Generations

What a privilege it was to share at the Valley Assembly Mother Daughter Tea on Friday, May 8, 2015. Below is what I shared with the ladies gathered for a “generational” fiesta. Hopefully you are blessed and encouraged as you think about how generations impact your life.

Me and my girls, and dear friend Cynde Tilton...multi-generational.

Some of the “generations” at the                                       Valley Assembly Mother-Daughter Tea

It is easy to just brush over or ignore the value of generations. Yet, we are all part of a generation, and none of us want to be brushed over or ignored.

Some of us are “Gen Xers”, some of us are “Mosaics,” some of us are “Baby Boomers,” and a few of us may be of the “Greatest Generation,” those who lived through the Great Depression and World War II. My grandmother is one of those. A war bride, she found herself a widow with a young son in 1943; she’ll be 96 in November, a widow again after burying my grandfather in 2010. My mom’s parents were married in 1933, in the midst of the Great Depression. They lost a baby due to malnutrition and knew the value of a dollar. The impact of those experiences has left its mark on at least two generations.

A great crowd gathered to celebrate mothers and daughters.

A great crowd of mothers and daughters.

Some of us have been part of a church for “generations.” Our parents attended the same church when we were small that now we bring our children to on Sunday morning. Some haven’t been around that long; you might say they are “first generation” members. Some may be “first generation” Americans…our parents were born in different countries and emigrated here for one reason or another. Some of us may be able to trace our heritage back to a president, or even the Mayflower.

We talk about “generations” of cell phones. Iphone 6, iphone 6S, Samsung Galaxy S6, Nexus 6, Nokia Lumina 830, LG G Flex2, and not to be forgotten, the BlackBerry Classic. How many people scramble to get the newest generation of their flavor of smartphone? It is crazy, sometimes!!

We can also talk about “generations” spiritually.  And each of us can trace our spiritual heritage back to a rag tag bunch of social misfits who watched Jesus ascend into Heaven. They took seriously the final words of Jesus (Matt 28:19, 20) to make disciples. If not for the faithfulness of many (mostly unnamed) faithful disciples and disciples makers, we wouldn’t be here.

We see the influence of previous generations all around us. And those generations are important. We wouldn’t be the same without them.

What a privilege to highlight what God's Word says about generations.

God’s Word has a great deal to say about generations.

Generations are important to God, too. The word “generation” or “generations” is used over 200 times in the Bible. He was especially concerned about future generations as the Children of Israel entered the Promised Land. He was very specific about what parents were supposed to pass on to their children, so they would never forget what God did when He delivered them. They were supposed to keep some manna, and the stone tablets onto which God carved the Ten Commandments. They were supposed to keep the staff that Moses carried before Pharaoh, too. But something happened. And the message didn’t get communicated. And the Children of Israel forgot what God had done. They abandoned God’s ways and eventually God did what He said He’d do; that’s why Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego found themselves in Babylon.

When Jesus told the Disciples and the others who watched Him ascend into Heaven to “go and make disciples” He had a specific idea in mind. It wasn’t just praying a prayer. It wasn’t necessarily attending church as we know it, or reading the Bible every day. It was learning to live in step with God or the Holy Spirit like Jesus did when He was on earth, and like He encouraged His disciples to do.

So, what does it mean to be a disciple? And how is it different than being a “convert?” And how do you “live in step with God”? To phrase it another way, how do you walk in the power of the Holy Spirit?

First, what does it mean to be a disciple? A disciple is a pupil or learner. In Jesus’ day, a disciple was someone who would actually live with the teacher. Paul, before his conversion, had been a disciple of Gamaliel’s. John the Baptist had disciples, as did some of the Pharisees. It was more than something they did on Sundays…it was a lifestyle.

Today, being a disciple means learning what Jesus taught, and trying to live by those principles. But first you have to actually have a relationship with Jesus.

Being a disciple isn’t just about praying a prayer. Being a disciple is about following Jesus, living the way He lived.

What does that look like every day?
It looks like living by the Golden Rule, and really applying the principles of 1 Cor 13.
It looks like letting our communication be seasoned with grace, and
Speaking edifying words that minister grace.
It looks like not borrowing trouble, and bringing everything to God
Through prayer and supplication.
In many ways, it looks impossible.

That’s the value of having someone mentor and encourage you as you seek to follow Jesus. They can help you see what it looks like.

The thing about discipleship, and being a disciple, is that the life God calls us to live is truly impossible, in our own strength. The fruit of the Spirit, the ability to love like God does, the freedom to extend grace…that all comes from the Spirit at work in our lives, not because of anything we do on our own. As the Spirit of God is free to work, we’ll see the evidence in how we interact with others. The challenge is to stay in step with the Spirit.

Unlike the song says, though, you don’t stay in step with the Spirit, or grow spiritually, simply by reading your Bible and praying every day. It isn’t like a recipe, especially if you do those things just to do them. It is more like a dance.

Unfortunately, this isn’t a magic formula. You can’t guarantee outcomes. Life is still full of challenges, and we still wrestle with what Paul calls the “old man”. We make mistakes, and we deal with other people who make mistakes. The amazing part, however, is that God’s Spirit gives us the strength to live differently (1 Cor 3:1) and we can, by learning from generations who have gone before us, how to live like Jesus, how to “be” disciples.

 

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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.

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.

Divine Appointments

Two weeks ago, I met with the catering manager at a local hotel, to look at her facility as a possible location for future events. As it turns out, she is a follower of Jesus, and very excited about what Priority Associates is all about. By the end of my tour (which included lunch, yum), she’d asked me to mentor her; we have our first meeting tomorrow!

Chris had an exciting conversation last week. He met a friend for coffee. Though a believer, this gentleman has never been discipled. Their conversation quickly turned to spiritual things, and Chris shared about how much different coaching made in the life of another gentleman who has been a believer for 20+ years. His friend said, “I want that!” So, now Chris will be meeting with him on a regular basis, to cover some basic principles and concepts that he has never learned. We’re especially excited because this gentleman is an “influencer,” and has many connections within the business community of Spokane.

Thank you for your prayers for Spokane. We are excited to see what God is doing.