Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Why We Give Gifts at Christmas

I love watching my kids light up as they open their gifts on Christmas Eve!  What’s even better is watching them beam with joy as they give the little gifts they purchased for each other from the Dollar Store.  They give so thoughtfully!

Before we give our gifts though, we open the first gift of Christmas.  After we come home from church we gather everyone around our Nativity Scene.  Then we open a little gift box that contains the baby Jesus figurine which we place into the Nativity Scene.  Then we have the older boys read from Luke chapter 2 the account of the birth of Jesus.  It’s such a simple yet wonderful way to remember why we give gifts at Christmas.  

It’s easy to forget.  I must confess, sometimes, I fall into the stress of this time of the year.  Get a gift for this person.  Try to get a list from that person.  Fit in time to get to a store.  Wade through crowds.  Spend too much money.  It gets pretty crazy at times.

I don’t think that’s quite what God had in mind when He sent the first and greatest gift of Christmas, His Son, Jesus Christ.  This is what God had in mind, “But when the time had fully come, God sent His Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons” (Galatians 4:4-5).  God the Father had in mind to give up His Son to make us His.  From cradle to cross, Jesus had in mind to give us peace, love and forgiveness.  Can you think of a better gift?

I’d love to hear from you how you keep your family centered on the greatest gift of Christmas.  What’s your family tradition?  No matter what your family tradition is this Christmas, my prayer for you is that you remember why you give gifts.  It’s all because God gave us His greatest gift.  He gave us Jesus.  He gave us love.  He gave us peace.  Take time to enjoy it not just at Christmas time, but all year long.  The gift of Jesus never gets old.    Merry Christmas from my family to yours!

-Chris Johnson, Outreach and Young Adult Pastor

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Jesus at Home with Your Children – Let’s Do Some Myth-Busting

Over the last three years we've been in the process at our church of transitioning from in-class lecture based confirmation to an in-home, parent directed confirmation class. For such an emotional and traditional ministry like confirmation change has been a mixed bag of tears and triumph with plenty of adjustments being made along the way. (Especially in our area where confirmation is considered a Sacrament by the Catholic church. The Lutheran church has used Confirmation to affirm agreement to the faith that babies were first brought into at Baptism. We do not consider confirmation a Sacrament but it comes with a lot of tradition.) We desire the change to see if we can change something that is leading youth to fall away in high school, change something that is adding to the disconnect between parents and youth, change something that has added to the consumer mentality affecting many church members, and empower people to use God’s truth’s outside the church doors and in the real world. I thought it would fun to speak to some of the resistance and myths that we've come up with so far. 

These are some of the things I’ve heard through the last couple years from parents and others.

“Teach Confirmation at home? Isn’t that what the Pastor/Teachers get paid for? He’s the expert that God called to do this. What is Pastor going to be doing if the parents are taking over teaching?”
In Ephesians 4:11-13 God tells us through the pen of Paul that God gives leaders to his church in order to bring God’s people to maturity through the use of His Word. A Pastor’s call is to perform certain tasks that the typical Christian, because of their other duties (working at Wal-Mart, the local business, etc.), is unable to do. We preach, teach, write blogs, etc… We have dedicated our lives to study and sharing God’s Word with the goal that we would share it with people who then in turn will share with others. It is our job to train parents and students. We dare not take over for parents. Because God has given parents the calling to not just take care of a child’s food, clothes, and physical care but also nourishment with God’s Word. Deuteronomy 6:4-9 and Ephesians 6:4 are pretty clear that the responsibility to share God’s truth is primarily with the parents and specifically fathers. It is my prayer that our adjustments to class allow parents to walk alongside of their children’s biblical studies and further apply God’s truths in the everyday issues that pop-up. We will give them resources in paper, online, and in person. We will hold them accountable for the training of their children through large group, small group, quiz’s, tests, papers, volunteer opportunities, and one on one’s.

“I don’t know enough. I will mess up my child and their soul is too important for that.”
 (“There are some parents that really should not be teaching…” ~Some Pastor friends of mine)
There are some new Christians or weak Christians who have been given children. They feel overwhelmed because they don’t think they could do a good enough job covering material. I think they feel this way because they are pressuring themselves to know it all. The truths that you share and read and research with your children in the Bible especially for Confirmation homeschooling are meant to be the basics to grow off of. Just because you don’t feel you know everything is no reason to give up. It is actually the reason why you should be actively involved in the Biblical training of your child. You learn a whole lot more when you teach than when you are the student. (Philippians 3:12-16 – When we dig into God’s Word we are not alone. The Spirit does guide his people. Pastors are still available when you don’t know something. They may not know either – it is okay to say you don’t know something.)

"If my children are not in class they will not develop a relationship with the Pastor."
I’d rather have them develop a relationship with Jesus. I may get a call somewhere else, they may leave for school/work/marriage someday, and I might die before them. If they’ve honestly studied alongside of their parents then they’ve fostered a relationship (with Jesus and with parents) that will most likely be around a lot longer than any Pastor. There are plenty of other opportunities to get to know a Pastor than class. Check out youth group, mission trips, come early to church, stay late at church, volunteer at church, come on a hospital visit, or come to one of our intergenerational studies.

"I don’t have time."
I can understand that parents are extremely busy. The work force demands a ton of time from fathers and mothers and single parents. Add to this sports, special events, and school activities. I’m a parent and although my children are young yet I know how hectic life can be. In Luke 10:38-42 Jesus reminds Martha about priorities and invites us to take time to sit at his feet and let some other seemingly important things be left undone. I’d ask families to take a normal week and categorize what all goes on. Where is the time going? What percentage is in glory to God and what is for the glory of our self? What can be cut out as a fragrant sacrifice to God? I wish I could say I’ve mastered this but I have plenty of room for improvement too. Is there ever a time that we’re too busy too share some bible truth with our children? It is a privilege to have a Savior who loves us enough to die and rise for us. He made us a priority so that we can make him a priority. 

What are your thoughts about bringing Bible training into your home?

-Pastor Eric