The Fatherhood of God.

Dave Black makes some excellent points in his latest blog post about how Systematic Theologies rarely if ever talk about the Fatherhood of God. They emphasize Jesus and his two natures, the Holy Spirit, the Trinity and God – but, never concentrate on him being a father. It’s a great observation as so much of the Scriptures talk about this aspect of God.

This morning I want to talk with you about systematic theology and why I probably could never be a systematic theologian. As I understand things, the goal of systematic theology is to induce from the verses of Scripture certain facts about God and then arrange these facts into an organized and balanced whole. I see at least two areas of systematic theology that seem to be glaringly inadequate by this definition. The first has to do with the very Godhead. For a long time I have had a concern that our theology has been sorely imbalanced in this area. There simply seems to be a lack of balance. The area of doctrine to which I am referring is the doctrine of the Fatherhood of God. It is significant that many of our leading theology textbooks seem to preserve the status quo in this regard rather than the propagation of a balanced faith.

  • Grudem has a section on the doctrine of God and on the doctrines of Christ and the Holy Spirit but nothing on the doctrine of the Father.
  • Erickson has four chapters on “God,” two on “Christ,” and one on the “Holy Spirit.”
  • McGrath has chapters on “God” and “the Person of Christ” but nothing per se on the Holy Spirit.
  • Ryrie has sections on “God,” “Jesus Christ Our Lord,” and “The Holy Spirit.”

Its incredibly important that Christians today have a revelation of God being their father.A kind father. A listening father. A seeing father. A accessible father. A longing father. A yearning father. A searching father. A rejoicing father. A kind father. A giving father. A loving father. A forgiving father. A father who dares train us up in the ways we should go. A hearing father. A healing father. An encouraging father. A inspiring father.
I don’t believe that there is any section of scripture that nails this more than Luke does in the chapters of Luke 15:1 – 16:31. Though all of Scripture points towards God’s character and nature. The story of the prodigal son, is an example of God’s fathering kindness.

In 2001, we were walking renting a house on a few acres, and I was walking through the back paddock holding my young son’s left hand with my right. We were talking about the grass, the clouds, the grass hoppers and the other bugs and insects we could see. I became aware of how much I loved my son. Suddenly, I had a vision, my own left arm lifted up and I felt God holding my hand as we walked through that paddock. I felt God say, “Craig, just as you love your son, I love you – only more so!” Wow, is an understatement. While the moment probably only lasted a few seconds, the encounter seemed to last much longer.

Fast forward to 2009. The doo doo had hit the fan. I was separated from my family. I was in a joyless and virtually friendless situation. I had been blackbanned by my previous church. I had been told I was back slidden and perhaps had lost my salvation. A friend rings me. He says to me, “Craig, I feel I have a word from God for you. I am sorry its such a simple word. I have been fighting the Lord, thinking its not really from him. But, after 3 days, I have to share it with you.” He then said, “Craig, the Lord would say to you, he still has you by the hand, walking down the paddock of life with you!” I instantly started to cry, told Steve I would call him back, hung up and just cried before the Lord. Such is the kindness of the Lord.

God the father tenderly cares for his children. He nurtures us. He strengthens us. And he is for us and not against us. I believe the reason why systematic theologians leave the fathering aspects of God alone, is because the sheer nature of the fathering of God, is a real, tangible and experiential experience – one that we cannot relegate soley within an academic understanding.

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Cultural Weirdness.

Joanne and I were talking the other night about the things we consider weird about other cultures. Now, I am the first to admit, that the most of the world think Australia, Australians and our wildlife are weird. Take our Platypus for an example. It’s a mammal that lays eggs, has a tail like a beaver, (An animal we don’t have in Australia) it swims and lives in the water like a fish, and has a beak like a ducks. We have a strange language where we say strange things like “G’day!” We use the term “mate” to describe our friendships and when approaching each other we often say, “G’day mate!”

Anyways I digress. It was way back in 2000 when I was studying a Diploma of Ministry, where the class went out for an excursion for lunch and a walk through Sydney, where I first truly encountered cross cultural differences in a deeply personal way. One of the students came from Africa. I have forgotten just where now. But, after lunch, as we were walking through an alternative life style area of Sydney, he tightly grabs my hand, and walks with me down the road, hand in hand. I felt the Lord tell me strongly not to let go. And so, deeply embarrassed we continued to walk around Sydney. Within his culture, boys and men, walk while holding hands – its a deep sign of friendship. There were no sexual overtones with him doing so – and later on, I come to appreciate the deep honor he showed me in doing so.

Our discussion turned to America. Don’t get me wrong. We were not having a go at Americans or America. I have many good friends who live in America. We were laughing about the differences in culture which you wouldn’t find here in Australia. For instance, in Australia, no one, will call their sons “Wendy,Shirley, or Joyce .” ‘Thongs’ are items of clothing that we wear on our feet. We use the term “Bum Pack” or “Waist Belt” and not the American terminology which here in Australia is a derogatory term for part of a females anatomy. On a more series note, we kinda find it extremely ironic, how Americans can be so anti abortion and prob the death penalty. Or the reverse is pro abortion, and anti death penalty. One of the things that makes my mind boggle is the sheer population of America. New York City for example, has a bigger population than we have in all of Australia. The gun culture in America is totally different to ours in Australia. And one of my goals is to go ‘anvil shooting’ in the south. and perhaps fire a canon. Things that we just can’t do in Australia. Another puzzling aspect of the American culture is the national pride in the theme “In God we trust;” but, you don’t allow prayer in schools. Here in Oz, we just don’t get it.

I recently did a week long intensive on Islam. The class was an eye opener on the differences of culture and world views. Muslims think most Christians pay lip service to God, because they rarely speak of him. Whereas, a lot of their conversation is steeped in God talk. Australian Christians freely mark our Bibles. We like to highlight verses and passages. We will write on the margins, which to a Muslim is showing disrespect towards a holy book.

Another huge difference is understanding the world view of honor and shame culture- verses our western direct approach. We think its ok to just say, I don’t know! Whereas other cultures find that terribly rude. And so if we miss the social clues, they will tell us what they believe we want to hear, and not necessarily the truth. For instance, I heard the story where a westerner insisted on asking a local for directions in Indonesia. The guy eventually pointed in a direction, and walked off, and the driver ultimately got bogged in a rice paddy. The driver missed the culture clues that the man didn’t wan’t to answer the question. But, because when he was pressed, it was rude for him not to say yes, he did so.

What interesting cross cultural stories, thoughts and experiences can you share with me.

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More Additions To The Collection.

It’s no secret that I like the great outdoors. In the warm weather I like to fish and come the cooler months of the year, you will find me at home sitting beside the fire, camping in the bush, hunting fishing etc. One of the main tools which I use often is a knife. Since a young boy I have had an interest in knives and have had a pocket knife for as long as I can remember. Now that I am close to 50, I have a small collection and have posted about it here and here before.

A month ago, I decided to check out this internet site called “Ebay.” I have never used it before; though, while searching Google for a variety of things, I have been taken to it. My wife uses it often. She is a wizz at tracking down a bargain. And so I jumped on her account and ended up buying some knives. Four of them in fact.

knife 4knife 1These two knives are interesting little camping knives, which in reality are around the size of a paring knife. Their sheaf is also plastic molded whistle, which are intended for emergency situations. However, I found they have another purpose to them also. I used to spend many a winter day whistling up foxes with either a purpose shop bought whistle, or one I made from some bent tin, with a hole punched in it with a nail. These whistles work well for that purpose also.

knife 3 knife 2 The next two knives are a little larger. The one on the left is supposed to be a diving knife. It’s lightweight and rather blunt. Though the serrated edge is sharp and works well as a saw. I don’t really have much of a purpose for it, except to throw it into the fishing tackle box, and use it as a oyster and bait knife.

The other one is a rip off of the American Buck Knife. I was surprised to find that it actually sharpened up well and seems to hold its edge nicely. I used it to dice up some ox hearts for the dogs, which are a tough cut of meat. And I was impressed with it. Overall, I think it will make a nice general purpose hunting, skinning, and camp knife. All up, they cost under $35, and I think they are a good bargain.

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Bits and pieces.

My devotional communion message went well on Sunday. It was interesting how God set an Isaiah theme, where the scripture for the service that was chosen to be read by another person was Isaiah 55. I shared Isaiah 1-6 and 52 – 53 and our pastor shared on Isaiah 56:7 on God’s house being a house of prayer. We had a good time after the service as our fellowship continued over a fellowship over lunch, and a few guys planned a men’s BBQ breakfast for next weekend.  Then once again in the night, a group of dedicated people from church came together for our fortnightly church prayer meeting. There were a number of praise reports about a number of answered prayers of which we say, thank you Lord.

While I posted the gist of my communion message yesterday, I added the following personal story to the beginning of the message. I shared how nearly 20 years ago, a prophetic intercessory type of person said to me one night, “Craig, I know your called to a 5 fold ministry, but, I don’t know which one.” I said in my heart, “Who would want to be a pastor, how blinken boring. Lord, make me a prophet!” And for the next 8 months or so, I prayed, I fasted, and I begged God to make me a prophet.  Over that time, he slowly showed me that he hadn’t called me to be a prophet, and that I had no choice about the callings he had placed on my life. OOPS!!! And moved from there into my already shared talk.

There is power in sharing our own personal testimony; whether it be within the structure of a sermon, or telling someone the good news of what Christ has done for us. I’m a firm believer in apologetic’s. I am a firm believer in being able to explain the Scriptures and why we believe they are true, and the word of God. And indeed, there are very good reasons to believe in the historical accuracy of Christ.

But, I remember reading Tozer who said,  “that if you can argue a man into believing Christ, someone else can argue him out of believing in Christ.”  What is needed is that we introduce a person to Christ.. In 2002 I became involved in a discussion with someone on a building site where an discussion took place about the veracity of the Bible. One guy thought he had all the right answers and all the right questions which disproved the Scriptures. I was praying, “Lord, show me how to witness to this man?”The words came to mind, “Tell him, that you know Christ is real, that Christ is alive, because Christ, lives in you.” And I told him, I know Christ is the resurrected son of God, because, he changed my life, the day, he came and lived in me!”

Immediately the man dropped his hands to a surrendered position by his side. His words were profound and made a deep impact on me. He said, “How can I argue against that? I can’t argue against someone’s personal experience!” That opened the door to another dimension in the conversation, “Well, the NT, is full of people and their personal experience of God, through Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit.” And I left it at that.

I am firmly convinced, that you cannot receive Christ and not know about it. There will be a heart change. There will be a mind shift. A God focus will replace the self-centredness. So by all means, continue to learn apologetic s, and continue to learn about the Scriptures – but, lets always remember, our relationship is with the God, whom the Bible tells us about. Our God relationship is never the Bible its self.

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A new form of technology –

This one is for all you techno nerds out there… I love the way they have taken off Apple in this product.

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The Apostolic Message. – Sunday’s Communion Devotional.

In the first 5 chapters of Isaiah, we find the prophet being given a number of visions of judgement, which he proclaims over the nation of Israel and the nations around him. Reading between the lines, we discover a zealous prophet. A judgemental prophet. A harsh prophet. And perhaps he is a merciless prophet.

But then in the 6th chapter, we read about Isaiah having a deeply personal encounter with God. He sees him in all his splendour. A vision of his holiness trailing like a gown flowing over his throne, and flowing down the throne steps, and over the throne room floor.,. And the presence of God’s holiness fills the room.
Suddenly he is convicted. God’s holiness permeates through his hardness of heart. Now, he knows, he is included among the sinful, and Isaiah cries out not only do I live among a sinful people; I too have sinful lips. Who will deal with my sin? And in his vision, he sees a raven, taking a hot coal, and placing it on his lips. Which purifies him of his sin.

When we turn to Nehemiah we discover a prophet who has learnt Isaiah’s lesson, and prays a prayer of confession. Lord, I confess my sin, my household’s sins, and my nation’s sins. And with this prayer, we read on to discover that this man of God, was used to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem.

Fast forward again, to a scene where some fishermen have been working hard all night. Though they toiled hard all night, they hadn’t caught a thing. Jesus comes to them, and says, hey, you lot, throw your nets on the other side. Peter and John said, we have been working hard all night, but, on your say so, we will do it. I believe there is a lot of sarcasm happening here. They are seasoned fishermen. They don’t know Jesus – but, it would be obvious he wasn’t a fisherman. Think about it, fish swim under a boat. They swim across the boat. It doesn’t really matter what side of the boat, you drop a net. But, out of desperation, they do, and low and behold, they catch a net full.
Peters response is, Get away from me Lord, for I am a sinful man. And Jesus responds to Peter, come, leave your nets, follow me for I will make you fishers of men. He is not frightened of sinful people. Instead of fear, he embraces them and says, come, follow me, you will become fishers of men.

Let’s hold that story there for now and return to Isaiah. Isaiah began his ministry as a prophet who prophesied judgement, without mercy – until he had a revelation of his own sin. But, once he had a vision of his own sin and that it was dealt with, Isaiah went on to prophecy Christ. And we find those famous passages about the coming Christ in Isaiah 52 and 53 , the messiah, born of a virgin, dying on the cross for us as a sacrifice for our sins.

Isaiah prophesied that Christ would come. Jesus proclaimed he was the one. Peter proclaimed that the messiah had come.

What we are about to do this morning, is exactly what Jesus taught his disciples to do in remembrance of him. They went on to teach the church, this exact same thing. And the Apostle Paul likewise taught the church, to do what Jesus taught us to do. And this is the unbroken historical teaching we have received.

1 Cor 11: 23 For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: On the night when He was betrayed, the Lord Jesus took bread, 24 gave thanks, broke it, and said,[f] “This is My body, which is[g] for you. Do this in remembrance of Me.”

25 In the same way, after supper He also took the cup and said, “This cup is the new covenant established by My blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.” 26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.

And so this morning, let us take this bread and the juice, and together in doing so, lets proclaim, that Christ has died, Christ has risen and Christ will come again and as these elements touch our lips, let’s celebrate like Isaiah did, that our sins have been taken away.

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Congratulations Jacob.

Jacob Cerone has passed his oral defense for his thesis, and a hearty congratulations is in order. He blessed me with a copy of his thesis a few weeks ago and I am 1/2 way through it. I admit upfront that his technical application and understanding of ancient languages in the way he engages with Jonah is way above my pay grade. I am however enjoying his thesis, for it compels me to engage and learn at greater depth. Technical aspects aside, his in-depth study is readily accessible, informative and easy to read. Jonah was one of my favorite Minor Prophets, and when I took that class it was a toss up between Jonah and Micah when time came to do my major assignment – Micah won that round.

P.S Jacob, rumor has it you once said you would not shave till you finished your thesis. Inquiring minds want to know if its still coming off? Or perhaps, you had another thesis in mind?

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