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  • Writer's picturePastor Jeff Needleman

The Father's Heart (text only - video glitch)

The Father’s Heart – A Call To Unity

When does a dad joke become a dad joke? When it becomes apparent. My kids now appreciate dad jokes. My eldest son Adam has been a dad for 4 years so he’s mastered the art of dad jokes & infected my 2 youngest became as well. You can see it in our ongoing text threads. I messaged “who’s the largest women in the Bible – the woman of Samaria… (i.e. some area! The woman of Some Area). Noah hit back; Why was Pavlov’s hair was so soft? Adam answered: He conditioned it!

As they matured, their gifts have grown more impressive; a 55” smart T , an Ipad, musical equipment, etc. For Father's Day this year they gave me $100 & said to buy something that makes my life easier. So I went out & bought a nice present for Alice!

We all love to receive gifts, don’t we? We’ve been looking at the Gift of the Holy Spirit & the Spiritual Gifts He bestows upon us! These presents surround the greatest gift of all from the Father: Jesus Christ, the rock of our salvation!

God also gave most of us the gift of parents to care for us & commanded us to honor them. The 5th Commandment says: Ex 20:12 NLT "Honor your father & mother. Then you will live a long, full life in the land the Lord your God is giving you. The 10 Commandments are about relationships & Jesus summed them up as Loving God & Loving others… like our parents.

Father’s Day was 1st celebrated in church! Can you believe it? But while the 1st officially celebrated Mother’s Day was in 1914 (also in church), us pops didn’t get an officially recognized festivity until 1972. Dads, please stand - & let’s show our appreciation!

Fathers! …I am one! & as my kids have grown older & wiser, it seems they appreciate more & more how I tried to be the best dad I knew how. But while all us dads were, are & will remain far from perfect, there is one father who is perfect: Mt 5:48 NIV Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. And that would be our Father in heaven.

As well, we read in Ps 89:26 NLT 'You are my Father, my God, & the Rock of my salvation.' So this year, let’s give Father’s Day a new twist. Let’s also appreciate & remember all our Heavenly Father has done for us instead of taking Him for granted.

OK… let’s move on into something personal for me. My dad, Max, grew up in an orphanage. As a young boy, his dad was ill & died during the depression. His mom couldn’t afford to raise him or his brother so she abandoned him to the Hebrew National Orphanage Home for years.

Than being the case, he didn’t know how to be a dad because he had no role models; at least that’s what I believed! He didn’t teach me how to catch or throw a ball, how to bat, how to ride a bike or hammer a nail. We spent no time together - he worked a lot! I took for granted all the things that he did do!

Many of you are familiar with the lyrics to the song Cat’s in the Cradle. & the cat's in the cradle & the silver spoon Little boy blue & the man in the moon, "When you coming home, dad?" "I don't know when" But we'll get together then, You know we'll have a good time then! The lyrics explain how the son, even though dad has no time for him, proudly says- I'm gonna be like him, yeah! You know I'm gonna be like him!

I was a teenager & the lyrics really hit home for me. So I went out & bought the 45rpm record to give to my dad for Father’s Day. To me the lyrics said I was proud of my dad. But not to my sister when I mentioned it to her! It was the complete opposite & she was horrified that I would give it to him & was relentless that I get rid of it ! She wouldn’t let up, so exasperated, I finally snapped the record in half and threw it in the garbage bag next to the stove. And so my sister & I were at odds in honoring my dad.

Just like the prodigal & his brother; our main passage for today. I’m sure most of you have heard or read this parable before, but it’s worth repeating, just like we repeat Father’s Day every year! But the focus today isn’t so much on the kids- as on the Father’s heart. And the Father’s heart for His children we’re talking about is God the Father’s heart - & we are God’s kids.

Luke 15:12-32 NLT "A man had 2 sons. The younger son told his father, 'I want my share of your estate now before you die.' So his father agreed to divide his wealth between his sons. A few days later this younger son packed all his belongings & moved to a distant land, & there he wasted all his money in wild living.

Verses 14-16 tell us that after he blew his inheritance, a famine hit the land. Being down & out, he hired himself out to do the disgusting job of feeding pigs, but didn’t even earn enough to eat swine food. And to make matters worse nobody cared enough to offer him anything to eat. So starting at Verse 17 we read:

17 "When he finally came to his senses, he said to himself, 'At home even the hired servants have food enough to spare, & here I am dying of hunger! I will go home to my father & say, "Father, I have sinned against both heaven & you, & I am no longer worthy of being called your son. Please take me on as a hired servant."'

His dad sees him coming from a far & runs out to meet him. Filled with love & compassion he hugs & kisses him & says to the servants starting in Verse 22: 'Quick! Bring the finest robe in the house & put it on him. Get a ring for his finger & sandals for his feet. & kill the calf we have been fattening. We must celebrate with a feast, for this son of mine was dead & has now returned to life. He was lost, but now he is found.' So the party began. "Meanwhile, the older son was in the fields working.

In Verses 26-28 we find the older brother returning home & hearing the news. He’s not happy that his brother’s back & throws a hissy fit. Pouting he refused to come in & join the festivities. Dad comes out & begs him to come in & party! but he replied, in Verse 29 'All these years I've slaved for you & never once refused to do a single thing you told me to. & in all that time you never gave me even 1 young goat for a feast with my friends. Yet when this son of yours comes back after squandering your money on prostitutes, you celebrate by killing the fattened calf!'

In Verse 31, Dad says: look son, I get it, I really do! All I have is yours, but… 31 We had to celebrate this happy day. For your brother was dead & has come back to life! He was lost, but now he is found!'"

Your brother was dead. Being in healthy relationships is tough, especially in families. Somewhat like my sis & I. Much like these 2 brothers & their dad. & very much like Cain who murdered his brother Abel as told in Genesis Chapter 4. If have not read this, please do! You’ll learn that Cain was at odds with his younger brother & held no joy or unity in his relationship with Abel.

I’m sure we can make the statement that father’s hearts are broken when families fall into disunity & anger. & I’m sure that father’s hearts rejoice when they witness unity & love between their kids. I know that because when I see the unity & love between my 3 sons my heart is filled to overflowing with joy. & I always want to be with all 3 of them. Just like prodigal’s father felt… & how our Father in heaven feels about us!

Today it’s almost impossible to corral all my kids together at 1 time given their physical distance & busy lives. Anybody else experience that? But when I hear that they talk to each other every day or check in with each other on regular basis, I’m over the top happy! If they didn’t get along, it would break my heart…

It would break my heart much like the father in this Parable, & much like God our Father’s heart which must be broken when He sees how His children clash. Our fighting & disunity grieves the Father’s heart.

As obedient followers of Jesus Christ & His Word in the Bible, we’ve all become brothers & sisters in the family of God. 1 John Chapter 3 is quite clear about that & how we’re to behave. Let’s read some portions of it – but let me wholeheartedly encourage you to read the whole thing…

1 Jn 3:1-18 NLT See how very much our Father loves us, for he calls us his children, & that is what we are! … 7 Dear children, don't let anyone deceive you about this: When people do what is right, it shows that they are righteous, even as Christ is righteous. 8 But when people keep on sinning, it shows that they belong to the devil, who has been sinning since the beginning. …

9 Those who have been born into God's family do not make a practice of sinning, because God's life is in them. So they can't keep on sinning, because they are children of God. So now we can tell who are children of God & who are children of the devil. Anyone who does not live righteously & does not love other believers does not belong to God.

11 This is the message you have heard from the beginning: We should love one another. We must not be like Cain, who belonged to the evil one & killed his brother [Abel]. And why did he kill him? Because Cain had been doing what was evil, & his brother [Abel] had been doing what was righteous.

14 If we love our Christian brothers & sisters, it proves that we have passed from death to life. But a person who has no love is still dead. Anyone who hates another brother or sister is really a murderer at heart. And you know that murderers don't have eternal life within them. 18 Dear children, let's not merely say that we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions.

Cain was at odds with Abel – he had a problem with his younger brother. The saying: “Am I my brother’s keeper?” came out of that story. The answer to that question needs to be a resounding yes! We are our siblings keepers… otherwise we grieve God’s heart.

The Apostle Paul writes in Gal 5:13-15 NIV …serve one another in love. The entire law is summed up in a single command: "Love your neighbor as yourself." If you keep on biting & devouring each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.

It’s easy to be in unity & love when everyone is doing exactly what we want them to do! But it’s oh so painfully difficult to have a heart & love for others when they’re just so irritatingly won’t do things our way!

But there are timeless Biblical concepts to help us to love each other in unity that are still effective today! In 1652, Thomas Brooks wrote “Precious Remedies Against Satan’s Devices” to help others sort it out. I’ve paraphrased & summed up his ideas to help keep it simple!

#1. See others through God’s eyes of grace rather then dwelling on their sins & weaknesses. It’s easy for us to see the flaws in other believers rather than the invisible Holy Spirit that lives in them & with them. But Brooks warns, “Sin is darkness, grace is light; sin is hell, grace is heaven; & what madness is it to look more at darkness than at light, more at hell than at heaven.” So.. have grace-ful eyes! Eyes full of grace.

2. There’s safety in numbers so hang out with the winners! Spiritual safety comes through Spiritual unity. It’s difficult to divide Xians who are unified. Satan & the world love Lone Ranger believers because it’s easier to pick them off in isolation! I see this happen all the time! That’s why God says in: Heb 10:25 NLT & let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.

#3. Keep in mind that God commands us to love one another… over 100 times in Scripture. We need this constant reminder! When you feel your heart begin to turn against another Christian, it’s time to read the “love one another” Scriptures & let it convict you. Try to meet with the person you are at odds with one on one. And make sure to talk to one of the winners you’re hanging out with to help confess, process & heal!

#4. Focus on the positive areas of agreement! Look for the harmony, not the discordance! Remember that most of that stuff you disagree on or that drives you crazy will be meaningless when your living next door to each other in Heaven!

#5. Nurture your relationship with the Holy Spirit. As you do, the gifts of The Fruits of the Spirit will mature & grow! The fruits of the Spirit: Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness & self-control will bring unity & harmony to our relationships which brings us serenity! And remember this verse...

Ps 133:1-2 NLT/NIV How wonderful, good & pleasant it is when brothers & sisters live together in unity & harmony! It is like precious anointing oil poured over Aaron's head, that ran down his beard & onto the border of his robe.

#6. Count the cost of disunity. When relationships break down, conflict inevitably follows, & every disagreement between Xians is a triumph for Satan. Disunity is a the Devil’s playground & it causes us to disrespect & disobey God. Maintain peace, even if it means walking away, hopefully with a smile. If you can, then you deny old slewfoot a triumph! If you don’t then Jesus tells us the cost in: Mt 12:25 NLT/NIV "Any kingdom divided against itself is doomed. A town or family splintered by feuding will fall apart.

#7. Initiate reconciliation & restoration if possible. We’ve been given the gift of salvation only because God 1st sought peace with us even though He was at odds with us because of our behaviors! He chased us even though we were at odds with Him in our disobedience & disrespect. So if we’re to be Christ-like… we need to do the same! The Prodigal’s father ran to him when he saw him, & he also went out to beg his eldest son to come on in & forgive his brother.

#8. Walk & work together in unity for both in-reach & outreach, using only Scripture as the judge of the actions & behaviors of both ourselves & others in light of concepts #1-7!

#9. Finally, judge yourself more than you judge your fellow Christians & then allow the Holy Spirit to convict you as necessary. Accept & apologize for your part…& we all have our part, minimal as it may be. To do this means we pursue humility with all our heart, soul & mind just as the Apostle Paul advises us to do in:

75 Php 2:3-4 NCV When you do things, do not let selfishness or pride be your guide. Instead, be humble & give more honor to others than to yourselves. Do not be interested only in your own life, but be interested in the lives of others.

Humility is a big part of the Christian life… no, it’s a huge part. So, if we spend more time taking our own inventory, considering our own sin & what it is that we did wrong, we’ll have less time to consider the sins of others and be at odds with them!

Humility helps to overlook offenses- like when the younger brother got the new clothes, the party & the bacon wrapped filet mignon while the older brother who did all the work got diddley squat!

Humility also helps to know who we are in Christ & prepare us to serve instead of be served! And very importantly, Christian humility prepares us to serve as God wants us to serve instead of how we desire or choose to care for others. In other words, as Christians we don’t decide the how, where, why, what & when of how we’re going to serve others… we know that it’s God’s job & ours is to obey what He tells us to do!

Humbility also helps us to pursue unity & to respond with joy & grace when we see others succeed where we failed… unlike Cain when Abel’s tithe was more pleasing to God then his own.

These are all things we should practice in the Family of God & in our own families! Are you at odds with your children? Your siblings? Your parents? Do you have a problem with a Christian brother or sister? Your neighbor? Is there any disunity in your life?

In Romans 12:17-18, The Bible tells us clearly, that as much as it depends upon you, as much you are able, be transparent, honest & forgiving & strive to make it right. That being said, it does take two willing parties so sometimes we do need to shake the dust off our feet for awhile. But not for want of trying.

Well, we kinda got away from Father’s Day didn’t we… or did we? Maybe not. Let’s bring it around. I truly believe that the best gift a dad can get is when his family is unified & get along. And please understand, fathers are children too! We are all children when it comes to God the Father. And just like human fathers, God is pleased when His children in His family are unified & get along.

So as His children, listen up to the Apostle Paul in: Eph 6:1-3 NIV Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. "Honor your father & mother"-which is the first commandment with a promise— "that it may go well with you & that you may enjoy long life on the earth."

So, brothers & sisters in God’s family,obey your Father in heaven, for this is right. Honor God that it may go well with you! Be blessed.

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