Disappointment and Success

My three oldest daughters applied to staff a leadership camp we’ve been involved with for the last six years.

They were turned down.

I’m disappointed.

But, as we’ve contemplated why they might have been turned down, I’ve been reminded again of what is true. Acceptance and success aren’t always based on character. Sometimes people are considered successful because they have a lot of money. Or because they have nice things. Or because they are friendly and popular. Or because they are friends with the right people. Sometimes, the gems get missed because they aren’t obvious to the casual observer.

God knows.

He knew what Israel would be looking for in a king. Someone who looked the part; tall, handsome, energetic, winsome (at least in some ways). He also knew what lay behind those good looks and winsome personality; a man without character. A man who would be led astray by the influence of popular opinion and who’s confidence was in himself rather than where it belonged. God knew, when He sent Samuel to anoint the king, what the journey would be. He knew.

God also knew what kind of king Israel really needed, even though that future king was only a shepherd, and a kind of scrawny one at that. God told Samuel, in 1 Samuel 16:7, “Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for God sees not as man sees…man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” NASB.

God said David was a man after His own heart, and he proved to be a good king. Actually, he was one of Israel’s best. And God promised he would always have a descendent sitting on the throne of Israel.

Even Jesus wasn’t that impressive, as far as world leaders go. He never owned a home, never led an army. Before He died, He lost all of His followers! And if you want to talk about impressive, you won’t be listing any of His disciples in that bunch. A rag-tag bunch of social misfits, they were anything but impressive. Yet, Jesus knew what lay in their hearts; He knew their unrecognized, untapped potential. And He used them to change the world! He knew that what mattered wasn’t what people could see. What really mattered was what people couldn’t.

Obviously, I’m a little biased about my children, and I am so proud of the young women they are becoming. I think the organization that rejected them was wrong. I also know that if my girls had needed the experience of serving with this organization, God would have worked it out. They didn’t, so He didn’t.

Instead, God is giving my precious, beautiful, amazing daughters (like I said, I’m a little biased) an opportunity to learn about disappointment, in the comfort and security of a loving home. It is an opportunity for them to “keep their crowns on”  no matter what the world tries to do, and to begin learning the definition of true success.

Advertisements

Rare Beauty

Recently, I had the privilege of attending a baby shower, celebrating the imminent arrival of a precious baby girl. It was a typical baby shower, with all the appropriate games, goodies, and festivities. Except, this shower was for a mama almost nobody knew, at a church she’d only been attending for three months, to celebrate her fourth child!

Having grown up in church, I know the drill…first babies (or the first baby born at the church, usually) get celebrated. But if you host a baby shower for every baby that a woman has, well, that can lead to problems. Some women can have several (disclaimer…I have eight living bio children, and have been pregnant thirteen times). And, well, we might miss someone!  How terrible would that be?  And it just wouldn’t be fair. So, to keep things even, and easy, we’ll just celebrate the first baby. Or maybe we won’t celebrate babies at all…just send a card and have a flower up on the piano.

Yes, I understand the reasoning behind the decision not to host a baby shower for a mama who has been blessed with multiple babies. And I understand the motivation not to leave anyone out. But I think along the way, we’ve lost sight of some very important details. First, babies are a blessing. They should be celebrated!! And where else should babies be celebrated, but in the Church?

IMG_00001142

Back to that baby shower I attended. It was truly beautiful. These women (at least twenty of them) really didn’t know the mama. They simply knew she was going to have a baby, and that she needed help. They didn’t ask why she needed help. They didn’t judge the reason behind her pregnancy, even though she is not married, and has children with two different men. They simply didn’t judge. They loved. And they loved well. One person gave a gift card for $150! Many provided diapers and wipes and other very practical gifts. Some brought handmade treasures – a gift that requires far more than just money. And, of course, she received LOTS of clothes – in a variety of sizes. A bouncy seat, an expensive car seat-stroller combination, even a swing, will be keeping this baby girl comfortable after her arrival. And all of this from women who knew little other than a young mother was in need of love.IMG_00001141

Well, let me tell you, she feels loved! She cried. And through her tears, she explained that she’d never experienced anything like that before, in her life. Her journey has been a difficult one.

This precious woman’s story would bring tears to your eyes, truly. It is not the story any mama wants for her little girl. But this story is a picture of God’s love!! Like that precious group of women at the shower the other night (most of whom I don’t know – we’ve only been at the church for three months), God takes broken, wretched, hurting people, and He showers them with love. He doesn’t limit who He’ll love. He doesn’t care about boundaries (though they are desperately needed) or consequences (though He lets us deal with them, most of the time) or stupidity (though, again, He lets us deal with the consequences). He cares. He meets us in our deepest, darkest hurt, and He loves us. And as He loves us, He heals, corrects, restores, and transforms. That is a rare beauty, indeed.

The Real Problem with America

Everywhere you look, people are wringing their hands about the moral decay in our nation. The evidence is abundant. Literally anywhere you turn you can find the consequences of moral relativism; network and online news sources blast the images of a culture going mad. Parents are killing their children, children are killing each other, armed madmen are walking into theaters and schools with evil intent, innocent unarmed people being gunned down by police who fear they pose a threat. People are sending representatives to Congress with no idea how the system is supposed to work. Police officers are cheating and stealing. Just days ago, a couple engaged in “intimate behavior” on an airplane, in front of an audience!! They were asked to stop, but just couldn’t seem to control themselves long enough to comply with requests?!

Not only are we facing serious moral collapse, but our financial house is definitely out of order. After the failed attempt to curb spending and defund Obamacare, the Congress passed a temporary spending bill and raised the debt ceiling, setting us up for a staggering seventeen trillion dollar debt (that is $17 with twelve zeros after it!) $17,000,000,000,000 national debt!! That equals more than $50,000 for every man, woman, and child living in the United States. While pundits may debate the real reason for the debt, the bottom line is, we are spending way more than we have, and at some point very soon it is going to be a problem.

Some people think the solution is to pour money into social programs. Others think non-profits like Focus on the Family (which I love) or FamilyLife (which I also love) are the solution to what ails our society. Still others think political activism and investing in political campaigns will restore our country to her former glory. Unfortunately, none of these are going to work. If they were going to work, I think we would see them making a difference in our culture over the last thirty years. We haven’t.

The problem isn’t who we are electing to public office. The problem lies with who is doing the electing. The problem isn’t with what the public schools are teaching; it is with who is determining what to teach and how. The problem isn’t a lack of funding, it is a lack of wisdom in how to use the resources available. And, truly, all of the above are simply symptoms of something far more serious.

In Deuteronomy 6, God commands parents to disciple their children. He says, “These commands that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on 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.” Deut 6:7-9 NIV.

Solomon said, by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, to “train a child in the way he (or she) should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.” Proverbs 22:6 NIV.

In Matthew 28, Jesus’ final words are very similar, though in a bit broader sense. He says “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28:19, 20 NIV.

What, you may be asking, do these passages have to do with the situation in our country. In my opinion, everything! At some point, the Body of Christ quit making disciples. We became a culture of converts instead of dedicated disciples, and in so doing, we’ve unwittingly sacrificed the future of our children and grandchildren.  The Church quit making disciples, but the evil one never did. Public schools and secular universities are pumping out graduates who do not share your worldview, your belief in God, or your view of Scripture. They believe in evolution (without any blind watchmaker or other divine director), consider the life of the unborn worthless, and are completely fine with redistributing wealth (especially yours).   They believe in giving people fish rather than teaching them to fish, and in giving people food if they are hungry regardless of whether they (or especially if they don’t) work. They embrace socialism, communism, and relativism.

You may disagree with me, and I don’t care if you do. After all, I am a missionary serving with an organization focused on evangelism and discipleshipOf course I’m going to see this as an issue. But think about it. Eighty percent (or more) of so-called Christian youth are walking away from their faith when they get to the college campus. According to recent polls only four percent of people under twenty-five even claim to have a relationship with Jesus. If we’re losing 80% of that fraction, we’re in trouble, indeed! We are losing our nation, one person at a time. And it is the Church’s fault.

To correct this path we’re on, parents need to re-engage with their children, making sure that the principles they want their children to have are instilled, and that children understand not only the principle, but the why behind it. No longer can we simply say that because God’s Word says something we believe it and that settles it. The college professors don’t care. They rip the simplistic beliefs of our children to shreds. We need to take God at His Word, and humble ourselves (ourselves, not point our finger at everyone else while we smile and rest on our laurels) and pray, and truly seek His face, and turn from our wicked ways (disobedience is wickedness, and the Body of Christ in America is not being obedient to make disciples), and wait to see the deliverance of the Lord. We need personal reformation. It can change the world. It once did, already.

The first step to personal reformation is to make sure you have a personal relationship with Jesus. If you aren’t sure, visit this page.

Next is to walk empowered by the Holy Spirit. For more information on how, visit this page, or this page. It can radically transform your entire life.

The third step is to take God at His Word and begin following His commands in Deuteronomy 6. No, we aren’t under the Law, and I’m not advocating we put ourselves under the Law. What I’m suggesting is that the timeless principles laid down by God thousands of years ago will still work. If we make God’s Word an intimate part of every waking moment, we will be transformed.

The final step is to either begin discipling or seek discipleship. If you haven’t been discipled, it is intimidating. Ask for help. (Disclaimer: I am on staff with Cru, so I have personal knowledge of what resources we have available. Other organizations also have fantastic resources. I simply am unfamiliar with what they may be). Cru is one of several organizations with a focus on discipleship and fantastic resources to help you. You can check out our resources here here, and here, or contact me via this blog.

Please, continue contributing to the fantastic organizations working to support and encourage Christian families in America. Continue working for political candidates you believe in, and contributing to political causes you support. I am not suggesting you stop those activities. I’m saying that those activities in and of themselves will not result in the changes you are hoping for. Personal reformation and intentional obedience are truly the only hope left for America.