“Abba Father” or “Abba Grandfather” pt 2 – The Spiritual Art of Spinning God

I like to read both liberal and conservative news sites because both sides present filtered perspectives and the truth often lies somewhere in between.  The common buzzword for this is called “spin.”  It seems like everyone reporting now days is spinning.  What is “spin”? Commonly associated with political public relations, spin can be characterized as “presenting an issue in a perspective most favorable to a given point of view.”  It is created by presenting information favorable to one perspective and by omitting or rebutting information from another perspective.    One conservative commentator calls his show the “No Spin Zone”  but the reality is that he spins just as much as the other side.

It would be difficult to be in the public eye in this day and age of media spinning.   Media workers take sound bites or partial quotes, remove them from their context, then spin to make a point.   I have seen this many times.  When I go back and read the full transcript or hear the person respond to the articles that were spun, their original communication and intention was not represented at all.

What about spiritual spinning?  Is it possible?  Can we perceive and present “information favorable to one perspective” while “omitting or rebutting information from another perspective.”  Can we spin the revelation of God to ourselves or others in a way that mischaracterizes who He is?   The Bible contains the revelation God gives about Himself that He wants us to know.  He reveals both His likes, His dislikes, and His traits that make up who He is.  This is what theologians refer to as His attributes.  Some of them we understand a little because they are in us in an incomplete way (called communicable attributes, love, hate, patience, justice etc.), while others are way beyond us (called incommunicable attributes, sovereignty, foreknowledge, omnipresence etc.).

In response to the breakdown and dysfunction of family over the past 50 years (See “Abba Father” or “Abba Grandfather”) God has raised up the powerful message of His loving Fatherhood in the past few decades.  There had been a tremendous resurgence of revelation about God’s Fatherhood, His powerful love for us, and His amazing adoption (from slavery to son ship).

Spinning His Attributes

As wonderful and liberating as this is, and continues to be, we must be careful not to spin certain attributes of God, leaving out others.  If we diminish or topple any of His  attributes it is a domino effect leading to a spinning of God.   Psa 50:2… You thought that I was just like you; I will reprove you and state the case in order before your eyes.

We tend to do this with God’s great love and mercy.  Some view God’s love in a way that eclipses all his other attributes. It is a big mistake to think that God’s love overshadows His holiness.  Over and over He reveals Himself in the Bible as Holy.  He is the Holy God, and the Spirit is Holy Spirit.   Our culture has purged God’s love of anything that we feel uncomfortable with such as holiness and righteousness. We have, in a sense, redefined the love of God apart from His other attributes to neutralize them because they don’t appeal to us.

His Kindness, Hatred, and Severity

Paul makes this point in Romans, in a admonishment to have a healthy fear of God.   Rom 11:20-22…they were broken off for their unbelief, but you stand by your faith. Do not be conceited, but fear;  (21)  for if God did not spare the natural branches, He will not spare you, either.  (22)  Behold then the kindness and severity of God; to those who fell, severity, but to you, God’s kindness, if you continue in His kindness; otherwise you also will be cut offMany people like His kindness but have no clue about His severity.  Therefore they see God as a kind grandfather who is obligated to love them no matter what they do, or how they live.

Another attribute of God we can bypass in light of His love is His holy hatred.  A  bumper sticker says “Hate is not a family value.” Unfortunately many Christians attribute that to God and His family.  The same God who loves also hates.  In a fallen world with an enemy that is opposed to Him, God must hate what is trying to destroy His Kingdom and the object of His love (us).  God’s attributes of holiness, purity, righteousness, and justice prompt Him to hate evil, including human attitudes and actions.

Heb 1:9  “YOU HAVE LOVED RIGHTEOUSNESS AND HATED LAWLESSNESS

Deu 12:31  “You shall not behave thus toward the LORD your God, for every abominable act which the LORD hates they have done for their gods.

Pro 6:16-19  There are six things which the LORD hates, Yes, seven which are an abomination to Him: 

Psa 7:11  God judges the righteous, and God is angry with the wicked every day.

Psa 5:4-6  For You are not a God who takes pleasure in wickedness; No evil dwells with You.  (5)  The boastful shall not stand before Your eyes; You hate all who do iniquity.  (6)  You destroy those who speak falsehood; The LORD abhors the man of bloodshed and deceit.

If God’s love was a trump card that nullified all His other attributes, then the horrors of the suffering of Christ would make no sense.  God could have just pronounced love and forgiveness, and Jesus could have avoided suffering God’s wrath for us, but God’s justice and wrath had to be satisfied.

The early church in Acts appreciated all the attributes of God.  They lived with an incredible comfort of the Holy Spirit and security in God’s love.  Yet it was also mixed with a healthy fear of Him.  Act 9:31  So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria enjoyed peace, being built up; and going on in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it continued to increase.

We want people to “feel” secure in God’s love, but  “feeling good” isn’t as important as “living good”  1Pe 1:15-16  but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior;  (16)  because it is written, “YOU SHALL BE HOLY, FOR I AM HOLY.”  We need to be careful that we are not spinning God to a point that He isn’t who He is.  The good news often isn’t  perceived as very “good” among His church, or the world that desperately needs Him, because we have spun away His other attributes that would cause us to be amazed by His great love.

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“Abba Father” or “Abba Grandfather”

We have witnessed an amazing breakdown of family over the last 50 years.  Beginning with the no fault divorce laws of the 60s, all the way to the redefinition of marriage debates of the last few years, the family structure as we have know it has been under relentless attack.

Why such an assault?  One of the main reasons is that God’s enemy cannot directly engage, or defeat Him.  He tried 2000 years ago with Jesus and his fate was sealed.  One of the main ways he can get back at God however, is to try to erase or pervert His image in the earth.  God created man “in His image” Gen 1:26.  A central feature of that image is family.  The Godhead is a divine family and created mankind with that same design for family (with Him and each other).  If the enemy can pervert  or destroy that image, he messes up that image of being reflected in the earth.

This malevolent plan was revealed in the 2010 US Census.  For the first time in US history the number households headed by unmarried adults became the majority at 51.6%.  This was up from 44.9% in 1990 and 48.3% in 2000. Most of the children raised in these households are alienated from one or both biological parents.

These factors have created a broken and fatherless generation of spiritual orphans.  They are lacking important emotional and spiritual components from one or both parents.  We know statistically that the majority of prison inmates are alienated from their biological fathers.   Psychological and behavioral studies consistently show that the lack of a father’s involvement is detrimental to the lives of children.

God’s Fatherhood is the Answer 

In the midst of this brokenness God has raised up the message of His Fatherhood.  Various men’s movements in the past two decades have created a fresh calling to fatherhood.  There has also been a resurgence of revelation about the Fatherhood of God and our adoption by Him.  This has brought healing to many who have suffered pain from dysfunctional and absent fatherhood.

It is so comforting and liberating to know that the Father loves us, adopts us, and heals us.  He is loving, faithful, and kind beyond anything we can know from imperfect human fatherhood.  His great love, mercy, faithfulness, and patience gives us assurance that we can walk with Him as beloved children, completely secure in His love.

Father or Grandfather

Right in the midst of something so liberating there can be a downside.  Most issues of sin are simply good things in excess, or in a wrong context.  Sleep can become slothfulness.  Eating can become gluttony.  Sexual expression can become fornication and adultery.  Could there be a similar problem with our view of God’s Fatherhood?

If we aren’t careful we can attribute an idealized view of God’s Fatherhood based more on our own wishes rather that His revelation.  If we highlight certain aspects of His nature (love, mercy, patience) to the exclusion of other aspects of His nature (holiness, justice, wrath etc.) we end up creating a god “in our own image” as He warns.   Psa 50:21  “These things you have done and I kept silence; You thought that I was just like you; I will reprove you and state the case in order before your eyes.

If we highlight one attribute of God and exclude others we head down the path of making Him in our image.  For example some view God’s love in a way that eclipses all His other attributes.  God’s love doesn’t surprise them very much (Why shouldn’t God love us? We’re lovable, aren’t we).  But His holiness and hatred of sin isn’t even on their radar.  They couldn’t handle an event like Ananias and Sapphira Acts 5.

A  problem that can arise in our generation is that we make far too much of Divine love and far too little of His other attributes.  Instead of being secure in a loving Father, they make Him more like a benevolent Grandfather.  C.S. Lewis may have hit the nail on the head when he said“We want, in fact, not so much a Father in heaven as a grandfather in heaven–a senile benevolence who, as they say, “likes to see young people enjoying themselves” and whose plan for the universe was simply that it might be truly said at the end of each day, “a good time was had by all.”

Appreciating All of God’s Attributes

We must see God’s attributes in relationship to His other attributes.  We must remember God is just as holy as He is loving.  If we aren’t careful we can redefine God’s love apart from His other attributes to neutralize them because they don’t appeal to us.  God’s love isn’t His only attribute, nor is it His defining attribute.  Consider the close revelations of God from the Scripture.  The overriding attribute is His Holiness.   

Isa 6:1-3  In the year of King Uzziah’s death I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, lofty and exalted, with the train of His robe filling the temple…(3)  And one called out to another and said, “Holy, Holy, Holy, is the LORD of hosts, The whole earth is full of His glory.”

Rev 4:8  And the four living creatures… do not cease to say, “HOLY, HOLY, HOLY is THE LORD GOD, THE ALMIGHTY, WHO WAS AND WHO IS AND WHO IS TO COME.”

What about the Spirit?  His predominate descriptive attribute isn’t Friendly Spirit or Loving Spirit, He is Holy Spirit.  If we aren’t careful we attempt to purge God’s love of anything that we feel uncomfortable with.  What about the attribute of His Justice,  it is there too.  This is often why the Good News isn’t that good to people, because they don’t understand His justice nor His hatred of wickedness Heb 1:9 etc.?

As we come into a fuller revelation of, and security in God’s Fatherhood we dare not make Him “Abba Grandfather” instead of “Abba Father.”  As was said in Narnia “He isn’t a tame Lion you know.”

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Small Groups-Optional or Essential


Cell Groups; Community Groups; Home Groups, Life Groups; G12 Groups; Discipleship Groups;  Equipping Groups, Activate Groups; and Growth Groups are all names I have used. or heard used, for the spiritual phenomena of small groups.  Historically I have looked at everything from Wesley’s class meetings to the amazing resurgence and influence of small groups in the last 60 years.

The late theological-ethicist Richard Niebuhr observed that the great revivals in the history of Christianity do not occur by discovering something new. Great revivals and change happens when someone takes radically something that has always been there.   I think this is true when it comes to the small group movements of the past few decades.

The small group idea started long before the recent phenomenon.  Jesus selected twelve men to share His life with on a regular bases as they pursued God’s mission.  The early church also embraced the pattern of small group gatherings as they met daily “in the Temple and from house to house” Act 2:46  If Jesus and the early church needed to walk in small groups in order to effectively engage in the mission of God then so do we.

There are three types of meetings that are essential for every Christian  to effectively follow Jesus.  The most important is our private meetings with God on a regular basis Mat 6:6..when you pray, enter into your room. And shutting your door, pray to your Father in secret.  The other two are large and small group gatherings.  Each meeting contains unique and important dynamics for our growth and effectiveness.

Biblical Design for Small Groups

Some mistakenly imagine small groups as self serving gatherings in which sit around and nostalgically enjoy each other’s company. There is much more in God’s design for them than that!  One important element is found in a couple of passages from the book of Hebrews.

The writer of Hebrews was addressing issues stemming from persecution at the ands of the Roman emperor Nero.  He considered the Christians much more of a threat to  his rule than the Jews.  Before he burntRomeand blamed it on Christians, he began to pressure them so they would renounce their faith.  He confiscated their property and denied them access to things that other citizens enjoyed.

In response to the pressure Christians began to avoid meetings together.   The Jewish Christians turned back to their Judiastic roots because it was still tolerated.   Others backslid.  In the midst of this the writer addressed an important element of their gathering together.

Hebrews 3:12-13 Take care, brethren, that there not be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart that falls away from the living God.  (13)  But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called “Today,” so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.

Hebrews 10:24-25  and let us consider how to stimulate ( incitement, provoke unto, excite to challenge; or to stir up or arouse ) one another to love and good deeds,  (25)  not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another

Instead of caving into the pressure against them, the writer encouraged them to gather together to encourage and stimulate each other to be faithful to God and impact the world around them. This continues to be a design for our gatherings today!

Biblical Example

One great story from the book of Daniel shows us this design in action.  The nation of Babylon(which the Bible later refers to as a type of
this world’s system) took captive God’s people in order to strip them of the connection with Him and then use them to advance the Babylonian culture.  Babylon, just like the world’s system today, was attempting to take them captive to use them, but God was sending them there in make an impact.

There were four men, Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego whom God joined together.  At times they lived together and met together on a regular basis.  Daniel 2:17-18  Then Daniel went to his house and informed his friends, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego about the matter,  (18)  so that they might request compassion from the God..  You could say they had a small group in Babylon.

Out of their relationship with God and their “encouraging” and “stimulating one another ” they withstood what Babylon was trying to feed them (Dan 1:6-16).   They refused to bow to the pressure to renounce their faith and serve the interest ofBabylon.  They remained faithful and ended up influencing the culture around them.

One of the well known examples was their refusal to worship the King’s image.  Under pressure they drew strength from God and each other.  As they were thrown into the furnace of judgment we get a picture of a great small group in the midst of pressure.  Daniel 3:1-4:1… (Nebuchadnezzar) said to his high officials, “Was it not three men we cast bound into the midst of the fire?”…(25)  He said, “Look! I see four men loosed and walking about in the midst of the fire without harm, and the appearance of the fourth is like a son of the gods!”…(28)  Nebuchadnezzar responded and said, Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego, who has sent His angel and delivered His servants who put their trust in Him, violating the king’s command, and yielded up their bodies so as not to serve or worship any god except their own God.  God was with them as they stood faithfully together in the midst of pressure.  They not only survived but ended up influencing the culture around them for God.

May we aim for God’s design in small groups.  May we find connection and strength with God and each other to serve Him faithfully in order to engage and influence the culture around us.

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