Encounter: Find a quiet spot to read or listen to these scriptures: Psalm 103:13-14, 68:5-6; 2 Corinthians 1:3, 6:18; Matthew 6:28-32, 7:9-11, 14:36; Luke 15:20; Matthew ; John 10:27-30; Romans 8:15; write down in your journal the words in these passages that describe God’s character and nature.
Recently I sat in a quiet corner of The Bridge coffee shop in Upland working on my sermon for the following Sunday. I find getting out of the office at times helps me to focus, study and hear the promptings of the Holy Spirit more clearly and their looseleaf green tea brewing in a glass press adds to the inspiring atmosphere.
All of a sudden, the door opened and I heard a daughter cry out to her father, “Dad!! What are you doing here?!” And just as loudly the father shouts back, “Surprise!! Happy Birthday!” After things calmed down a bit, I was able to overhear their conversation and find out that the friend who was with her had arranged for them to meet there so he could surprise her on this very special day. And what made it an even bigger surprise was the distance he traveled to get there. He had driven 8 hours to show his daughter just how much he valued her. In a sacrificial show of love, the father had come to her.
Another picture ran through my mind. A father running towards his son. “But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. The son said, “Father, I was wrong. I have sinned against you. I could never deserve to be called your son. Just let me be–” The father interrupted and said, “Son, you’re home now!” (Luke 15:20-21, TPT)
Whichever biblical name we most perceive God relating to us, one of the most surprising and most comforting and also one of the most difficult for some to embrace is God as Father. To understand the radical nature of Jesus revealing God as Father we need to view the context in Luke 15 from the middle eastern perspective.
Jews would never have called upon God as Abba which can be translated, “Daddy or dear father.” When you were the powerful patriarch of the family, intimacy, compassion, grace were not what you would find as characteristic of the “pater.” When the two sons behaved so badly, in that culture they would have been met with punishment not grace. But like the father at the coffee shop, God surprised them! Throughout the scriptures included in this week’s Renew, God over and over reveals to us not only the perfect picture of a father, but the actions that follow his nature.
Instead of punishing and cutting off errant sons, the father in Jesus’ story of the prodigal son keeps a lookout for him and as soon as he spots him, runs out to embrace and celebrate his son coming home. Not only that, the Father stops the rest of the community from punishing them by getting to them first by running, which a traditional middle eastern father wearing long robes would never do in public. Instead of rebuke, shame and a slap to the face, they are met with only words of grace, acceptance and love.
If you try to find an earthly model that helps you perceive who God the Father is, you will most likely find yourself disappointed. Whether you experienced an almost perfect father or your father was absent and unloving or even abusive, God desires to surprise us by understanding something even greater.
as Ann Spangler describes in her book, Praying the Names of God,
What a stunning revelation–that God is not only Lord and Master, the Ancient of Days, the Mighty Creator, the Holy One of Israel, but also Abba. And we are his children, not by virtue of our humanity but by adoption into his family. Because of Jesus our Brother, we dare to call God Father, to count on his compassion, to depend on his provision, to lean on his love.
On this Father’s Day weekend, we take time to honor our Dad’s for their sacrifice and all the ways they care for and love their families. It is also a time when we can take a moment and lift up our voices saying thank you to our Heavenly Father for opening the door, running out to meet us and surprising us with such a great love.
See you Sunday as we celebrate our fathers!
Thankful for our Father,
Reflection: Think about the ways you have experienced the kind of grace this father extended to his son. What does the parable of the prodigal son reveal about our heavenly father? What is it like for you to call on God as Abba, Daddy or dear father?
Encourage: After reading through the scripture passages above, reflect on your experience with your own earthly father/s. Take time to write your Dad a card thanking him for the ways he cared for you and your family. If you are in need of healing from a father that did not show you love or compassion, take time to write a letter telling him how this made you feel and find encouragement and prayer with a friend, pastor or counselor to ask God to heal the brokenness that created.
Gather: Discuss in your Life Group or Sunday Study Group what it is like to think that God is not only our King and Lord but also our Father. What comforts you the most in the scriptures listed above? Pray for one another to be able to receive God as Father and end your time by praying The Lord’s Prayer together.