The parent-child metaphor is perhaps the most tender picture of our relationship with God as believers. This is so movingly expressed in the Scriptures by the Hebrew term for Father God "Abba," meaning "Daddy." As we approach Fathers' Day (though this is for moms & others also), let's take a break from the blog-type format. Let's do a little digging into the Scriptures. You may like this study for your own devotions or as a small group.Read More
Oh hurray! It's almost 3pm! That means my favorite show is on Me-TV...The Rifleman. I'm not often at home at this time of the afternoon, but when I am, on goes the TV (usually while I fold clothes or crochet) to enjoy this oldie but goodie.
What is it about The Rifleman that calls to me? I love the interaction between the rancher/farmer Lucas McCain (the rifleman) and his middle school aged son Mark. There's a firmness, but loving-kindness to Lucas' fathering. You can even see it in his face...a wisdom that requires obedience, yet never harshly. There's a "yes" face, an easy smile that passes between father and son...and a mutual respect, appropriate for the position each holds in the scheme of things. But the Rifleman is no wimp...he will take you on, especially when it comes to his dear son.
This kind of fathering reminds me of my son Jeremy with his boys...firm, yet loving...never harsh. And you can tell the enjoyment they all experience with each other. And be sure he would take on anyone who would seek to harm his precious boys.
But Jeremy (and the Rifleman) would be the first to admit that they don't do it perfectly. Frustration, mistakes, fatigue, and even down-right sin overtake even the best of dads.
But I know a Dad who has no problem with any of that! And yes, He is kind and patient even with the fathers who do. Our Abba Father God is filled with loving-kindness toward His kiddos.
And so this Fathers' Day we celebrate God our Abba Father because all other fathers are merely pictures, flawed at best, of His almighty, tender, strong Fatherhood...
So maybe you would like to explore these scriptures to honor and appreciate the Father of all fathers. And remember, though He disciplines us, His children (Hebrews 12:5ff), He does so in love...and even with a "yes" Face.
Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children.And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. Ephesians 5:1-2 ESV
None of us on this earth has had the perfect dad. Some of us, though, would say we had pretty darn good ones…
Someone like my friend Shirley. She describes her dad in two words…”Charles Ingalls”. You remember him…from Little House on the Prairie fame, the TV Dad played by Michael Landon -- incredibly wise, loving, patient, and fun-loving.
There is another dad I would say is in the “Charles Ingalls” category. He’s my son Jeremy. Jeremy’s two little boys, Evan and Carter, are simply crazy about him! Now, I would say that "Babci" (pronounced Bob-chee; Polish for grandma…and my title used by all my grandsons) borders on “rock star” status with those little boys… BUT not when Daddy is around (and rightfully so)!
One day, I was at their house when Jeremy arrived home. Suddenly, any attention I was receiving immediately shifted toward the front door as Daddy made his humble, but “bedlam-producing” entrance. Both Evan and Carter ran over to him screaming, jumping up and down -- each of them vying for his full attention. Talk about energy and excitement! This loving, game-playing dad was being smothered by his two adoring sons! Somehow I can’t imagine that these little guys will have many, if any, “father-issues” growing up.
This makes me think about another Dad…one much more “Charles Ingalls-like” than Charles Ingalls…or my son Jeremy. A Father who is perfect in every way:
One who bestows every good and perfect gift (James 1:17)
One who gives joy and delight in His presence (Psalm 16:11)
Because of His Son Jesus, I can run to Him fully assured of being received with love and acceptance like Evan and Carter with their daddy (Heb 4:14-16).
Unlike them, however, I don’t have to vie with others for His full attention, because He is uniquely my Abba (Daddy in Bible language). Yet at the same time, He is Abba for multitudes of other sons and daughters…because He’s our Father GOD, and we are in His Son Jesus Christ(John 14:6; 1Cor 1:30).
So I ask myself, how readily do I run to my Heavenly Father as my source of joy, delight, love, and provision? Or do I rather turn to the"Babci's" of my life…the lesser “stars”, like appearance, activities, relationships, success, comfort, attention…good gifts, but not the Giver and Lover of my soul.
See how great a love the Father has bestowed upon us that we should be called children of God…and SUCH WE ARE! 1John 3:1
[First posted on June 15th, 2011]
This Fathers Day I'm thinking about spiritual fathers. I've been blessed to have some. My life has been forever enriched by being "spiritually fathered" by these people of God.
This year one of them, Dr. Howard Hendricks, went home to be with the Lord. You may have been fathered by him also through his books and messages.
Back in the early 1980's, when my husband was at Dallas Theological Seminary, I had the privilege to take two classes with Dr. Hendricks ("Prof"): Hermeneutics and Bible Study Methods and the Christian Home. His classes were immensely practical, encouraging, exciting, and motivating. One of his quotes I have never forgotten is "You cannot impart what you do not possess."**
His life and teaching had an impact on many, many others besides myself. In fact, people like Chuck Swindoll, David Wilkinson, and others trace their growth of their vision and ministry back to the mentoring of this man of God. [To read the article about his life in the DTS magazine, click here.]
But these days, I'm also thinking about another spiritual father, the apostle John. In His first epistle, the elder apostle penned a tenderhearted passage on the growth stages in a believer's life (1 John 2:12-14 ESV). Did you notice that he repeats two times the exact same description of the "father stage" of spiritual growth?
"...you know Him who has been from the beginning."
"You know GOD in His pure Person...the great I AM, the Burning Bush God, Jehovah!" Nothing else is needed...nothing else distracts. There's a total focus on the Ever-Present God and what HE is doing...especially in the lives of people.
Henri Nouwen, in his wonderful book The Return of the Prodigal talks about how we are each ultimately called to be the "father (or mother)" in others' lives.
...my final vocation is indeed to become like the Father and to live out His divine compassion in my daily life...every son and daughter has to choose to step beyond their childhood and become father and mother for others. It is a hard and lonely step to take... Return of the Prodigal, p121.
Nouwen talks about three ways to truly compassionate fatherhood: grief, forgiveness, and generosity. All three of these characteristics require a heart completely empty of self-seeking, a heart that steps over our own stuff and pours itself out for others. This is where the Father seeks to take His children as they "grow up" in Him.
I love the image of "stepping over our own stuff." It has helped me many a time in conversation or in situations to remember that as I mature in God I must be willing to step over this conflict, that slight, the other hurt, etc. That's the way of the Father...and the way of fathers and mothers who walk in His way on behalf of His children:
Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. Eph 5:1-2 ESV
Do you have any spiritual fathers in your life? If so, thank God and imitate their faith! If not, ask God for some...they are treasures! And then grow to become one!
Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith. Hebrews 13:7 ESV
**"PROF-isms" sayings of Professor Howard Hendricks
A belief is what you argue about; a conviction is what you die for.
You cannot impart what you do not possess.
You can impress from a distance, but you can only impact up close.
You teach what you know, but you reproduce what you are.
When God measures a man he puts the tape around the heart, not the head.
Jesus never discipled one-on-one.
There are many things in life you “can do” for God. And the more success you have, the more opportunities will come. (You will know more people, you will have more resources, etc.) But most opportunities are distractions in disguise. Therefore find the one thing you “must do” for God. You focus on the depth of your relationship [with God]; let Him determine the scope of your ministry A good leader has a compass in their head and a magnet in their heart. Spend the rest of your life doing what God prepared you to do. The secret to concentration is elimination.
Nothing is more common that unfulfilled potential.
Biblically speaking, to hear and not to do is not to hear at all.
The size of your God determines the size of everything.
People tell me they want to make the bible relevant. Nonsense. The Bible is already relevant. You're the one that's irrelevant.
Never traffic in unpracticed truth.
All people are born originals, but most die a copy.
Heaven is a Person: Jesus Christ.
There's no such thing as faith apart from risk-taking. Creativity takes risks. The people who are most secure in Jesus Christ shouldn't be scared to try new things.
Our problem is that we are in the Word but not under the Word.
Most people don’t think, they just rearrange their prejudices.
Your career is what you're paid to do; your calling is what you're made to do.
My fear is not that you would fail, but that you will succeed in doing the wrong thing.
You are able to do many things. Be sure you find the one thing you must do.
Your strengths develop your confidence; your weaknesses develop your faith.
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fa·ther n.1. a. A male person whose sperm unites with an egg, resulting in the conception of a child. b. A man who adopts a child. c. A man who raises a child. 2. A male parent of an animal. 3. A male ancestor. 4. A man who creates, originates, or founds something: Chaucer is considered the father of English poetry. 5. An early form; a prototype. 6. Father Christianity a. God. b. The first person of the Christian Trinity. 7. An elderly or venerable man. Used as a title of respect. 8. A member of the senate in ancient Rome. 9. One of the leading men, as of a city: the town fathers. 10. A church father. 11. Abbr. Fr. a. A priest or clergyman in the Roman Catholic or Anglican churches. b. Used as a title and form of address with or without the clergyman's name.
v. fa·thered, fa·ther·ing, fa·thers 1. To procreate (offspring) as the male parent. 2. To act or serve as a father to (a child). 3. To create, found, or originate. 4. To acknowledge responsibility for. 5. a. To attribute the paternity, creation, or origin of. b. To assign falsely or unjustly; foist. 6. To act or serve as a father.
Abba, transliterated from the Aramaic. Father, my Father
There is no English word that adequately conveys the meaning of the Aramaic word, Abba. The word itself expresses a close intimacy, reserved for parents and children, perhaps Dad, Daddy, or even Da-da.
In the New Testament, it is always used to address God and is followed immediately by the translation (Mark 14:36; Rom 8:15; Gal 4:6). this double expression [Abba Father] was common in the early church.
HONOR YOUR FATHERS THIS WEEK...whether physical or spiritual!
Above all, HONOR YOUR HEAVENLY ABBA FATHER...the Father Par Excellence!
In April 2005, my husband John came home from work and said, “I’m going to Shanghai next week for work!” Now you have to know that neither John nor I had been world travelers and haven’t even really had that on our “bucket list”. The idea of his going (by himself, mind you) to Shanghai was very terrifying…to both of us! As he was preparing to go, he was prayed over and encouraged by our kinship/small group to trust the Lord in this test to his faith. I took him to the Dayton airport very early the morning of his departure. After John checked his bags, I cried, kissed him good-by, and prayed. He slowly made his way in the serpentine line through which he had to go to get scanned. Then he would be out of sight and on to the gate.
There he was -- my tall, kind, gentle soul of a husband. I knew he was scared, and I was scared for him. All of a sudden, as clear as a bell, the small Voice: “John is just a little child, locked up in an adult body, trying to live an adult life in an adult world.” What did that mean? I would soon find out…
When I walked out of the airport to go to the car, what had been pitch-blackness (because of the early morning hour) had been transformed into the most beautiful, crystal clear, spring morning. I just couldn’t go back home on the interstate on a morning like this! I had to ride through the country. So I left and went north, not knowing where I’d end up.
I soon found myself in the parking lot of one of my favorite places: Charleston Falls Nature Preserve. Normally, I don’t go to remote places by myself, but I sensed the Voice drawing me on.
As I walked down the path, I thought of our son-in-law, who just a few days earlier had left for Africa. I pictured him in his Air Force camouflage, saying good-by to our daughter, his wife of less than a year. And the Voice came again, “Nate is just a little child, locked up in an adult body, trying to live an adult life in an adult world.”
I walked on. I remembered our son Jeremy a few years earlier, diagnosed with thyroid cancer at age 20. He was scared but trusting God. Again the Voice, “Jeremy is just a little child, locked up in an adult body, trying to live an adult life in an adult world.”
Then the truth dawned upon me:We are ALL little children, locked up in adult bodies, trying to live adult lives in and an adult world. And the only way we can do that is by living as little children with our Abba Father God!
I thought about Jesus, the Perfect Child of His Father. How did Helive?
He lived in dependence upon His Father. Jesus said, The Son can do nothing by Himself; He can only do what He sees His Father doing. John 5:19
He lived secure in His Father’s love. For the Father loves the Son, and shows Him all things that He Himself is doing. John 5:20
He lived in submission to His Father’s will. In the Garden of Gethsemane, the night before His crucifixion, Jesus prayed, My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as You will. Matthew 26:39
He lived with His Father in trust & vulnerability.In the days of His flesh, He offered up both prayers and supplications with loud crying and tears to the One who is able to save Him from death, and He was heard because of His reverence. Although He was a Son, He learned obedience from the things He suffered. Hebrews 5:7
This is good news, because the Perfect Child of the Father lives in me (Col 1:27).
He lives His Child-life through me as I surrender to Him! So now I know I don’t always have to have it all together. I can be vulnerable with my Abba and trust that He will enable me, through His indwelling Son, to live an adult life in an adult world till He calls me home!
I love a song that Twila Paris wrote and recorded many years ago in response to a teaching by an elder in her church. He spoke about being childlike before God. The elder had said that we don’t need to act “tough and brave”. We can cry before our Father and trust Him to work in our lives. That really struck home with Twila, because she had sensed that people were putting her on a pedestal because of her rising popularity as a singer and song-writer. And so she wrote the song, “The Warrior is a Child”. Maybe you will be able to identify with message of this song as I did:
Lately I've been winning battles left and right But even winners can get wounded in the fight People say that I'm amazing Strong beyond my years But they don't see inside of me I'm hiding all the tears
They don't know that I go running home when I fall down They don't know who picks me up when no one is around I drop my sword and cry for just a while 'Cause deep inside this armor The warrior is a child
Unafraid because His armor is the best But even soldiers need a quiet place to rest People say that I'm amazing Never face retreat But they don't see the enemies That lay me at His feet
They don't know that I go running home when I fall down They don't know who picks me up when no one is around I drop my sword and look up for a smile 'Cause deep inside this armor the warrior is a child
“You are from God, little children, and…greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world.” (1 John 4:4)
[First posted on April 25, 2011]