I am God’s child

Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God; and we are!
1 John 3:1 (NKJV)

I will never forget what it was like holding my children as newborn babies. They were so small and seemingly insignificant in the big scheme of things, but they instantly came to mean the world to me. I never got tired of staring at them, from their cute button noses, down to the incredible perfection of their fingernails. The love that I felt for them is one of the purest emotions I have ever experienced, and with each child, I found myself filled with a resolve to care for them with everything I had within me. The primal need to protect and provide for them was almost frightening in its intensity.

Now, it doesn’t take long for the reality of life with small children to come crashing in and cause some of the rose-tinted post-natal feelings to dim temporarily. Changing the endless supply of poopy nappies, routinely cleaning the weird milky sick that only babies produce, and mopping up the copious quantities of all other kinds of bodily fluids can be pretty relentless. Not to mention the sleepless nights. Did you know that sleep deprivation is a legit torture technique? True story!

Yet, even in the midst of the trials and tribulations that make up parenting a young baby, there were still moments where I would be privileged to carry one of my children in my arms as they slept. Where there was once a snivelling toddler moaning about being given the wrong colour plate, suddenly as if by magic, they would transform into my baby again! The glow of parental first love is revived, the stinkiness and hassle are all forgotten, and I’m back to being ready to lay down my life if they required it. This happened once at a friend’s wedding, and while my daughter slept I found myself singing gently over her:

I love you little one!
You are beautiful, so beautiful.
My beautiful girl, I love you!

As I finished singing, I sensed the small, insistent voice that I’ve come to recognise as the nudging of the Holy Spirit stir within me. To my great shock, He was singing my impromptu song back over me:

I love you, my son!
You are beautiful, so beautiful.
My beautiful boy, I love you!

For the briefest of moments, sensing the Father’s love, I allowed myself to feel what I have always wanted my own children to sense from me – just how deeply, truly, and passionately they are loved by their Dad. The tenderness of that moment took me by surprise as I realised afresh that I am loved with a great love, straight from the heart of the Father, expressed supremely in Jesus laying down His life for me and all the other prodigal sons who were far from home.

Unlike my own inconstant heart, our heavenly Dad doesn’t have moments where the hassles of looking after us get too much for Him, causing His affections to dim. Those who trust in Jesus are reborn and are privileged to be called the children of God. He views us with the devoted gaze of a father staring in wonder at their newborn child, always ready to care for us and provide what we need.

Living under the loving care of our heavenly Dad changes everything. We can live free from fear, safe in the knowledge that our Dad is the Lord Almighty and more than able to handle whatever difficulties we’re facing. Knowing that He loves us and that we have His attention, we can tell Him about what is worrying us, what is exciting us, what we would like to see happen and find peace in sharing our hearts with Him (Phil 4:6-7). As our good Father, we can trust Him to empower us and give us what we need to overcome in any circumstance, thriving and bearing good fruit no matter what comes our way (Matthew 7:11, Luke 11:13).

Perhaps the deepest thing of all is that we can live knowing that we are actually wanted, triply-desired by our Father; the first time when He made us in our mother’s womb (Psalm 139:13-14), the second time when Jesus died for us even while we were still messed up and filthy with our sin (Romans 5:8), and the third time when we were given the right to be called His children (John 1:12-13, 1 John 3:1). We can live with a sense of significance, knowing that we are loved by the most important Person in the universe, who loves us so much that He literally moved heaven and earth to make us part of His family.

Before you do anything else today, rest in His lavish love.

Just remember who you are

As a Dad to two girls, I have watched the latest live-action version of Disney’s Cinderella a time or ten! The last time it was playing in our house, the final showdown between Cinderella and her wicked stepmother caught my attention. Having done her utmost to trample over Cinderella’s happy ending, the stepmother is surprised to find that the King himself has come to seek his bride, and there seems to be nothing she can do about it.

She first tries to forbid Cinderella from descending the staircase where the King awaits to return the glass slipper that would prove her identity. An officer of the King rebuffed this attempt, and so the stepmother wields her final weapons: intimidation and scorn. Her words reveal the contempt that filled her heart: “Just remember who you are, you wretch!” Driven by jealousy and spite, the stepmother seeks to put Cinderella in her place. With all the venom she can muster, she tells Cinderella that she is nothing; a worthless wretch, who is only fit to serve her and her daughters.

Here is the dramatic climax of the story. Will Cinderella believe her stepmother’s lies? Has she been broken enough by the abuse she has received? Can she believe that there is a happily ever after if she can muster the courage to go down the stairs and meet her date with destiny?

Those of us who follow Jesus have a similar enemy. He comes against us breathing out lies about who we are and what we are worth. Where there are sins and temptations, he takes delight in reminding us of them, always suggesting that we are a lost cause. Where we have been hurt, he tells us that this is what we deserved all along. In the midst of fear and tribulation, he breathes out words of despair and doubt – “How could God possibly love you? You’re a wretch; a worm. You are just not worth bothering with!” In this way, the enemy intimidates and denigrates those whom God loves.

All-too-often, he doesn’t actually need to say anything at all. When we sin, we wallow in self-condemnation until we feel we have suffered enough. When things go wrong, we rarely rise up and fight against the situations we find ourselves in. We simply accept the opposition and go on believing that it’s our lot in life. Beaten down, we kneel in the dust and let the thief come to kill, steal, and destroy, living far below the abundant life that Jesus came to bring (John 10:10). Our own conscience, doubts, fears, and worries suffocate the good news of Jesus Christ – that we are forgiven, loved, accepted, and included in Him.

Like Cinderella, we have a choice before us. We can continue to believe the lies, and remain holed up in the dusty attic that has become our prison. We can live out our lives in glumness and misery, and console ourselves with the thought that at least we’ll get to go to heaven one day.

Or we can do what Cinderella did. We can refuse to believe the lies, and choose to meet with our King. Cinderella’s Kit left no stone unturned in the search for his bride, even joining the search party personally. In the same way, Jesus, our King, has moved heaven and earth to seek us out. He left His home, became just like us, and died our death that we might live. He then rose again so that He may claim His bride and be with us forever.

Our King longs for us to know Him in closeness and intimacy. The desire of His heart is that we would accept His view of us, and live in daily fellowship with Him. He is willing us to step out of the prisons we find ourselves in, descend the staircase, and find out the truth – that we are truly loved by the King!

Today, shut out the voice that condemns – whether it be demonic or your own self-condemnation and pride. Turn your ear to heaven, and hear your King speak:

“Just remember who you are, my beloved!”