My Father’s Heart

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By Mike Oman. Copyright © 1994 Michael K Oman.                       ISBN 1-85240-151-6
A new chapter will be posted each week.
The book can be purchased by contacting Mike here
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FOREWORD

Much of Jesus’ teaching was done through telling stories. There are very few occasions where we read in the Scriptures that he sat down and said, “OK, guys, take out your notebooks – this is point one of  “The Kingdom”.”

In many parts of the world education, history and cultural values are taught through storytelling – around the camp fire, in the home, in the village hall, or wherever it may be. The history, the traditions, the values of a people are passed on from generation to generation through storytelling. So – I’m a storyteller.

I’m not attempting a theological discourse, or a doctrinal statement: I’m not attempting to draw up a system of ideas, or a list of ways to follow in pursuit of God. My aim is to share a relationship. All of us have relationships of one kind or another in our lives and in our experience. All of us have enough of them to know that each one is uniquely different. They have to do with our character and personality, and the character and personality of those we build the relationships with: That is what it’s like with God. He has called us into relationship with him, and there is no formula, no laid down set of rules, no points 1 to 10 we can apply and have a good relationship with God. It has to do with us being real in the presence of a God who is real, so that we can learn who he is.

When God first asked me to teach about his Father’s heart I felt inadequate and ill equipped, but he challenged me to share just as much as was real from my own experience. As I pondered this, I realised I didn’t know very much at all: I had a lot of facts in my head, I’d learnt a lot of Scriptures, been to a lot of Bible studies, had heard the Scriptures faithfully preached in church every week of my childhood – but when it came to my heart, I didn’t really know very much about God. So, as a starting point, I began with a tape by Joy Dawson that dealt with five aspects of the character of God. and as I taught them, God began to open my heart to see where I had personally experienced them in my own life and walk with him. I began to realise that one of the greatest reasons I had failed to grasp a real understanding of my relationship with God, and my knowledge of Him as Father, was because I had been so intent on feeding my intellect with information about him that I hadn’t given God room to instruct my heart about himself.

What I am trusting God to do through these pages is not to invade your intellect, but to invade your heart – because that’s where relationship happens: It doesn’t matter what we put in our heads if nothing gets put in our hearts.

Mike Oman

-oOo-

A DIFFERENT KIND OF FATHER

Our relationship with our Father God is the basis of all relationships. Relationships are a progressive thing: As a child we build relationship with our parents and the strength of that relationship, together with the security, confidence, sense of value and purpose and well being that come out of it, is what affects our ability to build friendships as we grow up: To build relationships with one another through school and college and our working lives.

It’s that security that gives us the freedom to be ourselves, to embrace others for who they are, and not feel threatened by people who are more gifted or more popular than we are.

That freedom to be ourselves in relationship with one another is what gives us a protection, security and freedom to eventually come to the place where we can believe God to bring us into a marriage relationship with that one special person: A marriage that will be built on openness, brokenness and humility, and submission and commitment to one another as an expression of our respective relationships with the Lord. A marriage that will be meaningful, will last, and will be what it’s meant to be: An expression of God’s purpose for Jesus Christ and his church.

But it begins with our relationship with our father. If that one is not in place then all the others throughout our lives, no matter how hard we try, no matter how much we want them to be right, no matter how much we long for things to work, will consistently go wrong, because there are insecurities – areas of uncertainty and fear of rejection in our own lives – that constantly affect our decisions and our choices, and the way we interpret other peoples responses to us. We need to begin by having our relationship with our father in place.

God created man, breathing his life into him: Man was a part of God – he came forth from God. When we as children are born into a family, we are part of our parents – we come forth from them . God’s purpose for the family was to give us a tangible, finite expression of the intangible, infinite purpose that he has for us as the bride of Jesus Christ.

When we are born into a family we are born with expectations: Expectations of love, acceptance, affirmation, encouragement, commitment, council, care, friendship, protection, provision. We have those expectations built into us because we’re created in the image of God – we’re created not only to know him and to love him, but to know that we can draw all those things from him, and to have those needs and desires within us fulfilled in relationship with him.

It was God’s purpose that by giving us earthly parents we would experience the reality of that in a small way, so that as we grew up into him we would be able to transfer that understanding and that depth of trust and commitment to him, and begin to draw from him what we’ve learned to draw from our parents.

But something went wrong: Right back as far as Adam and Eve, when sin entered into the world, each successive generation moved a little further away from the truth that God intended to reveal through the family structure – until we reached our generation. Many of us today look back at our childhood, and say, “If what I had in my childhood is representative of God then I don’t want relationship with him”. 

We need to understand that our parents were the product of their parents, who were the product of their parents before them, and so on back – because we learn by modelling. What we learn at the hand of those who instruct us, mentor us and teach us is what we eventually pass on to others. Thus, what our parents have passed on to us, for good or bad, is what they learnt from their parents, and from their parents before them.

What God wants to do is to step into that situation and say, “Something has gone wrong. I want to redeem your understanding of who I am as your Father. I want to give you a fresh insight: I want to give you a new revelation of me, because what you’ve come to expect, what you’ve come to believe (in your heart, not in your head) is something that is distorted by your own personal experience”.

I grew up in a wonderful Christian home. I had wonderful godly parents. My father was my very closest friend throughout his life. I can’t ever remember a time when I felt isolated, rejected or turned away by my father. He was my counsellor, my encouragement, my strength. And yet in recent years, as I’ve walked with the Lord, following my father’s death, I’ve become increasingly aware that there are things about my father that I have to lay aside in order to embrace something bigger of God. Wonderful though my father was, godly though he was, he was still finite and limited – and God is infinite and unlimited. I could not measure God by my father: I could use my father as a starting point from which to move into my relationship with Father God, but I could not see him as the framework within which that relationship would work. 

Your relationship with your father may be similar to mine, but it’s very possible that its not. You may have experienced, in varying degree, discouragement, rejection, hurt, fear, neglect or some kind of abuse during your childhood. So no matter what you read in the Scriptures about the love of God – no matter how much you study the character of God and fill your mind with all the good things about who God is, and say, “I believe that’s right: That’s who he is” – when you get alone in that quiet place with him and he starts to reach out to you, something in your heart says, “Don’t come any closer”.

You have this dreadful tension within you because, with all that you are, you long to come into a place of intimacy with God – to experience all the fullness of God; to lay hold of all that he has for you in his purposes and plans for your life – and yet something inside you seems to be working in total opposition to that. Every time you take a step towards God, or he takes one towards you, up come the barriers and you resist it and say, “Don’t come too close”.

That’s something in your heart, not something in your head. It’s not something that needs you to sit down and say, “What’s wrong with me? Am I losing my salvation? Am I backsliding? Do I have unconfessed sin in my life?”. It’s none of those things. It’s just an area in your heart that needs healing, because the model you’ve been given is not the model God intended you to have.

That’s why, as you read this, it is my prayer that God will invade your heart, not your mind. He wants to redeem the model that has been planted deep within your heart: He wants to give you, by revelation, a new model.

You’re not alone in needing this revelation – we all need it: Even the children of Israel needed it. Have you ever wondered about them – out there in the desert, with God doing all those wonderful things for them: Feeding them, clothing them, giving them water, a pillar of fire by night and a pillar of cloud by day. Yet all they ever seemed to do was grumble and complain.

I couldn’t understand why they were so ungrateful. God had done such awesome things for them in delivering them out of Egypt, in providing and caring for them – and yet, consistently, all they did was to resist God’s work in their lives. I was sure that I would not have been so ungrateful if I had lived then – and God said, “But you are”.

I began to realise that the issue wasn’t one of choosing to be thankful to God for what he had done: It was something in my heart that was missing, that when things didn’t go the way I thought they should it released in me all the pent-up mistrust that said, “God, I don’t really believe you care”.

You see, that’s what happens with all of us: We come into our relationship with God, and we’re taught this doctrine of convenience that says “Come to Jesus and all your problems will be solved: Come to Jesus and life will be wonderful: You’ll have all the material blessings you could desire”. But the Scriptures don’t say that: They say, “Take up your cross and follow me”; They say we will drink of the same cup of suffering that Jesus drank; They say that we will have tribulation in this world – but we need not fear for Jesus has overcome the world.

We embrace this doctrine of convenience because there is a desperate longing in our hearts to be accepted, to be needed, to be fulfilled, to be worth something because of all the struggle and rejection and hurt we grew up with and had modelled into our lives as children. So when God doesn’t do all these wonderful things we say he doesn’t love us. This is because we don’t understand who he is.

The children of Israel went through this. For centuries they had lived under the Pharaohs of Egypt who held them captive in the cruel bondage of slavery: They owned nothing, they lived in hovels, they were poorly fed, they worked long hours under harsh taskmasters for no reward. They were without hope, encouragement, blessing or privilege in their lives at all.

Then God came down to deliver them: He revealed his awesome power through many signs and wonders, resulting in their walking out of Egypt into freedom bearing with them its wealth. They came to the Red Sea and found themselves caught between it and the army of a Pharaoh who had changed his mind about letting them go – but God opened up the sea for them to walk across, closing it in time to drown the army of Pharaoh behind them. They were a totally free people. Their old life was closed, their new life had begun, free from their enemies. And still they said, “God we don’t trust you”. 

The reason was their hearts had been filled with an experience of authority that was modelled on the Pharaohs: So they saw God as the one who brought them out of Egypt – but why? Just so he could kill them in the desert? Why didn’t he just kill them in Egypt?  They recognised that God was more powerful than Pharaoh, but presumed that all authority was, like Pharaoh, unjust, cruel and impersonal. Why should God be any different? No matter what their heads wanted to believe, their hearts were saying “We can’t trust him”.

So the next thing God did was gather all his people at the mountain. He got them all standing round the bottom of the mountain, took Moses up to the top, and we read in the Scriptures that the glory of God came down. The cloud came down; the lightning flashed; the ground shook; and God spoke as the sound of thunder from the top of the mountain.

Sometime later, in Deuteronomy 5:24, Moses said, “Do you guys remember that day when we gathered at the mountain? Do you remember that day that we heard the voice of God, that we saw the glory of God, and yet we lived?” What was the significance of what he was saying there? The significance was that Pharaoh was such an authoritarian, unrighteous ruler that, for a Hebrew slave to look upon his face meant their death because they weren’t worthy to look upon him; to pass through his shadow meant death because they were not worthy of his shadow falling on them. Yet on this occasion, the whole nation stood around the mountain and came face to face with the glory of God but he did not destroy them: They were overshadowed by the cloud of his glory but he did not destroy them.

He met them at two points that were very significant to them – it wasn’t just a happening: God was meeting them at their point of need. They needed to know that they could see him and live: They needed to know they could pass through his shadow and live, because these were two of their greatest fears. They lived in terror of ever coming anywhere near Pharaoh, but God was saying, “Come: Come unto me, all you who are weary. Come, and I’ll give you rest”. Jesus said it, but the Father said it first – on the mountain. “Come into my presence: Come face to face with me. Come under the shadow of my wing, because my desire is not to destroy you but to give you life”.

That was the message of the mountain that day for the children of Israel, and what was taking place on top was God giving Moses the Ten Commandments. You know, we tend to think of the Ten Commandments as a book of law, and that’s correct – they are. But that’s only part of the story, not all of it. What God was actually doing was defining a covenant relationship.

The Hebrews had had no relationship with authority all the time they had lived under the Pharaohs. They didn’t know what it was to be in relationship with anybody, because there was no one to be in relationship with. They had no concept of mutual commitment, of preferring one another, of social justice because everything had been stripped from them, and so God said I’ve called you into relationship with me. I’ve called you into an intimate covenant with me – you shall have no other gods beside me.

Each of the commandments was there to instruct in covenant. For example “do not kill” was not just a negative instruction, but also implied “but do everything possible to preserve life”: “Do not covet” implies rejoice when others are blessed; give abundantly, freely, joyfully. You see, God was speaking a love covenant with his people. His very first face to face encounter with his people was, “I love you. I’ve called you to relationship. I’ve called you to life, not death. I’ve called you to give you something better, something greater, something more wonderful than anything you ever experienced before. I want you to leave all your previous experience on the far side of the Red Sea, and walk into a new experience with me”. That’s what he wants to do for us.

I had two experiences, back in the late seventies, where God began to speak this into my own life.

When my daughter, Donna-Rae, was just two years old I was about to go out early one morning to pray. As I was putting on my jacket she stumbled into our bedroom. Although she was two years old, she was still wearing her eighteen-month-old pyjamas, the two halves of which had long since given up the struggle to meet in the middle, thus displaying a very round and pink tummy. The previous day her hair had been tied in two neat pigtails, but now one of them stood straight up on top of her head, and the remnants of the other fought a victorious battle to prevent her from seeing with her right eye. The finishing touch was a tiny face creased and wrinkled from sleep.

As this dishevelled but adorable bundle reached me she stopped and, without saying a word, held her arms above her head indicating that she wanted me to pick her up. So I picked her up, sat her on my lap, put my arms around her and, holding her close to my heart, loved her. It was a wonderful experience.

She’s seventeen now and bigger than she was then, but I still do it. As I do for my wife, Ros, and my teenage son, Tudor. I love to take my loved ones on my lap and hold them in my arms.

While I was holding my daughter that morning the Lord spoke to my heart and said, “Your little girl’s life is whole and complete. She lacks nothing, because she’s safe in her father’s arms. What’s going on in the world around her is of no consequence because she’s safe and secure in her father’s arms: Every need of her life is met in that place. That’s the place I’ve reserved for you – a place in my lap, in my arms”. Just as Jesus said, ” Let the little children come unto me, for of such is the Kingdom of Heaven”. The Kingdom of Heaven is not made up of theologians who have God all figured out: Its made up of little children who sit on their Father’s lap.

Then the Lord said to me, “What do you feel?”. I said, “Lord, I feel wonderful. It brings such joy to my heart to just hold this little child in my arms and love her”. He replied, “That’s the joy I feel when you let me take you in my arms and love you. But so often you’re running around trying to impress me, trying to get my attention, trying to show me you’re worth loving as my child – and all I want to do is take you in my arms and love you. The greatest joy I have is the joy of holding you in my arms and loving you as my child. Don’t deny me that joy”.

I began, that morning, to learn that my relationship with my Father God was something intimate and personal. It involved my intellect, it involved my will – but it involved my emotions as well. I had grown up in an evangelical church, and although it had never been said, there was almost an implication that you don’t involve your emotions in Christianity: It’s all a matter of right choices and knowing the truth. That’s only two thirds of the truth, because we’re emotional people as well as intellectual and wilful. If we deny our emotions we’re denying something of God in us because God is an emotional God. My Father God began to release me just to embrace him and love him as a Father.

A little while after this experience, during a Discipleship Camp we were running as part of our Youth Ministry, we split into groups for a day of intercession. During report-back at the end of the day, five of the groups shared that they had been led to pray for the youth ministry as they sensed that it was time for it to become a ‘full-time’ ministry. The remaining two groups had felt led to pray for Ros and I as the Lord was calling us into ‘full-time’ ministry. This was the word we had been waiting for from the Lord to step out into ‘full-time’ work for him.

I and the other leaders at the camp were so excited about this that we decided we would fast and pray for twenty-one days to usher in this new  season of ministry for us, and to demonstrate the sincerity of our commitment to God’s leading. The next morning, however, one of the leaders decided they were not to be part of the fast: Three days later, at the end of the camp, the other two leaders also decided they were not going to fast any longer. A week after we returned home Ros, too, decided she had had enough, and my response was, “Lord, that’s OK. If the whole world forsakes you, and it comes down to just you and me, you can count on me”. (Remember, at this point, that the fast had been my idea from the beginning – not God’s).

A further week went past, and my family and I set off on a 600 km. journey to attend a leadership conference in South Africa. I was feeling so weak from the fast that it was affecting my driving so, for safety’s sake, I stopped along the way and had a strong, sweet cup of coffee: And for the rest of the journey was filled with condemnation: “O God, I can’t even keep a simple thing like a fast – how will you ever be able to trust me with a ministry?”.

The first session of the conference, on the evening of our arrival, commenced with a time of worship, and as I stood with the other participants I was unable to worship the Lord because of my continued condemnation and self-pity: “God, I have no right to stand here and worship you. I have no right to be at a leaders’ conference. I’m a failure”.

As I struggled with this, the Lord suddenly took me into his presence. It was the most awesome experience of my life: I was bathed in an indescribable light that simultaneously flooded my whole being with warmth, wholeness, acceptance and peace – in that moment I was complete, lacking nothing in any area of my life: I knew I was in the presence of God. He spoke to me in a way that seemed audible, but was not heard by others in the room, and said, “I do not want your fast, I want your fellowship”.

As the moment passed, I sank to my knees and began to weep as God ministered to my heart. I began to realise that I didn’t have to do anything to impress God. I didn’t have to strive for his acceptance. I didn’t have to prove I was worth dying for. I didn’t have to prove I was worth taking notice of. I didn’t have to work harder than someone else to earn a little more of his time and attention. I just had to come into his presence and enjoy him. I simply needed to recognise I am who I am because he is who he is.

God created me in his image, and he gave me an earthly father who, for all his goodness, fell short of who he is as my heavenly Father. He wanted me to go beyond my experience: He wanted me to come into a new revelation of who he is as my glorious, wonderful Father God who is not only capable of, but wants to fill every longing in my heart as his child. He wants to do that for you.

Have you ever thought about the account in Luke where Jesus is baptised by John, the Holy Spirit rests upon him like a dove and  all the people gathered round hear his Father speak out of heaven and say, “This is my beloved son, in whom I am well pleased”. That didn’t happen at the end of Jesus’ ministry: It happened at the beginning of it. Jesus hadn’t actually done anything yet as far as the world was concerned: He was just the carpenter from Nazareth: He wasn’t anybody in particular. And yet Almighty God, before the gathered crowds that were there at the Jordan, effectively put his arm round his son and said, “This is my beloved son: I’m proud of him”.

You know, he wants to do that for each one of us. And each one of us need that, don’t we? Don’t we long to have a dad that puts his arm around us and says, “This is my son, this is my daughter – I’m proud of him/her. It’s a privilege to be identified as their father. I want the world to know they belong to me”?. That’s what your Father God wants to do for you.

For the remainder of this book I’m going to be telling stories about my own experiences that have helped me understand some of the aspects of the character of this God who is my Father. It is not a definitive statement on the Father’s heart – it is simply an account of some of the things I have come to know about him as he’s taken me by the hand and shared his Life with me.

My hope is that it will not just be a check list for you, but rather an inspiration to seek him out for yourself. I trust that as you read about some aspects of his character they will give you confidence to reach out and embrace those parts of his heart for yourself. As you read others you’ll realise that you have already experienced them in your own walk with him.

Most of all, it is my prayer that as you read you will begin to understand that this Father God, who first created us and then redeemed us to himself, is unlike any earthly father we ever knew – and your response will be to step away from the old, imperfect model and say, “Father I want to know you for who you really are, and not what I’ve been taught to think you are”.

So, who is this Father God ….. ?

-oOo-

One response

7 09 2016
ABRAHAM SILAS

more grace to this ministry!

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