On Sunday morning of February 4th 2001, I felt led to give out a personal prophecy at the end of a family service. I had an impression that there was someone among the many present who had been looking for their dad all their life but had been disappointed. The family service team had just performed a sketch about the Prodigal Son. As a result of seeing this, I said that this person had found the dad she had been seeking for.
After the service a middle aged woman came forward. She was not a Christian but her husband had just come to the Lord through our morning Alpha Course. She explained to a ministry team member that the man who had brought her up was not her real dad and that she had been looking for her real father all her life. She found him eventually. He was in the navy. When they met, however, he rejected her and she was very disappointed and crushed.
On that Sunday morning she found the perfect father, the one who waits in love to welcome his children home. She gave her life to the Lord and is now born again! She now knows God is the perfect Father who will never abandon her and will always cherish her.
I wrote Orphans to Heirs (Bible Reading Fellowship) because I am absolutely convinced that the Holy Spirit wants to reveal God as the glorious Father who adopts, accepts and adores us. To be sure, people coming to faith need to know that God is a holy Judge. They need to repent of their sins and receive pardon from 'the Judge judged in their place' (to use Karl Barth's famous phrase). But they also need to receive the spirit of adoption and know God as loving Father. They need to come out of the court room and enter the living room.
The need for this Word-and-Spirit revelation is very real in today's society. It is well documented that 40%of the men who do not live with their children fail to mention to anyone that they are fathers. Approximately one in six fathers are no longer actually living with their children. Approximately 8% of all birth certificates in Britain do not reveal the identity of their fathers. This represents a number in the region of 60,000. Child abuse is so prevalent today that the whole notion of men as family protectors is now questioned.In Ireland,a recent survey disclosed that 6%of the population had been sexually abused. In many of these cases it had been the father who was the abuse.
Since Orphans to Heirs was first published, I have received many letters. All of these have been from adults who carry hidden wounds in their relationship with their fathers. Some had been abandoned. Others had been neglected. Many had been rejected. A few had been abused. It has been a disturbing and heart-breaking experience to learn once again of the profound father hunger that lies in the souls of those who are already in the church, never mind those outside.
Just to take one among many. One gentleman (78 years of age) wrote about his tragic childhood.His mother had been committed to an asylum in 1924, and his father killed in a steam wagon accident in 1927. He described how he had been one of eight orphaned children who were then moved into a Poor Law Institution in Cheshire. 'It was hard', he wrote. 'Very much like Charles Dickens' Oliver Twist'.
Subsequently he became a dedicated Christian. Throughout his life he had had a strong relationship with Christ but found it impossible to relate to God as 'Father', never having known the care of an affectionate and ever-present dad. I will let this wonderful old gentleman tell what happened next in his own words:
'On 8th December 1999 I was in my room writing when, in the silence, God reached out to me, hugged me, and said, "You are mine.I love you", I cried with joy all afternoon. It was your book which helped me find my true Father. One who will never leave me, never forsake me, and who will never change'.
He concluded: 'I agree with you that spiritual adoption or 'the Doctrine of Adoption' (as you call it)is very much neglected, if it is mentioned at all it is only in passing, but is part and parcel of salvation. Like love and marriage, you can't have one without the other'.
Glory to God for stories like this! Lives are being changed all over the world as people in and outside the church begin to understand that God is like the father in the story of the Prodigal Son, waiting with arms open wide to welcome them home,wash off the dirt,and restore them to his family. God is, I believe, desperate for us to have this revelation. As someone has recently put it,
If God had a refrigerator, your picture would be on it. If God had a wallet, your photo would be in it. He sends you flowers every spring and a sunrise every morning. He could live anywhere in the universe and He chose your heart.
No one is pretending that the journey of healing in these areas is quick and painless. One thing that the letters have brought home to me is how long it can take for believers to work their way through the wounds of the past.
One lady wrote about how her mother had died when she was 11 years old,and how three men had subsequently abused her by the age of 13.She described how long it had taken for her 'to escape with a sigh of relief into my heavenly Father's arms'. She spoke about the experience of spiritual adoption as a 'goal'. 'It is a goal to grasp what this inheritance really means and to live it'. One entry in her journal says this: 'It is not the brokenness of something which motivates us to fix it, but the anticipation of the enjoyment of the repaired article'. She then wrote about the importance of Revelation 2:17 in her life, where Jesus promises to the overcomer a white stone with a new name written on it. She concluded, 'I find it a calming thought that I have a new name from the Lord waiting for me when I permanently move house'.
So I have been genuinely humbled b the response to Orphans to Heirs. I continue to minister into peoples' lives with the revelation that 'the Father himself loves you' (John 16:27). I continue to teach people here and abroad that they are chosen,adopted and greatly favoured (Ephesians 1:4-6).I remain committed to helping believers to find freedom from the chains of slavery, so that the well of the Father's love can be uncapped in their hearts (Romans 8:15). I am convinced that the Father wants to release us more and more into the revelation of our sonship and daughterhood,through the power of the Word and the Spirit. That way we can learn to be happy with who we are in Christ.
A class of school children were discussing a picture of a family. One little boy in the picture had different colour hair from the other family members in the picture. One child suggested that he was adopted and a little girl said, "I know all about adoptions because I was adopted."
"What does it mean to be adopted?" asked another child. "It means," said the girl, "that you grew in your mummy's heart instead of her tummy." My prayer is that we will focus more and more on position rather than condition,and learn contentment and even joy in the fact that we are adopted sons and daughters of our Father in heaven. So,Father,send your loving Spirit of adoption into the church afresh,and let the Abba-cry rise up from your children everywhere.In the name of your Son, Amen.