A New Book from Pastor Mani Erfan
First Question – Who Am I? I am a Child of my Father
Chapter 1 – Identity Crisis
That is a fundamental question that has to be answered for every believer. Most Christians have a partial or incomplete understanding of their true identity. Some have a corrupted or false view of themselves.
Almost all behavior is rooted in the identity and the perception that a person has of him or herself. If a man perceives himself to be a winner, successful, and an achiever his behavior will be rooted and reinforced by that belief. Naturally, he will be confident, determined, optimistic, and probably more apt to take risk and more often that naught to succeed in life. Such a positive attitude and belief in one self actually overcomes physical shortcomings in many cases.
In contrast, a person who due to their past failures or experiences or physical shortcomings has a perception of themselves as a failure, non-desirable, un-attractive or weak usually is easily afraid, tepid, unsure of themselves, indecisive, and this follows a pattern of ongoing failure.
A false identity rooted in demonic lies will cause major behavioral insecurities that can result in destructive patterns of behavior that will surely destroy relationships, scuttle marriages, cause businesses and partnerships to fail, impede church and ministry growth and cause social and spiritual isolation.
One can say with absolute confidence that how a person sees themselves is critical to their pattern of behavior.
The greatest example of this in the Bible is seen in the account of the twelve Israelite spies sent to Canaan to spy on the land. Their mission was to gather information for the tribes prior to the intended crossing of the Jordan and facilitate a successful conquest of the Promised Land.
Now the Jews had experienced some of the most spectacular miracles ever seen by human eyes in history up to that time. They had just walked in the midst of the Red-Sea and seen God miraculously destroy the most powerful army of ancient times, the Pharaoh’s army in mere moments.
They had seen and lived through the 10 plagues that befell Egypt. Each plague was a supernatural miracle.
They had seen God’s provision of food and water miraculously be provided in the midst of one of the most barren deserts in the world. I know this first hand, as I have gone to the Sinai desert several times; it is truly barren, inhospitable and dry. One has to wonder how anyone could survive a week let alone 40 years in such a place, and not just one soul, but millions. There have been times that I have driven for 3-4 hours in the Sinai and I have not seen one single tree or shrub. I understand why God brought them through such a place. He wanted the Israelites to know who their God was, and He wanted them to know that they could depend on Him and trust Him. There was going to be no doubt left evidentially that their God was able to meet all their needs and fulfill all His promises to them.
But what happened is incredibly strange. The twelve spies leave the camp and spy on the land and return with an awful report. We pick up the story at Numbers 13: 31-33
“But the men who had gone up with him said, “We can’t attack those people; they are stronger than we are.” 32 And they spread among the Israelites a bad report about the land they had explored. They said, “The land we explored devours those living in it. All the people we saw there are of great size. 33 We saw the Nephilim there (the descendants of Anak come from the Nephilim). We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them.”
I think the phrase “we seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes” says it all. In contrast Caleb one of the twelve spies has a complete different perception of things as he adamantly proclaims in vs 30:
30 Then Caleb silenced the people before Moses and said, “We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it.”
Now, Caleb must have seen the same exact thing that the rest of the spies had seen? Or did he? It is clear that this man saw himself not as a grasshopper but as a victor, a warrior and he was absolutely confident that His God was going to come to his aide. His perception and his sense of identity changed his view of the world around him. Seeing the same facts, he came to a complete different set of conclusions about himself, the outcome of the future engagement and ultimately the future of his people. Caleb’s identity was not defined or limited to himself or his tribe or his countrymen. His identity was defined by HIS GOD.
The story of the 12 spies is telling in many ways. Failure of understanding one’s identity can lead to terrible and disastrous consequences and ultimate defeat. A life destined for greatness can end up in the desert of mediocrity or worse destruction. Hell withholds nothing from its attack on believers from the moment they enter the kingdom. If we view ourselves as mere grasshoppers before the demonic giants that come against us, they we will run away from engagement, ceding Kingdom territory to the enemy, and never being brave and courageous enough to cross the river of faith and enter in the land of promise of our lives. Ultimately, heavenly destinies and the fulfillment of our Father’s hopes and dreams for our lives depend squarely on how we perceive ourselves. We are assured of this thing as the Word of the lord in Jeremiah 29:11 states:
For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
A wonderful destiny is in the balance, the attainment of which hinges on our understanding of our Godly identity.
Our very character and daily behavior, habits, our reaction to events in our life and our response to difficulties, our ability to remain in the faith and ultimately to endure so that we can experience true victory are based on our correct understanding of our identity.
Jesus summarized his understanding of His own identity in a simple statement: “I and the Father are one” (John 10:30 NIV).
This is one of the most important recorded statements Jesus ever made and it shows how He perceived Himself. If there is one thing that I wish for the reader to grasp from this book, is this: that Jesus was not only speaking for himself but prophetically on behalf of the Church that was going to be born out of him.
By direct inference, since Jesus and the Father are one, therefore, you and the Father are one.
But before we go further let me ask this question:
Have you heard in Church this statement a lot: We need to be more Christ Like? Or, we need to become more like Jesus?
These are true statements but they are also rather incomplete. What we should be saying is that we need to become more like God Himself or better said more “God-Like”. I know the phrase does not roll out of mouth that easily and some part of us somehow feels that it might be somewhat sacrileges to even think like this, but we are made in the image of God and hence our identity cannot be defined only in the Son, but in God Himself and within the trinity that defines him.
So in order to understand our complete identity we have to understand that we have a unique identity not only in Jesus (the Son) but we also have a unique identity in the Father and a unique identity in the Holy Spirit.
So now that we know we have three distinct identities we need to ask what these identities are.
A unique depiction of these three distinct identities we have in the God-Head is found in of the most unusual creatures ever described in the bible: The Cherubim as described in the book of Ezekiel and seen again by John in the Book of Revelation:
Also in front of the throne there was what looked like a sea of glass, clear as crystal.
In the center, around the throne, were four living creatures, and they were covered with eyes, in front and in back. 7 The first living creature was like a lion, the second was like an ox, the third had a face like a man, and the fourth was like a flying eagle. 8 Each of the four living creatures had six wings and was covered with eyes all around, even under its wings.
Four living creatures and four distinct faces or depictions and all of them before the throne room of God. It is as if God has them before his throne as a reflection of how He sees Himself. I call these four living creatures God’s “Talking Mirrors”. They speak to Him of who He is and His eternal identity. Let’s look at these living creatures more closely.
One has the face of a lion. If there is one creature in all nature that it’s very name and appearance resonates kingship authority it is a lion. The lion then depicts the identity of God as a King.
Another has the face of an ox. An ox is made to serve and toil to meet the need of its master. Ox depicts the very nature and identity of servant-hood. Therefore the Ox depicts the identity of God as a Servant.
A third creature has the face of a man. For Christ came in the form of man and in the nature of the Son of Man. Christmas is all about the birth of a miracle human child born of the Holy Spirit who calls God Abba Father so that through his death and sacrifice all of us can call Him Father too. A man who was and is and will always be God. There the face of a man depicts the identity of God being born as a child of man.
The last and fourth one is an Eagle. Eagles are meant to soar in the heavens and they are known to have great vision and see all that is beneath them. The eagle is the creature that speaks of God’s Divinity.
So if I may be so bold to say that God sees Himself as Divine Creator of all things that took the form of a man, and chose to serve His own creation but will ultimately rule as the King of Kings.
There are therefore three distinct identities that we share with our God in His divine trinity.
So a healthy and complete Christian identity can only be understood through the proper revelation and understanding of all three identities. In fact each distinct identity defines the very parameters and rules and guidelines on how we are to conduct ourselves and interact with Heaven, the Church and the world around us.
Only after truly understanding our child identity, we can then grasp the very foundations of how we ought to interact with Heaven and the Heavenly Father. We then can truly embrace the Father’s grace and apply it successfully to our daily life. We are liberated from the bondage of self righteousness once and for all.
Only after embracing our servant-slave identity, we can whole-heartedly receive and accept the Lordship of Jesus Christ over our lives and embark on washing the feet of our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ with joy and gladness. We are then made free from the bondage of self gratification and the chains of self.
And only after believing that you and I are meant to be Kings and are called to exercise dominion in this world, we can understand why the Holy Spirit was given to us with such dynamic and incredible power. It is only then that we comprehend the purpose of our being sent out to this dying World as ambassadors of Heaven equipped with the power and majesty of God’s Spirit himself.
Mani Erfan’s Story
Every Story Has a Beginning – Part I (Days in Iran)
I was born in a modern household in Iran. My father was a famous athlete having played soccer for the Iranian National Team, and in fact an Olympian, which had retired from athletics and joined the Iranian Airlines at its early inception and had become a very successful pilot over the years. Actually, my father was not born in Iran but in the former U.S.S.R and in fact he is 100% of Russian decent. My mother was born to Kurdish parents in Iran and her father was a highly educated man having self taught himself to speak French and Arabic in early 1920’s in Iran where most people did not even the ability to read or write.
I was blessed with a wonderful and happy early childhood. We traveled a lot with the family courtesy of free tickets for family members of an airline pilot and I got to see places like USA, UK, China, Japan and Italy to name a few before I even turned 12 years olds. I had no religious upbringing of any form or sort and my only spiritual influence was my devout Muslim grandmother who raised me many of days as my parents traveled and I got to see her pray the obligatory five times a day Muslim prayer every time I stayed with her.
I studied hard and was an excellent student. My parents expected excellence from me and I tried my very best to deliver. I learned how to play classical piano, became fluent in English and trained hard to play tennis at high enough of a level to qualify for the Iranian National Youth Tennis Team. I was never a rebellious child and I can say that even though I never had any form of serious religious belief, I was taught to be a moral person knowing right from wrong and I tried my very best to live in such a way as not to disappoint my parents.
But my life was about to change in a dramatic way in 1979. The advent of the Islamic revolution of Iran changed everything. I suddenly found myself living in a society immersed in religious fervor and baptized in new Islamic rules and regulations that touched on every aspect of our lives. From how we dressed, what we ate, what music we could listen to and or what movies we could watch, to people whom we could be seen or not be seen, every detail of our lives were changed radically in a few short years.
For the first time in my life I was introduced to Islam and all that it entailed whether I liked it or sought it or wanted to follow its teachings or not. For the first time I felt a sense of rebellion stir up within me as if I did not want to listen or adhere to all the things I was being told I had to do. If they wanted to cut my hair short, I wanted to keep it long. If the government required us not to wear short pants, I wanted to wear them and or if they asked us not to play music anymore (music of any type was banned by Ayatollah Khomeini for a short while in early 1980’s) I wanted to play my piano even louder. I was heading into trouble and it was just a matter of time before I would find myself behind a jail cell somewhere inside Iran.
It would have been in 1983, three year removed from the Iranian students hostile takeover of the American Embassy and the start of the Iran-Iraq war. By then I was sixteen years old, a junior in high school and desperately trying to find a way to escape the country and my inevitable and mandatory conscription into the Iranian Army. Not only I was looking at a mandatory military service my constant conflicts with schoolteachers and or authorities was beginning to really worry my parents and me.
In Iran every able-bodied eighteen-year-old young man had to serve two years in the army. The war was raging on and Saddam Hussein had decided to utilize chemical weapons over the front lines. At the same time the Iranian army was devoid of a central strategy to win the war and while desperate to push the Iraqi army out of the occupied territories it had relegated itself to “Human-Wave” attacks which naturally lead to massive casualties making the prospects of me surviving my two year stint in the Iranian Armed Forces slim at best.
I saw young men go to the front lines and never come back, and if it they did, they were severely damaged by chemical weapons or some other horror experienced in the war. Young men, with tremendous zeal and fanaticism for the Islamic Revolution and its religious iconic leader Ayatollah Khomeini, went willingly and voluntarily to the battle lines, but Iranian casualties were so high at times 10-15,000 men would die in one engagement, that there was always a shortage of able bodied soldiers.
I was certain that either I was going to get drafted and die in the war or I was going to get thrown into a jail cell, and end up in front a firing squad for constantly arguing against and or speaking negatively about the revolution and its leadership.
It was with this backdrop that I knew that I had to leave my home and that my days in Iran were coming to an end. But what was I supposed to do? All sixteen year old men and older were forbidden to leave the country until they had their discharge papers in hand and that was clearly not an option!
A Father’s Love
By this time I was constantly asking my parents to find a way for me to leave the country. The most commonly used option was overland to Turkey by the help of smugglers. But this was rather dangerous as the smugglers would use dangerous mountainous passages and could also get caught by the Iranian military and border police. Any form of military engagement would have deadly consequences for both the smuggler and the one being smuggled. To top it off, even if I was to make it to the other side of border, without a legal passport in hand I would have become a nationless refugee in a foreign land with no official identity and I was to remain there for years to get permission to immigrate to my ultimate destination which was United States of America and that was if I was allowed to go to USA in the first place.
But what other option remained?
I remember hearing my parents argue about what to do about the situations often. They were both worried about the dangers that laid ahead if I were to be smuggled and the other real disaster awaiting me if they were to do nothing and I were to be sent to the front lines of war.
It was during this time that my father decided to act upon a most radical plan in order to find a way for his son to leave the country in the safest and most comfortable way possible. His actions in the summer of 1983 to make my dreams of leaving the country a reality were nothing short of an incredible act of courage and sacrifice and the full expression of a father’s love for his son without any concern for his own well being.
My father’s profession as a pilot for the Iranian National Airline “Iran Air” and his well recognized skills as one of the most experienced pilots left in Iran after the revolution, made him an asset for the Iranian government and the one person they most often called upon to take the controls for flights that included important members of the government being taken to meetings and conferences overseas.
It was during one of these scheduled flights to an Arab country, which included the speaker of the Iranian Parliament and many parliamentary members as its passengers that my father made his courageous move.
Getting ready to take off, having lined up the aircraft on the single runway of the Mehrabad Airport, with an armed militia guard in the cockpit behind him and the who’s who of Iranian political figure in the back, my father takes the plane and blocks the runway by refusing to take off and demanding to speak to the Speaker of the Parliament (Ayatollah Rafsanjani).
Naturally a great commotion erupted in the cockpit, with the armed militia guard demanding that he take off, pulling his gun in his hands and pointing it at my father. At the same time my father starts shouting back that he will not do so, unless he speaks to the Speaker of the Parliament while simultaneously ordering his co-pilot that he is not allowed to take any action unless he as the captain is removed from his seat.
Naturally, the news gets back to the plane passengers and the first reaction is off course possible sedition or maybe an act of terror. With additional guards showing up at the cockpit and my father being surrounded by armed men, he continues to make his demand to speak to Ayatollah Rafsangani before he agrees to take off. In any other situation my father should have been arrested, sent to Evin the notorious jail in Iran and probably never heard of again, but by the grace of God who knew Him and me before we ever knew Him and acknowledged Him as our God, Ayatollah Rafsangani decides to come to the cockpit and personally meet my father! The conversation is short and to the point.
After calming down the psyched up guard inside the cockpit and telling him to put down his gun, Ayatollah Rafsangani decides to talk to my Father directly himself.
“I understand that you wish to see me Captain? What can I do for you?”
“Mr. Rafsangani, I am sorry that I had to get your attention this way, but I have been trying to reach you officer for months with no success, and this is the only time I can speak to you.” My father replies.
“Tell me captain what is it that is so important for you to cause all of this commotion here and make many of our friends very nervous?”
“Mr. Rafsangani, I have one son, and he is my only son. He is bright and very intelligent, and has a dream of studying abroad. I know that many young men are risking and sacrificing their lives fighting for the county, but please provide the permission for my son to leave legally and to pursue his studies. You don’t know sir, if you save his life today, he may one day save the lives of many of his countrymen.”
“Is this all you needing Captain? Was all of this about your son?”
“Yes Sir? Can I have your word that you allow him to leave? I am serving the nation and the country and I will continue to do so as long as I am needed?”
“Okay Captain Erfan, upon our return please come to my office and I will have the paper work for you to get his Passport and I will even grant him a governmental scholarship to help defray the cost. Now can we get this plane off he ground? Our friends are waiting for us.”
One week after this event I was sitting comfortably on a plane leaving Iran heading to my new destiny. My Fathers sacrifice ultimately cost him his job, and for a short time his freedom but it gave me my life and chance for me to live out my destiny and my calling one day.
The sacrifice of a father became life to a son.
It was because of my earthly father’s amazing sacrifice and unconditional love for me that when I was introduced to the Gospels years later and was told of the grace of our Father and the love that He has for us that I could truly understand and comprehend that love and believe in it. I had experienced it and the new life that I was living was all because of another man’s love for me.
Now, year later as I reflect on this great act of selflessness, I truly wonder how much God must have loved me and how clearly He saw my future and the calling that was soon to be placed upon me that he had to act in such an amazing way to deliver me from death and into life. He moved upon the hearts of unbelieving men to show His favor and grace toward me.
I can certainly assure you that our God is not a respecter of persons. His love for us knows no bounds and His passion for His children are endless. We are all called to great lives of destiny and no matter where you are in life, and even if you believe or not in Him, He is willing and able to intervene radically to save you, set a new direction for you, give men favor towards you and even guide every one of your footsteps with or without you ever acknowledging it.