He Reads Truth (Hymns): "Be Still, My Soul"

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I have the privilege of contributing to He Reads Truth, a website of whose purpose is “To help men become who we were made to be, by doing what we were made to do, by the power and provision that God has given us to do it, for the glory of Jesus Christ.” They do this by providing scripture reading plans accompanied by reflections that can be accessed for free online or purchased as print books. For those of you looking to engage scripture in a fresh way, these studies/plans will refresh your soul and engage your mind.

What follows is the piece I wrote for the "Hymns" reading plan. You can find the full plan HERE.

 

Day 4: "Be Still, My Soul"
Psalm 62, Isaiah 61:1-3, Luke 8:22-25, James 5:7-8

Several years ago, my wife wanted to get backyard chickens, and I fought it. I thought the idea was crazy. We live in the city—in the suburbs. Chickens? Really? But she wore me down. And it’s been one of the best parenting decision we’ve ever made. Our kids love them. They’ve named them. And through feeding, collecting eggs, and scooping chicken poop, my daughters have learned all kinds of things about daily responsibility.

But one of the most significant moments came on the day a dog jumped our back fence and killed two of our hens. My daughters’ hearts were broken. I disposed of the bodies, and that night we had a chicken funeral. We went around the dinner table, each sharing our favorite memories of Rebekah and Matilda. We’re not the most sentimental family, but we still grieved. I can remember sitting on the bed that evening with my youngest while she cried. She needed her dad to help her find rest.

A mentor of mine once told me, “Life is full of unfinished symphonies.” It’s true. In this fallen world, things are always falling apart. We face cancer, lost jobs, and disability. Hopes and dreams are deferred. Loved ones die. But even when we feel life’s brokenness more than we’ve ever felt it before, God is still with us. We can patiently bear our cross of grief and pain, because He is on our side.

Jesus calls us to come to him with our griefs and fears. He wants to bear them. Let Him quiet your soul today. When I feel anxious, grieved, and oppressed, my tendency is either to run to my friends or to make myself busy in order to take my mind off the griefs and worries. This isn’t wrong, but Psalm 62 reminds me of my need to first bring my griefs to my Father, just as my little girl brought hers to me. We find true rest in God alone; our hope comes from Him (Psalm 62:1, 5). People and things will always let us down, but God remains faithful (Psalm 62:9-12).

This can be hard to trust when we experience loss and injustice (Sometimes we just want to be mad at the neighbors’ dog!) We can’t always trace out what God is doing, but we know that he orders and provides. Rest and hope are found in remembering his power and providence over all of life’s storms (Luke 8:22-25). One day, he’ll show us the end of the symphony he’s writing for us. He’ll correct the prevailing forms of injustice we experience in this world. And, for his people, Jesus will repay--from his own fullness--all that He has previously taken away (Isaiah 62:3).

The Importance of Community

A few weeks ago, I wrote a post on Deuteronomy 6:7–9. This passage begins by describing the ways parents can diligently teach their children at home:

You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.

You can read that last post here. The latter half of this passage unpacks what teaching kids a lifestyle of worship looks like in a community context.

You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

God commanded the Israelites to put their faith on public display—on their hands, as frontlets between their eyes, as signs on their doorposts and gates. The implication is that our faithful words and actions should be publicly demonstrated in the context of our communities. Our worship should be on display for the world to see. This doesn’t mean that we should be hypocritical show-offs (Matthew 6:5). Rather, Moses recognizes the fact that we have a public responsibility to our community, and it’s displayed through our actions.

Each believer’s life of faith and obedience impacts other people around them. Moms and dads aren’t only spiritual influences for their kids, but also for their kids’ friends. And each member of your church community is an influence upon the kids in your church’s care. The kids are watching your life, even if you aren’t serving in children’s and student ministry.

So, is your faith visible?

As Christians grow in their knowledge of God’s love, that love should overflow in one-another-ing. The Bible calls us to service and love for one another (John 13:22, 34–35; 15:12, 17; Rom. 12:10; 1 Thess. 3:12; 4:9; 1 Pet. 1:22; 4:8, 1 John 3:11, 23; 4:7, 11–12; 2 John 5). We’re commanded to live in harmony with one another (Rom. 12:16), to not pass judgment upon one another (Rom. 14:13); to instruct one another (Rom. 15:7), to welcome one another (Rom. 15:16; 16:16, 1 Cor. 16:20; 1 Peter 4:9–10; 5:14), and to comfort one another (2 Cor. 13:11). We must serve one another (Gal. 5:13), guard ourselves from provoking and envying one another (Gal. 5:23; James 4:11; 5:9), bear one another’s burdens (Gal. 6:2; Eph. 4:2), be kind to one another (Eph. 4:32), and submit to one another (Eph. 5:21). This list of one-another’s goes on and on. We’re told not to lie to one another (Col. 3:9), to bear and forgive one another (Col 3:13), to admonish one another (Col. 3:16), to encourage one another (1 Thess. 4:18; 5:11; Heb. 3:13; 10:25), to seek to do good to one another (1 Thess. 5:15), and to spur one another on toward love and good deeds (Heb. 10:24). We must confess our sins to one another (James 5:16) and clothe ourselves with humility toward one another (1 Peter 5:5)

Romans 12:1–5 reminds us that the church isn’t a club where we pay our annual dues but a body to which we belong. We’re called to be living sacrifices with transformed hearts and minds. And we’re called to serve the whole. We tend to think of ourselves more than we think of others as if we’re above them and their concerns. When we do this, we’re forgetting to practically apply our faith. But God has uniquely gifted each of us to be a blessing to the body—to be a blessing to one another. Everyone within the community has a role to play.

That includes our kids. We should be intentional about leading them to serve as well—giving them opportunities to love their church family both on Sundays and throughout the week. What does that look like practically? I’ll close with this quote from Robert J. Keeley’s book, Helping Our Children Grow in Faith:

Children and young people should participate in the life of the church through authentic tasks. By authentic I mean tasks in which they give as well as receive. They should feel that if they aren’t doing their part, the whole group will suffer… In some churches there are a number of high school students who love to work with the sound and video equipment. These students take their work very seriously, and if given the chance, really take ownership of that aspect of church life. They arrive early to set up for worship and they come in during the week to try things out and make things better with the system. They realize they are needed and important in the life of the church and play and important role enhancing worship. When children and teens are serving the church, they feel like a real part of the body of Christ instead of a grow for whom special programs are created until they are old enough to really take part.

Let’s invite the next generation into the community life of the church. Let’s let them experience all of the one-another’s. Let the way we worship and demonstrate our common faith be ever visible and public before them so that as they grow, they’ll embody everyday worship themselves.

5 Ways to Teach Kids about Missions

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Each week in our children’s ministry, we gather our elementary-age kids for a time of worship. It includes praise songs, hand motions, call-and-response Bible and catechism memory, creative Bible teaching, and a time of prayer. We enjoy each of these assembly gatherings. We cherish the opportunity to sing and teach the good news to kids every week.

But a few of the assemblies stand out in our memories. Last October, for instance, we gathered the kids to pray for two of their peers who, along with their parents, would soon be moving to the mission field. The future missionary kids—a sister and her brother—stood at the front of the gathering. Then their friends and teachers extended their hands to bless them with prayers. We prayed for safe travels, that they’d make new friends quickly, and that they’d talk about Jesus with boldness. These are powerful moments.

One of the reasons we cherish these missionary kid commissionings is because, over the years, our local church has adopted simple programming structures. We have Sunday services and small groups for community and discipleship, but we don’t have Sunday school classes or a midweek missions education club. There are advantages to this. Our families have more of an opportunity to be on mission in their communities. But there are disadvantages too.

The simple church model requires us to think more intentionally about how we will pass on God’s mission to the next generation. Of course, our regular curriculum covers the Great Commission (Matt. 28:17–20) and the expansion of the church in Acts. We understand that teaching the Bible means teaching about missions. But without a missions education program, it’s easy for churches to leave out what God is doing around the world right now. Even in churches that have more traditional midweek missions education classes for kids, I (Jared) wonder how often Christian families talk together about God’s mission outside of the church.

It’s a glad and beautiful thing when the good news arrives in a new place (Ps. 67:4Isa. 52:7). We don’t want the next generation to miss out on that joy! So, how do we make teaching kids about missions more of a priority in our churches and our homes? Here are five practical suggestions.

1. Start with Yourself

How often do you think about missions? Kids imitate what we model. We’ll only cultivate a passion for missions in kids if we’re passionate about missions ourselves.

What is your church already doing to support international missions? Have you considered how can you be a part of that? If your church has missionary prayer cards available in the lobby or the back of the sanctuary, pick one up this Sunday. Then pray for that international worker during your own devotions this week. While you’re at it, sign up for a missionary’s prayer letter and consider giving directly to the missionary.

Before long, you may find your own passion for missions overflowing to the kids around you.

2. Start Small

When you turn toward teaching kids about missions, leverage what is in front of you. One of my (Allison’s) favorite games to play with young kids is “airplane.” We choose a destination and off we go on our imaginary flight! Imaginary play is a great opportunity to talk about other areas of the world.

We’ll only cultivate a passion for missions in kids if we’re passionate about missions ourselves.

Also, be intentional about exposing your kids to ethnic and cultural diversity. Set up a play date with kids of different ethnicities and races than those of your own. This may be as simple as taking your kids to a playground in a more diverse area of your city.

You should also read books to your children that show other cultures. And, if your children are older, encourage them to read books from diverse authors or books set in other cultures.

3. Pray

In my (Allison’s) home, I like to keep my prayer cards in a place where I see them every day. I have an old window that I turned into a frame and strung rows of twine across. I clip my prayer cards to the twine, and I have this hanging near my dining table. If your family eats meals together, consider using this time to pray for one of your church’s missionary families.

There are a number of helpful prayer guides available that you can use for family prayer. The International Mission Board has an online prayer guide that is updated daily. We’re also fond of Operation Mobilization’s Window on the World, a missionary prayer guide that’s designed for use with children both at home and in children’s ministry or Sunday school classes.

4. Do Something Creative

Work with your kids to put together a care package for a missionary family that your church supports. If that family has kids, let your children pick out gifts for them and write notes. It can be helpful to find a family that has kids near the same age as your own.

One of the best ways to teach your kids about missions is to take them with you as you go.

A friend of ours takes this kind of creativity to the next level. Each year, she has her kids choose a country to research. Then, they not only pray and send a care package, but they also make a family meal based on traditional cuisine in the country her kids chose.

5. Bring Them Along

If your church or another church nearby sponsors annual short-term trips, talk with the leaders about which trips may be appropriate for your children; then, consider taking your kids with you somewhere to serve others this year in place of your normal family vacation. One of the best ways to teach your kids about missions is to take them with you as you go.

This post first appeared at imb.org. I wrote it with Allison Rushing. She serves as Director of Kids Ministry at Sojourn Church Midtown in Louisville, Kentucky, and served as a journeyman through the IMB in South Asia for two years. She has a master of divinity in missions from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Family Friday Links 6.28.19

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Here’s what we’ve been reading online this week:

Chris Green had a helpful post intense seasons fo ministry. He has a list of helpful tips that some, if not most of us don’t think about. This isn’t just a post for pastors and ministry leaders, but can be applied to parenting (our primary ministry) as well. He ends the post this way, “God is good. Hold onto that.”

With summer typically comes vacation. Jason Allen doesn’t want your vacation to be fruitless. He had a post entitled “Don’t Waste your Vacation”. It reads in part, “ … vacations should be a time to rejuvenate you for your calling, not escape it. If you find yourself always pining for vacations in order to get away from your job, you most likely do not need a vacation; you need a new vocation.” He has a list of ways to maximize your time away.

Lindsey Carlson had a post on for parents of teens. She says, “If you’re in the middle of shepherding a teenager, or you’re preparing to, consider a few encouragements as you teach your teenager to use words wisely.” She goes on to list things that you need to consider when helping your teen grow towards maturity.

What have you found beneficial online this week? Leave us a link in the comment section to check out.