That being said, I've been thinking a lot lately about how to walk out this thing we call 'faith.' (Specifically in reference to a faith in Christ Jesus.) What does that really look like in this day of time, age, culture, etc? Do I really have that great of an influence on the 'faith' of my children? And if so, how do I maximize that influence? This is not a decision I want to make for them (as we cannot make this decision for our children, unfortunately), but a decision I want them to make because they see Jesus as a man to be loved, respected, and glorified.
And in the same turn as struggling with the faith of my own children (in whom I pray for everyday that God will allow their eyes to be quickly opened and their hearts to be quickly turned towards Him) I struggle with where youth ministry sits at this moment.
I long for the time of large numbers and great spiritual depth within the group. I long for a time where lessons were prepared and delivered, rather than now where they are only delivered on the occasional showing of students. And it makes us ask, 'what are we doing wrong?' and, 'how do we fix it?'
And it's taken months to try to figure it out, but I finally figured something out about myself. There is pride laced all the way through those comments. Assuming that I an do anything to 'fix' youth ministry is assuming that I had something to do with the large numbers and spiritual depth in the group that existed many years ago. And it's not. about. me. Sure, He utilizes us as tools and vessels to share the love and faith of Christ, but ultimately He is in the heart changing business, and though I'll still ask, "Lord, what is it that you'd have us do," I refuse to arrogantly assume that I or Aaron, either one, control a student's falling in love with Jesus or not.
And then this got me thinking as well, mostly because our good friend Adam quoted John Piper yesterday over lunch and my thoughts and his following comment both gripped me. The quote was in reference to Revelation 3:16, which is God telling the complacent 'Christians' out there, that because they are lukewarm (neither hot nor cold), that He would spit them out of His mouth. The quote was basically John Piper's definition of lukewarm: praying before meals and before bed.
You won't believe what my first thoughts were. I'm more than ashamed to admit them, honestly, but for the sake of you seeing my heart in this post, I'll share them. My thought immediately was, "Well, we do those things," as if being lukewarm was the goal to be achieved. Adam's next line stomped my thought to pieces and left me feeling more than convicted: "How many of us aren't even doing that?"
It was more than stepping on toes, and it made me stare, blank in the face, at where we've found ourselves with faith today.
A short little side story and I"ll wrap this all up: I've been also dealing with a set of scripture in Deuteronomy, in fact, pretty much the Old Testament as a whole. Something I've learned more and more here recently about the family dynamic in the Old Testament is that history was a cherished thing to these families. They were interested in their ancestry, genealogy and ultimately, what part their family played in history. Stories were passed down by word of mouth, and they were spoken of often. (Must have been much easier without televisions, cell phones, macbooks, ipods, facebook, and the 1,000,000 other distractions we have now.) In the midst of this sharing, parents and grandparents and great grandparents (come on, these people lived forever), passed on to children their faith. It was the ultimate in the, "Son, your great, great, great, great grandfather served in Pharaohs house. His name was Joseph. Let me tell you about him," kind of story. Which I must admit, with genealogy so saturated with the evident hand of God, I'd be pretty stoked to share my genealogy with my children too! And that was just the thing! Family shared with the children how they had already been a part of God's plan! Not out of duty of praying before a meal, but out of sheer passion and excitement that God had used or worked in their family evidently over a long course of time! Children could see that God was faithful, true, everlasting... GOOD! He wasn't a being to be acknowledged once on Sunday and in our sleep time before bed. He was not the good Santa Claus who we asked upon to provide us with more stuff, He was the being in whom to be thankful too, to be in awe of, to have reverence for, to boast about. He wasn't a part of life to these Old Testament believers, He was all of their lives!
And now we have Jesus to look to and what is there not to be passionate about?! What is there to be lukewarm about? Do we just not get it? Is it that much of a task for us to open up God's word to learn about and read about what God has done in the life of our ancestors? Is it too much to ask to believe in God to respond to us today? How many times does God show up evident in our own lives, and do we notice? And if we do, how passionately are we sharing it with our children?!
Who knows, maybe it's time or some other lame excuse that keeps us from passionately pursuing God with all of our hearts (to be noticed and questioned by our children), all I know is that the greatest legacy I can leave with my children is that I loved God evidently in the way I talked, lived, acted and reacted, in service and in deed, that Jesus was ultimate in my life. And as a believer, saved by the blood of Christ, forever indebted and grateful, why would I not be passionate about my Lord? My being 'hot', as opposed to lukewarm, should not be something I have to work very hard at accomplishing. Really realizing what Jesus has done for us is the thermostat... when we get it, the temperature goes up and the overflow is felt by those around us, including our children...
Deuteronomy 6:4-9 is a set of verses referred to as 'Shema' for the Jewish. It says this:
“Listen, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength. And you must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands that I am giving you today. Repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up. Tie them to your hands and wear them on your forehead as reminders. Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.
Some practicing Jews today still write this verse, literally, on their walls and in their homes to remember their ancestry, what their lives are all about. It's a point back to God and where He has brought them. It is a call to holy living and sharing based on the passion for their God and for the sake of their children. I plan on putting these exact verses in my own house for the same reason.
It makes me wonder; though God is in the heart-changing business, if we, as parents, passionately lived out our faith in such a way that our children saw the authenticity of our passion and love for Jesus, would they be more apt to show interest in it themselves? I mean how many passionate Steeler fans raise passionate Steeler children. I'd say a lot of them.
Maybe the problem isn't with our children or our students, maybe it's with us, the generation God placed before them to repeat his commands again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up. Tie them to your hands and wear them on your forehead as reminders. Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.
But yet - we pray before meals and before bed. Well, some of us do.
Maybe I'm really tired of being lukewarm.