Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Teachable Moments

I am SO excited to be a father! (Well, technically, I already am, but you know what I mean). One of the things I am most excited about is teaching my child. How to tie shoestrings. How to ride a bike. How to walk. How to talk. How to read. Stephanie and I are both teachers at heart and love to see people grow in their understanding of things.

We are already starting to pray for our child that when it comes to the more intense issues of life--salvation, faith in Christ, and repentance from sin--that God will soften our child's heart and give them a trust in Christ even at a young age...And I love when I see parents who share that same passion for seeing their children come to salvation!

I fear that sometimes though, as children get older, we are tempted to be content with the fact that they are "saved," and don't work as diligently to lead them toward maturity in Christ. I think that as parents, we need to be constantly looking for "teachable moments." Our days are filled with them.

Your child gets a bad grade and is sad. Your child scores several goals and gets a little puffed up with pride. Your car breaks down and you're tempted to get ticked. Someone says something really hurtful about a member of your family, and you're tempted to anger. Things don't work out the way that you had expected. Someone spills the milk. Someone left a pen in their pockets and it went through the washer....These all--whether big or small, and even if they seem mundane and completely unspiritual--are opportunities to teach your children spiritual truths.

In each of those circumstances, we can model Christlike-ness (whether that takes the shape of patience, forgiveness, humility, etc.) In the moments where we fail as parents, we have a chance to model repentance by admitting our sin and changing course. In discipline or correction of our children, we can have conversations about sin--how it dishonors Christ, but also how it's been paid for on the cross. Rather than taking out our anger in the discipline process, we can punish when necessary but also teach that God's anger for their sin has already been laid on Christ. A huge part of our role as parents is to help our children keep identifying sin in their lives and help them as they put it to death....Let's not be content to have "saved" children, but strive to raise mature Christians.

So today, look for teachable moments. They're all around you. And you're teaching your children constantly, whether you realize it or not. Make sure you're teaching them to honor Christ.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Pirates, a Noble Captain, and an Even Greater Savior

In the news over the weekend, a seemingly outdated group of people, pirates, were brought back into the public eye. I thought pirates had been relegated to movies, cartoons, and Halloween costumes. But apparently I was wrong.

Captain Richard Phillips' boat was overtaken by Somalian pirates late last week. There was an extended confrontation, and Phillips essentially exchanged himself for the safety of his crew. He was willing to be taken hostage by the pirates--uncertain of what they would do to him--to ensure that his fellow crew members would be unharmed. A long standoff ended yesterday when a team of Navy Seals killed the pirates who were holding him hostage and rescued Captain Phillips from near certain death.

There are a few heroes in this real-life story. The Navy Seal snipers who took out the pirates come to mind. And perhaps most notably, Captain Phillips. His willingness to surrender himself and potentially his life in order to rescue his shipmates is something that is noble. I think that few would stand up for their peers the way that he did. His example is one that we should praise in conversation with our children. He was selfless. He kept the interest of others above his own. He was willing to suffer so that others could be set free. He was brave, even heroic.

But talking about this news story is just one more opportunity we have to have conversation with our family about about the gospel--more specifically, about how unique Jesus's sacrifice is in the history of the world. You see, even though Captain Phillips acted nobly and heroically, his sacrifice was nothing in comparison to Christ's. Richard Phillips is a human being just like all of us. He is a sinner who deserves to die (Romans 6:23)--just like you. Just like me. Would we say that he deserves to die in a violent way at the hands of pirates? Of course not. But viewed biblically, he deserves a lot worse. He deserves the wrath of God for his sin. So do you. So do I. Jesus, on the other hand, deserved only good things, only blessing, only honor and love from the Father. He was completely innocent of all wrong doing. He had nothing coming to Him. This makes His sacrifice infinitely more meaningful.

And when Jesus gave himself up for others on the cross, it was not just a surrendering of Himself to Roman soldiers who mistreated Him and killed Him. It was far more than any physical suffering we can imagine (whether at the hands of pirates, murderers, soldiers, etc.) He was not being punished by fellow man alone, but rather by God the Father. For the sins of other people. So that we could be forgiven. So while what Captain Phillips could have potentially suffered would have been horrible, what Jesus suffered is unmatched. The perfect innocent man--God's very Son--suffering under the wrath of God. There is no sacrifice that has ever, or will ever, compare to it--not Captain Phillips, not anyone!

Thank God for a Savior like Him! "For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." -Romans 5:6-8

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Passion Week -- John 19

For some reason this post never went through on Saturday. But here ya go....

Sorry for the delay in getting questions up today. We had a lock-in last night, and it was great! But tiring!

1. Point out that Pilate tries to threaten Jesus in verse 10 with his "authority," but Jesus responds by telling Pilate, "You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above" (v. 11). If you think about it, Jesus is telling Pilate that God the Father is giving him (Pilate) authority to sentence Jesus to death and crucify Him. That seems odd at first! But discuss with your kids why it is that God the Father would give Pilate that authority. ((If He did not, then Jesus would not have been able to die for our sins, and we would never be forgiven.))

2. In verse 30, as He is about to die, Jesus says, "It is finished." What's finished? What might Jesus be trying to say here? ((The most clear answer is that Jesus' work here on earth is done. His life is ending of course. But more specifically, His suffering at the hands of the Father for our sins is finished; His sacrifice is finished.))

3. This is not something that is explicitly in the text, but remind your kids that four different men wrote an account of Jesus' life (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John). Point out that these men each included different parts of Jesus' life. Some of the stories they told are exactly the same, but there are a LOT of differences too. They each include different stories and leave others out. But all four of them spend a lot of time talking about Jesus' death and resurrection. Discuss with them why they think that all four men made such a big deal about His death and resurrection, since they varied so much on what to include about the rest of His life.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Passion Week -- John 18

Here's a few more questions as you spend time with your family on Good Friday.

1. When Judas comes with the mob of people to take Jesus away, Peter tries to respond to them with violence. How does Jesus react to Peter’s aggression? How are we tempted in our lives to act like Peter and react to others with violence or aggression? How differently would we respond if we followed the example of Jesus?

2. Peter denied Jesus three different times, even though He had promised Jesus that He would never deny Him or turn his back on Him. A lot of times we act as if we would never deny Jesus. We put on a show as if we are perfect people. But what are ways that your family denies Jesus day-to-day? (Try to help your kids realize that Jesus’ love for them is much more amazing when they realize that they have denied Him over and over. He loves sinners—people who’ve abandoned and rebelled against Him!)

3. In verse 36 Jesus tells Pilate, “my kingdom is not of this world.” What was Jesus trying to tell Pilate? Try to help your children see the difference between the governments/kingdoms that we typically think of in our world and how Jesus’ is different. (For example, His kingdom is eternal. He reigns over the whole universe, not just part of the world. Also, His rule is not one that was achieved by force, but by changing people’s hearts.)
This would be a great time to go over a “Who Will Be King?” tract. I have some of these at church if anybody wants one. It’s a basic gospel presentation that is GREAT for kids!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Passion Week -- John 17

Here's a few things you and your family could discuss about John 17. Remember to keep it light, focused, and interesting. Boring kids--or spouses--with the Bible will turn them off to it. Try one of the following:

1. Jesus prays for His disciples that they would “be one” (v. 11). Ask what Jesus meant by this. Ask if your family feels like they “are one” with the other members of our church—or even with each other. Then discuss things you could do as a family to try to “be one” with others in the church (e.g. spend time with them outside of church, pray for other families during the week, listen to other children/adults when they are sharing about their lives when you’re at church, do good deeds for each other, etc.).

2. Remind them about what is about to happen here: Jesus is about to be handed over, put on trial, and crucified. And He knew it. But even at this dark time, He was praying for other people. Think with them about how different this is from the typical way we respond when we go through hard times…Then spend a little bit of time praying for other people in your neighborhood, extended family, and church.

3. Remind them of what Pastor John pointed out on Sunday—that Jesus prayed for Christians who are alive today, even though He was praying this almost 2000 years ago (vs. 20-21)! If your children are believers, then Jesus was praying for them! Then ask them to see what Jesus was praying for them about (have them look at those specific verse)…Point out that what Jesus wanted to happen was for Christians to love each other so much that the world would look at them and know that Jesus is real and powerful! Discuss how love between Christians could actually help non-Christians come to believe in Jesus.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Passion Week -- John 16

Here are some ideas about what you could discuss with your family in regards to today's text (John 16). Remember to keep it light and simple.

1. Discuss what Jesus teaches about the Holy Spirit here. Possibilities: Ask why Jesus said it was "to the disciples' advantage" that He would leave. Ask what it means that the Holy Spirit would be sent to "convict the world." Or ask what it means for the Spirit to "guide you into all the truth;" ask about times where the Spirit has led you or your family members into better understanding.

2. Jesus compares the image of a woman giving birth and the joy that follows to the sorrow that his disciples were starting to feel (because He was about to leave them) and the joy that they would feel afterward. Discuss your family's own times of "sorrow" and how they eventually gave way to times of "rejoicing." Ask how it's possible for Christians to have joy "that no one can take away" (v. 22) even when we face very difficult circumstances.

3. Discuss verse 33. Jesus says he wants His disciples to have "peace." But He reminds them that they WILL have difficulties in this life. Ask what He means then when He says, "Take heart; I have overcome the world." In other words, what does it mean that Jesus "overcame the world," and what difference does that make for us as we face the difficulties that arise in life?

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Passion Week -- John 15

Hey everybody...I'd really encourage you to use this week to spend some time with your family reading, briefly discussing the Easter story day-by-day, and praying together. So in an attempt to help, each day of the rest of the week, I'm going to give you some questions or ideas for what you might be able to discuss with your family that day. I'll use the chapters that Pastor John suggested to use from the book of John (coincidence that he chose the gospel he was named after???).

So, yesterday was John 14. Today's is John 15. Here are some brief ideas (Remember not to bore your family. Keep it light and focused.) You don't have to use all these; I'd probably just pick one:

1. Discuss the picture that Jesus gives of "abiding" in Him. He's the vine. We're the branches who are totally dependent on Him to help us bear "fruit" in our lives...If we separate ourselves from Him, we're going to wither spiritually. (If you have an old apple or banana laying around, use it as an object lesson...Point out that it's been cut off from it's source of life and is slowly dying. The same will happen to us if we aren't daily staying close to Jesus.)

2. Discuss what depth of love Jesus is asking His disciples to display when he says to love one another "as I have loved you." What are opportunities your family has to show love to others in the same sacrificial way that Jesus did?

3. Try to help your family see why the "world" "hated" Jesus and why they might "hate" Christians. Discuss what the proper response is to their rejection of us (remembering that we are to follow the example of Jesus).

Then just talk about your days, struggles, prayer requests, etc. Pray together for a few minutes. And then let them know that you'll do the same thing again tomorrow. What a great time together this can become!