt 25:29). So let us abound in every good work, for our comfort abounds in Christ.

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Dear Pilgrim, have you received the embrace of your Father?

 Prodigal Son by Charlie Mackesy
Prodigal Son by Charlie Mackesy

Dear Pilgrim, have you received the embrace of your Father? Have you received the comfort, the hope, the feeling of safety and the encouragement that only the warmth of His embrace can give you?

O Pilgrim, it is one thing to have been made aware that His embrace is there for you. It is another thing entirely to receive it. It is one thing to know that the love the Father has lavished on us is so great that we should be called children of God (1 John 3:1). It is another thing entirely to know that this is what you are, to have experienced the loving embrace that only a Father can give to His child. It is one thing to know that the Father loves you because you have loved His Son and have believed that He came from God (John 16:27). It is another thing entirely to have rested your head against the breast of your Father as His arms reach around you and hold you close.

Pilgrim, do not allow timidity to hold you back from your Father’s embrace. As you approach your Father, you are coming not in your own righteousness, but clothed in the righteousness of His Son. For this is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins (1 John 4:10). In Him and through faith in Him we may approach God with freedom and confidence (Ephesians 3:12)! We have the confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus! Jacob approached his father to obtain a blessing from him, covered by his brother’s robe. When his father caught the smell of his clothes, he proceeded to pour out his blessing upon his son. Pilgrim, what a picture this is for us of how we approach our heavenly Father!

Pilgrim, maybe it has been so many years since you have ever known what a father’s embrace feels like, maybe you have experienced so much loss, so much heartache and pain, that you dare not come close for fear of being overwhelmed. O precious Pilgrim, will you come with me to Goshen?

Goshen, in Egypt – the place to which God had sent Joseph, to preserve a remnant and to save lives by a great deliverance. A place of separation from his father with whom he had enjoyed a special love, for he was the beloved son of his father. This separation had lasted many years, and had caused much pain for Joseph. But what the enemy had intended for harm, God intended for good. For we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28). And God arranged for the beloved son to be reunited with his father. As Jacob travelled to Goshen, Joseph had his chariot made ready and went to meet him. O Pilgrim, how do you think Joseph was feeling, as he went to meet his father after all those years? All those emotions flooding through him…and as he finally set eyes upon his dearly loved father, as he presented himself before his father, his emotions poured out of him and he fell on his father’s neck and wept for a long time (Genesis 46:29). Oh, praise the living God for bringing about such a reconciliation!

Do you see, Pilgrim, how far the father travelled to be reconciled to his son? Jacob travelled all the way from the land of Canaan to Goshen for this reconciliation. It was not Joseph who travelled to Canaan, rather, his father came to him. O Pilgrim, do you see? Just like in the parable of the prodigal son, as soon as the son got up and went to his father, even whilst he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him. His father had been waiting, longing, for his return all those years. And as soon as he saw him, he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him (Luke 15:20)! Pilgrim, it was the father who ran to the son! Oh, what a God!

Yet, Pilgrim, it can still be possible to know all this and yet still to have not experienced it. For it requires the work of the Holy Spirit deep in our hearts, it requires God to send the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father!” (Gal 4:6). And when this happens, dear Pilgrim, oh! The assurance He brings! The confidence He brings! The hope He brings! The warmth of His embrace is truly like no other!

May we cry out to Him that the Spirit never ceases to cry out, “Abba, Father!” from within our hearts, so that we may truly understand what it means to be a child of God, and may the Spirit Himself testify with our spirits that we are God’s children (Romans 8:16). May we then be able to declare that “His right arm embraces me” (Song of Songs 2:6), and live in the confidence that this brings!