Pastor Edward Brouwer 6-17-18 “The Father Heart of God” John 14
The Father Heart of God
Today is Father’s day and I want to wish a blessed day to all the dads out there. I was blessed to have an amazing dad who passed 4 years ago and so today is a little bittersweet. But I am also blessed to be the dad of 3 amazing young people and their respective significant others. Pondering the joy of fatherhood points us also to the Good good Father we have as believers in our heavenly Father. So often our own relationship with our dad is a mirror of the relationship we have with God. Jesus introduced a bold new concept of God as father. That God the Father cherishes us, provides for us and nurtures us. Last week I spoke about the famous test of self-control called the Marshmallow Test. After the service I was talking to two of our young people and they very astutely pointed out that the ability to delay gratification, and hold out for two marshmallows is a matter of trust. If we trust the person that promises us 2 marshmallows if we wait, then we are more likely to do so than if we don’t trust that person. After all, like the saying goes “a bird in the hand is better than 2 in the bush”. I believe we can trust our heavenly Father, because God is inherently good and he desires to give us what is the very best for us. This reminds me of an object lesson shared by one of my all time favorite people of faith Corrie Ten Boom. Corrie had learned to trust God early in life. When she was still a small girl she had witnessed the death of a baby and was confronted with the fragile nature of life. She was spooked by the experience and burst out in tears sobbing to her father “I need you; you can’t die.” Seeking to comfort her Corrie’s father sat down with her and said “Corrie when you and I go to Amsterdam on the train when do I give you the ticket?” Sniffling she replied “why, just before we get on the train”. “Exactly, and our wise Father in heaven knows when we are going to need things too. When the time comes God will give you the grace and strength to face all your fears”. Corrie experienced the truth of that when her family was betrayed to the Nazis and sent first to jail and then a concentration camp. She experienced the grace of God in her time of need. God does not promise us a life filled with only happy things, but he weaves the dark and golden strands in our life into a beautiful tapestry, because we know that in all things God is at work for our good and His glory.
Read John 14
Jesus reveals to us our God who is loving and has provided everything we need for life and godliness. 1 Peter 1:3 says: 3 His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness, through our knowledge of him, who called us by his own glory and goodness. 4 Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them we may participate in the divine nature…”
He created this beautiful world, he designed our amazing bodies and minds—and all of these things he did so that we could enjoy the good gifts of this life. Things like food and drink and shelter and meaningful relationships and gifts of intellect and art to give purpose to our lives. All of these beautiful gifts point us to the character and nature of the Giver. In that sense God is our Father, since that is what a father wants to do for his children (he gives good gifts, namely): 1) He loves us. 2) provides for us, 3) encourages us, 4) helps us, by example and discipline to live flourishing lives.
Love–When 1 John 3:1 says “o what manner of love the Father has given unto us, that we might be called the children of God….we understand and we see that it is in the Incarnation that God has provided a way forward to become part of His family: from the brokenness of our sins, into a place of flourishing. He loves us and invites us into this love. But it’s a choice. Like so many things in life we can choose to cooperate or choose our own story line (like some videogame). Do you want life? Then Jesus invites you into his story line. By faith in Christ we accept the provision of the Father for a life that is abundant (“for I have come to give you life and that abundantly!) But what if you did not feel love from your dad? My heart goes out to you. Questions fill our hearts like “why did God allow me to have that kind of a (fill-in-the-blank) father”? I don’t know and I pray that you can find peace. I’m reminded of a film we saw recently based on the story of the life of the lead singer and songwriter Bart Millard of the band Mercy Me. Out of the pain and hurt of a broken relationship with his dad who he said was a hateful monster came the song “I Can only Imagine”….Jesus invites us to exchange our burden for his light yoke, to give you beauty for ashes. He doesn’t promise to fix every story line into a fairytale ending. In Bart’s case his father surrendered his life to Christ and was so radically transformed by the love of God that he became a different man. Bart saw that transformation and it carried him forward in his own commitment to Christ. He said something like: “If God can change that monster, into the dad I now have, then this really must be true”.
Encourage—I hope and pray that each of you can share stories of your own father as one who encouraged you. My own dad did that through words and action whether it was attending my hockey games or appreciating my musical talent; my dad affirmed me. He especially encouraged me, again by word and example, in my faith journey. God has revealed His character through two great books: the book of creation which we can read through our sense and make inferences about God’s divinity—that God loves beauty and design and rhythm and color and sound. Who could think up these things? Who can really explain their existence without an incredible creative mind behind it. So God encourages us to work out our salvation as he nudges us and directs us into “paths of righteousness for His name sake”. That is a quote from the second great book of revelation: His Word. “Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet; a light unto my path”. Read it daily. Let the Word wash you. Ephesians 5:26 speaks of Jesus sanctifying us as his holy bride by the washing of the Word. Do you take a shower everyday? If not people might notice. It’s the same with the daily washing by the Word. If you don’t immerse yourself in God’s Word daily you may notice within a day or two, but certainly within several days people around you will notice! I can’t stress enough the importance of daily immersion in God’s Word.
Help—Psalm 46:1 says God is our refuge and our strength a very present help in time of need. God displays his help for us first and foremost by placing us in families. We are helpless when we are born and we need the tender care of both a father and a mother to help us grow. Most of us can say that our dad’s had a big role in helping us succeed. My dad took a particular interest in developing in me a solid work ethic. My dad worked hard all his life, first in construction and then later on as a teacher in a trade’s college. My dad inspired me with his work ethic. He and I would often work on projects together around the house, whether painting or gardening. He taught me the Law of diminishing returns. He said “you only have so much time to allocate to any particular item on the to-do list”. So eye ball the project, challenge yourself to do it within a certain timeframe and then move on to the next thing. He kinda ironed out my perfectionist tendencies (in which you spend as much time on a project to get it from great to perfect as you spent getting it from zero to great). How does that apply to our heavenly Father? Well we are to be about His business. As we see the challenges of the day let’s take a moment to ask a couple of critical questions in prayer: Father what would you have me do today and would you make me sensitive to the amount of time I need to spend on this so that I actually get done what you (rather than I) want. Let me explain from something that happened to me this week…I popped in on a friend at his office this past week to tell him about Glenda’s mother in hospice. I thought it would be a quick 15-minute visit but it turned out to be nearly 2 hours as he poured out his heart to me. Apply this to yourself: the Father has work for you and he enables you to do it, as we join Him. But take time to discern His purpose rather than setting your own agenda and asking God to bless it.
Discipline—the Father also disciplines those whom he loves. God loves us too much to ignore our selfish ways. He will pursue us. CS Lewis in The Problem of Pain wrote: “We want not so much a Father but a grandfather in heaven, a God who said of anything we happened to like doing, ‘What does it matter so long as they are contented?” Sometimes our heavenly Father puts us into situations that we don’t understand or can’t appreciate the value of in the moment because we are too immature at the time or we are selfish and willful. Here’s a story to reflect on: A dad of a 17 year old young man sees that his son seems to enjoy the perks –but not always the responsibilities–of family life. On a certain day the son asks his dad if he can use the family car to go out with his friends to a concert that evening. The dad says yes but (wanting to make this a teachable moment) agrees on the condition that the son details the car, to take an hour and wash it and vacuum it. The son agrees. But he procrastinates, gets talking with his girlfriend on the phone and realizes at some point that he does not have time to clean the car. Since he himself doesn’t care what the car looks like he decides that he isn’t going to do it. By late afternoon the dad sees that the car hasn’t been cleaned so he asks his son about it. “Oh, I decided I didn’t have time to do it”. “O did you? Not so fast son. You agreed and so you will not use that car tonight unless you clean it”. Here’s the critical moment for the son—everything is hanging on his choice….he storms off in a huff…but here’s the thing about enlightened self interest (the Marshmallow Test if you will)…. because, when push comes to shove, the son knows what side his bread is buttered on….so a little later the dad sees the son washing the car. Externally the son is cooperating with the dad, but the real question is what’s going on inside? God is more interested in our heart than in keeping his rules. He wants to grow us and mature us into joyful children with lives filled with good things that enable us to flourish. Look at your own life. Are you cooperating with the Father? Or are you resentful or rebellious? The Father heart of God is beckoning you into a joyful relationship with him. Come enter into that.