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Cakes, red meat, and fresh neckties fly off the shelves this week. I’m grateful for the ease with which I could choose a card for my wonderful dad. But many struggle with this weekend’s holiday. I heard a comedian wish aloud for a card without overstated accolades, reading something like, “Well, Dad, I guess you did the best you could.”

Others experience deeper strife than choosing an appropriate card. Father’s Day torments the orphaned, abused, or widowed. A strong sense of loss comes with grieving a beloved man or aching over the empty hole never filled by a father’s love.

God never designed fatherhood to hurt us. Nor did He intend for the role to fill a permanent need. Fathers were built into our life cycle design as a model to help us better understand significant aspects of our relationship to the Ultimate Father. A temporary model to help explain the source Who fulfills our needs forever. The Creator employs earthly dads to point their children toward relationship with a heavenly Father. Dads are meant to serve as imperfect place-holders to demonstrate the role of Our Perfect Father who will fulfill our needs forever. Where humans can only attempt to provide, God sustains us with a sufficiency beyond our expectations. Whether you have a good, hurtful, or missing one, Christ offers us all access to intimate, fulfilling relationship with a Perfect Father. No one needs to remain fatherless.

Mothers raise and nurture children, also conveying certain God-head characteristics when fulfilling their roles well. Some of the Lord’s qualities can be modeled by both parents, in different ways. For the sake of Father’s Day, let’s focus on specific divine attributes reflected in the ideal design of a father’s role.  These include protection, provision, discipline, and fatherly love.

“The Lord your God carried you, as a father carries his son, all the way you went” (Deuteronomy 1:31).

In Deuteronomy, we see the Lord’s provision and protection described in tandem. Earthly fathers are engineered for provision and protection, but cannot meet all physical or spiritual needs for a growing individual. Human insufficiency illuminates our need for God as the ultimate resource. Like a good dad, God doesn’t indulge our every desire, but only He can sustain us by identifying and meeting our true needs. Responsible fathers try to protect their kids without insulating them from opportunities to grow. While we might experience hardship, the Lord can use our struggles toward increasing our strength. He alone can guard us against the forces of evil.

My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline,
    and do not resent his rebuke,
because the Lord disciplines those he loves,
    as a father the son he delights in” (Proverbs 3:11-12).

Discipline wasn’t fun when our parents delivered it. We often shrink from the notion of loving rebuke from God. Unlike the unreliable outcomes of human correction, our heavenly Father only sets boundaries which offer increasing benefit to us. His guidance prevents disaster and steers us toward glorious, abundant life. Sinful tendencies resemble nits in our hair, and the Lord removes them as often as we allow Him to comb them out.

As a father has compassion on his children,
    so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him” (Psalm 103:13).

Ideal dads show some compassion to their kids. Many never experienced this quality during childhood. Even those who had caring fathers didn’t get selfless adoration at all times. People in this broken world love imperfectly. Why did Scripture offer this insufficient analogy? Because the ancients living in Old Testament period needed a relevant starting point for understanding their relationship with God. Before Christ set aside His glory to dwell among us in human form, nothing on earth came close to the love of God. Jesus alone offered exact representation of the Father’s love.

“God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).

Unconditional. Suffering when we hurt. Willing to suffer for us. Selfless. Unlimited. Over-the-top. Amazing. Beyond all our imagination can comprehend. Blowing all other concepts of love out of the water. THAT is the love our Father extends to us.

This weekend, while honoring those designed to point toward heaven, consider the gift of the cross. Christ’s outstretched arms leave no one excluded from access to a perfect Father. If you’ve never accepted the ultimate love gift of eternal life, let this be your opportunity to respond to Jesus’ scarred hands and receive His embrace. It only takes a simple but sincere prayer, like, “I need You, Jesus. I’m all yours.”

Today could begin your endless Father’s Day.

I’ve cleaned out my closets and set the extras on the porch for charity pick-up. One toy waits in my trunk to be joined by others. A few more canned goods will go along to the donations tent. Somehow, it seems I should offer more to the huge need in my community.

I scan my home and tap my chin. What have I missed? Have I something else to spare, another resource I’ve kept in reserve?

Need has mounted in our area, as it has elsewhere. The tearful shimmer in the eyes of gaunt children grows familiar across the face of the earth. Many adults share the Christmas wish to give while their hearts ache for lack of funds. I heard these stories this week, while I gazed into the eyes of God’s beloved children. And I prayed for them …

I now realize the most valuable resource to offer one another could not be found on a closet shelf or purchased in a store. I couldn’t transfer funds to provide for the greatest need online. Wealth cannot afford more of it, nor can poverty keep it at a distance. The best gift remains accessible to all, as it was the very first Noel.

God wrapped Love in warm fingers and toes, then laid Him in the arms of ordinary, homeless travelers. He gave more than we could fit under a tree. Into receptive hearts, His love continues pouring in such abundance that we have ample supply to share with all those around us. The more we ask, the more love He showers upon us.

Let us not forget to give the priceless gift, the single offering which honors the purpose of Christmas. In the mall, at the grocery store, in line, or on the phone, show others we care. Love the different folks around us. Ask strangers how they are, and take time to hear their stories. Regardless of our financial situation, if we avail ourselves of the abundant supply from Christ, we can all spare a little extra love this year.

“The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, ‘Abba, Father.’” Romans 8:15

The term father draws a myriad of emotions from the heart, each one dependent upon past and present relationships. A man who contributed his genes to a child’s physical development might choose to remain present in the child’s life. As a papa, he could shelter, feed, and clothe his child. Some fathers take the full responsibility of nurturing the child’s heart and connecting their spirits to God. These men earn the esteemed title bestowed upon them by their kids–Daddy.

Many daddies have learned to love beyond what their fathers offered them in the past. Present relationships with their own children resonate with beautiful chords of fatherhood instead of the sorrowful tones they experienced from their parents.

Regardless of their pasts, daddies hold a precious opportunity to model heroic love.

Father’s Day brings joy to those of us who had or are devoted daddies. A swelling crowd of aching hearts look on this day with regret, questions. An inner chasm still hungers for approval, security, love. Bitterness often lurks in these empty souls, draining away life and joy. Resentment thwarts current and future attempts to connect with other hearts.

Whether our paternal relationships bring cause for celebration or grief, ending the definition of fatherhood with men delivers grave risk. Human fathers, no matter how heroic, cannot fulfill our needs for love or security. Only God can offer the true love of Abba to our spirits. He alone can meet all of our needs, including renewal from childhood emptiness and pain. Our Heavenly Father exceeds the most heroic man by an unfathomable degree on every point. You name the area of provision, from love to creating life, and He’s outdone all men. Recognizing God’s difference from human fathers bears vital healing for those who didn’t have loving daddies.

He is not at all like your father.

Even if you never realized His presence, Abba has always been there for you. (Psalm 139:5-16)

Even if you didn’t notice His outstretched arms, Abba has always loved you. (Jeremiah 31:3 and John 15:13)

Even if you never listened to Him calling you by name, Abba has accepted you. (Rev.3:20)

Even if you never heard the truth about who you are, Abba extends you a place as a son of God. (Galatians 4:6-7)

Even if you didn’t experience it yet, Abba offers you security. (Psalm 34:7,22 and Jeremiah 29:11, 33:6 and Romans 8:31-39)

God alone can sustain true righteousness, so we have no other with whom to compare His nature. It’s no wonder we fail to grasp how much He differs from men. The truth remains vital to our soul, however. The All-Powerful Creator knows you better than you know yourself, and loves you with extraordinary passion and tenderness.

Whether or not you have a daddy to honor this Father’s Day, take time to celebrate your Abba.


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