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We Need the Wisdom of the Past

We need the wisdom of the past

The title is a quote from an important article by Stephen Nichols, “Youth-Driven Culture” (posted at Ligonier Ministries). The contemporary church needs to hear his words and think deep and hard as to whether we have promoted an unhealthy and unbiblical fixation on youth in our local churches. Here is how he begins the article,

The subtle and not-so-subtle pulls of the idolization of youth manifest themselves in three areas. The first is an elevation of youth over the aged. This reverses the biblical paradigm. The second is a view of being human that values prettiness (not to be confused with beauty and aesthetics), strength, and human achievement… The third is the dominance of the market by the youth demographic. That is to say, in order to be relevant and successful, one must appeal to the youth or to youthful tastes…

The trend of exalting youth and sidelining the elderly stems from a deeper problem summed up in the expression, “Newer is better.” We celebrate the new and innovative while looking down on the past and tradition. There is a compelling vitality to youth and to new ideas, but that does not mean there is no wisdom to be found in the past. It is a sign of hubris to think one can face life without the wisdom of those who have gone before. There is something about being young that makes the young think they are immune to the mistakes or missteps of those who have gone before. We all think too highly of ourselves and our capacities. Simply put, we need the wisdom of the past and of the elderly.

Nichols then goes on to observe how this trend has manifested itself within the church,

The idolization of youth even seeps into the church. One of the ways in which we see this is in the stress on church youth groups…  Youth groups can serve a significant purpose and can be meaningful ministries. However, they can separate the youth from the other age groups in the church. The church needs to worship, learn, and pray together, old and young side by side. The culture tries to push the aged away. The church cannot afford to do that.

I would highly encourage everyone to read the entire article.

Photo courtesy of Jake Melara

I Spy God Almighty!—Family Activity

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It’s only 8 a.m., but already I have seen and heard mighty deeds of God.

  •  A red-winged blackbird sat outside the living room window and sang his marvelous song.
  • Rain is falling from the sky, gently watering the thirsty ground.
  • The long-dormant grass is coming to life again.
  • I gave my dog her antibiotic—a “wonder drug” that is curing her infection.
  • I have enjoyed a hot cup of coffee.

And, of course, I could go on and on. But to do this I need to first be on the lookout for the power and might of God in the everyday things of life. Too many times we simply miss out on what these “ordinary” things are meant to show us, namely, glimpses of the almighty power of God.

For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made… (Romans 1:20 ESV)

I will ponder all your work, and meditate on your mighty deeds. Your way, O God, is holy. What god is great like our God? You are the God who works wonders; you have made known your might among the peoples. (Psalm 77:12-14 ESV)

Here is a super-simple and fun activity to do with your children this week. It’s called, “I Spy God Almighty.” Encourage your children to be on the lookout for things that God has done through His almighty power. When they see, hear, or experience something that demonstrates God’s might, they should call out, “I spy God almighty!,” and then share what particular thing they saw. For added benefit, you could keep a running tab over a designated period of time, and then use the list as a means of prayer and praise to God.

(Image courtesy of Stoonn at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.)

Families Together in Worship

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One of things that brings a smile to my face every Sunday morning is the presence of little children—even some 2-year–olds—sitting with their parents in the corporate worship service. They are not all perfectly behaved, and sometimes their parents look a little frazzled by the end of the service. A few children won’t make it all the way until the end and will be taken out by a parent. And, once in a while, a child who should be taken out is left in the service. But these are very minor inconveniences compared to the wonderful benefits of having children in the corporate worship service.

Here, John Piper gives some reasons why children should be in worship:

There are three reasons, at least, why I have urged that, at the latest, from first grade on the children join their parents in worship. First, we live in a day in which pressures from all sides are on the family to be fractured and atomized. Fathers are worked to a frazzle and so are too dogged to spend quality time with children; mothers are lured away from their little children to the work force; children have their own activities, and the one thing that pulls them all to the same room makes zombies out of them all: the television. Stir into this a general cultural mood of “me first,” and my rights and my self-realization, and you have got a powerful anti-family milieu. In this atmosphere, the church, as the preserver of biblical principles, must find ways to say “no” to these pressures and affirm the depth and beauty of familial bonds. But where and how? It seems to me that the high point of our corporate life together is the place to start. Let’s make worship a family affair as much as we can.

Second, five-, six-, seven- and eight-year-olds will gain tremendously from being in worship. Many six-year-olds have made professions of faith after sitting through a worship service. But even where most of the sermon goes over their heads, the children profit. They learn more theology and piety from the hymns than we realize, they come to be comfortable and at home with the form of the service, they experience from time-to-time the large and awesome moments of quietness or the blast of an organ prelude or fervor of an old man’s prayer. Week-after-week they see hundreds of adults bowed in worship, and unless we teach them otherwise, they will grow up thinking, “This is where I belong on Sunday morning, and this is the way one behaves in Sunday worship”…

Which leads me to my third reason for wanting the children in worship. I want us, as a church, to say, “No!” to the lackadaisical attitudes toward child training and the harmfully low expectations placed upon children in our day…The expectation that a six-year-old sit quietly to the honor of God one or two hours a week is not a high expectation, and we should demand it of our children.

( “The Children, The Church, and the Chosen,” ©2015 Desiring God Foundation, www.desiringgod.org )

 

Here are some additional resources for encouraging your church and providing practical tips for parents:

(Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.)

New Easter Resource for Families

Mission Accomplished book

Just released—Mission Accomplished: A Two-Week Family Easter Devotional by Scott James. Here is Sally Michael’s endorsement:

Scott James has provided families with an easy-to-use, yet spiritually enriching Easter devotional. Starting with the events leading to the cross through the ascension of Jesus, families are encouraged to read the corresponding Scripture, discuss the passage, and make application through questioning and activities. In addition, many selections include a rich hymn to use in family worship. This little book is a great tool for focusing the hearts of your family members on the reality of Jesus s redemptive mission.

Here is a more detailed description from the publisher:

Celebrate the Greatest Rescue Mission in History Nearly 2,000 years ago, a simple wooden cross and an empty tomb served as the setting for the greatest rescue mission in history the good news of a loving Father going to great lengths to save his broken children. Every year at Easter, with a joyful shout of Christ is risen! we declare again the climax of this great story. Although Easter Sunday only happens once a year, the truths behind it are big enough to shape our lives every single day. Starting on Palm Sunday, your family will spend two weeks (fourteen devotions) walking in time with Jesus as he finished the work his Father had given him. Extending your devotional time into the week beyond Easter Sunday will encourage your family to follow the risen Jesus as he calls his disciples on a Spirit-filled mission to spread the good news to all nations. Your family will learn that God calls every Christ follower to that very same task, promising that his power and presence will help us as we go. Each devotion takes just ten-minutes and is suitable for all ages of children. Included are suggestions for hymns to sing and family activities that give you a chance to remember and apply the truth that Christ is risen indeed! 

It is easier to speak smilingly about bunnies and baskets on Easter than it is to explore Christ s cruel death and miraculous resurrection. But for every parent who believes that Christ is risen indeed, there is Mission Accomplished. 

Fourteen theologically rich yet kid-friendly devotions connect well-known Easter stories to the overall biblical message of redemption. 

Starts with the Passion Week and extends into the week beyond Easter Sunday, walking kids through the immediate aftermath of the resurrection and then unpacking the implications of Jesus death and resurrection for our own lives. 

Great for busy parents and families, each day’s core devotion can be completed in just ten minutes.

Family activities are included to give parents options for helping kids of all ages to understand and apply Easter truths and can be completed in an additional ten minutes. 

Full text of classic hymns for your family to sing in worship.

Generations Worshiping Together

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Looking back through the past two decades, I am so thankful to God for a church family and pastoral leadership that encouraged families to worship together in the corporate church setting. One of the things that helped both old and young to be “comfortable” together was wise worship leaders who had the foresight to point us beyond musical styles. Consider these thoughtful words from Bob Kauflin in his article, “The Legacy of Asaph—Learning to Sing in the Same Room”:

How many of our thoughts about music and worship revolve around what we like, what we prefer, what interests us, and what we find appealing? And how often is that attitude passed on to the next generation, who then focus on what appeals to them?

I suspect this may be one of the reasons churches develop separate meetings for different musical tastes. In the short run it may bring more people to your church. But in the long run it keeps us stuck in the mindset that musical styles have more power to divide us than the gospel has to unite us.

How do we pass on biblical values of worship to coming generations when we can’t even sing in the same room with them?

We have to look beyond our own generation, both past and future, if we’re to clearly understand what God wants us to do now. Otherwise we can be guilty of a chronological narcissism that always views our generation as the most important one. As Winston Churchill insightfully wrote, “The further back you can look, the further forward you can see.”

Enough thinking about ourselves and what kind of music we like to use to worship God. God wants us to have an eye on our children, our grandchildren, and even our great grandchildren.

We have a message to proclaim: “God is good, for His steadfast love endures forever.”

Let’s not allow shortsightedness or selfish preferences keep us from proclaiming it together.

(www.worshipmatters.com)

Our family, which now includes grandchildren, is still worshipping together. My children have a great heritage of both old hymns and new spiritual songs. Whether with an organ or piano, guitars and drums, the excellencies of God are being proclaimed and celebrated. I hope and pray that this legacy will continue for my grandchildren and their children.

(Image courtesy of photostock at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.)

The Next Generation of Worship Leaders and Musicians

ID-10031622Several years ago, Children Desiring God had the wonderful privilege of doing a conference in the Dominican Republic. One lasting impression of that conference was the conference worship team, which was mainly made up of children and youth. They were extremely gifted and dedicated. After the conference, we had the opportunity to sit down and talk to the pastor who led this student worship team. This was not a worship team brought together just for our conference. Rather, this pastor had a vision for the next generation of worship leaders and musicians and, years earlier, he had begun to intentionally train these students. He had a systematic plan in place. Does your church have such a vision and plan? Read these words from Bob Kauflin:

Where do the next generation of musicians in the church come from? One option is to hope and pray that young musicians will get trained in the world, get saved, and use their gifts in the church. That certainly happens frequently enough.

A more faithful option is to figure out what we can do to influence, inspire, and train the young people in our church to develop and use their gifts to serve the church for the glory of God. It doesn’t matter whether we’re in a church of 50, 500, or 5000, we can begin to think about how we can pass on what we’ve learned.

 (“Preparing the Next Generation of Musicians”, www.worshipmatters.com.)

(Image courtesy of zirconicusso at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.)

Are They Really Worshipping God?

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As much as I delight in watching a roomful of 6- and 7-years olds jubilantly singing songs of praise to God in the classroom, I am reminded of these important words from worship leader and song writer Bob Kauflin:

“Worshipping God” means different things at different ages. Younger children, who may not know God yet, may still participate enthusiastically in various external forms of worshipping God. However, we want their worship to be from the heart, and not simply a matter of conforming. They need a clear knowledge of who God is and what He has done. That includes His nature, His attributes, and His works, especially our redemption through Christ. As the Holy Spirit enables them, they will become increasingly aware of their sinfulness before God, accept His gracious gift of forgiveness through the Gospel, and be included among those who will forever be growing in their love for and worship of God. In the mean time, our job is to help them be “dazzled” by the glory of Jesus Christ (quoting Paul Tripp). For one thing that means using more songs that tell us about God than how we feel about Him.

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“Family Worship” or a Worshipping Family?

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These words by Jason Helopoulos are a good reminder not just to homeschool families, but to all Christian families.

I love my family. I love being a husband. We celebrate sixteen years of marriage this week and I can’t imagine living life with anyone else. I love being a father. I have two kids that delight my soul. I can’t wait to see them in the morning before I head off to the church and I am always anxious to see them in the evening when I return. There are few things I enjoy more in this life than being a father. I love my family. However, having said that, I want to be on guard against loving them inordinately.

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A Gospel Song for Children

One of the things I miss most about not teaching this year is the wonderful worship time that I experienced in first grade Sunday school. I especially miss singing Mighty, Mighty Savior with the children. It is an easy song for children to learn, and it presents clear Gospel truth. You can see the words and listen to it here: (more…)

3 Resources for Singing Scripture

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This week, we have been discussing the importance and value of singing the Gospel with children on our Lullaby Theology blog series. The other day I was playing with a friend who is six, and several times she broke out into song. It was not the latest animated movie theme song she was belting though, it was her memory verse set to song and her favorite hymn. This was an encouragement and challenge to me to incorporate more content-rich music into my life.

For some of you reading this, music comes naturally, and it is easy for you to find hymns and worship songs to teach children, but some of you may be like me—I need help. Here are three Children Desiring God resources that will help you and your children start singing the Gospel.

Let the Little Children Sing

Scripture SonglistThis Scripture Songbook helps children hide God’s Word in their hearts through song. Let the Little Children Sing contains 90 Scripture songs for use in Sunday School classes, children’s choirs and at home. Lyrics, sheet music and a piano accompaniment CD are included. Click here for song samples and to order the book.

Fighter Verses Songs 

FESE5-front-webFighter Verses Songs CDs coordinate with our Bible memory program. The song lyrics are word-for-word Bible passages, and the musical styles vary between folk, jazz, pop, doo-wop, choral and more. Sets 1 and 3 feature verses about fixing our hearts on the character and worth of God, battling the desires of our flesh and rejoicing in the work of Christ in the Gospel. The Extended Set 5 goes through the entire Sermon on the Mount. CDs can be ordered here or the songs can be downloaded from iTunes.

Leading Children in God-Centered Worship

Pam Grano, who has been leading worship in Sunday school classes for years, led a seminar on worship at our national conference last year. She reviews what Scripture says about worshipping “in spirit and in truth,” involving both a child’s heart and head in worship, structuring and planning age-appropriate worship times, using instruments and movement, selecting songs and more. You can listen to the audio and download the notes here.

 

 

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