(September 12, 2017) Tim Edwards brings a timely word from Jeremiah…
Every day I see more and more reasons – and more and more need – for us to look to God for his love, guidance, strength and direction. And for us to call out to God for restoration. Why? Because we human beings…
- Are messy.
- Make mistakes.
- Need him, our Father God!
And he is there, rock-solid and real, always inviting us: ‘Come home to me.’
This means you and I stopping and thinking about where we find ourselves in relation to God as our heavenly Father.
I am completely convinced that we need God to restore and reshape us; we need to hold onto God and allow him to mould us and remake us. Life is hard enough with God – I don’t know how people live life without him! It is most definitely time now, today, to be hungry for God to live in and through us, changing us and changing the world around us in the process.
So, if you also think that a bit of godly PR – personal restoration – might be a good thing for you, please read on with open heart and mind and see what some thoughts from Jeremiah have to say to you.
It was Father’s Day recently and, actually, this article is in that context! Jeremiah 17 shares a magnificent description of a tree and I personally can’t help but think of this beautiful image as a wonderful analogy of God, the Father…
Verses 7-8 proclaim, ‘Blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord; whose confidence is in him. They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in the year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.’
What a fantastic image! Such a strong picture of how a dad should be and can be –
- Confident in God
I think about all fathers I know, especially my own dad – and my kids and what it means to me to be a dad to them.
And as I read this passage I realise that it was not limited just to fathers or even just to men; but a picture of possibility for all people; men, women and children!
We can all be this tree. This is not a limited picture, an exclusive picture, a VIP only picture just for men, for dads, for a chosen few! This is a picture for everyone.
This picture was actually part of a heartfelt prayer from the prophet Jeremiah, who was in the middle of delivering some pretty harsh news from God to the people saying (my words not his!); ‘Seriously guys, because of your selfishness and greed and pride and idolatry there are some soon-coming consequences to your actions, attitudes and choices; and a season of difficulty is on its way toward you, but there’s still time to change and make a positive difference in your life and in the community so let me describe to you what it would look like for a person to be living a godly life.’
That tree is what living a godly life would look like. So, how do we get there? How do we become that tree? How do we make the changes required to shift from being self-focused and self-absorbed, to being godly, confident, planted, calm and fruitful?
Jeremiah provides the answer in the next verses! He points out that it is our heart which is the problem – that the heart is deceitful above all things (v9) and adds that it is God who searches our heart and offers to re-align our lives for us (v10).
So how do we become that tree? Through personal restoration…
- We begin by acknowledging the fact that we have messy hearts; that we are broken and dysfunctional human beings who regularly mess things up.
- Then we take the second step by asking God to reshape our hearts and remould us into his image.
The potter and the clay
The first few verses of Jeremiah 18 report that he was directed by God to ‘Go down to the potter’s house and there I will give you my message.’
And he immediately responded: ‘So I went down to the potter’s house and I saw him working at the wheel. But the pot he was shaping from the clay was marred in his hands, so the potter formed it into another pot, shaping it as seemed best to him. Then the word of the Lord came to me. He said, ‘Can I not do with you as this potter does?’ declares the Lord. Like clay in the hand of the potter, so are you in my hand…’
Likewise this scripture requires a thoughtful response from you and from me. This is a huge component of personal restoration. If we can say, ‘Yes, God, I would like to be that kind of person and live that kind of godly life’ then our first step is to acknowledge to the Lord that we would like to be that tree.
The second step is also about acknowledging… ‘Yes, I have a messy heart and you God are the potter and I am the clay in your hands … so please have your way and mould me and shape me.’
But there’s an important third step… We need to make some regular on-going, disciplined choices and decisions on a daily basis which allow all of this to actually happen.
We all have choice. We live with its reality. We can see all of this truth in front of us and even agree with it, but still sabotage it by not following through with any consistent action and response.
Jeremiah 6:16 is God’s good advice: ‘Stand at the crossroads and look… ask where the good way is and walk in it; and you will find rest for your souls.’
God is leading us and prompting us to choose well – but remember… we all have choice. Responding and responses are verbs – doing words. Action verbs above are Stand; look; ask; walk; find.
How are we going to find rest and restoration – constantly and consistently allow ourselves to be clay in the hands of the Master Potter so that we grow into that solid tree?
By responding as God suggests we –
- Stand – Firm, strong and still
- Look – Focused and concentrated
- Ask – With courage and confidence
- Walk – In faith and obedience
- Find – Discovering a great new life!
It all comes down to choice – the way we choose to respond.
On Father’s Day we ran a fantastic film of some of the dads from our church giving advice to their children: What they were all saying came down to three things; loving, listening, learning. Imagine what a vastly different world we would be living in if all of us spent a little more time focusing on being able to love, listen and learn… consistently, genuinely. This too is a choice.
Good, Good Father is a precious chorus reminding us of the love of our heavenly Father God. God is love – full of love – for his children; for you and for me. And again it is a choice; it’s our choice as to how we respond to him.
God is not a distant, authoritarian Father – he’s a loving dad! Scripture records that we his children have the opportunity to call him Abba Father because we have been adopted into his family. Abba is an Aramaic word, used by Jesus himself, echoed in the earliest Christian community, and generally uttered by children towards their father… something like ‘Daddy’ or ‘Papa’ today.
But it was also a term of respect used by adult children for their fathers. So the word abba richly expresses our full relationship with God, denoting that we are dependent on him like little children and that we are free to run to him as children run to their daddies; and yet it also demonstrates that we offer God the highest respect and love as mature adults. He is our Abba Father.
Over twenty-two years ago, not long after Nicki had given birth to Jeremy, our first child, when we were still getting used to the concept of being parents, a friend gave me a little card that said, ‘Anyone can be a Father, but it takes someone special to be a Dad.’
What this is really referring to is attitude. My attitude as a father to be a dad – and of course our understanding of God’s attitude toward us as our Abba Father, our dad.
The good news!
Every one of us has, or had, a father and we can learn from our dads both the good and not-so-good things in life. But the good news is that we have a heavenly Father just waiting to have the best-ever relationship with us, regardless of what type of relationship we have or we had with our natural Father.
And what does a fabulous Father give to his children?
The simple and straight-forward answer is love. And that is what I’m focusing on – the love of the Father.
- The point: God our Father is full of love for us.
- The question: How will we choose to respond?
We’re human – we’ll all mess things up at some time or another! And because we all make errors we need to be restored and reshaped by God as great dads, mums, young people, kids.
- The tree –
Gives me an aim and reminds me that I can live a great and godly life.
- The potter and the clay –
Where I can allow myself to be reshaped by the master potter.
- The crossroads –
It’s here where I can then make great and godly choices while I stand, look, ask, walk and find!
The good news is that despite our mess, God our heavenly Father loves us and wants a wonderful ongoing relationship with us!
But we must recognise and acknowledge the messiness of our heart.
The question remains: How will we respond?