By Akira Hiraguri
I would like to share my personal testimony about how I found God as my Father God. Do you remember the huge earthquake & tsunami in Japan back in 2011? We were in Okinawa when the earthquake hit Japan, so I visited the disaster area as a volunteer. I went there with a group of prayer intercessors from the US. They were all in their early 20s, very young. Anyway, one time we were praying for Japan together, then one of them, Sarah from Hawaii, started praying, “Dear Daddy…” I could not believe what she was saying. I thought to myself, “This girl is calling God, Daddy? I can’t believe it. That is so childish!” But I remember that at the same time I was also a little bit envious.
After the volunteer work was over, I went back to Okinawa. Then one Sunday I was at a church, helping with Sunday school. That morning, the kids were learning about the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9). The class started and Pastor Kanno, a friend mine, started teaching about the Lord’s Prayer, which starts with “Our Father in Heaven.” He said, “This prayer starts with calling God as our Father in heaven, which shows us how intimate He is.” As soon as he said that, I heard in my head again, the voice, “You must be kidding!” I was surprised and shocked by my own reaction. That was the beginning of my search for God as Father. Who is God the Father? What does mean to be God as Father?
Do you know Jesus personally? Do you know the Holy Spirit personally? Then do you know the Father personally? Probably, in our head we do. But most of us do not know Him as Father in a deeper level personally. Last year in Kansas City, I had the privilege to baptize a Japanese single mom. We did a prep class before baptism together. We studied the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19), and one of Jesus’ commandments here is to baptize them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. As I was preparing for the class, I was hit by this verse. As a person who was going to baptize my friend, was I aware that I was going to baptize her in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit? And as a Christian who is baptized, am I also aware that I was baptized in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit? I do not think I was until last year… I was always aware that I baptize a person or that I am baptized by a pastor or missionary in the name of Jesus, or the Holy Spirit. But in the name of the Father? No.
It was interesting that the little booklet we were using for the prep class said that one of the aspects of baptism in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit means to enter into relationship with the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Again that was compelling to me. We may have a deep relationship with Jesus. We may have a deep relationship with the Holy Spirit. But how about the Father? Do we have a deep and intimate relationship with Father God? Maybe…but I did not have it three years ago.
I. Fatherless Generation
I spent 3 years (2012 to 2014) finding God as Father and learning that I am as His son through Christ. In 2012, we moved to Kansas City and attended a Christian church called the Kansas City Boiler Room. The community was born out of a prayer movement that took place in 1999 in England, called 24-7Prayer. In KC we saw these people living the reality of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit in teaching and practice. They helped us discover what it means to know God as a loving Father and to know ourselves as sons and daughters of God through Christ the Son. We have been adopted into the family of God in heaven. That means we can have intimacy with Father God. We belong to Him. Christians are not slaves or orphans. We are His children now.
Of course that was not how I saw myself before my 3 years in KC. My view of God as father had been filtered by my own relationship with my earthly father. I am 44 now and the youngest son of 4 children. I grew up when Japan was growing strong economically. After WWII, Japan worked very hard to restore the nation and it was my father’s generation who did it and because of his generation, Japan is now one of the leading nations in the world. My father is very intelligent and a man of integrity and righteousness. He also worked very hard. My mom still says to us, “Your father worked so hard. Even if the four of you work hard together, you guys cannot beat him.” That is very true. He did work hard. But He worked so hard that he did not have any time to spend with us. Do you know how busy he was? I have no memory of playing with him in my childhood. My childhood relationship with my father is very vague. In a way my mother raised the four of us by herself, just as many single moms are raising their children today.
When we talk about our relationship with our fathers, I hear many times that the older generations of both Americans and Japanese see fathers as authoritative and strict. Filtered by their relationship with such fathers, many of them see God as an angry God. However many people today, like my generation in Japan and in the US, because of the absence of fathers at home, see God as a distant God, unless they grew up in a healthy family home. We are in a fatherless generation. Fatherless children grow up and eventually marry and have children. But will they know how to raise children unless they come to know the Father God through the Son? I do not think so. It is said, it is easy to become a father, but it is not easy to be a dad. If you don’t understand what I am saying now, I encourage you to watch the movie, “Mr. Peabody &Sherman.” It is about a super genius dog, adopting an abandoned boy and raising him. Because the genius dog was also an abandoned dog, throughout the movie we see the process of how the dog learns to be a dad rather than “Mr. Peabody”.
Have you experienced what it means to live in a fatherless home? A while ago I read this story. A boy who lived with his mother once asked his father who was visiting him, “Dad, do you love me?” The father answered, “Your mother said that I do not know how to love.” The boy then said to the father, “I do not care about what mom says. I want to know if you love me.” Then, the father said, “I do not know how to love.”
Even if we live in a family where the father and mother live together, if your father is not spending much time with you, that may create bitterness within you toward your earthly father and then your Father God. I can share with you two incidents about my bitterness toward my father. When I was a freshman in high school, a group of us did some unlawful things like smoking and stealing. About 20 students were suspended from school for a month. The teacher called my mother about the suspension and she contacted my father at work. When I came back from school, my father was at home, waiting for me. He came back from work early, which was very unusual. My father called me from his room. I knew he had already heard about the suspension from school, so I was ready to receive his “talk” from him. But I was not ready for what he actually said to me. He said, “You put dirt on your parents by doing such a thing.” Basically, he said to me “Shame on you. You put shame on your parents.” That was it. All I thought was, “You are so busy at work and you never spend time as a father with me and now you are only thinking about your face and not that what I did that was wrong?” And on that day I vowed to myself, “I will NEVER become a businessman like my father.” So I did not choose to be a Japanese businessman. By the way, that was about 30 years ago and now I am healed and my relationship with my father, who is 80 this year, is getting much closer. And if the Lord wants me, I would LOVE to become a business man.
Another incident with my earthly father occurred when I received Jesus as my personal Savior back in the middle of the 90’s. I was very, very passionate and enthusiastic about Jesus and his teachings. One day I was reading the Gospel of Matthew where Jesus says this, “And call no one your father on earth, for you have one Father —the one in heaven (Matthew 23:9).” So I went and told my father, “I will not call you my father any more.” Years later my father told me about it, saying that he was hurt by what I had said. I did not remember this at all.
There is no doubt that the fathers cared for their children and loved them. They all did what they could in raising their children. They never meant to hurt the feelings of their children. But unfortunately, that was not what was communicated to the children. And some of those children did not receive what they needed as children and as a result grew up to be a man or woman missing something. In my case, because of the lack of fatherhood in my life, I became fatherless, not knowing what fatherhood means. I did not know such a condition in me, until I met Sarah who was praying to God, “Daddy” and until I was surprised by my own reaction to God as an intimate Father who cares for me dearly.
Do you remember that I felt envy for Sarah? I learned the other day what envy means when I was watching “3, 2, 1, Penguins!” with my children. Envy is the feeling that we have when someone has what we do not have. There was Father in Sarah, but He was missing in me.
By the way how is your relationship with your earthly dad? I can give you a very simple self check about your relationship with your daddy. Are you ready? Think about Father’s Day. Do you spend the day filled with joy and thankfulness or with depression? Think about it for a moment now, and ponder how your relationship with your earthly father is affecting your relationship with your heavenly Father.
II. Justice of God
1. 2000 years ago & today
The other day, I had an opportunity to share my season with God as Father with a Christian man I had just met at church. He had been adopted by a Christian family when he was little. Now he has grown and is an amazing father and husband, following Jesus. After we chatted at Starbucks, we went to my car to pray together. In his prayer he was thankful because my testimony reminded him that God is a Father who is loving and kind. But I noticed that as he was praying, He also said God is a God of justice. Why did he pray that God is just? I began thinking about it.
God is just. And every Christian knows that he demonstrated His justice 2000 years ago by sending His own Son to this world. Before Christ Jesus was born, the people of Israel had expected that God would send a powerful figure to bring justice to the afflicted people. Instead Jesus came to Jerusalem riding on a donkey. Not by might but by meekness Jesus turned the world upside down through his life, death and resurrection.
Now 2000 years later, today, God demonstrated His justice again in another way. Today when many people become fatherless and cry out to God for help, He hears our prayers, and demonstrates His justice. But how? He reveals Himself as our Father, saying to us, “I AM YOUR FATHER AND I LOVE YOU.” He is restoring all the broken relationships throughout the world through His children.
I was totally transformed by encountering God as my Father in heaven. Since I met the Father God through the Son Jesus, I have been living my life feeling so blessed every day. Suppose you want to give something to other people. But unless you have something, you cannot give anything. But now I have the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit in me by His grace. I have all! I can give anyone the blessings of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. This is so amazing, so WONDERful and so AWEsome.
And as I have changed, my relationship with my wife has changed. As my relationship with my wife has changed, my relationship with my children has changed. As my relationship with my children has changed, as a family we have started impacting other people around us. And we are now called to return to Japan & Okinawa to restore broken relationships among the Japanese.
2. Invitation to receive God as Daddy
So how is your relationship with your Father God? Do you have an intimate and close relationship with Him as your Father in heaven, or do you see God as an absent and distant father? Do you see God as an angry, authoritative, military figure? Today, I would like to invite you receive Him as your Father through faith. We receive salvation through faith in Jesus. We receive the baptism or fullness of the Holy Spirit through faith. And we also receive Him as our intimate Father through faith. So, receive Him as your Father in Heaven and start learning to know Him. All you have to do is receive and relax. Let the Holy Spirit lead you to know the Father deeply. You will soon start being grounded in the love of the Father God.
And I have another invitation for you today. Sometime today I would like you to spend some personal prayer and worship time with God. Do whatever you usually do to create a quiet and peaceful time to talk with Him. You can take a shower or bath. Relax in the Holy Spirit. Once you have such a space, just ask Him one question. You can call him, God, the Lord or Father. I really want to pay attention to your Father God, though. Then ask Him one simple question, “God, can I call you Daddy?” Wait for His answer.
Some of you may be thinking that this is ridiculous, rubbish, childish and even disgraceful. I totally understand it because that was exactly how I reacted when Sarah was praying to God as “Daddy.” But I want you to remember the story of Naaman, an army commander the king of Aram (II Kings 5). When Elisha the prophet sent a messenger to Naaman and told him to go to the Jordan River and wash in the water seven times so that he could be healed, he got so angry that he went away in a rage. But his servants approached and said, “Father, if the prophet had commanded you to do something difficult, would you not have done it? How much more, when all he said to you was, “Wash, and be clean.” So he went to the river and washed in the water seven times. He was healed.
Like Elisha, I am not asking you to do a difficult task, like fasting for 40 days. If I asked you to fast for 40 days, you might take this challenge and do it. But I am asking you a very easy thing. Just ask God, “Can I call you Daddy?” and wait for His answer. You might be surprised, but He will speak to you.
III. God as the Father
In the past ten years many Christian writers and teachers have written books on God as Father, so I do not need to spend much time explaining the subject. Instead I am going to briefly share with you my reflections on our Father God.
1. God is our Father & Daddy
In general, everyone can call the Creator of heaven and earth “the Father” unless you are an atheist. But you may call Him the Father but not actually come to the Father. Anyone, anywhere, can call God the Father. But there is a great expanse between the Father, the Son and Holy Sprit of God and us, humanity. But the Father God loved the world and sent His Son. Jesus died and was risen from the death so that by receiving Him, we may be forgiven our sins of the past, present and future. Once you are forgiven, there is no more distance between the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit of God and us, so we can come to the Father boldly.
Now what does that mean? Through the Son of God, we have been brought into the family of the Father and the Son. God is our Father and we are His children now. Technically it is called the spirit of adoption. Though we are human, we are adopted into the divine Family in heaven: the Father God, the Son of God, and the Holy Spirit of God.
The divine Son of God came into humanity. Jesus is the Son of God, our Lord, Savior and the royal King. Jesus also lived as a man, died as a man, was resurrected as a man, was ascended to heaven as a man and is sitting at the right hand of the Father as a man. Through adoption into the family of God, in which we are welcomed as his children, we become sons and daughters of our Father God with Him. Jesus, who is divine and human, becomes our Brother in Heaven as “the first born among many brothers.” Together we enjoy the heavenly inheritance and worship the Father. This is our spiritual position in heaven in Christ.
I have just said that Jesus is our Brother in heaven. You may be feeling confused. But Jesus is not ashamed to call us brothers and sisters. At the same time, I want to make it clear that this NOT mean that we become divine. Christianity does NOT hold that a human Jesus became divine. It is vise versa. The Word became flesh. We are adopted into the Father-Son Family through Jesus who is the Son of God and the Son of Man, but we are still human. So we should embrace the reality of being human. It is hard to understand this and we need to receive it by faith and spend much time pondering and digesting.
Throughout the history in the Old Testament, the people of Israel called God by various names. I am sure you have books on the names of God. I have used these names when I pray. On the contrary Jesus taught us only one name about God. Guess what it is? It is “Father.” And Jesus uses this name exclusively. And once you encounter God as your Father, you will start calling Him as Father and you will call the Father “God” less and less. The name God sounds very generic to me now.
And Jesus teaches us that God the Father is not only His Father but our Father as well. As I mentioned above, we have been adopted into the heavenly family of God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. One night my wife and I were teaching a kids class about our Father in heaven at the Kansas City Boiler Room. Grace, a 6 year old in the class, commented, “We have two fathers: our Father in heaven and our father on the earth.” I think she got the point.
Jesus even called the Father, Abba which means Daddy in English. Little children hardly ever call their fathers, “father.” They call them, “daddy” with intimacy, closeness and family love. Through the Holy Spirit and as His children through Jesus, we call God “Abba Father.” As Melanie (my wife) says, the Holy Spirit is a gift from the Father and calling Father God “Daddy” is a gift from the Holy Spirit. It was so important to the Father to call Him “Daddy” that He gave us a gift to be able to do it!
2. God is in/with us & for us
Jesus and the Father are one. Jesus teaches His union with the Father in the Gospel of John. And the Holy Spirit is the depth of the Father as well as the mind of Christ Jesus. There is a sense of oneness within the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. And you know what? Of course there is a sense of oneness within them because they are family.
My point is that whatever Jesus promises to us is what the Father does. If Jesus says the He is with us till the end of the world, this means that the Father is also with us till the end of the world through the Son.
Let me show what the realty of the Father God implies to us.
First, the Father is with/in us and will never leave us. This truth is a huge comfort for children whose fathers are absent or distant. He promises to watch over us under His almighty shelter.
Second, the Father is for us. He delights in us and we are His favorite. The child’s dream is the Father’s dream. He wants to give His best to us and for us. In many Asian nations, many parents desire the children to become successful but not for the children’s sake but for the status or the fame of the family name. It is such a relief to me to know that our Heavenly Father delights in me just as I am. He “is a father and remains as a father” to me unconditionally.
And third, the Father not only loves us unconditionally, He also likes us as friend. He likes to play with us. He likes to have fun with us. He is our Dancing God as C. Baxter Kruger writes. He likes to be with us. There is a joy in our relationship with the Father.
3. We rest in Daddy God
Meeting the Father through the Son has set me free from the paradigm of this world: performance, competition and comparison. We learn to rest in Father’s presence as His child with the Son by the Holy Spirit. As we learn to rest in the Father more, we learn to strive less. Our trust in the Father’s plan for each moment grows deeper and deeper. And we are more open and keen to the leading of the Holy Spirit. We relax and smile more while worrying less, and the will of the Father becomes the primary focus for us in each day rather than our own personal agendas. You know what? You can be as bold as a lion is, while resting in our Daddy God!
4. We are home makers!
Nowadays more young Christians, growing up fatherless and without secure homes, have encountered Daddy God and found Home. These children of God, grounded in the love of the Father as well as the lordship of Jesus and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, grow up to be sons and daughters of God. They are now making homes together throughout the nations. As a dear friend of ours rephrased the Great Commission, “Go. Make disciples of home makers.”
I want to thank you for allowing me to share my three year journey of knowing the Father God deeply. I hope and pray that my testimony may encourage you to receive Him as your loving and kind Father, Daddy God.
If you have not received Jesus into your life yet, I invite you to do it now. Turn from your past, and ask Him to take charge of your life. Find a group of Christians who can help you grow in your new life.