Training

 Point your kids in the right direction—when they’re old they won’t be lost.

(Proverbs 22:6 “The Message”)

What marvelous love the Father has extended to us!

Just look at it—we’re called children of God! That’s who we really are.

(1 John 3:1 “The Message”)

 

We are all children. As I have grown older and had children of my own, I have come to realize the truth in what I heard my parents say when I was growing up, “You’ll always be my son (or little boy, or child…).” If there was any doubt, I am sure that I can come up with substantial evidence to prove my childishness. But, that’s not really the point.

It is important, however, to see that we are not only children of our earthly parents, but we are children of God. Where our earthly parents are good examples, God is the perfection of being a loving parent. Think of Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 7:9-11, “If your child asks for bread, do you trick him with sawdust? If he asks for fish, do you scare him with a live snake on his plate? As bad as you are, you wouldn’t think of such a thing. You’re at least decent to your own children. So don’t you think the God who conceived you in love will be even better?” On the other hand, if our earthly parents fail at loving us in that way, if they do give us sawdust instead of bread, we can at least know that God loves us and promises to be a loving and caring parent to us.

If we are God’s children, then we should be in the process of training ourselves regularly. For me, a major component of faith-training is studying the Bible and thinking deeply about God and how God interacts with humanity. Now that the “summer” months are over and school is back in session, I think it is time for us to get back to our regular study times within the life of the church.

So, Sunday school will return to “normal” beginning on September 1st, and on the 4th we will kick off our Wednesday evening activities. We will be having Sunday school opportunities for preschool children, youth and two different offerings for adults (plus Kelli will be working with the toddlers and twos in the nursery during that time.) Plus, on Wednesday evenings our youth group (Catalyst) will be meeting, as well as an adult bible study.

I wanted to give you some information about the adult bible study, and encourage you to come and share in the discussion. Each week we will engage two different scriptures, and think deeply about what they are saying to us. We will begin the week by taking a look back at the scripture and sermon from the Sunday prior. This reflection is helpful because it provides a way to share how our lives are being transformed by worship. This is similar to what the focus group did during Lent this spring. I will benefit from these open discussions by getting feedback and critique of my interpretation of the text, and my presentation. The goal is to engage us all more deeply in the scriptures, and to enhance the preaching and worship within the congregation.

After this time of looking back, we will look forward to the scripture for the upcoming Sunday. This will get us all thinking about what the scripture means, what it has to say to us, and will help (at least that is the plan) guide me in my sermon preparations. This step is vital because it allows the sermon to be “written” as a group, not in isolation. The idea is that this will help me to be a better preacher, and to communicate more clearly because we will have interpreted both the text and our community.

I do hope (and pray) that you will consider how you might engage your faith deeply through these educational (and fellowship) opportunities within the church. Join me as we journey together, feeding one another’s spiritual hunger through our study of the Word of God.

IMPORTANT MEETING!

We will be gathering tonight at 6:30pm to discuss an exciting opportunity. We have the chance to partner with Ozarks Food Harvest to distribute emergency food to the needy in Webster county. This is a large undertaking, but fits very nicely with our mission to feed our neighbors and ourselves with the Word of God.

Please share with your friends and family, and join us for a time of prayer, discussion and decision-making this evening!

As a Child

Jesus said, “Unless you accept God’s kingdom in the simplicity of a child,
you’ll never get in.” Then, gathering the children up in his arms,
he laid his hands of blessing on them.

(Mark 10:15-16 “The Message”)

 With the simplicity of a child. That phrase has always brought about a feeling of wonderment for me. I think about the joy and energy that children bring to life and long for that same sense of wonder as I seek to know God more fully and live more deeply into the life to which God is calling me.

Just the other day, I had the pleasure of having a young man in the office while I was visiting with his grandparent. He wandered from item to item exploring all the fun and exciting things that I didn’t even know were fun and exciting. Turning on and off the desk lamp, imagining himself winning the trophy, using my stability ball to bounce and roll. The fun continued until I got a little worried that he might seriously injure himself and put an end to some of the playing (specifically sitting on top of the stability ball… )

As I thought about it later, I said to myself “isn’t that how Jesus wanted us to experience God’s presence?” With the wonderment of a child, exploring all the ways in which we can delight in the simple things, running up to God every now and again to say, “Hey God! Look what I found!”  Or, “Watch this! See what I can do.”

Maybe for the first time, I would like to encourage us (as a community of faith and on our own) to think deeply about supporting children in our community and around the world by celebrating “Light a Candle for Children” this September 15th through October 20th. And to participate in the Children’s Sabbath on October 20th during worship.

Here’s some of what we can do: the church will make available to everyone a devotional as we Light a Candle for Children; these devotionals are also available online in a variety of formats (check the church website for details as time draws near); we will include a time of prayer and light a candle of hope each week in worship during this time; and we will be coming up with some creative ways to involve our children in worship on October 20th.

But, our focus on children during this season doesn’t stop there. I encourage every member of this community of faith to pray daily (especially during this time, but really every day) for the youth and children of this congregation. Write a note of encouragement to them, say a special “Hi, how are you?” to them in church, attend one of their activities, or in some way to show that they are an essential part of this community of faith. We will help you with some of these by providing a list of the youth and children of the church and will use the cubbies near the nursery as “mailboxes” where you can put your notes of encouragement.

A colleague once told me that we make a grave mistake as the church. He contends that we tend to think of the children in the church as the “church of tomorrow.” That hasn’t been the case. Many young people are leaving the church after (or before) graduation, never to return. The leaving is nothing new, but there was a time when as young couples began to have kids, they would come back to the church. That trend is rapidly becoming a thing of the past. My friend was right in noting that our children are not the church of tomorrow … they are the church of today! Let us give thanks to God for the children in our community of faith, for our children. And let us live into the teaching of Jesus and come to God with child-like awe and wonder at the greatness of God’s love for all people.