Thursday, September 29, 2016

Healing Our Inner Child 3 - Back to the Father

Back to the Father Heart 

Early one morning, I was awoken from my sleep by a repeating phrase on my mind “You are created by love, through love and for love”. I was quite certain that this phrase is not in the scripture and yet somehow had this witness in my spirit that the spirit of God was trying to communicate something to me. As I searched through the Scripture, the spirit of God began to enlighten my understanding from this verse, “For by Him, all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth…all things were created through Him and for Him” (Col.1:16)

In this verse, “Him” refers to Christ and Christ is Love as God is Love (1 Jn. 4:8), thus we are created by love, through love and for love. Humans are made to exist in an environment of love – both receiving love and giving love. We are created to be fulfilled by love and only the creator of love can fill up and restore the love deficit we experienced in our growing up years to a love credit. Hence, one of the most important elements to healing & restoring our inner child is coming back to Father, the creator of love, to re-parent us and to restore our love credit, to restore our true identity and lead us to the road of healing and transformation.

It is no secret that human being needs affection to thrive. If we do not receive love and learn to give it away, we may suffer emotionally and relationally and never reach our God-given potential. God, Himself, said in Genesis 2:18 “It is not good that man should be alone.” Adam lived in a sin-free world and had unbroken fellowship with the Lord and yet God said “It is not good”. What was Adam lacking? Human intimacy! Something in us is incomplete when we lack intimacy with others.

There are generally four kinds of love in human relationship:

Family love - affectionate love between family members, especially parents and child or among siblings 

Friendship love – affectionate love between friends as we can see in Jonathan & David (1Sam.18:1; 2Sam.1:26)

Physical or Sexual love - affectionate love between a man and a woman in marriage

Agape love - God's kind of love

Our perception and comprehension of God’s agape love is very much affected by our family love. The vast majority of the human family have had deeply negative experiences with their earthly fathers. Thus, many of us have a distorted perception of how God’s fatherly heart is towards us. Because we live in a world where the image of the father brings disappointment, fear, shame and other negative emotions, most of us have not experienced the tender touch of a loving father. The Devil seeks to use the pain of unfulfilled longing to confuse and deceive us so we seek to answer this longing in wrong ways.

Research has found that 90% of how we response or react to lives situation and how we perceive, how we process pain and analyse a situation is very much influence by our subconscious mind. Hence, our own experience with human authority is usually transferred over to how we relate to God. The same fear of opening our heart to receive love from others will also repel God’s love. Many consciously pursue God’s love but subconsciously reject His love.

If Father God is seen as harsh, judgmental, and distant and out to punish us when we fail, it will cause us to run away from Him in fear and rebellion, or merely conform to a system of rules. It will also cause us to become harsh on ourselves. On the other hand, if God is seen as one who accepts and loves unconditionally, loves to comfort, minister and heal, it will cause us to want to draw closer to Him and seek to please Him.

Due to the love deficit in our own soul, many find it difficult to receive and give love, but instead live for self- love, that is seeking to get their unhealed needs met. We are basically afraid of intimacy. Either because of a deficiency of expressed parental love or because we had experienced some traumatic form of rejection in the past, we set up boundaries to keep people out so that we can protect ourselves from the pain of more rejection. This may hinder us from having an intimate fellowship with God and healthy relationship with others. At the core of this is fear.

God wants us to hear His affirming voice and be secure in His love. If only we have entered that rest of trusting that He loves us and will take care of us “casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you” (1Pet.5:7), we will not be seeking the affirmation of others. This is a very vital and significant factor for healing our inner child and releasing us from our co-dependence trait of seeking approval from people.

If we are uncomfortable with ourselves, we will be uncomfortable with others. Our self-image will determine the depth of our intimacy with others and with God. Our self-image which comes from our identity should not be derived from our achievement or status in the society nor the approval of people but on being “in Christ”. The scripture says it aptly, “when people commend themselves (or commend by others) it doesn’t count for much. The important thing is for the Lord to commend them” (2Cor.10:18) NLT

Our adversary Satan often works through others, especially through our parents or authorities over us, to ingrain into us that we are loved only if we perform well enough to earn God’s love. This is a great lie of the evil one. Our heavenly Father loves us for who we are and not based on our performances in our studies, family, career or ministry. God loves us as a human being, not on our doing.

God’s love for us depends on who He is and not what we are. No matter whom we are or who we were, no matter what we have done, no matter what the circumstances, God’s love for us never wavers or weaken but continually beat in His heart at a steady pace. Indeed Paul says that he is “persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord”(Rom. 8:38-39). Are we fully persuaded? Are we fully convicted? Are we fully established and grounded in the eternal immutable, unchangeable fact and truth that GOD LOVES US UNCONDITIONALLY?

As long as there is one iota or one micron of a doubt still in our beings that God does not love us, the enemy will turn it against us and it will hinder us from experiencing all that God wants for us. We need to be utterly grounded and rooted in the eternal understanding that God loves us (Ephesians 3:17-19).

Father heart of God and Jesus

It has been ingrained in the mind-set of many Christians that we sinners are protected from the wrath of the Father God only because of the righteousness of Jesus. This gives us the impression and belief in the sub-consciousness of our mind that Jesus is compassionate and merciful, but the stern Father is perpetually angry with us. While this truth can foster a deep and grateful relationship with Jesus, subconsciously, it can hinder our intimacy with our Father God if we do not have a good understanding of the character and nature of God the Father.

God loves us AS much as He loves Jesus and revealed His love for us through Jesus. The whole story of redemption was not just that we might have our sins forgiven and be made whole again – rather the whole story of redemption was that through Christ Jesus, God would succeed in showing us how much and how greatly He loves us; that He loves us AS much as He loves Jesus “that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved me. (John 17:23).

The holy, almighty, infinite, creator God desires to be known to us as a Father and He is a merciful, gentle, gracious and loving Father. However, His character and nature is misunderstood as a result of poor modelling of many earthly fathers & the wrong theology of the father heart of God.

Let’s look at some unhealthy models of earthly fathers:

Authoritative Father – He uses us

Strong and dominating, not much negotiation is allowed. He does not consider about feelings, desires and emotional needs – but only that his authority is to be obeyed. Rules with an iron rod, believes that children can only be seen but not heard. Has great expectation on success. Always rewards success and condemns or punishes failure.

If we grow up in this kind of environment, then we will tend to relate to God in terms of service and sacrifices. Our focus is only on ministry and not relationship. Ministry, project and church policy is our end results instead of people. We forget that the most important thing in the ministry is to love God and love people.

We cannot see that God has concerns over our emotional needs and desires to lavish His love upon us. We are like the elder brother of the prodigal son, who never fully understood the father’s love for him, and always try to please the father through performance “…these many years I have been serving you; I never transgressed your commandment at any time; and yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might make merry with my friends…”. The father replied “you are always with me, and all that I have is yours” (Lk.15:29, 31). Like him, many of us do not know how to enjoy the abundant love of our Father God.  We find it difficult to rest in the unconditional love of God and instead, always strive for acceptance from God and people, prioritising man’s approval above God’s approval. In other words, fearing man more than God.

Abusive Father – He harms us

A father that is always moody and angry, causing much pain and hurting us emotionally, mentally, physically and sometimes even sexually.

If we grow up in this kind of environment, we tend to develop a love-hate relationship with God our Father. Cognitively we know that God is a good and loving God, however, subconsciously, we believe that He only had His own glory in mind and is prepared to sacrifice us for any cause. We are just one of the subjects on His chessboard to be used to ultimately defeat His enemy.

We struggle to love God with all our heart, soul and spirit, and to fully surrender our lives and lay down our rights for Him. Also, we will have difficulty in receiving love and giving love fully. If we do not receive healing, some of us may even fear having their own children and parenting as we had no concept of love.

Absent Father – He doesn’t care

This is usually due to divorce, abandonment or a workaholic father, sacrificing the family at the altar of their personal ambitions.

This is the most common kind of pattern we have in the society today. Most fathers do not get to spend time with their children except only on weekends and their children become “orphans” due to the demand of their career or ministry. He is simply not there for them physically, emotionally and spiritually.  In the Asian culture, this is even more prevalent as fathers are seen as the provider while mothers take up the nurturing role.

If we grow up in this kind of environment, it is difficult to trust God fully, especially in time of need. We tend to feel lonely and despair even though we know in the scripture that God is omnipresent and a God of all comforts. We tend to work out things with our own strength and find security in our own planning. We know God is there but emotionally, He is very far away. We cannot sense His sweet presence and thoroughly embrace His love.

Passive Father – He is not interested

Emotionally distant and hardly or minimally communicate and express his affection. He loves his children but rarely says so.  He is passive, physically present, but emotionally unavailable and never engages his children.

If we grow up in this kind of environment, it makes us think that God does not feel our pain or share our joy. We cannot imagine that God rejoices over us and desire to be intimately close with us and thus is unable to relate to Him as a father. We think that apart from salvation, He is not really involved in the minor thing of our lives.

In Lk.12:7, why does the bible says that “the very hairs of your head are all numbered”? God is not concerned with abstract mathematics or keeping nitty gritty data of our body parts but because He's trying to tell us in what detail He knows us and cares about our lives.

Different ways of how we relate to God. Let’s consider a few:

The Creator – We acknowledge Him as God of the universe, the Lord of lords and King and kings. We see Him as Almighty, Omnipotent (infinite in power), Omniscient (having complete or unlimited knowledge, awareness, or understanding; perceiving all things), and Omnipresent (present everywhere at the same time). We relate to Him as subjects, as a servant and we learn obedience, laying down our rights, surrendering our all to Him.

Friend – In Jn.15:15, Jesus says He no longer treats us as servants but has called us friends “No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing, but I have called you friends, and all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you” where He shared His secrets with us just like how the Father shared with Abraham before He destroyed Sodom & Gomorrah (Gen.18:17 – “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am doing?”)
As a friend we can share with Him our struggles, pain, shame or any disappointment. With Jesus as our most intimate friend, we can be alone and yet not lonely as we have someone who always there to listen to us, someone who weep with us and rejoice with us.

Groom & Bride – In the gospels, Jesus many times refer to Himself as the bridegroom and in the book of Rev.21:9, we are known to be “the bride, the Lamb’s wife”. In Isa.54:5, we also learn that the Lord our “Maker is our husband”. In fact, in the book of Solomon we learn that as our bridegroom, he is passionate about us and desires to have an intimate relationship with us.
All these portrayals of God are certainly accurate but not complete. In the new covenant, Jesus introduces a new concept of how we can relate to Almighty God… as a loving Father. And as Father, there is only one way that we can relate to Him, and that is as His little child as an Omni personal (all personal) God, a God who knows and loves us as individuals and not only as corporate human beings.

Father and Son – In Lk.11:1-2, when the disciples asked Jesus to teach them how to pray, Jesus began by asking them to address God as their Father – a call and recognition to relationship first.  He wanted them to have the confidence of the Father’s love for them, to trust in His protection, provision, tenderness. Until & unless we are connected healthily and effectively with the Father, understanding His heartbeat and amazing love for His children, we cannot be confident and effective in our prayers.

There are many reasons why Jesus came to manifest himself on this earth; one of the main reasons was to make God known as a Father. Jesus came to demonstrate who the Father is and what He is like. Jesus came to reveal the Father to us. Thus, through Jesus’ life and ministry we can understand more of the Father heart of God.

Philip, one of Jesus’ followers, echoed a sentiment that many Christians today would still say, “show us the Father, and it is enough for us” (Jn.14:8). Jesus’ response is very telling “Have I been so long with you, and yet you have not come to know me…he who has seen Me has seen the Father…do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the father is in me…” (Jn.14:9-10). And again in John 10:30, he asserted “I and My Father are one”.

Jesus is the image of the invisible God and the exact representation of God’s nature “He is the image of the invisible God” (Col.1:15) and again in Heb.1:4 “…the express image of His person”. The nature of the father is the same as that of Jesus. Everything Jesus did on earth, including his sacrificial death on the cross, shows us the heart of the father - a heart of love and compassion, not one of wrath and judgement.

However, when some people hear the word "father," the word conjures up painful memories of authoritative control, domestic abuse, abandonment, alcoholism or frightening punishments. Others associate "father" with a numb detachment—because they never connected emotionally with their dads. These are called "father wounds"—and there is a maternal version too. Don't let the mistakes of our imperfect parents keep us from enjoying God's pure, gentle and unconditional love.

There are also many Christian who are not consciously relating to God as Father and often direct their prayers to Jesus or even to the Holy Spirit. The desire of Jesus is that we learn to relate or connect to God as a Father when we come to him in prayer or communion. In Jn.15:16 & 16:23, twice Jesus taught his disciples to “ask the Father in My name…”

This is a privilege that the O.T saints do not have. All the O.T saints – Abraham, Moses, Elijah, Samuel, etc. cannot call God “Father”. It takes the sacrificial death of Jesus to give us a way to call God, "Father." In the Scripture, every time when Jesus makes reference to God, He always relates to Him as Father and God is referred to as ‘Father’ over 250 times in the New Testament.

The first time that the word “Abba” is used in relationship to God in the Bible is when Jesus was in the Garden of Gethsemane in Mk.14:36.  “Abba”, an Aramaic word, expressed the simplest way for a Hebrew child to call out to his father. In the English language, it would be like us crying out “daddy” or “pa-pa”, an intimate way of addressing our father; a term of endearment. And in Rom.8:15, the scripture says that we all have “received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, ‘Abba, Father’”. It simply means that we can all walk intimately with the Father as Jesus did.

Nonetheless, many of us believe in God but few understand His heart as a loving Father and to fully entrust our lives to Him. In Lam.5:3, Jeremiah lamented that the Israelites were like orphans “we have become orphans…” However, in Jn.14:18, Jesus promised not to leave us orphans. He wanted us to connect with the Father and get to know the Father after He leaves the earth. In fact, one of Jesus’ most important missions on this earth is to reveal to us the Father heart of God. Theologically we are all precious children of God, however, emotionally many of us live like orphans, struggling with fear & anxiety and do not really rest in the love of the Father.

An orphan’s heart breeds insecure, fearful hearts.  On the contrary, “perfect love casts out fear” (1Jn.4:18)

Forgiveness from the Father heart of God

Many of us can quote every Bible verse about God's forgiveness, yet what we believe in our heads has never shifted to our hearts. Deep down inside, we think that God simply just tolerates us. We know the blood of Jesus paid for our sins, but this seems more like a legal transaction ratified by a benevolent judge. We still believe God is silently mad at us, even though He canceled our guilty sentence. That is not the gospel!

In the book of Genesis, when God appear to Abraham and promised him a son, it recorded Sarah’s unbelief, “Sarah laughed within herself saying, ‘after I have grown old shall I have pleasure, my lord being old also’…” (Gen.18:12-15). However, in Heb.11:11, it recorded Sarah’s faith “By faith, Sarah herself also received strength to conceive seed, and she bore a child when she was past the age, because she judged Him faithful who had promised”. Why is the scripture contradicting?

I believe that that story in Genesis was recorded for human benefit so that we could identify with the weaknesses of godly men and women. However, the book of Hebrew, records how it’s recorded in the book of remembrance about us.

We see also the failure of David with Bathsheba & the murder of her husband Uriah in the book of 2 Samuel 11, and also about his pride when he numbered  Israel and Judah which resulted in the death of seventy thousand men (2Sam.24:1, 10-15). However, in the book of Acts 13:22, it recorded him as “a man after God’s own heart” despite all these failure.

God did not halfheartedly or reluctantly forgive us —He forgave us from His gushing heart of love. Yes it was a legal transaction, but it was enacted out of a wondrous compassion that will take all of eternity to comprehend. The Bible says God directed all His righteous anger toward Jesus and laid our punishment on Him so that He could remove the barrier that separated us. All because of love! He is not angry at us now—He loves us so much He actually threw a party (Lk.15:22-23) to welcome us into His presence! He doesn't just tolerate us; He delights in us!

Resisting forgiveness is actually subtle pride. Remembering how rotten we were can subconsciously make us feel good. Do not be succumbed to guilt and shame “there is no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus…” (Rom.8:1).

Ancient Paths

When God created Adam & Eve, He made them in His own image and established a path; a culture for them to live. However, since sin came into the world, men have slowly and gradually deviated further and further from this ancient path. In Jer.6:16, God through the prophet is calling his people back to this path “See & ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is and walk in it; then you will find rest for your souls”.

The Hebrew meaning for ‘ancient’ is old, concealed, hidden, and timeless, from eternity. God is now instructing us through Jeremiah to see and ask for the ancient path for it is the “Good way…and find rest for our souls”.

What is the ancient path, the eternal path that leads to rest for our souls? In John 17:3, Jesus says “this is eternal life, that they may know Him, the only true God…” Thus, what God is exhorting us through his prophet Jeremiah is to come back to the Father and know his heartbeat for us that we may truly find rest for our soul.  We need to re-attach our umbilical cord to the Father – we need to unlearn our experience of human love & relearn the true love of the Father in order to rebuild, restore our emotional immune system and heal our inner child.

Love of God

Story of the prodigal son

In Lk.15:11-32, we have the contrast of two sons who had grown up and lived with the same father. One is a transgressor and the other law abiding. The saddest thing was that both did not know the heart of their father.

The younger son did not return home for the sake of his father. He was never concerned that his father’s pain of missing him and worrying about him. He was only interested in himself. He never saw the yeaning and loving heart of his father.

Like the younger son, most Christian cannot see that God desires us & rejoices over us. After all, He created and owns everything. He could create anything to bring Him pleasure, He could self-entertain endlessly. However, the bible tells us He longs for each one of us personally, as a friend, son and even a lover “as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your God rejoice over you” (Isa.62:5).
The parable of the prodigal son is not primarily about a son who lost his inheritance but about a father who lost his son and how the father got his son back.  A primary emotional need that we all have is the assurance that we are enjoyed by God the Father even in our weakness and failure. This comes first by the revelation that the Father longs for us and enjoys us.

In fact, in Luke chapter 15, He used three stories to reveal His love to us; the parable of the lost sheep, the parable of the lost coin and finally, the parable of the lost son. He was telling us that He is deeply interested in us. He has a plan for our life. He feels our pain. He wants us to know that His heart is towards us and His eyes are always on us. As a point of fact, God “indelibly imprinted (tattooed a picture of us) on the palm of each of His hands” (Isa.49:15 AMP)

The Elder Son

He never understood the generosity of God. He was law abiding and very thrifty since he had never had a party with his friends before. He had no confidence in his father's generosity and love. His father had made it clear that everything was his to use. It was not the father who stopped him but it was his own perception of the father that prevented him from enjoying the father's generosity (The poverty mentality).

He never understood the heart of his father. He never saw his father’s grief and hurt when he was deprived of the younger son. He did not share the same compassion the father had for his younger brother. He was in fact angry and did not love his brother. When we do not have the father heart of God in us, we lose the love for people, we envy and are jealous over others’ success and feel that they do not deserve it. We do not understand the mercy, grace and compassion of God.

One son was too involved in satisfying his own desires; the other son was too involved in work and duty to be with his father but had no love. We can be working hard for Him but our heart is not connected to Him.

In a similar way, we who are believers all share the same Father as our Lord Jesus Christ. But do we know the Father? Do we truly know His love? Do we feel His heartbeat? Do we know His love for all of His creation?

In1Jn.4:19, we learn that we cannot love God with all our heart until we know He loves us with all His heart.  “We love Him because (we understand that) He first loved us”. We need to restore the 1st commandment into our lives before we can fulfill the 2nd commandment or the great commission. This is God’s first priority in our life “You shall love the Lord your God with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘you shall love your neighbor as yourself’” (Matt.22:37-38)

It is often because of rejection that we fear to love God and trust Him with our entire lives. Having not seen unconditional love amongst humans, it is difficult for us to believe that God so love us unconditionally. “God is love (1 John 4:16)”, we cannot flee from the presence of God’s love. If we “ascend to the heavens, He is there and even if we make your bed in hell, He is there” (Psalm 139:7-9). Like Paul, we must be “persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ our Lord “(Romans 8:38-39). There is no way God will ever stop loving us and there is no place we can go where His love cannot reach us. It is always us who reject God’s love. But if we choose to always respond to His love, we will find His love everywhere.

Once divinely connected to a permanent state of love in God and towards God, we will find an everlasting supply of love. For we will never suffer the loss of love from God and this truth in itself should bring healing and restoration to our wounded soul and sustain our ability to love throughout our entire lives. It should undergird every pain and suffering that we need to endure when we understand the love of God. The greatest, yes indeed, the greatest is love (1 Corinthians 13:13).

We need to pursue the “Great I AM” in order to receive healing from the distorted “I am”.  The agape love of God will turn our love deficits into love credits. All true identity starts with Him. Is not who I am but rather whose I am. “May the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God…” (2Thess.3:5)

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