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Response #3 to the Saddest Letter

I’ve been late in this final post—thanks for your patience. On top of that, I’m sure it will be too long. Several days ago I had a very good 40-minute conversation with the young lady who wrote the letter. Her heart is tender to the Lord and I will share some of that in a “wrap up” post tomorrow.

As for this third response, here are the primary things I would say to the young lady who wrote the letter:

1. Pursue God and Loving Jesus with All of Your Heart and Future. Ephesians 6:6 reminds us to do the will of God from the heart. God tells us His first command is that we love Him with all of our hearts. Regardless of your past, or who failed you (and we all have people who failed us) it’s now up to you to keep your Christian life real, from the heart.

Externals are just that—externals. They are to be the product of a right heart, not a replacement or cover for it. Whatever outward service or standards you have in life, let them flow from a fervent, heart-based love for Jesus Christ. Let your life flow from the inside out. The externals of the Christian life—the preaching, teaching, worship, service, standards—only make sense if you have a real heart walk. If you don’t, you will only end up resenting the externals, as many Christians do. Nobody but you can make sure that your heart and love for Jesus are strong.

2. It’s Time to Prove Your Own Beliefs and Biblical Standards. Some would counsel you to abandon the outward evidences of Christianity that you have been taught—I’m glad that is not your heart. That would be a mistake. Externals do not produce spirituality, but a truly spiritual heart will always “shew forth” externally. You can’t hide godliness beneath a carnal exterior. Now is the time to dig deep, embrace not only the biblical externals, but the solid foundation of belief that you have been given. Now is the time to prove and establish your own personal convictions based upon the Word of God. Titus 2:11-12 states that the grace of God teaches us to deny ungodliness. God’s Word is clear that our conversation (lifestyle) is to be as becometh the Gospel (Philippians 2:17). We are commanded to shew forth the praises of Him… (1 Peter 2:9).

3. The Passing of Time Will Change Your Perspective. Over the coming decade, and longer, you will gradually become more and more thankful for what your parents did right, and more forgiving of their blind spots. You will become more and more grateful that they stayed married, kept you in church, gave you a solid foundation, and protected you from sin. Don’t be too hard on them. When you are a parent, you too will have blind spots that you will need your children to forgive.

4. Don’t Mistake Parental Blind Spots for Flaws in the Faith or Way of Jesus Christ. There is no perfect earthly authority. One of my great prayer requests is that my own children and those I influence would stay faithful to the Lord—in spite of my imperfections. Human flaws don’t indicate that the truth is flawed or that the ways of Christ are flawed. They simply reveal that we all struggle at this thing of the Christian walk. I’m glad to know that you haven’t hardened your heart to church, to preaching, to teaching, or to other right things in your life.

5. Don’t Mistake Institutional Structure for Personal Holiness. A school, a college, or any institution must have structure. In Christian environments, often that structure is mistaken as some ultimate standard of personal holiness. For instance, it’s not a sin to chew gum, but most Christian educational institutions don’t allow it. Every school must draw boundaries of appropriate dress, behavior, etc. It’s a huge mistake to assume that the school’s boundaries should be the standard of holiness for every Christian. Personal holiness cannot be that legislated and institutionalized. Be thankful for institutions that raise the standard high. But develop your own walk with Christ and your own personal standards of holiness.

6. Deal with the Bitterness and Forgive. There’s only one option regarding those who have failed you. Forgive them, as Christ has forgiven you, and refuse to become bitter. Stop and think about the ways you’ve failed those same people. Consider all that they have done for you. If you become bitter, your life and future will become a reaction to the failure of others. Don’t let that happen.

7. Build on the Right Foundation that Your Parents Gave You. There isn’t a parent alive that doesn’t hope their kids will grow up and do things better than they did. We all do our best, make our mistakes, and hope that we gave our children the tools to do better. I promise, your parents feel the same. These experiences place you in the position to determine that you will do things differently with your own kids. So build on what your parents gave you, and decide now that you will build the relationships that you missed. Don’t repeat history. Determine to provide for your children the balance that you missed.

8. Ask the Lord for the Right Opportunity to Talk to Your Parents. The coming years will probably afford you a good opportunity to develop what you missed out on. Ask the Lord to give you the grace, the wisdom, and the love to pursue that closeness that you haven’t had yet. There’s still a chance to have it.

9. Be Ready for Some Teens and Those to Whom You Minister to Reject Your Message. By far, most of the young people I’ve known over the past 20 years have stayed faithful to the Lord. But each one has a free will, and even in a perfect environment, some young adults would still grow up and reject truth. This is the price of being in ministry—your message, and more importantly, your Saviour will be rejected. Some who reject will return! So don’t ever lose hope or reject them. Always have open arms to welcome them back.

10. Decide to Be an Open, Approachable Parent. When you have kids, welcome questions. The bottom line is this: the Christian life makes sense. A holy life makes sense! When I read of or meet Christians who reject holy living, I wouldn’t want their life. I wouldn’t trade places with them. Right living is worth it. When our kids reject right living, they are deceived. Make sure your kids can come to you with “why…” and “how come…” and “but what about…” and give them solid, biblical, logical answers. Be real, be a joyful Christian, and help others make sense of the ways of Christ.

There’s a lot more to say, but those are the things that your letter put on my heart. Thank you for writing to me! Keep growing in God’s grace and walking personally with Him! There’s nothing better in all of life!

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11 Comments

  • Amen! amen! amen! Young people of today need to take heed to all you have shared from your heart. I have heard it said often that children will have less spirituality than their parents. Would to God this generation of young people would rise up and say, “We will be different! We will raise the bar, and we will live for Christ, no matter what the world tells what, no matter what our parents downfalls, and no matter the failures of those in Christian leadership.” I have been in deep prayer for this young lady since the first letter, and will continue to pray much for her and for those in her generation. As a parent of a teen, this discourse has touched my heart deeply, and has caused me to increase my prayer life for my teens (2 and 2 more coming up), for the teens in my Christian school (I teach in NJ) and for this generation as a whole.

  • Thank you, Pastor Schmidt, for your balanced responses to this letter. It has been a great help!

  • Thank you so much for this series of posts.

  • Great words Pastor Schmidt. A lot here resonates with one of your podcasts “Teaching and Modeling Biblical Separation.” I listened to it yesterday and found some good nuggets there related to your post here. I particularly took to heart what you said: “Every external change should flow from internal growth.” It is true, rule-books won’t change behavior and I believe, as I’ve mentioned before, that a truly transformed life will yield wholesome fruit. On the contrary, strange fruit comes from a heart that has not surrendered to the Lord’s will, or that is not transformed.

    Indeed, right living is worth it. I don’t think I’d want to stand before the Lord wishing I had spent more time pursuing temporal things (career, gain, earthly commodities). Often we need to ask ourselves: what have I done this week that will matter in heaven? This is the focal point of our daily lives.

    I agree with #3 too because as I get older, I have found it necessary to be more forgiving of circumstances that I had questioned as a young adult. Now as a mother, I know that I too will have a history of blind spots that my children may not see now, but may upstream as they reflect on their lives. I do want them to be eternally grateful for all they are blessed with, as I am grateful for them and for my salvation above all things. Basically, we can’t burden our souls with the things of the past, the heartaches of the present, and the uncertainty of the future. All of it rests in His hands, and shouldn’t that give us all the security we need?

    Finally, #8 reminded my of something my husband did a few weeks ago. He was asked to speak to the youth group of his first home church where he grew up. He admonished the young people to get right on a clean slate with the Lord and sanctify themselves and reconcile. A few responded to the altar call, and after prayer and conviction, my husband gave them homework– a takeaway for application of their new decisions. He admonished them to talk to their parents and tell them about their decision to start anew, to share how they had been convicted that night to live for Him and reconcile themselves to the Lord, and to them as well. One young man- age 17- called my husband last night miles away explaining how refreshed he was, and how surprised his parents were when they listened to his repentant heart. He asked his parents to forgive him for his faults and he also reconciled with his sister; and that has brought such joy to our lives. Praise the Lord, what a blessing!

    Thank you Pastor for being used by our mighty God in such a loving way for the young people who need some love and devotion.

  • Pastor Schmidt,

    When I wrote you that letter, I really didn’t know what to expect. I guess I didn’t really expect anything–I was just so burdened for my friends who I grew up with who walked away from God, and burdened for my family, and discouraged by my own failings and struggles. Since I want to work with troubled teenagers some day, I had been thinking about how I could reach them, and it occurred to me that their parents were in the best position to reach them. So I wrote somewhat in desperation.

    And I’m so glad that I did. Your responses have been such a blessing, and our conversation on the phone was a great encouragement. What you said to my generation was exactly what I would like to say to my generation–guys in just a few years, we are going to be the adults who have to lead the church. We have to get serious and by the grace of God throw off the sin problems that plague our lives. We have to search through the Bible for answers to our questions, we have to get to know our God and we have to love and serve Him wholeheartedly. I’m trying to learn all this. I have good days and bad days, and sometimes I think I carry too much baggage for God to ever do anything with me, but He has not given up on me, so I’m not quitting either.

    I’m sorry that I made some people upset, but I’m glad that God was able to use my simple letter to touch some people’s hearts.

  • a well and a balance counsel. To God be the glory! Thank you brother.

  • Dearest Anonymous,

    I want to thank you personally for writing a letter to Brother Schmidt , it takes a humble heart and a willing heart to changed to do that. I am so thankful first to the Lord because I am a parent that needs to learn a lot of things of raring a children into a godly life. Your letter is an eye opener and a heart opener to me personally and this series is another tool for me to help not only my children but also my students. Thank you very much to you dearest anonymous. My advice also is just take heed to Brother Schmidt counsel. I know God will do great things for you. God bless and again Thank you very much. Glory to God!

  • Dear Anonymous,

    Thank you for sharing your testimony with Bro. Schmidt so that many others can be blessed by the encouragement that has been shared over the last few articles. You are certainly not alone in how you feel and I pray that many others will take hold of life as you have and press on diligently to not let the Satan seize the next generation.

    Thank you, Bro. Schmidt, for taking the time to address all relevant audiences specifically. As a new parent and as a teacher to junior high girls where many are being brought up in a Christian home, your letters have been a great reminder and guide. Though we’ve never met, our family prays for you regularly.

    To God be the glory!

  • Dear Anonymous,

    I also thank you for writing that letter. I was also raised in a IFB church and did all the right things and taught all the right things. In Jr. church, I almost always got the “best girl” award and I was a “leader” in my youth group as well; was always one of the top 3 in all our Bible drills / contests / etc.

    But I wasn’t born again until I was 24… so I know exactly where you’re coming from. I, too, am burden for many of our young people (and even adults) who are living false confessions. Prayerfully, your letter will encourage others to “see the light” and examine themselves, to see whether or not they are in the faith.

  • Dear Anonymous,
    I too was raised in a Christian home, and I believe in most ways my parents did very well…..but my Mom was abusive during my childhood. One thing I have had to realize is that it isn’t okay that those things happened, but I can’t allow that to taint my ideas of what people really are like. She really did love me, and my brother. She still loves us. My brother just died at the age of 22 from Cystic Fibrosis, but she was right there holding his head to comfort him as he went into the arms of Jesus. Over the two weeks since he has passed, my Mom has been very helpful with me. She has been giving me lots of hugs. I think that it is helping me to feel more confident that my Mom won’t abbuse me any more.
    I say this to say that I know how hard it is to be treated wrong, and to be looked down on, but we can’t let that keep us from doing right. I have noticed that it seems that you have not, and praise God for that. Never let it bother you how people have treated you before. God is the one you must answer to, not them.

  • Dear Anonymous,

    When I first read your letter I thought it was my own words. Then it hit me that I wasn’t just thinking to myself, but I was reading a computer screen. Thank you so much for writing that letter to Pastor Schmidt! And thank you Pastor Schmidt for all those responses. I too am being raised in a Christian home at a prominent Bible college and I too feel God’s call on my life to serve in full time ministry. So you can see the connections. When I read your letter I was so encouraged that there was somebody else out there who was feeling the same things I was. Then Bro. Schmidt’s responses just blessed my heart and taught me tremendous truths. I wanted to thank you and join you in rising up as servants of God in a dark world. I dont know about you but in my youth group, for the large part it seems to me that alot of the guys do not want to take the things of God seriously yet or just have a bad attitude. You have showed me Miss Anonymous that it is possible to live a godly life even if we dont always agree with our parents or if we feel they are not doing everything right. But like Pastor Schmidt said, our perspective will change as we get older and hopefully we can build off what our parents have taught us. Thanks again and may God bless you.


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