Contra Mundum: For the World. Against the world. What does that mean to you?
Every godly parent wants their kids to love Jesus forever. The challenge is how do we do this when we don’t ultimately control this. Getting your kids to eat vegetables is hard enough getting them to embrace a life of devotion to Christ is challenging and at the same time not up to us. If it was up to us and within our control, we would all flip that magic switch and make our kids treasure Christ. It doesn’t work that way. This question is addressed in New City Catechism
Q 20: Who is the Redeemer?
A: The only Redeemer is the Lord Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of God, in whom God became man and bore the penalty for sin himself.
The only Redeemer is the Lord Jesus Christ.
Parents we have to remind ourselves that Jesus is the only one who redeems. Does that mean you are off the hook? By no means. We water we plant God makes plants grow. We are called as parents and pastors in the life of a child to water and plant but the Lord Jesus Christ is the only Redeemer.
My challenge to parents is threefold.
- Don’t waste your devotion.
- Don’t waste your pain.
- Don’t waste your time.
Don’t waste your devotion is a simple challenge to parents to live their faith in the light of day. We live in an age of specialization and privatization that has spread into our homes and into our faith. We leave public faith to the “religion specialists” at church and we privatize our faith at home to such an extent our kids never see us read our bible on accident or on purpose.
Don’t waste your devotion is a call to public “Personal” prayer and Bible times. Rather than secluded closets and locked bedrooms. Let your kids see you read the bible in the morning and pray payers not so they can think you are something that you are not but that you can model a devoted life. I read my Bible and pray across the table from my kids eating frosted mini-wheats. I don’t do this so my kids think I am holy but rather so they can see where I place my trust every morning.
A devoted life isn’t just public devotions but conversations that point kids back to Christ as our greatest treasure. A devoted life is them seeing you lead someone else closer to Christ as you disciple another believer one-on-one or in a small group.
A devoted life is one where you mention your concern and demonstrate it by praying for world missions. Recently a missionary we support asked for Bibles we discussed this as a family bought the Bibles and prayed over the Bibles as a family. Because I want my kids to see needs of others and to see their need for others that are part of the worldwide body of Christ.
We don’t waste our devotion when we do what the gospel requires of us in front of our kids rather than behind their backs because what many would consider flaunting our faith when it comes to our kids it’s called discipleship.
Parents don’t waste your devotion.
When something touching an idol in our lives the three most common reactions are anger, fear, and despair. When something we love more than we should is shaken we respond in anger, fear, and despair which each, in turn, drives us deeper into our idolatrous behavior.
For example, when I was growing up I was not ok in life if others didn’t approve of me and like me. It is something I struggle with to this day. Although by God grace I struggle less today because of the power of Gospel at work in me daily. When I was growing up if someone didn’t like me I felt despair. I would do everything in my power to help them see that I was fun, kind and an all-around good person. I would sacrifice time with people who actually liked me because I need to be liked by everyone. The more I was around these people the more fear and despair I felt.
I recently read Jack’s book “Show Them Jesus” I so enjoyed it I asked Jack to guest post on my blog about how to teach the parts of the bible that are difficult. I hope you find it as helpful as I did.
Teaching the Bible’s Disturbing Stories
I’ve spent much of the past Sunday school year teaching through the book of Genesis for a class of elementary kids at my church. Just a few weeks into this class, I had a decision to make. The published curriculum I’m using as a rough guide had given me the expected lessons about creation and the sin of Adam and Eve, but it skipped the story that comes next in the Bible—where Cain murders his brother Abel.
I suspect the violent content had something to do with the publisher’s decision to skip that story. A bloody family killing does not feel kid-friendly.
But should I teach it anyway? On occasion, I too will decide it’s best to spare the youngest children from particularly rough stories or from certain details. I don’t enjoy shocking kids or telling them horrific tales. But usually, I’ll go ahead and teach most Bible stories—including the gory or sinful parts. And in the case of Cain and Abel, I hardly had to think about it. I knew I wanted to teach that story, and so I did.
During lesson time, I even drew a stick-figure picture of Cain standing over Abel’s body. Then I added some red smears for blood pooling on the ground. I was as gentle as I could be about it, soberly warning the kids that it was ugly and sad, but still, I drew that picture. It was important for them to see it.
So why, of all things, would I want kids to see that? I have three main reasons, each of which applies not only to Cain and Abel but also to many other Bible stories.
- It’s good to teach the Bible the way God has given it. If we poke around the Bible looking to use just the cheery parts, we end up skewing its message. We give kids the idea that the Bible is something like Aesop’s fables or after-school cartoons instead of the gritty, soaring, beautifully diverse message from God that it is. We also might miss key themes.
With the Cain and Abel story, I recognized it as part of the Bible’s foundational opening pages and the introduction of a critical theme: the contrast between a bad heart mastered by sin and a good heart devoted to God. I didn’t want to skip over that. I also noticed that the Bible specifically mentions Abel’s blood five times (in four different books). That made the blood a necessary part of my lesson if I was going to be true to the Bible’s own emphasis.
As a pastor one of the concerns I have surrounds what songs we sing in church and why we sing those songs in our churches. Most of the things we say about the songs we sing are founded in style. The songs we like or dislike is most often an issue of personal style. The problem with this way of approaching the songs we sing is we make the wrong things the major things. The songs we sing in church and in kids church can to often be based on the style preferences of the Sr. Pastor or Worship Pastor. There is nothing wrong with style but if what we sing and why we sing doesn’t transcend our own personal sense of style we limit the very purpose singing songs in church is intended to have.
I would like to offer this disclaimer. I have written very few worship songs. I do however pastor at a local church. I have been in the same church for 20 years and have seen the results of people and movements who based their lives on preference over substance. Given that here are my 4 questions that every worship song needs to answer.
1. Is it God directed – This is not a preference thing for me. If the song you are sing is more about you than the God who made you it’s not worship. It’s something else but not worship. The songs we need sing need to be filled with wording about who God is and what he has done. Is there songs of lament and petition in the bible? Yes. Those songs are based on an understanding of that everything begins and ends with God. It’s about what he’s doing more than how I’m feeling.