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God is… the Perfect Father

I want to start this Father’s Day service revisiting our lectionary reading:

Matthew 28: 18-20

18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

When I read this I wonder if this is really meant for me! The great commission ended when the disciples finished? Right?  Mum & Dad were the missionaries, not me!

“Please God, not ME!! Please!”

Maybe the problem is, that like the disciples, I don’t actually know (and therefore don’t actually trust) God enough to be able to do it. Like the disciples, I berate myself “oh ye of little faith”.

Today I want to give a glimpse of God as a Father figure, God’s nature and qualities of fatherhood… We know all words for God are metaphors: describers of the One who cannot be described!
How do you describe the indescribable?

In the Hebrew Scriptures we don’t find references to God, the intimate Father figure.

We find references to God the Father-Creator, and God the Father-Source, so Jesus, my favourite freedom fighter, introduces this idea to us of God as a father figure. Blasphemy!

Now… God didn’t create religion – man did.  We try to describe the Creator of the Universe in a way (with words and imagery) that we can understand.

And so along comes this young man in 1st Century Palestine, and he dares to call God “Daddy.”

Unbefitting, scandalous, blasphemous, crazy! …

He called the Almighty One “Daddy”.

How dare he?  A personal relationship with God, the Creator of the Universe?

For this reason the Jews tried all the harder to kill him; … he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.[1]

In spite of this threat, Jesus taught us “Abba”: Daddy.

This is intimacy – a close-knit relationship with a Creator God that was feared and revered,worshipped from afar, with entrance into the Holy of Holies once a year, by one man, on behalf of a nation.  And wearing bells along his hem, in case he was struck down for unholiness…

In Mark 14:36 Jesus prayed in the garden of Gethsemane:

“‘Abba, Father,’ he said, ‘everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.'”

Jesus had a relationship of daily communication: constant prayer and asking for direction; He connected daily with the source of his power. He didn’t try to do things “on his own.”

So, what do we look for in a Father?

Ask any child, and here are some of the qualities of a perfect Father they will probably respond with:

1.    My Daddy tells the whole world that He’s MY Dad and how proud He is of me.

After Jesus was baptized:

… heaven was opened, and he (John) saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him (Jesus).  And a voice from heaven said:  “This is my Son, whom I love, with Him I am well pleased.”[2]

Before Jesus had said to anyone who his father was, God took care of making it clear that “This is my son”, and went even further: “I love him, and I am really pleased and proud of him”.  How reassuring to hear those words, spoken so clearly, before you head out into the big, wide world to fulfil your purpose in life.  “Hey everyone, this is my kid, and he’s a great kid.  I’m really proud of him.”

And so, we are told in Romans and Galatians:

The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, …; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship.  And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.”[3]

Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba Father.”[4]

And 1st John 3:1

“See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God…

2 Corinthians 6:18

“I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.”

Though God the Father is Creator of all things, He is known as a personal and loving Father only to those who call on Him and seek His face.

And in case you’re still feeling a little insecure:  in Acts 17, verses 24 to 28 we read:

“The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth … 25 And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else. …. 27 God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. 28 ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’[a] As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’[b]

2.    My Daddy may not give me what I want, but He always gives me what I need

And we have these promise from God to rely on:

My God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches…[5]

Delight yourself also in the Lord and He will give you the desires and secret petitions of your heart.[6]

Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.[7]

3.     My Daddy makes me feel secure: I can always go to him when I’m scared

Like David, we can say:

Whenever I am afraid, I will trust in You.[8]

4.   My Daddy is my friend

Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” And he was called the friend of God.[9]

My relationship with “Abba” is to be that intimate – it should be like calling Mum after a bad day at work and saying, “I’ll meet you at the Café down the street, I need someone to talk to.”  I tell my friends about the good, the bad, the struggles, the victories, my hopes and dreams – and my Abba is my friend!

Prayer should be more like taking a walk with a friend along a beach… and less like dropping in to the Laundromat on your way to work with a laundry list!

5.    My Daddy takes care of the bullies – He’s always my hero, coming to the rescue.

Really!  He does!  He goes out there, and He stomps on those bullies so that they don’t beat me up any more!

Remember that bully in the Bible? He was about 9 feet tall, and he stood on the battle field at shouted at the Israeli army:

“Why do you come out and line up for battle?  … Choose a man and have him come down to me.  If he is able to fight and kill me, we will become your subjects; but if I overcome him and kill him, you will become our subjects and serve us” … [10]

… Saul and all the Israelites were dismayed and terrified.

And so we have the little shepherd David, who watched the Israelites scatter in fear, and who dared to say to Saul:

Let no one lose heart on account of this Philistine; your servant will go and fight him. … The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the law and the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.

Goliath, when he saw David, and saw that he was only a boy said:

Am I a dog, that you come at me with sticks?

And David bravely responded:

You come against me with sword and spear and javeline, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel… This day the Lord will hand you over to me, and I’ll strike you down and cut off your head. … All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves; for the battle is the Lord’s and He will give all of you into our hands.

That’s the Daddy that I’m talking about!  See… My Daddy’s bigger than your Daddy!

6.    My Daddy loves me unconditionally

David has such an amazing way of describing God’s love:

Your love, O Lord, reaches to the heavens, your faithfulness to the skies.
Your righteousness is like the mighty mountains, Your justice like the great deep.
O Lord, You preserve both man and beast.
How priceless is your unfailing love!
Both high and low among men find refuge in the shadow of your wings.[11]

Paul prayed:

I pray that from His glorious, unlimited resources, He will empower you with inner strength through His Spirit.  … make His home in your hearts as you trust in Him.  Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong.  And may  you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep His love
is.  May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully.  Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.

Now all glory to God, who is able, through His might power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.[12]

And, like Angelina Jolie, my Daddy tattooed my name on the palms of his hands. We read in Isaiah:

Can a mother forget her nursing child? Can she feel no love for the child she has borne? But even if that were possible, I would not forget you!  See, I have written your name on the palms of my hands.[13]

7.   My Daddy’s my favourite teacher

David says:

Since my youth, O God, you have taught me… [14]

And then we have this promise in Isaiah 30:21:

Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.”

And Jesus even promised:

But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.[15]

8.    My Daddy spends time with me – He likes me, even with all my crazy ideas.  He really knows me!

And He loves me even when I don’t deserve it.  David reminds us:

O Lord, You have searched me and known me.
You know my sitting down and my rising up;
You understand my thought afar off.
You… are acquainted with all my ways. …
Where can I go from Your Spirit?
Or where can I flee from Your presence?
If I ascend into heaven, You are there;
If I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there.
If I take the wings of the morningand dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
Even there Your hand shall lead me, and Your right hand shall hold me.[16]

It doesn’t matter how far away I run, when I’m done running and I need to come home, He’s there waiting for me.  He knows where I am, and is always ready to hold me.  Like the prodigal son, He’s always waiting with His arms wide open for me.

9.   I can always trust my Daddy – He keeps His word.  He never makes a promise He won’t keep

Joshua says:

You know with all your heart and soul that not one of all the good promises that the Lord your God gave you has failed.  Every promise has been fulfilled; not one has failed.[17]

10.   Like every good father, My Daddy corrects me

We find this reminder in Hebrews about a father’s correction:

have you completely forgotten this word of encouragement that addresses you as a father addresses his son? It says,

“My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, 6 because the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.”[a]

7 Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? 8 If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline—then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all.[18]

As hard as it may be, sometimes I have lessons to learn in life, before I am ready for more independence. And like a loving father, He wants to make sure that I am ready for what I will face and that I am tough enough for the challenges to come.

11.   My Daddy is always ready to listen and help me.

When I have problems, I can come and tell him all about them.  His Word promises:

…let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need[19]

It doesn’t matter what I am going through, He is there waiting to help me. I just have to come and ask him for his help.

12.   My Daddy lets me cry on his shoulder when things are going wrong:

David once again seems to say it best:

Have mercy on me, O Lord, for I am weak;
O Lord heal me, for my bones are troubled.
My soul  also is greatly troubled; … save me for Your mercy’s sake.[20]

I am weary with my groaning; all night I make my bed swim;
I drench my couch with my tears.
My eye wastes away because of grief…[21]

O Lord my God, in You I put my trust;
Save me… and deliver me.[22]

The Lord also will be a refuge for the oppressed, a refuge in times of trouble.
And those who know Your name will put their trust in You;
for You, Lord, have not forsaken those who seek You.[23]

13.  My Daddy picks me up and carries me when I need it

In Isaiah we read His promise:

Listen to me, … you whom I have upheld since your birth, and have carried since you were born. 4Even to your old age
and gray hairs I am he, I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I  will carry you;  I will sustain you and I will rescue you.[24]

We all know that our God is omniscient, omnipotent and omnipresent.  But sometimes we need to be reminded that He is close to us, He is our Father and Creator, He is our Daddy.

Even if His eyes are everywhere, if He searches all hearts and observes each one of our ways, knowing everything about everything and everybody, all at the same time, this doesn’t make him any less our personal God and Father.  While it may be impossible to describe His greatness and while we stand in awe of His capacity, we can all proudly say:

14. “My dad is better than your dad”

I know that I can proudly shout out to the world:

Oh, the depth of the riches, both of the wisdom and knowledge of God!  How unsearchable are His judgements and unfathomable His ways!  For Who has known the mind of the Lord or who has become His Counsellor?  Or Who has first given to Him that it might be paid back to him again?  For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things.[25]

So, when we get to know God, and catch a glimpse of how God really is, then we can joyfully, like the disciples, go out and tell others what we know (as witnesses of how great God has been to us!).  We are not supposed to testify without first-hand experience!

And even then, I’m never going to truly understand His greatness!  Like Job answering God:

I am unworthy – how can I reply to you? I put my hand over my mouth.[26]

My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you.  Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes.[27]

It’s only as I get to know God that I can start to trust Him.  I will never truly comprehend His

But, we’re not supposed to stay living at home forever, at some point we have to get out there and show the world what a great job MY DAD did in preparing me for life, so that I can be another person’s mentor and show them how it’s done.

As we read in:

2 Corinthians 13: 11

… rejoice! Strive for full restoration, encourage one another, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you.

[1]   John 5:18

[2]    Matthew 3: 16-17

[3]   Romans 8:15

[4]  Galatians 4:6

[5]  Philippians 4: 19

[6]  Psalms 37:4

[7]  John 14: 13

[8] Psalm 56:3

[9]  James 2:23

[10]  1 Samuel 17: 4- 50

[11]  Psalms 36: 5-7

[12]  Ephesians 3: 16-21

[13] Isaiah 49: 15-16

[14]  Psalms 71:17

[15]  John 14: 26

[16]  Psalms 139: 1-10

[17]  Joshua 23:14

[18]  Hebrews 12:4-8

[19]  Hebrews 4:16

[20] Psalms 6:2-4

[21] Psalms 6:6-7

[22]  Psalms 7:1

[23] Psalms 9:9-10

[24]  Isaiah 46: 3-4

[25] Romans  11:33-36

[26] Job 40:4

[27]  Job 42:5-6

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