Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Sharing Your Salvation

Before reading his Communion meditation last Sunday, one of the elders in my congregation asked us to bow our heads and thank God for the people who brought us to Christ.

Initially, I thought of Mary Anderson, the preacher’s wife at our small congregation in Arizona. At church camp for the first time, I was miserably homesick and woke up several mornings with tummyaches. One morning, when she came to check on me, I talked to her about accepting Jesus and asked some final defining questions that clified what I needed to do. She led me through the next step and I accepted Christ and was baptized the Sunday after I returned home.

Looking back, I realized Mary was only one of many people who led me to the foot of the cross. She didn’t tell me that much that day. She was merely the last one in a long chain of wonderful people who taght and exemplified what the Christian life was all about. There was her husband, Carl, who preached solid Biblical sermons. There were my wonderful Sunday teachers, Mrs. Conner, Mrs. Keeling, Mary, Mrs. Hemphill. There was my mother who faithfully took to us to Sunday School and church in spite of the fact my step-father didn’t go. I watched her teach and lead and coordinate programs. I saw her reading her bible and other Christian books. I learned from all of these people, not merely what they taught but how they lived. So last Sunday, I bowed my head, and thanked God for the wonderful teachers I had had in my life who led me to saving knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Another insight hit me this week. How do we express our thanksgiving? Saying thank you is not enough. Throughout the Bible, men and women showed their appreciation for God’s gifts by giving a gift, by passing on the blessing. The unforgiving servant in Jesus’ parable was guilty not just for failing to forgive his fellow servant. He failed to forgive in light of being forgiven so much himself. He had received the gift of mercy. He was not willing to pass even a tiny portion of the gift to someone else.

I have so gloriously received the gift of salvation. How can I say thanks to my Heavenly Father for such a great gift? By passing on the gift to the next person. How can I say thank you to my Lord for providing such dedicated teachers who had such tremendous influence on me? To give the gift of Bible knowledge to the children I teach.

David, broken and repentant after his sin with Bathsheba, pled for God’s mercy in the poignant Psalm 51. After asking for God’s forgiveness, he promised, “Then I will teach transgressors your ways and sinners will turn back to you. – Psalm 51:13)

To whom can you pass the torch of God’s saving grace this Thanksgiving. You show your thankfulness to the Lord for your salvation by teaching the children you serve. This Sunday, let your teaching become your spiritual act of worship (Romans 12:1).

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Thanksgiving Activities For Children

We have so much to be thankful for! Look around you. Touch what is in front of you. Take a deep breath and smell the world around you. Everything you see, touch, hear, smell, the food you put to your mouth is a gift. Even that breath you took to breathe the scents around you is a gift of life from the Creator who loves you.

That’s just in the physical realm. Think of the spiritual blessings God has given you – new life, the hope of heaven, His constant Presence, His authority to rule the earth, His gifts of mercy and forgiveness.

Visualize the children you teach. Name them one by one. They are blessings too. God has given them to you to teach, to share the good news of Jesus’ love, to encourage them to be the best they can be and embolden them to be holy different from the world around them.

Need a thanksgiving activity to do with the children you reach? Play the alphabet game with them. Our family still loves to play this game whenever we are traveling. Someone names a category, such as “things we’ll see on our vacation” and each person in turn must name something that begins with a succeeding letter of the alphabet. On our last vacation to Pennsylvania, I would say “Appalachians” and my husband would say “battlefields.”

Start your kids out with the general category: “Things I am thankful for.” Then, you can choose more specific categories such as “Food I’m thankful for,” “People I’m thankful for,” even “Food I wish I was more thankful for.” For older kids, ask them to name spiritual blessings for which they are thankful.” Incorporate some of the ideas into a special prayer time. Have the children choose some of the ideas mentioned and make a place mat for Thanksgiving, drawing pictures or writing the words of the things for which they are most thankful.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Prayer and Children's Ministry

I admit it. I’m a worrier. I joke that I make excellent stew. I can sit and stew about matters for hours.

A prime time to make stew is Sunday morning. It’s amazing the petty things that will come into my mind in the moments between seven and nine in the morning that I need to worry about. All the church politics, all the gripes I have against my husband, all the concerns I harbor about my girls at college like to surface Sunday morning.

I did something different the last two Sundays. It’s nothing new. It’s something I’ve known for a long time. But I so easily forget. The last two Sundays I prayed.

I didn’t pray about my worries. I purposely, intentionally turned off the fire under my stew pot. Instead, I prayed for the worship service. I prayed about my lesson. As I curled my hair, I prayed for individual students. As I applied my makeup, I prayed over the points of my lesson and prayed that this Sunday, my students would “get it.” As I scrambled eggs, I prayed for the other church leaders. I prayed for families to have serene mornings so they would come ready to worship. I prayed that children would wake up refreshed and desiring to come to church.

The last six months have been difficult months in my children’s ministry. We’ve had ardly any younger children. My senior high Sunday School class has been bursting at the seems with young people who are, well, just very different from me and from what I’m used to. I think I can honestly say without exaggeration that the last two Sundays have been the best of any Sundays over the last six months.

What was different? I got through my material. Explaining biblical concepts flowed naturally. The students connected with me. They didn’t fool around as much. Today my high school class was into the topic more than I’ve ever seen them. We also started a different kind of program for junior church today and we had nine children attend!

I know to pray. I know things go better with God. It’s a wonder I forget. Yet the enemy would like nothing better.

“Be self controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, loking for someone to devout. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that you brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings.” – 1 Peter 5:8,9

“And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.” – Ephesians 6:18

Next Sunday, don’t let the devil tempt you or distract you. Let’s both spend our preparation time Sunday morning praying for our work Inside the Classroom.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Teaching Beyond the Classroom

This past week, my mother sent me a letter from an old friend dated thirty years ao. Grammy Jean was a family friend who attended our church while spending the winters in my hometown in Arizona.
Grammy Jean didn’t often write letters. When she did, it was a four page tome tha rambled on as if she were across the table having a cup of tea with you. She shared from her heart, weaving her past experiences, her present feelings and her motherly advice into one beautiful tapestry that made you feel as warm as if you had just finished that cup of tea.

Grammy Jean was a fixture in our family. Sometimes I felt like she could see right through me and knew my inner thoughts! She suffered from a variety of illness and was in constant pain. She never let me get away for a moment with feeling sorry for myself because I had a visual disability. She showed me how to handle the down days. The worse her pain was, the more she would focus on others. She would confide to us, that when she couldn’t sleep at night, she would pray. “If my pain was bad enough to keep me awake, I just figured there was someone who needed me to pray for them that night,” she told me.

I remember Grammy Jean best for the way she was so comfortable in talking about God. I had never met someone that treated God as a personal acquaintance, who talked about including God in her everyday life and decisions. She talked about God like I would talk about a friend. Her prayer life wasn’t just formal requests; she had conversations with God. She taught me to trust God with every part of my life; to stop relying on just myself and bring God into my life as my partner.

Reading over her letter reminded me of the way she blessed my life and helped me grow in my own relationship with Christ. I want to be like her. I want to pass on the blessings that she gave to me. I want to reach out to children and young people beyond the Classroom. I want to show them I care about them and I’m interested in them, I want to have the ability to see beyond the surface stuff to the real person down inside yet I want to show them I still accept them and love them for who they are. I want them to see Jesus in me, that He is my personal friend and I’m trusting Him with every part of my life. I want to move from being just a teacher to being a discipler.

What young person are you discipling? How can you show you care about them and you love them unconditionally? Can they tell that Jesus is a part of your daily life?