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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