Let the Children Come

children 2 Then children were brought to him that he might lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples rebuked the people, but Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.” And he laid his hands on them and went away. (Matthew 19:13–15)

This very familiar passage of scripture is a beautiful portrait of a gospel-centered ministry to our youngest generation. The bar is raised high. Let the children come. Let us not hinder them.

The purpose of children’s ministry is to assist families in building a spiritual foundation that will lead a child to grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ.

Statistics tell us that a person is most receptive to giving his or her heart to Jesus prior to the age of 14. Suddenly, the hour or so we have each week with our kids becomes more significant. There is no ministry more worthy of huge investment than our ministry to children. [1] From Nursery to fifth grade our desire is to see each child be cared for in an individual way. We want kids to learn about God in a fun, safe, loving and nurturing environment.

There is something just a little exciting at the thought of a new adventure in children’s ministry. Maybe it can be a place that kids love so much that they don’t want to miss a Sunday and maybe it’s an experience they enjoy so much to invite a friend to come with them. [2] Yes, we are dreaming big wonderful things for our kids.

It’s a little scary to think out of the box and to have a prayer list that begins with, “What if…” What if we had a children’s worship for three year olds? What if we had a “buddy” for every child with special needs? What if there was a rotation of teaching teams to give adults more flexibility to serve? What if…

You are invited to participate in the privilege of introducing children to an awesome God that loves them … what if you watch and experience powerful life change in their lives. What if you become the beneficiary of a child’s faith and prayers?

“The congregational prayer has long sent shivers down my spine, and it did so incomparably more when the group of children, with whom I have spent two years, prayed for me. Where a people prays, there is the church, and where the church is, there is never loneliness.” – Dietrich Bonhoeffer

The words Jesus spoke in Matthew 19 and the action that followed quickened the hearts of his disciples to value children. The same resounds for us today. Let the children come … for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.  children 40 Gifts of Lent | Let the Children Come: Gift 16 | [1] George Barna | [2] Making Your Children’s Ministry the Best Hour of Every Kid’s Week by Sue Miller.

The Gift of Sleep

moon

Are you often awake in the middle of the night and growing weary of the tiredness?

The lack of rest feels like an enemy, and to some extent, it is. The dysfunction of a fallen world guarantees that we will never have quite enough hours in the day, that our bodies too often won’t cooperate with our desire for rest, and that we will feel our physical limitations deeply.

Sleeplessness can leave us vulnerable to temptation and weakness. Modern pundits tell of the consequences of accumulated restlessness on the mind, body, and soul. God has designed our bodies to need rest; the gift of sleep reminds us that we are not sovereign, that we are not omnipotent, but that God is both of these, and more, to us his children.

The gift of sleep is really a gift of dependence, an invitation to trust the God who “will neither slumber nor sleep” (Psalm 121:4) and who “gives to his beloved sleep” (Psalm 127:2). My sovereign God has ordained every night of life just as he has ordained my days. He is the author of the number of times I wake each night, just as he is the author of each one of the days of my life, be they blissful, benign, or “bad.”

Sleeplessness causes us to look away from ourselves — our capacity, our resources, our energy reserve, our mental acumen, our physical strength, and our careful planning and scheming — and it causes us to rely solely on him who “does not faint or grow weary” (Isaiah 40:28). It is there, in the middle of the night, that we find ourselves coming to the end of ourselves. And the end of ourselves is a very good place to be. We will find we are not all-sufficient, that we cannot provide what we need to get through the next day.

God himself is the only All-Sufficient One. He always has been. He always will be. He brings sleeplessness into our lives so that we will remember this. In this place of exhaustion, we find God’s grace to be ever present. [1]

Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint. (Isaiah 40:30–31)

Eagle

40 Gifts of Lent | The Gift of Sleep: Gift 14 | [1] Source for this post is from: desiringGod.orgThe Sovereign Hand of Sleeplessness by Kristin Tabb

The Confession | Sunday Respite 

Sunday Respite
Blessed Jesus, you offered us all your benedictions when you announced…

“Blessed are the poor in spirit”
but we have been rich in pride.
“Blessed are those who mourn”
but we have not known much sorrow for our sin.
“Blessed are the meek”
but we are a stiff-necked people.
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness”
but we are filled to the full with other things.
“Blessed are the merciful”
but we are harsh and impatient.
“Blessed are the pure in heart”
but we have impure hearts.
“Blessed are the peacemakers”
but we have not sought reconciliation.
“Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness”
but our lives do not challenge the world.
“Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you
and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me”
but we have hardly made it known that we are yours.

We plead with you to ask the Father to grant us forgiveness and give us the blessedness of your righteousness.

— Matthew 5:2-12 (ESV)

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons[a] of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

40 Gifts of Lent  | Redeemer Presbyterian Church, Indianapolis, IN

Come Away and Rest

Gift 9 Rest

Solitude is very different from a ‘time-out’ from our busy lives. Solitude is the very ground from which community grows. Whenever we pray alone, study, read, write, or simply spend quiet time away from the places where we interact with each other directly, we are potentially opened for a deeper intimacy with each other. — Henri Nouwen

You are in God’s care, no matter what.
He is in control, not us.
He knows what being afraid feels like and tells us not to fear.
He has promised you will know His care and comfort.
He will not abandon you in your time of need.
He will let you rest. [1]

Gift 9

40 Gifts of Lent | Come Away and Rest: Gift 9 | [1] Emily Gibson,  https://briarcroft.wordpress.com/2011/03/24/lenten-meditation-i-will-give-you-rest/

When Children Pray

The Prayer

“Where a people prays, there is the church; and where the church is, there is never loneliness.” — Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Sometimes we feel the twinge of loneliness being separated miles from our family and when we can’t stand it any longer, we pack up and head home to see them. This evening, my four year old granddaughter asked if she could say the prayer before our meal. As we held hands while she prayed, I was grasped by the sweetness and simplicity of Gods love and grace for her and our family. The faith of a child is rich and unencumbered by worries or unbelief. She set the bar high for some tired weary adults.

I’ve been reading the remarkable biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer by Eric Mataxas. While reading today, I discovered the context of the above, well known quote. I was surprised that Bonhoeffer said this in response to the prayers of children. I was awed by this primarily because I have devoted most of my work life to children’s ministry and can relate to being grasped by God when children pray.

Bonhoeffer was about to leave Berlin and embark on a new mission as a vicar of a German congregation in Barcelona, Spain. He presided over his last children’s service at the Grunewald church and later wrote this account in his journal:

I spoke about the man with palsy and especially about the assertion that your sins are forgiven, and tried once more to disclose to the children the core of our gospel; they were attentive and perhaps a bit moved, for I spoke, I think, with some emotion. Then came the farewell … The congregational prayer has long sent shivers down my spine, and it did so incomparably more when the group of children, with whom I have spent two years, prayed for me. Where a people prays, there is the church, and where the church is, there is never loneliness. [1]

I am encouraged by the gift of prayer from my granddaughter and yes, even the children that I spend time each week in the beautiful place that is church. Where a people prays … there is never loneliness.

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40 Gifts of Lent | When Children Pray: Gift 8 | [1] Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy, Eric Mataxas; Chapter 5.

The Increase of Faith

the faith 1

…“I do believe, but help me overcome my unbelief!” Mark 9:24 {NLT}

“Faith is a footbridge that you don’t know will hold you up over the chasm until you’re forced to walk out onto it.”
― Nicholas Wolterstorff, Lament for a Son

Let faith stride forth in giant power,
and love respond with energy in every act.
I often mourn the absence of my beloved Lord
whose smile makes earth a paradise,
whose voice is sweetest music,
whose presence gives all graces strength.
But by unbelief I often keep him outside my door.
Let faith give entrance that he may abide with me forever.

May I be made rich in its riches,
be strong in its power,
be happy in its joy,
abide in its sweetness,
feast on its preciousness,
draw vigor from its manna.
Lord, increase my faith.
― The Valley of Vision, Faith and the World

the faith

40 Gifts of Lent | The Increase of Faith: Gift 7

The Work of Art

The Artist
Create in me a pure heart, O God. Psalm 51:10

You are a masterpiece. A real work of art. Created in the image of God. How much better can it get? We take for granted how much the master artist loves us, the master creator of life and all that is good and right.

Does your soul long to move in unison with the rhythm of grace?  What do you do when the pain of your broken chaos stabs like a dagger? Face the fact today that you’ll never outgrow your need for grace, no matter how much you try on your own. [1]

The way to begin to celebrate the grace that God freely gives you every day is by admitting how much you need it.

I enjoy watching my grandchild paint colors on a blank canvas. Neither one of us knows exactly what the painting means, yet watching her add color to a colorless page brings a smile and contentment to treasure.

When our lives are full of the hardest peace or the hardest contentment or the hardest joy, we need the master artist’s touch to create a work of art in us … to create a pure heart so that we can revel in his peace, his contentment, his joy. You are a treasure.

So ask God for it!  Ask God to create his work of repentance and surrender in your life. To paint a new beginning … a new creation in Christ.

The work of art is God shaping a new beginning from the chaos of your life. This is a beautiful gift.

“Don’t look too close for blemishes, give me a clean bill of health. God, make a fresh start in me, shape a Genesis week from the chaos of my life.”  Psalm 51 {The Message}

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A little piece of art painted in the chaos

40 Gifts of Lent  | The Work of Art: Gift 6  | [1] Paul Tripp, New Morning Mercies: A Daily Gospel Devotional