Experiencing the Father's Love like a Child
The revelation of the Father’s love has captured my heart and my imagination. I wonder, what would the world look like if every child were able to grasp this revelation and experience the Father’s love? Dare I believe that it could happen?
A child derives his ability to trust by experiencing his own father’s love. This trust in Daddy is perceived through all five of a child’s senses by hearing words of affirmation, seeing demonstrations of affection and feeling his gentle touch. When a father loves his child, he communicates the message: “Daddy is here for me, and will protect me. He will lead me, teach and correct me. Daddy will provide for me, and play with me. And then, He will release me to be all that I am created to be. But even then, He will never leave me, or forsake me.” (Joshua 1:5) (Psalms 37:25)
When God created Adam and Eve, He did not write a teaching manual about experiencing God. Instead, He came in the cool of the evening when all was quiet to spend time with them, allowing them to experience His love.
Without the Father’s love, we grow up as orphans. Even if we grow up with our parents, they are imperfect and their love flows to us through those imperfections. There is no perfect human daddy. I now see the need for my own kids to have this revelation for themselves. It is humbling to see my own love for them flowing through my imperfections and know that my love for them, as deep as it is, is inadequate.
"A generation can grow up experiencing the Father’s love, the only love that will conquer the orphan heart."
Experiencing this filtered love causes each person to exhibit the characteristics of orphans. In an orphan’s world, personal protection is king. After all, daddy’s not here for me, and if he’s not here for me, then no one else will be, either. No one will take care of me, so I live in such a way as to shield myself from the “elements” of this world.
So here I am, daring to imagine that a generation can grow up experiencing the Father’s love, the only love that will conquer the orphan heart, a love that will adopt the fatherless and fill the gaps of fatherlessness left in each person who experiences filtered love.
JESUS AND KIDS
“Then they also brought infants to Him that He might touch them; but when the disciples saw it, they rebuked them. But Jesus called them to Him and said, 'Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God. Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it.'" (Luke 18:9-17 NKJV)
"Jesus pointed out the contrast in the eager behavior of children with that of preoccupied adults."
If you are suffering from the effects of “filtered love”, it is time to look at how Jesus related to kids in the scripture above so that you can receive God’s love easily too. In the instance recorded above, Jesus pointed out the contrast in the eager behavior of children with that of preoccupied adults. In it lies the key to receiving the Kingdom of Heaven.
Place yourself in that moment. Jesus is hanging out with His disciples while a number of other people around are pushing to get to Him. Everybody wants Jesus: the sick want His healing touch, the hurt want His affirmation and the self-righteous want to question everything He says and does.
Then mothers enter the picture, pushing their children to the front of the line so that Jesus will be able to touch and bless them. His disciples are thinking that the children are the least important in the line and are trying to protect Jesus whom they think is far too busy to deal with children. They believe that the real work of the Kingdom of God is among those who can intellectually understand His great mysteries and appreciate the signs that He performs. But in absolute love, Jesus looks into the eyes of the disciples and corrects their actions, “Unless you receive the Kingdom of God as a little child, you will not enter it.”
"To the child, He responded with physical touch, blessing and affirmation—that is experience."
Jesus turns toward a child whose arms were probably out-stretched with anticipation. Jesus takes the child in His firm grip and imparts His love and blessing. This little child experiences the Father’s love through Jesus who is the exact representation of the Father. (Colossians 1:13-15, Hebrews 1:3)
Did you notice how Jesus responded? To the adults, He responded with words; but to the child, He responded with physical touch, blessing and affirmation—that is experience. The personal expression of His love compelled the child to open his heart. This child received the essence of the Kingdom, which is the Father’s love. After this interaction, a young rich man pressed though the crowd to Jesus, and he too had an experience. But Jesus responded to him in a very different way saying, "How hard it is for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God! For it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” (Luke 18:24-25 NKJV)
The child who had nothing went away with the Kingdom of Heaven in his heart; but the rich young man who had everything walked away with nothing.
WHY I PASTOR KIDS
So what has all this got to do with pastoring kids? Everything. That is, if you really believe Jesus’ words.
Ministering to children is not a role for gifted entertainers or for those who have passed some higher level of education in children’s ministries. And it’s not a role for those who are seeking a more “consequential” ministry and want to be part of the spiritual elite. Ministry to children is for those who want to see the Kingdom of God come on earth, in every generation.
During His life on earth, Jesus ministered effectively to every age group. He related to them on different levels, imparting the Father’s heart and love. Through Jesus, mankind experienced God, which was far different than the way men had learned about God through the teaching of the Pharisees.
"Just as Jesus personally embraced, loved and blessed the little child in the crowd, so today, His Holy Spirit does the same."
I love ministering God’s love to children and believe it is of supreme importance. A few years ago we began leading the kids in church through the foundational truths of God. One Sunday, we facilitated an environment for them to experience Daddy God’s love, beyond the concepts of God which they had formed from negative experiences with earthly dads. During the service, the kids began to cry, embracing what God was doing. The tangible presence of Holy Spirit brought deep healing to their wounded hearts and released the Father’s perfect love and acceptance to them.
We led them through forgiveness toward their dads, for the things that they’ve done which have caused them to see God incorrectly. We led them to release their dads from the ungodly ties that keep their hearts bound. We led them to bless and pray for their dads, that they too would have a deep revelation of Daddy God’s love. One young child fell to the floor during the ministry time. He lay there weeping, broken by Holy Spirit as God touched his heart.
"When you experience His love, you will be able to give His love away to those who have nothing."
We may never know the whole depth of the ministry that Holy Spirit does in our children, but that’s okay. What we do know is that when our children experience the Father’s embrace, through the Spirit of Jesus, the manifest presence of the invisible God, there is an impartation of love and blessing. This impartation is in an experience. Just as Jesus personally embraced, loved and blessed the little child in the crowd, so today, His Holy Spirit does the same.
When we as the adult leaders saw the Father’s love moving in this amazing way, we were blessed. Again, I was reminded that children’s ministry is not for the talented or educated. It is for the ones who long to see how simply the Kingdom of God can come on earth to every generation.
You may be asking, "So how may I receive the Kingdom of Heaven?" In the same way a little child does: with arms outstretched in anticipation and a heart open to God’s affection. If you, like a child, realize that you have nothing to bring Jesus and come to Him completely empty handed, you will have room to receive everything God has for you. When you experience His love, you will be able to give His love away to those who have nothing.