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Finding Father

11/17/2012 4 comments

“I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)

“I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (Jn. 14:6)

Most people read this statement and think Jesus said he was the way to heaven, but that’s not what he said. This is not to deny heaven or life after death, but only to draw attention to the point Jesus was making. He is the way to the Father. In five previous blogs we talked about orphans and orphan thinking. Orphans are those who feel they are all alone with no one to care for them, no one to guide them or protect them. Orphans need a Father.

In all of us there is an inborn desire to receive an embrace from a father figure. That desire is in us by Father God’s design. If our earthly fathers failed us, we spend our lives looking for comfort and affirmation from other sources. We seldom realize what we are really looking for—a father’s embrace. We try to find feelings of significance through athletic competition, through business success or through our relationships with significant others in our lives.

When these fail to fulfill our desire, we may turn to drugs, alcohol, sex or some other way of altering our mood. Some just stay busy trying to avoid facing the void they feel inside. But all those activities leave us empty and unfulfilled. Depression sets in and we lose interest in life; we drop out of the race. Some have thought about suicide as a viable option, and a few have actually committed suicide. Much of this type of dysfunction is directly related to the lack of a relationship with a real father, one who cares and who demonstrates his care.

Jack Frost used to say, “You can’t drive out an orphan spirit; you simply introduce them to Father.” There are those who have tried to deal with these dysfunctional behavior patterns by driving out demons. I cannot deny that there really are demons in the world, but many times there is more harm done by trying to deal with demons when the person is only suffering from a father-wound. The father-wound can only be healed by introducing the orphan to the Father who loves them and who will never leave them or forsake them.

World religions are focused on self-actualization, improving our spiritual status or earning a place in some other-worldly existence. The New Testament follows Jesus in seeking a real relationship with Father God, a relationship that is available here and now. Christianity is not a religion in the usual sense of the word; it is a relationship with Father through Jesus by the Holy Spirit. This relationship begins when we meet Jesus, it grows as we spend time getting to know him and his Father intimately, and it will continue beyond death. This relationship will never end.

The problem is that many Christians think they have arrived when they meet Jesus. Jesus is the way, he is not the destination. The destination is the bosom of the Father. Perhaps this is the reason many continue to seek comfort and affirmation in all the wrong places. They have met Jesus, but they have not yet followed him to meet his loving Father. Often they still think of Father God as absent or demanding (like their earthly fathers). They never experience the freedom Jesus promised to those who follow him because they try to relate to God as though he were like their dad who wounded them by his absence or by various kinds of abuse.

Some miss the mark because they try to earn that freedom by believing all the right doctrines or performing all the right deeds. They are trying to earn a place in Father’s presence. All their Bible study and religious activity leaves them empty. Some deal with the emptiness by pretending they are full (at least while they are in a church service). Some try to force others to make them feel good by convincing them of the rightness of their pet doctrine or by training them to behave according to their particular tradition. Those people are really hard to get along with.

The challenge is to follow Jesus to the Father. I can’t tell you how to do that. I can only tell you that Jesus is the way to the Father’s bosom, and the bosom of the Father is really what you are panting for. Get to know him intimately and you will experience Father’s embrace.

Feel free to invite others to enjoy these blogs. Share the word.
Fount Shults
President and Founder
On Word Ministries
http://onword.org

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Orphans: Holding and being Held

09/15/2012 2 comments

“But when he came to himself…, he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.” (Lk. 15:17-20)

The embrace of the father in this parable is one of the major points of the story. We often focus on the rebellion of the prodigal and his return, or the elder brother’s attempt to earn favor. But Jesus’ purpose in telling the story was to draw attention to his Father’s willingness to embrace those who have gone astray.

In the parable, both the elder brother and the prodigal thought like orphans. The elder brother thought he had to work to earn the right to enjoy his father’s house (which was also his house). He did not feel like he belonged as a part of the family. He was behaving like a servant, not like a son, even though the whole estate was his. His inheritance was not available to him because of his orphan thinking. Inheritance is for sons, not orphans.

The prodigal also thought like an orphan. He felt like he had to go outside his father’s house to enjoy life. Like the elder brother, he did not feel like he belonged to his father. He wanted to break free from what he perceived to be a restricting environment. But the only way he could break away was to take his inheritance and use it for his own self-centered desires. Like Adam and Eve, he believed the lie that the father did not have his best interest in mind.

When the prodigal “came to himself” (v. 17), he realized he was a son of a good father. He had been alienated from his father, which was also alienation from himself. He had to return to himself (as a son) before he could return to his father. He had ceased to feel like a son, but he had not ceased to be a son.

On his return, his father held him in his arms without requiring any penance. That embrace had been available before the prodigal left home. But the prodigal, thinking like an orphan, was not able to receive that embrace. The father wanted to hold his son, but the son would not be held. His orphan thinking was keeping him from intimacy with his father.

But the elder brother was also refusing to receive the embrace, even though it was for different reasons. He wanted the approval of his friends. He was trying to earn the right to use the father’s house to entertain his friends. He was not interested in his father’s presence. His orphan thinking was also keeping him from intimacy with his father.

True intimacy with God is about holding and being held; God holds and we allow ourselves to be held. If one is trying to hold but the other is resisting, there can be no intimacy. Abba Father holds all of us in his heart at all times and in all circumstances. Lack of intimacy is never a problem on God’s side. His steadfast love endures forever. If you feel a lack of intimacy with God, stop trying so hard to win his favor and simply spend more time allowing him to hold you.

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If you are interested in a deeper study of the parable of the prodigal, go to https://www.createspace.com/3509902 an check out my “Invitation to Intimacy,” which is a meditation on Luke chapter 17.

Fount Shults
President and Founder
On Word Ministries
http://onword.org

Seeing and Hearing 8: Words and Images

12/30/2011 2 comments

“Pay attention to [see] what you hear.” (Mk. 4:24)

When Jesus explained the parable of the sower and the seed, he told the disciples to pay attention to what they were hearing. The Greek word translated “pay attention” is a word that simply means to see [blepo]. It means to see with the eyes, but it also means to understand. We do the same thing in English when someone explains something and we say, “I see what you mean.”

Our Western culture is well trained in the art of engaging ideas and concepts about spiritual realities and expressing those ideas with words. But we are deficient in the art of engaging the realities of which we speak. Most are content to have a mental grasp of the concepts so they can engage in conversations about God. Westerners often give wordy evidence of the fact that they don’t really know what they’re talking about. They don’t have any personal experience of divine realities.

Our culture is deceived into thinking we understand a matter if we understand the words. That’s why many churches have become theaters or lecture halls. The audience wants to be entertained or taught. Few desire to change, to be transformed into the image of Christ. Our people are like the multitudes that followed Jesus in the first century. They were satisfied to be part of the crowd, to be there when he taught and worked miracles. They forsook him when he didn’t do what they expected him to do.

The Hebrew culture used words, but they used words to create images. That’s why Hebrew is called a story-telling language. The majority of the Old Testament is stories. Even Psalms and Proverbs are full of events and relationships. The Hebrews did not have a theology as such; they had a history with God. They did not develop a theology until after the Babylonian exile. Even then their theology was tied to the stories as interpreted by the Rabies. In other words, they were still dealing with story-images.

The Early Church also focused on the story-images of the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ and their personal history with him. They did not develop a theology until the Church Fathers, including the Apostles, began to recognize and address problems in understanding the events of the life of Jesus. The problems of the Church began when the focus moved from the life, death, burial and resurrection to ideas and concepts about God. Talk about God is empty if there is no personal relationship with him in your own life history.

A personal anecdote will help move us forward. Lynda and I attended a concert featuring a violinist from Korea several years ago. The music stirred me to tears. There were no words, only the movement of the chord progressions and the melody carried by the violinist. Where did the deep emotions come from? The music had a message, but it was a message without verbal explanation. Though I was not aware of the images dancing around within, I was deeply affected. I didn’t understand the music; I simply enjoyed it.

A student of comparative religions was in Tokyo, Japan in 1958 where he attended one of the traditional dances of the Shinto religion. Trying to understand the message of the dance he asked the monk, “What is your theology?” The monk replied, “We don’t have a theology; we dance.” Their theology is in the dance, and they don’t try to understand the dance, they simply engage the imagery with the dancers. As with the music, so with the dance, one does not have to put it into words in order to experience it. Words can even cause you to miss the experience.

When we shift from story-images to philosophical propositions we run the risk of deceiving ourselves into thinking we understand. As a result, we have a mental grasp of a concept, but we fail to engage the reality available in the simple telling of the story. We have a relationship with an idea rather than with the person who died, was buried and raised from the dead. We fail to die with him in our personal experience because we are content with the doctrine of our position in him. We are left with a desire to live the resurrected life, but with no power to live it.

Since God is spirit, he can only be experienced through engaging the images of the story of his dealings with mankind. Jesus did not tell us to develop a theology; he told us preach the coming kingdom. Preaching produces images in the hearts of the people which gives them access to the events of the kingdom: healing, deliverance, provision and victory over the enemy. Those realities come to those who engage the images of the coming kingdom, not to those who develop talk about the kingdom.

Continue to engage the images that dance around within you while you are listening to or reading the gospel stories. Remember that you are invited to be a part of the story. You can experience the kingdom.

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Looking forward,
Fount Shults
On Word Ministries http://onword.org

Check out Mark Virkler http://www.cwgministries.org/

Return to Intimacy 4

In our first blog, “Trouble Hearing from God,” we learned that there are laws in the social world. If we disregard the laws our relationships are damaged just as our face is damaged when we disregard the law of gravity. In Return to Intimacy #1 we saw the need to receive Father’s forgiveness, and then we learned to forgive others in #2. We saw in #3 that intimacy is only possible when both partners are open, and that Father has proven himself trustworthy as one who is open to you even in your shame.

Now we turn to the next step: Recognizing and renouncing the lies we have believed. Here we speak of lies we feel are true even though we know in our mind they are false. We call them “heart-felt lies.” Our words and our behavior in moments of stress always come out of how we feel toward the situation. The fact that we know better is revealed when we regret our words or our actions. The problem is that it’s too late when we notice the words or deeds were wrong.

Our life flows out of what is in our hearts (Prov. 4:23). As long as we feel like (believe) the lies are true, we will continue to say and do things we know are inappropriate. It is the heart-felt lies that influence us to do things that do not bring glory to our Father. Paul defined sin as falling short of (failing to reflect) the glory of God (Rom. 3:23). With this definition even preaching can be sin if we glorify ourselves by it.

The major category of lies we believe is what Arthur Burke calls legitimacy lies. These lies have to do with what makes us feel significant. “I am significant when I can drink more than the next guy,” or “I am significant when I can make my wife submit.” The most atrocious of these legitimacy lies are the religious lies. “I am significant when I pray longer, preach better, worship more enthusiastically than others.” The first lie causes one to drink too much. The second causes one to be harsh with his wife. The third breeds religious pride and hypocrisy.

The difficulty is in discovering the lies we have buried in our hearts. We are not consciously aware of these heart-felt lies. They swim around under the surface waiting for an opportunity to devour the bait the enemy throws in the water. We seldom think about it, but a fisherman lies to the fish, “This is good for you.” The desire for food is not the fish’s problem. The problem is that it believes the fisherman’s lie.

So how do we bring the lies to the surface of consciousness so we can renounce them and break their power over our life? It’s really simple. Listen to your inner conversations with yourself. But don’t just listen for words. The language of the heart is imagery. Pornography works on the imagination by presenting pictures that say, “This will really make you feel more like a man.” When you believe that lie, you’re hooked by the other fisher of men.

Spend some time asking Father to show you the lies you have believed. Journal his answer and write out the lies. Take them one at a time and repent for ‘believing’ that lie and for living your life as though it were true. Forgive anyone who may have contributed to your believing that lie and receive Father’s forgiveness and allow him to cleans you of this iniquity (I John 1:9). Pause to receive deeply in your spirit. Don’t rush this.

Then renounce the lie and verbally break its power over your life. The final step is to listen to Jesus and the Spirit of Truth as he shows you the truth that will replace the lie. When he shows you, journal his answer and review it daily until it settles in your spirit.