MInTheGap

Standing in the Gap in a Society that's Warring with God.

How Long Should I Wait to Have Children?

July 31st, 2007 Viewed 6638 times

There is a movement in both Christian and non-Christian circles that suggests that couples are better off if they wait to have children.  The logic goes something like this:

  1. Children are a lot of work.
  2. The couple needs time without the work to get to know each other.
  3. Children benefit from couples with strong relationships.
  4. Therefore: You should wait to have children until the two of you have an identity together.

The problem is that this feeds exactly into the current mantra repeated by the pro-choice movement: That children are work that can be avoided– and you want to avoid them because they mess up your life.

So, we subconsciously tell our young married couples that they should wait to have kids.  Wait until they don’t have as much energy.  Wait until they have more of a career and they’ve bonded around that.  Wait until they’re getting old, and some of the best years of their children’s life will be spent with aging grandparents.

You see, it fits into the society’s view that you have to live for yourself, and have everything now.  Don’t plan for the future.  Don’t do things that may be difficult now so that you can reap later on.

It takes great faith to be like Anna and trust God to control how many children they have and when.  It may be that God wants you to have more children or sooner than you have planned– but if you’re looking at kids as a burden or as something that you are trying to put off having until they are more convenient, then you are actually conditioning yourself with the wrong view.

Children are a blessing from God.  They’re a maturing influence.  They add more to your life than you’ll even imagine.

Relationship Building

July 30th, 2007 Viewed 1214 times

Today starts the introductions for the contributors for Weekend Kindness.

Weekend Kindness, as you may recall, has always been about encouraging people to be kind to each other, and use our blogs as ways to encourage one another in the endeavor.  Well, starting this week, we have a new focus– talking about relationship building and being kind to those around us.  We’ll talk about marriage, family, friends, and what’s going on in each and how we can make them better.

So, come on over and welcome those that have joined to write, and read the great writings of people wanting to explore their relationships!

The Children of the World are Wiser

July 30th, 2007 Viewed 1162 times
This entry is part 4 of 5 in the series Rut, Rot or Revival
Rut, Rot, or Revival
Rut, Rot, or Revival
By A.W. Tozer

If you found yourself at the end of the last post saying “I’m not in a rut” and you’re not concerned about it, then consider the following three possibilities:

Are You Truly Converted?

How do I know?  That’s a good question.  You see, the spiritual health of the church concerns me greatly.  I believe that we have come to a point where we are so eager to “get people saved” that we have really watered down what it is all about.  To quote Tozer:

People clean up, throw away their pipes, start to pay their bills and live right and then say, “I want to join the church.”  So we question them, “Do you believe that Christ is the Son of God?”

“Yes,” they reply.

“Do you believe He is coming again?”

“Yes, I do.”

Well, so does the devil and he trembles.

I don’t know how many (one is probably too many here) times that I’ve been witness to someone having “accepted Christ” at an early age, only to later have to come clean and say that nothing really happened, that they were pressured into it before, and now they are saved.  Or worse, they claimed that they were saved, and now are living their life to the flesh.

What happened there?  Well, the question that needs to be asked is, were they really saved in the first place?  How can one tell?  The fruit of the Spirit in your life is a good indication.  Another is the Holy Spirit witnessing the Word of God on the heart.  How are you affected by the things of God?  Do you yearn for them or do you consider them trivial or boring?

Are You Hampered By Sin?

A habitual act of sin will keep you from seeing the problem.  Just as the conscience can be a guide if trained correctly, so can it be seared such that it no longer registers something wrong.  The more you sin, the easier that sin becomes, and the easier it is to justify it.

If you’re a Christian, and you’re in a rut, it’s possible that some sin in your life is preventing you from growing closer to God.  It’s also possible that you have put something in the place of serving God or following His other commands.

Are You Perfect?

The Pharisees believe that they were perfect.  Their problem was that they thought they saw when they were blind.  When I was a teen there was a point where, during reflection at communion, I couldn’t think of anything to confess– I thought I was that good.  It’s easy to be deceived in this way, especially when we judge who we are on the basis of what we see in others.  (Hence why it’s so important to use a Biblical standard!)

If you can look at your life and not see the difference between what you could be and what you are, you need to get on your knees and pray for God to search your heart and break it!

Where is Your Spiritual Ambition?

If you look at the life of Paul, here is one that you see progressively doing two things:

  1. He kept lowering his importance.
  2. He kept stretching toward the goal.

Paul wanted to see Jesus above all else, yet the closer he got, the more of his true nature he saw.  Remember when Isaiah saw the Lord high and lifted up in the temple?  Up until that point, Isaiah probably thought a lot of himself, but when he was confronted with perfection He was undone.

We need to be spiritually ambitious.  We have the complete Word of God, we have the Holy Spirit to guide us, and we can grow in Christ– but the question is, do we want to?  I’ve heard it said, and the saying is true, that we can have as much of God as we want.  But that begs the question, how much do we want?

Are you caught in a rut?  If you can see it, you can do something about it.  Otherwise, get on your knees so that you can see where you are, and where you have to go!

Errors in Thinking

July 29th, 2007 Viewed 1594 times, 2 so far today
This entry is part 3 of 5 in the series Rut, Rot or Revival
Rut, Rot, or Revival
Rut, Rot, or Revival
By A.W. Tozer

In the first chapter we discussed the stages of decay in a church.  Today we’re going to look at how Christians get it wrong.

What would be your reaction if your pastor got up on Sunday and told you that your church was stuck in a rut?  Or worse, you were starting to rot, and your pastor was going to ask the congregation what to do to get out of it– what would they say?

How about some of Tozer’s suggestions:

  • “Let’s come together and eat something.” — Let’s have some more fellowship and get to know one another better.
  • “Let’s make plans to go somewhere.” — Let’s travel to some place on a missions project, or change our scenery.
  • “Let’s come together and do something religious.” — Let’s go do something, because just the effort of doing something will improve moral.
  • “Let’s form a committee to consider it.” — We aren’t smart enough to solve it, but if we put our best minds on the topic, maybe they can come up with something.
  • “Let’s start another club.” — This just masks the true problem.

Tozer contends that these, and other answers you may have come up with, come out of a misunderstanding of the problem.

  1. They misunderstand the nature of Christian Faith.
  2. They misunderstand the nature of the Church.
  3. They misunderstand what is wrong with them.

First, the problem is not an external problem.  It’s an internal one.  You see, our faith is something that happened inside of us.  We accepted Christ into our heart.  It is there that He dwells.  If we’re stuck in a rut, it’s not because something external happened– but something internal.

Second, if your church is in a rut, it isn’t the church’s fault– unless you’re thinking of the church as a body of believers.  The church is a body of individuals.  Here is where the Biblical illustration of the “body of Christ” is handy.

Right now, my left pointer finger hurts– it’s distracting especially when I’m typing.  Doing some jumping jacks isn’t going to help the finger– I’m going to have to do something about the finger directly.  When the local church is in a rut, it’s because multiple, individual members are caught in a rut.  The way out is in fixing the internal lives of those that are caught, not in the externals.

Third, the question is how are you.  “How well or how sick the church is depends on how well or how sick the individuals are.  In other words, it depends upon how you are.”  We need to be about the process of comparing what we are with what we ought to be.  Go to the scriptures and look for the places that talk about who the Christian should be.  Look at Matthew 5:3-10, Ephesians 4:26-5:2, and Galatians 5:22-23.

How do you match up?

All In One Room or Multiple Rooms?

July 28th, 2007 Viewed 1249 times, 1 so far today
This entry is part 4 of 4 in the series VBS in the 21st Century

There seem to be two prevailing styles of Vacation Bible School out there today– one that has the children in the same room for the whole week and one that has them switching rooms every day.

Each of these has benefits for the students and the teachers, but each of them also has potential downfalls.  I am personally in favor of having the children in the same room all week, but I believe that having them switch also has its place.

Having The Kids In The Same Room All Week

The biggest reason I believe that this is the most beneficial way of running a VBS is the bond that can be formed between the students and the teacher.  In one week, you will probably know the names of all the children in the group, you may have a good idea of their spiritual aptitude, if not whether they are saved, and they will know you.

The crafts can be more intricate, because you can spend multiple nights working on them.  The same can be said about helping them to memorize more verses, and to actually show an interest in their lives.

The problems can arise because there is more work needed on the part of the leaders.  You have to be interesting every night (which can get difficult near the end of the week).  You plan all of your crafts, instead of having a one-night easy craft.  You will also get compared against other classes and what they are doing.

Having The Kids In Different Rooms Each Night

The biggest benefit here is in “theme-ing” and lesson preparation.  Because you have a specific night, instead of 7 to prepare for, your theme can be very specific.  You also only have one craft to prepare, one lesson to memorize, and as long as your careful and don’t “peak” too early, it’ll still be interesting by the end of the week, and you’ll probably be ready for any question.

The downsides here is that you may never know the kids names, or reach them on a more than very superficial level since you only will have them for a short period of time, that you will not be able to really know what was taught before to be able to build on it, and that you’re more detached from the kids.

What have you done in your VBS, and how effective do you feel it has been?

Are We Too Much Fun?

July 26th, 2007 Viewed 1437 times, 1 so far today
This entry is part 3 of 4 in the series VBS in the 21st Century

One of the hardest questions I think that a church activity has to answer is are we trying to be too much fun.  The question that I believe we are trying to answer, though, is scary in its bluntness:

“Why should someone want to come to my church activity?”

Our answer to this question will say a lot about our ministry, what we think of God and the message that we have to give.  What I find interesting is that traditionally the feature that “sold” Christianity was salvation from sin.  Sure, there’s the promise of Heaven, and the chance to escape Hell, but when a preacher came on the scene and proclaimed the Word, people came forward, lives were changed, and a world was impacted.

Now, we have to hope that we can get a famous person to come.  Or we have to stress about what activities we have planned.  We’re concerned about if children think that we’re fun, and we’re moving as quickly as we can out of the lesson and to the times that we think the kids enjoy more: refreshments, crafts, game time, and openings/closings.  Does something seem amiss here?

Tuesday, Michelle Potter, commented that a community that she was involved with held an all day VBS.  The more I think about this, the more interested I become.  If you start to think about parents sending kids with enrollment forms (relieves the pressure of wondering whether the kids will come back), different classes you could have, more exposure, and leveraging the Christians in the community you think– whew– that’s a lot of work.

But after you get over that, you begin to wonder why we don’t do this more.  Partner churches together.  Maybe make it more than one week.  Esp if you have a church school.

Or are we just not really all that serious about reaching the lost as we say we are?

Do We Really Need to Exploit Women This Way?

July 26th, 2007 Viewed 1366 times

If it didn’t bother you that coffee shops were serving the public in sexualized attire, that waitresses at the Heart Attack Grill wear sexy nurse outfits, or that there is a car wash where women wear next to nothing simply for the reason that they did these things behind closed doors and you could choose to ignore them, the latest form of exploitation is not going to be as easy to ignore:

The women of Tiger Time Lawn Care offer to mow customers’ lawns dressed in bikinis — a service that attracts more attention to the ladies than the lawns.

“Oh yeah, they honk and yell. They can do everything you can imagine,” said employee Blair Beckman, 21.

Beckman said the extra attention is expected, but she looks on the bright side.

“You get the attention but you also get a tan, which I need,” Beckman said.

Owner Lee Cathey said the bikini service makes mowing the lawn a lot more interesting, although the fee is slightly higher.

Source: Bikini-clad women mow lawns in Memphis – Yahoo! News

So, you’re driving down the street, and there’s a woman in a bikini mowing the lawn– what are you going to do?!  Offer sunscreen?

Seriously, though, it’s getting to the point that it’s not just billboards that you’ll have to avoid, but also those that are taking care of the grass.  Though I wonder just how much business they will get.  I don’t know if the ladies of some houses are going to take well to some girl in a bikini working their lawn.

At some point we have to say, “enough”, and somehow reintroduce the concept that “just because I can doesn’t make it right.”

Where Did My Avatar Go?

July 25th, 2007 Viewed 1599 times, 1 so far today

After a long time running the comvatars plugin which automatically picks your avatar based on a column in the comment table– and has given me a ton of headaches:

  1. Every time someone new comes and comments, they get assigned a random avatar.  Not having many good random avatars available, people have complained because “I’m not a girl”, “It’s ugly”, etc.
  2. It’s a lot of work to chase down someone’s avatar and put it into the system.  I have to crop the image, get it into the database, and then I have received people asking if I’ve asked permission to use their image.
  3. Since I modified Count Comments to only go back 30 days and show images, after 30 days if you didn’t have the image in your content record and you made the top five you had no image.  This is a pain simply because of how often I’ve had to go in the database, find the url to your current icon, and then update the new rows– and I was doing all of this without you even knowing!

So, I’ve launched a new image plugin that works as follows:

  • Every logged in author of a comment will get the image they setup.  The default will be a big question mark that you see on the right.
  • Once you’re logged in, go to “My Profile” and pick an image to upload.  Please keep it smaller than 60×60.
  • Unregistered users will not have an image.
  • I will be modifying Comment Count to lookup your e-mail address in the user table and from there show your image.  You’ll get the question mark if I can’t find you there (motivation to get registered).

The other benefits of registering is that you’ll be able to get e-mails telling you about what’s going on that week on the site, personal insights, ability to contribute guest posts, and now your image.

Don’t worry– if you need help with an image, I’ll still resize and crop it and even upload it for you.  The big question is, should I just register all of you that I’ve already done images for, or should I have you register on your own?

Who’s the Target?

July 25th, 2007 Viewed 1721 times
This entry is part 2 of 4 in the series VBS in the 21st Century

One of the biggest questions we must answer when it comes to Vacation Bible School is who the target audience is.  There are two audiences that always vie for attention in the Christian church– the churched and the unchurched.  The one that you’re targeting makes all the difference in your approach.

Targeting the Unchurched Child

This target has many advantages.  They don’t know most of the Bible stories, so everything’s fresh and new.  They have interesting questions that churched children may already have the answers to or may never thought of.  They may be looking for answers.  They may be lost and in need of a Savior.  They’re not going to a church, so they could join your church.

In this setting, it’s important to have simple Bible Stories that focus on sin and forgiveness.  You don’t need to dwell on the Hebrew and Greek.  Your goal is simply to show them their need for a Savior and pray that the Holy Spirit does His work and they come to a saving knowledge of Christ.

Targeting the Churched Child

The churched child is a different ball game.  They know all the Bible stories and can probably tell you parts that you didn’t even remember.  They are familiar with all the leaders, and don’t have a problem “spoiling” the climatic ending.  They generally have already expressed faith in Christ for salvation, and therefore do not benefit as much from the reminders of their faith.

Here I believe that the biggest benefit to them would be in learning life application lessons– or even better, that they would learn how to study the Word of God themselves.  Too many Sunday School classes and other places where they hear about God’s Word are focused on the stories, but not how to draw life lessons out of it.  These children need to be equipped to be reaching their peers.  They could be a valuable aid to reaching the lost, but they don’t need to hear the salvation message again.

Mixed Targets

If you have a mixed audience you have to choose your topics carefully, or offer separate classes.  What you will need to do is always have a strong salvation message, but offer life application messages as well.  You may also need to incorporate some discipleship training into your presentation so that everyone can learn to read from the Bible.

What’s the target of your church’s VBS?  How well do you think your church does in reaching the target?

Is Vacation Bible School Relevant?

July 24th, 2007 Viewed 1564 times, 1 so far today
This entry is part 1 of 4 in the series VBS in the 21st Century

This whole week I will be helping out my parents with their church’s Vacation Bible School.  VBS is an interesting, yearly event specifically because I’m not sure exactly what role it has in the modern church.

At one point in time VBS was a time for children to be able to get Bible education during the summer.  It was held during the day and could even last for up to two weeks.

It was also during the time of the big tent meetings, of prayer in schools, and a general acceptance of God.  It was an outreach of a church, and it gave everyone a chance to hear Bible stories.

The current incarnation of VBS (at least those that I’ve been involved with) is different.

  • It reaches primarily those that already know– why should you go to VBS at a church if you’re not religious?
  • It reaches kids from like minded churches– it does not seem to be reaching new people, but parents who shuffle their kids from place to place to be entertained.
  • It does not have good follow-up for those new people that come.
  • Since it has an audience of mostly churched children, it is too elementary in the faith to actually promote growth.
  • It’s become almost formula, with multiple different “vendors” creating material in multiple different formats (same lesson through out the week vs. different lesson every night).

So, let’s not just talk about VBS and what it has become, but let’s discuss some of the challenges of the modern VBS, and take this week where I’m working at a VBS to suggest ways that our churches could do it better.

MInTheGap

Standing in the Gap in a Society that's Warring with God.