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A Faithful Father

Repeatedly, the Bible speaks of God as “Father,” and while we sometimes think of this as a New Testament distinction, we find this language in the Old Testament as well — God is the Father of Israel (Hosea 11:1), the father of the Messiah (Psalm 89:26), and the father of the fatherless (Psalm 68:5). Nevertheless, in today’s culture, many have grown up either without fathers or in contexts where their fathers model behavior that is abusive, neglectful, or otherwise self-centered. And in cases like this, the Biblical analogy of “Father” is often one with which people struggle and sometimes even recoil. In light of this reality, how are we to tackle this very Biblical notion of God being our Father.

To begin with, the one thing that we must never do is to abandon the Scriptural analogies. Many in mainline denominations prefer to speak of God as a “faithful parent,” as a “friend for the fatherless,” or even as a mother-figure given that oftentimes people’s maternal relationships have been more loving (though this is certainly not always the case). The big problem with this model is that it presumes the dysfunction of someone’s experience as normative and then rewrites the Biblical norm in light of the dysfunction.

Instead of throwing out the Biblical analogy, we ought to embrace it recognizing that God is the Father who sets the perfect ideal — an ideal that even the best of our earthly fathers never fully live up to and of which they commonly fall short. The reality is that no matter how dysfunctional our earthly fathers are and even if they are absent from much of our lives as was my own biological father, children crave time with their dad. We can try and substitute a variety of things for a father’s influence, but as noble and healthy as those things may be, they never quite reach the bar because God designed families to be constructed in a certain way — namely with both a mother and a father raising their children together and instructing those children in the Christian faith which they model.

And do understand, fathers can be absent without actually abandoning the family completely. How many fathers work so many hours that they never seem to be present in the home? How many fathers neglect time with their children because there is always one more thing to do? How many fathers flee to their workplace to avoid problems in the home with which they should be involved in discovering a solution. How many fathers abdicate their role of spiritual head of the family to their wives? And how many fathers are begetting children without first entering into a lifetime covenant with the woman who will mother their children? 

Rather than to do as the mainline churches do, the better solution is to embrace the Biblical analogy as the idea and to set the bar for our men, expecting them to rise to the call and be the kind of Father that God models for them. And then, to recognize that even though our human fathers often fall short — and we do — our heavenly Father never does and we can celebrate that because we all need strong fathers in our lives.

My Mouth Will Declare Your Praise: Psalm 51 (part 16)

“Oh Lord, my lips you will open,

and my mouth will declare your praise.”

(Psalm 51:17 {Psalm 51:15 in English Bibles})

 

Loved ones, hear these words of David, and hear them well.  When it comes to your worship, and what the writer of Hebrews calls your “sacrifice of praise” (Hebrews 13:15), the value and quality of it has nothing to do with the skill that is demonstrated.  The value of it lies within the origin of the praise.  Is the praise that you give a product of the work of the Holy Spirit in your life, or is it a product of men?  You may have the voice of a world-class operatic singer, but if your song is not powered by the movement of the Holy Spirit, you are but a noisy and lifeless instrument.  Yet, you may have no more skill than a school-child, but if your praise is lifted up by a sincere heart before the Lord, and is empowered by the Holy Spirit, such a song is considered sweet in the ears of God.

Friends, do not forget who it is that is writing these words—it is David the songwriter.  Yet, David understood clearly that the power behind his songs was the working hand of God in his life.  It is God who must open our lips so that praise may flow forth.  At the same time, sometimes our lips become closed in the wake of great sin, yet David sets these words forth in confidence, knowing that in his repentance, God will restore him in faith and will once again give him a voice to sing God’s praises.

Beloved, do you sing to God?  I mean, do you really sing with your whole heart?  Are you intimidated because you have difficulty holding a tune?  Are you afraid that you will be off-key with the person in the pew next to you?  Do you worry what that person will say of your singing behind your back?  Beloved, there may be a hundred reasons why you do not sing your praises to God, but there are an infinite number of reasons to praise him with your whole voice!  Loved ones, we are a people who have been redeemed from sin and death—how can we spend a moment of our lives not praising God?  Yet, if you are one of those who are gifted in voice (something that I am not J), make sure that you are not singing because of the praise of your audience—if you sing thus, it will serve no other purpose.  Rather, sing praise that points to God and use your gift to point others heavenward.  Lastly, loved ones, praise God both inside and outside of His sanctuary.  Praise him when you go to and fro; praise him in your homes and in your cars; praise him in your waking and sleeping—praise him, praise him, praise him in all that you do.  Give God the glory, for great things he has done!

To God be the glory, great things he has done!

So loved he the world that he gave us his Son,

Who yielded his life an atonement for sin,

And opened the life-gate that we may go in.

Praise the Lord, praise the Lord,

Let the earth hear his voice!

Praise the Lord, praise the Lord,

Let the people rejoice!

O Come to the Father through Jesus the Son,

And give him the glory, great things he has done!

-Fanny Crosby