Sermon delivered June 15, 1996

by Pastor Jim Erwin

McDonald Road SDA Church, McDonald, TN 37363

Father's Love

Jeannette's dad wouldn't do a certain thing. Now he would do just about anything for the family, but it was an unwritten rule: Dad doesn't do dishes. He would do just about anything else. He would work in the yard, in the garden until his clothes were soaked with sweat. He would get up early to take the kids somewhere, stay up late for special events. He would even take care all the disgusting, filthy kinds of things that the kids and Mom didn't want to do. He just would not do dishes. Dad didn't do dishes.

Well, Jeannette grew up and she got one of those "fix-it-up" homes because Dad'd do anything. So, "Dad, how about a new door?" "No problem." "Well, Dad, how about a garage?" "Sure." "How about fixing the fence so my dog won't get out?" "All right." "How about taking my cat down to the vet's while I'm at work?" "Sure." Just anything that Jeannette wanted Dad to do, he did.

Well, Jeannette's work got kind of hectic. Maybe you know some people who have been overloaded at work. Maybe they were down-sizing, letting people go and piling on the few people who were left. But anyway, Jeannette was just covered up. She stayed late at the office, and when she came home she brought work home, and she'd turn her computer on.

One night she came in and she noticed the house looked like a tornado came for a visit. Just... She's going to get to it..., get to it.... But... But... She never got to it. She came in one night and automatically turned the computer on and went into the kitchen to get a cup of a... non-Postum. As she was getting that she kind of caught something out of the corner of her eye: this kind of gleaming white stuff. What in the house would be gleaming white? She looked around, and there! All the dishes that had been piling up for weeks were all clean and in the dish rack.

She thought, "Mamma was here today!" She called up Mom. She said, "Mom, thank you for doing the dishes for me!" Well, Mom said, "I didn't do them, honey." You can imagine in Jeannette's mind... Mom didn't do them, and Dad doesn't do dishes, was it my brother, or my little sister? Surely not! And then Mom went on and said, "Your Dad did them." Trembling, Jeannette put the phone back on the hook in awe. "Dad? Dad?? Dad did the dishes for me?" And she looked at all the gifts of love her Dad had given her, and this was the greatest of them all. Just totally unexpected; total surprise.

Do you think Jeannette liked that? How do you think it made her feel about her father?

You know, when we look in the Bible, sometimes we find some things we don't expect. It's a little surprise. Like last week, when we were talking about the Trinity. Jesus said in John 14, "If you've seen me, you've seen the Father." Now how did the disciples react to that? Yeah, Right! Philip said, "Just show us the Father, and we'll be okay."

They're kind of like us, I guess. We intellectually know that Jesus and God are alike, but in our hearts it's a little different story. Now, think of the picture that you know people have of God the Father. Jesus, sweet and nice. We can take care of that. We can handle that with our hearts real well. We grow up with that. But God the Father? What's the normal picture we have of God the Father? Some big old mean brat up there just waiting to see us do something wrong, and then he's going to come and squish us. Just waiting to get us. You know, to chew us out. Unfortunately, that's been around for centuries, millennia. Satan has done a pretty good job of slandering God.

And Jesus said... I have a surprise for you. I know you won't expect it. Jesus said, "The Father is just like me." Can you wrap your heart around that?

Well, Jesus had some other surprises as well. If you will open your Bibles to Mark, chapter fourteen. On the way, let me say that in our book about the twenty-seven fundamental beliefs. You've seen that book? Seventh- day Adventists beliefs. On page 20, it says that the New Testament pretty well carries all the names for the Father from the Old testament except for one. And that is the name of "Father". In the Old Testament, the word "Father" is about twelve hundred times. A maximum of fifteen times the word is applied to God. That's about one percent of the time. In the New Testament, the word "Father" is used about four hundred times, and two hundred forty seven of those times the term is applied to God. That's over sixty one percent. What made the big difference? The book, Seventh-day Adventists Beliefs, says that Jesus used the term, "Father" to bring us into a close and personal relationship with the God. It's a relationship term.

In Mark fourteen, verse thirty six. This is the story of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, and He's praying. He's praying that if there's another way, "then Father, let it be." Verse thirty five, Jesus went a little farther, and fell on the ground and prayed, "If possible, the hour might pass from Him." Verse thirty six, He said, "Abba, Father, everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me, yet, not what I will but what You will."

"Abba" "Father" They throw in an Aramaic word. And when Jesus used this word it was totally new. The ancient Israeli's did not use that term of God. In fact, it was an outrageous term. Many of you will be surprised, as I was surprised when I first came across it in the lexicons and the dictionaries and the writings about the terms the bible uses for "Father". Let me ask you this question as we get to it. When your children were just little babies, and they begin to talk. Did they says something like this for their very first words: "Father, it's nice to see you"? Or, "Mother, dear, good morning"? Was that the first words they said? What were the first words you babies said? "Dada," and "Mamma." Daddy and Mamma.

Now the reason this was so outrageous to the Jewish people, particularly to the disciples, is that "Abba" is the Aramaic word for what a little baby says to Daddy, to his father. And Jesus said to the disciples, "I can say Father, dear Father, or Daddy, because I am on a secure basis with God. I Trust in God. I feel close to God. He says to us, as He says to the disciples, the twelve, "You can have that same kind of relationship. You can be that close to God.." Now I'm sure that many of you, like me, will have a hard time substituting "our Father in heaven" with "our Daddy in heaven', but think about it. What would it mean to you, to your heart, if you could think of God as Daddy? A good Daddy?

Now, does this mean that... you know, it's like a little kid... like... I remember was very young, standing in front of the window, looking out into the dark, waiting for headlights to come, and so excited. Why was I so excited? Mamma was in the house. My sister, Sue, was in the house. What was I waiting for and so excited about? Just so antsy I could hardly stand it, and finally I saw the headlights coming and started jumping up and down. As Dad was trying to get in the door, I was trying to get out the door. I want to tackle that big old guy. A rrrrm! A great big hug! What would it mean to your heart if you felt that your Father in heaven was that kind of father?

Now, it's not just Jesus that says that. But also Paul in Romans and in Galatians. Let's look in Romans 8:15. Romans 8 is a chapter that says a lot about the Holy Spirit. Life through the Spirit. In verse 14, Paul says, "Because those who are lead by the Spirit of God are the sons (children) of God." 15: "For you do not receive a Spirit to makes you a slave again to fear, but you receive the Spirit of sonship and by the Spirit we cry, 'Abba', Father."

Paul says that one of the goals of the Holy Spirit is to point us to Jesus and to help us through Jesus to see God for what He really is. A loving Father that we can feel so secure and relaxed in His presence and so excited to be there. When was the last time you were excited about God the Father? Kind of surprising, but you know, I kind of like it.

Now what can we find in the Old Testament that supports Jesus' claim that God the Father is really on our side, and that we can come to Him like an excited little child? Turn to Daniel 7. A normal picture, at least for many of us and many other Christians, is that God id trying to find something wrong so that He can condemn us. Well, in Daniel 7 we have a very descriptive scene of the judgment where the Ancient of Days come down and there's all kinds of fire and thousands and thousands and thousands of attendants to make sure that people will pay attention to what the Ancient of Days says and to what kind of judgment He gives. Now I want you to notice the judgment that He does give. It's in verse twenty two of Daniel seven. Verse twenty one says, "And I watched and this horn was waging against the saints (the Christians) and defeating them. 22. Until the Ancient of Days came and pronounced judgment in favor of the saints." Judgment in favor of the saints of the Most High and the time came when they possessed the kingdom. So Daniel says God in on our side. God, the Father, is on our side. God the Father loves us just like He loved Jesus when spoke out of the cloud as Jesus came up out of the water from being baptized. "This is my beloved Son." And God want to say to you and to me, "You are my beloved child. You are my beloved son. You are my beloved daughter.

What else in the Old Testament? Turn to the book of Psalms. Psalm 91. Many of you have probably memorized this chapter. This psalm begins with, "He who dwells in the shadow (shelter) of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty." Verse 2 says, "I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress, my God in whom I will trust." And look at verse 4. See if you can find something a little different there. Verse 4: "He will cover you with his feathers and under his wings you will find refuge." We even have a song about that, don't we? When was the last time you ever saw a rooster gathering the little chicks under its wings? Have you ever seen that? Those of you who know chickens? Is it the rooster that does that? It's the hen that does that. It's a little jarring, a little surprise, but the Bible says that just like a hen will gather the chicks to protect them, so God, the Father, will gather us under His wings.

Let's look at the term "Almighty". It's not used that many times. Forty- eight times in the old Testament. Thirty-one of those times are in Job. The Almighty never has a sword. In my experience, when I thought of God Almighty, I thought of this big brute that could just flip his hand at you and knock you flat against the wall and on the floor. Something like one of the characters that Arnold Schwartzneger plays. But this is giving us a somewhat different picture. Maybe it's like Elizabeth and her father. You see, Elizabeth got lost and a lady heard her crying at the beach and found her and asked if she was lost and if she was would she like to find Mommy. Yes, she would. Well, would you like to go with.... No. She had been trained well. Don't go anywhere with strangers.

And the lady said, "Well, what if we walk together and you can walk behind me and I'll take you to the beach policeman."

She said, "Okay." And they walked along and they came to a lifeguard.

The lady said to the lifeguard, "Is there a family somewhere that has lost a little child?"

He said, "Yes. They're three of four blocks down the beach."

So they asked Elizabeth, "Would you want to stay here while your mommy comes?"

And she said that yes, she would. She would stay there, so she sat down and was playing in the sand. A few moments later running along the beach came, not mommy, but daddy. And daddy came up, and they asked Elizabeth as daddy was running up, "Is this your daddy?" and she looked up and said, "Nope."

And so when the man got there the lifeguard said, "Are you her father?"

He said, "Yes. Her name is Elizabeth."

And they said, "That's right."

And so the man got down and he put his arm around Elizabeth and talked real nicely to her, not angry with her. Just glad that she was okay. And the lifeguard and the lady thought everything was going to be just fine. But all of a sudden, Elizabeth grabbed a big handful of sand and threw it right up in her daddy's face.

Now what's it like to have your eyes full of sand and your nose full of sand and your mouth full of sand? How would you react? Well, daddy reacted very calmly. Brushed as much of it out as he could, and blinked his eyes and continued talking to Elizabeth and then Elizabeth turned around and hugged daddy and she began to cry. And so he picked her up and they started walking down the beach, and when they gone a little ways and they went over to the edge of the water and they got down and Elizabeth began washing her daddy's face by throwing water in it. They started laughing and then they went on down the beach.

Now that's a picture, I think, that fits our God, our Father in heaven. Sometimes we're real nasty to God, the Father. But he's not anxious to squish us. He's anxious to have our fellowship again. To be together.

Now there are two word pictures for the word, "Almighty", or El-Shadday. Most of you have probably heard the contemporary Christian song, El-Shadday. One of them is a picture of mountains like the Rockies or the Alps or Mount Sinai. It's there. Prudential has the rock of Gibraltar. Chevy trucks say, "Like a rock." Why do they say that? To give us a sense of security. They're going to be there when we need them. And that's one picture of the Almighty.

In fact, our book on the twenty-seven beliefs on page twenty says that Almighty means, it has to do with blessings and comfort. It doesn't really have to do with overwhelming power, but it has to do with blessings and comfort. It has to do with relationships and people and fruitfulness. After all, most of us don't want to cuddle up to a rock unless you're trying to do some repelling and get scared. Then you'll cling to the rock.

But there's another word picture that's somewhat surprising. Both the same word, "Shadday", in the dictionary, in the lexicon. This word picture has to do with a nursing mother who takes the infant and cradles it in her arms, feeds it and loves it, and is present and warm to the child. It's not one that we often hear about. But let's take a look in Isaiah 49:15. Oh, first of all, Genesis 35 to look at the idea of blessing, then we'll go to Isaiah. In the book of Genesis there are several passages related to the Almighty and they have to do with God blessing people. Genesis 35:11. Jacob has returned to Bethel and God meets Jacob and begins to talk to him. "And God said to him, I am God Almighty (El Shadday). Be fruitful and increase in number. A nation and a community of nations will come from you and kings will come from your body." So The Almighty is about blessing us. It's not so much about leading, us but blessing us. Making us fruitful. Making life meaningful.

Now as you turn to Isaiah 49:15, you remember the story of when Jacob sent his sons to Egypt. Benjamin was kept. And another son was kept. And when Jacob sends them back, he says to the ten sons, May the Almighty bless you and in words that we would say today, "Save my kids from that man down there in Egypt."

Isaiah 49:15: "Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you." That sums up what "Almighty" means.

Now this week (maybe you heard about it), There was a woman who came to a bridge over a swollen river and threw her baby into the water. It just so happened the policeman happened to be there and he jumped in and managed to catch the baby when it came under the bridge. But the water was so strong, and he had caught only the shirt, and the water sucked the baby out of the shirt and all he had was the shirt. The policeman was more like God because he didn't want that baby to die. And that's how God is with us. Even though as the psalmist says, our father and our mother may forsake us but God will not forsake us.

One more word picture, and that is found in Exodus 34:6,7. You remember that Moses wanted to see God, but God said, "You can't see me and live." Moses was insistent. And so God said, "I'll show you my back part." So in these verses we have this picture of God hiding Moses in the rock and God coming by so Moses cam see something of God. "And He passed in front of Moses proclaiming, 'The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate (merciful), and gracious. Slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness and maintaining love to thousands and forgiving wickedness." The word, "mercy", and I was surprised again, comes from human anatomy. A mother's womb. And God was saying, I'll have mercy on you like a woman who wants to have a baby so bad. Yearns for that little baby. And that's how God yearns for us. It even says so in Isaiah and Jeremiah. He yearns for us. He's a Father who loves us, and wants us. He does not want to squish us. But He will love us at all costs.

By the way, you know, in Luke 6 for Matthew in Matthew 5 says be ye therefore perfect, do you know what Luke puts there? Be ye therefore merciful. Because he knew the gentiles, us, would not understand the full orb of the meaning of perfect in the Hebrew language so he says if you want to be like God, be merciful. And for all of us who are afflicted with perfectionism and we have high standards and are very hard on ourselves and as a result we are hard on everybody else, that might help us if we could wrap our hearts around God's mercy.

A father and his kids were talking one day. They lived on the beach in southern Georgia. And the kids wanted to go out to see the wild goats and whatever else they could find on the beach. Dad wasn't too sure he wanted to go, but he ended up going. They got in the boat and Kinsey and Dana and Mack went along and they took the dog along and went through the water and got all sopping wet. They had their warm clothes on, but they still got wet. They got to the place where they wanted to be, and tromped up through the mud and secured the boat.

The kids ran over to another place and they started running back and Mack was in the lead and he said, "Dad! Dad! Big bird! Maybe a goose! All covered up with black stuff. Come quick!" So Dad ran over and as he came over the hill he looked down and there was this funny-looking bird was trying to attack the dog, and the bird's feet were way behind it. It was very awkward, and he recognized it as a loon. It had gotten into some oil somewhere and it was just plastered. It could not move its wings or anything.

The talked about it and the kids wanted to know what would happened to the if it stayed bird. The dad was thinking in his head and he couldn't bear to tell them that probably a predator that night would take care of the loon. The kids seemed to sense that if they left the loon there that something desperate would happen to it so they started begging to take the loon home.

We can clean it, we can wipe it off, we could put it in the bathtub and wash it and keep it for a pet. Dad wasn't so sure mom would be excited about doing all that. Anyway, they discovered they had a towel in the boat so they wrapped the loon up in the towel and flipped the end over the head to keep it quiet. They carried it back to the boat and went home and ran up to the door and Mack said, "Mommy, we got a loon. We're gonna wash it in the bath tub." And then sensing that wasn't the best thing he could have said, so he added, "And after we clean it we're going to let it go."

So they worked and they worked and they worked and finally they got it clean and they took it over to the beach and they put it out in the water and it went swimming away and they wanted to know, "Dad, why isn't it flying?" "Well, probably because its wings are too wet. When the sun comes out tomorrow it will be able to fly."

As they were walking back, the girls went on ahead and Mack was walking with Dad. He said, "Dad?"

"Yes, son?"

"Daddy, he would have died if we hadn't come. Wouldn't he?"

And the father said, "Yes."

And then Mack said, "And to think we almost didn't go. Remember?"

And the father said, "Yes, I remember."

If you read the account in Ellen White you'll find that the Father had to be persuaded by the Son because what is the greatest sacrifice a parent can make? It's to lose a son or a daughter. And God the Father did not want to lose His Son, but He wanted to gain many more sons and daughters. Most parents that I know would rather die themselves than to let their children die. And that's the kind of love our Father in heaven has for us.

We may know that intellectually, but my prayer for you today is that you can wrap your heart around that, that God is full of mercy, wants to nurture us, to let us feel the presence of God in our lives, to let us wrap our hearts around His heart. and find the blessing and the fullness of life here. That's my prayer for you today.

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