The article about ‘The Fathers Love’ brought some thoughtful responses. Here is one of those responses that reveal searching questions. “I loved this article. One part, in particular, struck me! Where you said to give the father permission to love you! Can you expound a little on that? I so find myself wanting to give the father permission to love, but hold back! I hold back because I’ve never heard the words I love you from my earthly father. So I always question giving the Heavenly Father that permission because I’m not sure I would recognize his true love or even know how to receive it!”
Some people, like that writer, have difficulty both giving God permission to love them and then receiving the Father’s love. The question behind it all is ‘How do you receive the Father’s love?’ God deals with us as individuals, so there is ‘No one size fits all’ approach. However, we can highlight some important principles that are at work in the process.
RECEIVED BY FAITH
I have known people who have received the Father’s love simply by faith. They have believed God’s word and received His love. Either through study of the Word, or the teaching of anointed speakers, that have brought a revelation of the Father’s love. They have received it by faith. That’s good because our experiences have to be based on upon the Bible.
RECEIVED BY THE HOLY SPIRIT
In the last Langstaff Letter, I shared that Leif Hetland’s ministry in our church dynamically impacted our congregation. How did Leif himself receive the Father’s love? Here is his own testimony.
“It was only through the Spirit of God that I was able to access His love for me. It was impossible to draw this kind of revelation from my personal experience. I could not extrapolate it using my intellect. True love came to me via supernatural means. It was an unearthly kind of love that was brought down from heaven and poured over my soul.
I remember every detail as if it happened yesterday. It was in the year 2000, when I went to a small gathering in Florida. Jack Taylor, my spiritual Father, was there, as well as Dennis Jernigan, a world-renowned worship leader. Somebody prayed for me, saying, ‘I ask you, Holy Spirit, to come and take away anything in Leif’s life that is not comfortable with love.’ Then Dennis Jernigan began to sing a song, Daddy’s Song, a love song about the love of the Father God. Father’s love connected with me through that song. The next thing I remember was being down on the floor. I was lying there like a child, and I was weeping. I could feel Father’s love flowing over me. It was like liquid love going up and down my body, and in and out.
“When I was in that meeting, lying on the floor, the Lord performed a spiritual surgery in me. He transported me back to the time when I was twelve years old. I had been violated at that age, and it was as if the Lord was telling me He knew what I had gone through. That night in Florida, my loving Father wrapped His arms around me. I could feel His presence and the powerful surge of His love flowing in me and through me. I was totally immersed in His pure love.”
As Leif Hetland stated, ‘It was only through the Holy Spirit that I was able to access His love for me.’ Romans 5:5 declares, ‘the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit that was given to us.’
RECEIVED WITH THE HELP OF OTHERS
For many reasons, often going back to childhood experiences with their earthly Father that may have involved not only neglect and negative attitudes but even physical abuse, many people need healing to receive the Father’s love through the help of others.
Charles Stanley, a well know national leader and TV preacher, tells his own experience in his book ‘The Reason for My Hope,’ “In intense pain and turmoil, I sought the advice from four men whom I trusted explicitly. I called the men, who are people of the highest integrity, and I asked them to meet with me to hear me out with empathy and then give me their wise counsel. I trusted God to help them to help me.
“I met with the four men privately at a lodge in a wilderness area. I confessed to them that I was at the end of myself. I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know where to go. I asked them if I could share with them my life and told them that after they heard my story, I wanted them to give me their best advice. I assured them that I would do whatever they
advised me to do. I had that much respect for them. I also conveyed to them how desperate I was and how extremely serious I was about receiving their help. They generously agreed to hear me out and to be God’s instrument in my life.
“I talked all afternoon and evening. I woke up several times in the middle of the night and wrote a total of seventeen pages in longhand – – – legal-sized pages – – of things I wanted to be sure to tell them the next morning. I told them everything I remember about my early life and all the highlights – – both painful and positive – – of my adult life and ministry. When I was finished – – and believe me, I was completely spent at that point – – I said, ‘Now, whatever you tell me to do, I’ll do it.’
“They asked me two or three questions, and then one of the men who was sitting directly across the table from me said, ‘Charles, put your head on the table and close your eyes.’ I did. He said to me very kindly, ‘Charles, I want you to envision your father picking you up in his arms and holding you.’ After a few moments, he said, ‘What do you feel?’
“I burst out crying. And I cried and I cried. I could not stop crying. Finally, when I stopped, he asked me again, ‘What do you feel?’ I said, ‘I feel warm, loved, secure. I feel good.’ And I started weeping again.
“For the first time in my life, I felt emotionally that God loved me. I had known as a fact from His Word that God loved me. I had believed by faith that God loved me. I had accepted the fact that love is God’s nature. But until that day, not very many years ago, I had never emotionally felt God loving me.
“God used that encounter with those four men and that one simple question to unlock the love void in my life and to begin to pour into it a flood of His divine love.
“The full release of God’s love didn’t happen in a day. It was a process, little by little. But the more I explored the love of God, the more God began to reveal my true identity in Christ – – that I belonged to Him as I never had belonged to anybody, that I was worth something to Him, and that He loved me beyond measure. I discovered that when I got to the end of myself and all my efforts at striving for perfection, a kind and gracious Heavenly Father who had loved me unconditionally all my life. Let me assure you, nothing is more liberating than that discovery.
“The more I experienced God’s love, the more I began to understand the importance of saying to others,’ God loves you just the way you are.’ I came to be able to love others as they were and to be far less critical of their failed efforts or lack of perfection. God’s love for me became the source of a great love for others. The outpouring of God’s love into my life positively affected my ministry and my relationships with others. I had been invaded by love, and I couldn’t keep it to myself.
“From that day in the mountains, I had a sense of inner closeness with God that I had never experienced before. I knew I could trust Him regardless of what happened to me, regardless of any mistakes I might make, regardless of how I might respond or react in my humanity. I had a strong feeling of assurance that I had always been loved, was loved now, and would always be loved with a vast love that was beyond my comprehension but that I could experience nonetheless on a daily basis.
“Once intimacy with God has been established, it grows. There is no end to God’s love, and there ultimately will be no end to our ability to experience it. We need never have love-starved hearts again. His desire is to overflow us with His love and, all the while, to enlarge our capacity to experience His love and give it to others.
“I came to a place where I could say with the apostle John, ‘I have known the love of God, I believe the love of God.'”
A CLOSING THOUGHT
The song ‘What the World Needs Now is Love’ put it well. Actually, the Father’s love, for the Word declares that there abideth ‘faith, hope and love, but the greatest of these is love.’ I Corinthians 13. It’s yours. Receive it!
July and August are summer months here in America and many other countries. It is a time that many people take a vacation and a break from work and school. During these couple months, we are going to take a break and share some of the Langstaff Letter’s from days past. Also, Alan is currently looking after Dorothy full-time. Dorothy is seriously ill and has entered hospice care at home.
We would appreciate your prayer for both Dorothy and Alan at this time. Future updates will be posted on their Caring Bridge site.
Pastor Alan, I am presently re-reading a key book of a generation ago called “The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse” in which the authors describe how bad experiences with earthly fathers and spiritual leaders can skew how we understand God the Father’s own love. The book isn’t perfect, of course, but it does have a lot of insights about “performance-orientation”, how that gets internalized somehow…and then how hard it is to trust GRACE and LOVE. If you do a part 3 on this topic and have that “old” book available, maybe share your own thoughts on it? Thank you so much — and of course your whole family is in our prayers, especially now. — Brother Lance Wonders