Monthly Archives: June 2012

Seeing hope through God’s calling of the next generation… Now

Standard

There are lots of ways to look around you and see God’s mighty hands at work in majestic, but sometimes tiny or slow ways.  I try to be ever more and more aware of the evidences of this around me – hence the impetus for this blog!

But sometimes His work is undeniably bold and big and so… evident.

That’s what I’m seeing all around me today.

I’m smack in the middle of almost 500 teenagers excited for their opportunities to get up in front of audiences – ranging in size from 2 or 3 to hundreds at a time – to present speeches, articulate well-reasoned ideas, and even entertain, but mostly to learn how to give an answer for the hope that is within them.

500 kids who know how to intelligently and winsomely articulate and share their faith.  500 kids who are already able to make an impact for the kingdom in the world around them.  500 kids who are being trained to think biblically, research both sides of an issue and understand those who disagree with them.  500 kids who are perhaps nervous when they get up in front of those audiences, but who have learned to not let that stop them from saying what they believe needs to be said.

And this is just the top of the competition list – the fortunate ones who made it to this level.  There are hundreds and hundreds more who did extremely well.  Hundreds more kids who are ready to speak with boldness and clarity the  Good News.

It is humbling to be here surrounded by so many gifted and talented kids.  It’s encouraging to see and hear how God is training them, molding them – using them even now.

It makes me want to do better in my own articulation of the truth.  It makes me glad we serve a God who chooses the seemingly foolish things of this world – like teenagers having something valuable to contribute – to confound the seemingly wise.  I wish that more of them would catch the vision of the bigger, higher purposes that God would have them participate with him on.  But I am glad, for now, to be in the midst of almost 500 kids who love the Lord and aren’t afraid or incapable of standing up in front of people and saying so.  You go guys!

http://www.ncfca.org

Advertisements

The Gospel through the dishes…

Standard

My kids help with the chores around the house.  They have alternated between rotating the various household chores among themselves daily, weekly and monthly.  I’m flexible, as long as the chores are getting done in reasonable fashion.

But sometimes they don’t.  Sometimes, believe it or not, my kids are wicked and sinful.  They rebel against simple requests like taking the trash out or vacuuming a room, but the worst one lately has been the dishes.

Actually, it’s not just lately – it’s been for months.  And truthfully, it’s really only been one child.

So, in order to help this child learn the valuable lesson of responsibly doing what he’s called to do, whether he “feels” like doing it or not, we gave him the gift of doing dishes – all of them.  Every day.

The deal was that if he could keep up with the dishes in a reasonably responsible way, then we’d go back to rotating the job between kids.  At first we said a month.  That was torture.  Then we said two weeks.  That was torture, too.  Additionally, he then deteriorated into such horrific whining and complaining that we felt we had a new problem on our hands in addition to the old one.

We brought out the big guns.  “Son,” we said, “since you have been both irresponsible AND complaining about all of this here’s the deal: you have to clean the entire kitchen on your own.  You have to keep it clean for one week straight and then you’re done.  BUT, every time you either do a bad job, need to be told to do it, or complain about doing it, your week gets extended.  The choice is yours.  If this gets extended, you are choosing to have it extended.”

That was about 2 or 3 months ago.

Sigh.  Heavy, heavy, sigh.

I’m no shrinking violet, but even I couldn’t stand this arrangement any more.  We shortened his prison sentence, but I let him know with absolutely clarity that it was grace, and grace alone, that was getting him out of paying his debt to society.  He hadn’t earned it and he knew it.

That was last week.

One happy, blissful week later, another child and I were having a discussion about salvation.  We were talking about how we can’t do a hundred good things to make God happy with us.  We can’t do a million good things to make God happy with us.  There is no way for us to make God happy with us!  We can’t pray enough, read the Bible enough, go to church enough – nothing we do can be enough to make God happy with us.  Even the ability to have faith to believe all that Jesus has done on our behalf is really God’s gift to us, not our gift to him.

And the clouds parted and the angels sang, because then this child looked at me and said, “Like ______ getting off of kitchen duty!  He tried and tried but he just couldn’t do it himself – you had to show him grace!”

Yes, child.  Grace.  Unmerited reward.  The Gospel is clear even through the dishes.

I’m bored…

Standard

It’s started already.  June hadn’t even clicked over on the calendar yet and I began to hear the familiar refrain, “Mom, I’m bored…”

As if I would do something about that.

You see – I think it’s good to feel bored once in a while.  Well, let me rephrase that – I think it’s good to go through the process of becoming “un-bored”.   It takes imagination.  It takes thought.  It takes the self-discipline of pushing oneself beyond the pacifying allure of laziness.

My typical response is to answer, “Let me know when you come up with something wonderful!”  I’m not really sure why one child in particular continues to tell me that he’s bored.  I always give him the same answer – maybe he just wants the conversation.

Imagination is taking a lethal hit in this generation.  We rarely give kids the time to think great thoughts and let their imaginations soar, and I think it’s a tragic loss.  You see, imagination is such a huge part of the Christian life, that I can’t – imagine – living without it.

Indulge me for a moment – and read Ephesians 3:20-21:

“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.”

Some versions translate the word “imagine” as “think” – either way, our minds are fully engaged in grand thoughts.

Why would God include the imagination part of that?  It would be wonderful enough to know that God is able to do immeasurably more than we could ask of Him, wouldn’t it?

But it’s there, and I believe it’s there for a reason.

You see, we actually have bigger thoughts of God when we engage our imaginations.  It’s one thing to think of God as “great”, but it’s another thing altogether to imagine what “great” might really mean.

Have you ever day-dreamed about the grandeur of heaven?  Seeing Jesus?  The men and women of the Bible?  Streets of gold?  Trees that bear 12 kinds of fruit?  Living in harmony with everyone around you?  Have you ever spent time mentally picturing the agony of the cross?  The flogging?  The mocking?  The searing pain?  The agony of rejection?  Have you ever imagined what Creation might have looked like?  Oceans raging into place?  Mountains rising up from the deep?  Plants erupting into being?  Have you ever helped your children really think about the 10 plagues in Egypt?  Frogs in their beds and flies all over their food and in their eyes and ears and going into their mouths?  You get the picture – imagination makes a huge difference in whether or not you are in awe of God.

Think of all the good things a healthy imagination can do:

It lets you put yourself in another place and time – past, present, or future.

It helps you to put yourself in another person’s circumstances.

It helps you to picture in 3-D the words on a page.

It helps you think through the question, “What if…?”

It helps you to see potential where it’s not immediately apparent.

It develops your ability to think for long periods of time.

It can help warn you.

It can help encourage you.

It can give depth to your hopes.

You can visualize, plan, dream, hope, be encouraged, be motivated, be prepared.  You can think amazingly wonderful, glorious, lofty, grand thoughts about God and all that He has done and is doing in your life and in the world.

The better your imagination is the more glorious God becomes to you and the more wonderfully delighted you are in Him.  The bigger your thoughts are of God the greater He becomes to you.  When you use your imagination to help increase your understanding of God, you cannot help but love and glorify Him more and more!  Think about how you felt the first time you saw the ocean – or the Grand Canyon – or went out to a place far from the city lights and saw the blanket of black velvet sky punctuated by not millions or billions but an incomprehensible number of stars!  Now read the Ephesians 3 passage again –“ to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine…”

As wonderful as your imagination can possibly think that God is – He’s even greater!  You cannot exhaust His greatness or glory!  And your kids are just beginning the journey of understanding for themselves who this majestic, magnificent God is – why would we want to let the TV or internet or Gameboy or Nintendo or …anything get in the way of that?

So, the next time your kids (or you!) are tempted to turn to some cheap form of entertainment to chase away the uncomfortable feeling of boredom, pause for a moment and encourage them to take the opportunity to engage their imaginations instead.   Hammering away at a tree fort or riding bikes or taking a walk or drawing or… just sitting on the front steps thinking are all wonderful fields of fertile soil for letting one’s imagination begin to grow.  Don’t interfere with it – instead, encourage it and ask them to let you know when they come up with something wonderful!