From John Mellencamp to Whitney Houston and from Nazareth to Your Town

PRAYER OF CONSECRATION

Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you. 

Jesus, I belong to you.

I lift up my heart to you.
I set my mind on you.
I fix my eyes on you.
I offer my body  to you, as a living sacrifice

Jesus, I belong to you. 

Praying in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, Amen. 

Luke 2:39–40 (NIV)

When Joseph and Mary had done everything required by the Law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee to their own town of Nazareth. And the child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was on him.

CONSIDER THIS

When I read a text like today’s I want to cue John (Cougar) Mellencamp’s famous song, “Small Town.”

Well, I was born in a small town
And I live in a small town
Probably die in a small town
Oh, those small communities

Jesus was born in a small town (Bethlehem). And he lived in a small town (Nazareth). By today’s standards, he died in a small town (Old Jerusalem). But praise God he didn’t stay dead long! He is risen! And he’s living and moving in small towns (and big ones) everywhere. 

It’s what happened in those hidden days in that small town that matter more than we can fathom. 

And the child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was on him.

So what happened in those first twelve years? His parents didn’t train him in how to be God. No, they raised him to be a good, kind, loving, respectful, patient, noble human being. And not only his parents, but the surrounding town and notably the ordinary, everyday, God-fearing, people-loving men and women of the local synagogue. 

Our churches, no matter how small they are or big they become, must become like small towns again—especially when it comes to our children. And that’s precisely what must change—the meaning of “our.” We must lay claim, not just to the children of the members of our churches—but to every child in the community. They are all our children. It will begin with the sub-soil through the mighty plow of prayer and fasting. Then will come extravagant sowing and the long cultivation. 

Our aim? We want our children to grow up just like Jesus did—And the child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was on him.

Here’s the vision. As the clock strikes midnight on January 1, 2025, the first members of Generation Beta will be born in every town and city across the land. What if we could be there to welcome them?1 What if our little (and big) churches could start planning and working now (a full two years ahead of time) to be ready for them; not to invite them to church but to “become church” where they are and for their sake? What if we could show up with a plan; ready to encourage their parents, to meet their real needs, diapers, casseroles, helping with first-second-and-third birthday parties and presents, taking down names and needs to pray and fast for the long haul, to become a conspiracy of the strength, wisdom, and grace of God all around them?2 Just what if . . . ? I think it would please Jesus. And I’m certain he would be there with us, cheering and leading the way, shouting something like,

“Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 19:14, ESV).3

Now I want to cue Whitney Houston, . . .

I believe that children are our future.
Treat them well and let them lead the way.
Show them all the beauty they possess inside . . . 

You can take it from there. ;0) 

THE PRAYER

Our Father, we keep praying that the eyes of our hearts may be enlightened in order that we may know you better, that I might become truly humble; which is to awaken to the person you imagined when you fashioned my inmost being and that I might rise up into the real life for which you created me. Forgetting what is past, I press on toward this high calling. But for today, let me find myself next to this little family in the small town of Nazareth as they raise Jesus, this consecrated child, to become strong and wise and graced by God.  I want to live a consecrated life of simple obedience and extravagant love. Show me the next small thing. Come Holy Spirit, I am ready to move with you. Praying in Jesus’s name, amen.

THE QUESTION

You’ve heard the saying, it takes a village to raise a child. I’d say it takes a church hosting the kingdom of heaven. What might it be like if we got ourselves out in front of a generation and not always trying to play catch up? Think about that today.

THE HYMN

The hymn today is “Jesus Loves the Little Children,” which is not in our Seedbed hymnal Our Great Redeemer’s Praise, but you probably know the words by heart. 

P.S. PRAYER AND FASTING FOR LIFE AND AWAKENING COURSE

Let me hear from you of your interest in a possible course with me—Prayer and Fasting for Life and Awakening. Details and One Minute Survey Here. 

NOTES FOR ADDITIONAL REFLECTION AND STUDY 

1. The church has nobly and courageously stood in the gap for children before they are born. What if we could take some massive next steps and stand in the gap now after they are born? On that front we so often find ourselves behind the eight-ball, struggling to rescue a generation already in deep trouble and distress. What if we could actually, for once, get ahead of a generation? What if we could be part of the grace that goes before them, praying, preparing, organizing organically and personally to be ready and even waiting? We know they are coming. We know when. We know where. We know why. What we must learn now is what and how? Jesus will be glad to lead us.

2. We must get beyond institutional/organizational charitable and centralizing strategies to helping people in need and into personal, organic, relational, and distributed approaches to loving our neighbor as ourselves. The former approaches do some good but they lack the fullness of humanity (and divinity) and are not sustainable. We must get beyond bringing diapers to the church and then the church taking them to some other organization who will distribute them. It is not a diaper problem. The real issue is relationship and connection; which is to say real, authentic, human love—which is the presence of God with skin on. That comes with diapers and oh so much more and for so much longer. Only the church is in a position to empower this kind of approach. On the last day Jesus will not say, “I was naked and some church brought me diapers.” He will say, “I was naked and you brought me diapers.” Because we aren’t helping “their” children. We are loving our children.

3. I think what I am trying to say is that we must get beyond the church as another version of social services bound up in the limitations of human scarcity. The church is the headquarters of the in-breaking kingdom of heaven on earth. It is an awakening movement in every local community where it exists; a place of supernatural abundance. It is not an organization run by a quasi-collectivist or even by a charitable mentality (i.e., everybody give a dollar and we can help a needy family out). The church of Jesus Christ is a supernatural community where the presence of God inspires divine imagination in human beings to sow love through extravagant sacrificial generosity in often relatively small ways, which when touched by the power of God become extraordinary expressions of divine abundance and blessing (i.e., see the woman and the jar of expensive perfume; also the feeding of the five thousand with five loaves and two fish, etc.).

For the Awakening,
J. D. Walt

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WHAT IS THIS? Wake-Up Call is a daily encouragement to shake off the slumber of our busy lives and turn our eyes toward Jesus. Each morning our community gathers around a Scripture, a reflection, a prayer, and a few short questions, inviting us to reorient our lives around the love of Jesus that transforms our hearts, homes, churches, and cities.

Comments and Discussion

2 Responses

  1. JD, I’m all on board with what your suggesting. My wife and I, mainly her and some volunteer Christians from local churches, are an affiliate of Care Net, an national charitable organization dedicated to assisting women in crisis pregnancies. Along with the diapers, car seats and play cribs, are offered prayers, prenatal care and counseling on infant care. Some of the local schools allow these volunteers to come on campus and offer these services to young expectant mothers and involved fathers. In my honest opinion, what seems to be lacking in many churches now and needs to be recovered, is the doctrine and implementation of the priesthood of all believer’s in order to accomplish your proposed vision.

  2. I have a dream that Christ-followers will begin to gather to experience an in-breaking of God’s government (His kingdom) as they listen together to the risen Christ and then awakening to His inner voice (Christ in you), courageously say and do what King Jesus tells them to.

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