Earlier this summer I was at a lectureship. I was struck by so much of the teaching being shared! One of those lessons that won't let me go is the idea of the tent. You've heard the phrase "Big tent, room for all". Perhaps it was in relation to politics. Basically it means that in order to have room for many people, you have to make the bar low for entry and high for removal.
Many outside the church would characterize us by what (or who) we are against rather than what (or who) we believe. Others may even go far enough to call us judgmental (and at times they'd be correct). There are so many organizations, pundits, teachers, politicians, etc. who tell us that we should shop at certain restaurants and stores or that we should vote a certain way or that we should send our kids to specific schools. They would also tell us that if we question this or choose not to, that somehow that's un-Christian of us. Or what about the attire we choose to wear to communal worship services? Or the way we worship Jesus? Or what about the attire of the preacher before us? Can Christians get tattoos or piercings? Can Christians walk around with green and purple hair or a mohawk? Can any of these be backed by scripture? There are many teachers in the church who teach that there is only one way to do many of these things, even when they aren't backed by scripture. Let's take a look at what scripture does have to say.
Flip over to 1 Corinthians 15. Here Paul challenges the church at Corinth of the most important point. This is a really good read and I encourage you to read in its entirety. However for right now let's focus on verses, 12-19.
"12 Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say, “There is no resurrection of the dead”? 13 But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised; 14 and if Christ has not been raised, then our proclamation is without foundation, and so is your faith. 15 In addition, we are found to be false witnesses about God, because we have testified about God that He raised up Christ — whom He did not raise up if in fact the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, Christ has not been raised. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins. 18 Therefore, those who have fallen asleep in Christ have also perished. 19 If we have put our hope in Christ for this life only, we should be pitied more than anyone.",
1 Corinthians 15:12-19, HCSB
Our faith loses foundation (and we are made to be pitiable liars) without belief in Christ's resurrection! It's not that our beliefs on what we wear to worship service, or what time we meet together, or how often we have group Bible study (or where). It's our belief in the resurrection of Christ Jesus.
Now let's look at another verse, Jude 1:22.
"22Have mercy on those who doubt", Jude 1:22, HCSB
Now we get to the crux of the lesson I attended. As a parent can you make room for your children to move away from some of your traditions, norms and strongly held beliefs as long as they can hold fast to the truth of the resurrection of Christ? As a point of transparency, this scares me a little. However I'm willing to let God mold me into the type of disciple who simply lifts Jesus high and let's Him handle the rest.
I'm not saying that we ignore the wrong decisions or sinful behaviors of our children and call it "having mercy on his doubt". I'm simply saying let's give our children room to grow, learn and have some doubts. Especially if they continue to hold fast to the truth of the resurrection of our savior Jesus Christ!
I heard this as an example not to long ago and thought it was super cool! You could even use this as a visual aid on the importance of integrity and actually “walking worthy of the calling to which you were called.” (Ephesians 4:1)
When you go to the grocery store to buy water, you hand the cold unopened bottle to the cashier. He or she will then scan the black and white rectangle. After this, the computer (cash register) will register that this is a specific brand and size of water along with the price of the item. Now imagine that the same bottle was empty. If we then scanned it, the computer would still register the price, brand and size. And once more let’s pretend that the bottle had been refilled with dirty water. Once again when you scan it, you would still see the same specifications on the screen (price, brand, size).
Maybe you already see the point. There are many people walking around today who if you asked, would label themselves a follower of Christ. They would call themselves a Christian. However, if you were able to cut their spiritual hearts open you wouldn’t see the living water that Christ offers, but rather the filth left behind by sin or maybe the emptiness of a life lived for one’s own pursuits and interests rather than a life lived for Christ. The best way to identify the content is not by the bar code.
Jesus offers another way to know the truth of someone’s master, and its not the bar code. Flip over to Matthew 7.
“15 “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. 16 By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? 17 Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.”, Matthew 7:15-20, NIV
Jesus here is specifically talking about false prophets who come to His children on behalf of satan trying to pull them away from Christ. He tells us to determine their validity by the fruit they are producing. So the question is, what type of fruit are you producing? Or back to our example, what’s in your bottle?
This would be an easy lesson for your kids! Depending on their age, maybe you pour them a glass of water from the good bottle. Maybe you let them collect some dirt from the backyard to put in one of the bottles and explain that our sin is dirty to God and only He can cleanse it from us. There are many directions that this lesson can go. Share it age appropriately!
I don’t know if this ever happens to you, but recently I was doing some reading in Deuteronomy and something hit me differently than it has in the past.
Let’s take a look,
“4 ‘Listen, Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 5Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength’ ”, Deut 6:4-5, CSB
In my study, I learned that this is called the Shema in Judaism. ‘Shema’ is the word that is translated here as ‘listen’. It is also the name of a prayer that has been repeated by the Jewish people for many, many generations. This Shema is also the scripture that Jesus quotes later when He is asked “What is the greatest commandment?”. I would say these “coincidences” meet together to mean something big about this scripture.
As interesting as all this is, it’s the next two verses that hit me like a ton of bricks. Take a look,
“6 These words that I am giving you today are to be in your heart. 7 Repeat them to your children. Talk about them when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.”, Deut 6:6, CSB
Right after Moses gives the children of Israel these immensely important words, he goes into raising children! One of the first times that God gives instructions about parenting, He tells us to teach them God’s ways.
As parents, we are constantly concerned about tomorrow. Young parents are consistently told to enjoy the days of potty training and scraped knees that need kisses or rolling over in the middle of the night to find your frighten toddler in your bed. The reason they are told this is because, especially in the midst of sleeplessness it can be easy to long for a new day in which the “troubles” of today are over; only to look back in nostalgia once they really are over.
Today I want to talk about tomorrow. Today we’re going to talk about legacy. I’m hoping and praying that you’re planning and preparing to leave a rich legacy to your children. However, I’m not talking about money. It is absolutely important to be concerned about your child’s financial well-being in the event that something happens to you. But I’m talking more so about your spiritual legacy. What will you leave behind in that respect?
In the portion of scripture often called the Great Commission, Jesus tells His apostles to go, make disciples, baptize and teach. This is the scripture that most people turn to in relation to the growth of the Kingdom. The expectation is that each of us is teaching and growing the Kingdom. This is your legacy!
“22 A good man leaves an inheritance to his grandchildren,
but the sinner’s wealth is stored up for the righteous”, Proverbs 13:22, CSB
Have you made plans for your legacy yet? What should you be saying/preparing for your grandchildren?
Have you seen the Disney movie Moana? It was released in 2016. Here’s the basic premise. The creator “god” was robbed. Her heart that holds the mystical powers of creation was stolen by a demi-god. Because of this theft, life was being drained from islands, trees, fish etc. Without this “heart”, she couldn’t maintain life, even to the extent that she became a monster.
I’m not simply recounting this movie for fun (though I have to admit I love it! My 3-year-old daughter and I have seen it at least 30 times). Over the many times I’ve seen this movie, it has occurred to me that though the movie is not theologically accurate there are many, many spiritual lessons to be learned here. If you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend it to you! I promise my synopsis doesn’t give too much away.
One of the lessons that glares at me through this movie is about parenting. Sometimes with the intent of protecting our children from harm, we hold them back from something to which they have been called by God or we push them in areas for which He has not equipped them. Moana’s father, the chief, as a teenager had longed to sail on the ocean. When he finally decided to sneak out and steal a boat, his best friend begged to go along. While out on the seas, Moana’s dad (he has no other name) hit rough seas and the boat capsized. This threw his buddy over into the sea, he eventually dies. With a past like that it’s easy to see why her dad wouldn’t want her on the sea.
The problem however is that the whole movie is about Moana and her calling. The ocean “god” chooses Moana when she’s just a toddler in the very beginning of the movie. We can’t allow our biases and fears to hold our children back. Just because this thing didn’t work out for you (or anyone you’ve ever known), doesn’t mean God hasn’t specifically equipped your child for that same task.
Let’s take a look at the call on someone’s life in scripture whose family probably wouldn’t have approved. Flip over to Acts 9:15,
“The Lord said to Ananias, ‘Go! I have chosen him to tell foreigners, kings, and the people of Israel about me. 16 I will show him how much he must suffer for worshiping in my name.’ “, CEV
Here we see God telling Ananias to, “GO!” place his hands on Saul and baptize him. Later in the book of Acts (after we’ve read about much of Paul’s ministry), he tells King Agrippa that he comes from a line of pharisees. Remember them? The group of Jewish religious leaders, many of whom opposed Jesus while He was in the flesh and then began persecuting His followers after He had returned back home. Paul (when he was Saul) was one of them. For the first almost half of the book of Acts he along with other pharisees sought to imprison and kill followers of Christ. But by the end of it he’s one of the prisoners being persecuted for Christ. Imagine if Saul had asked his parents’ opinion of joining up with these people of the Way? They probably would’ve lost their minds. But look at the end of Acts what Jesus says to Paul about his calling,
“15’Who are you?’ I asked.
Then the Lord answered, ‘I am Jesus! I am the one you are so cruel to. 16 Now stand up. I have appeared to you, because I have chosen you to be my servant. You are to tell others what you have learned about me and what I will show you later.’ “, Acts 26:15-16, CEV
Jesus had called Saul to be His servant! The call that God has placed on the life of my child is bigger than anything I could ever think or imagine. And even more importantly, God has a plan to move His agenda forward on this Earth. My child’s involvement in that movement is more important that what I can even see.
Lord, don’t allow me to stand in the way of Your calling on my babies’ lives. Help me remember, that its not my will but Yours that must be done. Thank You, Father for my babies!!