As a momma to two little, firecracker girls, I have been thinking a lot about how to pass on to them a genuine faith and love for Jesus. Especially considering that one of them does not even like to talk to Jesus currently (palm to face).
When I look around at our Western version of Christianity, I have noticed a trend in how we attempt to build our children’s faith. In most cases, I have found that we often focus on behaviors — be nice, be kind, be generous, read your Bible, don’t be a bully — and then try to point it back to Jesus. “Be nice, kind, generous because that’s what Jesus wants you to do.” And though this way has brought about some great, moral individuals, in most of my observations, I have noticed that it does not always lead to people who are in love with Jesus or live a life marked by real faith. Now, I’m not saying we don’t teach our children particular behaviors. Of course we should do that as good, responsible parents. But we need to make one thing abundantly clear to them...
Our behaviors do not inform our relationship with Jesus. Our relationship with Jesus informs our behaviors.
The question then is how? How, for the love of all things pure and holy and lovely, do we teach our children this truth?
We show them.
But it’s not as easy as it sounds. Because for so many of us, we’ve never truly followed Jesus in this way. More often than not, we have developed a relationship with Jesus that is based on striving rather than being. And sadly, we can’t pass on something we don’t possess. And trust me, friend, I have been there before… and then stayed for a really long time.
I met Jesus a little over 25 years ago, and in all of those years I lived off the fumes and the bare minimum of what I needed in order to survive. Going from one church service to the next, one experience to the next, one blog to the next. Always getting just enough Jesus to get by. Obviously, I was no spiritual giant, though I wanted to be, but I wasn’t at the absolute bottom either. More of a middle-of-the-row Jesus follower, likened to an Instagram follower — consistently liking His posts but never actually spending personal time with Him. Or when I did spend time with Him, it was more out of obligation than pure desire. Always trying and striving to check off the boxes of “good Christian” but never feeling like I quite arrived at it.
By and large, we all mean well and are striving to do good. And that’s not a bad thing! We are constantly trying to love people more and love them better, to be more patient (which is one of the most challenging things in the world, especially in our current politically charged climate), to have joy and be a positive influence, to be kind, to be generous, to serve here and there and everywhere, to have great relationships, to have great marriages, to be better parents, to raise great kids, to be great listeners, to be a bridge to others, to be a help to others, and to look descent while doing it! We’re all trying to do it all, and we’re all EXHAUSTED.
A.W. Tozer once said, “It is a solemn thing, and no small scandal in the kingdom, to see God’s children starving while actually seated at the Father’s table.” And that’s how this constant striving often feels. But, friend, that’s not how Jesus intended following Him to be. In fact, John recorded Jesus saying, “Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:4-5).
This is so beautiful, and I feel like we often read through it quickly and miss it. What Jesus is saying, this picture He painted for us, is that following Him is simple. It’s so simple that we often miss it. We make following Him way more complicated than it was ever intended to be. Jesus is saying that He and God, they’re going to do all of the work. All of the cultivating. All of the growing. All we have to do is stay connected. We, the branches, are simply the vessels that hold the fruit that the vine has grown. That’s it.
God is going to do all of the work. All of the cultivating. All of the growing. All we have to do is stay connected. We, the branches, are simply the vessels that hold the fruit that the vine has grown.
Once this truth clicked for me, I found that
Connecting with Jesus and spending quality time with Him on a consistent basis results in less striving and more being.
I no longer have to try so hard to be more loving. I just am more loving. I don’t have to try to be more patient. I just am more patient. I don’t have to try to be more joyful. I just am more joyful. I became more aware of people’s feelings. I am more mindful of my husband and his needs. I am quicker to listen and slower to speak. I am more loving toward my family. I stopped talking about people behind their backs and actually started talking to their faces (ouch). I stopped judging people so harshly, stopped being so irritated with them, and began having my heart broken for them. My relationships were strengthened, my marriage got better, my priorities became clearer.
Now listen, Jesus is not a magic pill. None of us are perfect nor will we ever be in this lifetime. I still get frustrated. I’m not floating through life with my head in the clouds, but the Holy Spirit does make me more aware more quickly when I get something wrong, which helps me be able to make it right.
What I also found is that
When we begin to spend consistent quality time with Him, the circumstances of our lives may never change, but the way we experience them will.
We may never have that picture perfect marriage or family that we had dreamed of. We may get passed over for that promotion or raise. Nothing may change about our situations, but we’ll begin viewing them from a different perspective. We’ll begin to see things through a different set of lenses. We’ll begin to see purpose and blessings in even some of the most mundane things. We’ll be able to let go of some of our expectations and be grateful for what we have and trust in who He is. And, that right there, is life changing. To rise above a situation and see things from a different perspective other than the one that clouds our view down there in the muck - that is freedom!
And friend, that is the life He wants for you.
So let me just share a few pieces of advice regarding spending time with Jesus, because if you’re anything like me, you’ve heard this before, tried it, and still come up short. And remember, we cannot pass on what we do not possess.
Start with Jesus.
Many people want to start spending time with Jesus, so they decide if they’re going to read the Bible, they should start in the beginning. I get it. This logic seems to make sense, but if you’ve never studied much Scripture and you attempt this approach, then honey, good luck trying to get through Leviticus. In fact, let me know how it ends. The best advice I can tell someone who wants to begin reading their Bible — start with Jesus. Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John all wrote about the biography of Jesus when He was here on this earth. If you want to get to know Jesus, I recommend starting there.
Switch your approach.
In the past, I always approached my time with Jesus in one of two ways:
1) I knew as a Jesus follower that I should spend time with Him, so I would come to Him out of obligation, or
2) I needed something from Him or needed Him to do something for me.
Now I’m not saying we will never come to Him out of obligation, because we will. Discipline is a good thing, and one of the fruits of the Spirit. I’m also not saying we’ll never come to Him needing Him to do something for us. We always have needs and questions. It’s called being a human. I’m also not saying that He won’t answer us or show us things when we do come to Him in these ways. We have a good God, and He is a good Father. He won’t leave us empty-handed. However, what I am saying is that these approaches to spending time with Him never kept me coming back. Maybe for a few days or a few weeks, but they never led me to a lifestyle of spending time with Jesus out of pure delight and desire. And they most certainly never led me to a fruitful life where I stopped striving for His approval and started simply living from it.
See when I stopped seeking Him out of obligation and when I stopped seeking Him because I needed something from Him and started seeking Him because I just needed HIM - that is when transformation happened. When I began seeking Him just to know Him, my love for Him grew. When my love for Him grew, I began looking forward to spending more time with Him. And soon, I got caught up in this circle of “spending time with Him — knowing Him — loving Him”, and He began shaping my heart. And when we truly experience this, we simply cannot keep it to ourselves. We have to show all and tell all (and that includes our children), because it really is life changing. It finally clicked. I finally understood why the disciples couldn’t keep it to themselves. I finally understood why they went to their family and friends and said “You have GOT to check this guy out and spend some time with Him. Just come and see... Come and see.”
And I’m saying that to you, too. Come and see.
Maybe you’re already a follower of Jesus but like me you’ve been a middle of the row, Instagram follower of Jesus, living off the fumes of everyone around you and never filling up for yourself. Maybe you’ve been spending time with Him but only out of obligation. And perhaps, you have no desire to truly know Him in this way. What I would say to you? ASK HIM FOR IT. Seriously. I can stand here and say with complete confidence that if you ask him for the desire to know Him (just to know Him), He will answer it. I know because this is where I was just a few short years ago. I had no desire to speak to God, let alone spend time with Him. But I began saying a simple prayer that I honestly did not even mean at the time, “I want You to be the driving desire of my life.” And guess what? Over time, He answered that request with a resounding “YES!”
So what are you waiting for? If you don’t have a desire to seek Him just to know Him, ask Him for it. I firmly believe that when you look back, you will know that it was the best thing you ever did… And your children will, too.
#gabbihartzell #livalliston #livfreetoday #stayconnected #jesus #givemejesus #onlyjesus #jesuschrist #christian #christianity #christianblogger #seekhim #seekfirst #outoftheoverflow #itsallaboutjesus #allyouneed #newblogpost #holyspirit #askseekknock #justtoknowhim