Tuesday, November 15, 2016



Have you ever heard someone pray using the phrase “Mother/Father God”?  It happens, every once in a while, I’ll be in a situation where a mainline pastor is praying and they will use the phrase because they feel it will be less offensive than “Father God” or sometimes I think they are either trying to be theologically cute or just want to stir the pot.

And there may even be some here today who think the concept of referring to God as “Mother” is fine.  But is that the reality?

I’m all in favour of using gender neutral terms in the bible when it is appropriate, so “brothers” can be “brothers and sisters”, “he” can become “they”.

For example, in the NKJV we read Matthew 4:19  Then He (Jesus) said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.”  While in the NLT it reads Matthew 4:19  Jesus called out to them, “Come, follow me, and I will show you how to fish for people!”  And I have no problem with that.

 But we would not consider calling Jesus a her because we know he was a him. He was Jesus, he wasn’t Jessica.  And Jesus referred to the first person of the Trinity as Father.  There was no doubt about that at all and no ambiguity. 

Many times he used the Greek word “Pater” which simply meant father, but that was all it meant.  It was the most common, perhaps formal way of identifying his father.

When I refer to Burton Guptill, I will identify him by saying “he is my father.”

In the Old Testament God is not often referred to as Father, but when he is it is in this formal form.  For example,  Isaiah 63:16  Surely you are still our Father! Even if Abraham and Jacob would disown us, LORD, you would still be our Father. You are our Redeemer from ages past.

And while the Old Testament use of Father for God is rare the concept of the Fatherhood of God takes a dramatic turn in the New Testament.  “Father” was Jesus’ favorite term for addressing God.  Jesus refers to God as Father over sixty times in the first three gospels and over one hundred times in the gospel of John.  

This wasn’t just “a” way that Jesus taught the apostles to address God, it was “The” way.

This is week six of our Hashtag this series.  Since the beginning of October we have been looking at various phrases and words from the Bible that would warrant a hashtag if Social media had of been around when the Bible was written.

And a hashtag is simply a way to identify a common theme in social media, whether it be facebook, twitter or Instagram.  And it is simply the # sign followed by the theme, spelled out without spaces. 

For example this week the hashtag I’ve used the most has been #meanwhileincanada. 

Last week we looked at #rememberme and we focused on the story of the Last Supper.  This week we are just jumping up the time line a little bit to the Garden of Gethsemane, where we discover Christ talking to his Father.  

While in the vast majority of cases Jesus uses that formal term Pater to refer to God there is an exception.   In one case he uses a different term.  And we heard that in the scripture that was read earlier.

And I’m pretty sure that if someone had of been there and heard Jesus’ prayer that night they would have tweeted #abbafather.

When I first heard the term ABBA at bible college I thought they were talking about the singing group.  And then when I realized that they weren’t then I thought that maybe the group had a Christian background.  And they didn’t. 

In the scripture that was read earlier we are eavesdropping on a conversation that Jesus is having with his Father. 

If you are like me, there are probably certain talks, or conversations that you have had with your father that stick in your mind. 

A friend of mine said he had “The talk” with his eleven-year-old son a while back, pretty sure that was memorable, for whom I’m not sure.  And here we are eavesdropping on a very intimate conversation between Jesus and his father.

I am fortunate that through the years I have had a really good relationship with Dad, probably didn’t realize it at the time but there are several conversations that I can almost think of verbatim, even remembering where we were when we had those conversations.  Not all of them would be appropriate in this context. 

And as we listen to Jesus talk to his Abba we realize that he had the type of relationship with his father that explains why he was able to have this conversation with his Father,  Mark 14:35-36 He went on a little farther and fell to the ground. He prayed that, if it were possible, the awful hour awaiting him might pass him by. “Abba, Father,” he cried out, “everything is possible for you. Please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.”

And so it had come to this.  For three years he had taught for three years he had healed.  For three years he had tried to make a difference in his world and to direct people to his father and now it had come down to this.  One of his followers had already cut a deal with his enemies and he knew deep within his heart that this was already the beginning of the end.

Others might guess what was going to happen, he knew. From the very beginning he knew that the people would reject him and his message and they would reject his call to draw near to God.  He knew that he would have to die and would have to surrender his life.  He knew all this because he was God.  But he also knew that he had to make the offer, he had to walk among the people and offer them the chance to embrace him, even knowing they would reject him, but he had to make the offer.

And so it had come to this.  And the worst part was the anticipation.  You know how you felt the last time you had to go to the dentist to have a filling, or a tooth pulled?  You sat in the waiting room imagining how much it was going to hurt, you could almost feel the prick of the needle as they froze your gums, and as you heard the sound of the drill coming from the office it was almost as if it was in your mouth.  Your blood pressure went up, your palms got sweaty your pulse increased. Sorry, I was gone but I’m back now.

Jesus knew that before the day was done that he would die, and not just die but die a very painful death.  Oh sure he was God he could make it so it wouldn’t hurt, but that wasn’t a part of the plan. Dying would be the easy part; it was Julius Caesar who said “It is easier to find men who will volunteer to die, than to find those who are willing to endure pain with patience.”  And Jesus Christ, the son of God knew that before the sun had set one more time that he would offer up the supreme sacrifice for the world, not just for the world, for you, and you and you.  Because before the day was done he would offer himself up to suffer and die.

And with those thoughts racing through his mind he fell to his knees and began to pray.

This is the prayer of Jesus.

Mark 14:36  “Abba, Father,” he cried out, “everything is possible for you. Please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.”
The first thing we discover in this prayer is 1) His Father Wasn’t a Stranger   For Jesus the Father was not some abstract figure, he wasn’t a vague benevolent something, out there somewhere.  Instead he was God the Father, who loves and cares about his children, He was Abba.    When we think Abba we think of a Swedish Disco group from the 70’s, and while that may be what Abba means now, it is nowhere near what Abba meant then. 

Instead Abba was an Aramaic word that meant father but more than simply father, it was the diminutive form. 

How many of you watch NCIS?  Do you remember this scene for last year’s season finale?  (video clip of Tali calling Tony Abba)

Burton Guptill is my father, has been as long as I can remember, but you know something in 56 years I don’t think I have ever called him father, ever.  When I was younger I called him Daddy, and now I call him Dad, for a while when I worked for him on the tugs I called him Skipper but I have never to my recollection referred to him as father.

Abba means Daddy or Dad; it is a term of endearment, signifying a relationship.  It’s used only three times in the New Testament.  This was the first.  The other two times Paul uses it to describe the relationship we need to have with our heavenly Father Romans 8:15 So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children. Now we call him, “Abba, Father.”   And again Paul reminds us in Galatians 4:6 And because we are his children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, prompting us to call out, “Abba, Father.”
And I understand that the concept of God as our Father is not a positive for everyone.  Some people were brought up by fathers who were cruel and vicious, who abused them physically and verbally, and that wasn’t right.  That isn’t what fathers are supposed to do and are supposed to behave like.  Others weren’t abused by their fathers they were simply ignored, it would appear that their fathers had taken to heart the words of Ernest Hemingway who said “To be a successful father... there's one absolute rule: when you have a kid, don't look at it for the first two years.”

But men who abuse their children or ignore their children aren’t fathers they are simply sperm donors.  A father doesn’t just participate in the conception of the child he is an integral part of seeing that child grow up.  He is responsible for loving and caring for his children. Of providing for them and protecting them, first against the monsters who live beneath the bed and then against the world.  And as children we understand that, Sigmund Freud said “I cannot think of any need in childhood as strong as the need for a father's protection.”
And now as Jesus came to the most crucial time in his thirty-three years on this earth, knowing as only he could know what was about to happen he cries out to his father, to his dad, pouring out his heart.

When you pray who do you pray to?  A concept, a belief, some vague deity that we find hard to define, kind of like Alfred Jarry who said “God is the tangential point between zero and infinity.”

I don’t think so, but if we are going to pray to God the Father then it better be to God our Father.  There needs to be a relationship, and He only becomes our Father when we become his children. And how do we do that?  Listen to the word of God, John 1:12 But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God.
And our obligation as His Children?    Philippians 2:15 so that no one can criticize you. Live clean, innocent lives as children of God, shining like bright lights in a world full of crooked and perverse people.
Our lives then become evidence of that relationship, 1 John 3:10 So now we can tell who are children of God and who are children of the devil. Anyone who does not live righteously and does not love other believers does not belong to God.

You are a child of God if you have believed in Jesus and accept him and you live clean innocent lives, obeying God’s command.  Then you can call out to Him, Abba.

Mark 14:35-36. “Abba, Father,” he cried out, “everything is possible for you. Please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.”
Jesus not only knew he was praying to the Father,  2) He Understood His Father’s Power Abba, Father,” He prayed everything is possible for you.  What’s the use of praying if you don’t believe that God has the power to answer your prayers?  Somehow we need to get our head around the concept that everything and anything is possible for God.  And I know that some of you are out there shaking your head thinking “but God doesn’t always answer my prayers.”  You’re right God doesn’t always answer prayer, but not because he can’t.  We also need to understand that we aren’t always going to be able to understand it.  I can’t explain why God doesn’t always answer our prayers.  Personally I know that there have been some of my prayers that I’m glad He didn’t answer.

The Angel Gabriel summed it up in Luke 1:37 “For nothing is impossible with God.”
Time and time again in the Bible we hear the words “everything is possible for God”, “anything is possible for God”, and “all things are possible for God.”   But understand there are things that God won’t do.  A woman approached her pastor and told him that she wanted him to pray that her daughter wouldn’t move in with her boyfriend like she was planning.  The pastor refused.  Why?  Think about it.  God doesn’t force his will on us so why would he force our will on others?  The better prayer might be that the daughter would seek God and embrace His salvation.  If we have a loved one in the Armed Forces and pray that they are not sent into battle does that mean that someone else might be placed in danger because our husband, son or brother isn’t there?
But God has the power to answer all our prayers, and we need to pray believing that He will answer those prayers, but understanding that if He doesn’t it’s not because he can’t and it’s not because he doesn’t want the best for us, but we may have a different idea then God of what is best for us.  Sometimes we are like little kids and we want it all, but all isn’t what we need.

So he prayed to His Father, believing that His Father had the power to answer his prayer and then Mark 14:36“Abba, Father,” he cried out, “everything is possible for you. Please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.”
 3) He Knew His Father Cared About Him  You ever catch yourself praying for something for you and feel guilty?  It’s like somewhere along the line we have been told that we should only pray for others.  If we pray for ourselves then we are selfish.

That’s wrong.  When we pray the Lord’s Prayer, that would be the one that Jesus gave the disciples, we pray that God would give us our daily bread, that God would forgive us, that God would keep us from temptation. 
A few years ago there was a bestselling book out called the Prayer of Jabez and it looked at an obscure Old Testament Prayer that is recorded in 1 Chronicles 4:10, do you remember what he prayed?  1 Chronicles 4:10 He was the one who prayed to the God of Israel, “Oh, that you would bless me and expand my territory! Please be with me in all that I do, and keep me from all trouble and pain!”
A fairly selfish sounding prayer but listen to the result, And God granted him his request. 
Jesus said this about the Father Matthew 7:9-11 “You parents—if your children ask for a loaf of bread, do you give them a stone instead? Or if they ask for a fish, do you give them a snake? Of course not! So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask him.
Oh sometimes when we pray for ourselves we are praying for selfish things.  You can’t deny that, but for the most part it’s not wrong to ask God to be with us and to take care of us and to provide for us.  And He wants to do that, but you need to trust his judgement.  And here is the kicker.  It’s easy to pray to God our Father, and it’s easy to acknowledge his power, and it’s easy to ask Him to take care of us.  It’s tough to surrender to His will.  

Mark 14:36“Abba, Father,” he cried out, “everything is possible for you. Please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.”
4) His Desire was to Be in His Father’s Will  American Poet  Richard Cecil made this comment “The history of all the great characters of the Bible is summed up in this one sentence: They acquainted themselves with God, and accepted His will in all things.”

Think about it, the only thing anyone in the bible got by insisting on doing their will instead of God’s was trouble.  Time and time again it is proved that God is smarter than we are. 

If you are like me, and like most people, at some point in your Christian life you have made a decision that you knew was not what God wanted you to do, so how did that work out for you?

Think about it on one hand we have God, the creator of the universe, this is the God who cast the milk way into space, who imagined platypuses and created you.  On the other hand we have us, most of whom can’t even figure out how to change the digital clock in our cars.  Which isn’t really a problem because it’s right for half the year.     

It’s no contest, and yet time and time again we want to pray to God, “Yet I want my will, not yours.”

When Noah chose God’s will he was able to build an ark that saved him and his family, when Joseph chose God’s will he was able to save his family from starvation.  When Moses chose God’s will he was able to deliver his people out of the slavery of Egypt.  When Gideon chose God’s will he was able to save the Israelites from the Midianites.  When David Chose God’s will he was able to defeat the giant.

And yet when Saul chose his will over God’s he lost his throne, when Samson chose to ignore God’s will he lost his life, when Jonah chose his will over God’s will he ended up in the belly of a whale.

Now you might be asking, how will I know the will of God?  Good question.  Paul Little says this “Has it ever struck you that the vast majority of the will of God for your life has already been revealed in the Bible? That is a crucial thing to grasp.”

But you will never know what’s in the Bible if you don’t read the Bible.

What is your prayer today?  God has only your best in mind, are you willing to trust him?

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