Let the Children Come — Dreaming big wonderful things for our kids

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 [3]

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 [1] George Barna | [2] Making Your Children’s Ministry the Best Hour of Every Kid’s Week by Sue Miller. | [3] Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy by Eric Metaxas

When Children Pray

The Prayer

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

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.

DSC_0994

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 your life is full of the hardest peace or the hardest contentment or the hardest joy, you need the master artist’s touch to create a work of art in your life. Think of yourself as a blank canvas and God is making all things new. You may not understand why the hard stuff is happening and you may not know for a while what his finished work in your life will look like. Just know that you are loved by the master artist.

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. Rest in his peace, his contentment, his joy. 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}

Isla

This work of art was created in the midst of chaos

40 Gifts of Lent  |  [1] Paul Tripp, New Morning Mercies: A Daily Gospel Devotional

When Grace Intervenes Our Troubles

Psalm 50:15

“Call upon me in the day of trouble,” God says in Psalm 50:15. “I will deliver you, and you will glorify me.” God desires praise from our lives … but the only way fresh praise and glory will come is as we keep coming to him in times of need and difficulty. Then he will intervene to show himself strong on our behalf, and we will know that he has done it.

Are not we all prone to become over confident and think we can handle things just fine? But let some trouble come, and how quickly we sense our inadequacy.

For some reason we want to carry on by ourselves.

The devil is not terribly frightened of our human efforts and credentials. But he knows his kingdom is damaged when we begin to lift up our hearts to God. [1]

I’m asking God to come fill this place … my soul with more of him. The gift today is acknowledging my weakness and claiming my strength in Christ.

This is a song I’ve played a few times this morning. Here are the words and the music.

Fall Afresh | Jeremy Riddle | Album: The Loft Sessions |Bethel Music
Listen here: Fall Afresh | Bethel Music

Awaken my soul, come awake
To hunger, to seek, to thirst
Awaken first love, come awake
And do as you did, at first

Spirit of the living God come fall afresh on me
Come wake me from my sleep
Blow through the caverns of my soul, pour in me to overflow
To overflow

Awaken my soul, come awake
To worship with all your strength

Spirit of the living God come fall afresh on me
Come wake me from my sleep
Blow through the caverns of my soul, pour in me to overflow

Come and fill this place
Let Your glory now invade
Spirit come and fill this place
Let Your glory now invade

Spirit of the living God come fall afresh on me
Come wake me from my sleep
Blow through the caverns of my soul, pour in me to overflow
To overflow

The Weakness Gift 5

40 Gifts of Lent  | When Grace Intervenes our Troubles: Gift 5 | [1] Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire, Jim Cymbala, page 57

The Day After Easter and The Finish of 40 Gifts of Lent

The Day After Easter

Forty-seven days ago, on March 5, Ash Wednesday, I made a commitment to read the New Testament from the beginning to the end, using the Lent Challenge (a daily reading guide) in preparation for celebrating Easter. (Go here to find out more about the Lent Challenge.) It was an amazing walk of faith and the renewing of my heart for the gospel of grace. It took a lot of discipline to rearrange my routine to have a daily devotional but it was so worth it!

The daily routine of reading those God breathed ancient words that are always living and always relevant kept me hungry for more. A few years ago, I asked God to keep me thirsty and to keep me empty, to never be satisfied so I would crave more of his grace. He is answering that prayer.

I began to write a journal about one or two exciting details I discovered in the daily reading. I named the journal, “40 Gifts of Lent” because discovering something new and exciting in God’s word everyday is like opening a new gift. You can read about 40 Gifts of Lent here.

40 Gifts of Lent became the online journal for my devotions and personal commitment to write everyday, Monday through Saturday, for 40 days. I particularly enjoyed posting a verse and a photo on Sunday’s for Sunday Respite. All in all, this equals to 47 days of consecutive journal entries on this blog, More Grace. Writing everyday was very challenging yet it’s been the most rewarding experience.

So here it is, the day after Easter and the finish of 40 Gifts of Lent. I found myself going back to the tomb and looking in. This is what I think… the stone that sealed the tomb was rolled away not for Jesus to get out but for us to look in! And Mary was one of those that looked inside and contemplated the emptiness and struggled with doubt and unbelief.

Jesus said to her, “Mary.” (John 20:16) 

I love this! Jesus called Mary by her name! She immediately recognizes Jesus. She knows his voice. She hears him. She sees him. Mary believes! Jesus speaks in to her unbelief. Jesus paid the ultimate price for her unbelief. I think it’s okay and good to look inside the empty tomb over and over again. Whenever I doubt that God loves me, I look inside that empty tomb. Whenever I doubt that I can trust God no matter what, I look inside that empty tomb. And when I don’t believe, I pray for Him to help my unbelief while asking Him to forgive me for that unbelief. Jesus paid the ultimate price for that!

The day after Easter is everyday of preaching the gospel to yourself. There is really never an end to 40 gifts of Lent either, because the number of gifts will continue to multiply each time I hear God call my name and each time I am filled to overflowing and then some more.

The Day After Easter 2

He is Risen | Sunday Respite | 40 Gifts of Lent 2014

He is Risen 1

Photograph by Donna Harris of Lake Wylie, Charlotte, NC

He is Risen| Sunday Respite | 40 Gifts of Lent

COME! And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price. Revelation 22:17

The resurrection of Jesus changes everything! His death is the death of death, and His resurrection is the resurrection of all things. He died for our sins and is raised for our justification. Oh, the wonder, marvel and gratitude that fills our hearts today. We are forgiven, we are beloved, and we are His!

He is Risen 4

Photograph by Donna Harris of a fountain in Charleston, SC

He is Risen

Photograph by Donna Harris 

About 40 Gifts of Lent

I am anticipating the arrival of Easter and celebrating the most amazingly good gift I’ve ever received. I want to focus my heart on the fulfilled expectation of Christ’s first coming and the glorious expectation of His second coming. To continue reading, please go here: 40 Gifts of Lent

#LentChallenge
Jumping Tandem
Sandra Heska King - Still Saturday