We spent the morning at our local animal park, Busch Wildlife. Brandt is 2 1/2. Instead of quietly listening to talk about God creating all the animals, he wanted to run from exhibit to exhibit. So I took pictures to talk about later. The lessons are to teach when you can; try telling the biblical principle in another way. Perhaps you could reread Genesis 1 yourself, or look at these pictures with a young child who has no free animal park nearby.
Summer: Gospel Opportunities June 22, 2010
Seize the moment. Summer provides many gospel opportunities. More time outside is a time to remind kids of the creative power of God as simply imagining what He wanted the cosmos to be and saying the word. Children need to be reminded every day of who made them so they can humbly realize they are not the center of the universe! Reread Genesis 1-2 together and talk about the order of creation. Light before the sun; birds and fish before mammals; oceans before land… Talk about these things during your day. Bring the subject up. Respond quickly when one of the children asks a question.
What does this have to do with the gospel? Those who are created bow before their Creator. As they see the wonder of the creation, they revere that Creator. Reverence for God grows as the child investigates all around him. It is really the beginning of seeing one’s need of a Savior. When you point this out to him, you are setting the stage, laying a strong foundation for a personal relationship with God. Rejection of God as Creator takes humility and reverence out of that foundation. Reverence and humility are the cornerstones, the supporting columns for seeing themselves as sinners deserving and expecting justice. Read Chapter 10, Old Paths for Little Feet where I explain this more. Enjoy every moment with the children. I intend to. Here’s a picture of how I’ll be spending my time in July:
Positive Thinking? June 10, 2010
This is the last lesson on Philippians. I hope this series has been useful to you personally. Just scroll ‘Category’ to Philippians for all the lessons. Perhaps you could use it, along with Roger Ellsworth’s Opening Up Philippians, for a small group study.
Reread Philippians 4
“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you” (Philippians 4:8-9).
If this isn’t “positive thinking,” what is it? In the 1950’s, a pastor in N.Y.City came up with a popular notion for those looking for inner peace and tranquility in life. Just think about the good. Keep your mind on the positive and joy would come your way. It seems like that’s all Paul is saying here as well. But, the catch comes in verse 9 which connects how we are looking at people and events with following his instruction and example.
His whole point in this letter was to stand firm together for the gospel, with love for each other, so that the work of telling others about Christ Jesus would go on. Maintaining peace and harmony in any group takes work. So Paul told them to deliberately look for the positive in events or others. What is honorable here, what is just, lovely, worthy of praise? We are to “be eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” as he told the Ephesians (4:3). Eager to be reasonable and to live peaceably. The purpose in searching out the lovely and just and honorable is not for our own inner peace, as Norman V. Peale taught, but for keeping the local church on track.
But, Paul’s own joy is to be our example. That joy was rooted in his desire that Christ be honored and proclaimed. “…as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now, as always, Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:20-21). Have the desire that Christ Jesus be glorified by your living reasonably, looking for the good, keeping the peace. Like Paul, be happy when someone helps you or shows concern for your work to spread the gospel. He had learned contentment, not through positive thinking, but by rejoicing in the Lord who gave him strength (4:10-13). What an example of confidence in God and living for God’s glory he was setting for all of us who would read this letter. He was sure God would supply all of their needs so that God would be glorified. He had certainly experienced that himself on his recent trip to Rome–through storm at sea, shipwreck, an angel’s visit, snakebite (Acts 27). He wanted to be an example to these friends of confidence and rejoicing in God. Like the prophet Habakkuk, he could say,
“Though the flock may be cut off from the fold, And there be no herd in the stalls–yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation. The LORD God is my strength;”(Hab. 3: 17-19).
This experience is a long way from the whole positive thinking thing. It all comes back to God’s grace. By his grace, we can maintain the glue of peace in our churches, families, and relationships. By his grace, we can get through needy times. By his grace, we can stand firm.
Philippians 4:4-7 June 2, 2010
Are you still reading Philippians with me? Reading over and over never hurts. Of course, I’m assuming you are also reading elsewhere in the scriptures at the same time. We have been hovering over these passages, remembering Paul’s main objective which was to encourage these Christians in a Greek culture to stand firm in the doctrines of the faith and their basic applications. He wanted them to settle their disputes quickly so their work together for the spread of the gospel would go on and on.
Now he wants them to enjoy the peace which is part and parcel of this kind of lifestyle. So he gives them some specific things they are to do.
“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your repuests be made known to God. and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:4-7).
Sovereignty and Responsibility
Paul urged his friends to make a decision to rejoice in what God is like and their relationship with him. In addition, they were to decide to be reasonable in their dealings with others, to get along in spite of their differences. It was a decision they were to make and follow through with. It was their responsibility. It is our responsibility too–to be reasonable with others and to rejoice that God is who the Bible says he is: our Creator, King, Judge, Teacher, Savior, Friend, and Brother. Decide you will do it.
Many people confuse God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibilities. They emphasize one without the other. And that leads to an imbalance and misrepresentation of what the Bible really tells us. God is sovereign; man is responsible. Charles Spurgeon used to illustrate this with a train illustration: There are two tracks running side by side. One is the train of God’s sovereign power; the other is a train flying the flag of man’s responsibility. They keep going straight ahead; they never cross. Both are true; both are themes flowing from Genesis to Revelation.
Here is an example of our responsibility: to rejoice in the Lord; to behave reasonably; not to worry; be thankful; pray. It is a matter of the mind; deciding to do it and doing it. Of course, you can ask for help!
Now comes the other train flying by. It is waving the flag of God’s sovereignty; his absolute power. His peace will guard our hearts and minds. It is beyond us to ever understand why we could be at peace with God; to escape his justice due our sin; to be saved from his wrath; to have our hearts stirred to love him, to obey his precepts, to calm down and rest in the power he demonstrated to us at Jesus’s resurrection. But, the Lord is near—at our right hand; perhaps coming back today in all his power and glory. Then we will see clearly his sovereignty and our responsibility. For now, be sure to keep both trains running.
Do what is necessary to rejoice and think straight about getting along with others. Maybe you need to reflect on how wonderful it is to be a child of God.