Friday, February 8, 2019

Discounting Your Children



"When they arrived, Samuel saw Eliab and thought, "Surely the Lord's anointed stands before the Lord.  But the Lord said to Samuel, "Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him.  The Lord does not look at the things people look at.  People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart."  -1 Samuel 16:6-7

When my oldest son got into his preschool years, we started getting feedback from teachers that he was behind developmentally.  As a parent we typically see nothing but the amazing things our child is doing as he or she grows, and how "brilliant" they appear to be for their age.  But then reality can sink in when they are grouped with other kids, and teachers who have seen hundreds of kids come through their classes see their strengths and weaknesses, and paint a more realistic picture.

Year after year, we had somber meetings with teachers and staff, as they expressed concern over our son's development, both academically and socially.  He was held back in kindergarten, and even then his scores were lower than average.  I had always done well in school, so this whole experience was foreign to me.  I was just happy to see him get a passing grade on a test, much less an A or B.  Instead of eagerly anticipating reports from school on his academic and social achievements, I was relieved if we didn't hear anything for a period of time, because no news was good news.

One night a few years ago, as I was thinking about my kids' futures and resigning myself to my oldest son's mediocrity (at best), God said to me, "Don't discount your son.  I have special plans for him too!"

It was both an encouragement and admonition as I realized that I had discounted my son. It didn't mean I loved him any less or that I wasn't going to do everything I could to give him the best life possible.  But I had given up hope for a bright future based on how the world saw my son, and I had accepted it.

Thankfully, his Creator, the One who gave my son life and an exciting future filled with a powerful destiny and amazing adventures, never discounted him.  As much as a parent can (and should) have a positive influence on a child's life, and God wants us to steward our children well, He doesn't need us to fulfill His purpose for our children.  We can look at examples of people from all walks of life, with both good and bad parents, easy or hard situations, come into God's purpose for their lives because of the individual relationships they pursued with God, and more importantly, God's pursuit of them.

Since that message from God, I'm happy to report that my son is doing great in school, and socially with many friends, as he is developing into who God created him to be.  And last year he asked to be baptized and accepted Jesus as Lord!  I can't say that I'm doing much if anything to contribute to his current success, so I know that God is at work in my son in ways I'll never know.  And I'm comforted knowing that a Father who knows and loves my son even more than I do is in control of his destiny, and I'm just here to help steward him on the journey.

I hope this message serves two purposes - first, to make sure you don't discount your children. If you see your kids the way God sees them, you wouldn't ever have a need or desire to do so.  And secondly, if you grew up in a home where your parents discounted you, or favored another sibling over you, know that your future isn't determined by your earthly parents.  It's determined by God your Father, His Son Jesus who saw so much value in you that he chose to die for you, and the Holy Spirit that is excited to fill you with His presence and guide you into your destiny as a child of the King!

"And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.  For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters." - Romans 8:28-29


-Adam Gellert
adamgellert.com 


Friday, February 1, 2019

The Dangers of Significance



This article was originally posted as a guest blog for John W. Nichols, missionary and author of GOD is HERE: Finding God in the Pain of a Broken World.  Thanks to John for allowing me to contribute to his blog!


"Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.  See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting." - Psalm 139:23-24

Let's start this blog with a quiz.  Which of these four postures of relating to God is the right one:

A) Life Under God - God is happy or mad, depending on my performance.
B) Life Above God - My way is better than God's.
C) Life From God - I want God's benefits, but I'm not really interested in Him.
D) Life For God - I have a need to be significant and to do something great for God.

(Taken from the book, "With: Reimagining the Way You Relate to God"  by Skye Jethani)

When I was first asked this question in a training session I attended at my church, I knew the obvious answer was D.  After being "activated" into more with God and experiencing incredible healing miracles, connections, and spiritual encounters, I was on fire for God. I was on a mission to tell everyone I knew about this amazing God, His Son Jesus, and the Holy Spirit that had transformed my life, and I couldn't wait to return the favor by doing important things for the Kingdom.  I was going to be a general in His army, sharing the gospel and making God proud of me.

The problem is none of these postures are correct, even the desire to live a life for God.  Because if I really searched my heart, I was motivated by what these significant accomplishments were going to do for ME, either in this earthly life or as a reward in heaven.

God's greatest desire is just to be WITH us.  And when you think about it from a parent's perspective, it makes sense. If one of my sons asked me what he needed to do for me to love him more, I would quickly say, "Nothing, I already love you unconditionally."  If my kids spent their life feeling a need to do something significant to achieve my love, I would tell them they have it all wrong  If a flawed, earthly father feels this way, how much more does our perfect heavenly Father, who gave his only Son to be with us for eternity?

Pastor Robert Morris from Gateway Church in Southlake, Texas, put it another way in a recent sermon.  He talked about the four stages of spiritual maturity:
  • Give Me
  • Use Me
  • Search Me 
  • Make Me
Our earliest stage of faith involves prayers that look more like wish lists.  Our relationship may look like that of our young children, who from my own experience are constantly asking me to buy them things.  Even though the second stage, Use Me, may appear to come from the right place, this is the same stage mentioned above; we are asking God to use us so we can be significant, and have an impact that's motivated more by selfish ambitions and desires. It's only by moving to the stages of Search Me, and finally Make Me, that we learn to totally surrender to God's will and direction for our lives, and realize that freedom comes from releasing ourselves from the pressure and human desires for significance and importance.

It's also important to note that being at various stages of spiritual maturity is not an admonition that you are doing something wrong.  I don't criticize a two year old for what they do at that age; I just help guide them into maturity at their pace of development and do my part to accelerate their maturity where it's needed.  God's view of where you are in your walk is no different - He wants to see that you are making an effort to grow in maturity, and will step in to guide you when it appears you need help.

It's human nature to focus on ourselves, reinforced by the world's view of having to do something important or significant to achieve success, to be liked or admired by others, or to have a following.  Fortunately for us, we can be free of this pressure and released from the dangers of significance by surrendering to God, making Jesus the Lord of our lives, and allowing the Holy Spirit to guide us into spiritual maturity.  Chase after the heart of God, and you'll find the only thing of real significance - relationship with Him.

Make it count, leave a mark, build a name for yourself
Dream your dreams, chase your heart, above all else
Make a name the world remembers
But all an empty world can sell is empty dreams
I got lost in the light when it was up to me
To make a name the world remembers
But Jesus is the only name to remember

And I, I don't want to leave a legacy
I don't care if they remember me
Only Jesus

From the song "Only Jesus" by Casting Crowns

-Adam Gellert
adamgellert.com