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First things first. My first daughter had her first baby, my first grandchild, my first male descendant, and his initials are… A.D. It has been a really good year in the Lord, and Adrian is just one of the many reasons. Fatherhood is better than ever, starting with the first day of the year, when my fourth daughter was baptized. Now all of my kids have turned the key to their heart over to the Heavenly Father. They have all received Christ as their Lord and Savior, and all of them are, from my biased perspective, making a positive impact on a lot of people. What I love most about my kids is that they are both humble and independent, both gentle and emphatic, or as Hugh Ross put it in his outstanding book, A Matter of Days, both tolerant and discerning.

Which brings me to the issue of Fatherhood.

As I was waiting for the baby to come last night I was reading Desiring God by John Piper. (he has a nice tribute to his own father at http://www.desiringgod.org/library/sermons/05/061905.html )

As I read John Piper’s words, I can’t help but see a warm and loving man, who delights to do the Heavenly Father’s will, enjoys the manifold grace of God to all believers in this life, and eagerly anticipates the glory and endless joys of an eternity that is promised to all believers. I share those God-directed hopes in my own walk with God, too.

But I think there is an aspect to God’s loving character that is being overlooked by Pastor Piper: he defines the goal of God as being the maximization of his own praise and honor. I don’t think so. I agree that God is honorable, praiseworthy, and deserving of all praise. I agree that he is sovereign and works all things according to his own plans and will, and I agree that what he says, he will do. He will not be disappointed or frustrated.

But God is love, and love means a commitment to give of oneself in every area for the good of another. God saw the world he had created, and whom he had allowed to become enslaved by that sin, and whom he had placed under judicial restraint, a curse of “dying though shalt die.” That is the anger and wrath of God, and it will not last forever.

Piper quotes Ephesians 1:5-6: {God] predestined us in love to be his sons . . . to the praise of the glory of his grace.” And his emphasis is on the fact that God will get praise and glory as a result of his grace toward his sons. I get a different emphasis from this. In Ephesians 1:10 the apostle goes on to say that there will be one family, in heaven and earth, and it will all be in God’s name — that is, God’s character. There are sons now, and I’m happy that this makes me the brother of a John Piper, even if for now we don’t agree on what God’s goals are.

The reason why God is working at this project is so that he will have a family — not a group of people who automatically do what he says, and praise him no matter how many people seem to be going, going, gone, lost forever without hope, without God. Because in John Piper’s, Jonathan Edwards’, John MacArthur’s view of the world, many more people are lost than are saved. That’s OK with them because they trust God knows what he is doing, and they’re convinced that is the way God says it will be. I read the Bible differently, and I see God saying he’s going to save EVERY soul from Adamic condemnation, and bring them to an accurate knowledge of the Truth – Christ.

According to Paul in Ephesians 1, God is the Father, the originator. We are sons, and brothers to each other. And when we see other brothers who are perishing, succumbing to sin, terribly beset by seemingly random acts of violence, what father could fault us for going to him and saying, “Dad, this brother or potential brother of ours just got hurt. This one just died. What can we do about this? What are you going to do about this?”

I could look at the 14-year-old Palestinian who recently told Israeli police that he was told to blow himself up or his fellows would kill him. And I say, “His friend who blew himself up last week — a Palestinian who does not know Jesus, does not know the God of Abraham — where is he now? How has God’s love and plan affected him?” And I turn to God’s word for answers, and I am very happy with the answers I read there. And I can see why God is happy, God is OK with the trouble in the world, because he really does have a plan in place that will deal effectually and wonderfully with that one boy, or the millions that died in the Iran/Iraq war, or the earthquake in Pakistan or Katrina or whatever the disaster-du-jour might be.

So, punch-drunk as all sensitive people are by the trouble and disaster in the world, it’s great to be able to turn to Ephesians 1, 2, and 3 and be told there is indeed a family under development, a very very large family, of both people and spirit beings, in heaven and earth, who will all, from top to bottom, consider God their Father, and actually obey his principles, and actually have his character. (his Name). (Ephesians 3:15). Character is everything. Bad character is why the world is such a mess. To contemplate a world where every single person has learned the hard way, through experience, what is good, and has chosen to, with God’s help, do what is good … well that almost seems to good to be true. If I didn’t read emphatic statements in a trustworthy source that this indeed will happen, I would think it was impossible. As a father who worked hard to develop good character in his children, I’m really happy to believe that God has planned from the beginning how to impart good character to all the people who are willing to learn it — a character of love, unselfishness, willingness to serve others even when it is painful, willingness to delay gratification, and to be merciful — to go as far as is possible, be as gracious as possible, to reclaim, correct, recover an erring soul.

This is what God is doing, setting us all an example of grace, humility, patience, kindness even to the arrogant and unholy.

God is a father, and as I become a grandfather, I see more clearly that the goal of a father is to bless his children, to see them grow and respond and learn what he knows is best. The role of a grandfather is to watch his children provide the discipline and correction, so that he can provide the fun and the candy. That’s how I see God working, through Christ, to bless the world. Praise in the end will not only be spontaneous, it will be universal, because all who are alive will delight to give God all the praise for his great plan of grace and salvation.