“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children.” ~Deuteronomy 6:5-7
This Sunday is the fourth Sunday of the month. Here at Central, that means we will not be dismissing the youngest of our children from our main assembly for their own worship time in their own room. It means it will be a little louder in our worship center. It means our younger parents and those sitting around them will be a little more distracted. It means a little more crying, a little more fidgeting, a little more talking and giggling.
It means an opportunity to rejoice in the fact that our God has blessed us with five full generations of people within our church family. It means another chance to interact with the most precious and innocent among us. It means another moment to pass on to our children the faith that has been handed to us. It means another reminder that we are not running this race alone.
“Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. And when you go to church.” ~Deuteronomy 6:7
OK, I cheated. I added that last part myself: “…and when you go to church.”
Here at Central we believe very strongly that if our people are always with their own age group, always with their own peers and demographics every single time we come together, it does more harm than good. It’s vital — it’s critical! — to this holy task of passing on the faith that our children regularly worship and read, sing and study, listen and pray, commune and laugh and cry and learn with the entire corporate Body of Christ.
Don’t tell me the children don’t get anything out of it. Of course, they get plenty out of it. If they didn’t, or couldn’t, then why in the world do you read them bedtime stories every night? Why were you singing Jesus Loves Me to them before they could crawl? Why bother kissing them as infants or telling them you love them before they even know what love is? Because it matters. It’s important. They do get something out of it.
And don’t tell me you can’t get anything out of church when you’re wrestling with your kids in the pew. First, it’s not about you and your personal worship experience. It’s about all of God’s people coming together in one place at the same time as a family and the mutual responsibilities with which we’ve been graced by our Father. You get plenty out of it. You’re blessed to be able to view the magnificence of the Christian assembly through the eyes of a child. You’re privileged to partner with God as he draws your child to him and his Kingdom. You’re being shaped and transformed as you actively pursue what God has ordained you as a parent to do.
This coming Sunday I urge you to pay attention to your young children during our assembly. Don’t simply pacify them with an iPad or a plastic tub of Cheerios. Engage them. Interact with them. Sing with them. Read the Bible with them. Explain to them something you hear in a prayer. Talk with them about the bread and the cup. Be as fully present with them as you are at the park and at the dinner table. Don’t abandon your parenting during this most critical time. If anything, step it up!
And if you’re sitting around some of these younger parents with their small children, this goes for you, too. For all of us. Engage. Interact. Teach and encourage. We are all under a tremendous obligation by our God to teach our children and lead them toward him. Let’s approach these fourth Sundays with anticipation and excitement. Let’s also come to these fourth Sundays in reverent fear of our Creator that we would not neglect this great responsibility.
Carrie-Anne and I were so blessed to participate in the CareNet Pregnancy Center’s annual banquet last night at the Amarillo Civic Center. More than 1,200 wonderful people gathered to praise God and to raise money for this most important of Christian ministries in our town.
I was impressed by author Gary Thomas’ speech. I was inspired by Amy Spears’ song. I was moved by the videos. But I was completely blown away by Candy Gibbs, CareNet’s Executive Director. She speaks like Eugene Peterson writes. Her speech was amazing. She’s careful, very deliberate, with her words. She preached to us, she preached with us last night. And. It. Was. Powerful. (You can read the transcript of Candy’s speech on her blog by clicking here.)
I’m impressed with CareNet because last year 103 pregnant young ladies went there to talk about their planned abortions and 100 of them were moved by prayer and counseling to decide against it. I’m impressed because CareNet counselors in Amarillo made 9,868 client visits last year to encourage and equip, to strengthen and heal. I’m impressed because in 2011, through the efforts of CareNet and by the grace and power of our God, 187 young women and men submitted to the Lordship of our risen King.
But here’s what’s most important about CareNet: they have rejected the ways of the world and embraced the ways of our Lord. This is not an organization that’s out there waving flags and signing petitions and lobbying congress and pressuring law makers and threatening litigation and marching in the streets. No. They’re not pushing for legislation to outlaw abortion. They’re actually telling dozens and dozens of young ladies every month why abortion is against the plans of our Heavenly Father, and making promises to these young ladies to walk with them through their difficult journeys. They mentor these young ladies and their new babies. They counsel with them. They provide education for them. They meet with them and pray with them. They become friends and family with them. They love them with the compassion and grace and mercy of Jesus. They walk with them for years after they’ve made the decision to have these babies. It’s really quite beautiful. And very counter cultural. Very Scriptural. Very like our Christ. They’re doing it differently. And it’s working. Just like Jesus promised us it would.
I can really get behind a deal like this. I’d suggest you look a little more into it, too.
Valerie and I are gearing up for the Warrior Dash tomorrow down in Roanoke. It’s a 5K run with thousands of crazy people through an obstacle course in the mud. Of course, events like this are targeted to people half my age who drink a lot more than just Dr Pepper. But we ran it last year with several of our great friends from Legacy and just had an absolute blast. We’ll hook up in the morning with most of the same crowd: John & Suzanne, the Cliftons and Engers, Josh Penn. Tracy and Samantha are running it with us this year and I think Steve & Sandy will also be there.
It’ll be crazy. It looks like a lot of the obstacles are different from last year. There seems to be a couple more water obstacles and the climbing obstacles look to be a little more difficult. But Valerie and I are committed. We’ve signed the waivers that promise we won’t sue anybody even if we suffer horrible injury, we’ve packed our grubby shorts and T-shirts and shoes we don’t mind losing, and our warrior attitudes are primed.
I hope you’re doing something really cool this weekend, too.