You may think there's a typo in my title. Often pastors talk about the importance of not just being Sunday Christians. "We've got to live out the good news throughout the week." That's really important to me, too. But I think it's important to think about how to be Christian – how to act Christian – when we come to church on Sunday, too. There are many things we could talk about, and so this is a theme I will revisit in the future, but for now let's talk about loving our neighbour in the pew.
If you want to avoid becoming self-righteous, you need to read the Bible through two lenses.
What the Bible says about how to be a good parent when thousands of miles separate mother and child.
I like to be prepared for whatever I do. “Anything that’s worth doing is worth doing right,” is my motto. But there are often times when, frankly, I don’t think I’ve got what it takes. I see a need. I recognize what should be done. And I may even feel God nudging me to do something about it, but I just don’t feel qualified. Surely God will bring along a ringer to bail me out, I assure myself. Sometimes, that’s the voice of wisdom speaking. The reality is that we can’t do everything, neither should we. But other times, I’m convinced that it’s pride making me shrink back from opportunities to serve in weakness. Reading in the book of Exodus recently, has made me realize that I’m not the only one who does that. Rereading a familiar passage has challenged the way I see opportunities and God’s working in my life.
Last month I shared some of the most important lessons God has taught me about parenting. With our Summer Sunday School presentation coming up on Sunday, and families getting ready to go back to school next week, I thought I’d share three more of those lessons that have helped me most.
On Sunday, the team responsible for our weekly children’s ministries gathered for a BBQ and celebration of God’s goodness over the past year. As part of our time together, we discussed some quotes from Samuel Williamson’s book, “Is Sunday School Destroying Our Kids? How Moralism Suffocates Grace.” For those of you with children at Grace, don’t worry: our Sunday School isn’t destroying them! But Williamson argues that when we get Sunday School wrong – and it’s easy to do – it has the potential to destroy our children’s faith. Let me explain why.
Over the last number of weeks, we have been looking at John 6. Just one day after the feeding of the 5000, the crowds became offended at Jesus’ teaching and largely walked away, never to return. They grumbled about Him, argued with Him, and ultimately decided that they knew better than Jesus did. Their final recorded words, “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it” (John 6:60), stand as a warning to all who would reject Jesus because they’re offended at what He says. While few Christians today are offended by Jesus’ claims to be the “bread of life” (v. 35) or the “bread that came down from heaven” (v. 41), many are offended by another teaching of Jesus in this same passage. The teaching that people find so offensive, today, is the idea that no one trusts in Jesus unless God enables them to do so. Let’s look at the text again and see if that’s what it really says.
The challenge of parenting takes most parents by surprise. We get used to the diapers and the late nights. We adjust to the new financial implications and the reordering of our schedules. But there’s nothing more difficult than the first time we come face-to-face with a child’s defiance. The battles come from any number of issues: when to wake up, when to go to sleep, what to eat, what to wear, where to sit, how to act. In Ephesians 6, Paul writes, “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right,” and then he quotes the fifth commandment with the promise, “that it may go well with you.” This confirms what we instinctively sense, but goes against the idea that self-expression is what a child most needs. Regardless of what some may think, rejecting a parent’s authority isn’t a natural part of a child’s path toward healthy independence. But how can a parent help?
When relationships break down and conflict erupts, how do we get ourselves out of it? How can we find peace where there is no peace? In Matthew 5:9, Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God,” but how do we become a peacemaker? James 3:18 promises that “a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace,” but how do we make peace? We’ve all seen people we respected and admired for being able to bring peace where there was conflict. At our last association meeting, I had an opportunity to learn from one. Let me share what I learned.
On Sunday, we hosted the second in our two-part parenting seminar with Paul Tripp. He helped us deal with what he felt was the biggest weakness in Christian parenting – dealing with the surface rather than the substance. He said that he often hears from parents about children who have gone off to university and leave the faith. Often, he felt, they hadn’t left the faith at all. What had happened was that children with a veneer of Christianity had stepped out from under their parents’ tight control and demonstrated that their faith really didn’t go beyond mere parental compliance. This, he sees, is the common product of parenting that aims to regulate behaviour without reaching the heart. Let me explain.