3 in 1: The Father
There are many things we think our parents and carers should and shouldn’t do and we won’t all agree on what those things are. The reality none of our parents or carers are perfect they will sometimes get things wrong. Equally they will often ask us to do things or stop us from doing certain things because they love us. They know what’s best for us, even though it doesn’t seem like it at the time. There were so so many things my parents wouldn’t let me do, at the time I didn’t understand or see why they were (in my eyes at the time) being so “horrible”. As I got older though I realised that there was always a reason, I am so thankful for them and their decisions on what they let me do. I honestly believe I would be in a completely different space spiritually if they had allowed me to do everything I wanted.
God is the perfect Father, and that doesn’t mean He will always do what we want, but He will always do what is best for us! He always has our best interests at heart.
14 For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God.15 The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba Father.” 16 The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. 17 Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.
Once you have read the verse think about the following questions:
What do these verses tell us about God?
What are the verses telling you about yourself?
How do the verses say that we should approach God the Father?
What make that possible?
Do you know God as a father?
Luke 15:11-31The Parable of the Lost Son11 Jesus continued: “There was a man who had two sons. 12 The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them.
13 “Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. 14 After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. 15 So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. 16 He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.
17 “When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! 18 I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’ 20 So he got up and went to his father.
“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.
21 “The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’
22 “But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23 Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. 24 For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.
25 “Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. 27 ‘Your brother has come,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’
28 “The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. 29 But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’
31 “‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours.
After reading that passage think about the next questions:
How did the first son treat the Father?
How did the father respond?
How did the second son treat the Father?
How does the Father respond?
What does this tell us about God the Father?
Which son do you feel you relate to the most?
The Bible tells us a lot about who God the Father is and it’s all good stuff. It paints a picture of faithfulness, love and grace, who never ever gives up on us and always welcomes us back. This is the Father we have in Heaven
Lord I praise you and thank you that you are our Father, I thank you for your everlasting faithfulness and unconditional love. I pray that each young person that reads this blog knows you as a Father.
Close encounters: Saul/ Paul
9 Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. He went to the high priest 2 and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem. 3 As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. 4 He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”
5 “Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked.
“I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied. 6 “Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”
7 The men traveling with Saul stood there speechless; they heard the sound but did not see anyone. 8 Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing. So they led him by the hand into Damascus. 9 For three days he was blind, and did not eat or drink anything.
10 In Damascus there was a disciple named Ananias. The Lord called to him in a vision, “Ananias!”
“Yes, Lord,” he answered.
11 The Lord told him, “Go to the house of Judas on Straight Street and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying. 12 In a vision he has seen a man named Ananias come and place his hands on him to restore his sight.”
13 “Lord,” Ananias answered, “I have heard many reports about this man and all the harm he has done to your holy people in Jerusalem. 14 And he has come here with authority from the chief priests to arrest all who call on your name.”
15 But the Lord said to Ananias, “Go! This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel. 16 I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.”
17 Then Ananias went to the house and entered it. Placing his hands on Saul, he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord—Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here—has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” 18 Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he could see again. He got up and was baptized, 19 and after taking some food, he regained his strength.
In this passage, Paul recounts his own story. After his encounter with Jesus, Paul’s life has taken a radical change of direction. Instead of persecuting the Jews who were following Jesus, he has done a 180 and become one of the Jews who travels around preaching about Jesus. He is in Jerusalem, Jewish territory. Other Jews in the area have seen him and his men and recognised them as Jews who they believed were preaching the wrong message. There was a riot, Paul was dragged, beaten, people were trying to kill him and he was then arrested. He now has the opportunity to speak to the crowd publicly and explain himself by sharing his story
In Acts 22, Paul is trying to get the people on his side by explaining that culturally, he is one of them. He has the right credentials, he is a Jew and he is from the same background as them. He is trying to appeal to the similarities he has in order to get them on his side- and probably stop himself from being killed! He is trying to defend his faith in Jesus and explain what happened to change him. He is trying to show them what happened to him can happen to them to. It can be significant when we tell our own story of encountering Jesus to others. They might not react straight away, but they might go away and start thinking about what you shared, especially if they can see there is something different in the way you live your life. There are other people who have become Christians from hearing somebody share their testimony. Our story can be a way of sharing the Gospel. Something we can learn from this passage is not to be afraid of sharing our story.
Names give us an identity. Names mean something. Saul’s name did not actually change at his conversion, because in Acts 9-13 he is still referred to as Saul. However, some people believe that there is significance in the fact that Saul changes name to Paul for his first missionary journey. We cannot be certain from the Bible why his name changed, but what is clear is that Paul took on a new identity as a Christian once he met Jesus. The Bible tells us that when we believe in Jesus we become new creations. 2 Corinthians 5:17 says, ‘Therefore, if anyone is in Christ ,the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!’ We don’t have to be defined the same way we were before we met Jesus because he gives us a clean slate, a new identity. We still make mistakes, but we aren’t the same person we were before.
In the conversion story we read today (Acts 9:15) God says of Paul Acts 9:15, ‘This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel.’ God had a plan for Paul, even after he had done terrible things. No matter who you are or what you have done, Jesus forgives and redeems and has a plan for our lives. Do you want God to use you? He can do a total 180 in all of our lives. People won’t always like it. They won’t always agree with the changes they see in you and it can be hard- look at how Paul was persecuted in Acts 22. But look at the far reaching impact Paul had on the church and spreading the Christian message and still does through the teachings in the Bible today.
Prayer: I pray that God would outwork his plans and purposes in each of these young people’s lives.
Close encounters - The Criminal on the Cross
Luke 23:39-43 New International Version (NIV)
39 One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!”
40 But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? 41 We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.”
42 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.[a]”
43 Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”
If I put you in a room with a group of your friends, I guarantee you don’t know every single thing about them. Including how many hairs they have on their head to how many miller meters their finger nails have grown in the last year.
Jesus knows everything about us; the good, the bad and the ugly, including the things we haven’t told him. Yet he loves us so much that he came to Earth and died on the cross so that we could have a personal relationship with him and have eternal life with him in Heaven. This session we are looking at the thief on the cross next to Jesus and how Jesus showed mercy and forgiveness to him.
In life we all have many choices, some more important than others. What we have for breakfast or what colour socks we wear won’t affect us in the long run, but there are often decisions that we must make which can have a big impact on the rest of our lives. However, there is one decision that will not only affect the rest of lives here on earth but will also affect us when we die. That decision is whether we believe that Jesus was who he said he was and choose to follow him, or whether we choose to deny him. As we will read in the Bible passage in this session, on the cross one criminal chose to mock Jesus and the other chose to follow him. These decisions had very different outcomes for these men.
As they were hanging on the cross, one of the thieves said to Jesus, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom." This demonstrated more faith in Jesus as the Messiah at that time than Jesus’ own disciples have shown. After Jesus was arrested, many of the disciples had fled and began to doubt Jesus and the fact that he really did come to save them.
John 3:16-17 says, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him.” We can believe and know in our minds that God is real and that He sent Jesus to die for us but until we take action to follow Him it won’t change our lives. That’s what Jesus asked, that we would follow him by putting all our trust in him and what he did for us on the cross to forgive us of our sins and allowing him to take control of our lives
Often, when we have split second decisions to make, these show us what is important to us. As Jesus and the two thieves hung on the cross, they all knew that their time left on earth was short. One of the thieves used his final words to make fun of Jesus, but the other knew that he needed to repent and turn to Jesus. When we are in situations where we must choose Jesus or to turn away from him what do we do? Is it hard or easy to stand up as a Christian?
Everyone is included in God’s love and salvation plan, no matter what they have done or how long they have left to live. No matter what their past or what they have been involved with, and that was so evident in the encounter Jesus had with the thief on the cross. All we need to do is repent (apologise) turn away from the bad things and turn to Jesus in faith.
People often think that God wants us to follow Him so that we will do things for Him. They think we can’t do the things we enjoy but have to do things that God tells us to do instead. Some people believe this is to earn a place in Heaven. While it is true that the Bible says that faith without works is dead, the story of the thief on the cross tells us something else. D. L. Moody was a great American evangelist and preacher. In one of his books he says this about the thief on the cross, “The thief had nails through both hands, so that he could not work; and a nail through each foot, so that he could not run errands for the Lord; he could not lift a hand or a foot toward his salvation, and yet Christ offered him the gift of God; and he took it. Christ threw him a passport and took him into Paradise.” It is an important reminder that we cannot earn our place in Heaven. Jesus has earned it for us. What is important and what God wants, is for us to have a relationship with Him. As we saw with our two volunteers, one was doing all the hard work while the other was spending time with me and just chatting. The one who spent time with me got the prize. This is what God asks of us. He doesn’t want us to be too busy doing things for Him that He doesn’t get to spend time with us. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do anything for God, if we love someone we will do things for them, but we do it because we want to, not because we have to. The only way we can “earn” our relationship with God is to repent and accept Jesus as our Lord and Saviour and have a relationship with him. That’s all the thief on the cross did.
There might be someone who has just read this, related to it and now feels they want to start and pursue a relationship with Jesus. It is often referred to as a response prayer, to turn to Jesus and ask him into your heart.
Dear Lord Jesus, I know that I am a sinner and I deserve to be punished. Please forgive me. I believe that you died and rose again to forgive my sins. I turn away from my sins and invite you into my life. I want to follow you. In Jesus’s name. Amen.
Close encounters - Mary and martha.
Luke 10:38-42 – 38 As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. 39 She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said.40 But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”
41 “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, 42 but few things are needed—or indeed only one.[a] Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”
When you have finished eating your dinner at home or at a restaurant there is always going to be a stack of dishes to clean. After a long day at school you still have to come home and complete your homework. I am one of those people that will start a big project, but then get distracted by something and end up starting a completely different! The worst it when I start to tidy my room and end up finding something I thought I lost and sit for hours wondering why it was there and how it got there. My point is, we always have a to-do list and there will always be something we need to do.
The story of Mary and Martha is a great example. It was so important in their culture for women of the household to show hospitality to their guests and provide them with the best food. So when Jesus stopped at their home to visit, Martha got to work promptly. But as she was running around opening the cupboards, grabbing her best recipes, and whipping up a meal, Martha noticed Mary wasn’t helping. Instead, she looked over and saw Mary lazily basking at Jesus’ feet, it was enough to make her skin crawl and blood boil. How unbecoming, how irresponsible, how shameless.
She walks up to Jesus and demands He sees the lack of justice in the situation: “Lord, doesn’t it seem unfair to you that my sister just sits here while I do all the work?” His reply is golden: “My dear Martha, there is only one thing worth being concerned about, and Mary has discovered it.”
There might be an expectation to respond to messages quickly, always be on call at work, having dinner ready by a certain hour as your mum or dad is working late and take the dog for a walk. And if you failed to do any of these things, it is as if you hear the gasps. You can see those raised eyebrows. You’d hate to be judged as irresponsible, especially as you’re soon going to be a young adult.
But as crazy and unusual as it is, Jesus has set a higher expectation to spend time with Him. He’s clarified our priorities for us: “there is only one thing worth being concerned about.” And that one thing isn’t your work, crafting the perfect post on social media, or making sure you are up to date on the latest fashion trends. It is sitting at Jesus’ feet, soaking in every word he has spoken, and growing in our relationship with Him. That is where you will have your close encounters.
Who or what do you make a priority over spending time with Jesus?
Prayer for today: “Lord, I praise you and thank you that we can come and sit at your feet, I pray that we stop giving so much of our time and attention to world and come back and focus on you. I want you to be the highest priority in my life, I pray that I spend time in your presence above anything else, in Jesus name.. Amen”
An intern at Jubilee Wirral