Worship is for the entire family

I love to go to church. We only have one service at our church, and it happens to be on Sunday morning. But it is a special time for me to be there with my spiritual family and worship my heavenly father.

But I know that not everyone shares that passion. And, usually, those people are the youngest among us. Being at church is something that, in our society, is becoming an increasingly unique experience. After all, we are not prone to gather and stay in one place for that long. Thus, it becomes hard for children to appreciate, let alone adults.

That is why I found this article to be so useful in helping my children — and other children, I hope — learn to appreciate being in the service from a young age. We don’t give them enough credit for what they can understand. If we really believe that our children can grasp enough to be saved at an early age — and I really believe that — then we should also encourage our children to be a part of the service, as best they can, as fellow worshippers.

HT: Desiring God

John Piper says “Don’t Waste Your Pulpit”

First of all, I am not a pastor. I will say this: I am glad that my pastor values the word of God and does take time every Sunday to explain it to us. In the clip below, John Piper exhorts pastors to preach God’s word and not their own thoughts. It is a tragic thing when churches become places of topical discussion when we know that “faith comes by hearing, and hearing though the word of Christ.

HT: Provocations and Pantings

What have we received that God has not given?

Who\'s money?Like many, we will be receiving a check from the government that is a tax rebate. This “economic stimulus package” is supposed to help us revive our economy. There is always the urge to look at this as “free money” and then decide how we will spend it. For many, it will go towards debt relief, another sign of how we live in this country.

John Piper adds another option for us as we live our comfortable lives and also gives us pause about where our hearts may reside:

But do we really need this money? Very few do. We would have gotten on fine without it. If we didn’t know it was coming, we wouldn’t even be feeling the desires we are feeling right now.

May I encourage you to be radically creative and hedonistic. Jesus said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). And those crazy Macedonians in a “severe test of affliction” and in “extreme poverty” had an “abundance of joy” that overflowed in a “wealth of generosity.” They even begged Paul “for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints” (2 Corinthians 8:2-4). They really believed what Jesus said. Really.

Before the check comes dream of some person or ministry which might make much of Christ because you treasured him above your next home project.

Read the whole thing. And then think again about how much God is your treasure.

O Help My Unbelief

And when they came to the disciples, they saw a great crowd around them, and scribes arguing with them. And immediately all the crowd, when they saw him, were greatly amazed and ran up to him and greeted him. And he asked them, “What are you arguing about with them?” And someone from the crowd answered him, “Teacher, I brought my son to you, for he has a spirit that makes him mute. And whenever it seizes him, it throws him down, and he foams and grinds his teeth and becomes rigid. So I asked your disciples to cast it out, and they were not able.” And he answered them, “O faithless generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you? Bring him to me.” And they brought the boy to him. And when the spirit saw him, immediately it convulsed the boy, and he fell on the ground and rolled about, foaming at the mouth. And Jesus asked his father, “How long has this been happening to him?” And he said, “From childhood. And it has often cast him into fire and into water, to destroy him. But if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.” And Jesus said to him, “‘If you can’! All things are possible for one who believes.” Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, “I believe; help my unbelief!” And when Jesus saw that a crowd came running together, he rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, “You mute and deaf spirit, I command you, come out of him and never enter him again.” And after crying out and convulsing him terribly, it came out, and the boy was like a corpse, so that most of them said, “He is dead.” But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him up, and he arose. And when he had entered the house, his disciples asked him privately, “Why could we not cast it out?” And he said to them, “This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer.”

Mark 9:14-29

When you are being taught composition, one of the things the teacher will tell you is that you should never begin a sentence with a conjunction — “and,” “but” or “or.” You don’t do it. It is not proper. While there are many things to learn from the passage above, one of the things you could learn is that God did not respect the rules of English grammar when he inspired the Bible. After reading this particular story, you are struck by the avalanche of “Ands” that begin each sentence.

They’re like blows coming down. And this happened. And then this. And this. And then this. It’s like there are numerous issues piling up that Jesus must deal with, and they are not easy. But he does. Miraculously. It’s like he just takes the worst of the situation and shows he is totally in control. As I read it I am struck with how I often get buried under the “ands” and lose sight of who Jesus really is. I am ashamed and, like the boy’s father, I want to cry out, too, “I believe. Help my unbelief.”

Every day there are things that I struggle with, but the biggest thing is my unbelief. Do I really believe God is who he says he is and will I trust him. That is my primary battle each day. And so, until the day I die, I fight on. But I know that God will not leave me alone in my battle but will supply me the faith because I am one of his. Thank God.

AWANA awards night

Last night was Awards Night at our church’s AWANA program. AWANA? What is it, you say? AWANA is a program for children that, according to its Web site, “helps parents and churches worldwide raise children and youth to know, love and serve Christ.” Go follow the link to find out more about it, it’s quite the program.

Because I work evenings, I don’t help out there. My son is involved as a clubber (like in a member of the club) and my daughter volunteers. Every Wednesday, dozens of kids show up at church to play games, listen to an adult tell them how to live as a Christian and learn verses from the Bible. If they learn enough verses or complete enough assignments from their workbook, they earn things. Not that learning the precious word of God is a bad thing, but AWANA is there to make Bible memory a fun thing. And these kids have fun.

Maybe I worry too much, but I pray the verses these children are learning are sinking into their hearts and making them tender for God. I think it does happen because every year there are children who will come to Christ. It is a beautiful thing. But, like anything, there are those whose hearts remain hard. The fun and games keep their minds from the hard truth that they are sinners in desperate need of a savior. After all, how much fun is it to know that you are doomed to hell unless you come to Christ?

It is a delicate job trying to keep 20-30 children happy while also getting them to learn what God says about who He is and what that means for them. I am thankful for the adults who volunteer their time to listen to children recite verses or give them counsel. It’s important because there are many kids whose only relationships with Christians occurs on Wednesday nights.

So I sat and watched all these children receive awards for their work (or lack of work, in some cases) during the year. My prayer for these children, my own included, would be that these years in AWANA aren’t pushed aside when they are too old to be clubbers but that they are treasured as a time when their thirst for God and his word increased and they turned to the Bible.

Blessed are those whose way is blameless, who walk in the law of the Lord! — Psalm 119:1

Appreciating and thinking deeply

The small things made by a big God
Because of personal connections, I have been made aware that this is National Medical Laboratory Professionals Week. While I appreciate people who turn a keen eye on small things and handle things (bodily fluids) that would make most of us squirm, the main reason I’m bringing this up is because my wife is a lab professional. I deeply appreciate her ability to keep a calm perspective when others (like me) might not be thinking as clearly. It takes all types to get things done and she is the kind of person who — and this is often a great burden for her — pays heed to the details without letting her emotions overcome her judgment.

Thinking about my wife, it makes me thank God that he gives us minds to think deeply on things. As with her work, we can think deeply on the tiny, small things God has made us with and be amazed at the way we are designed. Even as I sit here, I can look out my window and see the purple flowers budding from the trees in the front yard, swaying gently in the breeze while birds sing and bees hover from blossom to blossom, doing the work God intended for them. Those things, small and big, obvious and hidden, are there even though we often don’t give them a second thought. Why not? Well, there are countless thoughts that shove them out of the way — where am I supposed to be in the next half hour, what am going to have for supper, what is the next thing on my list of things that I need to do.

That’s not shallow thinking, but it doesn’t often lend itself to a sense of wonder either. So, while I’m appreciating those who look at the small things and think deeply about them, I will force myself to think deeply about how great God is and how wonderfully he has formed the world around me.

Here’s your paper

We’re entering another new era at my job. In my mind, we’re a step closer to ushering out the newspaper as a vital part of your morning.

For almost the past 12 years, we’ve been putting news on a Web site. It’s a great thing, you can get just about all the news from your newspaper for (whispering) FREE! Pros: It’s cheaper, you don’t get ink-stained hands, you don’t have to follow jumps. Cons: You can’t divide up the paper if more than one person wants to look at it (unless you own more than one computer, I suppose), some things don’t translate as well on the Web (sports agate, for one) without heavy HTML editing, you can’t wrap fish or line bird cages with online news.

During this time, we’ve done better and poorer with our news publishing. There were times in the late 90s and early 00s where we’d get news on the site in a quick fashion, thanks to the efforts of our Web editor at the time. More recently, though, we’ve been publishing on it like we do with newsprint: on a strict schedule that goes against the whole idea of the Web.

That’s why I’m excited to see our paper move to some software called Zope, which allows easier loading of content and in numerous contexts. We will be relaunching our Web site later this month, and I think it will be a lot better. For one, we will be more inclined to put stories on it throughout the day rather than at the end of the evening, simply because it will be easier. In fact, in testing I’ve been able to load stories from the comfort of my own home. To me, it’s just another step closer to closing the chapter on the paper news product and ushering in more fully the digital news product. In the not too distant future we will talk about how quaint it was to read our news from paper when we can have it on our computer or phone or whatever we’ll use.

Keep your eyes on our site in the next few weeks. It will be a million times better.