What are we to do with the children? Challenge Lives Continually

Matthew 4:18-22

The other day I saw a herd of cows do something I’m sure they do all the time. There was a flock of vultures in the field with the cows. For a while I could see several cows chasing the buzzards away from the herd. As the cows mellowed out, only one cow was left to chase the buzzards. She galloped towards the buzzards. The buzzards left the dead cow, for a time. Eventually, even the defending cow stopped chasing the buzzards.

We need to be like buzzards. We need to keep coming back to one idea. We need to keep coming back to the idea that we fish for people. People will not like this idea. People will try to drive us away from following Jesus by fishing for people.

We need to fish for people. In this dark world, we have a great light. For those growing up in the shadow of death, we know the light that has dawned.

To be more specific, we can fish for children. Yes, I believe when we hear a sermon preached, God is calling us to action. God has work for us to do. We follow Jesus Christ. One group of people for whom we are able to fish is the children. Oh, we fish for all people. Let us think about how soon we start and how many of us are to fish for children.

A. How soon can we fish for children? (4:18-20)
+++1. By the Sea of Galilee
+++2. Peter and Andrew were fishing with their Dad
+++3. Jesus called them
++===+a. Follow Me – Preach, heal, cast out demons
++===+b. You will fish for people – Bring children to hear about Jesus!
+++4. Peter and Andrew left their nets right then and there!
+++5. How soon can we fish for children? We have over 180 children who attend Glenwood Elementary School. They are our neighbors’ kids. They are our grandchildren. They are our children. We know there are drug users in our community. We know there are single moms who try hard to raise good kids. We know there has to be a way to bring light to the children. We are the way to bring light to the children! But we say, “I’m not comfortable with that.” We say, “I can’t do that.” On our own, we cannot fish for children. On our own, we will be comfortable with the way our lives are. But we are following Jesus! So, who is to be fishing for children?

B. Is this task only for a few people? (4:21-22)
+++1. James and John, sons of Zebedee, were also fishing
+++2. Jesus called them as well!
+++3. Right then and there, James and John followed Jesus
+++4. I have been around enough people who fish to know they like to fish. They will fish when it is drizzling rain. They will fish when it is late at night. They will fish when their wife has a “honey do list” a mile long! There is an enjoyment from fishing. There is finding the right bait. There is finding the right spot. The understanding of how to bring in the catch just comes to you once you have hauled in a fish.
+++5. Fishing for children can be just as exhilarating! There is nothing like seeing a child come to faith. The child will get excited. The child will tell family and friends about Jesus. The child will tell family and friends about their church.

I’ve been here long enough to know we don’t have many children. I’ve been here long enough to hear the moaning about not having children. I’ve been here long enough to catch the note of despair from not having children in the church.

Ladies and gentlemen, we are to fish for children. The light has dawned in our life. Now it is time for us to help the children know the light.

Maybe we know a family who most likely won’t be seen in church. Those are the children for whom we pray. We ask God to give us the words to say to the parents. We ask God to give us the words to say to the children. Write the name of the child in the space provided in the bulletin.

We realize this task is more than enough for one person in this congregation. This task of fishing for children is for the whole church. Here is our strategy: “Bring one or have one.”

Since some of us are beyond having any children, we bring a child to church. For those of us who are having children, keep on bringing the children to church!

Advertisements

Going on. . . and on . . . until the end.

There is always someone to visit.

There is always a report to prepare.

There is always something to do.

I realize the work God has called me to do and live out is only going to get accomplished by God’s grace! For it was God working in my life that I became a preacher. What I wanted to do was quite different. Oh, I wanted to be an engineer.

But not an engineer for a train!

I cannot preach apart from the Holy Spirit guiding my studies, filling my prayers, and inspiring my soul. I cannot preach apart from God the Father asking me to speak about Jesus, sin, and eternal life. I cannot preach apart from Jesus being my Lord and Savior.

This job is not about being a social engineer. To coax, manipulate, and harangue other people is not what being a preacher means to me. Yes, the truth of God’s word gets preached. God, forgive me if I have manipulated anyone by my preaching.

This job is not about bashing one political party. To ally with an ideology and push the ideology over the Gospel of Jesus Christ is not part of my calling nor is it advantageous to anyone in my vocation. Yet, I have been a witness to politics and ideologies being promoted, pushed, and bally-hewed by my United Methodist colleagues.

It is quite obvious to me the political maneuverings being performed in all levels of the United Methodist Church. Granted, a fair amount of encouragement has to used in order for the Gospel of Jesus Christ to be lived by Christians in a community of believers. When that encouragement turns into agendas other than making Jesus Christ known to this world, then we have gone farther than Jesus.

There is always something to do. But the something to do need not be political agenda other than Jesus. The something to be done need not be an ideology that interferes with Jesus. Maybe we need our United Methodist clergy to repent of pursuing political agendas. Maybe we need our United Methodist clergy to repent of promoting ideologies that reflect either American political party.

May the fruit of my life be such that when I preach and lead the church, the Son of God can be seen and known. For I turn from my agenda and want to live God’s agenda for my life. Who knows, maybe other United Methodist clergy can join me in preaching Jesus Christ, crucified, risen, and crucified, before God corrects us all.

What do we do with the children? Mentor Families Meaningfully

Philippians 4:9-13

I am not the greatest parent in the world. As a disciple of Jesus, I have not done well in making a new disciple. Right in my own household, I have a child who needs to know all I can teach him about God. Oh, he is learning about God. But how much closer to Jesus would he be if I was more active in discipling Ben?

He gets to hear two preachers preach. He has been involved in youth and children’s activities over the years. There was that one time when he was younger that he played his drum as Maria sang “The Little Drummer Boy.” Ah, that was a good time!

There was the time when Ben was about 4 or 5 years old. We had Holy Week services at one of the churches. We had Holy Communion that night, so it was probably the Maundy Thursday Service. We were going to eat our dinner after the service. Ben was sitting at the table, were we had placed the extra bread and the grape juice. As I was coming back into the dining room, here is Ben, lifting up the bread to me and saying: “ The body of Christ broken for you.”

There is so much more I can teach him. Can I teach him how to pray, even going beyond popular phrases? Can I instill in Ben the love of the Scripture which can carry him through his life? Can I yet teach him how to be a disciple of Christ Jesus? These questions, and more, have come to me as I am looking for ways to encourage this church to disciple children.

A. Keep on doing that things you have been taught (4:9)
+++1. We have been taught to love our neighbors – then let’s love them
+++2. We have been taught to imitate Jesus’ humility – then let’s be humble
+++3. We have been taught the good news – God sent Jesus to us so we can get to God – let’s remember this truth!
+++4. I have read over the years many articles saying churches need to get beyond the felt board cut-out stories of the Bible. The easel with the felt board needs to be thrown out. At least that is the idea when we are trying to find ways to reach the younger generation. If we ever used a felt board, then maybe we know what they are like. However, in the process of trying to adapt to a newer generation, we don’t throw out the Bible stories! We get to teach the children about David, Solomon, Peter, and Paul. We get to show the children how to give to God through the church by tithing. We get to raise up new disciples by being disciples ourselves!

B. Find how to be content with whatever you have (4:10-13)
+++1. Paul had many rough times as a follower of Jesus
+++2. The churches in Asia helped him with finances and prayer
+++3. Paul’s needs were met – no matter the situation
+++4. Paul knows contentment – a self-sufficiency from knowing Jesus
+++===a. He gave up all so he may have Christ (3:7-11)
+===++b. Being humbled like Jesus, Paul has found a good standing/righteousness with God because of faith in Christ
+++5. Have we come to realize contentment in our lives? Have we come to know God provides for us in all circumstances? This contentment helps us to make disciples, even in our own homes. For when we are in good standing with God, we are able to naturally pass on what we know about Jesus. We can pass along our excitement about our favorite music and movies. We can learn to pass along our contentment about our favorite Messiah. What if we are not comfortable talking about our faith, with anyone? What if we don’t feel prepared to help our children or grandchildren to be disciples of Jesus?

C. What is the secret to get beyond our comfort and our preparation? (4:13)
+++1. Going hungry, yet content?
+++2. Being well-fed, yet content?
+++3. “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me”
+++4. Christ can strengthen us we learn to know our situations & have peace
+++5. Christ can strengthen us as we remember what we have been taught so we can teach the children
+++6. Christopher Miles Ritter shared in his book, Seven Things John Wesley Expected Us to Do for Kids, how John Wesley leaned on Philip Henry’s “Method of Family Prayer” to instruct the preachers. Henry used the model of the monastery to guide families in growing disciples. The model includes:
++===+a. Family worship – twice a day (song, prayer, & Scripture)
++===+b. Thursday evening – taught from the catechism – religious studies
++===+c. Saturday evening – quiz time – about what they learned that week in family worship
+===++d. Sundays – “little Easter” – doubled the time in family worship, attending public worship, prayer for the surrounding towns, reciting Psalm 139
++===+e. Philip Henry: “He who would make his house a little church, shall find that God will make it a little sanctuary.”
+++7. To know Christ is to be content, whatever the situation. He can and does strengthen us. Will we take the time to know Christ? We may not follow this “Method of Family Prayer” completely. Yet, can we not spend a bit more time praying with our families? Can we not spend a bit more time reading the Bible with our families?

I have begun to read the Scripture from my devotions with my family. We may even sing a hymn that goes with the Scripture. Of course, Maria leads the singing! But we are starting to spend more time worshiping God as a family.

I want my household to be content with Christ. I want my family to have the God of peace with us. Will your family join my family in striving to be content with Christ? Will your family join my family in knowing the God of peace will be with us? It will be good for Maria and I to help Ben to be a disciple of Jesus. Won’t it be good for our children and grandchildren to disciples of Jesus? Then let our families start worshiping together.

Work – all kinds of work!

Dear Friends,

Praise God for work! I have observed a fact about people I know who retire. The fact is they are as busy, if not busier, than when they were working! It is like they get to work on what they want to work on when they retire. At least, that is almost the whole truth. There are times when people I know who retire get the joy and struggle of caring for loved ones.

Maybe that is what work is about. Maybe work is about being able to provide for our loved ones. Maybe work is about us in a paid job is about producing finances from our time so that our loved ones can survive, even thrive, in this life. Maybe work when we retire is about producing something more important than finances from our time.

Ha! What do I know! I have at least a couple decades before I retire. I get to work to provide for my family. I get to work at home to enjoy my family. I get to work in the community as a volunteer to help other families. All the while I have in my head that retirement is ahead, somewhere.

In my work do I see God at work? Yes, I have been amazed at how God orchestrates good for so many different families and situations, even at the same time! I get to partner with God in what he is working on for individuals and families. I know of no better work.

It would be good for all of our occupations to be able to see God working. It is good to partner with God, no matter our work. For when we are able to say about our work, “I know of no better work,” then we just might be working alongside God in His endeavors! Then we can see how God is at work, with the animals we care for, with the colleagues and co-workers, and even with us!

It just might turn out that whether we are working to exchange time for finances or producing something more important with our time, we see God at work. Maybe the work God is doing in us will be to makes us more like him. Our families, friends, co-workers, and colleagues surely will be able to see God working good into us. For our families, friends, co-workers, and colleagues most definitely have noticed when we have not been working with God!

Whatever work we are about, may it bring praise to God. For in our work, we are living in service to God.

John

What are we to do with the children? Pray for them intensely.

Zechariah 3:1-10

The fire was raging in the Epworth rectory. Samuel and Susanna were trying to get their eight children out of the burning house. Betty, a servant, had gotten all of the youngest children out, except for John. Samuel had already tried to go up the stairs to get 5 year-old John, but the flames kept him from doing so. The Wesley family even gathered in the yard to ask God to receive John’s soul.

Two neighbors were quick thinking. One neighbor got on the other’s shoulder and snatched John out of the window as the roof collapsed! After Samuel kissed his child 2 or 3 times, he realized his son’s rescue was a miracle. Susanna even declared that John was “a brand plucked from the burning.” She even believed John was saved for a reason. (http://www.umc.org/what-we-believe/shaped-by-tragedy-and-grace-wesleys-rescue-from-fire )

It is a story of God’s grace in John Wesley’s life. We know the reason we are placed on this world is to praise God. Some of us might be like John Wesley, used by God to recall his people back to God. The rest of us may not be like John Wesley, but God still uses us in this world.

The thing is, we won’t know the difference between being like John or not. Yet we can pray for the children intensely. There may be several more children who are “brands plucked from the burning.” Maybe that is why we are encouraged to pray without ceasing. For our prayers are not only about our own needs, but the needs of our families and neighbors.

It is in Zechariah 3 that we learn about a man who God will use to provide leadership for his people. We also learn much more about what God will be doing in the future.

A. God delivers Joshua (3:1-5)
+++1. The satan – the accuser
+++2. The angel – speaks for the Lord
+++3. Joshua – high priest who is to lead the remnant that has returned to Jerusalem
++===+– The “brand plucked from the fire”
+++4. God cleans Joshua up (he justifies us as well – Romans 8:31-33)
+++5. Yes, the accuser will bring charges against us because of our sin. But it is God who takes our guilt away. God remembers who we are. God remembers that we are from the dust and to the dust we shall return. God is willing to get us from our filth, our guilt to restore us. For the Israelites, it was Joshua whose purpose was to show God at work among the them. For the Church of England, it was John Wesley who was the “brand plucked from the burning” to show God at work among the them. Which child today will be used by God to show us Americans that God is at work among us? We may yet see which child will lead us. For now, we know that God has good in store for us.

B. God is going to provide forgiveness (3:6-10)
+++1. Joshua had to walk in God’s ways
+++2. God’s servant the “Branch” will remove the guilt of the land
+++3. God is going to do this work. We know God has done this work through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ!

C. Pray for the children intensely
+++1. For the children to know God’s ways
+===++a. Commandments to love
+===++b. Jesus’ commands – Communion, making disciples, caring for the needy
+++2. For the children to have God’s characteristics
++===+a. Holy
+===++b. Merciful
++===+c. Steadfast love
+++3. For the children to know their purpose in life – point others to God!
+++4. This is not just a shopping list for our prayers. This is work. This type of praying will help steer the children away from the junk this life has. This type of praying will help us to seek God’s ways, God’s characteristics, and his purpose for our lives.

Are there children in our community who need us to pray for them intensely? Are there children in our church who need us to pray for them intensely? Are there children in our families who need us to pray for them intensely?

Write in your bulletin a child’s name for whom you will be praying intensely. It is when we are praying for children that we grow in our faith. It is when we are praying for children that the children grow in their faith. Who knows, by our praying intensely for the children, we may pray for one who becomes a preacher, a missionary, or pillar of the church.

God is still working in this world. Let us be about his work as we pray intensely for the children to know God and his forgiveness.

What do we do with the children? Know them Personally

Matthew 19:13-15

“You’re doing good.”

Whenever we are riding our bicycles on a trail, I like to tell that to the kids we come across. Oh, their parents are dutifully pedaling along with their children. The parents usually know what they are doing. But seeing the young boy or girl just pumping their legs for all their worth, they need some encouragement.

So, I will say: “You’re doing good.”

I may not see those children again, but they heard some encouragement. What about the children I see a whole lot, what can I say to them? “You’re doing good” sounds like a start. Even asking them how they are doing would be good for them to hear from me and you. We might even encourage their faith if we get to know them personally.

That is what Jesus did for the children. The adults were wrangling over divorce and how to have eternal life. Jesus answered the adults well. Just like those times when we adults seem to be having an “adult” conversation, the children bust right in! Oh, we may need to have a series of serious conversations. Even when someone sternly corrects those who bring in the children, we can pay attention to the children.

Children are not the church of the future. Children help us to be church even today. In the midst of all the important things we think the church needs to be doing, I hope we get to know the children. Jesus shows us how to get to know the children, even while he is busy with “important” matters.

A. There are some hard things to accept for the sake of the kingdom of heaven (19:10-12)
+++1. Divorce is a messy business
+++2. The disciples thought it might be better not to marry
+++3. Maybe, not being preoccupied with our matters of the flesh is good for the kingdom of heaven!
+++4. Wow. We can be all over the place when we read the Bible! Folks had been asking Jesus about marriage and divorce. Then there goes Jesus, talking about eunuchs! These are adult matters and the children need not be concerned with such matters. Or so we think. Maybe it is because of such weighty matters that we need to remember the children. With their hearts and minds busy with these thoughts, the disciples get interrupted.

B. Right in the midst of teaching, children are brought to Jesus (19:13-15)
+++1. Some people wanted Jesus to lay his hands on the children and pray
+++2. The disciples told them to not bring the children to Jesus! (Or something along these lines!)
+++3. But Jesus said
+===++a. “Let the little children come to me” – don’t let there be a barrier for the children come to me – go ahead and baptize them as infants is our take on this
++===+b. “Do not stop them” – how could we stop the children?
++======+– Making them be like adults and do a “believer’s baptism”
++======+– Criticizing the younger generation because they are not like us
++======+– Ignoring them
++======+– Not showing them how to pray, read their Bibles, tithe, worship, etc.
++===+c. “It is to such as these that the kingdom of heaven belongs”
++======+– Jesus came to redeem humanity, including the children
++======+– God came to be with us so we could be with him
+======++– Laughter, joy, and fun are bound to be part of the kingdom of heaven
+++4. Jesus blessed the children, then went on his way
+++5. Can we do that, bless the children and be on our way? It is by us getting to know the children that their faith grows. It is by us getting to know the children that our faith grows. The children of this world are looking for someone to bless them. If they don’t find such a blessing at home or at the church, then they will find it somewhere else. If we are too busy with “important” matters that we miss out on laughter, joy, and fun, then we may miss what the children receive! What does Jesus say we may have to miss so we can enjoy the kingdom of heaven?

C. We give up possessions so we can have treasure in heaven (19:16-22)
+++1. We sure are concerned with our own eternal life
+++2. Keeping the commandments help us to know God
+++3. By giving up our possessions, we can give to the poor, then we will have treasure in heaven.
+++4. So, we follow Jesus
+++5. It is not our possessions that save us. It is not this church building that saves us. It is not our positions of authority in the church which saves us. It is the faithfulness of Jesus which saves us. Our being faithful to Jesus means we take care of the poor.
+++6. Sunday School was started as a mission of the church. In 1783, the English children were not going to school during the week – they were working in factories! Mrs. Sophia Bradburn and Robert Raikes did well by the children. For they said, “Let us teach them to read and take them to church.” Mrs. Bradburn and Mr. Raikes had to know the children personally so the children could learn to read and be taken to church. (https://archive.org/stream/historyofsundays00wardrich/historyofsundays00wardrich_djvu.txt) That is how they made disciples in England. This is how we make disciples today in America, knowing the children personally!

I know children can be quite contrary. I know a family who had rambunctious children. They were not the quietest bunch. Their mother received an anonymous letter stating because of their noise-making in church, the family need not come back to church. The mother gave the letter to the pastor. The pastor read the letter in church! The family kept going to church. How else was the church to get to know the children? How were the children going to learn about how to be Christians if they were not in church?

So, I don’t mind sounds that come from the children. For by children being noisy in church, we can get to know them. As we get to know the children, we can, by the grace of God, teach them intentionally about Jesus. As we get to know the children, then they get to know our faith. Who knows, maybe our faith can inspire the children. Who knows, maybe the faith of the children can inspire us!

There are mature topics to talk about in church. But there are also children in our community who need to be blessed by the church. We can pray for the children. Why don’t we write down the name of a child for whom we can pray? Just maybe, you can get to know the child personally. Just maybe, the child can get to know Jesus by knowing you personally.

What are we to do with the children? Teach Them Intentionally

Deuteronomy 11:16-21

I grew up a half mile from Harsh Memorial United Methodist Church. My siblings and I would walk to the church for activities. Sometimes we would walk home after worship services. When we would be at church, our neighbors in the community would be teaching us songs about God and Jesus. Our neighbors would teach us stories from the Bible. We would be in the sanctuary with our neighbors to hear the pastor do some preaching.

As I have visited my home church over the years, some of the same people are teaching the children’s Sunday School classes. There are still children in the community who are going to Harsh Memorial to sing to, read about, and to get to know God. Generations of children have come and gone through that church. There have even been times when I was visiting my parents that I have been able to catch up with some of the old neighborhood kids.

As we look around and realize the number of children who have been through this building, we praise God we were able to teach them about Jesus. There have been good Sunday School classes. We shared our love for Jesus with the children during Vacation Bible School. We have been intentional about teaching the children about Jesus. Now, we can continue to be intentional in teaching the children about Jesus.

For us to be intentional about teaching the children, we continue to learn about faith in God. Then as we continue to learn as Christians, we can continue to teach the children about faith in God. It is when we stop learning as Christians, or as parents, that we fail to grow in our own faith, let alone be able to teach the children intentionally.

How do we continue to learn as Christians? We figure out where we are. We figure out the stuff from God we need to know. We discover the reason we are doing this work of intentionally teaching the children.

A. Where are we? (Deuteronomy 11:16-17)
+++1. Moses has come down from the mountain with the 2nd set of tablets (10:1-11)
+++2.The Israelites are discovering freedom in following God
+++3. We too know freedom in following God
+++4. We are here today because of the love of God, the grace of Jesus Christ, and the presence of the Holy Spirit
+++5. God has brought us to this place, this time in our lives
+++6. We need to be aware that we could be seduced into following other gods!
+++7. We got to this place, this time because God reached into this world and pulled us out the mud. Maybe someone was praying for you. Ila Robinson prayed for me as a child. She even told me that I would someday be in the white house – Harsh Memorial’s parsonage at that time was a white house! Maybe someone invited you to meet Jesus. Maybe someone told you about the cute girl/handsome boy at the church. However you got here, God has been working in your life. We have been growing in grace ever since we got here, to this place in time. What a blessing we have received!

B. What, then, are we to teach? (Deuteronomy 11:18-19)
+++1. We have learned the words of the Lord
+++2. We have learned about God’s love for us – choosing to get us away from sin
+++3. We spend time pondering, studying, and living the words of the Lord
+++4. Teach the words of the Lord to the children – when we are home & away
+++5. We get to teach the children. Yes, I know some of us have no children. Yes, I know some of us have children and grandchildren who are not living in the community. But, there are still children in our community. Is there a desire in our hearts and souls to learn the words of the Lord? Is there a desire in our hearts and souls to keep on following Jesus to the end of our days? Then there will be a desire in our hearts and souls to make sure the children are taught about Jesus Christ. We realize that all of the children in our community need Jesus as much as we need Jesus. It is a matter of our faith being lived as teach what we know about Jesus Christ.

C. For what reason are we doing this work? (Deuteronomy 11:20-21)
+++1. The signs on our doorposts and gates remind us of how good God has been
+++2. When we live the words of God, then the children get to know why we have signs on our doorposts and gates
+++3. The children also get to have a hope that this world cannot give them
+++4. God has promised his kingdom to those who follow Jesus Christ
+++5. We want to live as Jesus’ followers today
+++6. We want the children to live as Jesus’ followers, today
+++7. We are doing this work of intentionally teaching the children so they may live in the land the Lord has sworn to give Jesus’ followers. We want our children in the community to know God. We want them to know the same thing we have been taught. We want them to know the hope we have for this life and the life to come.

We are here because God has brought us here. Someone taught us about Jesus Christ. Somehow we came to believe in Jesus Christ.

We are here learning about the good God has for us in Jesus Christ. We get to teach the children what we have learned about God. We get to help the children to live as we teach them about Jesus Christ.

We want the children to live long in the land the Lord is giving us. Somebody had that desire for us. Now, it is our turn to have that desire for the children of our community. Let us spend this week praying for God to show us a child to teach. Write down in your bulletin a child’s name that God is placing on your heart to teach. Write down a child’s name that God is saying you are to teach them about the word of the Lord. My neighbors taught me. Which children are we to be teaching?