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Father's Day: Be There (Luke 15:11-32)

By Donald C. Hoagland
As we are in the season of baseball, hot dogs and family vacations, and since this is Father's Day, I thought I would share with you a story I read in an issue of Focus on the Family Magazine about a young man who appreciates his role as a father.

Tim Burke was a major league pitcher for the Montreal Expos. With potentially a number of baseball years still ahead of him, he retired at the age of thirty-three. The question, of course, is why?

Tim and his wife Christine could have no children. Over time, they were led to adopt four Korean children, all with special needs. As Tim realized the demands this put on his wife to be "mother, father, doctor, mover, plumber, secretary, etc.", he decided he would give up the game he loved in order to be a major league dad and a major league husband.

Christine was particularly moved by her husband's decision for a number of reasons: she knew how much he loved baseball, but realized through this decision how much he loved God, her, and their children. Christine was especially touched by Tim's dedication to their children because her father had left before she was born. She had never known a father's unconditional love. Her husband's decision, although a puzzlement to numerous baseball fans, was to them a clear decision to be there for their family. It stands as an excellent example of good decision-making in the midst of a society in which family values are in decline.

Turn your attention to another effective father whose decision to be there is crucial to our understanding of God's intentions for the Christian father today.

The plight of the prodigal son is a familiar biblical story that has been repeated for the benefit of many young people throughout the ages and surely is repeated today. The primary message of this parable is, of course, that the prodigal "came to himself" -- that is, repented of his sin and thus was restored in his relationship with his family. But did you ever consider/wonder what may have happened to this young prodigal if his father had not been waiting in the pathway as he made those last humbling steps toward home? Let us concentrate on just one verse of scripture, Luke 15:20. It appears to me that three of the phrases in this verse provide sound wisdom for the man of God who desires to be an effective father.

The first phrase is, "But while he was still far off." Reading through this parable a number of times, I got the distinct feeling that this father, although loving his son enough to "let go," never stopped praying until his son's safe return. You see, the rather could have said to himself, "That unappreciative brat! He took my money and went; well, now he's on his own. I wash my hands of him. My responsibility is over." Yet that is not what we see here. Instead we see a father preparing for his son's return as he waits for the Holy Spirit to touch the heart of the young prodigal.

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