I find it astounding the way many people have loved and served Jesus for years without knowing the love of God the Father.
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"Go instead to my brothers and tell them, 'I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.'" - John 20:17
"No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known." - John 1:18
One man who recently discovered the Father's love told me that he had always thought of the Father as "a big policeman in the sky." Others have told me that they thought the Father was like a disciplinarian or judge who is waiting for them to make a mistake. "Sometimes I feel guilty, as if He is judging me for every little thing," they say. "Other times I feel the need to prove myself to Him." One person — actually a nun of Mother Teresa's Missionaries of Charity order — put it this way: "I knew in my head that God loved me, but I never thought that He liked me."
Sometimes people are brave enough to ask questions, like little Micah's "Dad, do you love me?": Why does the Father seem far away at times? Why does God stay hidden? Or even a basic What is God the Father really like? Can I know Him, or do I have to wait until I die?
I myself have asked these questions. For many years I did not know that my restless thoughts were fuelled by a search for freedom, a freedom that can be found only in knowing God as one's true Father. It is only in the Father, who is revealed by the Son, that we can know who we really are. I had no idea that I was searching for my home.
When I first encountered Jesus years ago, I met Him as my Savior; I knew Jesus as the One who had cleansed me of sin and given me new life. Later I yielded to Jesus as my Lord. He called me to follow and obey Him. Since that time I have been surprised to learn that Jesus' sole agenda was to bring me to the Father. He wanted me to see the Father by revealing Himself as the Son. Knowing Jesus as the Son gave me access to knowing God the Father.
Not everyone finds the Father in this way. In the New York Times bestseller I Dared to Call Him Father, Bilquis Sheikh, a wealthy Pakistani woman, shares how a vague awareness of God prompted her to ask questions of a medical missionary doctor. The nun said, "Ask Him to show you His way." And then, "Talk to Him . . . as if He were your father."
Bilquis's Muslim faith allowed no room for such an intimate relationship. "Talk to God as if He were my father? The thought shook my soul in the peculiar way truth has of being at once startling and comforting."
She went home and hesitantly prayed, "Father, O my Father God." Suddenly, she says, "He was there! I could sense His presence. I could feel His hand laid gently on my head." Sensing that divine presence, she boldly asked a question. She picked up her Quran and a Bible and asked, "Which one is Your book?"
The response again startled her; an inner voice spoke "as clearly as if I were repeating words in my inner mind." The words were kind and authoritative: In which book do you meet Me as your Father?
The Holy Spirit, knowing Bilquis's background, introduced her to the Father first and then to the Son.
My Father and Your Father
I see a key scriptural truth in John's resurrection account. Mary Magdalene knew Jesus well; she devotedly followed Him, even financially supporting Him, after He delivered her from seven demons. Mary followed Jesus all the way to the cross, and she was the first to return to His tomb "while it was still dark" on a fateful Sunday morning. When she arrived to find Jesus' body gone, she ran in distress to tell Peter and John. They came, assessed the scene and left, leaving her alone again at the tomb. That is where Jesus Himself greeted her. When He called her by name, His voice opened her eyes to His identity. She recognized her Lord.
To this passionate and unique woman, Jesus would entrust a message that would echo throughout history, a promise for you and for me. "Go . . . to my brothers and tell them, 'I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God'" (John 20:17, emphasis added).
Every follower of Jesus is an heir to this promise: "You belong. My family is now your family. My Father is your Father." This was His mission from the beginning: to bring every follower of His throughout the ages to the Father and to establish each, with all the dignity of a child of God, in the Father's house. Jesus had already purchased Mary's freedom. Now her joy would be complete as Jesus drew her into a relationship with her eternal Father.
Give Me Your Blessing
The promise of a father can be a painful one; until it is fulfilled, we yearn for someone to fill the void. The expectation of finding a worthy father is part of our nature, our very DNA, as it were. Fathers are the source of life through which we were formed in our mother's womb. In finding a father, we find something of ourselves.
What do we expect from a father? Is it not to protect us? Is it not to see in us our true selves — our identities — and to call them forth? Is it not to teach us to think rightly about ourselves in relation to the world outside? Because no human father, even a great one, can ever fully meet our expectation, we all know fatherlessness. We may feel it as weariness. We may be aware of it as emptiness. Is there anyone who will love me unconditionally? Will there be someone to protect me on my journey? These questions reveal the cry of our hearts for an earthly — if not heavenly — father.
In Charles Dickens's A Tale of Two Cities, Lucie Manette finds her long-lost father in prison, but he is too sick and feebleminded to recognize her by name. She says to him,
Oh sir! Some other time I will tell you my name, and who my mother was, and who my father was, and how I never knew their awful story. But I can't tell you right now, not here. All I can ask right now is that you touch me and give me your blessing.
Despite his inability to remember her, Lucie knew at some level that this fragile, gray-haired man held the key to her heart. It is her father who can answer her deepest questions: "Am I good? Do I belong? Can I be courageous? Am I loveable? Will I fulfill the purpose for my life? Do I have what it takes? . . ." Though Lucie's father had long been lost, his touch and his voice had the power to bring healing to her heart.
Because no human father, even a great one, can ever fully meet our expectation, we all know fatherlessness.
I write this book for anyone who desires to know the Father. Like Lucie, they recognize the need to receive His blessing. It is for anyone who knows Jesus but has never encountered the Father's heart in the Son. It is for anyone who is afraid even to think or ask questions about God the Father, because you are not quite sure what a good father looks or acts like.
Rick came to me for prayer because he was fighting violently in his sleep, sweating, punching and cursing. His wife was afraid he would hurt her. When I asked about his family background, Rick described his emotionally absent father, who never showed him a affection, verbally or physically. He never blessed him or approved of his choices. When he was older, Rick discovered that his parents had conceived him three months before their wedding day. So that's why they never celebrated their anniversary, he thought. I was a mistake.
Though rejection and anger was deeply rooted in Rick's heart, he visited his father on his deathbed, desperately hoping to find some resolution of the relational pain and sense of loss. "I want you to know that I am grateful for all you have done for me, and I want to tell you that I love you." He had come like a beggar, provoking in his father a long-awaited response. What did he get? An emotionally insufficient "I appreciate that." Rick's father left him in his emptiness, doubt and pain.
As I led Rick to forgive his father, he confessed that he had changed his name — he had been given his dad's name — to distance himself, to subconsciously reject his own identity. But as he repented of his anger and renounced a spirit of rejection, he was reconciled to the Father through Jesus. He took back his name, and, more importantly, he took back his identity as a son. Rick entered his father's hospital room with the spirit of a fearful, begging slave. That afternoon in prayer, Rick followed Jesus through repentance and forgiveness, and he left with the spirit of sonship. This is the promise of Christ, the promise I hope to relate in these pages.
I largely use the word sons and rely on male pronouns when referring to the children of God. In this I am following the New Testament pattern. This is not to say that women are excluded from the spiritual promises of "sonship"; quite the opposite. The promise of the Spirit was specifically given to both men and women on the day of Pentecost in fulfillment of Joel's prophecy: "I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy" (Acts 2:17). No biblical story illustrates this better than Jesus' conversation with Mary at the tomb, in which He tells Mary that His Father is also hers.
In the next chapters we will ask and discover, Who is God the Father? What is He like? What is on His heart?
In the next chapters we will ask and discover, Who is God the Father? What is He like? What is on His heart? Time and again, we will note that we see the Father through His Son, Jesus, who said, "I and the Father are one" (John 10:30). It is the Father in Jesus who is drawing us to Himself. Jesus is not the Father; they are distinct Persons who share the same nature. But in Jesus we can see the Father — His character and His heart.
I encourage you to do what Mary Magdalene did. She started her journey to the tomb while it was still dark. She had no idea how she would move the heavy stone that kept her from Jesus. But the stone was miraculously removed. When she saw the resurrected Jesus, who carried the Father's life and light, she saw the Father.
Here and now, Mary's story is our story: As we seek to follow Jesus, we will find that He is leading us to His Father and our Father.
Lord Jesus, I want to know the Father. I ask You to give me the courage not only to keep reading these pages but to listen to my own heart and Your leading. Inspire me to see more than what is written on these pages. Jesus, You are the heart of the Father revealed. Let me see into the Father's heart to see who He really is and find out who I really am. I believe You are faithful and You will come to me as You did to Mary Magdalene while she was in a moment of darkness and unbelief. Thank You, Lord, for the promise of making the Father known. I want to find my true home.
Neal Lozano. "Abba's Heart: The Promise." chapter one from Abba's Heart: Finding Our Way Back to the Father's Delight (Ada, MI: Baker Publishing Group, 2015): 25-31.
Reprinted with permission of the Baker Publishing Group.
Neal Lozano is the founder and executive director of Heart of the Father Ministries and the senior coordinator of the House of God's Light. Neal is the author of Abba's Heart: Finding Our Way Back to the Father’s Delight, Resisting the Devil: A Catholic Perspective on Deliverance, and Unbound: A Practical Guide to Deliverance. He lives in Ardmore, Pennsylvania. Lozano is a cousin to Father Michael Scanlan.Copyright © 2015 Baker Publishing Group
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