By J.L. Cook
Once there was a certain religious leader who was also a lawyer. Sometimes he would get up in front of the congregation to give them an encouraging word. He would most always speak of God as our Father. This pleased me very much because I have always thought of God as my Father, also. It made me want to go home and write down some of my own thoughts about God, the Father. I got out a pen and some paper, and was poised to write when I realized that I did not really have any specific thoughts about the Father. I just believed that He is our Father. I guess I took Him for granted.
So I began to ponder what it means for God to be our Father. I meditated on it. I contemplated on it. I started to have many interesting thoughts about God. Then I looked in the Bible to see what it said, and I received many other surprising thoughts. I realize this is not a professional study of God, and I do not offer it as one. It is merely the thoughts I have had over the past several months. I just want to share them with you.
When Jesus came preaching, "Repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand", He was bringing "good news". The Jews had been waiting for this, hoping for this, for a very long time. They felt separated from God, distant from Him who they worshipped. They believed that only by obedience to many laws could they become pleasing to God. They did not think they were worthy to step into His presence.
But along comes Jesus, an uneducated Jewish man, an ordinary carpenter, from an ordinary town. He says that we should repent because God is coming near. Turn around, change your thinking, because God is coming near to us. Itís as if He is saying, get ready, turn to meet Him, because He is coming to meet us. We could not come near to Him through the laws and doctrines and beliefs. But Jesus has good news for us. God is coming near to us! All we have to do is turn toward Him, let Him come into our lives, accept Him, accept His love.
We donít have to wait until we know enough. We donít have to wait until we are good enough. We donít have to have correct doctrine to enter His presence. No, we just have to turn toward Him, and step into His presence. Isnít that good news? We donít have to become worthy to be His children. We just have to accept Him as Father!
If there is any message God wants to get through to us, it is this one: He is our Father! He wants to be our Father! He greatly desires to spend time with each one of us. He wants to be there as we grow up. He wants to walk with us. He wants to talk with us. He wants to give us nourishment and teach us. He wants to lead us toward good and away from evil. All we have to do is accept that we are His children, and start spending time with Him, who gave us life.
It really is just a matter of choice. He gave us free will. He will not force Himself on us. No, He gave us the choice. Will we choose to be His children? Each one of us must make that choice, individually. We must choose to believe. He cannot be proven to a skeptic. No, the time comes when we simply choose to believe, and then we walk in that choice. We continue to choose Him, over and over, and we continue to walk in that choice. And as we continue to choose Him, something begins to happen in us. We begin to feel loved by Him, and we begin to change. We begin to grow in that love. We feel nourished. We feel more complete. We feel whole. Eventually, we learn that the choice is between walking with God, or walking on our own power, on manís wisdom and knowledge. Will we let God lead us through this life? Or will we find our own way, through scientific progress? Can we build a better world than God did? Can we fix the problems of mankind through our own search for knowledge? Can laws solve our problems? Or, can spending time with our Father solve the problems of our society? Does He really have the power to bring peace and life, to this ragged and dirty world?
In the beginning, God spoke and the universe was formed! God spoke and all life came into being! There is power in His spoken word, and we need to pay attention and listen to it! If God created the universe out of nothing, where did He get the materials that it is made of?Ö.He gave of Himself! He put Himself into His work. He sacrificed to create everything! He put His heart into it. He did not diminish Himself, but He gave of Himself. He did it out of love. He created us and said, "This is good, this is very good!". It was about love, in the beginning. It was about doing a good work. It was about giving of Himself. It was about sacrifice for the good of another.
From the beginning, He wanted a relationship with all of mankind. He wanted to be the Father. He created us in His own image. We are His children. After creation, He did not go on an extended vacation. No, He remained here. He is an intimate part of creation. He is in everything that exists. In fact, if He were to remove His presence from anything or anyone, they would simply cease to exist. It takes His continued presence for us to remain in existence. We think we have the power to exist. But really we just have the right to exist, the God given right! But it requires Godís presence for us to remain in existence. He is still giving to us, every moment. He is still loving us, still sacrificing for us, every moment. Do you see why it might be very special to step into the presence of the living God, who loves us very much?
What else would a Father do? He provides for His children. They donít have to be worthy before He gives to them. Do your children have to earn your love? Or do you simply love them because they are your children? When they get hungry and ask for food, do you make them pay for it? Do you make them have correct doctrine about you, before you accept them? No, they are your children, good or bad, they are your children. And you love them very much. You love them when they are pure and innocent, and you love them when they disobey and track dirt all through your house. Well, God is just the same, but about a billion times better! He still loves us, even when we disobey, even when we reject Him!
I am reminded of the story of the prodigal son. He left his Father and family, taking with him all the treasures his Father had for him. He went to find his own way in the world. He wasted his riches and his talents, living a wild and careless life. After all his money and friends were gone, he had to work to get food. The only job he could find was taking care of pigs. And he was not fed even as good as the pigs were. This must have been very humiliating for him. He was a Jew, and pigs were considered to be very unclean animals. He must have felt disgusted and dirty. Then he remembered his Father. His Father treated even the lowest servant much better than this. Should he go home? Could he go home? How could he face his Father, after all he had done? He was no longer worthy to be called a son. But maybe, just maybe, he could ask his Father to let him be a servant, even if it is the lowest servant of all. Yeah, thatís the ticket! So he turned around, and started walking toward his Father. All he wanted now was to be a servant.
But apparently he did not really know his Father, because his plans did not go as he imagined. The Father was waiting for him. The Father was watching for him. The Father was not waiting to punish him. No, He missed his son. He loved him very much and longed for his return. He wanted to spend time with his son. Oh, sure the Father had other children, but He wanted to spend time with this one, too. So every day, the Father looked far out into the distance, hoping to see His son returning. And then, when He did see His son, He did not wait for the son to come to Him. No, He ran to meet the son, with some of His servants following.
The son had practiced and practiced his speech. He thought that he must have all the right words, spoken in just the right manner, to pull this off. He hoped to convince his Father to let him back into the family, at least as a servant. But before he could get half of the words out of his mouth, his Father gently said, "Stop talking. You are my son, and I love you very much! I have missed you. Now, we will have a big party and celebrate, because you have returned to me". Then He had his servants put new clothes on His son, and put a ring on his finger, showing that he was part of the family.
Isnít the Father good? We think we can manipulate Him into accepting us, but He already has. He loved us even when we were unworthy, even before we were aware of Him, even when we walk away from Him. He longs to be with us, to spend time with us. He wants to be part of our life, to nourish us, to teach us, to help us grow into maturity. When are we going to learn? Our doctrine will never be correct enough to get us into the family. Our deeds will never be good enough. Our knowledge will never be complete enough. But our Father loves us anyway. He just wants us to turn toward Him, and accept His love and gifts. Just step into His presence, and accept that we are the children and He is the Father. We need Him. He is the giver of life. He has the real nourishment. He will treat us better than we deserve, better than the world ever could. We are His children. He desires to be our Father.
The lawyers and Pharisees were always asking Jesus trick questions, trying to lower His position in the opinion poll. But Jesus always had a good answer for them. He was not afraid of their questions. He was not afraid to risk His popularity. Instead, He used this as an opportunity to teach something very important.
This time they asked Him, "What is the greatest command in the law?" Jesus knew that some people believed that all commands are of equal value. Thus, if you break one, it is just as bad as breaking any of them. But other people believed that some commands are more important than others, and breaking them is a bigger offense against the law. So, however Jesus answered this question, He would probably lose some followers. But this did not keep Him from giving the answer. He saw this as an opportunity to turn their trickery into a good word. He had a great truth to speak to them, something of extreme importance.
Jesus said, "The first and greatest command is to love God. Not just with all your heart, but with all your mind. Not just with all your soul, but with all your strength. With your whole being, with all your energies." Doesnít this describe a relationship? Love in action? Something that happens between two beings? It is not just knowledge in your head, or a feeling in your heart, but it is something alive that flows back and forth between the two of you. I call it relationship. The Bible calls it love. It is a love-relationship. It is love that does not remain still. It continues to move, to heal, to cleanse, to teach, to sacrifice. God is love, and He wants to be with us. He wants to be in us. He wants to be our Father. He accepts us as we are. He just wants to spend time with us as we walk through life. He does not want to make us into a robot, or program us like a computer. No, He wants to be our Father. We still have choices to make every day. He hopes we will make loving choices. Choices which are about life. He will lead us if we will ask Him. He will teach us. He will give us power to really live. He will sustain us. He will supply our needs.
Jesus said, "The second command is just like the first one, except it is about one another. Love your neighbor as yourself." Really, its the same love, it is just pointed in another direction. God is love. Do we really think we can manufacture love? No, God supplies the love. We merely choose where it will go as it flows through us. Will we bottle it up and save it for ourselves? It will become stagnant. Will we let it flow through us and on to another who needs it, too? It will cause life to grow and blossom. Love is from God. He who loves is from God.
Jesus said, "All the laws and even the prophets pointed toward these two supreme commands". Love God and love one another. If we canít get these two, the rest will be of no consequence. Everything that came from God, from the beginning of time up to this day, was pointing us toward a love-relationship to Him. He is our Father. Love is of supreme importance! Not knowledge. Not doctrine. Not theology. Not policies. Not formulas. Not institutions. Not laws. It is love that is the most important thing in the whole universe. Love is about relationships. We need to be about relationships. We must not let our policies keep us from having relationships. It is better to focus on the relationship than on the policy. The policy says, "Iím sorry, but this is our policy. I canít make any exceptions." Love says, "Tell me your story. Surely there is something we can do. If nothing else, we spent some time together, struggling for the answer." Policy can take the place of love. God is about love more than policy. If He wasnít, none of us would have a chance. We would already be condemned. Policies and rules and regulations can be a cop-out, keeping us from dealing with each situation, one on one, keeping us from living in real relationships.
Jesus said, "I require mercy, rather than sacrifice." You see, He was talking about the law. If you hurt another person, you could offer a sacrifice, and be forgiven. But Jesus would rather you had mercy on that person, and not hurt them in the first place. He wants us to act in love, not policy. He wants us to give freely to each other, without first judging the worth of that person. Live in relationship. God is the Father, we are the children.
Jesus said, "You must become like a little child to enter into the kingdom of heaven." How does a little child act? He runs boldly into the arms of his Father, without thinking, without wondering if he is worthy. This is his Father, and he needs a hug. A little child expects his Father to supply his needs. He doesnít wonder where the food comes from. When he is hungry, he is fed. When he needs clothes, they are supplied.
Jesus said, "I am the bread of life, sent from the Father to you, to nourish you and make you grow. I am the way. I am the truth. I am the real life." Isnít that what all of us are searching so hard for, on our own? Well, here it is. The Father has supplied it. It is Jesus. Jesus said, "You must come to me to have life", but in another verse, He said, "All those who have heard and learned from the Father will come to me."
It really is about a relationship with the Father. Jesus does not compete with that. Rather, He taught that. What made Him special was His relationship with the Father. He spoke the things He heard from the Father. He followed the leading of the Father. He was even nourished by the Father. Jesus believed in the Father. Every one of His prayers addressed God as Father. When He taught His disciples to pray, it was to our Father. Jesus was sent from the Father. He was part of the Father. He lived and died because of the influence of the Father, in His life. And He rose from the dead because of the power and love of the Father.
Every person who has ever lived, or will ever live, must at some point in their life, ask this question. Is God real? Because, if God is real, the implications are awesome! Is God real, or is He just the sum of all correct doctrine? Is God real, or is He just a bunch of theological statements? Is God real, or is He just an idea, to be pondered? If He actually is real, and He wants to be our Father, then we must be His children. If He is real, then we need to spend time with Him, loving Him, learning from Him(instead of from the world).
But what is reality? Should we attempt to define reality? I think the ultimate reality would be something that lasts for a long time. We instinctively know that a fad only lasts for a short time, and we have little respect for it. But something that lasts for a very long time has much value. Well, God is eternal. Therefore, He is more real than anything else in the whole universe! When everything else has run the course of its life span, and dies away, God will still remain. He is eternal. He has lasting value. We also, have an eternal spirit, living in us. If our spirit is eternal, then it must be the most real part of our being. Shouldnít we feed it? Shouldnít we find nourishment for it? Shouldnít we find a way to help it grow into fullness? Jesus is the bread of life. Jesus was sent from the Father. In John, chapter one, it says Jesus is the spoken word of God. He is the communication sent to us from the Father. The spoken word has much power. He can bring new life into our existence. He comes offering a relationship to us, not just a relationship to Him, but also a relationship to the Father, the Father of the entire human race, the Father of the universe. We need to be living in the reality of relationships.
Once there was a young man who lived far out in the country, on a farm. One day, he decided he wanted to be a great tennis player. So he logged on the Internet, and after searching through many bookstores, he finally found that one great book about tennis. It was the book of all books. It was huge. It contained all the information in the whole world about tennis. It told the history of tennis, and stories about all the great players. It told all the rules and regulations and tips to becoming the best. It was very expensive, but he gladly sold his most prized possessions to buy this bookÖFinally, it arrived. And he immediately he began to read it and study it carefully. After reading it through many times, he began to feel very knowledgeable about tennis. He could talk tennis with the best.
But one day he realized that he was still not fulfilled. He had not actually ever played tennis. Oh, he had hit the ball against the barn, but it took off in a new direction most every time. This was just not enough for him. He thought long and hard about it, and then finally decided what he must do. He said goodbye to the farm, to his family, to his friends. And off he headed to the big city. They had many tennis courts on which to play, and he was determined to be the best. So, finally he reached a big town and located a nice country club, with lots of tennis courts. He even got a job at the country club, so he could be near the tennis courts. He spent every spare minute he had watching others play, pretending it was him.
Finally, one day someone asked him to play. He jumped at the opportunity. He missed the first serve completely. The second one he hit into the net. The third one went completely over the fence, and so on and so on. He was very disappointed in his performance, but he was not a quitter. No, he was in love with tennis, and he was determined to improve. He practiced every chance he had, and soon he was getting pretty good at it. At least he could keep the ball on the court.
He continued to practice, and he continued to improve. Then one day, to his surprise, people started asking him to teach them how to play. Well, he would ask them, "have you learned all the rules and studied the various techniques?" They usually said yes they had, but were still not as good as they wanted to be. All he could tell them was to give up everything else that took them away from tennis, and play the game as often as possible. Donít let anything distract you from playing the game.
You see, he had learned that it is about playing the game and not just reading about it that makes the difference. He had found the true reality of playing tennis. It doesnít really matter how good you are, just get out on the court and play the game. Practice it over and over. You wonít become good until you do. The reality is on the court, not in the book. The book only teaches about the reality. I am not putting down the book. No, it is still the greatest book ever written about tennis, but it is not the reality of tennis. It is words which attempt to describe the reality. It is, like a photo, the reflection of a greater reality. Reading the book will not make you a great tennis player. Getting on the court and playing the game will, no matter how good you are right now.
Jesus made this point clear when He said, "You search the scriptures because you think they can give you eternal life. But it is they that point to me(Jesus). But you will not come to me that you might have life." He was not talking to His disciples. No, they had come to Him. Rather, He was talking to highly educated religious leaders. The Pharisees and the experts in the law. They thought they already had it all figured out. They had been studying it all their life. How could this ragamuffin from nowhere teach them anything? They were not open to new thoughts about God. They did not think Jesus had any truths to teach them. This is why Jesus said, "I thank you Father, for not revealing this to the wise and intelligent(of the world), but rather to infants." You see, God reveals Himself to people who are seeking Him, people who want to be His children, people who are listening for His voice, people who are spending time with Him, people who are holding His hand, people who are walking through life with Him, people who want to be taught by Him.
We need to find the reality of God and live in that reality. It is about a loving relationship, not rules and polices. No formula will get you there except "spending time with the Father". He created us to be His children, to be loved by Him and to love Him, to hold His hand as we walk through life, to learn from Him instead of seeking knowledge apart from Him, as Adam and Eve did. Then we can go out on the tennis courts of life, with Him in us and at our side, and play the game. Live the reality. Walk the walk. Itís not about hitting the ball correctly every time. No, itís about playing the game, living in the reality.
I think this is why Jesus never wrote a book. He was living the reality. Writing about it would mean to stop living it for awhile. No, He lived every moment in reality. He was always in relationship to the Father. In my mind, if ever there was anyone who was qualified to write a book, it was Jesus. But He did not. Rather, He taught us to live in relationship to God and to each other. He said, "You will recognize my followers because they love one another." They will be living the reality. They will be living in love.
Have you ever wondered why it was so long after Jesus died that His followers wrote about Him? The gospel of Mark was not written for about 25 years. John, who was so intimate with Jesus, did not write his gospel for about 60 years. Why? I think these followers of Jesus had finally gotten the message. They were living the reality. They were living in relationships, to God their Father as well as Jesus and the Holy Spirit, and to other people, even sinners. They only found it necessary to write about the life of Jesus when teaching about Him had become distorted. They tried to set the record straight by writing down His teachings and telling of His relationships to other people. They had learned that living it was more important than writing about it. They were living the reality, all the way into the arms of the Father.
They were busy hearing from the Father. They were learning from the Father. They were walking in the love of the Father. They were growing mature because of the Father. Jesus said, "Call no one on earth your teacher, you only have one real teacher. Call no one on earth your Father, you only have one real Father." God wants to be our teacher and our Father. He wants to hold our hand and walk with us. He wants to give us real nourishment. He wants to love us even when we donít deserve it. We are His children and we need to spend time with our Father.
Is He really our Father? Does He really want to spend time with each one of us? Does He really speak to us and teach us, one on one, personally? Does He speak through others, too, our brothers and sisters, who are also hearing from Him? Is He real, or is He just a lot of words, written in ink?
When Jesus spoke of the judgment day, He said. "Not every one who calls Me lord will enter into the kingdom of heaven. But rather, it will be those who do the will of the Father, who is in heaven. On that day, many will come to me, saying, Didnít I cast out demons in your name? Didnít I perform many mighty miracles, in your name? Didnít I convert millions with my TV ministry, in your name? Then I will say to them, depart from me you workers of lawlessness, because I never knew you." We can get so caught up in life and religion, that we never really spend time with God, our Father. That is all He ever really wanted, to be part of our lives, to love us as we go through life. If He wants more from us than that, He will let us know as we spend time with Him. He will gladly accept any amount of time we give Him. He greatly desires to spend time with each one of us. He longs for it.
At the judgment day, will He say, "I never did know you? Or will He say, come on in, Iíve been waiting for you! We have spent much time together and now we will spend eternity together." Who else would He want to spend eternity with, other than those who want to spend time with Him? Itís about relationships, not institutions. Itís about love in action, not doctrine. Itís about time spent with the Father.
Even though itís not about laws, Jesus called these people, "workers of lawlessness". In their own law, the greatest command taught them to love God and love one another. Jesus was merely pointing out that they were not even really following their own law and belief. The law had become their religion. The law had become their relationship to God, but they were not even listening to it. They could not see beyond the words, to the true reality.
I hope you do not think that I am preaching to you. I am not preaching. I am not teaching. I am merely trying to share with you, some of the thoughts I have had from meditating on God and struggling deeply. I cannot even perfectly do what I am seeing and hearing. But I am trying to learn how to play the game. We are all in this together. We must be patient and help one another, as we walk. None of us have the whole picture of God. None of us are correct about everything. The apostle Paul said, "We know in part and we prophecy in part." None of us have all the knowledge. That is not even required of us. What God wants is a loving relationship.
One of the big things that we must realize is that satan is winning the battle, as long as we feel separated from God. That is all the devil wants to do, to separate us from our source of life, the Father. And if we think we are separated, then we wonít spend time with the Father, boldly walking into His presence, asking for a hug, wanting to be held in His arms for a moment. He loves us more than we can ever imagine, but we will not feel His love as long as we feel separated from Him. All of us really are His children! And He really is our Father! He really does love us. He really does want to spend time with us. He really does have special nourishment for us. He really does want to speak to us and walk with us, as a Father. He really is living inside us, even if we donít know it.
This is why Jesus came preaching, "Change your thinking, for God is coming near." The word "repent", in my Bible dictionary, means "change your thinking". God cannot come near until we realize that itís OK. We donít have to become worthy, before our Father will come near us. We just have to accept that we are His children. He loves us very much, and He greatly desires to spend time with us. Really He has always been near us. He is in us. Jesus said, "The kingdom of heaven is within you." The apostle Paul said, "One of the greatest mysteries of all time is this, God in us." That eternal spirit, which He put into each one of us, is a piece of God. It is the seed of God, showing that we are His children. But God will not force Himself on us. No, we must choose Him. We must pretend that we are His children. We must practice spending time with Him. He really is there, you know. His Spirit will confirm that to us, if we will just spend time with Him.
Being separated from God is described in the Bible, by the word "sin". God did not want to be separated from any of us. He loves us very much. So He tried to help us understand that not living in loving relationships is wrong. He called it sin. Sin is all about separation. Separation is not only the result of sin, but rather, it is what happens before and during the act of sin. Jesus said, "If you look at a women with lust in your heart, you have already sinned." You were not looking at her, wondering what you could do for her. Rather you were wondering what she could do for you. You must separate yourself, in order to sin. It cannot happen while in a love-relationship. Love brings people together. Sin separates. Relationship to God is salvation. It is eternal life. It is reality. If we spend time with Him, we will grow in love and maturity.
Even if we make mistakes and are imperfect, we must not feel separated from Him. He still loves us and wants to spend time with us. We must continue to walk with Him. He wonít push us away. He wonít stop speaking to us. We must stop feeling unworthy. That is just a distraction. Spend time with the Father, anyway. That is the reality. If you hurt your mother, couldnít you still walk up to her, and give her a hug? Wouldnít she still accept it, if given in love? Your Father is just the same, but even better. What He really wants is a deep loving relationship. And just how does one have a relationship with God? The same way you would have a relationship with anybody. You spend time together. You look each other in the face. You talk and listen to each other. You hold hands and walk together. You go through good times and bad times together.
I used to feel so awkward about holding up my hands to God during worship. It felt foreign to me, but I forced myself to do it anyway, with some hesitance, because I could find no wrong in it. Then, one day, I saw a little picture in my head. It was a small child, holding her hands up to her daddy, saying, "Hold me, daddy, hold me!" And now I donít feel awkward about holding up my hands anymore. Above all else, I want my Father to reach down and pick me up, and hold me in His arms. I want to lay my head on His shoulder, and give Him a big hug. I want to feel secure in His embrace. The irony is, He has been holding His arms open wide, since the beginning of time, wanting to hold each and every one of us, and love on us as only a Father can.
There once was a monk who lived several hundred years ago. He was called Brother Lawrence. They tried to teach him the way of meditation which was practiced at that particular monastery. He tried and tried, but he was just not getting anything out of it. So he resigned himself to the fact that he would just have to pretend that he was in the presence of God. So, everywhere he went, and everything he did, he tried to pretend that God was right there with him. Every spare moment, he practiced what he called, "the presence of God". He imagined that God was with him, and in him, and all around him, all the time.
After awhile, he realized that he was actually getting something out of this practice. Somehow, he was being nourished, just by pretending to be in the presence of God. He began to feel close to God. He began to feel more whole and complete. He started learning new things about God and life. He was growing in maturity, just by spending time with God, by staying "in His presence". He went on to live a very happy and productive life, and was highly respected by the other monks and nuns. Several of the religious leaders wanted him to explain to them how to do it, and he gladly told them all he could.
Thatís really all itís about, isnít it? Itís about time spent together. Itís about being still enough and quiet enough to feel Godís presence. Maybe you will hear from Him, and maybe not. Sometimes itís enough just to look into each otherís eyes, and know you love each other. The Bible says, "Be still, and know that I am God".
I decided to look in a Bible concordance, and see how many times the word Father was used to describe God. There are other verses that say we are His children, or sons of God, but at this time I was only interested in how the people spoke of God. I wanted to see how many times they called God, their Father. I did a fast count in the Old Testament and found only 13 places where God was described as Father. This seemed very odd to me, since the old testament covered a long period of time and God had many deep relationships with people. Maybe they revered God so much that they just had a hard time calling Him by such an intimate term. Or, maybe they felt so separated from Him that they no longer felt worthy to call Him their Father. Or maybe, so much time had passed, that they had forgotten that God is our Father. They had replaced Him with a bunch of rules and regulations.
Then I looked up the word "father" in a Hebrew dictionary, and found that it is the very first word. It is "AB", or "father". In Greek, it is "ABBA". I wondered if this might have been the first word that the early humans spoke. What was the first word your little baby learned to say? Is it not dada, or momma? I think so. They donít usually say, "What color am I?" Or, "Are we conservatives or liberals?" Or, "I prefer chocolate milk, please." No, one of the first words that come from the mouth of an infant is daddy or mommy. They donít know what it means. They just know it is about love, about relationship. They desire love more than anything else. They desire to spend time with their daddy and momma. Oh, that we could learn how to be little children, again.
It is interesting to me that Jesus said, "I am the first and the last". Did He speak Greek, or Aramaic, which is like Hebrew? In Greek, one of the first words is "ABBA". In Hebrew, it is "AB". One of the last words in the Hebrew dictionary means, "a turning or becoming, as in 9 becoming 10. This may be very unscientific, but it touches me. I think Jesus came to take us to the next level, to bring us into maturity. The law of Moses was given to immature children. Jesus came to fulfill the law, to fill it up with meaning, to make it about a deeper relationship, than just blind obedience. He came teaching about the Father.
Jesus was important because He was the Son of God, and because God was in Him, and with Him. Well, now He and the Father are both in us. He died to bring us this message, that God wants to be close to us. He came saying we need to turn or become. We need to go to the next level, the level of maturity in God. We need to go beyond the law, beyond the teaching, to the reality of a relationship. God has come near. He has His arms open wide. Itís time to step into His presence. Itís time to accept Him as Father. Itís time to change our thinking. Itís OK if we are not worthy. We need to come anyway, because He greatly desires to spend time with us. We must not let anything distract us from spending time with Him.
I counted the times in the New Testament where God is spoken of as "Father". Iím probably not totally accurate, but I counted 262 times. Thatís quite a big difference! Thatís about 20 times more often than in the Old Testament. There must have been a "change in thinking", or repentance. Then I counted just the times that Jesus, Himself, used the word "Father". I counted 179 times out of the 262. Jesus used the word, "Father", nearly twice as often as the entire Old and New testament put together. Do you think He was trying to tell us something? I do.
Jesus did not just come to announce the kingdom of God. He came to announce the Father. Everything that made Jesus special was about the Father. He came from the Father, and is part of the Father. According to the gospel of John, He is the spoken word of God. He is the communication sent from the Father. Yet, as a man, He learned from the Father. He was led by the Father. He was nourished by the Father. He died because it was the Fatherís will, and He loved Him so much that He could not refuse. He died because He loved us, but even more because He loved His Father. But a large part of His message was that God is our Father, too.
I said that Jesus was nourished by the Father. I was so amazed when I first noticed this. Iím sure He was constantly nourished by the Father, but here is one instance. His disciples had gone into town, to buy food. Jesus waited at the well. Perhaps He wanted some quiet time, alone. Or just perhaps He was expecting something to happen.
Soon a woman came to get water from the well, and Jesus asked for a drink. At first, she must have thought He was off His rocker. He was obviously a Jew, and no Jew had ever even spoken a word to her(my commentary). They would not even recognize her existence by speaking at all. Mostly they just looked the other way. But here was a Jew who was asking her for something, as if she had something He needed, as if she was valuable enough to perform an important act for Him. He asked for a drink. He had a need she could fill. This was actually a way of speaking to her with honor and respect.
This surprised her greatly, and soon she realized He was someone very special, maybe a prophet. She tried to enter into a religious conversation with Him, and found Him to be very willing, even though she was a nobody. She was completely amazed by His attitude toward her, and by the things that He knew about her, even though they had never met. He knew about all the different men in her life, but still did not condemn her. Soon, she went off to tell the townspeople about this amazing person!
When the disciples returned, they offered Jesus some food. He said that He was no longer hungry. They did not understand. Had someone given Him food already? They wanted Him to eat, but He said He had already eaten. He explained, "My food is doing the will of God. I have already been fed." It was Godís will that He have a relationship with this woman. He was being led by His Father, and somehow He came out of it, nourished. Love had flowed from the Father, through Him. And this love had touched this woman deeply. You could say that Jesus touched this woman in a way that no man ever had. And it felt good to her. She was nourished, too.
God was at work in Jesus. God was living through Jesus. I believe the Father told Jesus all the things the woman had done. After all, Jesus himself said He only spoke the things the Father told Him. Remember, it is the Spirit who searches all things. God is spirit. God is our Father. We must worship Him in spirit and in truth. We must worship Him in reality, not just with traditions and formulas. We must come into His presence and spend time with Him, one on one. And we will be nourished. We will feel real life. We will grow and mature because of time spent with the Father.
Itís not about religion. Itís about life! Itís about love. Itís about a relationship between the Father and His children. Itís about reality. Itís about forgiveness. Itís about realizing we are children of God and growing up in Him, into maturity.
Our lives are like little imitations of His life. I am the father of a few. He is the Father of all mankind. I want my children to grow up into maturity. God does too. We will grow into maturity, if we will become the children and let Him be the Father.
I do not offer this writing as a thorough study of the Fatherhood of God. It is not professional or scientific. Most of these thoughts came to me while meditating on God. I donít really like the word "meditation", so sometimes I call it "contemplation". However, the Catholics seem to have the corner on the word "contemplation", which to them means to spend time with God where no words are needed. I have not been there very many times, yet. So mostly, I just call it listening to my Father, because that is what it is.
I offer this as thoughts and yearnings from the heart of one child to another. How about sharing with me your thoughts on our Father. I offer these thoughts with my whole heart. I hope you will receive them with grace and love. I do not desire to offend anyone. I only desire to possibly inspire someone to spend intimate time with our Father, and be nourished.
Oh yeah, remember that religious person I spoke about, at the beginning? Well, his Father loves him very, very much. And the Father loves every one of His other Children, too.
Mt. Juliet, Tennessee
The following is a partial list of the many scriptures which speak of God as our Father:
Deut. 32:6 (ESV)
Do you thus repay the Lord,
you foolish and senseless people?
Is not he your father, who created you,
who made you and established you?
1 Chron. 22:10 (ESV)
He shall build a house for my name. He shall be my son, and I will be his father, and I will establish his royal throne in Israel forever.'
Psalm 68:5 (ESV)
Father of the fatherless and protector of widows
is God in his holy habitation.
Thus says God, the Lord,
who created the heavens and stretched them out,
who spread out the earth and all its offspring,
who gives breath to the people on it,
and spirit to those who walk in it,
I am the Lord, I have called you in righteousness,
I will also hold you by the hand and watch over you.
Isaiah 63:16 (ESV)
For you are our Father,
though Abraham does not know us,
and Israel does not acknowledge us;
you, O Lord, are our Father,
our Redeemer from of old is your name.
Isaiah 9:6 (ESV)
For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
and his name shall be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Isaiah 64:8 (ESV)
But now, O Lord, you are our Father;
we are the clay, and you are our potter;
we are all the work of your hand.
Jeremiah 3:19 (ESV)
" 'I said
How I would set you among my sons,
and give you a pleasant land,
a heritage most beautiful of all nations.
And I thought you would call me, My Father,
and would not turn from following me.
Malachi 2:10 (ESV)
Have we not all one Father? Has not one God created us? Why then are we faithless to one another, profaning the covenant of our fathers?
Matthew 6:6 (ESV)
But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
Matthew 6:9 (ESV)
Pray then like this:
"Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
Matthew 6:26 (ESV)
Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?
Matthew 7:11 (ESV)
If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!
Matthew 7:21 (ESV)
"Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.
Matthew 10:20 (ESV)
For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.
Matthew 11:25 (ESV)
At that time Jesus declared, "I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children;
Matthew 13:43 (ESV)
Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear.
Matthew 16:17 (ESV)
And Jesus answered him, "Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.
Matthew 18:14 (ESV)
So it is not the will of my Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish.
Matthew 23:9 (ESV)
And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven.
Matthew 28:19 (ESV)
Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,
Mark 11:25 (ESV)
And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses."
Mark 14:36 (ESV)
And he said, "Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will."
Luke 6:36 (ESV)
Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.
Luke 10:21 (ESV)
In that same hour he rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and said, "I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will.
Luke 11:13 (ESV)
If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!"
Luke 15:21 (ESV)
And the son said to him, 'Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.'
Luke 23:34 (ESV)
And Jesus said, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." And they cast lots to divide his garments.
Luke 23:46 (ESV)
Then Jesus, calling out with a loud voice, said, "Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!" And having said this he breathed his last.
John 1:14 (ESV)
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.
John 4:23 (ESV)
But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him.
John 5:17 (ESV)
But Jesus answered them, "My Father is working until now, and I am working."
John 5:18 (ESV)
This was why the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him, because not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.
John 5:19 (ESV)
So Jesus said to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise.
John 5:21 (ESV)
For as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom he will.
John 6:27 (ESV)
Do not labor for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal."
John 6:32 (ESV)
Jesus then said to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven.
John 6:37 (ESV)
All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.
John 6:44-45 (ESV)
No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.  It is written in the Prophets, 'And they will all be taught by God.' Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to meó
John 6:65 (ESV)
And he said, "This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father."
John 8:27-28 (ESV)
They did not understand that he had been speaking to them about the Father.  So Jesus said to them, "When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am he, and that I do nothing on my own authority, but speak just as the Father taught me.
John 10:17 (ESV)
For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again.
John 10:29-30 (ESV)
My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand.  I and the Father are one."
John 12:49-50 (ESV)
For I have not spoken on my own authority, but the Father who sent me has himself given me a commandmentówhat to say and what to speak.  And I know that his commandment is eternal life. What I say, therefore, I say as the Father has told me."
John 14:6-7 (ESV)
Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.  If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him."
John 14:20-21 (ESV)
In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you.  Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him."
John 14:23 (ESV)
Jesus answered him, "If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.
John 14:26 (ESV)
But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.
John 14:28 (ESV)
You heard me say to you, 'I am going away, and I will come to you.' If you loved me, you would have rejoiced, because I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I.
John 15:26 (ESV)
"But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me.
John 16:23 (ESV)
In that day you will ask nothing of me. Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you.
John 16:25 (ESV)
"I have said these things to you in figures of speech. The hour is coming when I will no longer speak to you in figures of speech but will tell you plainly about the Father.
John 16:27 (ESV)
for the Father himself loves you, because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God.
John 17:21 (ESV)
that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.
John 17:25 (ESV)
O righteous Father, even though the world does not know you, I know you, and these know that you have sent me.
John 20:17 (ESV)
Jesus said to her, "Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brothers and say to them, 'I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.' "
Acts 2:33 (ESV)
Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing.
Romans 6:4 (ESV)
We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.
Romans 8:15 (ESV)
For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, "Abba! Father!"
1 Cor. 8:6 (ESV)
yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.
2 Cor. 1:3 (ESV)
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort,
Galatians 1:3-4 (ESV)
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ,  who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father,
Galatians 4:6 (ESV)
And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, "Abba! Father!"
Ephes. 1:3 (ESV)
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places,
Ephes. 1:17 (ESV)
that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him,
Ephes. 2:18 (ESV)
For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father.
Ephes. 4:6 (ESV)
one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.
Philip. 4:20 (ESV)
To our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen.
Col. 1:12 (ESV)
giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light.
1 Thes. 3:11 (ESV)
Now may our God and Father himself, and our Lord Jesus, direct our way to you,
2 Thes. 2:16 (ESV)
Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God our Father, who loved us and gave us eternal comfort and good hope through grace,
Hebrews 12:9 (ESV)
Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live?
James 1:17 (ESV)
Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.
1 John 1:2-3 (ESV)
the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to usó  that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ.
1 John 2:13 (ESV)
I am writing to you, fathers,
because you know him who is from the beginning.
I am writing to you, young men,
because you have overcome the evil one.
I write to you, children,
because you know the Father.
1 John 2:15-16 (ESV)
Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.  For all that is in the worldó the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessionsóis not from the Father but is from the world.
1 John 2:22 (ESV)
Who is the liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, he who denies the Father and the Son.
1 John 3:1 (ESV)
See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him.
1 John 5:1 (ESV)
Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whomever has been born of him.
Rev. 1:6 (ESV)
and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.