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Preparing our hearts for Family Sunday

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“Why do you have so many bumps on your face? It looks bad.” Kids are notorious for saying what comes to their mind. With an undeveloped filter, we can be left humbled by the honesty and bluntness of their words.

“Why, yes, sweet child of my womb, that is adult acne on my face and yes, it looks bad.”

This actual statement from one of my children is just one of many humbling statements that push me to find grace from God.

This morning, my daughter’s words were painful.

“I just don’t see the point in going to Church and hearing the same stories I already know. I don’t learn anything.”

Ugh. Stomach punch to the Children’s Deacon.

My first internal response was to feel like I’ve missed the mark as a leader in our children’s ministry. I jumped to question where we were failing to create a ministry our children enjoy. I want them to want to go to church. Shouldn’t it be fun to go to Church?

Thankfully, the Holy Spirit can move us beyond our first thought and speak some truth into our minds and hearts. I continued to ponder her question for the rest of the morning. Is there some perspective to her question that reveals an honest feeling and desire we adults have as well? Why do we belong to a Church? Why do we leave Churches? What do we look for in Churches?

If I strip down my daughter’s words I can hear this question from her heart, “What is the point of going on Sunday morning if I don’t receive anything out of it?” “What is in it for me?” There, in her exposed heart, I hear my own sin too. How often do I approach Church (the Body of Believers) as a consumer, looking to find where I can be filled, how I can be served or how I can feel good? How often do I harbor disappointment when my desires are not met when,

in reality, only God can meet those desires.

Do not hear me say that Sunday mornings shouldn’t be enjoyable or fun for our kids. We make many choices on Sunday morning to encourage a fun atmosphere. But Church is different than Netflix. If, as a children’s ministry, all we’ve done is entertain our kids and throw a Jesus stamp on it, we are failing to prepare them to actually follow Jesus in life.

Following Jesus is not always fun. There are times our hearts want to ask, “What is in this for me?”

For example, at the moment, I am having to walk in a relationship that is very difficult. I am affected by this individual’s selfishness and hurt by their lack of boundaries. There is nothing in it for me. Yet, God has placed this relationship in my life and, though I may want to, I cannot run from it. Following Jesus means to continue to love the unlovable and consider how I may choose to still be a blessing to them. Following Jesus means I am offered the opportunity not to see relationships in my life through the lens of what they can do for me.

Maybe being part of a Church is where we get to practice this.

Disappointment can expose a desire in our hearts to be filled with something other than Jesus. Maybe it can be a good thing to be disappointed with your Church.

 

What if an unmet expectation on Sunday morning meant an opportunity for my heart to say, “Thank you, Jesus, for meeting all my needs and I follow you to corporate worship even if I am disappointed.”

What if a hurt from a brother or sister in our MC meant an opportunity for my heart to say, “Thank you, Jesus, for being the perfect friend and I follow you into relationship even if I am disappointed.” What if its not about me?

I want my daughter to follow Jesus more than anything. With the perspective God gave me this morning, I realize don’t have to be fearful or threatened by her dislike of Sunday mornings. If my kids groan about going to Church on Sunday morning it could be because being a part of a Church is more difficult than turning on the TV.

Following Jesus is not the same thing as being entertained by Jesus.

As we approach Family Sunday, we might catch our hearts doing their own groaning. Family Sundays are harder. It is much easier to sit and receive on a Sunday morning than to serve and show hospitality to our kids. I am not immune to it either. May God help our perspective and give us hearts that resist being consumers. May we depend on God, the only one that does not disappoint, as we follow Jesus together.

~Kim Janous lives in Issaquah with her husband and three kids. She serves Soma Eastside as a Deacons of Children's Ministry.

Posted by Kim Janous with
in Faith

The Gospel According to A Tale of Two Cities


Because every screenwriter, author, musician and producer is made in the Image of God you can often find inklings of this Christian message in the stories that they write and the art they create. Charles Dickens is no exception. In Dickens' famous novel, A Tale of Two Cities, a masterful work of literature that has been required reading for decades, we see a clear depiction of the meaning of redemption. 

 

There are actually multiple fields of discourse used in the Bible to describe the Christian message. Each word sheds light on it from a different angle; rich words like Adoption, Redemption, Justification, Reconciliation are just a few. Think how it feels to be adopted as an orphan, or to be set free after being a slave. Think how it would be to have all your debt forgiven, or to be pardoned after being a convicted felon. All of these images are used to describe the Christian message we call the Gospel.

 

 In each field of discourse there are two common themes:

1) God was motivated by love when he did these things for us and 2) Jesus took our place and became our substitute in some way.

 

The word that best describes Dickens contribution in A Tale of Two Cities is Redemption. Redemption is freedom obtained at a price. The Christian idea of redemption is that - In love, God has purchased our freedom by substituting himself.

 

In Dickens' tale, the substitutionary savior is Sidney Carton and the person he frees is Charles Darnay.

 

Darnay has been convicted and he awaits the guillotine. But Sidney Carton has compassion on him and so he sneaks into his cell, knocks him unconscious, changes clothes with him, and takes his place setting him free. 

 

This is a picture of the Christian message of redemption but our innate sense of abundant freedom makes it hard for us to grasp.

 

Most of us have never been in jail. And we have certainly never languished under a death sentence. Our days exhibit a certain amount of freedom appropriate for people whose national anthem concludes with the phrase “the Land of the free and the home of the brave” If we are anything, we are free.

 

And yet, the Bible says that there is more to our situation than meets the eye.

 

Men and women are complicated and mysterious creatures. We exhibit the genius, freedom and dignity appropriate to those who have been made in the image and likeness of God. But we also display the destructive tendencies and enslaving appetites of the most merciless animals.

 

This second part of us, is what the Bible refers to as our sinful nature. It is that part of us that has gotten us in trouble, and taken away our freedom. No matter how many times we sing the national anthem our sinful nature still holds us captive and in many ways we ourselves are locked up and enslaved by it.

This is why Jesus can say

 

 

"I tell you the truth anyone who sins is a slave to sin" (John 8).

 

 

Sin binds us with a death sentence. (Romans 6:23).

 

 

This is the prison holding all of us captive. 

 

But God is like Sidney Carton in that he has compassion on us and takes our place. In order to take our place though, God had to become like one of us. And so Jesus, who is God eternal, took on flesh and became a man. As Nat King Cole sings every Christmas, 

"veiled in flesh the godhead see, hail incarnate deity, . Pleased as man with man to dwell, Jesus our Immanuel*" 

*Immanuel is the Hebrew word which means "God with us".

 

Jesus is God with us, God with flesh, who, in compassion, came in to break us free by taking our place. This is why he can say, "I come that they may have life and have it to the full" (John 10:10) and "I lay down my life for the sheep" (John 10:15).

 

Dickens' description of what happened in that cell illustrates clearly with what the Bible says about redemption. The whole plan is Sidney's idea from beginning to end just as setting us free is God's idea from beginning to end.    

 

Dickens describes the scene as Sidney forces the incarcerated Darnay to switch outfits with him. He writes,

 

"With wonderful quickness, and with a strength both of will and action, that appeared quite supernatural, [Sidney] forced all these changes upon him. The prisoner was like a child in his hand." 

 

Dickens is highlighting that true freedom is a gift of grace. This is why he describes him as a child. Someone else pays the price. Someone else takes his place. And just like him we have to receive our freedom like little children. Just as Darnay cannot take credit for his new life, neither can we. We can be freed by his grace and not by any religious or moral effort of our own. This is the Christian understanding of redemption.

 

Our freedom from the prison of death and sin was God's idea from beginning to end, and Jesus is the one who took our place and paid our price. 

 

The price he paid was his life for ours. On the cross, where Jesus hung and died, he prayed “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.” And when he rose from the dead three days later he proved to the world that his prayers had been heard. 

 

Understanding Jesus' freedom-purchasing compassion in these terms means you understand redemption. You and I are not as free as we have been lead to believe. But the gift of freedom is there for all of us to take, if we will let him remove our prison clothes and dress us in his own righteousness.

 

Jesus’ promise is trustworthy and true. Go and ponder what he means when he says “if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:36). 

Posted by Rich McCaskill with

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