Raising World-Changers, Part 4

I have two teenagers. One is about done growing. The other, my son, could go another four or five years. When he is in one of his growth spurt patterns, his boundless appetite becomes the axis on which the rest of his life spins. He and the fridge become one, and the rest of us try to not get in the way. How is it possible that one can put away an entire steak dinner with all the sides only to be ravenous an hour later? I am not the first mother to ask this, nor will I be the last. Nonetheless, it defies all reason so I have to say it.

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled” (Matthew 5:6, NIV).

Just like the human body has a natural appetite for food, so too does the soul have an appetite for God, that elusive “something more” that R.C. Sproul talks about in his book The Soul’s Quest for God. 

“Nothing can be in the heart that is not first in the mind. Our hearts cannot be inflamed about something we know not of. Unless we know God deeply, we cannot love him deeply. A faint understanding of God is enough to begin the heart to stir. Emotions my be kindled by the slightest acquaintance with the majesty of Christ. But for that spark to rise into a consuming and lasting fire, our knowledge of him must increase. To know him is to love him.”

How I want my kids to be inflamed with a passion for God and all that a life with Him encompasses. But again I ask, how can I make this happen? Like everything else, I believe the answer lies first with me. Am I preoccupied with God and the knowledge of Him? If so, do my kids see that in me? Do I present Him as worthy of their time and energy? Is the pursuit of righteousness perceived as drudgery to them, a set of rules and restrictions? As usual, I have more questions than answers, more conviction than clarification.

A couple of thoughts come to mind. First, promoting an environment conducive to desiring God is a good place to start. I read an article recently in an online Christian publication arguing for the need to take back our time at home with our kids and spouses by turning off the television and unplugging for a few hours. I couldn’t agree more, but what a challenge. There is very little on television that promotes morals and nothing that champions righteousness.

Second, we’re all slaves to something. We will spend our time doing something. Why is it when a friend calls and asks us to go out for coffee that we jump at the idea without thought, but when God asks for just a few minutes of our time each day the excuses as to why we can’t possibly give Him that just pour out without effort? Paul talks about this very thing in Romans 6. 

“Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one you obey—whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you have come to obey from your heart the pattern of teaching that has now claimed your allegiance. You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness” (Romans 6:16-18, NIV).

I have to ask myself, what am I a slave to?

Third, Jesus promises that a hunger and thirst for righteousness will be filled. There is nothing more frustrating than being thirsty to the point of being parched and the only thing to drink is hot coffee! What I have found is that when I am in a place spiritually where I am hungering and thirsting for God and His righteousness, the fulfillment He brings is beyond explanation.

When my teenager is looking to fill the hole in his stomach, sugary snacks are only going to take him so far. What he really needs are vegetables and protein. A diet of substance will carry him much farther and help him avoid the inevitable crash of a diet consisting of nothing but junk.

Everywhere I look I see people demanding rights that they are convinced will complete them and bring wholeness to their lives. What I wish for them and for my kids is for the ability to see and understand that no one will ever love them more than Jesus, and no one can bring the lasting fulfillment that only He was meant to bring. A pursuit of God to the dying of everything that threatens that is the only way to live. It’s our job to model this concept to our kids. They see the world’s way of searching for fulfillment. Someone has to show them God’s way.

M.I.A.

Just a quick note to explain my M.I.A. status. I have just returned from a week in Oklahoma with a stellar group of 8th graders doing mission work among the Choctaw Indians as well as work projects at Native American Bible Academy.

When I left for this trip I fully intended on posting about three times while there. However, all WiFi is not created equally. It took two days to get the last post up, and I barely made it before the whole thing shut down again. I figured I was fortunate to have one post up for the week and left it at that.

As it turns out, meekness seemed to be the theme of the week. I saw it in our kids in situations I didn’t expect them to have to deal with from people older than they who should have known better. I was so proud of them, but I was struggling to find that elusive quality in my own heart and attitude. Once again I have come  to the conclusion that the study of the Beattitudes is as much for me as it is for my kids. We can’t teach what we don’t know.

Now, I’m laying here with a fever, a cough rivaling that of a seal and lungs that are searing in pain. So once I get myself together we will barrel through the rest of the Beattitudes. Thanks for your patience.

Raising World-Changers, Part 3

“Blessed are the meek for they will inherit the earth” (Matthew 5:5, NIV).

One of the hardest jobs for me as a mom is teaching meekness to my kids. I am anything but meek so teaching it to them is a bit tricky. Meekness denotes humility, another lost art in the human race. Our natural inclination is to stand up for our rights, defend ourselves, speak up. Again, if we look at Jesus’ example we find the exact opposite of what we would do. Every time I read the encounter He had with His accusers just before His crucifixion, I can’t help but think to myself, Stand up for yourself. Say something. Though Christ’s meekness was part of a greater plan for our redemption, it is also the greatest example of how to handle adversity.

“Meekness is the power to absorb adversity and criticism without lashing back.”  John Piper

When we exercise the attitude of meekness, we are claiming nothing for ourselves. We give up our rights, wholly depending on God for our defense. That’s a hard one. I remember I used to tell my son he’d better never start a fight, but if someone else started one with him he’d better finish it. I wanted my son to be the one standing. It makes perfect sense coming from the mouth of a mom who would do anything to protect her kid, but it’s completely unbiblical.

In my mind the opposite of meekness is being a doormat. I get all weirded out thinking if I’m meek and mild I’ll get walked all over. I don’t want that for me and I certainly don’t want it for my kids. Why should they have to take a backseat to someone else or lay down their opinions on the altar of someone else’s? But meekness plays off the idea of being poor in spirit, completely dying to yourself, your whims, your will and submitting to that of Christ. When I look at people who model this characteristic, they are the ones I really want to be around and not so I can boss them around. There is something about this quiet humility that is so appealing to me. When compared to the my last-man-standing attitude, it’s easy to see which is the better choice.

If our kids want to stand up for something, the gospel is what’s worth their defense. Isn’t that what it’s all about? It goes back to why are we here on this earth? Is it for the accumulation of good things on earth to make our existence here more pleasant? Is it to get what is “due” us? Is it for the purpose of standing up for our rights?

As I’ve said so many times before, I’ve come to realize that my sole purpose on this earth is to honor God with my life. In doing that, my perspective shifts off of myself and onto Him. I defend one thing and one thing only, the gospel. That’s the ultimate goal. I’m not there yet, but I hang onto the promise that He who began a good work in me will complete it.

In light of raising a world-changer, the practice of meekness comes slowly. I’m fighting against the culture, the ego-centricity of my kids, the life they want over the life they’ve been called to. The key, I believe, is to once again turn their eyes to Jesus constantly reminding them of the fact that He has a plan for their lives, one specifically designed with them in mind. But to grab hold of it requires a dying of self. They cannot have both.

His promise of inheriting the earth, I believe, is a life of peace on this earth despite what’s going on around us. For the future, this promise is refers to the untold blessings of eternity with Him.

“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.”

Raising World-Changers, Part 2

If I was writing a book with the same title of this blog series, the first line of the first chapter would read something like this:

“If you’ve opened this book hoping for a five-step program that will guarantee that your kids will grow up to love God and serve Him with all of their hearts, if you’re hoping for a formula that will guarantee the desired outcome, that is, kids that “get it” at age 13, if you’re looking for a promise that you will get the kind of kid that others will marvel at by simply following these simple steps, then please, close this book, place it back on the shelf and walk away. This book is not for you.”

When I decided to write a series on raising world-changers, I was responding to what I believed was the prompting of the Holy Spirit (and still do by the way). Experience has taught me that telling him “no” is a bad idea. I jumped at the idea without much thinking or stewing. Had I known the journey that this particular series would take me on, I would have still obeyed but probably with a bit more fussing. Okay, alot more fussing.

I really don’t know what I was thinking other than the fact that I knew the Bible was the best place to get parenting advice. It’s not that I thought I would have a bunch of advice to give you, the reader. Why would I? I’m neck-deep in this parenting thing. I guess what I was looking for is what so many of us are looking for: a formula for raising kids that will guarantee they turn out the way I’ve envisioned. Like most people, I am a results-oriented person. I want to know that if I’m going to put the time into something and experience ANY amount of grief or hardship over it, that I will get the results I’m after. Maybe I’m the only mom out there naive enough to believe that this applies to parenting. Whatever naivete I started with has since been stripped away, and once again I am acutely aware of my deep need for divine intervention from the only person who loves my kids more than me, Jesus.

It’s this coming to the end of ourselves and acknowledging our need for Christ in the first Beattitude that laid the groundwork for the rest of them. The second one is no less difficult. Mourning our sins and the sins of those around us is the absolute antithesis of what we see in our culture.

In our house just getting each of us to own up to the simple fact that we’ve done something wrong is a feat in and of itself. Forget mourning over it. That deep lamenting that caused the prophet Isaiah to say in regards to his sin, “Woe is me! for I am undone” (Isaiah 6:5, KJV) is unthinkable! Admission of guilt takes humility, and humility is a lost art in the human race.

I can’t help but think of Peter. His enthusiasm for Jesus deserves admiration. He spoke before thinking walking on the water before realizing what he was doing. He was adamant about who Jesus was and insisted despite the Lord’s warning that he would absolutely not betray Jesus.

And then there it is in Matthew 26:75,

“Then Peter remembered the word Jesus had spoken: ‘Before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.’ And he went outside and wept bitterly.”

I don’t know that this was a turning point for Peter or not. What I do know is that it is the first time we see the intense mourning over sin in his life. What follows later on in Scripture is a man who changed the world, the very person Christ would use to start His church.

The point is, understanding our deep depravity to the point of mourning over it, is yet another step that will enable us to go deeper in our walk with Christ to the point of influencing those around us.

So how in the world do we “teach” this concept to our kids? When my kids were little I taught them all kinds of things: how to potty train, how to suck milk from a straw instead of a sippy cup, how to count to ten, say their “abc’s” and spell their name. But those are skills. Anybody can learn a skill, and most people can teach them. This other, now that’s a different story. Now we’re getting into heart issues, and there is no formula for making this happen in another person.

Two things come to mind giving me relief from the overwhelming task of raising kids to love Jesus.  First, in the words of Elizabeth Grant, it starts with us. We may not be able to control the hearts of our kids, but we can certainly control ours. Parents are the first line of defense in the war for their kids. We set the tone of our homes.

“Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them upon your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the door frames of your houses and on your gates.”

It’s our job to introduce them to Jesus and teach them about Him. It’s not the church’s job or the job of friends and relatives, a youth pastor or anyone else. Having these allies at our disposal are great, but they’re simply reinforcements.

The second thing I’ve learned ties in so well with the first. In a conversation with someone recently on this very subject He reminded me that we have an ally, the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit wants the hearts of our kids even more than we want Him to have them. Again, the pressure is off. It’s our job to foster the environment for the Holy Spirit to work. It’s His job to work.

I will never forget the first time I came face-to-face with the ugliness of my sin. Unfortunately, it wasn’t all that long ago, and it was over a sin issue I hadn’t really struggled with up to this point. It came out of nowhere, and not only was I embarrassed in front of the Lord over it (as if He wasn’t aware of it until I told Him), but I was horrified. It brought me to tears because I realized that the nails that pierced the hands of my Savior were done so because of that sin and all the others that I commit on a daily basis.

We can’t make our kids come to this realization, but at least we know how to pray specifically for them. My prayer for my kids is Psalm 51:17.

“The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise” (NIV).

Raising World-Changers, Part 1

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3, NIV).

When I was a kid reading the Beatitudes, they weren’t something that seemed all that desirable. Why would I want to be poor in spirit? It sounded like someone who was bummed out or depressed, and Jesus was calling this person blessed. What in the world? Of course, that was a total misunderstanding of the verse. The following versions put it this way:

“God blesses those who are poor and realize their need for him,” (NLT, italics mine).

“You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule” (The Message, italics mine).

“humble, who rate themselves insignificant” (Amplified, italics mine).

“those people who depend only on him” (CEV, italics mine).

“those who know they are spiritually in need” (ERV, italics mine).

“those who recognize they are spiritually helpless” (GW, italics mine).

“the humble-minded” (Phillips, italics mine).

The descriptions above are of someone whose total dependence is on God. A person who realizes they are nothing and have nothing without Him is a person set on a course to change the world. It’s basically the gospel, and it’s no accident that Jesus put it first in a list of eight attitudes that we should be fostering in ourselves and in our kids. It lays the groundwork for all other work that God desires to do in us, making no space for arrogance or allowance for self-sufficiency. Without this basic acknowledgment of our need for Him, we’re just like everyone else in the world wandering around trying to do life on our own.

The most amazing thing about Jesus is that despite His divine nature, He was still fully human giving us the perfect examples throughout Scripture on how to do humanity well. His most significant example of His own dependence on God while on earth is that moment in the Garden of Gethsemane when the anguish is palpable. Though fully God with the power to back out of the sacrifice He was about to make, His full humanity kicked in and with it an awareness that His dependence to do what He’d been born to do was completely on God.

Three times He prayed the same thing. “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will” (Matthew 26:39, NIV).

If Jesus, who is God, still needed God and was dependent on God, why do we so often think we can do life without Him? At the core of this term “poor in spirit” is an understanding first and foremost that we need God for salvation. Just as we have come to that point in our lives of recognizing our need for a Savior, our kids need to come to this basic understanding of their need. It’s in that moment of realization where we simply can do nothing without Him that everything changes. We are suddenly at a point where God can do His most amazing work, first in saving us and secondly in dealing with life and its circumstances.Though the ultimate decision belongs to our kids, it’s our job to provide the training, teaching and atmosphere that will foster such a decision. Having accepted that they are in need of Jesus for their salvation, and having accepted it, the rest of the verse is the promise that the Kingdom of heaven belongs to them.

So what does this look like in the everyday? The sooner our kids learn that God has a plan for each of their lives and that to experience it to the fullest and with the most joy despite whatever their situation they need to be fully dependent on Him, the better off they will be. So I have asked a friend to guest blog today and to share with us how she is teaching these principles to her kids in the everyday. Some of you know her as Elizabeth Grant, some of you know her as the author of the blog deadmanskipping, and some of you don’t know her at all. But I could think of no better person to speak to this subject of teaching our kids total dependence on God, than her.Thank you, Elizabeth, for sharing with us.

Let me say, first and foremost: I am a complete parental failure! I am absolutely in no position to give parental advice. When Kathryn asked me to guest write for her blog, I was honored, indeed, yet when my head returned to its normal size, I realized just how inadequate I am to contribute to a piece about teaching our children to live in total dependence on God. Even as I type, I have one child screaming his head off in his bedroom because “life is so unfair” and another child bored to tears. I lose my patience more often than I care to admit, and I secretly count down the years and days until my children will be out of the house and I can once again hear myself think. But rather than beat myself up about all of my failures, I recognize that it is good….so very good, to be weak and helpless. It’s in those frustrating and helpless states that I have no other choice but to rely upon my God to fill me and use me.

One of my favorite scripture verses is found in 2 Corinthians 12:9-10. The Lord says,

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Paul replies, “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecution, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

Seems like an oxymoron, doesn’t it? But I love this! I find myself almost being glad that I’m so incapable. I’m happy that I feel helpless. I rejoice in my weaknesses. I’m tickled when I can’t go on and don’t have the answers. Why? Because then I can lose myself in the power of Jesus Christ. He wants to completely fill every ounce of my being. And boy do I need Him. I can try and try and try, but I’ll never be good enough. Isn’t it freeing to know that we’re not supposed to be good enough? Whew! Talk about taking the pressure off of us moms! When I’m too capable, I get too prideful. Oh, believe me….I love the attention. I love being right and getting the recognition. But then something happens within my spirit. I feel dirty. I feel overwhelmed. But most of all, I feel further away from my Father. And that, my friends is all the more reason to “delight in my weaknesses.” My deepest desire is for more of Christ and less of me.

To me, this is what it means to be “poor in spirit:” It’s realizing I have a spiritual need. It’s a knowing that nothing good resides in me, apart from Jesus. I am desperate for Him….His breath, His life, His light, His power, His everything.

Now I haven’t always felt this way. This scripture came alive to me when I was 28 years old. I had a 2-year old girl and a 4-month old boy and had just been diagnosed with aggressive breast cancer. Suddenly all the “plans” I had made for the year (you know, like potty-training and having a garage sale) didn’t mean anything. Instantly my focus changed. I realized that I had nothing. Nothing. Do you know what that feels like? When nothing is certain anymore. Not my health. Not my future. What else matters? All else is trivial. I realized an important truth: You never really know that God is all you need, until He’s all you have. God is the only certainty in life. Count on it.

My children are now 11 and 9, but something happened all those years ago that will forever shape how I parent: The news was fresh. I sat in the middle of the night, rocking my 4-month old son back to sleep. Tears were quietly streaming down my face as I looked into his perfect face. I squeezed him tighter and never wanted to let him go. Never wanted to leave that moment. I wondered if I would ever see my precious baby grow up. Should I start making videos and writing letters to my children for them to view in future years? What milestones would I  miss? How do I prepare for something like this? I was a mess. Suddenly, in that quiet, dark room, I distinctly heard the still small voice of my Father speak to my heart: Let me wipe away those tears, my child. Let me carry this burden for you. Remember? You gave your children to me when they were born. I’m their Father. I love them more than you. My perspective shifted. Of course! There is truly no better parent than God the Father, my King, my Creator. My children are in good hands. They are safe. I trust, You Lord. You will watch over them and guide them and teach them. For however long they have me here on earth, please work through me. Use me. I don’t want to parent them….I want YOU to parent them. I can’t tell you the instant relief and peace that filled me from then on. Even now, I sort of find myself pushing my kids away from me and on to Christ. I remind them that I fail and I make mistakes and I may not always be there to listen to them. Even while I’m alive, I get too busy and too cranky sometimes. I want them to find all of their answers in the One who holds all the answers. I want them to know the certainty of Jesus Christ — beyond a shadow of a doubt.

Fast forward 6 years. The cancer came back. My children were 8 and 6 at the time. Now, almost 3 years after that, I have widespread cancer all throughout my skeletal system, multiple lesions in my liver and at least two tumors on my brain. It’s been a long journey. But I am praising God and delighting in my weakness, because I have seen firsthand just how true Christ’s strength is being made perfect in my weakness.

Want to raise children to be fully dependent on Jesus? Want to raise them to be “poor in spirit?” — totally and desperately in need of Him? Let me just say, “It starts with you.” When you realize that Jesus is your all and there is no way that you want any part of yourself sitting on the throne of your life, then something magical happens. By default, the Holy Spirit gives you fresh eyes. Eyes to see the world and others and relationships and life and hardships and circumstances as opportunities to die to your flesh and glorify His Name. No longer is anything about you….it’s all about Jesus.

When I’m forced to deal with many parenting issues, I wish I could say that I always turn to God. Hey, I’m human and I fail. But it’s getting easier and easier to quickly pray for wisdom in the moment, for patience and for understanding. And God never fails. He will just as quickly fill me with some supernaturally wise way of handling my children. He’ll give me words or a story or an image and a way that is just perfect to relate to my kids in that particular moment. My heart swells when I see the light bulb go on behind my childrens’ eyes. They get it! It’s amazing. To be a bragging mom here, I think my children have a spiritual maturity well beyond their years. Oh my goodness, do they still bicker and disobey and even disrespect (can you say “6th grade girl?”), but they are learning and growing and asking questions just as we all are.

So yes. Being “poor in spirit” is perhaps one of the biggest blessings we can have here on earth. The poor in spirit get to know Christ in such an intimate way. “Theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” And I’ll even go so far as to say, “Theirs is the ultimate freedom and peace here on earth.”

You can read more here about how I envision this looking like in our daily lives and here about how I tackle some of these issues with my children.

If you want to read more of Elizabeth’s testimony, you can catch her at deadmanskipping.com. Definitely worth your time.

Raising World-Changers

I want to raise world-changers. We all do, I think. It used to be that I felt jipped in the time in history God had given me to do this job. There have been more times than I care to admit that I have questioned God as to why in the world He didn’t allow me to raise my family in the 1950’s when everything was supposedly golden, when prayer was the norm in schools and not illegal, when kids respected their parents (for the most part), when the cultural worldview centered around absolutes and the existence of God. Why would He choose me, now, in the 21st century to raise kids in a culture that not only doesn’t accept God as an absolute but is hostile to those who do?

I feel a bit like Esther after Mordecai’s request that she approach the king on behalf of the Jews. It seemed like an impossible feat and one ripe for failure. But his words to Esther strike a chord with me every time I read them.

“For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14).

What a pep talk! Esther had two choices: to step out despite what reason would argue and do the thing she’d been called to do or remain silent and let the deliverance come from somewhere else. Like her, we can remain silent not stirring the pot, paving the way for a smoother ride for our kids in a murky culture, or we can parent with intention doing our God-ordained job swimming against the stream while we do it.

I so relate to Esther in her trepidation at the idea of going before the king. Though the choice to follow Christ ultimately lies with our kids, the weight of the call to raise them to love Jesus more than anything else is staggering. It’s up to us to set the example. With that in mind, I will be writing a series of posts on raising world- changers.

At first I wondered if there was a book I could read to help me better understand this concept. Then I thought about who I could pattern this idea after. Then it hit me. Jesus. (I really am slow sometimes!) In my Bible study God took me to the Beatitudes, so appropriate for the task at hand.

There will be eight posts on this subject based on the eight Beatitudes. In each one I will share what God is teaching me on the subject of raising kids to change the world for God. Obviously, Christ is the ultimate example of this. In addition to what He teaches us through Scripture, we will look at how to apply this to 21st century life using examples of everyday people living this out in extraordinary circumstances.

My perspective on parenting in today’s world has completely changed over the last couple of years. I don’t know that this world is any worse than at other times in history, and I don’t know that I’m any different from most moms in history. It doesn’t matter. Rather, what matters is that I find myself feeling so grateful to be alive right now at this time in history watching God raise up a generation of Christ-followers that will be stronger than my generation, more bold, more courageous and more in love with Jesus than any generation before. These are the kinds of kids I want to raise. I’d love for you to join me.

Why I Do What I Do, Part 3

“If we insist on keeping Hell (or even earth) we shall not see Heaven: if we accept Heaven we shall not be able to retain even the smallest and most intimate souvenirs of Hell. I believe, to be sure, that any man who reaches Heaven will find that what he abandoned (even in plucking out his right eye) was precisely nothing: that the kernel of what he was really seeking even in his most depraved wishes will be there, beyond expectation…”

C.S. Lewis, The Great Divorce

I was sitting in church one Sunday listening to my pastor talk about being radical for Jesus, living radically and that to do such required a decision to be made, the choosing of a side. He gave an example of a Civil War soldier who could see both sides of the fight. Having no desire to choose a side but still wanting to march and show his support, he got up one morning, donned the jacket of the Union side and the pants of the Confederates, took up his gun and marched down the middle of the battlefield. He was shot down by both sides. I have no idea if this story is true, but it makes the excellent point that we must choose whom we will serve.

The third point in this series of why I do what I do is this idea of choosing a side. We live in a world of choices. If you don’t like Pepsi you can drink Coke. If you’ve sworn off white bread you still have options like wheat, sour dough, Italian, etc. One of our stores here in town offers the option of returning that TV or couch you bought for something you will like better.

Our choices in the material world are endless. Spiritually speaking, we have two, and most of us at some point have attempted to have one foot in each camp. We want to follow Christ and talk about dying to ourselves, but this world offers many enticing lifestyles. It’s hard to choose. The Bible has this to say about our choice and the weight that it holds.

“Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it” (Matthew 7:13, 14, NASB).

I have to admit that these verses kind of freak me out. They really take it down to bare bones, don’t they? I have struggled with this idea of being completely sold out to God and turning my back on everything else. Don’t misunderstand. I’m not talking legalism here, but I’m realizing that discipleship requires all of me. God wants all of me not just the parts I’m willing to give to Him, and I think many of us look at salvation as mere fire insurance.  That’s how it was for me. Eternity with God walking streets of gold or eternity with satan in a lake of fire. I was seven and no idiot. The choice was obvious, and I knew and believed that Jesus was the only way to avoid a fiery eternity. What was never presented to me was this idea of a lifestyle. Let me stop here and say that this post should have been up five days ago, but I’ve been dragging my feet all week because I don’t want to open some theological can of worms. I am not preaching works salvation, but I am convinced now more than ever based on my own life and what God has taught me that we have a culture full of “Christians” headed for hell.

I’m sorry, but in not intentionally choosing God and what He calls us to we have inadvertently chosen the world. Our world is changing faster than ever and going in the completely wrong direction. We simply do not have the luxury of messing around jumping from one camp to the other. These are harsh words, but Jesus didn’t sugar coat His call to His disciples.

“Then he said to them all: ‘If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self?'” (Luke 9:23-25, NIV, italics mine).

In today’s language it could be said like this: “If you follow me you can be sure that you will be misunderstood. You will be required to trust in Someone you can neither see nor touch. You will be asked everyday to die to yourself and your own desires, and, in some cases, you may actually die just for following after Me. Of course, the upside to all of this is First Corinthians 2:9.

“No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him.” (NIV).

“On the other hand, you could go the way of the world. With this plan you will undoubtedly be in great company. Nobody will look at you funny or question what in the world you are doing. It’s clear. You are pursuing your lifelong dreams and goals, and you may even achieve great wealth and fame. Though mean-spirited, envious people may hate you for your achievements, you will also be revered and admired. Sound like a good way to go? Refer back to Luke 9.”

I heard a woman give a short devotional on the radio the other morning. She was talking about this very thing. What she said really put it in perspective for me. She reminded the listener that at best we will probably only live to be 80 or 85 years old. If we are in Christ the worst thing to happen to us on earth is the worst thing that will ever happen to us. Can we not hold on for 80 years? Even if we live to be 100, that’s nothing in light of eternity. On the flip side, choosing this life instead, living for our own desires here on earth may reap great reward, but that’s the best it will ever be.

I believe that because God is who He is, He wants us to enjoy our lives. He is the Giver of all good gifts. I also believe that because He is who He is, He is asking us to keep everything in its proper place remembering that He is a jealous God and will not share the throne of our lives with anyone or anything.