Changes in Latitude, Changes in Attitude

In my last post: “Changes in Latitude, No Changes in Gratitude,  a while back, I wrote about how circumstances shouldn’t change our gratitude because gratitude is based on who we are in Christ not our circumstances. In that post I quoted a Jimmy Buffet song, “Changes in Latitude” where Jimmy states: “Changes in latitude changes in attitude.” Even though our latitude or circumstances change or gratitude should always remain faithful to God for who He is and for all He has done for us.

However, Jimmy was right in that changes in latitude or changes in our perspective often change our attitude. I’m specifically referring to the sabbath. We must rest as God rested because it will often change our attitude or our perspective on our circumstances.

After spending a long but fruitful summer season in children’s ministry I needed to rest. My wife, who plays a key role in raising our 4 children, 3 of whom are four year old triplets truly needed break too. So we just got back from celebrating our 20th anniversary with a week in Mexico. We slept in, we took naps, we laid by the pool, we played in the ocean, and we read books, among many other restful activities. It was great. We sabbathed for an entire week, and it was needed.

It was great to refuel our physical and spiritual engines as we had been running hard for a long while. Don’t get me wrong, I love my ministry to kids and families and my wife loves raising our children, but it was good to rest. It made us appreciate all that we have even more.

God rested so we should rest also.

Hebrews 4:9-10 states; “So then, there remains a sabbath rest for the people of God. For whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his.”

Am I saying we have to go to Mexico or on some vacation to sabbath? Of course not. What I am saying is that we all need to set aside a day or some time during each week that we can truly sabbath and get our much needed rest. That change in latitude will surly change our attitude.


Changes in Latitude, No Changes in Gratitude

Back in the 70’s Jimmy Buffett had a hit song called “Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes” which states “changes in latitudes changes in attitudes, nothing remains quite the same…” This song’s premise was that the more tropical and warmer the climate or latitude was the better was one’s attitude. Basically stating that attitude was subject to external factors.

You know, Jimmy was right! Our attitude is often based on our circumstances. When things are going well we definitely have a better attitude than when things are going rough.

However, in sharp contrast, gratitude is far removed from attitude. Despite our circumstances, we as believers always have so much for which to be grateful. Please hear me, I’m not discounting the painful trials that many go through and the pain with which many believers are currently struggling. One of my good (young) friends recently lost his wife to cancer. However, he remains a grateful man! He remains grateful and maintains a heart full of gratitude because of his relationship with Jesus!

To put it quite simply, as believers our situations or our latitude in life should not reflect our gratitude. We should be grateful in all things. Ephesians 5:20 states: giving thanks always for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Notice Paul’s words to the church at Ephesus is not that you should give thanks always, but, in “giving thanks always to God the Father.” 

We as believers struggle with the pain and suffering that this world has to offer just like anyone else…we are not immune to it. However, where we are different is that when we struggle with the pain of this life we do so with peace and a hope that never fades or disappoints. Take note of Romans 5:1-5. It states: Therefore, since we have been declared righteous by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. We have also obtained access through Him by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. And not only that, but we also rejoice in our afflictions, because we know that affliction produces endurance, endurance produces proven character, and proven character produces hope. This hope will not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.

So take hope fellow believers, if you are persevering through adversity, remember you have peace and a hope in Jesus that will not disappoint you!!!

Happy Thanksgiving!!!


An Active Christian Faith

DoingLifeTogether

I’m currently reading Life On Mission, a new book by Dustin Willis and Aaron Coe. In this book the authors communicate the importance of living an intentional life…an intentional life that is built on mission…our calling to share our faith to our world. In the book the authors write “God never intended for us to live out the Christian life alone.” This statement evoked the following question within me: What am I doing to influence my world with the love of Christ that resides within me?

Too many Christians are marginal Christians, they say they have a relationship with Christ but they produce no spiritual fruit. I am not indicting Christianity because I too, often find myself living in a bubble with my Christian life. Let’s face it, it’s just easier that way.

However, the Christian life was never intended to be easy or comfortable. It was intended to be lived out in our public lives. In our relationships with our neighbors, with those on our kids’ ball team, with those we work with, or basically, with those with whom we do life.

It’s easy to just keep Christ to ourselves instead of putting ourselves in a socially awkward situation, however the Bible doesn’t provide us an easy out from those “socially awkward situations.” Colossians 4:5 states: “Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity.” This text is not necessarily talking about outsiders in our lives but outsiders to the Gospel of Jesus. Basically people who don’t know Christ.

This text in Colossians implores us to make the most of the opportunities we have with the lost people in our circles of life, or those with whom we have influence, in order to share with them the difference that Christ has made in our lives. This is what a life on mission is all about.

The authors also pose some thought provoking questions in the book, a couple of which are:

  1. Name a person(s) you have been investing in who you could invite into your biblical community?
  2. Who is in your life who needs to hear the Gospel message? What’s stopping you from sharing?

These 2 questions provide a basic and simple framework from which we can share the hope of Jesus that resides in us. There are two elemental parts of this framework:

  1. Invest and Invite – This is the action of investing in the lives of those lost people with whom we have influence and simply inviting them to attend church with you. This is extremely basic and a vast majority of the unchurched haven’t attended church because they haven’t been asked. Most unchurched people have stated that they would attend church if invited by a friend.
  2. Go and Tell – This is where we go beyond simply investing in the lives of others and inviting them to church, to getting our hands dirty in the lives of others. Let’s face it, life is messy, and when we invest in the lives of others and seize an opportunity to share the love of Christ that is within us we get messy too. People are most receptive to receive the hope that resides in us when they are going through a crisis. I recently heard Jeff Iorg, President of Golden Gate Theological Seminary, state that the best time to share the hope that lives is us, with other people in our lives, is when those people are hurting. Hurting people need hope and we have the greatest hope of all!

No matter if you invest and invite or go and tell…be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity.


The Position of the Heart

Yesterday I just finished teaching a 4 week class for children who have prayed to accept Jesus into their heart. We call it “Now that I’m A Christian.” We use a curriculum that directs the teaching plans for the class. I recently spent 4 weeks with 12 kids who had recently prayed to receive Jesus.

The class covers Baptism, the Lord’s Supper, the ministry and mission of the church and of Christian believers, etc. During the class we also direct the kids to write out their testimony which includes 3 components. The 1st component of their testimony is their life before Christ and how they realized they needed Christ. The 2nd component is their salvation experience and what happened in their life when they asked Jesus into their heart. The 3rd component is how has their life changed after they accepted Christ into their heart.

I have utilized this curriculum in previous churches in leading classes and also taking kids and parents through it one on one. This has been a very beneficial curriculum as I have used it throughout my ministry in helping kids and even parents understand what it really means to be a Christian.

However, one aspect of the class we do at my church, is we offer a “Parents’ Baptism Class.” This 1 session class is provided for the parents of the kids who took the class, and is offered at a separate time for parents only. I taught this class last night to the parents of the 12 kids who went thorough the “Now That I’m A Christian” class. As I prepared to teach the “Parents’ Baptism Class” I was reminded of a valuable truth about kids receiving Christ as their Savior and Lord. When a child accepts Jesus as Lord and Savior of their life it’s not about their head knowledge but it’s about their heart’s position. In order for a child to truly receive Christ as Lord and Savior, they don’t have to know all of the answers…I mean, I don’t know all of the answers and I’ve been a Christian for almost 35 years and in full time ministry for 17 years. It’s all about the position of the heart. Children’s hearts need to be bent toward Jesus. Kind of in the shape of a funnel where Jesus can pour into their lives all of his love and forgiveness that comes with their new life.

Please hear me, children do need to understand what Jesus did for them and they need to know why Jesus died for them and be able to process the basics of “faith” and “repentance.” However, on the flip side they don’t have to attain an understanding of some of the theological perspectives which we all struggle with at times. Basically, their heart needs to be positioned or bent towards Christ and they must be open and willing to receive all of the grace made available to us by God through His Son, Jesus.  When they grasp the unmerited gift of God’s grace (remember, we must frame this understanding in the context of a child) and their need for Jesus as savior and Lord, and they understand the act of forgiveness, then their heart is in a great position to receive all of the blessings that come through a personal relationship with Jesus and the power of God’s unmerited grace.

Remember it’s ultimately about a heart’s position and not a head knowledge. As adults we would be well served to abandon our baggage as we enter into the presence of God, much like children do. Then we would gain clearer picture of just how much God loves us and the full measure of his incredible grace!

 

 

 


Who God Is Through A Kid’s Eyes

Fall Retreat 2014 JPEG

 

Working with kids we often get a glimpse of who they perceive who God really is. That picture of who God is can run the gambit, from a cosmic and unreachable God in the sky to a Santa Clause type character who they pray to in seeking answered prayers, to everything in between. I realize a child’s perception of who God is can also vary widely based on their age as well. However, as KidMin Leaders it is one of our responsibilities to partner with parents in teaching kids who God really is.

We recently held our Kids’ Fall Retreat and our topic was “God is…” (we used a cell phone and texting theme). During this 2 day event we taught the kids some very real attributes about the nature of God. We taught them that He’s Faithful, He’s Trusting, He’s Always There, He’s Eternal, and He’s Loving. Through these 5 attributes of the 1 true God and what he did through Jesus, as well as through various learning, worship, and teamwork environment and activities, we communicated some very real truths about who God is.

We communicated that no matter what are going though or what circumstances we face, God is always there. He is not only there but He has the best for us weaved throughout our daily lives. In both the good times and the bad times. We also communicated that sometimes God can teach us the most about Him through painful times in our lives. Nevertheless, God has a plan for our lives and we have to place our trust in Him. We also learned that God sees the big picture when we can only see a snap shot. His plans are bigger because He can see the beginning to the end when we can sometimes only see what’s right in front of us. Furthermore, we learned that the purpose of His sending His Son was to provide us forgiveness and to offer a real and personal relationship with Him. This relationship is only attained through salvation in Jesus. Ultimately though, the basis of all of this, is rooted in His love for us. His love never ends and is bigger than anything we can ever imagine and we love Him because He first loved us.

The truth about who God really is should permeate our hearts for teaching kids the reality of what it means to enter in to a personal relationship with Jesus. It should also serve as a guidepost that directs what and how we teach kids about what God is doing, what He wants to do, and what He is going to do in their lives.

Thanks to LifeWay’s Zip for Kids for providing a framework from which we were able to teach kids about the amazing attributes of the 1 true God and who He really is!

 

 

 

 

 


Christ Over Gymnastics

As a vocational children’s minister I have always dealt with the quandary that parents face of putting sports, music, dance, or any other extra curricular activities before church events. To be brutally honest, when it comes to parents choosing between their children’s extra curricular activities or the church, the church oftentimes loses. In stating this I must be completely transparent. As a parent I have also chosen my daughter’s extra curricular activities over the church. Especially if there was an important practice or performance involved.

Please hear me, I’m not a stiff minded and old school children’s minister. I understand that children have many other things in their lives to which they have made commitments. However, I also find it troubling that sometimes parents place every thing out there before the church. As a parent and a children’s minister we must be careful what we choose to place a priority over the church. Essentially, when we habitually place our children’s extra curricular activities over the church we are placing priorities of the world over Christ. I know it’s a tight rope that we walk but we can easily find ourselves slipping and falling by what we teach our children about priorities and the importance of the church and especially Christ in their lives.

I said that to say this. This past weekend our church hosted our annual Children’s Fall Retreat and it was extremely refreshing to hear what one mom had to say about their priorities when it came to their child’s extra curricular activities and this particular church event. Her daughter is a very talented gymnast and competes on a high level. Her daughter had gymnastics the same weekend as our fall retreat. When the girl’s parents dropped her off for the Fall Retreat her mom said something profound about her daughter’s conflict. Her mom said the following when it came to choosing between gymnastics and the Fall Retreat…She said it’s “Christ over gymnastics!” That was extremely refreshing to hear from a parent. I delighted in their decision and especially what brought them to this decision.

Please hear my heart, I’m not indicting parents who choose their children’s extra curricular activities over the church. What I’m trying to communicate is that we as parents need to properly order our kids priorities, because if we won’t the world will.

It’s easy to get caught up in all that our children have going on and it takes discipline to put Christ first. I fully understand we cannot bring our children to every event sponsored by the church. Even so, it was a breath of fresh air to hear this parent vocally express their commitment and priority to Christ.

 

 


Seeing Christmas Through The Eyes Of A Child

As a vocational Children’s Pastor and a parent of 4 kids I have seen, and regularly see the magic of Christmas as kids see it. Say what you will but Christmas is the most magical time of the year for a child. Think about it…The mystery of Santa, Christmas gifts, the magic they see on TV with all of the movies and Christmas specials. Consider “A Charlie Brown Christmas.” Charlie Brown is depressed from all of the consumerism of Christmas and he attempts to direct the local Christmas play. In order to make it the best play he can, he and Linus go out and buy a Christmas tree. Charlie Brown picks out the lowliest and downtrodden tree he can find and he fully believes it has the ability to save the Christmas play. It however, upsets the kids and the play is in an upheaval. Then Linus emphatically states to the rest of the kids the  true meaning of Christmas. Linus then proceeds to quote the Christmas story from the Book of Luke. The one amazing thing that Charles Schultz described through this cartoon is Linus’ confidence in the Scriptures. As Linus begins to quote the Christmas story from the Bible he drops his blanket…this is the same blanket Linus is never without. But he commandingly drops the blanket and quotes the Christmas story from the Book of Luke. After he finishes quoting the Bible, he then picks up his blanket and directly states: “That’s what Christmas is all about Charlie Brown.”

It’s in these Christmas specials, other Christmas movies, or even “Elf on a Shelf” if your family participates in this tradition, that children experience the magic of Christmas. However, nothing can compare to Christmas morning when kids wake up (well before dawn) to find that Santa has mysteriously visited their house and brought them their favorite toys.

We as Christians have a reason to believe in the magic of Christmas too! We can experience the magic and fact that the Christ Child that was born over 2000 years ago, the same baby for whom we celebrate Christmas has eliminated death in our lives and we will no longer die but live forever! This is enough for us to celebrate Christmas with the same joy as children. We have life and we have it to the full. All because of Jesus and the fact that God made himself a human and was born into this world to live a perfect life and  die and rise again as an atonement of our sins…So we might live!

That’s enough for all of us to celebrate a very Merry Christmas and experience the magic in it as well!

Merry Christmas!