Anyone who knows me must feel like I sound like a broken record when I go on and on about the need for a paradigm shift in our “thinking” about how we are called to “Do” or “Be” the church. I feel like I have ached for a long time now to see a “mind” shift amongst Church leaders about the way we disciple young people. The need to re-think how we live and grow in lifelong faith within an environment of multi-generations and how to strengthe the family. While, I love the faith community I have been a part of for the past 10 years and have seen my children flourish, I still feel like Christendom has made very little shifts as a whole. I walk away from conference after conference, and church after church and find I mostly feel sad and despondent.
But this week I got to listen to Rob Rienow from the USA. He was talking to my spirit and my mind, but mostly God spoke through him to my heart. He spoke about an aspect of scripture I had never seen before and I thank God for people who listen and study God’s word and are able to stretched and inspire us.
He spoke about the last word that God speaks in the Old Testament.
“He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the earth with a curse.” (Malachi 4:6)
Just before the world entered into a time of 400 years of God being silent, these were his last words to the world. Imagine if you had one final thing that you could say to the world before you left, what would it be? Or course, there are some other key things He says before that, about remembering what He has done in the past and trusting that He will return…..but in the meantime, this is what He longed for His people…….
This is God’s heart for us all…..that we may turn toward each other and be loving, soft and gracious. To acknowledge each other, regularly, with deep, soft hearts. God could have said remember to confess your sins, remember to sacrifice animals when you make a mistake, remember to make sure you meet regularly and honour the sabbath, remember to build buildings that people can attend and worship me, remember to be very busy sharing my love because people need to know about me…….but He said …..fathers (mothers) turn your hearts towards your children and children turns your hearts towards your fathers (mothers). For where there is love and unity and in the families (my little bodies of Christ all over the world/my little Churches) , there is hope that my love will shine.
How could I have missed this…….it is a “heart” change. Here I have been talking about a “mind-set change” all these years, but just like our faith…..it must first start in the “heart”.
And then 400 or so years later the first time we here from God again in the New testament is in Luke 1:15-16.
“He’ll be filled with the Holy Spirit from the moment he leaves his mother’s womb. He will turn many sons and daughters of Israel back to their God. He will herald God’s arrival in the style and strength of Elijah, soften the hearts of parents to children, and kindle devout understanding among hardened skeptics—he’ll get the people ready for God.”
The angel speaks God’s message to Zachariah to assure him of a new thing that is being born. The angel told him that his wife will bear a son, and that he is to call him John and that he will bring a special message to the world and prepare the world for what is next to come. The angel speaks about the fact that John will prepare everyone's heart to be soft to the message of Christ……that we might hear the heart of His father, who is the father of all fathers. And the way that the message will be strong and will stay, is when the hearts of the parents soften to their children, which will help them to be soft to their father in Heaven.
What an incredible strategy that we might come to know the Love of our father in heaven, could it be that simple? What a more amazing strategy for Satan to do all he can to destroy the fathers love for his children, to encourage him to abuse that love, to be too busy to do that, to confuse the importance of the fathers (parents) soft love towards their children, to down play it, to encourage parents that it is ok for others to teach and bring their children up in their spirituality, to mis-guide church leaders (for all the best intentions) to believe that they can do a better job of that and to structure the institutional church with programs and systems that have basically left parents feeling like they simply don't know where to start.
I wonder if His heart breaks, well I know that mine does, so I can only imagine what God may feel. Yes, He is patient and kind and gracious and flexible and unconditional, but there must be sometimes when He says “really………how much clearer can I be?” The book of Malachi finishes with a “curse” , so to Him, this is serious stuff…..the matters of the heart always are.
So, in 2017, where the word “marriage” is being redefined by the world, the word “family” is almost as much a dirty word as the “church”, the idea of a ‘mother’ and ‘father’ is confused, the world looks at the Church and sees reports of abuse from the Royal commission, they see the Church filled with families that are broken, marriages with the divorce rate as high as those who don't walk in faith, leadership that is male dominated and yet many who are absent from their families and kids….is it any wonder we are not seeing a “mind-set change”. It is because we all need a “heart" change.
I like to Imagine…… a Church (household / faith community) where the fathers (parent) heart is turned towards to the child and the children’s heart is turned towards the father (parent)! That would mean that we would need to be together often, to really know each other, that we would all be other centred and soft to differences and diversity. It would mean that our time, our resources, our focus, our daily activity would be focused on whatever it took for each other to grow and feel loved and accepted. In that environment God would be able to draw us closer to Him, and those who don't know what that is like would be drawn to this expression of love. Their “hearts” would be soft.
I have been convicted yet again….that my language my have been not helpful all these years. I have been reminded, if God can change our “hearts”…..our “heads” will follow then finally we might begin to see the paradigm shift we so desperately need. Forgive me, from today I will continue to pray about a “heart" change for us all.
By Tammy Tolman