Why I Celebrate Hanukkah

This was originally published last year on the Grace Church Pastor's Blog.  Thought it would be worthwhile re-posting in full.  Happy Hanukkah, everyone!

Hanukkah begins this year on December 1st, at sundown. Be honest. When I say “Hanukkah,” the first thing you think of is the Adam Sandler song, talking about “eight crazy nights.” If you are a little more connected to Jewish culture, you may also think about a dreidel or potato latkes (pancakes). While it’s commonly called the “Festival of Lights,” a better translation is “Dedication.” Being Jewish (circumcised at 8 days, Bar Mitzvah at age 13) and a Christ-follower (for over 15 years), I’d like to give a brief explanation of this holiday, and why it’s a meaningful opportunity to help me worship the Lord.

Here’s the story of Hanukkah: In the 2nd century BC, Antiochus Epiphanes gained control over parts of the Middle East, including Judea (Israel). He erected an altar to Zeus in the Temple in Jerusalem, and sacrificed pigs there, which are unclean to Jews. The Maccabee family led a revolt, finally liberating Jerusalem and the Temple in 165 BC. Before God could be properly worshiped in the Temple, it had to be cleaned and dedicated. The menorah (lamp) had to burn continuously for 8 days for the purification process. Despite there only being enough olive oil for one day, the oil miraculously lasted for 8 days and nights. That is why Hanukkah is celebrated for 8 nights.

Most people consider this miracle to be the end in itself, and I think the bigger meaning is missed. The point isn’t just that God did a miracle, but that the miracle was the means to allow Him to be properly worshiped. The Temple needed to be purified in order for Yahweh to be worshiped, but it couldn’t be purified unless He worked a miracle. God worked a miracle so that His people could be near Him in worship.

Let us not miss that meaning, as we celebrate the Advent of Jesus Christ, the Light of the world (John 8:12). I don’t think we need merely to reflect on the birth of Jesus, but we need to consider why the Father sent His Son. God performed a miracle (the Incarnation) not as an end to itself, but as a means to allow us to be near Him in worship (through Christ’s redemptive sacrifice for our sins). Jesus did not come only to be marveled at as a baby, but to pour out His life and blood, to open the way for a new covenant with Him.

Not Just Kids -- Part 1 (Volunteers)

image courtesy of straymuse via sxc.hu
I'm so glad we didn't give up on her.  She was about to begin her senior year of high school when she came in to audition for one of our Children's Ministry bands.  She had a great voice, and we were excited to get her on the team.  So far, so good.

But when I saw her for the first time singing on stage, with about 80 kids in the room, I wondered if it was going to work.  She sang meekly, standing with her arms folded across her chest, instead of singing loudly and doing the expected motions with the songs.  We gave her some things to say to introduce a song, but she merely read the sentences off the paper.  Without active body language, without passion, and without engaging the kids, it was obvious that many of the kids had tuned her out and lost interest.

Fast forward about 6 months.  This same young lady was again on stage.  This time she sang out loud, exuberantly doing the motions to the songs.  When it came time for her to talk, it felt like she was having a conversation with the kids.  She was great!   What happened in between?  Some veteran leaders had been encouraging her, giving her pointers, and loving on her.  And when the school year was over, we made it a point to encourage her to keep using her God-given gifts when she headed off to college. 

This experience reminded us that children's ministry is not just about the kids -- it's at least as much about the volunteers.  Yes, our ultimate end is to disciple the next generation, but in doing this, we must also be sure to make disciples of the leaders.  If the volunteers and leaders are growing and equipped for service, and if they feel responsible for ministry, then the children will be taken care of. 

At the outset, it would have been easier to give her a month or so to get it right, before encouraging her to find somewhere else to serve.  It would have been easier to let her continue, but scheduling her less often or giving her non-prominent roles.  It would have been better (in the short-term) for our programming to not let her be involved; don't get me wrong -- our programming suffered slightly, for a little while.  But I'm glad that those other leaders came alongside her.  I'm glad that this young lady had a chance to grow, mature, and trust.  I'm glad that she was encouraged in her talents and will continue to use them for God's Kingdom.  I'm glad that I ran into her recently, and she kept telling me how excited she is to get involved in singing for a campus ministry.

I'm so glad that we didn't give up on her.  She, like hundreds of other examples, reminds me that children's ministry is not just about kids.  And if you are a volunteer, remember that God is using this opportunity to grow you in Him, to help you depend on His grace and power.

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What Do You Do with Santa?

Our Christmas decorations are probably going up today.  Yes, they've been advertised and sold in stores since September (isn't that right, Garden Ridge?), but we usually wait to just after Thanksgiving.  But along with Christmas comes the question of, "How should Christ followers treat Santa?"

Noel Piper, wife of pastor John Piper, shares some of her reasons for not including Santa Claus in their Christmas stories and celebration, and some "encouraging effects on not including Santa." Preschoolers in particular have a hard time distinguishing the relative importance of both Santa and God, especially since these two share many of the same characteristics (omniscient, gives good gifts, etc).

And here's another article from 2009 critiquing the focus on Santa Claus by Christians. It's called "Wintertime Worship: Santa Claus or Jesus Christ." Like this author, I am concerned on the amount of adoration and credit that Santa Claus receives from families that also seek to proclaim Christ.

Here are some thoughts from last year, and you can read comments from different families.  As for my family, we do talk about Santa, but from the perspective of being a fun story. He's just a guy dressed up, like the Chick-fil-A cow and Disney characters. We enjoy watching shows like Rudolph, the Grinch, and Frosty. We love make-believe, and think that's where Santa needs to be. 

What does your family do regarding Santa?

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Missional Mothering

This article from The Resurgence blog is written to young mothers who have feelings of guilt that they should be doing, giving, and accomplishing more.  The typical tendency in many Christian circles is to tell a mom who is feeling this guilt things like, "You don't need to feel guilty," "You are a great mom," or "That's just the culture that tells you that you need to be supermom."  While these encouragements may all be true, the author reminds us that we need to start with Scripture.  In fact, we should consider that these guilty feelings may be a good thing, if we use them as a tool to draw near to God and pursue Him.
"Don't waste that guilt.  Pay attention to it.  Use it.  Take it out of the shadows and examine it in light of Scripture.  Is this a godly grief that leads to repentance or a worldly grief that produces death (2 Cor. 7:10)?"
After examining Scripture, and comparing that with our heart motives (especially in the context of community), we must remember that children should be the primary ministry investment for a young mother.  A mother adds what no one else can.  Serving her family is her calling from God.

Of course, this doesn't mean that a young mom cannot or should not invest in others outside her family.  But the caution is to make sure that she "doesn't let anything diminish [her] unique role as a wife and mother."

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"Are They Pilgrims?"

When Hannah was younger (maybe just starting school), Joanna spent a good part of November teaching her about Thanksgiving.  We learned some fun facts, like that she is a descendant (by about a dozen of generations) of someone who was actually on the Mayflower, and that our traditional Thanksgiving meal was quite different than the original (which likely included cod, eel, onions, and venison).  Of course, she made it a point to teach that the Pilgrims were thankful to God who had sustained them through their struggles.  

Joanna was also intentional to tell Hannah how and why the Pilgrims took a dangerous trip across the Atlantic.  They had gone from England to the Netherlands to the New World, in order to have the freedom to worship God like they wanted.  We explained that what they did wasn't necessarily right or wrong; they were just trying to make the best choices they could, for the sake of worshiping God.

Around this time, I ran into someone that used to attend our church, but had left our church a couple of years earlier.  At dinner one night, I mentioned that I chatted with him, and that it was good to catch up on how his family was doing.  Hannah asked why they left.  Not knowing the exact reasons, I explained that this family felt like they needed to worship God at another church.

With all seriousness, she asked, "Are they Pilgrims?" 

You know, sometimes people leave their homeland, or where they have lived, or their churches.  Sometimes people start new jobs, or new blogs.  Sometimes they do this for good reasons, and sometimes for bad.  Often, a change is just needed.  How can we know whether we are going about this decision-making in the right way?  Here are some guidelines:
  1. Seek God.  My tendency is to start with human reasoning (usually, my own), but I need to trust in God's wisdom, especially through prayer and the Bible. 
  2. Question your motives.  Admit that your heart is deceptive and evil (Jeremiah 17:9).  Be open to the fact that you may be wrong.
  3. Be in community.  Seek the counsel of others, not just your friends, but also make sure that you have put yourself under authority.  Be humble enough that if someone in authority over you says "no," you can listen with a soft heart.  It is very dangerous to make a big decision in isolation, and you have few (if any) examples of people working in complete isolation in the New Testament and the early church.
  4. Don't be afraid.   If your personality is like mine, fear is very common.  "What if it fails?  What if I'm wrong?"  But, I need to remember that "Do not fear" is the most command in the Bible, often coupled with God saying, "For I am with you."  
And when the choice is made to leave or to start anew, expect God to work.  After all, He might just have a New World in store for you.  And when He does, don't forget to give Him thanks.

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Why I'm Glad I'm Not a Preacher . . .

At Grace Church, we are in the midst of a sermon series on I Corinthians.  It's topics like over the past three weekends that makes me glad I'm not a preacher who has to teach through a book like this, but it also makes me glad to be a part of church that teaches on these topics with authenticity (like the life change video this past weekend by a leader in our church talking about how he and his wife began their dating relationship with sexual intimacy).  You can listen to the series on our teaching page (look for 1st Corinthians - Church At Its Worst), and even get typed notes on each sermon.  Here's a summary of these last few sermons:
  • November 7 (I Cor 5:1-13).  We, as believers, have the right and the responsibility to confront sin in each others' lives.  I've been on both sides on this (i.e., confronting others and being confronted), and I honestly couldn't tell you which is harder.
  • November 14 (I Cor 6:1-8).  While the specific application addressed by Paul is about lawsuits, the broader principle is how we handle conflict between Christians.  The fact is that we are going to have conflicts because we are sinners, but because we have the Gospel as our greatest resource, God can be glorified in our conflict.  And sometimes, I may need to take a personal loss so the Kingdom can win.
  • November 21 (I Cor 6:9-20).  Sexual immorality, addressed head on.  I don't think I need to say anything else.  But here's one quote, "Sexual sin leaves a big wound on your soul."  Amen.  Want to read more about why the church needs to talk about sex?  Check out this post from Stuff Christians Like.

These sermons weren't aimed to bash the culture.  Instead (and unfortunately) they completely apply to our own church body, and have challenged and convicted me on a personal level.

How Churches Can Fall Short

image courtesy of SteveFe via sxc.hu
There are a lot of churches that have very creative and energetic programming, and a lot of churches have passionate and talented volunteers who work directly with children.  These are great characteristics to have for any Children's Ministry, since it is important to engage kids where they are.  But in my experience, there are two main areas that I think churches fall short in -- curriculum and leader development.

Curriculum.  Let's not even talk about churches that don't use a Bible-based curriculum (I've heard stories of preschoolers only watching Disney movies during Sunday School).  My concern for now are those that have a curriculum that focuses too much on values and behaviors, instead of the Gospel.  Values and behaviors are important, but what the goal needs to be is true heart change that comes from a understanding of and a full trust in the Gospel.  So many curricula focus on "Jesus is my friend," "Love others as you want to be loved," "Make the wise choice," "Share your things," "Do what your parents tell you to do," and so on.  Similar to what we talked about with Biblical vs. Gospel parenting, we need to teach children who God is (especially that He is holy and supreme), that they are sinners in need of a Savior, and that He offers His grace freely and not based on their deeds.  Again, with values-based curriculum, my fear is that we produce moralists (where children grow up thinking that they are "pretty good" because they do lots of good deeds) or that we produce children that like the concept of a "friend-God" but do not give Him proper reverence and worship.  Children don't only need values and principles; they need the Gospel.  They need to be led to understand that they have to depend on Christ for heart change, not just do things that they can muster up their own strength for.

Leader Development.  When you search the internet and Christian bookstores for ideas on equipping volunteers, you can find great thoughts on recruiting, training, and appreciating volunteers.  I myself have been blessed by many of those sources, using them in my ministry.  But besides recruiting, training, and encouraging volunteers, we need to be intentional to point them to Christ, to help them become mature disciples.  And when I talk about leader development, I don't just mean volunteers who work with kids; I also mean Children's Ministry volunteers who are leaders over other volunteers.  Pouring into leaders of children is a very important role, since they are on the "front line" every week.  But for the long-term and for the greatest opportunities to build God's kingdom, we need to raise up, empower, and develop leaders of leaders.  This usually involves having them lead in areas that may not always be easy, but this in itself can a good thing.  It is a good thing to for people to be in situations where they struggle a little, where they have to encounter frustrations, especially with people.  Why?  They need to be in a place that forces them to seek and depend on Christ; that is how they can grow.  Also, when they lead at this level, they can reach a group of people that you never could, to pass on the vision for the ministry.  We need to remember that Children's Ministry is not just about kids; it's also about the volunteers.

I believe that we the church can offer these things -- Gospel-based curriculum and leader development -- while also having programming that is engaging and welcoming.

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8 Resources (+1 bonus) for Parenting Daughters

Here is a list of articles and resources that could be helpful for those of us who have daughters.  Most of these are geared towards dads, but the principles hold true.
  1. Daddies and Their Daughters.  "A daughter will view her relationship with her Heavenly Father in a similar way as she views her relationship with her earthly father."
  2. Homemaker Internship.  My thoughts about an article I read, especially about how we need to teach our daughter Hannah skills for life. 
  3. What I've Learned About Raising Daughters.   "I do most of the teaching.  My wife does all of the modeling."  And transformation is accomplished through repentance and by Jesus' power.
  4. 5 Books for Dads of Daughters.  Actually, there is a 6th book, recommended in the comment section.
  5. Girl Talk.  A blog that gives "conversations on biblical womanhood and other fun stuff."
  6. A Man and His Daughter.  Put together a group of guys, listen to the podcasts, and discuss.
  7. What Does Your Daughter Really Want?  Love, Time, Communication, Understanding, Trust.
  8. Giving Your Daughter Support.  "That's what moms do -- one hug and she can make your forget, at least for a little bit, how bad you feel." 

Not only these, but staff at Grace Church has been working on a language for Biblical femininity.  The curriculum is still in the early stages (you can read about some of the earliest language that was introduced to high schoolers over a year ago, but it has been much revised since).  Joanna has had the blessing to be in on a few of the early discussion groups, including a study over the past 6 weeks.  From what I've learned so far from the work so far, women (at the core) have the capacity to be nurturing, inviting, and in partnership.  I won't unpack these three categories here, but I will say that I like the use of the word "capacity."  In science, a capacitor is something that stores and has potential for energy.  It doesn't mean that all women have equal amounts of these capacities, and it doesn't mean that men don't have the potential for these things.  But I think it does mean that, in general, women are given by the Creator a huge potential to add energy and life to those around them in these three areas.  (Conversely, this power can be abused to rob others of energy and life.)  I'm excited to have this language for our own personal benefit, and for us to consider how we teach this to the next generation.

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    Kenya vs Hannah

    We have some friends that are about to head on a short-term mission trip to Kenya, to do some training for pastors and other church leaders.  I was so blessed to have the opportunity to go to Kenya in November 2007 for the same purpose.  But about a month before the trip, as I was putting Hannah to bed, she said, pretty strongly, "I don't want you to go.  I want you to stay here."

    I wondered how was I supposed to answer her, to respect her feelings (my natural tendency would be to say, "Too bad.  I'm going, and you have no say in it."), while also giving her direction.  How could I let my darling little girl know that I love her, but that it was not her right to keep me from going on this trip?

    That's when it hit me.  The choice wasn't between Kenya and Hannah; it was between God and Hannah.  I told her that I understood why she was upset, and that I appreciated it that she could talk to me about it.  But then I explained that God wanted me to go to Kenya, and that I must choose to follow Him.  Also, I told her that she got to "have" me for 51 weeks out of the year, and doesn't it make sense that she could "share" me with Kenya for 1 week?  She wholeheartedly agreed and felt much more assured.

    Besides how it blessed me personally, this trip was a blessing for Hannah (and my other kids) in that:
    • She had the opportunity to "sacrifice" me for a short while, and when we sacrifice and empty ourselves, it gives God a chance to fill the gap.
    • Although she is too young to go, I helped make Kenya real to her by bringing back stories of my experience.  She can't get this as intimately by reading a book or hearing about someone else going.  It needs to be Dad's (or Mom's) experience.
    • She saw a model of how someone puts God's will ahead of personal desires.  I am much more comfortable in my own home, as opposed to being halfway across the world.  But when God calls, you go.
    • It was a real example of being salt and light that I could use with my children.  (Read more about that in a post I wrote last year.)
    At Koinonia Baptist Church
     We need to remember that the goal isn't to help our kids manage life.  Our goal must be to help them trust in Christ, that by ourselves life is unmanageable.  And I echo the words from Tony Dungy's book The Mentor Leader, "I hope my children grow up understanding that God my call them to do things that take them out of their comfort zone to benefit someone else."

    Have you ever been on an overseas mission trip?  How did God use that experience to help grow you, or help you lead your children?

    Related Link:

    HOPE Relay Follow-Up

    I didn't expect to still be thinking about the HOPE Relay, but my calves and quads won't let me forget the experience from 3 days ago.  I ran my first leg (3.6 miles) in 30:14, and my second leg (2.6 miles) in 25:01; that's 6.2 miles in 55:15.  Our team (BunchaNancies!) did the entire 42 mile course in 5:56:36.  Here are my reflections:

    Favorite parts of the day:
    At the finish.  Lilly, who has autism, is Scott's 5-year-old daughter.
    1. My three kids running up to me right after I crossed the finish line to give me hugs and kisses.  They were really excited for me.  
    2. Joanna and Hannah pouring themselves out to serve and lead others.  Over a period of about 7 hours, they had moments of high activity and hard work, with stretches of monotony and boredom.  They were diligent and responsible in their task, to make the day better for others.  They partnered with us, the other 39 teams, and the organizers of the event.
    3. Being with this group of guys all day.  We accomplished a big task, and there was so much encouragement amongst us.  I cannot count how many times I was told, "You did great!"  And even though I didn't feel like I did great, they meant what they said.

    What I learned about myself:
    1. I had the easiest legs on the team, and that's a good thing.  There is no way I could have done any legs that were more difficult. 
    2. People say that once you start running and do your first race, it gets addictive.  Not for me.
    3. I didn't realize how much I've been missing out on "male-bonding" time like this.  I don't mean that I want to spend all day golfing or sitting around talking.  Instead, it's just an incredible feeling to be a part of a team that accomplishes a specific task that's bigger than each individual.  I haven't had enough of those experiences in the past 12 years.  

    Biblical Parenting vs Gospel Parenting

    image courtesy of ortonesque via sxc.hu
    It's easy to tell the difference between good and bad; what's harder is to move from good to better.  In my experience, a lot of "Christian" parenting resources (books, conferences, Bible study material, etc) are really good, but I think they often fall short of where it needs to be.  How?

    These resources tend to focus on things like discipline, values, behavior, character, and so on.  And these ARE good things, and we as parents need to be intentional to train our children in these areas.  But if we stay there, we miss a huge part of what it means to make disciples.

    What we need to make sure we do, above all, is center our parenting around the Gospel.  (The Gospel, briefly, is the message that Jesus, fully God and fully man, came to earth to die as the way to redeem us from our sin, to pay the price and absorb the wrath of God that we deserve, and that we have new life through repentance of our sins and through faith in His life, death, and resurrection.)  In our parenting, we need to continually point our children to these Gospel truths, not for mere head-knowledge, but for the goal of Spirit-directed heart change. 

    Biblical parenting is about using scripture and godly principles to guide us in how to parent and how we live.  Gospel parenting is about helping our children realize their need for a Savior and leading them towards a life of dependence on Him.  Biblical versus Gospel parenting is not clearly defined, like crossing a line.  It's more like a spectrum, so it's difficult for me to draw clear distinctions that are over-reaching and cross-cultural.  But here are some general examples of the difference:
    • When a child is upset and frustrated because he failed at a task or goal, Biblical parenting focuses on teaching him to persevere, try their best, and be encouraged.  Gospel parenting instructs him to not put his hope in his own abilities, but that his hope must rest in the Gospel.
    • When a child is sad when her friends hurt her feelings, Biblical parenting seeks to manage the pain and find friends who will love her.  Gospel parenting reminds her to worship Jesus, in that He experienced complete rejection and laid down His life for all those who hated Him, including us.
    • Biblical parenting teaches that children should love others because that's how they would want to be treated and because the Bible commands them to do so.  Gospel parenting motivates children to love others by pointing to how God has shown us love and grace through His Son's death on the cross.
    • When your son boasts over some accomplishment, Biblical parenting teaches him to be humble and not proud.  Gospel parenting calls him to repent of his pride and know that when he boasts he is exalting himself instead of glorifying God.
    • When your daughter considers herself unattractive, Biblical parenting encourages her by pointing to inner beauty.  Gospel parenting preaches that God made her exactly like He intended, in His image, and with such infinite value that He sent His Son to die for her; rejecting how God made her may actually be a rejection of Him.
    Don't get me wrong, Biblical parenting is very important; we must teach our children values, godly attitudes, and character.  However, we can't be satisfied with that.  Outside of the context of the Gospel, the danger of Biblical parenting is in producing moralists.  Our children need more than just knowing that God loves them and that they should have certain character traits and actions.  They need to know that all our actions must stem from a proper worship of our Lord.

    Related Links:

      HOPE Relay

      I'll be running in a relay today, my first-ever road race.  It's the first annual HOPE Relay, sponsored by the HOPE Foundation, which works with children who have autism.  Our 5-member team is the "BunchaNancies!" and we'll cover about 42 miles, starting at 10:30AM on Paris Mountain.  Since I'm not a runner, I was slick enough to put the team together, and then claim the shortest legs (3.6 miles and 2.5 miles).  Joanna and Hannah will be volunteering -- kinda' ironic that they have to be there earlier than I do, and that they'll be doing more work than I will.

      Why is this event and cause important to us?
      • Often people who have disabilities get overlooked, devalued, and even shunned.  But we believe that each person, each child, is created in God's image, with infinite value -- valuable enough that God sent His Son to die for each of us.  Read more thoughts from our church here.
      • Joanna's nephew Nick, has Aspberger's syndrome.  I'll be running in his honor.
      • My grandmother taught special needs for a long-time, and some of that love has been passed down to me.
      • We have many friends who have children with a variety of special needs.  We want to support them in their journey.

      If you want to learn more about why and how we should minister to children with special needs, see the label "special needs" on this blog (Grace Church currently ministers to at least 20 children who have special needs).  Furthermore, any church looking for more resources in this area should check out The Inclusive Church blog.

        How to Read the Bible in Context

        It's common and easy to pick out a verse, or even a passage, to support a belief that you have.  But context is crucial.  Ryan Donell reminds of this truth, using the illustration that just as we read a book or a letter in entirety, we need to do the same with the Bible.

        When you are studying a book or even a passage of the Bible, make sure to ask questions such as:
        • Who is writing?  To whom?
        • Where is the setting?  When is this taking place?
        • What is being said?  What commands or principles are given?  Are those specific for the time and setting?
        • Why is the author writing?  What is his goal?
        You can learn more about how to study the Bible with a ROAD Bible study method (which uses the simple guidelines of Read-Observe-Apply-Depend), and from some of these books.  And we need to go beyond mere knowledge of the Bible.  After all, even Satan's demons knows the truth about God (James 2:19), and Satan used scripture as he tried to tempt Jesus (Matthew 4:1-11).  Donell suggests a way to having the Word dwell deeply within you,
        The Jesus Storybook Bible: Every Story Whispers His Name "[We] need the Holy Spirit of Truth, and we need the community of believers, but we also need to study books in their entire context. . . .  We have to understand how the miniature stories fit within the larger story and then in the even-larger narrative of the whole Scripture.  But just as The Jesus Storybook Bible says, 'Every story whispers His name.'"

        Additionally, if you want to go deeper in God's word, and need some more guidance with keeping each passage in context, here are 6 questions to ask when reading any passage in the Bible, as taken from Puritan principles.

        Related Links:

        Evangelizing the Next Generation

        The vast majority of studies indicate that most people who become born-again Christians at some point in their lives do so before the age of 18. For example, Barna puts that number at about 64%, with half of those who became Christ-followers before age 13 being led to Christ by their parents.

        If this is true, we have a narrow window (less than 20 years) of an extremely fruitful opportunity.  While we know that only the Holy Spirit can move a person towards salvation, Christ-followers must also be faithful to the call to "make disciples of all nations" (Matthew 28:20).  We are commanded to share the message of the Gospel -- that  Jesus came to die on a cross, so that we can be saved and redeemed from our sin. 

        To keep reading, check out the full post on the Mission: Allendale blog.

        Why "A Different Way"?

        "For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it."
        Matthew 7:14

        Here's a little about who I am:  First, I am passionate about what it is in my heart, but I am not claiming to be an expert in anything I will be talking about on this blog.  Yes, I tend to come across with confidence, and even arrogance.  And I'm often wrong, or at least I can't always clearly communicate what I am thinking. 

        Second, I have been blessed with a number of mentors in my life, whether personally, through work, or just by me reading and listening to their teaching.  God has given me a number of people, especially men, who I could watch and imitate as I seek to grow in Christ.  So, most of what will be written about is just an outflow of what has been poured into me.

        Therefore, even though I am calling this blog "A Different Way," here is what I am not saying:
        1. That the way I think or do things is the right way.  It's just different than some other ways.
        2. That the way I think or do things is original.  (I had a boss that taught me, "Creativity is just a matter of forgetting your sources.")  After all, there is "nothing new under the sun" (Ecclesiastes 1:9).
        3. That this is necessarily God's way for you.  
        What do I hope to do is share concepts that will provoke thinking, questions, and discussion.  We all come with biases and presuppositions; that's just a part of being human.  Where it gets dangerous is when we refuse to examine and question those biases.

        Related Link:
        image courtesy of mzacha via sxc.hu

        7 Bible Passages About Discipling Children

        As you may have already discerned from the tag-line above ("Rethinking how we disciple the next generation"), this blog is going to be about how we help children become and grow as followers of Jesus Christ.  Of course, we need to have a baseline of some core principles from the Bible.  Here is a sample of some key passages that relate to discipling (or, training) children:
        1. Proverbs 22:6  "Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it."
        2. Deuteronomy 6:6-7  "These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts.  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." 
        3. Ephesians 6:1  "Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right."
        4. Ephesians 6:4  "Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord." 
        5. Proverbs 23:13-14  "Do not withhold discipline from a child; if you punish him with the rod, he will not die.  Punish him with the rod and save his soul from death."  [I've always wanted to have this posted above our Children's Ministry Welcome Desks.]
        6. Mark 10:14  "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these." 
        7. Psalm 127:3-5  "Sons are a heritage from the LORD, children a reward from him.  Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are sons born in one's youth.  Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them.  They will not be put to shame when they contend with their enemies in the gate."
        That's just to get us started.  What other Bible verses can you add to this list? 

        (For some resources specific to raising daughters, see this post.)

        Related Links:
        image courtesy of dearephesu via sxc.hu

        Who Should Read This Blog?

        I couldn't help but laugh when she said it.  Not just a smirk or chuckle, but the "you-are-either-crazy-or-stupid" type laugh where the other person feels completely dismissed.  I had asked a friend of mine to head up a project that needed to get done.  I was asking her for a lot of her time and energy, and there were other people who could have done it, but I believed that she was the perfect person for this task.  When I finished asking her to do this, she said, "You don't have to ask me to do this just to make me feel good." 

        That's when I laughed in her face.

        Then I asked her, "For the 10 years that I've known you and your husband, have you ever known me to go out of my way to make others feel good?"  She knew it was true; I was never really known as the smooth-talking politician or salesman.  I say and do things because I feel they are right, even when I'm wrong. 

        In what I will write on this blog, I may say a lot of things that just aren't correct, and I will definitely say things that are at least questionable.  But above all, my goal is to see lives changed for the sake of Jesus Christ.  More specifically, I want to see children, and those who lead them, become mature followers of Jesus, to know, grow in, and commit their lives to the Savior of the world.

        So, this blog is not for everyone.  And my goal isn't to make anyone feel good about themselves.  But these are the types of people that I would love to dialogue with:
        1. Parents who want to see their kids know, grow in, and live for Christ;
        2. Church staff who want to make disciples of both adults and kids, and to see God's kingdom grow;
        3. Children's and Youth Ministry volunteers who desire to reach the hearts of the next generation;
        4. People who just enjoy debate and challenging biases, others' and their own.  One of the most energizing and life-giving things I can hear is, "I don't agree with you, and here's why."  (Of course, it also makes me feel good if you say you agree with me.)

          I hope this can be a forum for us to think, to challenge, and to discuss.  And I'll try not to laugh in your face.

          Leave a comment and let me know which of those four categories (parent, staff, volunteer, debater) you're in.  

          image courtesy of Rbut via sxc.hu