Sunday, June 21, 2009

Fathers' Day - Our Father who art in heaven...


Matthew 6:9-13
9 Pray, then, in this way:
'Our Father who is in heaven,
Hallowed be Your name.
10 Your kingdom come
Your will be done,
On earth as it is in heaven.
11 Give us this day our daily bread.
12 And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
[For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.]'

We all have stories of our fathers. Maybe he was present, maybe he wasn’t. Maybe he was involved, maybe he wasn’t. Maybe he was, then wasn’t, or vicey voo. When I was a little kid, my dad worked on the fire department. They had a bomb scare and they asked for a volunteer to go out in equipment and hook things up so they could take it to a safe place to blow it up. My dad volunteered for 2 reasons. As a fire fighter he had enough insurance on his life so that his family would lack nothing if he died in the line of duty. More importantly he knew that nobody else on his shift was a Christian. He figured his life was expendable over another’s if it meant they would spend eternity in hell. Fortunately, all went well, and he is still alive today.

As we celebrate Fathers’ Day I want to speak to the men. My message would not be any different if I was just speaking to ladies, so you can listen in too and apply it where you will. What does it take to be a good father, or a good son? What dynamics do we need to relate to our heavenly Father? I like to work on genealogy so I think of generations that go by and how one influences the next. I want to talk about our heavenly Father. Jesus had a unique relationship with His Father and when He prayed to God Jesus said some very specific things. It is to this I want to speak to today. Let us go through the Lord’s prayer and see what is called of us to be good sons, good fathers, and good men and women of God.

Worship - Verse 9 “Our Father who is in heaven, hallowed be your name.”
Worship is about position. Everybody has a sense of who they are in relation to the people around them; to the world; in a spiritual sense as well. Sometimes this sense is right, or pretty accurate, and sometimes it is off. Some people have a very inflated sense of who they are to the world. They are medieval in the sense that they think the universe revolves around them. It may not even be their fault in a sense. They may feel that way because other people have told them that. Our Celebrity Culture forces that upon people; but it is still a decision to listen to those people and allow ourselves to believe it. Whatever the case, they focus way too much on what they look like, and what others think of them. At the other end of the spectrum are those people who think so poorly of themselves that they also care too much about what other people think and how they look. And they may be that way too, because of what other people have said about themselves. Both extremes are people focus on themselves: the first in pride, the second in shame.
A real man not only eats quiche, but he recognizes who he is before God. The root of his identity comes not from his job or abilities, and not from his relationships or friends, but from the truth that the Creator of the ends of the earth made him for a very special reason. Not only was he created for a special purpose, he is also loved more than he will ever know. That is our basic problem as people – we don’t grasp how much we are loved by the eternal God. If we could somehow understand the depth of the incarnation and the strength of the resurrection, our lives would be changed. That is true worship. We focus so much on our short-comings when we should be focused on God’s sovereignty and grace and love and holiness. If we could understand who God is, and give Him His due, we would much better see our place in this world. That is why Jesus started this prayer with these words, Our Father who is in heaven, hallowed be Your name. And that is why we sing the words “Our God is an awesome God”.

Victory – verse 10 “Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”
Victory is about goals. It is about accomplishing something very specific. In any conflict both sides are trying to accomplish something. Sometimes it is to overcome something or someone else, sometimes it is just to survive. In every sense of the word as Christians we are in a conflict. What is unfortunate is we invariably look at the wrong place for our enemies. We think it is other people, that there is an “US” who is righteous fighting against the “THOSE” who are unrighteous. That is not our battle. That battle and those decisions are God’s.
Ephesians 6:12-13 “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm.”
Our battle is a spiritual battle, and the thing at stake is the very soul of those people. When we talk down, when we ignore them, when we consider them beneath us we are doing that to Jesus, for He created them. The man of God has to respond to the call of God to take the freeing truth of the Good News of Jesus to the world around him. God has a plan, and we can walk in victory in that plan knowing God is in control. There are a lot of problems in life: financial, relational & political. We follow a different drummer than the one who is the God of this world. Regardless of health or wealth, of life or death even, we pursue the Lover of our soul who draws all men to Himself. We want to see Jesus’ love shine all around us and so we sing “Shine Jesus Shine”.

Dependence – verse 11 “Give us this day our daily bread.”
When you think of a man’s man, what do you think of? Often people think of a guy like Grizzly Adams. A man of great physical strength, of great emotional fortitude. Ethical and moral standards sometimes are less important, and as you look at the celebrity culture you find that many of these heroes are regular people. Money and fame does nothing but give them room to indulge in the excesses of life. The other thing about Grizzly Adams is his independence. He is the king of his mountain, and fierce animals nor the evil of men will overcome Him.
It’s funny then that in this prayer in a simple sentence we see dependence highlighted. The man of God is told to depend on an unseen and untouchable force for his every need; not the strength of his own 2 hands, nor the wisdom of his mind, nor the fortitude of will. We are called to ask of our Heavenly Father for all we need. But what if we don’t get what we think we need? I go shopping with Ben (who is 8) and invariably he looks at things through his eyes. He sees things at his level, things in the moment that he is sure he would love to have and play with. He sees all the pretty colours and diagrams, and blazing pictures of the toy in cartoon action. He knows it will not really be like that, but it will be pretty close. And here I am with my full 46 years of earthly and fatherly wisdom saying, ”No” because I understand the fallacies of advertising and the weakness of plastic. I know, to an extent, the values of not just looks, but playability. I also know the dangers of certain things, that a flamethrower really isn’t a toy.
How often, though, are we like that 8 year old, thinking we know what we want and whining and complaining when we don’t get it. Have you ever heard a kid tell his or her parent that they hate them. There was a court case in the States where a 14 year old boy tried to divorce his parents. How many people do you know have walked away from the church and God because they did not get what they wanted? God is our Father, and seeks to give us wonderful gifts, and to provide for us all that we need. He asks us to pursue Him and His righteousness, and let Him bless us with all these other things (Matthew 6:33). That is why we sing “Seek Ye First”.

Forgiveness – Verse 12 “And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.”
There is a transition in this prayer, not unlike the 10 Commandments. The first part of this prayer is about our relationship with God. It has to do with who we are before an eternal, omniscient and all powerful God. It is about our vertical relationship, personal integrity. The second half is about how we conduct ourselves among our fellow man, our social integrity; about our horizontal relationships. This verse about forgiveness goes hand in hand with who we are before God. It is based on the character of God, the agape love which is at the heart of our faith. Anyone who hurts another in the name of Jesus is a lie. Go to any of the social media and you will find people turned off faith because of something someone did to them, or to humanity in the past. What they don’t understand is that calling yourself a Christian doesn’t change you. Following Jesus is what changes you. There have been far more secular rulers who have conquered lands in the name of themselves, than “Christian” kings who have pillaged and killed and maimed. A man who holds bitterness and hate in his heart will do bad and unnecessary things because what is in you will eventually come out, regardless of the name of his religion (including atheists).
The call for the man of God is to love. Remember those verses in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8? Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails… Where does it say in those verses that there is a cut off point? In our relationship with God, His love is everlasting. There is only one thing that can prevent the love of God reaching you – that is rejection. If you reject God, you continually turn your back on the Holy Spirit’s promptings and nudging in your life, you tread on dangerous ground. Seek the forgiveness of God for all you are not and all you are that shouldn’t be, and then extend that to another. That is why we sing “He Paid a Debt”.

Following – Verse 13 “And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil.”
There are many people who have followed a leader who turned out to be bad. Both in the financial world, the political world, the celebrity world, and the spiritual world. The call of the Christian, the chief aim of our life is to follow Jesus. God is in the process of making His children into the likeness of Christ. And so here we are, as Hebrews 12:1-2 says: Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. We are following Jesus. We pray, then, for guidance and direction. We know that He is a loving God. His promises are full of things for our success and fruition as His beloved children. We know that with Him by our side nothing can befall us that has taken Him by surprise, and nothing has befallen us that is so big we cannot get through with Him.
1 Corinthians 10:13 says no temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.
And so we follow. We don’t need to be afraid, God is with us: Emmanuel – my favorite name of God. Fear should not even be part of our vocabulary because of how great and awesome our God is. We follow a God who leads us like the shepherd, keeping us out of dangers way, leading us to food and water, and rescuing us when we go astray. We can trust in Him. While this world is filled with chaos, and even our lives can be filled with the chaos of sickness or stress due to financial or relational issues, we can walk in the calm assurance that God is Sovereign and in control. I speak not because emotions are bad or wrong, but because the truth and reality of God is bigger than those things. That is why we sing “God Will Make a Way”.

Surrender - Verse 13b “[For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.]”
When it all comes down to it, who is God and who isn’t? Who sits on the throne of the universe, and, more importantly, who sits on the throne of your life? The man of God recognizes in the grand scheme of things who’s who and what’s what. There is recognition that God is at work in the world. He no longer fights God for control, but rather goes out in the power of God to do the work of God. He allows the power of God to work in him, producing holiness, a character alignment with Jesus Christ.
Matthew 16: 24-26 “Then Jesus said to His disciples, "If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?”” Discipleship is costly. Following Jesus takes effort and initiative. Let your pride die with mine, let the things go that hold you back from God, and join with me as we follow in His footsteps. That is why we sing “Be Unto Your Name”.

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