We like to tell a lot of what we call 'God stories' at Lake Forest Church, and today I HAVE to tell you one that's between two parents and their child from this week. I used to often say, 'the way I know whether we are a healthy church or not is if I'm hearing two kinds of God-stories regularly - stories of people coming to faith in Jesus, and stories of people growing deeper, transformed by their faith in Jesus.'
For a few years, the elders resisted me. Used to working in the world of spreadsheets, they felt the need for more data. So after me telling a couple of God-stories or two, they'd feel the need to say 'yeah, but what does the data say.' Eventually we've trained ourselves to follow Hebrews 12 and Luke 15 to believe that these types of stories are the most important data when it comes to the Kingdom of God and the business we happen to be in.
The reason is that we want to celebrate what Jesus celebrates and be motivated by what motivated Jesus. Hebrews 12:1-3 tells us Jesus endured the cross "for the joy set before him" - the joy of people being reconciled to the God who loves them. In Luke 15, Jesus makes his mission clear - to seek and to save people 'lost' from knowing God. In those parables, Jesus relays his and heaven's (the angels' ) joy and celebration when even 'one sinner repents' and is found by the great love of God through Jesus. Each person who turns, or turns a bit more into the image of Jesus here on earth, is the utmost 'data' for those seeking to live 'motivated by what motivated Jesus.'
So the 'data' is in, and here's the sweetest fruit I know of this week in our community. It's from two parents, Ashleigh and Ken, applying God's Word from last Sunday in Proverbs to their high calling of shepherding their children's hearts (shared by permission - from a Facebook message on Wednesday):
I just had to share some great and awesome news with you. Ken and I have been talking with Carter (our oldest daughter, 5) about not just believing in Jesus, but following Him, and what that means. I told her to just think about it and let me know if she had any questions. Well, tonight, our sweet baby girl prayed to the Lord that she wants to follow Him and wants Jesus in her heart. I am so thankful to you and our wonderful church for leading me and Ken, so that we may in turn, lead our children well. Thanks for all you do, and all you teach and share.
"(The shepherd) calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!’ “I tell you that in the same way, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance." Luke 15:6,7
"Repent" means to turn from one direction and head in another one - the earlier in life the better to turn from self-derived, self-defined, self-sufficient life, to the life where Jesus Christ is sufficient for all. I celebrate with these my friends, Carter's parents, and I pray for their ongoing shepherding of her heart.