Thursday, March 1, 2012

Preparing for the Resurrection

My research time on our monthly focus has been spent largely on finding age appropriate Christ centered Resurrection material and projects. We pray for our sons to know what Jesus coming back to life really means for them personally as well as what that sacrifice means about the character of God. It's gotten me to thinking who am I training our children to please? It shouldn't be themselves, society, their peers or even us as their parents. I believe God is telling me to help prepare them to listen to Him in their hearts. I realize bringing up subjects like death to a toddler and vicariously a baby is a process that will take time. I also don't want to underestimate the power of God to give me the ability to reach my children for Him.

Morals and manners are the minimum result for us as Christian parents, but it's never the goal. First, because we have no guarantees since they are individual human beings with a God given ability to chose free will. Even if we only focus on that, yes we'll instill good - remember what God said about being good- recipe for basic functioning as an adult, but second will that help them rely on God and serve His purpose when they reach adulthood? I think we'll get lukewarm Christians who attend church on Sundays to please their parents, base their identity on the current culture and hide who they really are. They will know all the correct answers and their hearts will be full of everything except Christ. They will make the good grades, go to the right college, get the professional career, marry a person with the same outlook. We can brag about how successful they are and how much they've achieved. No where in there is mention of God's goals, having a heart for Him or sharing His news nor is there any foundation to listen for the transforming power of Christ in their hearts. Statistically most children don't go above their own parents level of faith. I have to ask myself, what legacy am I passing on for generations to come? The world is waiting to influence our children with the latest fashion, food, fad, music, movie, tv shows, gadgets, new age thinking and selfish pursuit. The world will try to convince them that either God doesn't exist, didn't send His son or that He's just a novelty, an insurance plan that can be trivialized. If we are happy with outward appearance and behavior, then that is the standard for them. Correct actions with inward grumbling, complaining, anger or depression. If we live in comfort, luxury, pleasure, and fun, they will learn that is the meaning of life. If we harden our hearts, make excuses for our behavior, blame others and focus on 'keeping' rather than growing our faith, they will believe that is what it means to be a follower of the living God. If jealousy, comparison, judgement and tradition is what it means to accept Christ as their savior, I wonder will they at some point, ask what's the point??

I don't want that definition of Christianity or success. If we teach and model a living faith focused on the heart we are getting closer to Christ.  I'm asking will they have a heart for living out God's word and sharing His love? Will they fully accept and realize who God is, what He's done, why He did it? Will they know who they are in Christ and what their purpose is here? Will they recognize what the world tells them about themselves, their self worth, instant gratification, sex, money and relationships is a lie? Will they realize how precious life is? Will they know what sin is and why God allows it and how essential it is to recognize and repent of it in their own hearts? Will they acknowledge God's authority, rest in Jesus' grace and fully abide in the strength and power of the Holy Spirit? Will they have the foundation to remember that God provides every emotional, physical, financial desire of our heart? Will they see through the hollow promises of drugs, alcohol, rage, over eating, puffed up knowledge, peer pressure and impulse control? We are in a culture where the youth's primary goal is to be rich and famous. Will they see in us as their parents through our teaching and leading of our own lives to be separate from the world? Will they have a passionate relationship with the Lord that will combat the power of the media and their own selfish desires?

For example, I want to teach my sons to love each other. Why though? Is it just so they can function and be happy? Is it just to prevent hurt? Is it to make us look good as a family? Is it just to keep the peace? I want them to understand and experience the love of Christ in their hearts in every relationship in their lives. Why is love so important though? If we ask ourselves enough whys, the answer can only be God.   Love only exists because God does. He defines it, and IS IT.  Every person as a creation of Christ deserves to be treated with dignity, respect, love, compassion and prayer. Loving other people is the closest to being Christlike we can experience this side of Heaven. Putting themselves last, giving the benefit of the doubt towards some one's heart and intent, as well as forgiveness are the stepping stones to maturity in Christ. We are preparing our children not only for years they will be an adult on earth, but more importantly we are nurturing the love for Christ to prepare to spend eternity in Heaven together with Him.  I pray - parenting is calling me to that more passionately than ever- that Munchkin and Doodlebug see each other as who they are as amazing beautiful creations of Christ. It's about the heart and I'm still getting that as a grown woman much further down the road then they are. Out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks - and the hands move and the eyes focus and money is spent and hobbies are enjoyed, the choice of their language to be respecting or dishonoring, talents are pursued, people are helped and the gospel is shared. Relationships are built, habits are formed and children are raised... Nothing is new under the sun and we are here on Earth for a fraction of time compared to eternity.

 If we, in humbleness, knowing only God can grow our children's faith, meet the challenge of living out the meat of the Gospel we are holding more to the truth of the scriptures. We can't afford to wait until they are 'ready'. We can't cripple them by not trusting God with our children's faith. God loves them more than we do and He wants to see them follow Him even more than we do. I know there are no guarantees, our children are not projects nor a reflection on our worth. They are not trophies to brag about nor a source of complaint. They are human beings God breathed and created to serve a purpose for God just like us.....

Easter to me, is the meat. It's death, it's brutality, rejection and most importantly redemption. It's the beautiful messy gospel. It's the scandalous side of God's work.  Why was it all necessary? God said so. You may balk, shy away or disagree, but God didn't need our approval, our agreement or our full understanding. Where were we when He laid the Earth's foundation?  It's why it requires faith. Any excuse or alternative answer is our human desire to explain that which we aren't fully capable with out Christ. The world around us is all a result of Him and is answer once you break it down to it's origin. The original source and explanation of ALL things IS God. Satan can only lie, hide, attack or run.

The light banishes darkness, but the darkness never extinguishes the light.

I know there are preconceived notions about Lent, who observes it and why.  A little about how God has brought me to this point in my views of denominational differences. Church attendance really tells very little to others as anyone can sit in a pew and listen. Taking it to heart and applying biblical principles in our everyday lives is the real fruit of God's work in our hearts. That process is only possible by relying on the power of the Holy Spirit. My denominational experience has shown me there are faithful people in every body of believers regardless of what's written on the outside of the building. The preferences are fine as long as they are not taken so far as to judge others for having different ones. They can and do become an idol. I grew up with a Catholic mother and a Lutheran father. We were very seasonal church attenders- Christmas and Easter- of a church and I knew very little biblical truth growing up. To me the fact that we attended a Catholic church was like an adjective similar to my gender , nationality or race. I didn't chose it but somehow it was supposed to identify me.  I knew there had to be more Christianity than a label and a statement that I was one.  I was invited to go to church with a good friend when I was 16 years old. That was the first time I went and felt like I belonged and accepted. I knew there was something there in the way my friend and her family who are Lutheran lived their lives and treated each other. Up until then I didn't think anyone really lived a different life because of their beliefs. I explored several different faiths off and on for the next 10 years including but not limited to Lutheran, Catholic, Baptist and Jewish. I have been attending a Church of Christ for the last 12 years. I really understood thn that Christ desires a personal relationship with me. It wasn't until then that Jesus' death on the cross became a powerful- course altering- change my little world upside down- Wow!- I can't believe this gift is mine for the taking- event in my life. I realized how much I needed God's rules, Jesus' salvation and the Holy Spirit's strength and power. I chose to start seeing God in my past, present and future.  I say all of that to communicate that I don't have a denomination loyalty. I love Christ and anything that brings the Gospel more fully alive and deep rooted in my heart, actions and life. I pray the Holy Spirit will give me the strength to be obedient and step up to God's calling in any area of my life that He finds lacking.

Whenever God wanted to prepare someone for His purposes, he took 40 days:
 -Noah's life was transformed by 40 days of rain
-Moses was transformed by 40 days on Mount Sinai
-David was transformed by Goliath's 40 day challenge
-Elijah was transformed when God gave him 40 days of strength from a single meal
-The entire city of Nineveh was transformed when God gave the people 40 days to change
-Jesus was empowered by 40 days in the wilderness
-The disciples were transformed by 40 days with Jesus after his resurrection.

 My family wants- no needs- ongoing transformation. God is in the growing business. He made man to continually grow as well as plants, animals and trees. He's all about growth, maturity and His glory. It's not enough to know the stories and have the right facts. It's not enough to sit in a church building once a week, follow the rules, dress modestly, tithe the minimum and know the Christian vernacular to fit in. We need impact, change, passion and purpose. The rules and actions are tools to train the heart. Lent is a tool like Advent to wait. Just as use the opportunity of Valentine's Day to focus on God's love and Thanksgiving to reflect on our blessings from God, Easter is a time to grow our ability to sacrifice, give and pray. I'll share more within the next couple of weeks the specific ways God is growing us ....

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