My Sunday sermons given at Sellwood Baptist Church in Portland, OR, for those who missed church or just want to see what we're up to. You can also listen to these sermons if you prefer. Just go to our church website and click the "Online Church" tab. Here's the link:

Monday, June 20, 2011

"Pictures of Our Father in Heaven" - (06/19/11)

Matthew 6:9 (Father’s Day Message 2011)
June 19, 2011

            Happy Father’s Day, all you dads, granddads, stepdads, etc.!  Father’s Day, contrary to popular misconception, was not established as a holiday in order to help the Hallmark greeting card company sell more cards.  In fact when having a “father’s day” was first proposed there were no such things as Father’s Day cards because they hadn’t yet been invented.
            The idea of a “father’s day” was conceived by a lady named Sonora Dodd of Spokane, Washington, while she listened to a Mother’s Day sermon in 1909.  Mrs. Dodd wanted a special day to honor her own beloved father.  Her dad, William Smart, a Civil War veteran, was widowed when his wife (Mrs. Dodd’s mother) died in childbirth with their sixth child.  Mr. Smart was left to raise the newborn and his other five children all by himself on a rural farm in eastern Washington State.  It was after Mrs. Dodd became an adult that she realized the strength and selflessness her father had shown in raising his children as a single parent.
            The first Father’s Day was observed in Spokane Washington on June 19, 1910.  June was chosen because it was the month of Mr. Smart’s birth.  At about the same time in various towns and cities across the country other people were beginning to celebrate a “father’s day.”  In 1924 President Calvin Coolidge supported the idea of a national Father’s Day.  Then in 1966 President Lyndon B. Johnson signed a presidential proclamation declaring the 3rd Sunday of June as Father’s Day.  Finally, in 1972 President Richard Nixon signed the public law that made it a permanent commemoration.  In later years Father’s Day has evolved to become a day to not only honor our fathers, but all men who act as father figures—stepfathers, uncles, grandfathers, and even father-like adult male friends.

            Here’s some trivia for you this morning.  On what day of the year are the most phone calls made?  Answer: Mother’s Day.  It seems that on Mother’s Day everybody wants to call home.  So what do you thinks happens on Father’s Day?  Anyone want to make a guess?  The most collect calls! 
            Personally I guess that’s OK, because dads like to feel needed.  They like to be called on for advice and help.  Mom’s traditional job is to keep the house looking nice, take care of the clothes, prepare meals, and bandage up wounded little bodies.  Dad’s job is to bring home the bacon, fix all the broken stuff around the house, take care of the yard and flower beds, empty the garbage, and defend his family from all enemies both foreign and domestic, especially his daughters.  That’s the traditional “division of labor.”  It’s not a perfect system but it’s the one many of us grew up with.
            I read a thing on the Internet this week entitled, “50 Reasons Why It’s Good To Be a Guy.”  I won’t read all of them but I did put together a short list of some of my personal favorites: “Because you are a guy…”
            #12.  You are not expected to know more than 5 colors.
            #11.  You think the idea of punting a cat is kind of funny.
#10.  If you retain water, it’s in your canteen.
#9.  You can go to the bathroom without a support group.
#8.  If someone forgets to invite you to something he can still be your friend.
#7.  You can drop by to see a friend without bringing a little gift.
#6.  If another guy shows up at the same party in the same outfit, you’ll give him a high-five and you just might become lifelong buddies.
#5.  Three pairs of shoes are more than enough.
#4.  You can be showered and ready to go in 10 minutes flat.
#3.  Your pals can be trusted never to trap you with, “So, do you notice anything different?”
#2.  If something mechanical doesn’t work, you can bash it with a hammer and throw it across the room.
#1.  You can “do” all 20 of your nails with a pocketknife.

            Yes, it’s good to be a man, but it’s even better to be a dad!  But that doesn’t mean it’s easy.  Any male can sire offspring, but being a good father is a big challenge.  Today we want to look into God’s Word to get some insights into what it means to be a good father and how we can improve in the job.

The Bible often speaks of the FATHERHOOD of God.
            Matthew 6:9-13 is one of the best known passages in the Bible.  If you ask the average person on the street to say The Lord’s Prayer, most can at least start it. “Our Father which art in Heaven, hallowed be Thy name…”  Many people can quote that, but they don’t really appear to appreciate the full import of the words they are saying.  “OUR FATHER in Heaven”.  What a tremendous thought!  What an untold privilege to be able to address the mighty Creator of all things this way... Our FATHER.
            There are scores of other places in the Bible also where God is described, and indeed describes Himself, in the terms of His fatherhood.
  • Psalm 68:5 - “A father of the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God...”
  • Psalm 103:13 - “As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear Him.”
  • Isaiah 63:16 - “You, O LORD, are our Father; Our Redeemer from Everlasting is Your name.”
  • Matthew 7:9-11 - Jesus said: “Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone?  Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake?  If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in Heaven give good gifts to those who ask Him!”
  • John 20:17 - After He rose from the dead, Jesus told Mary to go to His disciples and tell them he was alive and He said, “I am returning to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.”

            Proverbs 17:6 says, “... the glory of sons is their father.”  Here are some pictures of my dad.  He died on May 26th, 2006 and I still really miss him.  He was a good man and a good father, though I didn’t always have the good sense to recognize that fact.  I would give anything to be able to spend with him again, to work alongside him, to learn from him, and to listen to him.
            I cherish these pictures and others like them, because they remind me of the wonderful person my father was.  Likewise, there are pictures in the Bible that reveal something of the character of God, our Heavenly Father.

            This morning I’d like us to look at three biblical pictures of fatherhood, each of which shows us an aspect of the great father-heart of God.            
            The first picture is found in Genesis 22:1-19.  It’s the picture of...
            This is the familiar story of Abraham and his son Isaac.  Abraham was WILLING, in his love and devotion to God, to be obedient even in sacrificing his own son.  This was the boy God had promised him, and he had waited years for his wife Sarah to conceive him.  And yet, at the word from God, Abraham took his son up Mount Moriah, with Isaac carrying the wood for the fire of his own sacrifice.
            Not only do we have a willing father here, but evidently a willing son also.  It’s very doubtful he was a little boy - he was most likely a youth or young man - certainly strong enough to carry the wood up a mountain!  But God had spoken to His father, and they went together, willingly.  Abraham stood on that mountain, no doubt with his vision blurred by the tears streaming down his face, and he raised the knife to sacrifice his beloved son.  But at the last possible moment, when God saw that he was obedient, the Angel of the Lord called to Abraham to stop: “For now I know that you fear God.”  Those of us who are fathers here today can only marvel at Abraham’s total obedience and faith.  What a test!
            God, likewise, is the WILLING Father who, in His love and devotion to us, was prepared to give up His own Son.  His Son, Jesus, was willing to be obedient and carry His own cross up on a mountainside - a hill called Calvary - to give His life in sacrifice.  However, while Abraham was given a reprieve - because it was a test - there was such no reprieve for God; it was no mere test!  WE were in the balance.  God went all the way and gave His Son.
            You see the Bible says that “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.”  When Adam and Eve rebelled against God it cut the entire human race off from God.  Right to this present day, man has continued in sin.  And the Bible says that “the wages of (our) sin is death.”  Everlasting death!  When God gave up His only Son to death, He was dying in our place, providing a substitute sacrifice, so that whoever believes in Him, trusting Him to be their Savior, can be forgiven and come back into right relationship with God forever.  Our Heavenly Father was WILLING, in love and devotion, to give us His Son.  Yes, He is the WILLING Father.

            The second picture I’d like you to see is found in II Samuel chapter 18.  It’s the story of...
            This is the story of when King David’s son, Absalom, had plotted treason against his own father.  He raised an army of discontents and sought to bring about a military coup to take his father’s throne by force.  David’s loyal soldiers, under the command of General Joab, went out to stop them in battle, and they did just that.  However, in the fighting Absalom was killed, and the news was brought back to David by a messenger.  Let’s read the passage: II Samuel 18:24-33 [Read it to them].
            Here is David, heartbroken over the death of his son, Absalom.  Absalom had not been a faithful son.  He had dealt treacherously with his father!  He had sought to overthrow him from the throne.
            But perhaps David remembered the sweet little boy he had bounced on his knee, the youth he had watched grow before him into manhood.  Absalom was his own flesh and blood.  True fathers do not stop loving their children just because they act like idiots.  David still LOVED Absalom, even after all the horrible things he had done and said.  At the news of his death, David’s heart was torn and he wept over his son.
            Here we have a picture of God, the God who takes NO delight in the destruction of the wicked.  He loves us.  We all have turned our back on God and gone our own way, and so many refuse to return, even after His willingness to give up His Son for us - but God still remembers how it SHOULD have been / COULD have been.  He knows the plans He had for us, the relationship He wanted with us.  God’s heart is broken over every lost person.
            There’s a glimpse of this in Jesus’ words over Jerusalem.  The refrain sounds very much like David’s words over Absalom: “O my son Absalom; my son, my son Absalom.”  Jesus said: “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her!  How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, but you were not willing!”  Israel would not receive Jesus, and in rejecting Him they were rejecting God.  Jesus’ heart was broken and He wept over Israel.  God’s father-heart is still broken by people who try to live without Him.
            You see, our God is a holy God.  He cannot condone sin or overlook it.  His ways are higher than our ways.  His thoughts are so much higher than our thoughts.  There is no fragment of sin in His perfect nature.  God loves you with a committed and everlasting love, a love more real and powerful than any other you have ever known, but do not mistake that for some human sentimentality that would allow Him to sweep our sin under the carpet and overlook it.  He cannot deny Himself.  God’s HOLINESS coupled with His JUSTICE mean that He WILL banish people to hell.  The Bible is very clear about that.  But He will not do so gladly, but mournfully, reluctantly, and with a breaking heart.  II Peter 3:9 tells us that God is “not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.” 
            II Samuel 14:14 says, “For we will surely die and become like water spilled on the ground, which cannot be gathered up again.  Yet God does not take away a life; but He devises means, so that His banished ones are not expelled from Him.”  God DEVISES MEANS - He goes to extraordinary lengths and works extravagant plans so that people can be saved.  God sent prophets to prepare the way, He fashioned history to prepare a time, and then, “when the fullness of the time had come” He sent His only Son to live and die for us that we, the banished ones, may not be expelled from Him.
Having done all this, do you think He won’t be heartbroken when people keep going without Him, lost in their sin?  It breaks His heart.  God is the Weeping Father.

            The third and final picture of God is found in Luke 15:11-32.  It’s the story of...
            You certainly remember this very famous story that Jesus told, the story of the Prodigal Son.  Verse 11 begins with, “A certain man had two sons...” [Briefly tell the story.]
            This is another son who has walked away from his father’s house and gone off in his own rebellious ways.  But the WAITING father is out in the fields - WAITING - LONGING - HOPING - LOOKING for his wayward son to return.  When the prodigal returns, even when he is still afar off the Bible tells us that with tears streaming down his face the father RUNS to embrace, welcome, and restore his son.
            My friend, if you will take just ONE step toward God today, He will run to you with arms open wide to embrace, welcome, and restore YOU, to give you a place in His house, and to dress you in the robes that show you belong to Him as His son or daughter.  He loves you!  He is the God of all grace and He has been waiting for you to finally come to your senses and come home to Him.

            Yes, like Abraham who sacrificed his only son, Isaac, God is the WILLING FATHER who willingly gave up His only begotten Son, Jesus, “that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”  And like David who wept over his son, Absalom, God is the WEEPING FATHER who “desires that none should perish but that all should come to repentance.”  And thirdly, like the father of the prodigal, God is the WAITING FATHER who stands gazing down the road, waiting for sinners to turn around and come to Him, admitting their sin and guilt, and receiving the salvation that He so freely offers.
            Will you please bow your head and close your eyes?  What will be your response to the waiting Father today?  Will you come home?  Will you cast yourself on His great mercy today, and say: “Father, I have sinned.  I am not worthy to be called Your child.  But I believe You willingly gave up Your Son, Jesus, to die in my place, to take my death penalty.  I believe you bankrupted Heaven to keep me out of hell - to have me home with You and I will not ignore that sacrifice.  Please forgive me, Father, for I have sinned against You.”  
            When God hears that simple prayer of trust in Jesus, you are going to find that the waiting Father will be there to receive you.  He will take you as His own son or daughter, and you will live with Him forever.

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About Me

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Since 1994 I have been the pastor of Sellwood Baptist Church in Portland, OR. Before that I was a missionary in South Brazil for many years. Until just recently I have also served as a police chaplain with the Portland Police Bureau. Now, however, God has a new assignment for us. My wife and I have been appointed with WorldVenture and are preparing to move to Ireland to help plant a new church in Sligo, a small city in NW Ireland. I'm married to Ramel, a crazy, beautiful redhead that I love more than life itself. We have three great kids, Jonathan, Chris, and Simoni who have given us ten wonderful grandchildren. We are truly blessed.

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