We Christians assume that teaching our children about Jesus and the Bible will prepare them for a Christian life. That’s a great foundation, but we must also teach our teens and young adults how to go about building a deep relationship with God, so that they will walk hand-in-hand with God throughout their lives.
Adopting these strategies with our youth and young adults might go a long way towards the engagement they are looking for today, but seldom finding in our churches. Here are eight lessons we fail to teach our children:
- That God comes first of all: that we are to love God with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength. All of ourselves: that is, the worker part of us, the student part of us, the husband or wife part of us, the single part of us, the parent part of us, the friend part of us, the leisure part of us and the hobby part of us. It takes our whole selves, conscious and unconscious to love God. If we will dedicate our whole selves to God, then we will reap all the blessings that God promises us in Deuteronomy 28 and in other parts of the Bible.
- That the church comes second. We are to join a church with like-minded people who are dedicated to God. If that church is different from our parents, it’s okay. That’s where God is calling us to be.(Remember, God comes first of all.)
- That the church is a human institution. It makes mistakes, just as its members do. As a church and as individuals before God we should be owning up to our mistakes as often as we make them. How else can God heal our shortcomings if we won’t admit them to ourselves and to others? If we won’t acknowledge our faults, we will stay in a limited relationship with God. He knows all that we are already, but our admission to him invites him in to transform us. Without an invitation he will not violate our free will.
- Beliefs are just the beginning of the Christian life. No matter what has been modeled to you about the Christian life, it is a marriage of a deep relationship with God and love flowing out of that relationship in the form of service to others. It is a partnership with God in all that we do—work/play, relationships/family and in our church community. So, stepping out beyond mere belief, first of all we must get really close to God, to have his thoughts be our thoughts, to have his direction our direction. We are to have a close partnership with God in expressing his kingdom on this Earth. He will show us the work he calls us to do and even how to do it.
- That it is normal to have doubts. That doubt and faith are constant companions. We can learn a lot from our doubts which will then strengthen our faith. If we can’t admit that we have doubts, then we are not bringing our whole selves before God. We have to acknowledge and to own the entire spectrum of belief and doubt before God.
- That there are functional beliefs and formal beliefs. The formal beliefs are the ones we espouse consciously. The functional ones were acquired by us in our childhood through the church, our parents and the culture and lie in the unconscious mind where they often drive our behaviors. They are often at odds with what we say we believe. So we find ourselves where our professed beliefs do not equal our behavior at all. For instance, I overheard a woman in my church proclaim that “I love everybody, but I don’t have to like them.” Love includes liking, spending time with, getting to know, appreciating what they’ve been through, etc. She was expressing a formal belief which was belied by her functional belief. Another example: I can profess that God loves me, but never feel loved at all. The formal belief is at odds with my own self-image(the functional belief) which is that I am unlovable. The differences between functional and formal are another area that we can lift up to God in prayer for healing.
- That to bring our whole selves before God in love, we have to accept all that we are, all that we have said and done, all that was done to us. Sometimes it takes the knowledge that God loves us for us to look at ourselves with acceptance and with truth. If I can begin to embrace all that I am, even to love myself, I am tearing down the walls that exist between me and God.
- That we each have to own our own beliefs and our spiritual life. No matter what we have been taught or what church we grew up in, we must take on God ourselves, make the religion our own. We must know the Bible and Jesus. We need to let God tell us who he is. If we take ownership in our own spiritual life, then we will reap the freedom that God brings to our lives, we will feel his love and forgiveness for us, we will find fulfillment and accomplish our purpose.
To adopt these practices as a Christian means that we will be leading a more integral, deeper life with God. We will be bringing our whole selves before God answering Jesus’ call to love God with all of ourselves. We will be a lot more self-aware as we wrestle with loving ourselves and loving God. And we will be held in God’s arms.
Maybe we don’t tell our children because we don’t follow these ideas ourselves. We are missing out on the fruit of the Spirit because we are not willing to be 100% with God. We don’t experience the peace, joy and love and patience that comes from a heart, mind, body and soul centered in God, in his goodness, kindness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. There is a delicious freedom in allowing God to direct our lives; we no longer have to carry the burdens of our lives alone. If you have not experience this freedom to be who you were created to be and to love God with all of yourself, then following the principles outlined above will surely help.
Questions to ponder over the week: Do I own my own relationship with God? Or am I just following my churches teachings? On a scale of 1 to 100 with 1 being the most distant relationship with God and 100 a complete relationship with God, where would I put myself? What would I have to do to move the needle closer to God? When will I learn how to listen to the voice of the Indwelling Spirit of God?
Blessing for the week: May we be the people of God who put him first above everything else in our lives. May we live in a close partnership with God. May we love God with all of ourselves and our neighbor as ourselves.
News from By the Waters:
All five of the videos about the Exodus story are up on YouTube, plus two more. Here are the url’s to access them:
Part I: www.youtube.com/watch?v=TKfouN0PNH0
Part II: www.youtube.com/watch?v=QyvRsnqYrdg
Part IIIa: www.youtube.com/watch?v=YZU32Y09UN8
Part IIIb: www.youtube.com/watch?v=EHqKay89kjE
Part IV: www.youtube.com/watch?v=84z7KF_uv7Q
God’s Invitation, www.youtube.com/watch?v=IOkp_-wDKFo
The Heart of the Gospel, www.youtube.com/watch?v=KJJbPKSOACc
My book, “Thy Kingdom Come!”, is up on Amazon in both paperback and kindle versions. Look under Patricia Said Adams.
If you want to read the entire post for this week, check it out atbythewaters.net/blog.html.