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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 and Authorities

“I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you.” John 14:18

In our culture few have experienced intimacy with an earthly father. That makes it difficult to approach God as Father because our “internalized father” (the image of fatherhood from our Dad) was never open to intimacy; he was focused on the task at hand and getting the job done right. Or perhaps he was simply not there when we needed him, or was physically away from the home. The majority of children are raised in a home without the presence of a father. This is the source of orphan thinking.

We see God through that lens. Apparently Father God intended for parents to present an image of God to their children by the way they function as parents. At a certain age, we transfer our internalized image of Dad over to Father God. We think God is like our daddy. The good news of the Gospel is that God is not like your daddy. Even if you had a good father, Father God is ever so much more open to intimacy and more available. He doesn’t have to work for a living.

As young children we worked hard to win the favor of our dad (at least when we were very young, before we were wounded). We often think that intimacy with Father comes by our effort to be in his presence. But truthfully, we are always in his presence. He will never leave us. Intimacy can never come by human effort. It’s more passive from the human side. Papa God has already done the work. We simply need to let him have his way, let him hold you in his arms.

Because of this “father wound” we tend to resist authority at some level. Teenage rebellion is an effort to break the father’s hold. Sometimes the Teen simply shuts down, goes to his room and refuses to relate. He’s resisting because it hurts too much to face rejection again. In adult life the orphan heart will have trouble with bosses, husbands, pastors and even the civil authorities. All this is often an outworking of the father wound. We tend to see the “internalized father” in those in authority over us.

“No one tells me what to do,” is the outcry of an orphan who has been wounded by a demanding father. “I can never measure up no matter how hard I try,” he says, “therefore why should I try? I will be criticized and rejected anyway, so I will just give him something to reject. I’ll reject him before he rejects me. That gives me control over the situation.”

Why do fathers in our culture wound their children? Because they are orphans in their thinking! They are trying to solve their own father issues by making their children behave in a way that makes them feel good about themselves. They want their children to make them look good in the eyes of their peers. In other words an orphan only thinks of himself and his needs. He is not genuinely interested in the feelings of his children.

In this way tendencies to behave inappropriately are passed down from generation to generation. We call these tendencies generational iniquities. The tendencies are not passed on through the genes but through trying to make up for the love deficit carried over from childhood. These tendencies, or iniquities, are impossible to overcome through self-effort. Only Father God can heal a broken heart. Without him we can do nothing. But we continue to try because we’re still trying to earn a father’s favor.

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Looking Forward,
Fount Shults
Founder and President
On Word Ministries
http://www.onword.org

Meet the Orphan

“I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you.” John 14:18

When Jesus said he would not leave us orphans, he implied we are in fact orphans, at least in our thinking. Even when we have parents we often feel like orphans and behave as though we have no one who really cares how we feel or what we are going through.

I can remember as a small boy, not more than five years old, playing in the yard with my brother and wondering if I was adopted. I knew my parents were committed to taking care of me, but I didn’t feel like I belonged. The correction and discipline I received from my dad made me think I was required to perform well before I would be accepted in his heart. Many are like that with Father God. They know Father is committed to take care of them (in heaven someday) but they do not feel like they belong in his presence now.

Orphan thinking comes from feeling abandoned, whether by death, by desertion, by abuse or simply by the absence of a father. This is true even if the father is there in the house when he is unable to be available emotionally for his children. Children interpret death, desertion, abuse and absence as abandonment because it seems like no one is there to care for their needs. No one is there to comfort a child who is being abused by the one who should be comforting him.

Inheritance is for sons; orphans have no inheritance. They must care for themselves and prepare for their own future. Orphans are left to their own resources to face life; sons lean on their Father’s resources. As long as we feel like we don’t belong, we will be unable to take advantage of the inheritance we have from Father. We can never enter into rest so we will continue to strive. Both the prodigal and the elder brother were thinking like orphans, the elder trying to earn a place in the house and the prodigal trying to purchase a place to belong.

The teaching on adoption from Paul’s writings actually contributes to the problem (not Paul’s teaching but the way it is interpreted by some teachers). We already feel unworthy of Father’s love because we have not performed perfectly. Then the teachers tell us we were adopted into the family. If we are adopted as urchins off the street, we don’t have the Father’s DNA. We only belong to him legally. We do not have his nature. We can only reproduce what we are by nature, so we can never be like him. That’s what orphan thinking produces.

The reason so many of us try to find love and comfort from sources other than God is because we are not convinced deep in our heart that we are good enough to receive it from him. Like the elder brother we think we must earn that place in Father’s heart, or, like the prodigal, we try to use the gifts Father gave us to purchase a place in the hearts of those in the foreign country.

One problem is that we are seeking to be loved rather than seeking to love. The reason we are seeking to be loved is because we don’t really believe we are loved. If we were fully convinced in our heart that Father’s love is available unconditionally, we would simply allow that love to come in and overflow to others, even to those who don’t deserve it.

In this series of blogs we intend to expose different aspects of orphan thinking and show how our relationship with God and with others is affected by that thinking. We will also show how we can overcome orphan thinking and begin to receive our inheritance from the Father of Love.

If you are enjoying these blogs, please visit our website at http://www.onword.com and sign up to receive automatic notification when a new blog has been posted. Just go to the blog link and enter your email in the field provided on the right.

I would also like to announce that you can now purchase my newest book, Invitation to Intimacy, online: https://www.createspace.com/3509902

Looking Forward,
On Word Ministries
Fount Shults
President

Seeing and Hearing 12: Together as Friends

02/24/2012 2 comments

We leave the context of the parable of the seed and the soil to bring our point home. We’ve been talking about an intimate relationship with Father, one that involves seeing and hearing. Now we look to Jesus as our example. Observe how he lived his life watching and listening in the Father’s presence. As we look at him, let’s remember we are called to follow him and do as he did. He is the way to the Father (Jn. 14:6).

“Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees [blepo, to see with the eyes] the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise. For the Father loves [phileo] the Son and shows [deiknuo, to show, expose to the eyes] him all that he himself is doing” (Jn. 5:19-20).

“You are my friends [philos] if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know [eido, to perceive with the eyes] what his master is doing; but I have called you friends [philos], for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you” (Jn. 15:14-15).

What do you see?  As Christians we should see what our Friend is showing us. In the Gospel of John we should never understand the word ‘command’ in legalistic terms. A servant only does what he’s told to do (hearing). He does not know what his master is doing because he doesn’t get the full picture (seeing). He hears commands, but he doesn’t see, he doesn’t get it. He simply performs the task.

Friends do things together. Jesus said to Philip, “…the Father who dwells in me does his works” (Jn. 14:10). Father and Son are friends and do the work together. One is not a friend if his master doesn’t show him what he’s doing or if the master shows but he doesn’t see. He may be a very good servant, but he is not a friend. Masters command; servants go and do without the master’s presence. Father shows; sons see and join the Father in his work.

The word ‘command’ in the Gospel of John is related to what Father is showing the Son and what the Son is showing us. Obeying the command is simply allowing your life activity to be influenced by what he is showing you. The Son does only what he sees the Father doing. What the Father shows him he receives as a commission, as a command. It’s as though the Father says, “I am showing you what I am doing because I want you to do it with me.”

Thirty to forty years ago it became popular to wear a wrist-band with WWJD (What Would Jesus Do?) written on it. The idea is great, but it doesn’t get at the heart of the issue. It leaves us with the responsibility to figure out what he would do “if he were here.” He is here, and he is doing something. He wants us to see what he is doing and join him in his project. The wrist-band should have read WIJD (What Is Jesus Doing?)

Friends do things together. In biblical friendship there is a leader and there is a follower. Jesus lived his life as a human being with his Father/Friend as his leader. The Father showed the Son what he was doing and the Son did what he saw Father doing. He called us to live in the same way. He shows us what Father is doing and we’re invited to join the Father and the Son in the action we see in the Spirit. This is the highest level of disciples.

There is a word contained in the visions God gives. What you see is his call and commission for you to join him as a friend and do it together with him. If you don’t see him doing, you can’t do with him; you can only fulfill legalistic demands. You’re a servant, not a friend if you don’t see. Even so, you are still called to be a friend. He wants us to look to him, see what he is doing and do it with him rather than simply obeying commands.

You may remember the experience I shared in a previous blog where I saw myself preparing for the day before I got out of bed. This reminds us of the fact that everything we ‘see’ does not necessarily come from God. For example, sometimes we ‘see’ lustfully, desiring to have something another has. Sometimes we think we ‘see’ God healing someone and pray for them, but they don’t get healed.

Here’s the question, “How can I know when it is Jesus showing me what the Father is doing?” Our answer to this question brings us back to the issue of hearing. Jesus said his sheep hear his voice. We may apply this to our dilemma: we must be able to discern whose voice accompanies the seeing we experience. There is a word contained in the vision, and there is a voice connected to the word. The voice that comes with lustful seeing is not his voice. The voice that comes with spiritual seeing is his voice.

We have arrived at a crucial junction. Am I still a sheep if I don’t hear his voice? This will be the topic of our next blog.

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

Seeing and Hearing 7: Active Response Required

“For to the one who has, more will be given, and he will have an abundance, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away” (Matt. 13:12, Mk. 4:25 and Lk. 8:18).

The context of our last few blogs has been the parable of the sower and the seed. The seed is the word of the kingdom. The soil is our heart. We noticed our need to allow Father to dig out our ears so we can hear. We saw that hearing is a matter of heart-to-heart communion. Our human spirit is one with the Lord. Kingdom fruit is produced by intimacy with God, by receiving word-seed. The language of the spirit is imagery, like dreams and visions. All parables present an image. We need to “see” the word we hear. (More on that later.)

Now we move to the question of receiving more of the secrets of the kingdom, more word-seed so we can produce more kingdom fruit. The key to this question is in the statement that those who have nothing will lose what they do have. That sounds like double-talk until we consider the context. The “have-nots” are those who heard the word but fruit never appeared. They had nothing to show for what had been planted. We shouldn’t expect Father to sow more seed in unproductive soil.

To receive more seed, then, we must first produce fruit from what was planted earlier. When we hear a word from Father, we must do what he says. This was the point of Jesus’ story of the two who built a house, one on the sand and one on the solid rock. The storm struck both structures, but the only one that withstood the wind and rain was the one built on the rock (Matt. 7:24-27). The wise man heard the word and allowed it to influence his behavior while the foolish man did not act on what he heard.

James also encouraged his readers to be doers of the word, and not hearers only (Jas. 1:22). According to him the ones who do not act on what they hear are self-deceived. Many today are deceived into thinking they are spiritual simply because they can quote large portions of Scripture. If they are not being transformed in their ability to love others, they are deceived. They receive the word but it doesn’t penetrate their heart. It doesn’t grip their imagination and produce a transformation.

Jesus told the Pharisees to go learn what it means that God desires mercy, not sacrifice (Matt. 9:13). “Go learn what this means” is a rabbinical style that challenges disciples to go practice the precept and experience its meaning. Pharisees could have quoted many Bible verses on mercy, but they did not know by experience what it meant because they never showed mercy. In other words, they did not allow the word-seed to penetrate the soil of their heart and produce the fruit of mercy.

Some people think they can’t hear from God (receive a word-seed). Often the reason we fail to hear from God is because we didn’t act on a previous word. In our culture we are content to grasp the concepts and understand the message. However, we don’t know what the word really means until we act on it and experience the reality of which it speaks. The problem is not that he isn’t speaking; the problem is we’re not listening. If the word-seed doesn’t change our way of relating, it will rot in the soil of our heart even though you may remember the words. By not acting on the word, we lose what we have.

Paul said, “He who loves another has fulfilled the law” (Rom. 13:8). Abba Father is continually speaking to his kids about the way they treat their family and friends. Yet the relational difficulties for Christians are the same as those of the world. In fact, sometimes men of the world have better relationships than many in the Church. That’s probably because some tend to hold a higher standard for others than they do for themselves. They try to pressure their spouse and kids to perform well so they will look good in the eyes of the community. The word-seed has not yet penetrated their heart.

So, if we want to receive an abundance of word-seed we must practice loving one another as Christ loves us. That is the implication of the parable of the sower. God is love, so Jesus is the Son of Love and the gospel is the message of love. To be conformed to the image of Christ is to become a son or daughter of love. The word of the kingdom is a word of love because the coming kingdom is a kingdom ruled by the law of love rather than by the love of law.

In previous blogs we suggested an exercise of paying attention to your mental and imaging activity while others are speaking or as you read the Bible. The purpose of those exercises was to bring us to an awareness of the movements in our heart (or spirit). We need to see what’s happening inside if we want to change. The word for repentance means to see things differently. If we have not changed, we have not learned. And we can’t change until we see in a new way.

Our next blog will focus on seeing. Meanwhile, continue to pay attention to the thoughts and images that “play around” as you listen and read. If you have not been doing the exercises, it’s not too late. The exercises are necessary for those who desire to make these teachings practical. The concepts will not be practical for those who do not practice the word they hear.

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Looking Forward,

Fount Shults
On Word Ministries
http://onword.org

Here’s a link to Mark Virkler’s Communion With God website:
http://www.cwgministries.org/

Make a Sound 7: Call to Reconciliation

In the last few blogs we considered the effect of words, specifically words spoken in agreement with the Word of God. Our purpose is to prepare a people for a world-wide event of reading the Bible out-loud to one another in small groups. In this blog we will consider the need of good relationships. Other blogs are available on this site, and information on the event is at http://www.readthebibleoutloud.org

God’s Word created the heavens and the earth. The Holy Spirit hovered over God’s good creation to bring order out of chaos. The history of the world was moving from disorder to order. The words of the serpent, “Hath God said,” changed atmosphere of the world God created, and those words changed the direction of history when Eve acted on them. The direction of history began to move from life to death rather than from death to life.

The words spoken out-loud from the cross, “Father, forgive them, they don’t know what they’re doing,” restored the original direction of history. At that time God reconciled the world to himself, “not counting their sins against them” (II Cor. 5:19). Those who receive these words enter into a personal history that moves from death to life, from chaos to order. Those who reject these words of reconciliation remain on the road from life to death.

Man’s refusal to receive the word of reconciliation does not alter the heart of God. He is still reconciled to the world even though many in the world have not entered into a new life with him. Our refusal is not all-powerful; God’s offer stands in the face of man’s rebellion.

As we join Jesus in this act of forgiving others “out-loud,” our atmosphere and the direction of our relationships will change. But if we want others to admit they were wrong before we offer forgiveness, reconciliation cannot happen. In our unforgiveness we actually stand opposed to Jesus’ words from the cross. We are choosing to move from order to chaos in our relationship with others.

We can choose to move toward reconciliation even if others are refusing. Reconciliation can be in our heart even if the other is not responding to our forgiveness. That’s the way our Father is. He remains reconciled to a world that refuses to be reconciled with him.

What does this have to do with reading the Bible out-loud together? Our voice carries our spirit. If our spirit is wrong toward others while we read God’s Word, we cancel out the potential effect of the reading. It’s an astonishing truth that our words can make void the word of God (Mk. 7:13). The word remains valid, but we put ourselves outside its power to work in us and through us.

Our voice is a vehicle of our spirit. If we read with a spirit of resentment and bitterness, our resentment will go into the atmosphere with our words. Reading the Bible out-loud will affect the atmosphere positively only as we read with a spirit of reconciliation.

Let’s get our relationships right before we gather to read the Bible to one another. Honor, respect and affirmation is in order at all times, but especially now. Since we are “one spirit with him” (I Cor, 6:17), we can participate in the ACTS of God in our present world, but only if we join him in a spirit of reconciliation. To accomplish that, we must join him in his WORD of reconciliation.

The Holy Spirit will brood over our reading only as we cooperate with him in his agenda to reconcile all things to himself. To do that, we must read his Word out-loud in a spirit (attitude) of forgiveness and reconciliation.

http://www.readthebibleoutloud.org

Looking forward,
Fount Shults

Return to Intimacy 5 – Sonship

08/11/2011 1 comment

Intimacy is possible only when love is flowing both directions. If one loves and the other is selfish, there will be no intimacy even though the one who loves is totally open. Our model for intimacy is the Love which is God himself. He is open to those who reject his love. He was even willing to send heaven’s treasure to bless them.

How does this apply to sonship?

God IS love – the Father loves the Son and the Son loves the Father in the love of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, to be a child of God means to be born into the loving community of the Trinity, to be identified with the Son. For children, life is all about them. You have probably noticed that children don’t always behave properly. But they never cease to be children of their father.

It’s different with sons. In Scripture the term son (include daughter) refers to a level of maturity where the child begins to see life in terms of the father’s desire. A son no longer insists on his own way. Jesus did only what his Father doing (John 5:19). He was a true Son, and he is the example we are called to follow.

We were created in his image, in the image of love. We will never find fulfillment outside give-and-receive relationships with others. We can be alive without that fullness, but we will never be fully what we were created to be. To be in love (in God’s love) is not a feeling, it’s a position under one who loves you and who is committed to your wellbeing (not necessarily to your comfort).

Submission to God is allowing his love to flow into you and out from you to others in your circle whom he loves. Intimacy with Abba is experienced as he loves others through you – even if it hurts. Jesus’ love for us caused him great pain. Those who try to use God as a security blanket or a teddy bear will never experience this intimacy.

True sonship is really more about our Father than about us as sons. Jesus said, “A son can do nothing on his own accord, but only what he sees his father doing.” He did not say, “I can do nothing,” he said “a son can do nothing.” This was probably a proverb referring to the fact that sons learned the family business by following their fathers. So the term son refers to a relationship with a father, not just being born into a family.

The story of the prodigal son is really about our Father God who sent his Son Jesus to tell that story to the elder brothers of his day. Elder brothers (those whose welcome is only for people who do it right) never experience intimacy. They are what psychologists call Adult Children. They have grown up physically, but they are still in bondage to behavior patterns and ways of relating that are childish.

We can understand the concept best if we notice the way the apostles gave Joseph the nickname Barnabas (Acts 4:36). Barnabas means son of encouragement. His character and behavior reflected the virtue of encouragement. You are a son of the one whose character you reflect. If the people in your circle gave you a nickname, what would it be? Whose son are you?