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A while back, I wrote about never-ending to-do lists, and how there will never be a day in this life when everything will be or feel finished. I mentioned that I haven’t quite figured out how to cope with this, except perhaps to allow that tension to fuel my desire for heaven.
Recently I’ve been reading the book Crazy Busy by Pastor Kevin DeYoung. I ran across a paragraph that really hit home and got me thinking about busyness in a whole new way.
DeYoung talks about how Jesus, too, was a very busy man. Maybe he didn’t have kids to take care of and a house to clean, but he did have a few things vying for his time and attention. Like, for instance, every sick and hurting person in need of healing wherever he was, the thousands of followers who awaited his teaching every day and the other large group of people who wanted him dead.
You could say Jesus had a pretty long potential to-do list, and every reason to keep going and going without ever stopping. How could he possibly take a break when there were always more people to heal and more truth to teach? But even Jesus knew he couldn’t just keep going, keep doing, keep meeting other people’s needs, without taking time away.
“And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed. And Simon and those who were with him searched for him, and they found him and said to him, ‘Everyone is looking for you.’ And he said to them, ‘Let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also, for that is why I came out.’” (Mark 1:35-38)
DeYoung notes how amazing it is not only that Jesus takes time away, but also that when the disciples come looking for him, he says simply, “Let us go somewhere else.” He doesn’t run down to the people who have been looking for him, many of whom are probably in need of healing. He says, “Let’s keep going so I can preach elsewhere, because that’s why I’m here.”
DeYoung puts it this way:
“Jesus understood his mission. He was not driven by the needs of others, though he often stopped to help hurting people. He was not driven by the approval of others, though he cared deeply for the lost and the broken. Ultimately, Jesus was driven by the Spirit. He was driven by his God-given mission. He knew his priorities and did not let the many temptations of a busy life deter him from his task.” (Crazy Busy, Kevin DeYoung)
Jesus was on mission. He knew why he was here, and while part of his mission was to help people, he didn’t get sidetracked from his mission by the expectations of others. He knew what his purpose was, and he kept that at the top of his to-do list, always. He didn’t do things because other people expected things of him; he did things because he was called to do certain things, and because he was driven by the Holy Spirit.
Now, obviously our mission as Christians is not quite as clear-cut as Jesus’ was. But we can, however, know what our priorities and general mission should be as believers and followers of Christ. And this can and should color everything we do.
This week in Sunday school, we talked about what our mission as disciples of Christ is. And while these verses certainly aren’t exhaustive, I think they are a great summary of how we are called to live.
The first passage is what we call The Great Commission, which Jesus gave to his original disciples before he left them for the last time.
“’Go therefore 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 observe all that I have commanded you.” (Matthew 28:19-20)
And what has Jesus commanded us? This is how he answers the Pharisees:
“And one of the scribes…asked him, ‘Which commandment is the most important of all?’ Jesus answered, ‘The most important is, Hear O Isreal: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:29-31)
We may have specific callings on our lives, but above all else, we are called to bring people to Jesus, to teach each other his ways, to love him and to love one another. These should be our priorities, and everything else should come second. If anything is distracting us from these things, it would behoove us to reevaluate our priorities.
Another thing we see Jesus doing here is resting, and spending time alone with God. Even Jesus needed rest, and even Jesus needed time with God. If we think we can go without either of these, we are sorely mistaken. These are not simply icing on top of the cake once we’ve finished all of the important tasks. These are musts if we are going to live the life that God has called us to live.
A while back, I wrote about teaching my children about Jesus, and mentioned that I wanted to reach out to other mothers for advice. The first person I asked was, naturally, the leader of my new moms’ Bible study at church. I invited her to share with me and my readers some of her thoughts on teaching our children about Jesus, and what she returned to me was so much more beautiful than I ever imagined it would be.
Susan has such a generous and humble spirit, and she is truly an encourager. I love that in this post she releases us from the burdens we may feel about our responsibility in our children’s faith journeys. As she reminds us, we are not THE ONE, God is THE ONE, and we can rest confidently in that truth.
Our church has a lovely tradition of conducting baby dedications throughout the year during the worship service. It’s always a heartwarming moment – the proud parents standing with our pastor at the front of the church, holding their cherubic babe in their arms, usually with some or many family members standing alongside them. Sometimes the baby is a newborn and sometimes the baby is more of a toddler. Always always, the baby is dressed to the nines, which adds to the complete adorableness of the occasion.
The basis of this meaningful rite of passage is the parents’ wish to dedicate publically their precious baby, a new image bearer, unto the Lord. Pastor Jim will quote Proverbs 22:6 “Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old, he will not depart from it.” He will also mention this is the first commandment that comes with a promise.
Photos are taken, prayers are given and hearty applause is offered as this freshly anointed family unit walks off the platform.
I often wonder if these new parents get into their cars, travel home and say to themselves, “Sighhhh…that was so nice…wasn’t that great…wait, what? Train up a child in the way he should go…and just how do we do that?!”
It is every believing mother and father’s desire to do just that. It’s at the top of their unwritten, lengthy job descriptions. And yet, in this age of modern parenting, we either feel completely ill-equipped from lack of knowledge or are over-burdened from an avalanche of instruction, advice, articles, books and the latest research. Too much noise, not enough wisdom.
As the mother of three school-age daughters with one entering middle school in the fall, I have been that wandering parent in the wilderness of “how.” I know where I want to get, I just don’t know how to get there. And, as a bible study leader of new moms, I am deeply compassionate of their burdens and concerns, and recognize the burning, innate hunger for practical wisdom that is grounded in timeless truth.
Here are some things I am both convinced of, and convicted by:
First, as a godly mother, there is no right way nor wrong way in teaching your children about Jesus.
Second, you don’t have be a theologian, have 100 scripture verses memorized and be able to quote C.S. Lewis before you can teach your children about Jesus.
Third, you don’t have to be perfect, do perfect, or sound perfect.
Fourth, it’s less about your ability and more about the faithfulness of God.
“All your children shall be taught by the Lord and great shall be the peace of your children.” (Isaiah 54:13)
In the very early stages of pregnancy, my husband and I spent a lot of time becoming educated about pregnancy, delivery and early childcare, and of course, made herculean efforts in preparing for each little baby (well, less and less with each child). We had a vision and we had a plan.
I am a little embarrassed to realize and admit that we had zero plans for how we were going to raise our children for Christ. Plenty of cute dresses, stuffed animals and nursery décor. Zero thought or preparation for practical teaching about Jesus. You could officially say we were winging it.
Despite our ignorance, misplaced priorities and rookie attempts, the Lord was and is at work in the young, tender hearts of our children.
I saw it in their budding recognition that God made the sun, flowers, trees, rainbows, butterflies and themselves
I saw it in their innocent awareness that God hears their prayers.
I saw it in the small, easily unnoticed ways they would attend to the hurts and needs of other friends.
I see it now, in the way God is using them already, to be a light in this world and be His hands and feet. Small, but mighty.
It’s in our nature to feel overwhelmed, confused and completely inadequate for the task set before us – we’re in charge of growing God’s Kingdom Builders, after all
We’re not the first…
“Then Moses said to the LORD, “Please, Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither recently nor in time past, nor since You have spoken to Your servant; for I am slow of speech and slow of tongue.” The LORD said to him, “Who has made man’s mouth? Or who makes him mute or deaf, or seeing or blind? Is it not I, the LORD? “Now then go, and I, even I, will be with your mouth, and teach you what you are to say.” (Exodus 4:10-12)
We’re not the One…
“Now may the God of peace…equip you in every good thing to do His will, working in us that which is pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever and ever.” (Hebrews 13:21, abbreviated)
If we can take off the spiritual Superhero Parent cape and remember who is actually the true Victor, we can sigh with relief and offer empty, sticky, formerly clenched hands of faith to the One who is faithful to lead us, equip us and meet us in every moment of “training up our child.”
Thank you Susan for your wonderful words of encouragement for me and any parents reading this post!
POSTED IN: children, Christianity, Faith, Jesus, motherhood, Mothering, Parenting, teaching, Teaching Children
POSTED IN: children, Christianity, Faith, Jesus, motherhood, Mothering, Parenting, teaching, Teaching Children
Having a child comes with a bundle of worries that never even crossed my mind before I became a mother. Is my baby eating enough, when will he sleep through the night, why hasn’t he gotten his teeth yet, shouldn’t he be crawling? And that’s just in the first night months or so. In the two and a half years I’ve been a mother, none of these concerns have slowed down. In fact, they’ve multiplied.
I don’t know if it’s always been like this, but I get the feeling we are living in a culture that worries way too much, way too far into the future for our children. I find myself wondering how the food I’m feeding my seven month old will affect her health for the rest of her life. And I’m not giving her donuts. We’ve barely strayed outside the bounds of fruits and vegetables.
My son is two and a half and I catch myself deciding what sport he’s going to play in college because he seems to be athletic. I pore over his school reports and wonder whether he is on track with his peers. Should he have known his ABC’s when he was two? Do all the other children already count to 20? Will he even get into college?
I’m bombarded from all sides—doctors, the Internet, other moms, well-meaning friends, the Today Show—about the things I should be concerned about for my children. Their development, their health, their education, how much money they make when they grow up, how to make them “successful” adults. And so far, I’ve drunk the cool-aid, ticking off these boxes in each new stage of their lives, to make sure I’ve set them on the right track. But is this really what should be my focus?
As a Christian, should these things matter? Yes, and no. Obviously I plan to care for my children in every way possible, to raise them to be healthy, happy, educated individuals. But above all else, I have been called as a mother to care for their hearts. It is my duty as a parent to teach them about Jesus, to teach them how to be like Jesus, and to prepare their hearts to know, love and follow Him.
If I do nothing else as my children’s mother, I want to teach them about Jesus. If they receive nothing in their lives, but receive Jesus into their hearts, I will have done my most important job in raising them. First and foremost, I want my children to be lovers and followers of Jesus, and if they succeed at nothing but serving Him, I will be satisfied.
It’s easy to let all of the outside noise drown out what I believe is important. Because let’s be honest, most of the noise that surrounds us is not telling us to focus on Jesus. In fact, most of the noise tells us to focus on things directly opposed to Jesus’ desires for our lives. Money, success, power, safety, security…we are not called as Christians to desire any of these things, nor are we promised to receive them. So we have to be intentional about keeping the noise out and directing our lives, and our homes, around Jesus.
I don’t know yet what this will look like for my family, except that I know it starts with Jesus being the center of my own life. I can teach my children about Jesus until my face turns blue, but if they don’t see that He is real in my life, those words will be empty. So right now, while my children are young, I’ll tell them about Jesus and sing about Jesus and read about Jesus, but most importantly, I’ll make sure that Jesus is the rock upon which I stand.
“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. And these words which I command you this day shall be upon your heart; and you shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. And you shall bind them as a sign upon your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. And you shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” (Deuteronomy 6:4-9)
POSTED IN: children, Christianity, Faith, Jesus, motherhood, Parenting, Raising Children, Teaching Children
POSTED IN: children, Christianity, Faith, Jesus, motherhood, Parenting, Raising Children, Teaching Children
Life gets heavy sometimes.
Of course we all know this. Heavy things happen. Loved ones die. Terrorist attacks happen. Illness strikes. Relationships are broken. Life is hard.
But I’ve begun noticing recently a different way life can get heavy, especially when you live in close community with others. Life can get heavy even when things are going fine in your own life, if the people around you are suffering.
As Christians, we are called to bear one another’s burdens. Throughout Paul’s epistles he makes clear that we are to live for one another, to serve one another, to pray for one another. This week at Bible study we are studying James 5, in which he tells his readers the following:
“Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.” (James 5:13-16)
This is encouraging, that we can pray for one another and be healed and forgiven for our sins. But I find that it can also feel like a burden, the need to pray for those among us who are suffering, especially as the list gets longer and longer.
Last week, between what my husband was dealing with and the things going on in my friends’ lives, I just had this realization of, “Wow, other people’s burdens get really heavy sometimes.” I felt burdened by what was happening in the lives of people around me, and not in a good way. And then I realized, I’m not the one who is supposed to carry my friends’ burdens. I was never meant to take their burdens, place them on my own back, and attempt to walk with that weight. It’s my call, as their friend and partner in Christ, to bring those burdens to Jesus.
“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)
“Cast your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved.” (Psalm 55:22)
When we are heavy laden, no matter why, Jesus calls us to come to Him. The only reason we can bear one another’s burdens is because we are merely helping our friends bring them to the feet of the cross. And once there, we can place those burdens there, lay them down at His feet, and trust in His sovereignty. We still carry them, but we have a place to set them down, and we have Jesus to help us along the way.
And we have another helper too:
“Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.” (Romans 8:26-27)
We are weak, even in our prayers. But God knows that, which is one reason He gives us the Holy Spirit. We don’t need to worry about what we say in our prayers, whether we are praying for the right things, using the right words, being holy enough, using proper theology, and so on and so forth. Where we are weak, He is strong, and the Spirit himself intercedes for us…according to the will of God. Praise Jesus for that.
Does this mean we shouldn’t feel the weight of life’s burdens, be they ours or someone else’s? No, and we can see in Jesus’ own life that God himself feels the weight of our burdens. It is no easy task, walking through life and its hardships, whether we attempt to do it alone or decide to do it in community. But Jesus wants us to bring those burdens to Him, and trust in his ability to carry them for us, because He loves us, and because it brings Him joy to bear our burdens.
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:1-2)
This Christmas was all about Santa Claus for Shook. It was the first year we could explain it to him and have him somewhat understand the concept, and it was pretty exciting. We had a great time telling him about the presents Santa would bring, where he lived, how he would come down the chimney, how he would get lumps of coal if he was bad (just kidding, that comes later).
But you know what I realized in the midst of all of this Santa stuff? It was really easy to tell Shook about Santa. He was everywhere, and everyone wanted to make sure he knew all about him. It was not nearly as easy to tell him about Jesus.
Santa is easy. Hey buddy, do you like presents? Well, Santa is a big guy in a red suit who brings you lots of presents on Christmas. Do you want to meet Santa? Well, he’ll be at every event and shopping center we attend over the next month, so you’ll be seeing a lot of him. They talk about him at school, they talk about him on TV shows, he’s everywhere.
Not so easy with Jesus. He doesn’t bring you presents, he isn’t at the mall, they don’t talk about him at school, Daniel Tiger doesn’t mention him. Christmas, this holiday that was begun to celebrate Jesus, has started to overshadow Jesus himself. Even in Christian homes, it’s all too easy to focus on family and decorating the Christmas tree and getting and giving presents, adding in Jesus almost as an afterthought.
A couple of days before Christmas, I tried to explain Jesus to my two year old. We were sitting on the back porch, and I told Shook that Christmas was Jesus’ birthday, and that he was God’s son, and he was sent here to save us. But when I tried to explain to my toddler what Jesus came to save us from, I got stuck. He doesn’t know what sin is. I started to try to think of some analogy from his life that would make sense, but I was at a loss. So I kind of gave up.
Then my husband, the pastor, came outside, and I asked him to try to explain Jesus to our two year old. And HE got stuck too! He started trying to analogize it to getting in trouble and going to time out and Jesus taking away time out…he was close, closer than I was, but by that point my son was way more interested in his Thomas the Train than whatever his crazy parents were trying to explain to him.
And there it was. Jesus is hard to explain. And not just to two year olds. I can barely wrap my head around Him at times, so why would it be easy to explain Him to our children?
So what do I do? Well, I could keep trying, which I have been. The other day in the car he asked me “Where’s Jesus?” and after some hemming and hawing I finally said something along the lines of “Well, He’s everywhere…He’s with us all the time, He keeps us safe, and He loves us…” I later asked Marshall what he would have said and his response, in classic pastor form, was a (jokingly) self-righteous “Um…sitting at the right hand of God the Father Almighty? Obviously.” As you can see we still have some work to do.
But you know what else I’m going to do? I’m going to ask other mothers. I don’t think we were made to parent in a vacuum, and we certainly weren’t meant to teach the gospel in a vacuum. So I’m going to reach out. I’m a learner, I love gathering knowledge. This is what I did with pregnancy, childbirth, sleep training (the myth, the legend…), you name it, I’ve read about it, asked about it, read about it some more.
I don’t know yet what this will look like, but I hope to find some way to translate what I learn to you, through the blog.
Tell me what you think – is this something that is hard for you, teaching your children about Jesus? Something you are interested in learning more about? Something you have been successful at? What resources have you found about this subject? I would love to know your thoughts as I begin this little research project!