Belonging to God

Every thing we have is gift. Though we tirelessly try at times, our sense of belonging is given to us. Choice by choice we are invited to trust that we belong to God and that this God - Father, Son and Spirit - will actively guard us and keep us close.

John 17:6-19 (NLT)
“I have revealed you to the ones you gave me from this world. They were always yours. You gave them to me, and they have kept your word. 7 Now they know that everything I have is a gift from you, 8 for I have passed on to them the message you gave me. They accepted it and know that I came from you, and they believe you sent me.
9 “My prayer is not for the world, but for those you have given me, because they belong to you. 10 All who are mine belong to you, and you have given them to me, so they bring me glory. 11 Now I am departing from the world; they are staying in this world, but I am coming to you. Holy Father, you have given me your name; now protect them by the power of your name so that they will be united just as we are. 12 During my time here, I protected them by the power of the name you gave me. I guarded them so that not one was lost, except the one headed for destruction, as the Scriptures foretold.
13 “Now I am coming to you. I told them many things while I was with them in this world so they would be filled with my joy. 14 I have given them your word. And the world hates them because they do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. 15 I’m not asking you to take them out of the world, but to keep them safe from the evil one. 16 They do not belong to this world any more than I do. 17 Make them holy by your truth; teach them your word, which is truth. 18 Just as you sent me into the world, I am sending them into the world. 19 And I give myself as a holy sacrifice for them so they can be made holy by your truth.

For Reflection and Prayer:
Was there a word, phrase or image which caught your attention you as you listened to or slowly read the text? Quietly reflect on it in your prayer with Jesus. Journal your conversation.

Was there any particular emotion which emerged as you listened to the scripture?
Journal about it. Where do you sense that emotion in your body? What does that emotion tell you about your need?

Reflect on your belonging to God. Where are you most aware of belonging to God? and least aware? Where or when do you long to belong to God?

Savor any consoling words or pictures as you quietly rest in God.

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Completing the Work

The complete confidence with which Jesus lived out his assignment from his Father is inspiring and compelling. How often do we long to have such confidence in living out our purpose? All along Jesus has kept his ears tuned to his Father's voice and has simply enjoyed the company of his Father. He shows us how to listen, trust and act, moment by moment. In this 17th chapter of John he will let us hear the longings of his heart expressed to his Father.

John 17:1-5 (NLT)
After saying all these things, Jesus looked up to heaven and said, “Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son so he can give glory back to you. 2 For you have given him authority over everyone. He gives eternal life to each one you have given him. 3 And this is the way to have eternal life—to know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, the one you sent to earth. 4 I brought glory to you here on earth by completing the work you gave me to do. 5 Now, Father, bring me into the glory we shared before the world began.
John 17:1-5 (TMG)
Jesus said these things. Then, raising his eyes in prayer, he said:
Father, it’s time.
Display the bright splendor of your Son
So the Son in turn may show your bright splendor.
You put him in charge of everything human
So he might give real and eternal life to all in his charge.
And this is the real and eternal life:
That they know you,
The one and only true God,
And Jesus Christ, whom you sent.
I glorified you on earth
By completing down to the last detail
What you assigned me to do.
And now, Father, glorify me with your very own splendor,
The very splendor I had in your presence
Before there was a world.

For Reflection and Prayer:
What did you hear as you listened or read the text? Did something particular catch your attention? Bring it into conversation with Jesus.

Give yourself room for the word to affect you. What are you feeling or sensing? Gently bring this awareness into your prayer with Jesus.

What is it like for you to listen in on Jesus’ prayer with his Father? What do you notice?
Savor any consoling words or pictures as you quietly rest in God.

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The Father Loves You Dearly

Plain talk: the Father loves you dearly.
It's that simple.
For many of us, it seems to take nearly a lifetime or an unbearable sorrow or an excruciating trial to come to know this in the depths of our being. Yet this is the love which heals, comforts and transforms us at our core where head knowledge becomes heart knowledge. Be extremely gentle and compassionate with yourself in the process. We cannot make ourselves get there. Yet we can, moment by moment, surrender to the love of the Father and rely on God's love to take us there.

John 16:25-33 (NLT)
 “I have spoken of these matters in figures of speech, but soon I will stop speaking figuratively and will tell you plainly all about the Father. 26 Then you will ask in my name. I’m not saying I will ask the Father on your behalf, 27 for the Father himself loves you dearly because you love me and believe that I came from God. 28 Yes, I came from the Father into the world, and now I will leave the world and return to the Father.”
29 Then his disciples said, “At last you are speaking plainly and not figuratively. 30 Now we understand that you know everything, and there’s no need to question you. From this we believe that you came from God.”
31 Jesus asked, “Do you finally believe? 32 But the time is coming—indeed it’s here now—when you will be scattered, each one going his own way, leaving me alone. Yet I am not alone because the Father is with me. 33 I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”

For Reflection and Prayer:
Was there a word, phrase or image which caught your attention you as you listened to or slowly read the text? Quietly reflect on it in your prayer with Jesus. Journal your conversation.

Was there any particular emotion which emerged as you listened to the scripture? Pause to listen to it. Bring it into your prayer

Is there a place where you are feeling scattered or alone? What do you need from God in that place?

Savor any consoling words or pictures as you quietly rest in God.

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Encouraged to Ask

Somewhere along the way, many of us became afraid to ask - afraid to ask for clarification and understanding, afraid to ask for what we need, afraid to ask for help, and afraid to ask because we might be shamed for asking. Jesus affirms our need to ask questions of one another, of him and especially of his Father. Let's bring our questions. Allow ourselves to be known in our questions. Feel our need and dependence on God. Listen for the Father's heart in the answer which comes and in the waiting for an answer which can seem like forever. Then let's watch to see what happens to our joy.

John 16: 17-24 (NLT)
Some of the disciples asked each other, “What does he mean when he says, ‘In a little while you won’t see me, but then you will see me,’ and ‘I am going to the Father’? 18 And what does he mean by ‘a little while’? We don’t understand.”
19 Jesus realized they wanted to ask him about it, so he said, “Are you asking yourselves what I meant? I said in a little while you won’t see me, but a little while after that you will see me again. 20 I tell you the truth, you will weep and mourn over what is going to happen to me, but the world will rejoice. You will grieve, but your grief will suddenly turn to wonderful joy. 21 It will be like a woman suffering the pains of labor. When her child is born, her anguish gives way to joy because she has brought a new baby into the world. 22 So you have sorrow now, but I will see you again; then you will rejoice, and no one can rob you of that joy. 23 At that time you won’t need to ask me for anything. I tell you the truth, you will ask the Father directly, and he will grant your request because you use my name. 24 You haven’t done this before. Ask, using my name, and you will receive, and you will have abundant joy.

For Reflection and Prayer:
Was there a word, a phrase, or an image that stood out as you listened? Linger there awhile with Jesus.
Consider your familiarity with grief and with joy and how the Lord feels present to you there. What do you notice? Do any invitations rise to the surface?

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The Ministry of Absence

In John 17, Jesus puts words around the necessity and purpose of his leaving. He has more he wants to teach us by his absence. This can be painfully difficult for us to understand or appreciate.

Henri Nouwen has said a few wise words about the ministry of absence:
"there is a ministry in which our leaving creates space for God's Spirit and in which, by our absence, God can become present in a new way." (The Living Reminder)

Wil Hernandez says in his book, Mere Spirituality:
"Knowing when to be present or absent can understandably be a challenge. Still, we need to learn how to creatively navigate our way through this tension so we can best cooperate with God. To be a hospitable soul host with, to, and for others calls for a spacious heart - a heart able to create and offer both interior space for one's self and exterior space for others, as well as a discerning heart that wisely knows who to exercise "creative absence.""

This is a matter for our prayer.

John 16:5-15 (NLT)
“But now I am going away to the one who sent me, and not one of you is asking where I am going. 6 Instead, you grieve because of what I’ve told you. 7 But in fact, it is best for you that I go away, because if I don’t, the Advocate won’t come. If I do go away, then I will send him to you. 8 And when he comes, he will convict the world of its sin, and of God’s righteousness, and of the coming judgment. 9 The world’s sin is that it refuses to believe in me. 10 Righteousness is available because I go to the Father, and you will see me no more. 11 Judgment will come because the ruler of this world has already been judged.
12 “There is so much more I want to tell you, but you can’t bear it now. 13 When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own but will tell you what he has heard. He will tell you about the future. 14 He will bring me glory by telling you whatever he receives from me. 15 All that belongs to the Father is mine; this is why I said, ‘The Spirit will tell you whatever he receives from me.’

For Reflection and Prayer:
Was there a word, phrase or image which caught your attention you as you listened to or slowly read the text? Quietly reflect on it in your prayer with Jesus. Journal your conversation.

Was there any particular emotion which emerged as you listened to the scripture?
Journal about it. Where do you sense that emotion in your body? What does that emotion tell you about your need?

Reflect on your longing for an Advocate. Where are you needing someone to defend you or fight for you? Bring these longings into your prayer.

Savor any consoling words or pictures as you quietly rest in God.

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Understanding the Father's Heart

We begin to truly flourish when we come to know the heart of Abba Father in our own hearts. When our lived experience allows us to taste the Father's love and compassion for us we become enabled to see the God's signs more readily around us. Our pain, sorrow and suffering can become gateways to discovering the heart of the Father and we need to be very gentle with ourselves in the process.

John 15:18-16:4 (NLT)
“If the world hates you, remember that it hated me first. 19 The world would love you as one of its own if you belonged to it, but you are no longer part of the world. I chose you to come out of the world, so it hates you. 20 Do you remember what I told you? ‘A slave is not greater than the master.’ Since they persecuted me, naturally they will persecute you. And if they had listened to me, they would listen to you. 21 They will do all this to you because of me, for they have rejected the one who sent me. 22 They would not be guilty if I had not come and spoken to them. But now they have no excuse for their sin. 23 Anyone who hates me also hates my Father. 24 If I hadn’t done such miraculous signs among them that no one else could do, they would not be guilty. But as it is, they have seen everything I did, yet they still hate me and my Father. 25 This fulfills what is written in their Scriptures: ‘They hated me without cause.’
26 “But I will send you the Advocate—the Spirit of truth. He will come to you from the Father and will testify all about me. 27 And you must also testify about me because you have been with me from the beginning of my ministry.
16 “I have told you these things so that you won’t abandon your faith. 2 For you will be expelled from the synagogues, and the time is coming when those who kill you will think they are doing a holy service for God. 3 This is because they have never known the Father or me. 4 Yes, I’m telling you these things now, so that when they happen, you will remember my warning. I didn’t tell you earlier because I was going to be with you for a while longer.

For your reflection and prayer:
As you listened, was there a word, a phrase, an image, or something else that stood out to you? Notice what it stirs in you. Have a conversation with Jesus about this.

This text might evoke painful memories of hatred. Be very gentle and compassionate with yourself as they arise. Simply ask God for what you need and share the longings of your heart for healing in you or a situation.

Slowly savor any consoling words or images which God gives you in this time of prayer. Simply rest in God’s presence with them.

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Making Yourself At Home in God's Love

Remaining in love and obedience can seem like an odd pairing of commands, especially according to the standards of the world. Yet there is deep wisdom in these words of Jesus. He knows that to obey is to listen -- really listen and hear the heart of his Father in the words of his Father. By remaining at home in his Father's love, Jesus heard the will of his Father. That love fueled his choice and power to act in love, ultimately laying down his life for his friends, including us.

John 15:9-17 (NLT)
  “I have loved you even as the Father has loved me. Remain in my love. 10 When you obey my commandments, you remain in my love, just as I obey my Father’s commandments and remain in his love. 11 I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow! 12 This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you. 13 There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command. 15 I no longer call you slaves, because a master doesn’t confide in his slaves. Now you are my friends, since I have told you everything the Father told me. 16 You didn’t choose me. I chose you. I appointed you to go and produce lasting fruit, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask for, using my name. 17 This is my command: Love each other.

For Reflection and Prayer:
Was there a word, phrase or image which caught your attention you as you listened to or slowly read the text? Quietly reflect on it in your prayer with Jesus. Journal your conversation.

What feelings – either comfortable or uncomfortable - are rising up in you as you listen to this text? Gently bring this awareness into your prayer with Jesus. Listen for how he meets you in these feelings.

Sketch or color a picture of what “remaining” might look like for you.

Savor any consoling words or pictures as you quietly rest in God’s compassion for you.

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How Do You Make Your Home in God?

How do you make your home it God?
What do you need there which allows your heart, mind and soul:

  • to rest
  • be nourished
  • be known
  • be loved
  • be delighted in
  • be forgiven
  • be strengthened
  • to wait
  • to join together and become one
  • and flourish?

    And how do you take this mobile home in God with you, wherever you go or wherever you are?

John 15:1-8 (MSG)
“I am the Real Vine and my Father is the Farmer. He cuts off every branch of me that doesn’t bear grapes. And every branch that is grape-bearing he prunes back so it will bear even more. You are already pruned back by the message I have spoken.
4 “Live in me. Make your home in me just as I do in you. In the same way that a branch can’t bear grapes by itself but only by being joined to the vine, you can’t bear fruit unless you are joined with me.
5-8 “I am the Vine, you are the branches. When you’re joined with me and I with you, the relation intimate and organic, the harvest is sure to be abundant. Separated, you can’t produce a thing. Anyone who separates from me is deadwood, gathered up and thrown on the bonfire. But if you make yourselves at home with me and my words are at home in you, you can be sure that whatever you ask will be listened to and acted upon. This is how my Father shows who he is—when you produce grapes, when you mature as my disciples.

For Reflection and Prayer:
Was there a word, phrase or image which caught your attention you as you listened to or slowly read the text? Quietly reflect on it in your prayer with Jesus. Journal your conversation.

Was there any particular emotion which emerged as you listened to the scripture? Talk it over with God in your prayer.

Sketch out your idea of what making your home is God is like. What do you hope it is like?

Savor any consoling words or pictures as you quietly rest in God.

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Never Alone. Never Abandoned.

Our need and longing for safety and security is real and fully understood by God. The One who faithfully fashioned us knows our craving for belonging and intimate friendship. What a promise Jesus gives in these words. No one else can truly deliver on the promise to never leave us or forsake us. Not for a moment. Be still with these words of Jesus today and allow them to enfold your heart. You are not alone. Ever.

John 14:15-24  (NLT)

15 “If you love me, obey my commandments. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate who will never leave you. 17 He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth. The world cannot receive him, because it isn’t looking for him and doesn’t recognize him. But you know him, because he lives with you now and later will be in you. 18 No, I will not abandon you as orphans—I will come to you. 19 Soon the world will no longer see me, but you will see me. Since I live, you also will live. 20 When I am raised to life again, you will know that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. 21 Those who accept my commandments and obey them are the ones who love me. And because they love me, my Father will love them. And I will love them and reveal myself to each of them.”
22 Judas (not Judas Iscariot, but the other disciple with that name) said to him, “Lord, why are you going to reveal yourself only to us and not to the world at large?”
23 Jesus replied, “All who love me will do what I say. My Father will love them, and we will come and make our home with each of them. 24 Anyone who doesn’t love me will not obey me. And remember, my words are not my own. What I am telling you is from the Father who sent me.

For Reflection and Prayer:
1. Was there a word, a phrase, or an image that stood out as you listened? Linger there awhile with Jesus.
2. If any experiences of being “led into all truth” come to mind as you listened, consider listening deeper with our Advocate. Rest in any word you receive.

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The Way of Trust and Surrender

Repeatedly through the Gospels, Jesus has candid conversations with those in relationship with him. He allows them not only to hear his words but also to actually live in the experience of them.   Some of what Jesus seems to be saying in this passage is...
 
I have shown and will keep showing you how I trust my Father's life in me, surrender to his initiatives and take action. It may look senseless, crazy or too hard to you at times but this is where life is so big that it can hold truth, reality and pain together while my Father continually works to bring renewal. Evil will not prevail. Vulnerable love is powerful. Are you willing to join me in what I am doing?

John 14:5-14 (NLT)
Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?”
6 Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7 If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.”
8 Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.”
9 Jesus answered: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10 Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you I do not speak on my own authority. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. 11 Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the works themselves. 12 Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. 13 And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.

For Reflection and Prayer:
If something captured your attention - a word, a phrase, an image - let this simmer in you and allow the Spirit to expand its meaning for you. Journal what you hear and your response.

Meditate on one of the names of Jesus which has been particularly meaningful for you. What about that characteristic deepens your attachment to Jesus?

Quietly rest with God and any consoling words or images given to you in this time of prayer.

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