1456) Church is Good for You– and Your Kids

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By Eric Metaxas and Roberto Rivera, April 5, 2017 blog at http://www.breakpoint.org

Religion is good for you: emotionally, physically, and economically. Who knew? Not the secularists.

     In 2000, Harvard sociologist Robert Putnam published his groundbreaking book, “Bowling Alone.”  Putnam argued that Americans’ reduced interest in civic engagement— by which he meant not only things of a political nature but also things like the PTA, Boy Scouts, groups like the Elks, and, yes, bowling leagues— had reduced the store of what is called “social capital.”

     “Social capital” is what sociologist call “the networks of relationships among people who live and work in a particular society, enabling that society to function effectively.”

     This is more than theory.  It gets to the heart of one of the pressing issues of our time: social and economic inequality.  And while Americans, as a whole, prefer to bowl alone, this solitude isn’t equally distributed.

     As Putnam documents in his most recent book, “Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis,” one thing that separates children from families in the top 25 percent of households measured by income and education from their counterparts in the bottom twenty-five percent is social capital.  The well-off parents featured in “Our Kids” were, if anything, exhaustingly engaged and enmeshed in far-reaching networks that made life better for their kids.

     While we shouldn’t be surprised that good connections offer better-off kids a significant advantage over their poorer counterparts, there’s something else that provides another significant advantage:  religious participation.

     Churchgoing kids “are less prone to substance abuse (drugs, alcohol, and smoking), risky behavior (like not wearing seat belts), and delinquency (shoplifting, misbehaving in school, and being suspended or expelled).”

     But the benefits of regular church attendance do not stop there.  As Putnam tells us, “Compared to their unchurched peers, youth who are involved in a religious organization take tougher courses, get higher grades and test scores, and are less likely to drop out of high school.”

     They also “have better relations with their parents and other adults, have more friendships with high-performing peers, are more involved in sports and other extracurricular activities.”  In fact, churchgoing is so beneficial to academic performance that “a child whose parents attend church regularly is 40 to 50 percent more likely to go on to college than a matched child of non-attenders.”

     Now, this is true regardless of socioeconomic status.  The problem is that regular church attendance is increasingly tied to socioeconomic status.  According to Putnam, while “weekly church attendance” among college-educated families since the late 1970s has remained more or less the same, it has dropped by almost a third among those with a high school diploma or less.  The result is “a substantial class gap that did not exist” fifty years ago.  It’s yet another way that poorer kids are falling behind their more affluent counterparts.

     Given the benefits of regular church attendance, the insistence on minimizing the role of religion in American public life is, to put it mildly, perverse.  Society hasn’t figured out how to reliably give poor kids access to the kinds of advantages, both material and intangible, that better-off kids take for granted.

     But we, the Church, do know how to reach out to them and their families in Jesus’ name.  We have millennia of experience in ministering to the least, the last, and the lost.  And now we have evidence that this kind of ministry has benefits that few people, Christians or non-Christians, ever suspected.

     Will today’s “cultured despisers” of religion pay heed?  Probably not.  But we owe it to the kids— all kids— to ignore those naysayers and to freely give them what we have freely received.

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Psalm 34:10  —  Come, my children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the Lord.

Proverbs 22:6  —  Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.

Ephesians 6:4  —  Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.

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 A PRAYER FOR THE FAMILY by Walter Rauschenbusch (1861-1918) ( God’s Minute, 1916, alt.):
Our Father, we thank you for binding this family together by the sacred tie of common blood.  We remember with how much sacrificial love its life has been created and sustained.  We thank you for a mother’s travail and tenderness, for a father’s faithful toil.  Knit us together by our common joys and sorrows, so that even if we are far removed from one another, nothing may estrange our hearts.  When the youngest of us is old and gray-headed, may the memories of our home still be sweet and dear.  May the children’s children of this family still have the vigor and virtues of our best forefathers, and may the faith, too, of our fathers and mothers burn brightly in their hearts.  Deal graciously with our loved ones.  Give us our daily bread and strength for our daily tasks.  To you we commit the life and destiny of each; through Jesus Christ, our Lord.  Amen.

1430) Total Agreement Reached on Abortion Question

We have been hearing much about ‘fake news’ these days, because that is much of what we have been getting.  There is probably also such a thing as ‘true and accurate news,’ but that is rare, and increasingly difficult to recognize.  There is also ‘satirical news’ which is what The Babylon Bee specializes in, advertising itself as “Your Trusted Source for Christian News Satire.”  Satire is defined as “a composition in which human folly and vice are held up to scorn, derision, or ridicule.”  The news items on The Babylon Bee are hardly ever ‘true,’ but they almost always ‘speak the truth.’  That is most certainly true of this item, posted January 21, 2017 at:

http://www.babylonbee.com

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Survey: 100% Of People Marching On Washington Were Not Aborted

     WASHINGTON, D.C.—In a survey conducted in the nation’s capital Saturday, a full 100% of the people marching on the nation’s capital for abortion rights as part of the “Women’s March on Washington” were found to have not been aborted by their mothers when they were yet to be born.

     The controversial study indicates that there may be a connection between participating in any kind of protest, and having a mother willing to carry you to term beforehand.

     “There seems to be a very strong correlation between your biological mother choosing not to end your life in the womb, and your chances of showing up to a protest about something,” a reporter present at the march said.  “I’ve interviewed hundreds of people out here today, and it’s astounding— not a single one of them was terminated when they were still in their mother’s womb.”

     At publishing time, reports had discovered similar statistics at all other Women’s March events from around the globe.

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“They want rights, and yet they rebel against any standard of right and wrong; so then, where do the rights come from?”

–G. K. Chesterton  (1874-1936)  (I think!?)

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Luke 6:31  —  (Jesus said), “As you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.”

Psalm 139:13-14  —  For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.  I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.

Psalm 22:9-10  —  You brought me out of the womb; you made me trust in you, even at my mother’s breast.  From birth I was cast on you; from my mother’s womb you have been my God.

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A MOTHER’S PRAYER DURING PREGNANCY:

O Lord God Almighty, who hast made us out of nothing, and redeemed us by the precious blood of thine only Son; preserve, I beseech thee, the work of thy hands, and defend both me and the tender fruit of my womb from all perils and evils.  I beg of thee, for myself, thy grace, protection, and a happy delivery; and for my child, that thou wouldst preserve it for baptism, sanctify it for thyself, and make it thine forever.  Through Jesus Christ, thy Son, our Lord.  Amen.

The Christian’s Guide to Heaven, 1794

1390) The Moment of Truth

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By Fred Craddock (1928-2015), Craddock Stories, ed. by Mike Graves and Richard F. Ward, 2001, Chalice Press, pages 23-24.

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     When I was pastoring in Tennessee, there was a girl about seven years old who came to our church regularly for Sunday school, and sometimes her parents let her stay for the worship service.  They didn’t come.  We had a circular drive at that church.  It was built for people who let their children off and drove on.  We didn’t want to inconvenience them, so we had a circular drive.  But they were very faithful, Mom and Dad.  They had moved from New Jersey with the new chemical plant.  He was upwardly mobile; they were both very ambitious; and they didn’t come to church.  There wasn’t really any need for that, I guess.

     But on Saturday nights, the whole town knew of their parties.  They gave parties, not for entertainment, but as part of the upwardly mobile thing.  That determined who was invited:  the right people, the one just above him at work, and all the way on up to the boss.  And those parties were full of drinking and wild and vulgar things.  Everybody knew.

     But there was their beautiful girl every Sunday.

     One Sunday morning I looked out, and she was there.  I thought, “Well, she’s with her friends,” but it was her Mom and Dad.  After the sermon, at the close of the service, as is the custom at my church, came an invitation to discipleship, and Mr. and Mrs. Mom and Dad came to the front.  They confessed faith in Christ.  Afterward I asked, “What prompted this?”

     They said, “Well, do you know about our parties?”

     And I said, “Yeah, I have heard about your parties.”

     They said, “Well, we had one last night again, and it got a little loud, it got a little rough, and there was too much drinking.   All the noise woke our daughter, and she came downstairs to about the third step.  She saw that we were eating and drinking, and she said, ‘Oh, can I say the blessing?  God is great, God is good, let us thank him for our food.  Good-night, everybody.’  She went back upstairs.  It was quiet.  Then somebody said ‘Oh, my land, it’s time to go, we’ve got to be going.’  And someone else said, ‘We’ve stayed way too long.’  Within two minutes the room was empty.”

     Mr. and Mrs. Mom and Dad began cleaning up, picking up crumpled napkins and wasted and spilled peanuts and half sandwiches, and taking empty glasses on trays to the kitchen.  And with two trays, he and she met on either side of the sink, they looked at each other, and he expressed what both were thinking: “Where do we think we’re going?”

     The moment of truth.

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Isaiah 11:6b  —  …A little child will lead them.

Matthew 18:1-5  —  At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who, then, is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”  He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them.  And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.  Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.  And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.”

Mark 10:13-15  —  People were bringing little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them, but the disciples rebuked them.  When Jesus saw this, he was indignant.  He said to them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.  Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.”

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Almighty God, give me grace to trust to Thy never-failing care and love those who are dear to me, for this life and the life to come; knowing that Thou art doing for them better things than I can desire or pray for; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

–Charles Lewis Slattery  (1867-1930), Episcopal Bishop, Boston

1375) “Do You Think She’ll Remember?”

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By Fred Craddock, Craddock Stories, pages 126-127 (adapted).

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     Up near where I live, at Fannin County Hospital, ministers around take turns being chaplain for the week.  I took my turn, and the week I was on watch, there was a baby born.  Not many are born in that small, thirty-bed hospital.  But I went there, it was about nine o’clock in the morning, and I saw all these people gathered, looking through the glass.  There was that little bitty new baby, and it looked like a clan of people gathered around.  I said, “What is it, boy or girl?”           

     “It’s a girl.”    

     “What’s the name?”    

     “Elizabeth.”    

     “Well, is the father over here in this group?” 

     “No.”  I looked back over behind me, and leaning against the wall was a young man.

     He said,” I’m the father.”

     I said, “Baby’s name Elizabeth?”

     “Yeah.”

    “Beautiful baby,” I said.  She was screaming— you couldn’t hear through the glass— but she was crying and screaming and red faced, and all like that.  I thought maybe he might be concerned, and I said, “Now, she’s not sick.  It’s good for babies to scream and do all that.  It clears out their lungs and gets their voices going.  It’s all right.”

     He said, “Oh, I know she’s not sick.  But she is mad as hell.”  And then he said, “Pardon me, Reverend.”

     I said,”That’s all right.  Why is she mad?”

     He said, “Well, wouldn’t you be mad?  One minute you’re with God in heaven and the next minute you’re in Georgia.”

     Well!  I thought, Man, I’ve got myself a real hillbilly theologian here on my hands.  I said, “You believe she was with God before she came here?”

     He said, “Oh, yeah.”

     I said, “You think she’ll remember?”

     He said, “Well, that’s up to her mother and me.  It’s up to the church.  We’ve got to see that she remembers, ’cause if she forgets, she’s a goner.”

      That hillbilly is smart.  He knows what God expects of him as a father.

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Proverbs 22:6  —  Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.

Ecclesiastes 12:1  —  Remember your Creator in the days of your youth, before the days of trouble come and the years approach when you will say, “I find no pleasure in them.”

Psalm 78:5-7  —  (The Lord) decreed statutes for Jacob and established the law in Israel, which he commanded our ancestors to teach their children, so the next generation would know them, even the children yet to be born, and they in turn would tell their children.  Then they would put their trust in God and would not forget his deeds but would keep his commands.

Deuteronomy 4:9  —  Be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them fade from your heart as long as you live.  Teach them to your children and to their children after them.

Luke 22:19  —  (Jesus) took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.”

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PARENTS’ PRAYER AFTER THE BIRTH OF A CHILD:

We thank Thee, O God our Father, for giving us this child to bring up for Thee.  Help us as true disciples to set her a good example in all we think or say or do.  Keep her well in body and mind, and grant that she may grow in grace and in the knowledge of Thy Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ.  Amen.

–From Prayers New and Old, ed. by Clement Walsh

1325) A Little Light in the Darkness

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The ‘Backyard Bible Club’

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By Joshua Rogers, November 15, 2016 blog at:  www.joshuarogers.com

     My old friend Dawn emailed me with unbelievable news last week:  She accidentally found Amanda.  The last time either of us saw her was 17 years ago.

     The summer of 1999, our church hosted Backyard Bible Clubs in neighborhoods throughout Hattiesburg, Mississippi.  Dawn and I were assigned to a trailer park where we met several kids with little to do during summer break, and that’s where we met nine-year-old Amanda, her siblings, and her friends.

     The kids showed up every morning, ready for another day at the castle.  They sang along with the songs, listened intently to the lessons, and addressed the members of the “royal court” as if we were kings and queens.

     Little did we suspect that Amanda and her siblings were living through hell.

     Seventeen years after the summer of Son Castle, I saw Dawn on Facebook occasionally, but I had almost forgotten about our Backyard Bible Club days.  Then I got her email last week.

     Dawn, now a registered nurse, told me that earlier that day, she hosted a party at her home and one of the nurses from her workplace came.  During a conversation, the nurse asked Dawn if she had ever helped with a Bible Club at a trailer park in the Glendale community.

     “I sure did,” said Dawn.

     “Oh wow,” said the nurse, “I was at that Bible Club.”

     It was Amanda.

     Amanda told Dawn that she attended Bible Club with her brothers and sisters, and for some reason, her most vivid memory was of Dawn in a purple outfit.  She had never forgotten her face.

     “I had a terrible childhood,” Amanda told Dawn, “and Backyard Bible Club is one of my few happy memories of it.  It was my first encounter with God.”

     To Amanda’s surprise, Dawn found several photos of the Backyard Bible Club and brought them out.  Amanda’s eyes filled with tears as she looked through the photos.  As she and Dawn were talking, Dawn sensed God prompting her to share about her own horrific upbringing.  So at the risk of creating a potentially awkward conversation, she went out on a limb and revealed that as a child, she had been sexually abused for 11 years.

     Amanda says, “When the words ‘sexually abused’ left Dawn’s lips, I felt a sense of purpose wash over me.  Meeting her was what God wanted; it was what I needed.  I needed Dawn.”  And that’s when Amanda revealed her own painful story.  Around the time when we met her, her step-father was forcing her to share a bed with him.  She went through years of sexual abuse as well, and yet there was a light in her dark memories:  a 19-year-old in a homemade princess outfit.

     Dawn and Amanda, who are both faithful Christians today, sense that they were brought together to give other survivors hope.  They’re thinking through what that will look like, but whatever it is wouldn’t have been possible without a few simple things like a Backyard Bible Club, makeshift costumes, and young adults who were willing to play dress-up for a week to bless some kids in a trailer park.

     If you’re a believer, there’s a good chance that you too are doing some small things to love the people around you.  You’re teaching Sunday School, visiting a relative in the nursing facility, intently listening to your kids, donating money to charity, encouraging a coworker — whatever it is, God knows and He can use it.

     Be encouraged.  When we push over the dominoes of God’s love — even one — the result is unpredictable.  Through His unfailing love, all kinds of people will reap the benefits of your selfless gifts, no matter how big or small.  And while these gifts may not seem like much, God is big enough to take them and turn them into miracles.

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Matthew 5:14a…16b  —  (Jesus said), “You are the light of the world…  Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”

Mark 9:37  —  (Jesus said), “Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me.”

Matthew 19:14  —  Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”

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THIS LITTLE LIGHT OF MINE  (two verses from one of many versions)

Lyrics by Avis Christiansen, tune by Harry Dixon Loes, c. 1920.

This little light of mine
I’m going to let it shine
Oh, this little light of mine
I’m going to let it shine
Hallelujah
This little light of mine
I’m going to let it shine
Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine

Out in the dark
I’m going to let it shine
Oh, out in the dark
I’m going to let it shine
Hallelujah
Out in the dark
I’m going to let it shine
Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.

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This Little Light of Mine on Youtube:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QCN893hzueQ

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1yUK0S_cEXY

 

1295) Learning About God by Coloring With the Kids

By Joshua Rogers, posted October 24, 2016 on his blog Finding God in the Ordinary at:

http://www.joshuarogers.com

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     “Color with me, Daddy,” my oldest daughter said.

     “I prefer to draw a picture, but I don’t know what to draw,” I said. 

     “Just draw a line and keep going,” she said.  “That’s what I do, and then I usually figure out what I’m going to draw after that.”

     So I picked up a pen and began to outline a picture of a tree.

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     “I want to do that,” said my other daughter.  And then both of them got their own pieces of paper and started doing their best to follow me.

     They actually did a good job even though you could tell little kids had made them.  I didn’t care though.  They were imitating me, which I thought was sweet, and they even added their own elements, which made me more proud.  They were teaching me something about loving and being loved by Father God.

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     Speaking of God, I’ve always gotten a little stressed out by the idea of imitating him, as we’re called to do (Philippians 2:5).  It seems like the whole endeavor is set up for failure.  Most of the time, I feel like I’m just playing catch-up with my assignment.  God is perfectly loving and good… and then there’s me:  the oftentimes impatient dad; the inconsiderate husband; the guy who has to fight to keep the focus on Jesus, rather than on himself.

     But then I look at my daughter’s coloring sheet and breathe a sigh of relief. If God is a good father, then my honest effort matters.  I’m not being graded.  I’m not being scrutinized or examined to see if I’m getting is just right.  He wants me to join Him in making something beautiful.  He wants to take the time just to be together.

     Imagine if my daughter said, “Daddy, I’m going to draw this picture, and it’s going to look exactly like yours.  I’m doing this so you’ll be proud of me.  Please don’t get mad at me if it isn’t perfect.”  It would break my heart.

     Pastor Justin Fung says the central difference between effort and earning is motivation.  “Earning is when we do something in order to try to gain God’s affection; effort is when we do something because we already have God’s affection.”  And the only way to secure that affection is through the blood of Jesus.  For those of us who rely upon Him to bring us into God’s family, we can rest in that and just be His beloved children (1 John 3:1).

     It takes a lot of the pressure off of me to think of it that way — to see God as a good father, not some irritable employer who’s just looking for reasons to fire us.  He wants us next to Him.  He wants us to imitate Him, and He is pleased by the trusting heart behind our efforts, even when they’re imperfect.

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I John 3:1a  —  See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God. 

Philippians 2:1-5  —  Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind.  Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit.  Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.  In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus.

I Corinthians 4:14-16  —   I am writing this not to shame you but to warn you as my dear children.  Even if you had ten thousand guardians in Christ, you do not have many fathers, for in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel.  Therefore I urge you to imitate me.

Hebrews 13:7  —  Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you.  Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith.

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Day by day,
Dear Lord, of thee three things I pray:
To see thee more clearly,
Love thee more dearly,
Follow thee more nearly,
Day by Day.

–From the 1971 musical Godspell; by Stephen Schwartz, based on a prayer by St. Richard of Chichester (1197-1253)

1126) Work and Play

WORK

“The Top Thing Parents Can Do to Turn Kids Into Successful Adults” by Annie Holmquist, article posted May 9, 2016 at http://www.intellectualtakeout.org

     Last week, Business Insider ran an interesting article listing 13 things parents can do to turn their child into a well-adjusted, successful adult.  The first thing on the list of what parents of successful kids have in common is “They make their kids do chores.”

     But if childhood chores are truly a predictor of future success, then it seems the U.S. is about to see a very unsuccessful generation, for only 28 per cent of parents require their children to do chores.  By contrast, 82 percent of those same parents were asked to do chores when they were kids.

     This steep decline is likely an outgrowth of numerous things, including the tendency to over-schedule both children and parents.  But is it possible that many of today’s parents are also unsure of how much they can reasonably expect of their child?  Authors and educators Harvey and Laurie Bluedorn address that issue in their book Teaching the Trivium. According to the Bluedorns, children are capable of far more responsibilities than we give them credit for:

“Develop in your child a love for work and service.  From the time a child is able to walk and talk, he should be given regular chores to perform.  We do not mean simply feeding the dog and making his bed.  A five-year-old is quite capable of putting the dishes away and folding the laundry.  A ten-year-old can prepare simple meals from start to finish.  Children of all ages can clean and straighten the house.  The mother should not be picking up things from off of the floor.  Your goal should be that, by the time the children are in their teens, they are able to take over the work of the household, from cooking to cleaning to caring for their younger brothers and sisters.  This not only teaches them to appreciate work while removing some of the burden from the parent, but it is good training for when they have their own households.  Do not do for your child what he can do for himself.”

     If we want to ensure that the next generation turns into successful, responsible adults, more parents are going to have to step up to the plate and expect more out of their children in the chore arena.

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PLAY

From “Kids– and Adults– Need to Get Outside” by Randy Alcorn, posted May 9, 2016, at http://www.epm.org

     A friend and I were driving through a neighborhood on a beautiful summer day and he said, “We haven’t seen a single kid outdoors.  They’re all inside, watching movies, playing video games and looking at computer screens.”

     When (I was) growing up, free time when it was daylight meant being outside, and free time at night meant reading a book.  I have great memories of playing army in the wheat fields around our house, and playing football and basketball at the local grade school, then getting in bed early and reading sometimes for hours before turning out the light…

     Our daughters, Karina and Angela, are both raising boys.  Nanci and I are proud of them and their husbands, and the way they are carefully training their sons.  Part of that is limiting the amount of screen time they get each day, and encouraging them to go outside and enjoy God’s creation, and read books as well!

     As an adult, I still love to be outside.  I especially love going out on my favorite bike trail, the Springwater Corridor, and breathing the fresh Oregon air, watching for rabbits and other wildlife and thoroughly enjoying the Creator’s art work.

     Studies show there is a high correlation between indoor living and depression.   As a counselor years ago, I noticed that the time of year when people suffer most from depression (and just about every other emotional disorder) is in the months of November through February.  In fall and spring the requests for counseling were half of what they were in winter, and in the summer they were even fewer.  (Certainly there are other factors that contribute to this, but lack of regular exposure to sunlight and fresh air in the winter months is a major one.)

     This is a thought-provoking video, one that’s not Christian or Bible-based but is nonetheless very revealing, about how kids’ ideas about having fun have radically changed over the years: 

http://viewpure.com/is5W6GxAI3c?start=0&end=0

     Make time outdoors part of your daily plan for both yourself and your family.  Whether it’s working in the garden, an outdoor quiet time, or a daily walk or run or bike ride, get out and do something—  for God’s glory and for the good of your children and grandchildren!

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Matthew 21:28-31  —  (Jesus said), “What do you think?  There was a man who had two sons.  He went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work today in the vineyard.’  ‘I will not,’ he answered, but later he changed his mind and went.  Then the father went to the other son and said the same thing.  He answered, ‘I will, sir,’ but he did not go.  Which of the two did what his father wanted?”  “The first,” they answered.

Psalm 19:1  —  The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.

Psalm 104:24-25  —  O Lord, how manifold are your works!  In wisdom you have made them all; the earth is full of your creatures.  Yonder is the sea, great and wide, creeping things innumerable are there, living things both small and great.

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Almighty God and heavenly Father, we thank you for the children whom you have given to us; give us also grace to train them in your faith, fear, and love, that as they advance in years they may grow in grace, and be found hereafter in the number of your elect children; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

John Cosin, Bishop of Durham  (1594-1672)

771) Leaning on Grandma’s Faith

     

Geoffrey Canada is an African-American man who grew up on the streets of Bronx.  He is the author of the book Reaching Up for Manhood:  Transforming the Lives of Boys in America.  In it, he shares some of his personal experiences and tells how he overcame many adverse circumstances.  He gives great credit to his grandmother, who eventually turned him around and gave him a moral compass.  He relates a story about her final days while dying of cancer.  It was during a terribly difficult period in his own life.  Both his brother and his infant son had recently died.  This is what he wrote (quoted in Bringing Up Boys by James Dobson):

     I might have been able to accept one of these deaths, but not all three.  Why had God taken my infant son, my brother whom I worshiped, and now was going to take my grandmother whom I cherished?  The answer to me was that there simply was no God.  Not only did I doubt the existence of God, but my own life lost meaning.  Why was I working so hard in college, away from my family and friends, sacrificing so much, when death could come at any instant, making all my hard work folly?

     When I went home to see my grandmother she was bedridden.  The cancer had robbed her of her strength and would soon take her life.  Right before I went back to school I went into her room and I asked her the question that was tearing me apart.  I know it was selfish to ask her this while she was dying, but I had to know.

     “Grandma, do you still believe in God?”

     “Of course I do.  Why do you ask me that?”

     “Because you are sick.  You have cancer.”

     “Being sick doesn’t have anything to do with faith.”

     “But how can you have faith when God has done this to you?  Made you suffer.  And for what?  What did you do offend God so much that you have to be in pain like this?”

     “Geoffrey, listen to me.  I know you’ve been through so much with the loss of your son and your brother.  But don’t lose faith in God or yourself.  God has a plan and you’re part of it, so you can’t give up.  Faith is not something you believe in until things don’t go your way.  It’s not like rooting for a football team, and then when they start losing, changing sides and rooting for another team.  Faith means you believe no matter what.

     “Do you hear me?  It’s easy to have faith when you have a million dollars and you’re in perfect health.  Do you think that proves anything to God?  Your problem is that you think if you study your books had enough you will find all the answers.  All the answers aren’t in books.  They never will be.  So do I believe in God?  Yes.  More now that ever before.”

     I reluctantly went back to college after spending a week with my grandmother, not knowing that this was to be the last time I would ever talk to her or see her.  She died within weeks of my leaving.  I spent the rest of my sophomore year in a daze, the combined losses too much for me to comprehend.  But I knew I had to keep trying, and not lose my faith, because that’s what my grandmother wanted.  And when I became suddenly frightened or depressed, and found that my faith was weak and could not sustain me, I felt that I could borrow my grandmother’s faith.  Even though she was no longer alive, her faith was real and tangible to me.  Many nights I leaned on her faith when I felt my own could not support me.   

     Every child needs a grandmother like mine in their lives– a person who is older, and wiser, and is willing to fight for as long as it takes for that child’s soul; a person who is willing to hold his or her life up as an example of faith; a person who both forgives and teaches forgiveness; a person whose abundance of faith will be there in sufficient supply when children need it.  Because sooner or later children need more faith than they possess.  That is where we grandparents come in.

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Psalm 71:17-18  —  Since my youth, God, you have taught me, and to this day I declare your marvelous deeds.  Even when I am old and gray, do not forsake me, my God, till I declare your power to the next generation, your mighty acts to all who are to come.

Job 8:8-10  —  Ask the former generation and find out what their ancestors learned, for we were born only yesterday and know nothing, and our days on earth are but a shadow.  Will they not instruct you and tell you?  Will they not bring forth words from their understanding?

Job 12:12  —  Is not wisdom found among the aged?  Does not long life bring understanding?

II Timothy 1:5  —  I am reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also.

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 A PRAYER FOR PARENTS by John Cosin:

 Almighty God and heavenly Father, we thank you for the children which you have given us; give us also grace to train them in your faith, fear, and love; that as they advance in years they may grow in grace, and may hereafter be found in the number of your children; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

676) “Imposing” Church on Children?

By Rev. William Willimon, Pulpit Resource, First Quarter, 2009, page. 12

     I have met a number of parents who have gotten the notion that, while parents should train their children in academic and vocational skills, they should not “impose” ethical or religious values upon their children.  “We simply tell our children what we believe, but we also tell them that they are free to make up their own minds,” some of these people will say.  There was also the father who told me, when asked why his twelve-year old son was not in church one Sunday, “Well, he doesn’t seem to care too much for church, and after all, you can’t force him to go, can you?”  This same father, I noted, had no problems with forcing his child to go to baseball practice, junior high school, piano lessons, and Boy Scouts.  I assume he “imposes” these activities upon his son because he, as a parent, is sincerely convinced that participation will make for a richer and more satisfying life for his son in the future.  Why not feel the same way about church?

     Of course, we’ve all seen the victims of the parental approach that forced children into patterns of belief and behavior which were unrealistic for the child’s needs and abilities.  And we all know that, in spite of a parent’s best efforts, a child may not follow a parentally chosen path.  But there is a difference between saying, “This is our faith, our family’s faith, and the faith that we have promised to give to you, and therefore we want you to participate in this faith;” and saying, “As far as your faith is concerned, that’s a matter we leave completely up to you.  We have nothing to pass on to you, no experience of our own to share with you, no vision for your future.”

     While we do not mean to “impose” unrealistic or unnatural expectations upon them, neither do we mean to be dishonest with them about who we are and under what commitments we have chosen to live our lives.  We intend to live our lives in such a way as to say, “This is who we are and are trying to be.  Therefore, this is who you are.  This is our family’s way of doing things.  This is the witness to the truth which we have received and which we now, with God’s help, pass on to you.”

     I believe that many of us parents suffer from a failure of nerve in regard to the nurturing of our children’s faith.  We are certain that we will send them to school because we are confident of the value of education.  We are certain that they will take piano lessons because we are sure that enriches a person’s life.  We insist that they do household chores because we know that the ability to work is basic to adult happiness.  But we lack confidence that in matters of religion we have anything special to offer them.  We are going through a period in which everything is up for grabs, in which all values are being questioned, and many are being abandoned.  So who am I to pass on to my young who they are and what they should be?  

     In other words, we suffer, as parents, not so much from a lack of know-how but from a lack of faith in ourselves, our values, our traditions, and even our own religious beliefs.  

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Proverbs 22:6  —  Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.

Ephesians 6:4  —  Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.

Psalms 34:11  —  Come, my children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the Lord.

Deuteronomy 4:9  —  Be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them fade from your heart as long as you live.  Teach them to your children and to their children after them.

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Almighty God, we thank you for the children which you have given us; give us grace also to train them in your faith, fear, and love; that as they advance in years they may grow in grace; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

–John Cosin

668) Act Your Age?

People were bringing little children to Jesus in order that he might touch them; and the disciples spoke sternly to them.  But when Jesus saw this, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs.  Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.”  And he took them up in his arms, laid his hands on them, and blessed them.   –Mark 10:13-16

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     One might wonder about these words of Jesus in Mark 10.  It looks like Jesus was telling his followers to be like little kids.  My wife and I had a couple little kids, and we were always telling them to grow up.  We never had to tell them to act like kids.  Kids act like kids all on their own, and that means they can be selfish, rude, obnoxious, silly, noisy, disrespectful, and uncooperative.  Is Jesus telling his disciples to be like that?

       Not exactly.  Jesus does not say we should be like kids in every way, but he does say that we should receive the kingdom of God like a little child.  I think that has something to do with being open to faith, and not full of cynicism and doubt, like you can get when you get older.  It might mean being loving and trusting, and not suspicious and guarded like you can get after you’ve been around the block a few times.  It probably also means being humble enough to know that your are dependent on Someone greater than yourself, something you might forget when you have been successful and seem to be meeting all your needs on your own.  And it might have something to do with being eager and willing to learn.  It is always the little ones in Sunday School that are the happiest to be there and most eager to learn.  Many adults seem to be of the opinion that they have had enough of that sort of thing and have little interest in learning any more.

     It is in these ways that Jesus is telling us to be “like a little child” if we want to enter the kingdom of God.  So yes, do what your mother always told you and “act your age.”  But do remember that God is your heavenly Father and your are still his little child, no matter how big and important you might become in the few years God allows you to rule your little kingdom on this little earth.  No matter what you do, become, have, or accomplish as an adult, the only thing that will matter in eternity is that you remember and believe that “Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.”  

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PRAYER BASED ON MARTIN LUTHER’S CATECHISM EXPLANATION TO THE INTRODUCTION TO THE LORD’S PRAYER:

OUR FATHER WHO ART IN HEAVEN.  O God, you encourage us to believe that you are truly our Father and that we are your children.  Help us to pray to you with complete confidence, just like little children speaking to their dear father; through Jesus Christ, your Son, our Lord.  Amen.