Sunday, June 22, 2008

Baby Dedication Day!

I had the privilege of officiating my first baby dedication today. [In the future, I'll be doing them jointly with our elder of family life, but he was out of town for the weekend.]

It was a great experience, and it got me to thinking about the nature of community again...

As I navigated through the dedication of this beautiful little boy, I reminded the family that they were being dedicated too - it wasn't just about the little one.

Just as importantly, I reminded our people that children are people too (a phrase I use all the time, and intentionally) and that we have a responsibility to help them raise this little one to know Jesus and to learn how to follow Him.

But what does that mean, exactly? Clearly parents are the spiritual leaders of their children, and fathers are the spiritual leaders of their homes. But it's just as clear from Scripture that we're a family - a single body in Christ striving for His purposes.

I wonder if we haven't allowed the American "right to privacy" to overly permeate our parenting. Don't get me wrong - I'm not advocating the ol' "it takes a village" per se. It's just that too often (in my experience) we don't seek the help and wisdom that our fellow Christians could offer. We're too proud, or too shy, or ... too something. Always too something...

Am I - as the Children's Pastor - modelling the kind of attitude I feel the Bible calls for? I'm not sure. Of course I'd like to say yes ... but I don't know if that's completely honest.

I'm not even sure exactly what I'm calling for. I just know that I'm tired of watching well-meaning Christian parents struggle with issues about which other parents in our assembly could share wisdom. Maybe we're too closed off - not connected enough. Maybe it hasn't even occurred to these parents that these family resources are available to them.

Perhaps that's where to start - to at least make parents aware that they can both receive and offer wisdom with regard to the struggles of other parents.

Today, that's just what happened as we dedicated this little soul and his family to Christ in the presence of His followers. May we take seriously the affirmations made this day. Too much depends upon it to do otherwise.


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Friday, June 20, 2008

Survivor Camp

The local church I serve just finished our Survivor Camp today. What is Survivor Camp? Think traditional vacation Bible school on steroids!

Every day we had some corporate worship, a skit relating to the Bible lesson of the day, the corporate Bible lesson, then we moved the kids by age (ish) through a series of 15 minutes stations. One was snack/discussion, where they got some refreshments and a chance to talk about the Bible lesson in a small group format. The other stations were all games/activities, mostly of a somewhat crazy variety!

For example, today was water day, so we had a couple of water balloon slings set up and let the kids launch away at their leaders! We also had an obstacle course that would challenge many adults.

We had some of the more standard games, too. Volleyball, soccer, wheelbarrow races, etc... All told, the week was outstanding. We had a couple hundred kids running around having a grand time, learning a bit of Bible and building relationships with (mostly) teenagers that intentionally showed the love of Christ.

We also involved some civil service to the week. One day we had a demonstration by a K-9 unit. The kids loved the dog (of course!) but it was also nice to see our police forces painted in such a wholesome light (in lieu of so many video games). Another day we had members of the SWAT team come in. It was awesome! They brought an APV, a bunch of equipment and a bomb robot! The robot roamed around and took a team flag from a child ... who nervously cooperated.

I know there are some that would see what we did this week and think (or say), "They weren't direct enough in their presentation of the Gospel". But this week wasn't about a head count of "decisions for the LORD". It was about being a beacon of love and hope in the midst of our community. I shared the Gospel directly during the final day's Bible lesson, and I'm sure the topic came up through small group discussion as well. But more than anything we wanted to plant seeds and build bridges.

We'll be inviting each of these families to come to our next Family Sunday (see this post), which is at the end of this month. Pray that the love and grace we poured into these little lives will continue to honour God in the days to come.


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Saturday, June 14, 2008

Baptism revisited

A while back I brought up the topic of baptizing young children. I know those of you in 'baby baptism' circles might find this hard to believe, but you can really get a heated discussion going when you bring up questions on this subject in evangelical circles.

Well, as I mentioned in that older post, we've been rethinking the process some and have come out of the woods, as it were...

I still maintain that the very best way to determine whether a younger child is really ready to be baptized is to follow them around for a week! But since that simply isn't possible, we've decided to do the next best thing.

I began interviewing candidates for baptism a few weeks ago. The interviews are not tests - I'm not just reading a list of questions and looking for "correct" answers. We're spending some time getting to know each other better, these children and I. Along the way, we're talking about the issues that matter most when it comes to readiness for baptism. But rather than just ask questions, I've been weaving a narrative for them involving something they like (sports, music, games, etc...) and using that narrative as a framework to find the answers children really believe, not just what they've been taught to say.

In case you're curious, here's the list of concepts/questions I try to weave into our interviews. In no particular order:

a) How many ways are there to Heaven?
b) Why would a person want to be baptized?
c) Is baptism necessary for salvation?
d) What about persecution - things like 2 Tim 3:12?
e) What exactly is a sinner?
f) Why do we need the Bible?
g) Who and what is Jesus?
h) What about those that don't yet know the LORD?

Depending on how the conversation goes, I'll emphasize one or more of these issues. I'm finding (in my limited experience so far) that kids understand a fair bit about these subjects. There have been (of course!) some youthful errors to correct along the way, but so far I've been pleasantly surprised by the interviews.

Anyway, having said all that, I'm happy to announce that I'm expecting to conduct a number of baptisms for some of our younger souls in the upcoming months! These will be truly joyous occasions, and I can't wait for them to start...

Baptism in many local churches seems to have become a ritual in the worst sense of the word - something we do simply because we feel we must. Gone is the excitement at the symbolism. Gone is the joy for the public display of lost ones that have been found. Why is this? For my part, I hope to always model the kind of excitement I think baptism deserves.


[PS: If you dig the William Johnson print as much as I, you can buy it here.]

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Monday, June 9, 2008

Amazing Grace

Do you know how many marriages make it to see their 10th wedding anniversary? About 65%.

How about their 25th anniversary? Only 33%.

50th? A meager 5%.

Part of this is a matter of simple math - Americans now tend to marry in the mid 20s instead of their early 20s (or even late teens). That fact alone shaves a fair number of people off the list of candidates for a 50th anniversary.

But math alone cannot explain what some dear friends of mine just celebrated...

I couldn't even find statistics related to their marriage accomplishment. Given the state of our marital culture today, it's unlikely that we'll ever hear of this accomplishment down the road...

Last week Joe and Grace celebrated their 71st wedding anniversary!

Yes, you read that right - they've been married for 71 years. Using numbers doesn't do it justice. Let me try that again.

Joe and Grace have been married for seventy one years!!

Plenty of people don't live that long, let alone stay married that long. But the most amazing part (and the primary reason for the title of this post) is Grace. She has been a loving caretaker of Joe for many years now. He continues to ever-so-slowly slip into the arms of His Creator and Grace is there with him every step of the way. This beautiful woman devotes virtually every moment of every day to the care of her wheelchair-bound husband. Joe's not himself anymore; hasn't been in quite some time. But still, there's Grace.

She's a living, breathing testament to the power of love in marriage.

Faith. Hope. Love.

and Grace. May all of us be able to follow her example.


[FYI: the statistics I cited are from this website.]

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Stormy weather

We had our first taste of thunderstorms at the new house the other day. It's rained here since we've moved in, but this was the first really windy, ugly, thunderstorm we've had. We had another tonight, but that's another story!

Anyway, this storm blew in very quickly and it left almost as quickly as it came. Immediately after it passed over, the sky turned this bright shade of almost yellow and the adults in the house all knew what was coming next ...

a rainbow!

But we didn't just get one - there were two rainbows out there in that strangely calm sky. I captured a few pictures, using my favorite Christmas gift of last year (Carmen bought me a polarizing filter for my camera). I hope you enjoy them!


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Thursday, June 5, 2008

The Voice

The details are a bit fuzzy for me right now, but it appears that the emergent crowd is soon to have a Bible specifically marketed to them.

Or not?

I'm still doing the research, and I'll leave you to do the same.

Check out The Voice. Poke around a bit and let me know what your impressions are.

As I discover more, I'll post it.


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Update, part 3

I have internet access again!

This is going to sound cheesy, but (seriously) thank God for broadband.

Our service is not blazing fast, but it's broadband and I'm happy for it. I have to give some love to the folks at Lightning Net for providing wireless internet to guys like me that live within a country mile of the middle of nowhere.

Anyway, I believe I've worked out all the initial kinks in having new service. I am able to receive email again (the address linked on this site has worked all along; I'm referring to my more personal address that some of you have). I've also just finished configuring my outgoing SMTP settings, so I can send email from that account now too!

So... if you wish to begin interacting with my posts again, feel free! We are live and good to go!


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