Jesus Plus Nothing

Hands thrown in the air, declaring, “Yes Lord, your will not ours,” we were convinced that God’s desire was for our family to be missionaries overseas. We were ready to abandon life as we knew it, total trust in Jesus, letting go of all our plans. But it turned out that instead of Africa, God was sending us to serve not far from home.  So now here we are, two years later, parenting our three boys (Micah is ten, Skylar is seven, and Madden is four), in the inner city of downtown Phoenix. We didn’t move an ocean away but in some small way it felt like it. We went from raising our young boys in one of the safest cities in the country to living in what once was the most dangerous square mile in the city. Our boys now go to school and live life with homeless friends, people of all races and backgrounds. One thing we’ve been intentional about teaching them is that it doesn’t matter what you have or don’t have, it matters that you go and love people. When we judge people – rich or poor, we can’t love them and reach them. After all that’s what Jesus did. He came down and fully engaged culture by serving and loving the people who least expected to be loved. The Rich and poor. Then before he left in Acts 1:8 he said, “You will be my witnesses.” That’s our mission, that is our hearts for parenting our children. We want to draw nearer to his heart – individually and as a family.

God’s direction for our family today may be different from he wants for us tomorrow. Which is why we have to take it one day at a time and be obedient to what he commands which is to train up our children to love Him with all their heart, mind, soul and to go into whatever sphere of influence he’s placed us and preach the gospel. We want them to serve and love others but most importantly we want them to know Him.

I think the best place for parents to start when raising kids with this mission is simply to start reading the word and praying together. When they get older another practical way of teaching them is just by being available and keeping your eyes open for opportunities all around you. One thing that we do regularly is put together care bags and hand them out to the homeless as we see a need.  Or something that God’s been pressing on our hearts as of late is to invite over a family that believes and looks far different from us and just start a friendship with them. People generally aren’t attracted to others because they are impressed by their doctrine or by what they agree or disagree with. In John 13:35 Jesus said, “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” Love looks like humility, mercy and consideration of others.

My boys don’t always want to pick weeds for people in the neighborhood and I can’t always change their attitudes and control the chaos.  I’m not a perfect mom and my kids for sure aren’t perfect boys. But my job is to submit to the Lord and obey what he’s telling me to do and I truly believe that as they see us having a heart for others, it will also become a part of who they are. We have to raise them up by living an example of a life honoring to God. If they don’t see Him in us, they won’t want what we’re teaching them. So we model with our lives and we teach them about grace. Because the only thing that can really transform their hearts is the gospel. Our rules won’t do it. My manipulating and threatening them won’t do it. I can’t save them. My husband can’t save them. We can’t do for them what God has already done. The only thing that can make them right before God is faith in Christ. Their salvation is not in my hands. Thank God! Salvation is of the Lord. God is the only perfect parent. His love for them is not dependent on our success as mothers and fathers but on the blood of Jesus. We need to remind ourselves of that and teach our kids to know that too. When things get messy we can go together to our good father who loves us so well.

Ephesians 2:7-10 MSG “Now God has us where he wants us, with all the time in this world and the next to shower grace and kindness upon us in Christ Jesus. Saving is all his idea, and all his work. All we do is trust him enough to let him do it. It’s God’s gift from start to finish! We don’t play the major role. If we did, we’d probably go around bragging that we’d done the whole thing! No, we neither make nor save ourselves. God does both the making and saving. He creates each of us by Christ Jesus to join him in the work he does, the good work he has gotten ready for us to do, work we had better be doing.”

This life isn’t always comfortable or where we’ve ever dreamed of being. I often struggle with juggling the elements of parenting, being a wife, urban missionary, business owner, etc. and I go through seasons feeling like I have nothing to offer. But this Christian hippie (as our community group likes to call us) deep down knows that God didn’t send his son to die so that my life can remain the same.  I’m not alive to just survive, we’re here to shine! I have to constantly renew my mind, change my perspective and remind myself that nothing has to change in my life and I’m ok. I may not always know what the heck I’m doing, but every single day is an opportunity for God to display Himself to us. I get to encounter him daily when we’re out serving and loving the least of these like He said to. We don’t just learn more about Him from a curriculum but by doing we experience HIM in the process. One of my favorite preachers Dan Mohler always likes to say, “I didn’t wake up to be loved by you, I woke up to love you.”  God comes to us in our mess and sets us free! I don’t need to ask him to please meet my needs, bless my kids. When we seek God for how our families can bless others, meet others’ needs, fulfill His goals, then my kids are blessed and our needs are met because all we really need is Jesus plus nothing.