Thursday, June 21, 2012

Family Devotional Resources

What a great week of VBS we are having! Over 120 children have attended the past four days learning about the book of Daniel. Through the experiences of Daniel and his Hebrew friends, our children have learned about God’s faithfulness to us through difficult days. What a wonderful truth to have hidden in one’s heart! Who knows how God will use this truth in the lives of our children in the days ahead?

As important as Vacation Bible School can be in the life of a child, it pales in comparison to the role parents and grandparents can play on a daily basis. Five days of sharing the stories of our faith at VBS is helpful for developing a child’s faith. Sharing the stories of our faith on a daily basis around the family dinner table or before bedtime is life transforming. Just ten to fifteen minutes a day can fill our children’s hearts with the stories of our faith. And those stories can alter the course of their lives forever.

My family has found each of the following resources helpful in teaching our children the stories of our faith.

The Jesus Storybook Bible: Every Story Whispers His Name by Sally Loyd-Jones : Sally Loyd-Jones presents the stories of the Bible in a way that captures the entire sweep of the scriptures. Every story helps children understand God’s great plan to redeem the world. The stories take about five to ten minutes for an adult to read. The illustrations are beautiful and the book has kept my children’s attention well.

Read with Me Bible: An NIrV Story Bible for Children : This is the Bible we give to families during baby dedications. I like it because it isn’t a paraphrase of the Bible but rather an easy to read translation of the Bible’s text. This would be great for an early reader. The illustrations are fantastic. The stories only take an adult a couple of minutes to read. Our kids always want us to read more than one story.

Psalms: For Young Children by Marie-Helen Delval : This book includes paraphrases of the Psalms and beautiful illustrations. Although its target audience is younger children, our entire family has been blessed by reading this book. Delval doesn’t just paraphrase the happy Psalms but also includes many of the laments, as well. My children have latched on to these. What child hasn’t wondered if God hears their prayers or if God is there for them in the dark? What adult hasn’t wondered such things? These Psalms give voice to those prayers. One Psalm takes less than a minute to read.

These are books that have helped my family during family devotions. What I like about them is that they tell the stories of the Bible in such a way that these stories are quickly becoming a part of who my children are. I’m sure there are many other good resources. Of course, the best resource is the one you use. So give something a try today. Not only will you be investing in your child’s life of faith, but you’ll be improving your own, as well.

Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates, so that your days and the days of your children may be many in the land the Lord swore to give your ancestors, as many as the days that the heavens are above the earth – Deuteronomy 11:18-21

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Virtue and Matt LeBlanc

When we read through the Bible, especially books of the Bible like Daniel, it is easy to be intimidated by the acts of faith one reads about in its pages. People like Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego seem like an entirely different class of people than the rest of us. We might go so far as to call them heroes. In fact, when they’re alluded to in the New Testament in Hebrews 11, it’s in a chapter we often call the hall of faith. And yet, the Bible makes clear, they were people who shared our same struggles, shortcomings, and limitations. What was it about their that allowed them to respond to great crisis with an even greater faith? In the case of the Hebrew children in the book of Daniel, the key was consistently making a thousand small decisions by faith, so that when the big moment came and it was life or death, they chose faith, come what may.

In his insightful book, After You Believe, N. T. Wright explains that very few people end up heroes by accident. He doesn’t mean people set out to be heroes. No. People set out to be good people or honest people or caring people. In order to become that kind of person, they consistently make countless small decisions along the way to be that kind of person, so that by the time crisis hits, they act out of the character they have already developed. At that moment of crisis, their actions look as if they “just happened” but in truth, it’s not as simple as that.

In religious language, we call such people, people of virtue. Almost everything in our culture today works against becoming a person of virtue. Primarily, we are a culture that has lost patience for such personal development. Long gone are the days when we believed the best things in life come to those who wait. After all, those glass ketchup bottles are now all made of squeezable plastic.* Why? So we don’t have to wait. But some things can’t be had quickly. The way of Christ takes time to become second nature for us who are proficient in the way of sin. Becoming a person of Christian virtue takes making a thousand small decisions during good times and bad so that when it really matters and the stakes are higher, you do what virtue requires almost automatically.

The Hebrew children were people of virtue. When the stakes were high, they did what was right because that’s who they had become through a lifetime of faithfulness. We can become people of virtue, too. Not by the making of one grand decision to be faithful, but rather by making a thousand consistent decisions along the way. What can you do today that will help develop a character of faith?

“Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.” – Romans 5:3-5.

*If you don’t get this reference go ask someone over thirty or watch this:

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Delighting in other people's troubles

I once heard Haddon Robinson tell the story of a Baptist deacon who stood up at the annual meeting to give the report. Things weren't going very well. There were no new conversions. Attendance in worship had fallen by about fifteen percent. Even worse, according to this deacon, the offerings had fallen about twenty percent. Nevertheless, at the end of his report, he said with some pleasure, "At least I can thank God that the Methodists and the Presbyterians aren't doing any better."

It is a strange thing to take delight in another’s troubles. And yet, often we do. We snicker to ourselves when a famous person falters. We smile self-satisfied smiles when our opponents stumble. We might even put a link to it on our Facebook walls or our Twitter feeds. Big money can be made today by capturing in photos or videos well-known people in, well, less than flattering situations. News agencies would have little to report upon if they chose not to highlight the failings of the famous. It’s a part of human nature to delight in someone else being knocked down a peg or two. Of course, it’s a petty part of human nature.

How different such an attitude is from the attitude prescribed to us in the New Testament. There we are challenged to “rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep” (Rom 12:15). Far from being petty, we’re called to be generous, humble, and kind. Every person, whether they’re famous or not, enemy or friend, is made in God’s image and deserves to be treated as such. In our text this Sunday, Daniel’s opponents will falter while he succeeds. Far from using his success as way to shame them, he will use his achievements as a way to save their lives. Daniel knew that as a child of God he was called to imitate the character of God – a character marked by concern, compassion, and unwavering care for each and every one of us. We, who are also God’s children, are called to do the very same thing.

“Nobody should seek his own good, but the good of others” – 1 Cor 10:24