Father God, our Abba, has an arrestingly beautiful heart. And we need to get to know it.
We now can get to know that heart because of the provision God made for us in his son Jesus. Unfortunately, as Catholic authors Neal and Matthew Lozano note in their introduction to Abba’s Heart: Finding Our Way Back to the Father’s Delight, “many have served Jesus for their whole lives without getting to know his heart.” To find our way back to that delight we are going to need a major paradigm shift.
Except for the small percentage of atheists among us, the large majority of Americans (yes, even the “nones”) consistently tell pollsters that they believe in God and most continue to identify as some brand of Christian. Although concepts of God and definitions of love yield a wild disparity, few esteem the idea of Yahweh as a kind of cosmic police chief patrolling the planets with lightning bolts. Yet for many Christians, God as Divine Law Enforcement Officer presiding over a squad of vigilant angel cops remains an image (perhaps the primary one?) many have of the Father, and they have a lot of trouble relating to him. To wit, if God is mainly a celestial magistrate, a judge with a capital J who is more concerned with right and wrong than he is about broken people, who in their right mind would want to get to know Him? Why entrust our messy human hearts to an omnipotent Supreme jurist?
The Lozano’s say that in pursuit of the ability to trust we need look no further than Jesus, the Son who not only perfectly represented the Father, but perfectly modeled for us how to relate to Him. Jesus is the heart of the Father. Getting to know the Father means we get to know Jesus for if we have seen him we have seen the Father, and the biggest hurdle for most is to stop projecting onto Him our negative experiences with earthly fathers. That is a lot easier said than done, for father wounds hurt the deepest–no one ever protests when the Lozano’s say that at the conferences they host–and getting over those pains usually requires people to engage some terrible memories.
But consider that Jesus includes us in his teaching on prayer; he instructs us to address God as “Our” Father, meaning the same father Jesus has. Christ is expanding his family! It would be laughable were this any other kingdom, to address the King so personally, but as the authors point out, “Jesus invit[es] us to a relationship with the Father on the basis of intimacy, trust, confidence and the openness to ask.” Unlike the pagans who attempt to coerce their deities with many words, the Lord “calls us out of our fears about the Father into an intimate conversation with him.”
Intimacy is the key, but describing and relating to God in an intimate fashion causes many to squirm. Why is that? We are back to the God as Cop image again. The Spirit indwells the believer to live a holy life and holiness is God’s foremost attribute, but that means something entirely different for us if our functional understanding of God is Big Guns Upstairs; holiness thus translates practically to reverential, squeaky-clean conduct. True holiness is intimate proximity to God himself, who is in essence perfect love. Because sin is viewed primarily as a legal offense in the West, we default to Christianity-as-behavior-management and a rather sterile moralism pervades the practice of faith. This is most certainly not the abundant life in the Kingdom we have been promised, and it is anything but intimate.
How do we begin cultivating intimacy with God? We start by changing the way we pray. In lieu of rote prayers we need raw honesty, particularly when resentment toward God festers in hidden corners of our hearts. “Use your voice,” the authors advise, because that “allows you to hear the expression of your heart.” In other words, to get intimate with God we get real with our pain. Air-tight systems of theology and lists of pristine doctrinal propositions contain very little space for the ruminations of the soul, but the pages of the Bible are soaked with them. Emotions make for lousy hermeneutics but they are not to be dismissed just because they do not provide reliable interpretive principles. Start praying like David and see what happens. Better still, pray like Jesus. The Son of the Father wore a human frame and during the course of his life knew every single one of those feelings as we experience them. He wept (John 11:35), rejoiced (Luke 10:21), was stunned (Matthew 8:5-13), got angry (Matthew 21:12), and was so miserably troubled he wanted to die (Mark 14:34). He prayed with every single one of those emotions. When we stifle our emotions and withhold them from Him, we deprive ourselves of an opportunity to receive his love.
A few years ago I met Neal Lozano at one of his Unbound conferences. He is a gifted teacher and storyteller, and the inner healing models and knowledge he presented were very powerful. Abba’s Heart reminded me of that weekend where many wonderful testimonies of deliverance and encounters with God were shared, nearly every one of which included a change in perspective in the minds of the attendees who had received prayer. They were re-oriented toward Father as He truly is, not based on how they had previously seen Him. The father of lies has not changed his strategy since Eden, for he works tirelessly to twist humanity’s perception of the true Father, causing us to doubt his goodness. Coupled with insights that can only come from years of experience, revelation of Dad’s heart is the only antidote to combat this deception, and the Lozano’s express it beautifully. It is with great enthusiasm that I recommend this book to everyone.
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