“Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon, ‘Build houses and live in them; and plant gardens and eat their produce. ‘Take wives and become the fathers of sons and daughters, and take wives for your sons and give your daughters to husbands, that they may bear sons and daughters; and multiply there and do not decrease. ‘Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf; for in its welfare you will have welfare.’ Jeremiah 29:4-7
"Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire!"
"Mom, did you see the terrible disaster that happened in Orlando? Seems like daily there is another crisis in the news. I depend so much on my foundations to keep me steady in the midst of so much despair confronting me from secular media and culture." (This from one of my kids today.
Today, so many youth and college students regularly leave their faith behind, as they confront the world and its messages. Why, when so many good families have taken the time to build the messages and love faithfully? We are living in a time when there are battlefields on every side-morality is now relative to a person's feelings; integrity is rare, faith is soft and subject to the whims of cultural values, nuclear family is disintegrating, and foolish people are being touted as leaders.
Now is the time for us as believers to live for God's purposes, to live with eternity in mind. God has created each of us to have a part in this story at this time of history. How profoundly important it is that we take our roles as believers, parents, Christians seriously, that we might be a part of God's hands, mouth and heart to a world longing for true purpose and real grace amidst so much tension.
As I ponder this dilemma, I think there are two reasons. One is that religion cannot just be indoctrination of thought.
It must be a real, contagious message about the reality of God that captures the heart, because there are so many messages screaming out to them in media.
And the second, is that we were born for community--aunts, uncles, grandmas, grandfathers, neighbors and friends--close by and living in common purpose and belonging. All of us, young adults especially, were built for relationship--love, affirmation, encouragement, belonging. And so we must build these two components as a visual and actual reality in our lives as much as possible--even if we have to build our own community with friends or those in our lives. The Life Giving Home was a book I wrote to seek to inspire women to understand how much our homes are lighthouses in a fallen culture where we hold up and celebrate all that is good, true and beautiful for others to see.
As we reflect on the life of Jesus, we find insight for our "todays."
Dusty, rutted Roman roads were filled with clatter of wagons of market goods for sale, donkeys carrying burdens of farm vegetables, caged fowl squawking and horses mounted by menacing Roman soldiers, mulling around in the noisy marketplace of Jerusalem. And yet, it was here, in this oppressed, unknown, seemingly insignificant hamlet that a worldwide revolution would begin that would rock the world forever.
An obscure teacher, rabbi over common fishermen, tax collectors and humble women, would spark a fire in the hearts of those hungry souls that would turn the world upside down.
Those caught in the fray of mundane life longed for something more, to be a part of a life that held meaning besides grasping day to day for enough to eat, a way to pay bills.
And so, the secret, underground movement was ripe for the times in which it was birthed.
"Follow me and I will make you fishers of men."
Always, Jesus' message was about casting a vision that would capture the hearts and imaginations of men and women, their hearts were stirred and their fellowship around what gave them meaning together.
Always, always the message of Christ was missional--Go! Influence! Bring light! Redeem! Become a part of a movement of the Spirit of God blowing through the lives of people all over the world. Take over the darkness with your light--become redeemers! Still, today, amidst the mundane, hearts long to be ignited with the passion, purpose and influence that will continue to transform this world of darkness into a place of light and hope--and all of us have a part to play.
These were the transforming messages, challenges, vision statements.
And I would snuggle up on the couch, wide-eyed children squishing around me,
"Jesus has a special mission for each of you-Sarah, Joel, Nathan, Joy--to accomplish in the world. You will meet people that will need only you to be the hands, the words, the message of God's love. I can't wait to see how He uses you in your world!"
And they would wiggle, touch toes or push a little for more room, but each one heard their name associated with God's love and their story to tell, and they would shake their little heads in affirmation when I would ask, "Isn't it exciting to see how normal fisherman did miracles and helped people--just like you will do!"
Jesus's words were sending ones, purpose-driven and fitting for warriors:
""Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves." John 17:15
"I do not ask that you take them, (my disciples) out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one." John 17: 15
"Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:19-20
13 “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men.
14 “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; 15 nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. 16 Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven." Matthew 5:13-16
"When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” Matthew 9: 36-37
Will we pray for him to send our children, us, into the harvest field? Are we willing to go anywhere? Do anything? Are we arming our children with values for living for eternity and not just living for the temporal, this world, the material, that is corrupting as we live each day?
All children and all adults were made for a life of meaning and purpose. We were created to be message makers, healers, redeemers. There is a kingdom of darkness but we are people of the light and the light will overcome all that is evil, dark, meaningless and harsh. We are people of the kingdom and we are bringing that kingdom to bear every day in every act, every expression of our faith, every moment of our worship--because we have been adopted by the king!
If we find ourselves caught in mundane, boring, life-draining darkness, perhaps we have not been living in light of the kingdom purposes for which we are designed. You are not a mere human being caught in the despair of life---you are royalty, a child of the king, called to a purpose of bringing light to dark places, bringing love to the lonely and bitter of heart, of bringing forgiveness to those who feel condemned. You are announcers of a life beyond where the rule of Christ, our loving God, will rule forever and ever.
Often, people ask me, "How did your children stay strong in their faith in very worldly and in challenging places? (New York City, Hollywood, Oxford, Cambridge, Boston) Of course, I must tell you, the basis of their strength is God and I was on my knees every day, praying, teaching about Him and cultivating to the best of my ability, a life of faith.
But truly, I think the secret was that their hearts were captivated by a vision--
"Jesus has a work for you to do in this world! You are very unique and special, because you have a story to live--just like Daniel, David, Moses, Joshua, Esther, Ruth, Mary, Hannah, Abigail were all heroes in their generation, so you were made by God to be a hero in your generation.Only you can live a story worth telling, but I am so very honored to be your mom and to coach you and train you for the great story I know you will live. I am so proud of you! I love you so much!"
How will God use you, Sarah, to shape messages? Joel, to craft music for His glory, Nathan, to write movie scripts that will show greater stories, Joy to become a teacher and discipler of young women---I know that you will be bearers of light and God will use you in your lifetime as a part of the kingdom rule He is bringing on the earth.
When you capture the fire of your own significance in the kingdom of God, when you know that as a mother, you have the ability to shape generations to become powerful leaders for the cause of Christ, then that vision will fuel the energy of your life to serve Him every day, whispering the secrets of the kingdom of God. Your fire will be passed on to those who will carry on the torch of faith.
But first you must kindle the fire in your own heart so that you will pass on the fire to your children. And it is best seen in community--the family that laughs, lives, shares, invests lives and hearts around the same purpose and celebration of life, grow from mutual community and vision.
You will never be perfect and your house will never stay totally clean and there will always be more dishes, fusses, messes--but if today, you are igniting the vision, filling the heart, passing on purpose, then today, a work is being accomplished that will be your lasting glory---that you were a builder of the kingdom of God in your lifetime and you armed warriors for His cause to take over the world for His glory with His messages.
We are not called to send our children into their lives just to be moral, good people. We are to be senders of leaders who have "caught" the kingdom messages that will transform the world!
Your unnoticed, obscure home today has a capacity to be a place of revolution and redemption when the Rabbi, Jesus, takes His proper place and whispers the secrets of the kingdom through you, His ambassador, all the moments of your day. The vibrant life of your little community will capture a vision and they will become, in the footsteps of those so long ago, the ones who are light bearers in their world who will tell the story of their King.
It is in casting a vision that a heart is captured for the life-changing messages of the kingdom of God. How will you Own Your Own personal vision for life that your passion and light will spill into the lives of others?
Hope you enjoy my podcast!
See you next week in Dallas and San Diego. We can discuss these issues and more! Hope you can join me.
I have loved seeing your comments, getting your emails and notes on facebook. It keeps me and Kristen feeling like this is relevant to our friends online. Even though my life is so crazy demanding, and I can't get to every note, I do read your notes and pray for you and value every letter and message. Thanks so much for taking the time to write and to comment. It means so much.