Friday, September 30, 2016

Training Our Children

   I admit, I largely dodged the bullet of sitting in the pew with my children for Sunday morning worship service.  That task was left up to my wife Tess who served as: Diplomat (negotiating WHO shall sit by WHO); Caterer (supplying necessary in-pew refreshments); Police Officer (enforcing the law when the work of the aforementioned diplomat did not result in peace); Noise Abatement Officer (keeping the ’roar’ of her pew-mates to a minimum); and Nurse (healer of ills and hurt feelings).  

    If you ask my children about their childhood memories of Sunday mornings, they will tell you more about their mother than anyone/anything else.  And that’s just fine!  Why? Because, in addition to all of her other Sunday morning roles, their mom served as their Trainer in how to worship the Lord.  While I lounged in the relative comfort of the Pastor’s Chair in the front of the sanctuary, she was showing them . . .
. . . how to sit and listen to the Word of God;
. . . how to join in the prayers of the congregation;
. . . how to sing the hymns (humming before they could read);
. . . how to give to the Lord as a natural expression of their faith;
. . . and that Worship on a Sunday is vitally important (even when it is hard work).

    WHY do this difficult and often frustrating work of bringing small children to worship? 
Because we believe the Lord is faithful — we believe Him when He says: 
Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.
Proverbs 22:6 
 If we train our children early it will take hold in their lives!  This hard work is worth it . . .
Because we believe that the Word of the Lord is a means by which the Spirit of God brings grace and forgiveness and life to His people . . . of ALL ages! 
Because we believe that even infants can have faith John the Baptist leapt for joy while still in his mother’s womb! 
Because we believe that faith is MORE than just an intellectual grasping of truth statements it is a spiritual gift from God. 
Because we believe that little ones are loved and treasured by their Creator and Redeemer.
Because we believe WE must train them about the truth of the Lord believe me, if we don’t, the world, the devil and their sinful flesh will fill their minds, hearts and souls with lies.
   Children are a blessing and a gift from God!  They are also incredibly hard work! When our four were little, I remember asking Tess “How was the sermon today?”  She would often answer “The part I heard was good . . . ”  I recognize that bringing small children to worship is hard work.  It is a chore, a task and a great toiling!  But it is definitely worth the effort as it is an ETERNAL work for the salvation of their souls and the giving of everlasting life through Christ Jesus.

Time to Ponder . . .
What childhood lessons have stuck with you throughout your lifetime?  What faith lessons have stuck with you?

What are your earliest memories of worshiping Jesus?  Of being in a Church?

Is there something you wish your parents had taught you when you were young?

To God be the Glory!

Friday, September 16, 2016

“Disciple” Means “Following”
    Without evil intention, much of modern Christianity has allowed a cheapening of the person and work of Jesus Christ to creep into our congregations.  We have forgotten to be disciples.

   Throughout the ages the Church has confessed a belief in Jesus as “God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God” Who, in time, “for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven and was incarnate of the virgin Mary.”  We believe, teach, and confess that Jesus is fully divine AND fully human.  So far so good . . .

    The problem comes when we apply this to our lives, to where the rubber hits the road!  Too often, like a retailer trying to compete in a changing market, the Church has offered a more and more stripped down version of its confession.  Gauging the market, we have determined that folks will not tolerate well a teaching that places demands upon them.  We have mistakenly taken this as good news – after all the Good News of God is that Jesus has freed us from the condemnation of God’s Law. 

    But we seem to have forgotten our calling to “make disciples of all nations.”  And the results have been devastating:
  • Instead of disciples of Jesus, we have inadvertently raised a generation of Church-goers who don’t go to Church (worship).
  • Instead of disciples of Jesus, we have raised a people who confess with their mouths but whose lives/actions do not match that confession. 
  • Instead of disciples of Jesus, we have created a people who demand that He follow US, in the stead of us following Him.

   As He walked this earth, Jesus exhorted those listening to Him:
“If anyone would come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me.” Mark 8:34   

    Jesus desires that we FOLLOW Him.  He desires for us to trust that His life, His death, and His resurrection paid the price for our sins and has given us victory through Him.  He desires that this freedom and victory would shape every aspect of our lives, bending our own wills and worldviews to match His will and His view of humanity.  He desires that we become His students and apprentices.  To do that we must follow Jesus . . .
. . . and watch Him
. . . and imitate Him
. . . and live with Him.

Some Ponderings . . .

How does your faith help shape your life?

In turn, how does the shape of your life help strengthen your faith?

What do you personally find to be the most difficult aspect of following Jesus?

What do you personally find to be the most rewarding aspect of following Jesus?