When kids say, "I don’t want to go to church!"

One of the struggles of Christian parenting is shepherding your children into the desire of following God. If I make them learn catechism questions, or go to church, they will grow up and reject the church and the gospel because I have made them do it. That’s sometimes what we think, and perhaps that’s a legitimate fear, or “concern” if you don’t like to admit to being afraid.
At what level do you “make” your kids do anything? How “religious” in nature should something be before you say, “OK, I don’t want you to have to do this.” For instance, school and breaking the Law are pretty much non-negotiables, right?  It doesn’t matter if they want to do it, they have to or don’t have to do it. 
Should it be the same for regularly coming to church? Bible study, catechism questions, etc…? Should we just say, “You have to come to Church?”
Right now my 4 year old lives for church. He has 3 years of children’s church before he hears his daddy preach. Will he enjoy it then? What will I do when he says, “I don’t want to come?” What should you do as laity with your kids? Instead of a road block, this is an opportunity to lead your family to Christ and His Church in a deeper way.
Here are some thoughts about the subject which have bounced around in my head for a bit.
1.) Don’t assume that making your kid go to church will necessarily make him not want to go to church when he/she gets older. My wife and I had to go to church growing up, but I only missed a few Sundays even when in college. There is not a tit-for-tat relationship for every child and mandatory church attendance. However, some of had experiences of having to go to church and decided to be done with it later in life. Experience varies.
2.) The Christian life is not easy. There are things that I want to do that I can’t. There are things God calls me to do that I don’t want to do. Following Jesus involves taking up our crosses daily (Luke 9:23). If our kids only do the things they want to do, and as parents we regularly foster that attitude by giving into the demands of our children to stay home on Sunday, then we are setting up a pick-and-choose Lordship of King Jesus. But his lordship is to be entire (though obviously impossible, that is the direction we are moving toward). So just leaving them at home doesn’t help in the long run either.
3.) The motivation of the human heart is never going to be perfect. Even when someone doesn’t want to be at church, and is only there because of duty-on his or his parent’s part-the Holy Spirit can still show up. He really can. I hear it all the time. When you put yourselves in the way of the oncoming train of grace, you are likely to get hit. His work of sanctification is there for the asking and we need to regularly point our kids to Him. Even folks driven by duty and gasoline can find grace in the preached Word, congregational singing, sacraments, and fellowship.
4.) Ask “Why” and get to the heart of the matter.  Don’t simply make your kids go without any explanation. Don’t simply just let them stay home from church whenever the want. Both will produce people who are either bitter or see no need for the church. Either of those methods completely ignore the gospel. But they are in fact easiest options in this saga, and so the tendency is to deal with it on a simple black-and-white level. Do or don’t do. Very Yoda-esque, just not gospel-esque.
Instead of saying, “We’re going no matter what” or “We’re going when we/you feel like it,” why not ask the deeper question: why don’t you want to come to church? Sounds like a simple question, but simple questions are often windows into our souls. 
Here are some excuses which have come up in my discussion with adults and youth over the years on why they didn’t want to come to church.
1.) Boring. Why is something boring? Having something not pertain to your life as a teenager makes things boring very quickly. But as a parent, you have the opportunity to follow up after the sermon and talk through the points, illustrations, gospel connections. Even if the pastor doesn’t do a good job speaking to teenagers (which ours does), you as a parent can play a big role in discussing and applying the sermons. It also sets you up to talk to bigger issues. Boring is the response of the soul that doesn’t really get the gospel. No one was ever bored with Jesus. Ever. They loved him and worshiped Him, or hated and tried to kill him. You never get to Jesus by simply a “come at all costs” or “just stay at home” mentality. Both stop short.
2.) Relationships. Sometimes interpersonal drama (I wish it were only the case with teenagers!) makes kids not want to come. There may be something more than “I just want to stay home.” Now you can apply the gospel to their relationships: forgiveness, peacemaking, truth telling, etc….I once heard an adult describe coming to church as “doing a dance.” This woman didn’t get the gospel. Even though the church was less than healthy, staying home allowed her to not apply the gospel to her situation. Perhaps she was right or perhaps it was simply her perception, but the gospel which tells her she is now in right relationship with God frees her up to not care what others thought of her dress.
3.) We want our kids to sense a “need” to come to church. Not that Jesus will like us more, but because we are dissatisfied with the substitute mini-saviors. Tell them, “Daddy needs to hear about Jesus big time. He desperately needs to hear about grace so that the mini-saviors begin to lose their appeal.” They’ll begin to see it’s not an obligation but a need.
4.) We also want them to want to come to church. Tell them, “Daddy wants to hear more about Jesus big time. In light of what He’s done, is doing, will do, I want to hear about Him and be among His people.” Tell them-if it is true-that Sunday morning is the high point of the week and that you hate to miss. Let them see and hear not only your need but your desire. They’ll begin to see it’s not an obligation but a delight.
In conclusion-which I know is not how you should conclude anything (but this was a bit of ‘stream of consciousness writing so I felt it necessary), don’t fall into the easy route of saying, “OK, you can stay at home,” or “You’re coming with us.”

Simply taking your kids to church every Sunday is not “doing all that we could do as parents.” When they don’t want to come, take pains to understand why. You will have ample opportunities to point them to Jesus, both to his commands and His promises. But you’ll miss out if you don’t take the time to ask the simply question, “Why not?”

Who me, a slave? We just may be a slave to sports

Slavery is now regularly in the news and it should be because it is prevalent in many parts of the world. But in contrast, slavery to sin is present in all parts of the world and often gets very little attention. Even in the church. When Jesus mentioned to the Jews of his day that they were in fact slaves, they pretty much commented the way a third grader would if you told him he was stupid or ugly or fat: no, you’re the one that is a slave, and have a demon to boot! Read it. It’s kind of comical (John 8:31-47)
Seriously, the Jews claimed that the they were free and slaves to no one. Yet Jesus reminded them that anyone who sins is a slave to sin until he/she is ransomed from that slavery and made alive (Ephesians 2:1-5; Colossians 2:13). 
Christians often make the same mistake of thinking “who me?” and that we can’t be enslaved. Well,  probably a better way to understand it is that Christians choose slavery over freedom more often than we think. While we are free and don’t HAVE to sin, Paul still tells Christians in his letter to the Galatians 5:1 “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.”
To not go back to a yoke of slavery involves an intentional, conscious, everyday choice. It involves asking the questions do I have to do this activity, “religious” or “un-religious” in order to live, have worth, find meaning? Is this activity, behavior, or belief consistent with God’s design or mission for me or my family’s life?  
These questions deal with the real heart issue and avoid falling into legalism, a judgmental spirit, or saying THIS IS WHAT ALL CHRISTIANS MUST DO in regards to _______.
For instance, let me pick on our kids athletics for a bit (I’m about to enter that world of organized sports for first time as my almost 4 yr old starts soccer in a week) since that is a huge suburban idol? As I drive to Sunday youth group and notice little kids practicing T-Ball, I wonder, what should my response as a Christian parent be when my kid is that age? I can remember the days of the “Atheist softball league” (as I called it) that we would drive by on the way to church as a kid. Now, Sunday sports are more mainstream in our churches. It wouldn’t surprise me to see Christians playing in the “Atheist softball league” anymore. Why not? It’s offered then, and fits into our schedules?
Let’s get back to the slavery question. If your kid has a travel soccer, baseball, basketball league that regularly stops you for a season at a time from coming to worship, what should you do? In the past, folks planning sports events that prohibit church attendance may have thought, “Well, we need to do this Sunday afternoon b/c we would lose the church going population.” But now-and I’m not arguing for a return to “the good old days”-they don’t need to fear losing church folks. 
We just cave. We go regardless now. If there is opportunity for our kid to get better, we go. After all, we want them in the NBA, or at least to get a college scholarship. Or maybe just to share the glory of a stud athlete in high school. 
I’d love to be at church, but we have this sporting event.
Is this not suburban slavery?
I fear most of us don’t even pause and evaluate. Of course we go. We want our kid to get better or have fun, and he/she would be disappointed if we didn’t. But if we HAVE to do something, let’s just call it what it is: slavery. If I have to watch sports, fish, or read before doing something consistent with my calling as a gospel-driven parent, spouse, Christian, am I not choosing slavery once again? If we say we can stop these good activities that prevent us from better activities anytime, but simply don’t, are we that much different than the drug addict that says he/she can quit any time?
If our saying no to certain activities, behaviors, or beliefs would mean a loss of meaning, purpose, reason for living, then we’ve once again chosen slavery.
There comes a time to just say NO to good things so that we can pursue better things. There comes a time to say NO, because we have become enslaved again. There comes a time to say NO, because Jesus offers something greater than putting your hopes on your kid becoming the next great soccer player.
We forfeit that joy because we are always saying yes to our idols.
I want my kid to turn pro. I want him to get a scholarship. But I’m entering the season of my life where I will seriously need to make sure that I’m not enslaved to that. I would much rather him walk with Jesus and love His church when he leaves my house. Most Christians would say that is more important, but their unrecognized slavery simply affirms that is not the case. By grace and in community with other broken folks, I will continue to need Jesus and His church to help me recognize my own tendency to slavery. Particularly because I love sports so much.

Don’t cry for me Argentina or Jerusalem

In reading through Zechariah 7 for my devotions (you’ll never hear me use the word “quiet time,” b/c that’s what my 3 year has to do when he doesn’t take a nap), I came across a challenging passage. 
It sounds innocent enough. 
2 Now the people of Bethel had sent Sharezer and Regem-melech and their men to entreat the favor of the LORD,  3 saying to the priests of the house of the LORD of hosts and the prophets, “Should I weep and abstain in the fifth month, as I have done for so many years?” 
But there really is something missing. It is like someone saying, “Lord, should I try to be sad and go through the outward emotions of looking like I’m sad because of my sins and the sins of my nation? Because I really am just bummed about missing my favorite restaurant and hangout places back home. Should I keep going through the motions of repentance without real repentance?”
Because that’s what was happening. Keep in mind, many of the same things that caused Israel to ‘get the boot,’ continued to happen. That’s why these lofty promises of a restoration of the temple (the rebuilt Temple was NOT nearly as cool as before) and the kingship never go anywhere. We don’t hear much about this new potential king Zerubbabel until Jesus’ genealogy. 
5 When you fasted and mourned in the fifth month and in the seventh, for these seventy years, was it for me that you fasted?
The Lord says that they were not fasting and weeping because of their sins. Some were probably bummed about the consequences of their sin: living in foreign land. Some of them had actually become quite comfortable there and enjoyed the foreign food and ladies.
It’s a good reminder to all of us that we can be sad over the consequences of our sin, without ever demonstrating true repentance: sadness over the fact that we’ve chosen death over life, empty wells (Jer 2:32) over the spring of living water (John 4:10-11).  For instance we can be sad over the relational consequences of yelling at our kids, kicking our dogs, belittling our spouses, not loving neighbors: loneliness, lack of intimacy, divorce, people not being there when we need them. But being sad about the consequences is not the same as truly grieving the sin.
What’s the difference? God says, “was it for me that you fasted these 70 years?” In other words, their idolatry and injustice was an affront to God Himself in addition to an oppressing His people. As David reminds us in Psalm 51, any sin done against another person made in the image of God is first and foremost a sin against God. It was He whom they had sinned, and it was to Him whom they were to first repent. But they hadn’t as evidenced by continuing in the pattern of injustice (Zech 7:9-10).
In regards to parenting, some things hit me then and now: do I grieve my sins against my kids and wife as though I’ve sinned against God? And when my kids disrespect me, do I grieve the fact that they’ve disrespected me only? Or do I grieve, concern myself, pray for the fact that they’re really disrespecting God as a Father? If I can grieve the sin as against God first and foremost, I don’t have to take it as personally. Instead of responding quickly or harshly, I then have the opportunity to bring the gospel to bear on the heart. After all, our sins are an affront against a Holy, but also LOVING Heavenly Father. It is out of respect and love for Him that I hope my kids will respect me, and not the other way around. Particularly when I’m hard to respect.

Anyhow, just some thoughts I had while reading Zechariah.

No Christian Friends!

Every Christian who has kids wants his/her kids to have Christian friends. That’s pretty much a gimme. But I think if we take seriously the fact that our families ARE NOT ends in and of themselves (Gen 12:1-3), we will also pray that they have non-Christian friends who will come to know Jesus through our children and their activities. 
Now how that is applied for each family will differ. Some may need to put strict limits and boundaries and decide how much his/her child is ready to seriously be a friend to others outside Christ. Some may just not be ready yet. But at the very least, we can regularly be praying for our kids’ unchurched friends. I do this each night with my 3 year old, praying for several of his pre-school friends to come to church with us.
And still, there is always some parental anxiety that bad behaviors will rub off. Of course, if we are honest, we would recognize that bad behaviors are more than just learned from others; they are produced from within our and our children’s sinful hearts. It’s not Spongebob’s fault. At the same time, Connar my three year old is probably too young to actually filter Spongebob through a Christian grid, so that, including disrespect, is a potential risk when he plays with his unbelieving neighbors.
One family unknowingly helped me and several other folks think through this issue.
We had a missionary family come visit the church a few weeks ago. They are going back to Germany in a year to begin tilling the soil for another church plant in Berlin. We asked them, “Who do your kids play with?” Their kids have NO Christian friends. In fact some families don’t let their kids play with these missionary kids because they are Christians. How reversed is that?
Ultimately you just have to trust that Jesus is bigger than your kids lack of Christian friends. They can still grow up to know Jesus, rest on Him, and tell others about Him. If He that is in us, is greater than he who is in the world, then we need not fear.
Is that not challenging to us in America? Will my kid have good influences? Enough Christian friends? How often should I let Jimmy the Pagan come over to play? These are questions church-going suburbanites ask.  But I think we need to be reminded of the Christian community overseas, particularly those of missionaries. Perhaps we need a bit more faith in God and less faith in “seemingly” controllable areas.

When these fears or “controls” come up, consider your brothers and sisters in the faith whose kids have NO Christian friends. God is good. He is faithful to us and to our children. He can make up for our lack of faithfulness as parents as well as our kids’ lack of Christian friends.

A rare helpful Barna article

It’s not really any “news” that many younger folks leave the church during college years, but eventually come back when they have kids. Of course some don’t. Probably many, but I don’t know percentages. I could make one up that might be just as accurate if pressed…. 

Here’s a new article by the Barna Group. Normally those words make me cringe. Barna’s ecclesiology leaves something to be desired. Very desired. I heard an interview with him once where he said “I don’t go to church.” Not only that but the Barna Group’s research methods have been at times deemed questionable at best, according to some.  Nevertheless, I actually liked this article because it didn’t provide alarmist statistics to cause panic. 

Instead of yelling “fire,” this article discusses 6 reasons why young adults leave the church, and even includes some possible solutions to the problems. So even though percentages are thrown your way, they seem to take more of a back seat.

Again, you can read the article here. If you’ve gotten this far into this post, I don’t doubt that at all. So I’ll just comment on two of the reasons. And apologize for the weird formatting that follows-I tried 3-4 times to “pretty” it up. No luck. 


One of the reasons include the exclusivity of the gospel message amidst a pluralistic culture. You can’t do a whole about that “problem.” Now you can not be arrogant and not demonize those who don’t love Jesus. That’s called loving your neighbor or your enemy. But you can’t include them as part of God’s family when John 1:12 tells us that those who believe in Jesus have been given the right to become children of God. Jesus gives that right. No one else does.

Unfriendly to Doubters 

Perhaps the reason that gave me most “hope” to work with was number 6.

Reason #6 – The church feels unfriendly to those who doubt.
Young adults with Christian experience say the church is not a place that allows them to express doubts. They do not feel safe admitting that sometimes Christianity does not make sense. In addition, many feel that the church’s response to doubt is trivial. Some of the perceptions in this regard include not being able “to ask my most pressing life questions in church” (36%) and having “significant intellectual doubts about my faith” (23%). In a related theme of how churches struggle to help young adults who feel marginalized, about one out of every six young adults with a Christian background said their faith “does not help with depression or other emotional problems” they experience (18%).

Is the church really unfriendly to those who doubt? Well that depends upon the church. Certainly many are, and certainly many have ignored Jude’s warning (although most people probably ignore that book altogether) “have mercy upon those who doubt (vs 22).” 
Sometimes the problem lies with a perception of unfriendliness. It’s not that those who doubt (and we all do in some way) can’t ask the questions to those in the church. It’s often that those who have such questions, want to answer them isolation of the church. That way they can be objective with their struggles. But to go in isolation, and listen to voices outside the church (which are far from objective), or to try to discern what the bible “really says”by yourself outside the church, only increases your subjectivity. That’s a problem I see in young folk today. 
But on the other hand, do we offer times or promote a culture where kids in the church can really ask questions? Questions that we can affirm as legitimate questions? We’ve tried to do that with our youth here at Redeemer. In Sunday School, the Sr High are going through The Reason For God video series. In it, hard questions have been raised. I reminded the teacher to welcome such questions, and feel free to say, “I don’t know,” instead of cringing, freaking out, or being flustered at such (not that she was-she’s a great teacher). The youth are asking them to the church, in front of their friends in the church. Hopefully when they have faith crises in college, they’ll know the church can be a safe place to doubt.
We’ve also tried to make the church a safe place to doubt by doing a whole Jr High semester series on THEIR questions during our youth group time. I solicited the questions from THEM. Hopefully Redeemer, and whatever church they go to when they leave this place, will be safe. But just as importantly, I hope that they don’t ASSUME their next church isn’t. 
Finally, in the home, we can avoid such hard questions (and assume we know how our kids would answer), or we can welcome such questions. Or even raise ones we know are out there. But this is obviously hard, and it scares me to think about. I don’t want Connar to say, “Dad, I don’t think I believe in the bible.” But if he doesn’t have the freedom to express this doubt now, he will eventually live out those doubts like many (you don’t need a study to tell you that) who leave for college.

Review of Faithfulness Under Fire: The story of Guido de Bres

I received an email the other day offering me the opportunity to review the book Faithfulness Under Fire: The story of Guido de Bres. Of course I jumped on it, and am glad I did.

Faithfulness Under Fire does a remarkable job of telling a short, but robust story, of the short, but robust story of a man named Guido de Bres. Pronounced “Gee-doe de Bray,” this remarkable man lived in Belgium in the early to middle 1500’s. Influenced by the Reformation truths of justification by faith alone, and the protestant discovery that you could read the bible for yourself, he soon became a marked man. On several occasions he fled to different countries like England and Switzerland to study and learn God’s Word under Calvin and Company. Eventually he married and returned to Belgium. He began pastoring and preaching in secret, though those longing for the spiritual milk of the Word began to number in the thousands. You can’t be too discreet with those numbers! 

Dodging the Holy Roman Emperor King Phillip II could last only so long. Eventually he was imprisoned and hung for his faith.  Yet during his short life time of 44 years, he penned what became known as the Belgic Confession of Faith, still used by many Reformed churches today.  

The illustrations in this short children’s book really make Guido’s story come alive today. My spirit truly stirred within me. I personally hadn’t ever heard of this man before, but upon reading this story, I now have a greater appreciation for the story behind the Belgic Confession. I’m quite guilty of looking at such confessions as though they appeared out of nowhere. Familiar with the story and creation of the Westminster Confession (part of our denomination’s constitution), I know little of the blood, sweat, tears, and martyrdom which often accompany many such articulations of faith. Such documents are more than documents: they are doctrine not just penned by authors but sealed and spread by the very blood of those who believed in such doctrine.  Nowadays such formulations and articulations of doctrine cost us very little. But that was not always the case. Faithfulness Under Fire moves us to a simple, but greater appreciation of such confessions.

As a children’s story, I think the book also succeeds in telling the story of someone very much in love with the person of Jesus. He loved Jesus so much he was willing to die for him. I didn’t find the details overly graphic or morbid, but instead felt they helped illustrate the true battle for the gospel. A battle which sometimes, and in may places today, gets more heated than it does here in the States. Boekstein does a good job of capturing the past Protestant struggle against an oppressive Catholic Empire without trying to re-cast the present day Roman Catholic church in the same light. 

With every biography, we must take pains to not make it a hagiography. In a short book like this, no flaws in de Bres were addressed. And that is OK, because we don’t get a picture of flaws in the book of Daniel either. Biographies, as with bible stories where the “main character” is Noah, David, or Daniel, must point us and our little ones to the true Hero behind the story. The Jesus Storybook Bible uses language like, “God sent someone to deliver His people” and then concludes the David v. Goliath story pointing to One who would later come to deliver His people for good. I don’t know if we can expect a short children’s book to explain all of this or completely contextualize this story in the larger story of redemption. Parents can do this with any book or story very easily.

So provided the parent provides this framework, this and other short biographies can be very powerful to show that Jesus’ love for us truly does compel and empower us to live boldly and not even shrink before death, much less peer pressure. He writes, “By God’s grace, Guido lived a life of total service to God.” It is clear to the reader where this power came from. But as a parent, we need to be intentional at certain points in the story. For instance we must regularly ask such questions with biographies and stories like, “How did this dude get so bold? How was she able to persevere?” These kinds of questions can transform a biography to a true Christ-centered teach devotional.

On the last page Boekstein gives some instructions for thinking through this story and how to read it to children. 

This is the value we see in teaching our children about Guido de Bres-not to glorify him, but to be drawn by his example to live to the glory of God.

I think there is much value in reading biographies ourselves, as well as teaching them to our children. The goal is not to make much of Guido but make much of Jesus for His work in Guido. Yet we also need not ignore the great examples in church history of what it actually looks like to follow Jesus in this world. I learn what forgiveness looks like not simply by studying a passage, but also by reading As We Forgive: Stories of Reconciliation from Rwanda.

We’ve been surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses, both in the present and in the past. We would do well to learn about them. Not for the simple goal of emulation, but to encourage us that Jesus testimony is true: he can save a life from not only the punishment of sin, but also from the power of sin and fear. 

This review is quite a bit longer than the actual book itself, which I commend to you. For more information, check out the you tube trailer.  

Paradox of parenting

Parenting is very easy until you have to actually do it. You can have all the theories down, methodology straight, say to yourself or spouse “I would never do it that way,” become angry at your own parents for their shortcomings until you actually become a parent and then realize that your kids aren’t robots or broken machines in need of fixing. Actually since I’m not good with my hands, I’m thankful that they’re not. Kevin DeYoung writes:
I remember years ago hearing a line from Alistair Begg, quoting another man, that went like this: “When I was young I had six theories and no kids. Now I have six kids and no theories.” I must be smart. It only took me four kids to run out of theories……
Kids are made in the image of God-which for some reason when you join a P.C.A. church is glaringly omitted (we just start with the Fall and ignore Creation)-and so much more complex than we probably realize as we search for the perfect formula of what to do. And of course they are sinful, just like their parents, which complicates things on both ends (if it were only THEM, parenting would be so much easier….)
Add that to the myriad parenting books out there, which always seem to disappoint because they can leave you feeling guilty, misapply the gospel, or promise to be “gospel-powered” but seem more pharisaical.
I think it is a good thing to read books on all subjects, (and read them in community) including parenting. My new favorite is a short book that is actually made for small group discussion: Gospel Centered Family. It is funny though how publishers put “gospel-centered” anything and we immediately are drawn to it.
While I don’t think that we should necessarily abandon trying to mine gems from pages of rocks, there is somewhat of a danger of either paralysis by analysis, despair, guilt which can come from too much theory.  
Kevin DeYoung provides a surprisingly refreshing perspective on the difficulty of parenting. It’s actually easier, at least in principle and methodology, than we think.
 I worry that many young parents are a) too adamant about the particulars of their parenting or b) too sure that every decision will set their kids on an unalterable trajectory to heaven or hell. It’s like my secretary at the church once told me: “Most moms and dads think they are either the best or the worst parents in the world, and both are wrong.” Could it be we’ve made parenting too complicated? Isn’t the most important thing not what we do but who we are as parents? They will see our character before they remember our exact rules regarding television and twinkies.
Some parents may under-think and ignore good material out there. Continuing education for work is standard, but for parenting is ignored. Just for the record, the best “continuing education” probably comes more from your small group than it does from publishers.
But many parents probably over-think, and become too “spiritually” cerebral. The parenting paradox is that it is both harder than we think it is (we need Jesus more than we think), and yet not nearly as complicated as we’ve made it (Jesus is more faithful than we think). I love paradoxes, and am thankful for this paradoxical encouragement from DeYoung. Check out the rest of his post here. You’ll be glad you did.

Praying like sharks are in the area instead of dolphins

Here’s a very creepy picture of a juvenile Great White Shark (juveniles can still be 8 feet long!) cruising the breakers in knee deep water off an Australian Beach while children play just feet away. While creepy, it is worth a look. Definitely a sobering picture which makes Florida beaches look a bit safer.
But it serves as a reminder of the dangers which exist for children and families, and not just at the beach. This shark reminds me of a passage addressed to elders in I Peter 5:8-9-though it is applicable for anyone in a shepherding type role.
“8 Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. 9 Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world.
It is wise to be aware of Satan, the proverbial Great White Shark.
As Redeemer has been going through Revelation, we’ve seen that Satan is now bound (Rev 20:2; Matt 12:29). He can’t deceive the nations any longer. But while bound, that doesn’t mean he’s not busy going down swinging. He still tries to condemn, he still speaks lies, and it would seem from this verse he plays some role in persecution or at least the affect of persecution. But as C.S. Lewis reminded us, and the Usual Suspects reminded us again,  “The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist.” 
It is unwise to act like he doesn’t exist and so become unaware of his schemes (II Cor 2:11).
We need to be both aware and sober minded, but at the same time not fearful. Martin Luther reminds us in his most famous hymn A Might Fortress is Our God that “one little world shall fell him.
So we resist him by holding firm to Jesus, knowing that Satan’s activity, while a pain in the butt, cannot alter God’s plan of salvation for anyone. We pray with the image of the shark in the backdrop, so as never to become complacent. In our fervent prayers, we can trust that the little ones and the parents of little ones might not be tempted to disbelieve, improperly fear him, or believe in his lies. 
I think recognizing we’re surrounded by sharks might be better than praying like we’re surrounded by dolphins.

Seeds Worship

If you’ve got kids, work with kids, or want to find an easy way to memorize scripture, check out and listen to this music from Seeds Worship. There are several CD’s which actually contain good music that both children and adults can listen to and enjoy. I recently ordered disc one of the series, and it actually comes with two discs so that you can give one to a friend or neighbor. It could definitely be a good resource for family worship time, driving in the car, children’s church, sunday school, etc….Again, this is an easy way to memorize scripture for all of us and the music is actually good for a change.

Looking bad and looking to Jesus

Yesterday afternoon a well assembled fleet of volunteers helped Amy and I move out of our rented condo to a house. So until we get the place more liveable, or until our refrigerator arrives, we’ll be staying with some good and hospitable friends. After spending a day of packing and unloading, we were quite tired but began to reflect with the other couple on the joys of raising children. 
As I read in Gospel Powered Parenting-and this was probably the best part of the book-parents and those involved in Christian Ed (Sunday school teachers, nursery or youth volunteers) parent and teach with eternity in view. Paul beautifully sums up this mission in Colossians 1:28: “that we may present everyone mature in Christ.”
So while our goal for parenting and teaching is for the gospel to save our children and students from sin’s punishment/power/presence, God’s goal for children/students actually looks quite similar.
We were discussing how Connar would some day soon, if not already, make us look bad. That’s a sad way of looking it at, but I think probably fairly accurate until we regularly repent. Part of his behavior will be our own shortcomings as parents and part will be his own strong will. Then Amy and I reflected on this with our present company and had these thoughts:
1.) Parenting/teaching will make us look bad (like Madonna pictured above), but the plus side of this is that we’ll have to look elsewhere for our righteousness. Instead of looking to Connar to make us feel worthy, we have to look to Jesus for all (NOT JUST A GOOD PART OF IT) our righteousness and approval. So in some ways, children are just as influential in the parents/teachers grasp of the gospel as parents/teachers are influential in their children/students’ grasp of the gospel.
2.) We all agreed that parents/teachers with children who are well behaved and look good on the outside will have a harder time not remembering Jesus’ righteousness. Instead such parents will have to take special pains to keep from parading their children around as “poster children” and looking to them to find worth before others.  Such parents/teachers will remember their own hard work, prayer, study-and they should because these are necessary-but may forget the X factor: the work of the Holy Spirit. The longer I’ve been involved to some degree in children/youth/college ministry over the last 10 years, the only way to explain why kids get none/some/all of the gospel is the ministry of God’s Spirit. So I guess that’s a good place to start in prayer.