Thursday, June 16, 2016

The Makings of a Father

"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 7:10 (ESV)

So much of our picture of God is based upon our view of and interaction with our earthly fathers. Healthy, absent, abusive...encouraging, critical, demanding or apathetic. How would you describe your earthly dad and how does this affect your view of God?

I was privileged to grow up in the American dream for a little boy. My dad was a fireman, and a captain even, and it just could not have been better for me. I remember him showing up to my Little League games in the engine with lights going and calling out my name on his loudspeaker. He was the town hero, always in the newspaper and I would swell with pride whenever my dad was mentioned.

Once, in high school, there was a brush fire across the street and I was watching with all of my buddies. My dad was on the top of the hill directing his men to battle the blaze and protect the homes. Suddenly, he disappeared into the flames and the feeling of panic and unknown was overwhelming as I ran to the engine to let somebody know my dad was in trouble. We learned later that he had been shot by leftover ammunition lying in the brush that the fire ignited and it just happened to hit him. He was fine and still carries the bullet in his leg to this day, but I am still teary-eyed typing this as I think about how I might have lost him.

As great of a fire captain as he was, he is an even better man. He pursues God, loves my mom fiercely and has always been the greatest champion of my life. He has always been by my side, from college graduations and All-American sports accolades, to a bitter divorce and a season of unemployment. As I was thinking about him for this blog, I began to wonder what makes a good father? I came up with three characteristics that have made all the difference for me.

First, he is a man of God. He pursues Christ personally and passionately. I remember watching him read his Bible all the time by the fireplace and his response in times of struggle is prayer. He is a leader at church, a teacher in children's ministry and has influenced tens of thousands of people over the years for Christ at church, in the fire station and in our community. A father who pursues Christ will not be perfect, but he will represent God well!

Next, he loves his family fiercely. I know that my mom, myself and my sisters have always come first. If you want to see my dad mad, then attack his family! There is such great comfort in knowing that Dad is bigger, stronger and is for you. What a picture of the God in heaven who loves each of us fiercely. Rest in His love today and, regardless of what love looks like from your earthly father, know that God loves you, knows you and has great plans and promises for you.

Finally, he has a heart for people. I have witnessed first-hand him saving people in his capacity as a fireman. From battling a brushfire to save a home while standing on the roof with a hose to carrying a tiny infant in the back of a police car because there was not time to wait for the ambulance, he has consistently placed his life in danger for the benefit of others. He prays for kids at church, greets strangers and goes out of his way to help others feel valued and included. He looks out for the marginalized, the outcast and the ignored. He includes people into conversations while the rest of the group might not even notice them. Isn't this just like our God? He is all about the widow and orphan, the poor, the crippled and the outcast.

I have no idea what the concept of "father" means to you. I don't know if Father's Day is a time of celebration, pain or fond remembrance. But regardless, I pray that you would know your Heavenly Father in a way that touches your heart. He is for you, He loves you fiercely, and no matter what your circumstance is, His desire is to lift you up and breathe new life and hope into your situation. Turn to Him, trust in Him and lean on Him - He is always there, whether in the midst of the storm or at a wedding feast.

Dear Lord, right or not, our picture of You is often directly related to our relationship with our earthly fathers. I pray that you would encourage our dads this year to pursue You as they never have before. I pray that You help us to celebrate where we can, forgive where we must, and to trust You to fill any gaps of broken relationship. Thank you for being our Daddy God and may we love You and be more aware of Your love for us this year! Amen.

~ Mike

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