Posts Tagged With: Devotion

Preparing Christian Young People for the Future

As a homeroom teacher who has a group of students for three years from year 10 to year 12, one of the topics that constantly exercises my heart and mind is, how do I prepare my students for the rapidly changing future?  After taking the roll and making the daily announcements, what do they need to hear from me that will assist them, not just for a school day – but for eternity?  I would love to hear from other Christian teachers.

I have a few basics:

The Bible needs to be a constant reference, and prayer is essential. My own example is important because if I don’t walk the talk then anything I say is made void. But that is just the beginning.

Picture 566The anchor must be a regular and ongoing reference to Scripture and its overarching story of redemption with coming of the king and his promised return to fulfill his kingdom plans. This vision of a place in the Kingdom, I believe, must underpin everything I say and do.  It is the foundation.  Regular communication with this personal God is the next layer.  However, the next step is crucial. How do these two underpinnings apply on an ongoing daily basis as these young people prepare for their future? This future, as every adult knows, will have twists and turns, pains and joys – incredible highs but also incredible lows.

Recently we have been exploring the lives of Christians in predominantly non -Christian and often persecuted cultures.  Our children need to know that in the history of the church, Christianity has not always been part of the dominant culture. In fact it has been at its best when marginalised and persecuted. The history of God’s people from OT Exile through to the early church and beyond has revealed the amazing story of God and his kingdom, in the darkest of times. Not knowing the future, my students still need to know that a personal God has his children’s future in His hand.

My students also need to know how the story ends. There isn’t any doubt where the victory lies and who has the victory.  But in the meantime there is work to do as we prepare for the return of the King.

Year 10 students are by their very nature idealistic.  This idealism is a wonderful trait as it can enable them to develop Christlike eyes for the world.  How does Jesus look at injustice, asylum seekers, the poor distribution of resources, persecution, pain suffering and … so on. A year 10 student doesn’t have that hardened adult cynicism but rather looks for the possibilities – possibilities we need to encourage and not stifle.

Our students need to have a vision of hope. In a materialistic and often hopeless or directionless world I need to pick out perspectives of hope: hope for their own heart and lives, hope for the possibilites as they serve their God, and hope for change that is empowered by God himself – change in themselves, others and the world in which they live.

I would love to hear what other Christian teachers do to encourage their students vision for the future – a future that is anchored outside themselves in the God who reveals himself in creation and especially, Scripture.

Categories: Children, christian, christian education, Faith, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | 3 Comments

Including Children in Church Community

There is a small but growing group of Christians who are eager to see the children of the church integrated into the life of the Church body and not just pandered to by programs. Although programs, in and of themselves can be quite useful, they can also stymie the discussions that churches and families need to have about faith formation in the life of their children. Programs by themselves often focus on knowledge (cognition) and what is missed is the beautiful mystery of faith and the excitement of disciple development.  I have written on previous occasions about the importance of the child’s vocation in the church. (Here is just one example).

Last night I heard David Csinos, who describes himself as an author, speaker, practical theologian, husband, researcher of children’s spirituality, and former children’s photo 4pastor, speak in Geelong. This was encouraging for a variety of reasons. It reminded me that there are more voices and often more articulate voices speaking out on this issue and it also caused me to reflect that this is not “rocket science” but requires families, churches and church leaders to engage in a prayerful discussion of how faith is developed in the most vulnerable and important members of our church communities.

If you wish to explore this important notion I have included some websites and books to explore:

  • David’s blog:   http://davecsinos.com/
  • The Journal of Family and Community Ministries (which is free to subscribe to): http://www.familyandcommunityministries.org/
  • A wonderful book is :  Children’s Ministry in the way of Jesus by Ivy Beckwith and David Csinos. This is a good place to begin your reflections if you haven’t started already, or to continue your journey.
  • Is it a Lost Cause: Having the Heart of God for the Church’s Children by Marva Dawn.
  • And if you look under Child Theology you will encounter more of my thoughts/musings on the issue.
  • Another worthwhile approach is taken by the Child Theology Movement.

 

 

 

Categories: Child Theology, Children, christian, Christianity, Faith, Family | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

Telling Bible stories to young children

Once again my wife reflects upon one of our passions – how to present gospel stories to children.

 

The story of Jesus washing His disciples’ feet. (John 13:1-17)

 

Traditionally, we concentrate on Jesus, the teacher, humbling himself to wash the feet of his disciples. However, to a young child, this would not seem unusual at all. Their experience is normally one of adults caring for them; teachers and childcare providers, parents, and grandparents. It would be strange to them if the disciples had washed Jesus’ feet!

 

So how could we tell this story?

 

Often Bible storytellers try to interpret the stories. We want to be sure the child understands the meaning and the lesson. In short, we tell the child what they should think.

I’m wary of this approach.

I believe that when we impart God’s Word to young people the Holy Spirit is present and active in their hearts and their heads.children 1

We need to trust that He will guide them as they hear our stories.

Our aim should be to facilitate worship in children.

 

The lives of children are full of friends, family gatherings, travelling, food, and identity. This story has it all. Jesus plans a meal together with his friends. They all travel to an upstairs room in a house. They probably walked along dusty roads to get there. When they arrived there were probably hugs and kisses all around. The table had an array of food and drink, lovingly prepared by others in their circle of friends.

Most importantly, Jesus was with his friends: they identified themselves (and the community recognised them) as His followers.

 

So, as you tell this wonderful story, touch on these points of contact.

 

Children will also visualise the story as you tell it. They will “see” it using their own experiences. Therefore a table full of food will be their family’s dining table.

Enrich the story for them by telling them the colours, the smells, the icky ness of the dirty feet, the warmth of the water in the basin, the gentleness of Jesus hands, and the softness of the towel.

 

When we tell stories in this fashion we help a child take it into their heart. The story will resonate with them.

 

And finally, give the child a way to respond to what they have heard. Wonder with them, sit quietly and ponder, provide art materials, sing. Follow their lead as they follow the Holy Spirit.

 

Categories: Child Theology, Children, christian, Faith, Family, Hetty's Devotions | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

Greater Love

Photographic record of the Shrine of Remembrance, photographer unknownLast night my Literature students and I went to a performance of Shakespeare’s cross dressing comedy, ‘As You Like It’.  It explores love in many of its facets. How and why does it happen?  What does it do to us – for good or bad?  Is it different for men and women?  What external influences are involved? What about our motives? … and there are more uncomfortable questions.

But underlying all of that is the idea that love, romantic and otherwise, is an essential part of the human character. We all want to love and be loved. A life without love is empty and possibly meaningless.

And then this morning at our College’s  ANZAC  service our Senior School Captains spoke on the verse John 15:13  “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”  This is paraphrased in the War Memorial in Melbourne – “Greater love hath no man”.

This verse must be seen in the context of Christ reflecting on his own sacrifice and then suggesting to his disciples that this sacrifice in turn become a model for their lives. Accepting Christ’s love becomes the foundation of our desire to love like he does. Love, here, is a giving of one’s self for others. It puts others first, which is no doubt the reason for its presence in the War Memorial it highlights the Aussie ideal of mateship.

There is nothing amiss with the Bard’s exploration of love. He raises excellent questions and challenges us. However, the answers are not found in his plays, but rather in the gospel. Christ’s love becomes a model for our relations – romantic and otherwise.  Christ’s love doesn’t start with our own private swooning’s, or sexual desires but for the welfare and best outcomes for the other – friend and foe alike.

Shakespeare raises tough questions but Jesus gives us even tougher answers.

Categories: christian, Christianity, community, Uncategorized | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Advent Poem No. 6 (2013) Bethlehem

But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.         Micah 5:2

Bethlehem,
small and undistinguished,
draws no attention to itself.

But God does.

Rachel’s tomb and
Ruth’s second marriage are
found here pointing
to a royal line.

David, his brothers
and his dad Jesse
called it home.
Little knowing
a greater home awaited.

Philistines
under Satan’s command
were fought
back at this hamlet.

Yet from you would come
the Messiah:
the hope of Israel

and the world

Categories: Advent, christian, Christianity, Poem, poetry, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Tsunami of Narcissism

I wonder if the Psychologists and Psychiatrists would agree with me but I believe we are engulfed in tsunami of self obsession – “narcissism”. Our blogging and Facebook posts are only the tip of the iceberg.  I find I am encountering “Hitler” and “Assad” styled self belief, in otherwise ordinary people, daily.

The symptoms include the idea that they are beyond advice and criticism. An issue is always, without fail, the other person’s problem. They will defend to the death, preferably the other person’s, their right not to be criticised. They are strident in interpreting all events and actions in relation to themselves and fail to see the perspectives of others.

If I am right, and my own narcissistic tendencies tend to suggest I am, where does self obsession come from?

I would like to suggest three reasons. You may wish to add more intelligent ideas.

  1. As I have written previously, parents are  giving children, starting at a very young age, too much choice: when they eat, what they eat, what they wear, what they do … the daily list is endless. Children are becoming wise in their own eyes.  They are attributed maturity well beyond their years. In other words, some parents are setting a treacherous groundwork.
  2. The advertising industry lives off narcissism. It is their bread and butter. We encounter the subtle and not so subtle messages to make ourselves “No.1” hourly. Their feeding of our narcissism is relentless.  Consciously or unconsciously we absorb the seductive message.
  3. Our hearts are wired to set our selves up as God. Our rebellious natures love the idea that we are the supreme being of our lives: we are the Captains of our destinies. We are ultimately only responsible to self. Incidentally, when for whatever reason this perspective is destroyed, one way out is, too often, suicide.

What is the antidote?

The solution is remarkably simple:  Essentially “Christ”.  In one fell swoop he is both the mirror that reveals the brokenness of our humanity and he also becomes our release from that brokenness and its impacts. He gives us perspective and promise.

A friend once said that we need to go to the cross, climb up and push the blood matted hair away from our Savior’s face and stare into his tortured eyes to understand the immense brokenness of our own heart, our motives, our actions, our words – our very being. The reason he was dying was for all of that and much more.  Then, no longer, can we put ourselves on a pedestal of immaculate self belief. We are awoken to an amazing and confronting awareness of the depth and seeming unwashability our own corruption.

And yet, that very awareness leads us back to the same cross so that we can say in all helplessness. “Lord, Save me! Cover my brokenness with your own pure righteousness.”

To get a glimpse of that truth is a powerful antidote to the darker side of our heart as it whispers, “It is all about me”.

Categories: christian, Christianity, Devotional, Reflections, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | 8 Comments

My Unwanted Constant Companion

I reflected the other day that all through my life I have had a constant companion. My parents were there for a long time but they have both died. There have been friends and relatives but they too, came or left at particular times. My wife and I have been together for nearly 4o years but even that doesn’t cover my whole life. Some of you may be thinking, ok he is thinking about God and the Holy Spirit. It is true that God has been constantly with me from before my birth, but on this occasion I am thinking of another presence: Satan.

Satan, the Devil the ‘evil one’, however you refer to him has also never been far away.

St Michael defeating the devil on the front of Coventry Cathedral

St Michael defeating the devil on the front of Coventry Cathedral

We can all recall the cartoons where the angel and devil sit on each shoulder of the character, pulling and enticing backwards and forwards. This caricature is in fact a good image of the reality that each of us face. We do live in this tension between living a good life and being tempted; doing right and wrong. For a long time I thought that as I became older it would easier; I would be in greater control.

However, I have found that not to be the case. In fact, the temptations and influence of my constant companion become more subtle and tenacious. I find that those conversations that I have in my mind can easily become ‘justifications’ for an attitude or a decision. The prophet Jeremiah declares to Judah on God’s behalf, “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?”

To put it simply, the older I have become the more I have come to realise how deeply ingrained sinfulness is. It is beyond mere actions, or thoughts and permeates our very character. It’s roots drive down into the core of our being. No human effort will eradicate this.

So what is the solution? An awareness of the both the depth of sin and our our own inability is a start. That points us to our two part remedy. First, in the words of Paul, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” The Christian has been objectively justified in Christ. Through faith we are delivered from eternal death. But that still leaves us with a daily reality.

The second part of the remedy is the daily tough medicine. In the words of Paul again, in the power of the Holy Spirit,  “I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”

20130118-175507.jpgDaily, we need to be vulnerable  and open to God so that we don’t become victims of the other. There is a discipline and intentionality required to grow in Christlikeness much like the way we train for a sport. When reading Philippians I am struck by how much Paul’s discipline to live the Christian life stems from “knowing Christ Jesus Lord.” Christ is both his means and motivation as well as his goal.

So, as far as my unwanted companion is concerned, he will be there daily, but the more I look to Christ the less his influence will be.

Categories: christian, Christianity, Devotional, Reflections, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

House Painting and Memories

I was painting the side of the house yesterday. This was a much delayed job but finally I took a deep breath and did it. Painting is at the top of my “most hated jobs” list. Working with silicon sealer and anything mechanical are two more detestable practices. However, painting has one good aspect, it allows the mind to wander. The greatest sermons since Pentecost and the most brilliant poetry since Shakespeare and Donne have been composed in my mind while whisking a brush back and forth or plying a roller. The downside being that I can’t write them down because the hands are otherwise occupied. That is why the world has missed out on these precious gems. They never seem to come when sitting behind a desk with pen or keyboard. Funny that!

DSC_0006Yesterday the mind went on one of those “one thought leads to another” meanderings as I was painting white on white. It started when I reflected on the time I first painted a house. I was a poor theological student (is there ever a rich one?) and being desperate for money I agreed to paint someone’s home. These wonderful people were bookish. Housework and tidiness came a distant last to reading and discussing fascinating topics. Looking back I now realise that the lady of the house was one before her time.

Years before Howard Gardiner’s theory of multiple intelligences became popular she was already teaching with this understanding. They were concerned about stewardship and “green” issues before most of us woke up to the havoc we are wreaking on the environment. This family went camping in national parks only using their wits while the rest of us went to proper camping places.

The most powerful facet of this family’s influence was that they lived this way as Christians while most of us lived a stereotypical middle class, materialistic church attending life style.

As I was slopping paint about I reflected that these people had influenced my life. They were one of the many “tug boats” that God sent over time to nudge, steer and challenge the direction my life has taken. They had broadened my mind and forced me to modify my thinking.

So yesterday as I was painting I was also able to send up a prayer of thanks for these people who, many years ago, affected my life. My hands kept on painting but my heart was giving thanks to God. I didn’t need a keyboard or a pen.

Categories: Christianity, Church, people i admire, Reflections | Tags: , , | 2 Comments

Bringing Out the Worst

The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery;  idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like.

 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control.  Galatian 5: 19-22

It surprises me that after all these years of living life and relating with all sorts of people, there are still moments when I see things in myself that I thought I had dealt with, or have not even been seen before. Sadly, I must confess, I refer to baser human traits rather than the more noble ones.

Baser traits seem easier to arouse and the people who arouse them are often fellow Christians. There is an obvious irony there!

In Galatians 5 Paul makes it clear what an unacceptable life looks like and he contrasts this with a life that reveals the fruit of the Spirit … love, joy, peace, forbearance and etc.  I wince when I read this because the first list is not eradicated and the second needs a lot of work.

Paul’s answer to this contradiction is to “keep in step with the Spirit”  whose guidance we are called to live by. The Christian life, despite knowing that we have been saved by grace, still requires a daily Spirit led discipline. It requires prayer and Scripture reading but also more than that. It needs that active decision to “keep in step with the Spirit.” There needs to be active choices to do the right and honourable things and make the wise and Godly choices and respond in Christlike ways. For most of us this is not an innate way of living. Well, it certainly isn’t for me.

Categories: christian, Christianity, Faith, Reflections, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

Formal Examinations and God

The room is quiet apart from the scribbling of pens and the occasional rustle of a turned page. It must be examination time again.

Tests, exams, quizzes, oral, written and now online as well, are so much part of school life. We assess to see what students have learnt and how effective our teaching has been. When we leave school, college or university there are now reviews of our work and workplace.

In the last few generations testing has broken out from the confines of school and has wheedled its way into all sorts of places. Even kindergartens are getting into the act!

Some Christians even have this view of God – the Chief Examiner. They believe that when Jesus  returns we will have the oral exam to beat all oral exams. I once heard a sermon in which the minister explained that when we get to Judgement Day a video of our lives and thoughts will shown and God will use that to judge us. Apart from being the worst home movie ever, is this really going to happen?

There is a story in Matthew 25 of the sheep and goats and the dividing of them into two groups – a metaphor for God’s judgement. But the “exam” has already happened. The exam was our life and even then, not how good or bad we were. After all, Paul reminds us that we have all f20131011-120609.jpgallen short. (Romans 3:23)

In Matt 22 with the story of the wedding banquet, we are further reminded that whether we are a sheep or goat depends on how we responded to the King’s invitation – and even then, as we find our after Matt 25, the King’s son completes the exam for us with a perfect score which we could never have attained.

There is an exam, or should I say, there was an exam but it was completed 2000 years ago. To receive the perfect score all we need to do is to place our trust in in the one who achieved it. Then it is ours too.

In the meantime, my students are still scribbling away because, unlike God, the school system doesn’t work that way.

Categories: christian, Christianity, Reflections, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | 3 Comments

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