Have you ever considered the importance of the grave clothes that Jesus left behind in the tomb? Consider another time when someone rose from the dead. John 11:43-44 gives us a clear word picture of the appearance of Lazarus after Jesus called him out of the tomb. He was still wrapped in his grave clothes and needed to be loosed from them. Now picture the scene of Jesus' Resurrection. John 20:4-8 paints a very different word picture than the scene of Lazarus. In this tomb we see the grave clothes lying empty and the grave napkin folded neatly. Why would Lazarus still be in his grave clothes and yet Jesus left his? The answer is simple and yet profound. One day Lazarus would need those grave clothes again, but Jesus Christ would NEVER again need burial clothes. He was alive and still is alive today! He left the cloths marked with the stench of death behind as he conquered it for us! Why also would Jesus fold the napkin on his face? For me, and for you! That was his evidence, his irrefutable proof that he in fact was not stolen, but instead RISEN. As investigators seek for proof for their cases, we as Christians have that proof in a simple folded napkin. Praise God we serve a living Savior who conquered death once for all time!
Saturday, January 26, 2013
The day I accepted Christ as my Savior, I signed up for the "team". The good thing about God's team was that it doesn't matter how much or how little talent a person has, everyone qualifies for the team. However justification does not protect us from the attacks of Satan. I believe a lot of Christians "join the team" but never "buy the knee pads". After we are justified by Christ, we must consciously and daily put on each piece of the armor of God. Salvation is not the only protection we need from Satanic attack. I hear so many Christians taking a beating from demonic attack and they feel helpless and defeated. Ephesians 6:1-18 teaches that we must daily put on God's armor.
The belt of Truth: This was worn every single day, whether in battle or not. We must every day start with what is truth. We are bombarded daily by the lies of Satan. He plants his lies in our minds, in the media, in everything around us. If we daily stay in God's Word then we keep the Truth close to us and we can decipher the difference.
The breastplate of Righteousness: This was metal scaled armor to protect the upper body. There will always be fiery darts aimed at those who are followers of Jesus and we must use Christ's Righteousness as protection. If I were writing this to a child, I would tell them that they must be careful to do the right thing so that no one can accuse them of wrong, or if they have integrity and live their life striving to do the right thing then false accusation can not harm them.
The shoes that are prepared for the Gospel of Peace: These sandals were worn all the time, whether battling or not. Daily preparation for the attacks of Satan are needed to walk the Christian walk. Also notice that it is the Gospel of peace. The Gospel is one of peace that brings peace to the heart of the Christians.
The shield of Faith: This shield was a full body shield that was made of wood and then soaked in water before battle so that the fiery darts would be extinguished when they hit the shield. Faith (the shield) and water (prayer) protect us from fear and doubt. This is a crucial piece of the armor for us to put on each day.
The helmet of Salvation: This is a picture of the believers knowledge of the Word of God and the knowledge they have that Christ is the victor in this spiritual battle. We have hope, no matter the trial, because we know that Jesus wins!
The sword of the Spirit: This is the only offensive weapon, so far they have all been defensive. The Word of God is what we use to fight Satanic attack. This is why Scripture memorization is so valuable.
Are you injured in your Christian walk by Satanic attack? Maybe it's because you haven't fully and daily armed yourself with the armor that God has provided for each of His children. God does not leave us defenseless and helpless.
Saturday, December 15, 2012
I've heard so many say that these pressures of life have robbed them of the magic of Christmas. It is that particular phrase, "the magic of Christmas", that keeps ringing in my head. It was that particular phrase that drove me to Luke 2. Luke 2:5-7 tells of a night when a young, unwed girl gave birth in a barn. Was her Christmas magical? I would say no. I would guess, having given birth twice and in a hospital, that Mary and Joseph's Christmas was filled with fear, pain and panic. It was not magical, BUT it was a miracle.
Luke 2:9-11 tells of a group of shepherds that were "terrified" at what they saw in the sky. This word "terrified" can also be used as "panic". Would you call a group of men being panicked magical? The shepherds' Christmas wasn't magical, BUT it was a miracle.
What was the message of this MIRACLE Christmas? "Do not be afraid, I bring you good news of great joy". The magic of Christmas is irrelevant and unnecessary. The miracle of Christmas is peace, good news and JOY! The miracle of Christmas is Jesus. Just saying His name a lone brings a refreshment to the soul. My 4 year old son finally made it through the "squeeze" and on the other side he had such fun. I don't know what your particular "squeeze" is this holiday season. I don't know what has stolen the magic out of your Christmas. But I do know that you don't need magic when you have a MIRACLE. And you can find JOY in Jesus regardless of the "squeeze"!
Monday, August 27, 2012
1. Faithfulness is not a choice. I Sam. 1:11, 24-28
From even before Samuel's conception he was dedicated to the Lord. He did not have nor was given the choice of the service of his life. Even as a child of 3 he was taught by his mother the purpose of his life. Why do we as Christians make faithfulness to Bible reading, prayer, Church, Service a choice? We often act as if we have the right to make that decision with our lives. God has called all of us to be faithful whether we want to or not.
2. Faithfulness takes sacrifice. I Sam. 1:26-28
Can you imagine how hard it was for Hannah to leave her precious preschooler in the temple, only to see him again 1 time each year? It will take sacrifice to faithfully read your Bible, to faithfully attend church, to faithfully serve the Lord. There may be many times you'd rather rather be watching that move than reading your Bible. I garauntee there will be times when you have to give up something you'd rather do than serve. How can we not be faithful after Christ sacrificed so much for us?
3. Faithfulness means separation. I Sam. 2:17-18
The 2 sons of Eli the priest (Hophni and Phineas) were living in open and defiant sin to God. These few chapters are interesting as they show the contrast between Hophni and Phineas and Samuel. Samuel could have "gone with the crowd" and done exactly what these two older (maybe cooler) boys were doing but instead he remained "faithful" to God's service and God's Words. Sometimes to be faithful it means we have to say "no, I won't do that" or "no, I won't go there". It's not always the popular thing to separate from a crowd that is headed to sin, but to be faithful we might need to separate.
I can only assume that it wasn't the most glamorous job to serve Eli in the temple. I imagine he had cleaning chores and other manual tasks. There's usually not a long list of volunteers for jobs of this nature within a ministry, but I don't ever see Samuel complaining about his daily tasks. He did anything and everything he was asked to do. He did whatever it took to serve his Lord.
5. Faithfulness means being rewarded. I Sam. 2:1, 20, 26, 35
God always rewards faithfulness. This is the primary reason faithful people stay faithful. They have stayed the course long enough to see the blessings God gives. Faithful people go to depths of intimacy with the Lord that keep them seeking to be faithful.
So the next time you hear someone taking about being a "Faithful Christian" you will better understand what exactly that means. All from the life of a little boy named Samuel.
Thursday, August 23, 2012
All I could think about with this experience is how much this symbolizes ministry. So many Christians want a slice of the bread, but they don't want to do the work to make it! The list is long for people to sign up to join a small group, to be mentored by a small group leader, or to do anything that benefits THEM! Everyone wants to run to the table to enjoy a piece of this amazing bread, but very few are signing up to do the work it takes to get there. Ministry takes work and there are the same few servants who faithfully show up every week to work, "to make the bread", so that the majority can enjoy. Maybe it's time for Christians to start carrying their weight. To stop enjoying the bread and start helping to make it. Maybe it's time to slip out of your small group for a semester and work the nursery. Think of the impact you could make on that lost and hurting mother by keeping her child in the nursery and letting her feel the love of a Christian family that could change her life. Christians are always so busy gobbling up the bread that they leave nothing for those who are truly hungry.
Doesn't this remind you of the children's story of the little hen who needed help harvesting the wheat, threshing the wheat and baking the bread? All of her friends were too tired or hot to help. At the end when the bread was done they conveniently were there to eat the bread. Of course we know that the hen did not let them eat it because they had not worked for it. Wow, can you imagine if we didn't allow people to "enjoy" the benefits of ministry until they had served somewhere? We might accuse a church that did that as being harsh.
"He said to his disciples, “The harvest is great, but the workers are few. So pray to the Lord who is in charge of the harvest; ask him to send more workers into his fields.”
Wednesday, June 20, 2012
First of all many of these comments are made by wonderful people but they have been out of children's ministry for long enough to get that "glossy" view of what it was like. This is similar to what happens to women in childbirth. A few days or even weeks after delivery they say there is NO way they are doing that again but as time passes those memories of pain get glossed over and a few years go by and they find themselves expecting another baby. I'll be honest, children's ministry is tough. Many times you are in very real battle over the souls and lives of those children. If Satan can derail a life in the early years then he has a much better chance of ruining their effectiveness for Christ in the future. Those who work in any shape or form with children stay on the front lines of spiritual warfare, yet they are investing their lives in one of the most fertile and rewarding ministries. Have you ever considered how many of the great leaders of Scripture were first talked about or shown when they were children? Working with children puts your hands directly into eternity. So has it changed?
Yes, children's ministry has changed. Can't this be said of almost every ministry? And why is change viewed as negative? Children's ministry has changed for several reasons:
1. Society has changed. The emphasis today is placed on oneself. Even if we try to resist it, we live in an extremely narcissistic culture. We are encouraged everywhere to talk, find ourselves, to love ourselves more. The focus has turned inward instead of upward towards Christ. James 1:19 clearly shows us how we should stop talking and start listening. I think this has affected all of us. If society as a whole become self-centered then that seeps into our churches and into our children's ministry where children are encouraged by everyone and everything else to put themselves first. Then we get them for 1 or 2 hours a week to teach them James 2:8. We fight against society to give these children doses of truth.
2. Parents have changed. There isn't an easy way to put this, but many of the parents today practice "child worship". No, they don't bow down to their children physically, but they center all of their lives and decisions around their children. Many let their children even make their decisions. In years past, families centered their lives around the church and their service to the Lord and today their lives are centered around their children and their children's many activities.
3. Media has changed. One of the biggest reasons children's ministry has changed is because of the over stimulation of children through media. Media in and of itself is not bad, in fact it is a tool that we use for the Lord in our ministry, but children are bombarded with it on all sides. When they arrive at church they are electrified from all the hours that they are influenced by media. Then we come along and unwillingly compete with the latest graphics and story lines that they are used to outside of the church. Sometimes they are so overstimulated that they struggle to sit still or to even listen to the narratives from Scripture.
What do we do about all this? We have identified 3 main changes that have occurred and so we must now change the course of ministry to reach today's children. We evaluate past methods, keeping those that are effective, yet we never change our message.
So, No children's ministry has not changed. Children are still born with a sin nature and need the free gift of salvation. Children are still precious to God and are still our most valuable treasures. Children still have a desire for the Lord that needs to be awakened in them.
How is our ministry moving forward down this path?
1. It is important to teach children the whole council of God, to teach children not only the narratives of Scripture but to also teach the parts that are often left out. We are currently teaching the kid's Wednesday night summer program through the book of James, teaching them the practical applications of the Christian life. In teaching expositoraly through Scriptures, the children see the truth about themselves and the truth about their focus.
2. We must also view our children's ministry as a family ministry. Including parents in the spiritual lives of their children. When a children's ministry is running well then parents feel comfortable leaving their children in our care and attending a worship service upstairs and plugging into a small group during the week. This is where their lives are changed and once again the focus of the family turns back to Christ. Then families come together to worship, to learn, to serve, and to play. One of the greatest things for a family to do is to serve together!
3. We must NOT try to compete with "Hollywood", or current media. The Truth of God's Word stand alone! While we must make our lessons fun and interesting for children, God's Word is living and does not return void. Sometimes the calmness of a narrative taught with flashcards are a nice break from the over the top media that the children are used to. While we use methods to make the lessons appealing and understandable, we let God's Word stand and the Holy Spirit Work.
Our ministry has a 3 fold goal: To lead children to the Savior, to equip them for ministry, and to be a light to our community and other churches.
Saturday, June 16, 2012
There are 2 things that really stand out to me about my Dad. First, I always knew that he loved me no matter what and that there was nothing I could do to change that, and second, he was genuine. I rested in knowing that even if the bottom fell out of my life, I could still come to him, much like the safety net on a trapeze circus act. Those gymnasts twist, flip, fly, and even make mistakes, but they know if they slip, there is a net to catch them. That's an amazing gift of security to give a child.