Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Losing Heart? What’s missing?

(I wrote the title and the next 2 posts a week ago and have prayed much over whether I should just leave it in my heart or actually publish it. We are currently at the Wilds Youth workers conference and I sat and briefly shared my burden with our dear pastor (Jim Ogle) who I treasure as a mentor, and then sat under an incredible message that touched on much of what my heart was yearning with. I am burdened, and yes this is my passion and something that God is working in my heart about, and after last night He very clearly showed me that it was okay to share. It is LENGTHY! I tried to cut it in half so you will have to come back tomorrow to read further. Friday I am going to just copy the notes from my favorite preacher Morris Gleiser from Luke 15. My heart has been rejuvenated and I am excited to see what the future holds.)

Over the years the Lord has truly given me a heart for young people. I know that He began this passion and heart when I was in junior high, but it has been wonderful to look back at all the opportunities God has given me. Last week I was saddened by MANY situations and the Lord allowed these circumstances of the now and the past to rekindle that flame for loving as Christ desires of me.
You know those moments when you are super sensitive in an area because of past occurrences or trials God has placed you through? Remember those feelings you felt and how you never wanted to be treated that way again or feel that way ever? And, you would never wish those hurts on any other?
I grew up in situation upon situation where young people ran from Christ as soon as they could get away. I watched kids whose homes were grounded in God’s Word and whose parents seemingly had it all together. I know that each individual has a choice given to them by God and there is no excuse or blame that we could place upon any or situations, BUT, may I say there is something missing? There is something missing in Fundamental Baptist circles. What? you might ask, let me share my heart with you on an area that I am continually seeing is lacking in ministries and homes around the globe. I sat and poured my heart to my hubby last week and he patiently listened. And, after I finished he smiled and said, “that’s an accurate observation!” Guess it just got us really thinking and very burdened; burdened for youth leaders, parents, and anyone and everyone who profess to be a child of God.
The Lord gave me a burden for unsaved, tough, un-churched kids, and rebels early in life. I remember loving going on door-to-door visitation as a young teenager. I thought it was the greatest thing that one could do! What an adrenaline rush I got when I could give the Gospel to people who had never heard. And, I watched so many people come to church. It was awesome. It was NO credit to me, but something that I watched the Lord grow me in was---the love of Christ. I have indeed not been perfect and have many ways in which I must continually grow in this area. But, God used some key moments and tough situations to rejuvenate in me the need for having the love of Christ.
I remember a pivotal situation that changed my thinking in reaching young people, children, and adults. When I was 15 I was door-to-door visiting inviting kids to Vacation Bible School with one of my little sisters. We had been out for quite some time and we were so hot and hungry. We had knocked on dozens of doors but had not had any good visits and we were pretty wiped out. Ever get that prodding by the Holy Spirit to keep going? On that hot July afternoon the Holy Spirit prodded me to go to the next door even though we had turned back to leave. That door would not only change my life but the life of an entire family! We knocked and were met at the door by a young mother, twins in arms and a little girl at her side. The husband was there too and we sparked a wonderful conversation and invited them to church. To make an incredibly long, and often hard story short, this entire family came to church, got saved, and became faithful members. They had a heart for souls and LOVED telling others of what Christ saved them out of---drugs, alcohol, and so much more.
Why do I mention this? And, what does it have to do with my topic---the Love of Christ? Well, there is this mentality amongst Christians that the tough cases, the rebels, the druggies, runaway teens, and more are a waste of time. When I started a bus ministry for the hispanic and troubled kids in our home town I was told multiple times that I was wasting my time. I was told that I wouldn’t win many and my time, energy, and money was being lost to kids who really didn’t care. I felt alone in that ministry often and I watched others treat these kids (souls) like they were second rate and they weren’t important enough to invest our time and money in.  Honestly, friends, I knew going into bus church each week that I wasn’t going to win any of those precious children. God was going to have to take care of their future and He knew each one of them and what they needed and the directions they would take. He held them in His hand. Yet, He could use a bit of us to impact these sweet souls for Jesus. I am so thankful for my siblings who had a heart for these kids too and faithfully served with us each week. We had an average of 10 kids a week and we watched many make professions of faith. We LOVED singing with them, teaching them new songs, and telling them about the Love of Christ. But, there was something that I know was only God’s grace---they saw that we loved them. We loved them for who they were. We realized that they needed to change and grow in Christ, BUT, we also knew about their rough homes due to visiting and many conversations and “bus” rides. No, I do not know of any entire families that got saved through that particular ministry, but I received a letter from one of those sweet bus children that was so faithful for the 8 years that we served in bus church. He told me that he was sorry for all the times he was naughty and that he was thankful that we picked him up each week and loved him despite himself. He then told me something that made me cry, not from sadness, but from joy. He said, “Molly, I got saved in bus church and ran from God as a teen, but God forgave me and I am off to Bible College to prepare to be a missionary!” That young man has taken survey trips to different countries already and is faithfully serving God.
Can I say, it was so worth it!!!!!!! Even if I had never heard from any of those young people, my motive nor my thoughts were not to win them all. It was not to see 100% lasting fruit. It was not to change their lives and make their homes perfect. Yes, I wanted those for these kids and I would have loved to do it all for them, but in all reality, I knew I couldn’t do any of that. But, God has commanded me to love as He loves and I wanted that ministry to reflect just that and leave the rest in the Lord’s hands. Indeed it was not perfect and there are things I wish I had done differently, but it is exciting to even now see how God used this time in my life. Last Sunday our pastor preached an incredible message (as he always does). He told a story of a teen in his youth group over 20 years ago. He never saw lasting fruit, nor was he always encouraged, but he received a letter from that young lady just last year stating her thankfulness to him and his love. She told him that her and her husband were serving the Lord faithfully. May I just add….they that sow in tears shall reap in joy!! I am finding that to be so true.
Where am I going with this? Well, the here and now, I guess. I have encountered several situations of late that have me on my knees begging for God’s guidance, but most importantly, His love for those that quite honestly seem hard to love. I have often found that it is harder for me because I never know how much of this stems from my personality. He has shown me that, yes, I am very much relationship oriented, but He also has shown me that this is a serious problem amongst believers.  I have begged God to show me and help me to be honest and willing to change if it is I that is lacking His love for others.
Growing up I watched kids run from God, which was so sad for me to watch when they were my friends, my very close friends. But, my friends, you know what made me sadder? The way “godly” Baptist adults, parents, and teens then treated those individuals. The way they talked about them amongst themselves and often even in public made me sick. It was then that I felt my heart drawn more toward those kids. Not that I became buddy buddy, but I knew there was more to the Christian life that just “winning” all our kids to Jesus and them going in the direction you believe and know is best. Is our goal in life not supposed to be to bring glory to God? Do you think shunning the runaways and despising the rebels is bringing glory to our loving Lord? Be honest, it’s disgusting!!! I often would sit on the swing out back and cry. I’d cry for these kids to at least see God’s love in and through me if nothing else. Maybe I wouldn’t see them make a profession of faith, but maybe one day they could look back at a few individuals who willingly invested in their lives and loved them in and through their rebellious days too. It’s hard to watch even current situations of young people that seemingly have thrown it all away and have no cares for the Lord. But, might I cautiously say, sometimes I don’t blame them. There, I said it. No, I am not excusing their sin at all. And, yes I HATE their sin so very much. But, I often watch the attitudes and the lack of love from those who at one time seemed to really care about these kids. You know, when they were “spiritual” when they were involved and “lovely?” It’s easier to love them then, isn’t it? The mindset that “we will win some and lose some” is true, I know. But, I do not believe the Lord wants that to be our continued thoughts or perspective in ministry. If it is, I think we are missing the mark and not showing the love of Christ. Because, when that becomes our mindset we begin to act accordingly. We quickly jump on the sinner and are disgusted not only with their sin but their being too. It’s easy to watch a rebel and be disgusted and talk down to them in every way. We joke about them in a way that is disdainful and judgmental. They aren’t stupid, folks. They see right through us. You know what they see? They see an authority figure who calls themself a Christian and is hypocritical in this way. They hear our under breath comments about their bad attitude, flirting, pulling people down, annoyance, and much more. They watch us treat them differently than the rest, they feel our “hatred” or dislike for them in general settings. They say, this is Christ? If so, I want nothing to do with Him!
Boy, I am so thankful that my Heavenly Father doesn’t love me in the way so many Christians love one another!
stop by tomorrow to read some more…