Church, do we despise the children?

tilt shift lens photography of woman wearing red sweater and white skirt while holding a boy wearing white and black crew neck shirt and blue denim short
Photo by Nicholas Githiri on Pexels.com

Kids are rowdy, they knock over our shiny religious teacups filled with anger, impatience and selfishness. But their rowdiness is no excuse for our complacency. Protecting our whitewashed lives is not what God has called us to.

When my boys were little I felt the tension between what I wanted to do with my days and what I was actually doing.  Tending to my screaming toddler, appologizing to the parent of the child my child just bit and disciplining my child what felt like a thousand times a day was not in my plans.  When your kids are little the days are full of unseen tasks that help them stay healthy, precious moments of firsts and tender affection. As Christians, we set out with creative ideas and plans to do what can feel like futile attempts to model loving Jesus and teaching them to say his name.

When your kids are older the days are packed with resolving conflict, long talks, hours of pleading in prayer, and casting vision for what you see God doing in their life. At this age you attend concerts that sound similar to nails scratching a chalkboard, but clap like it’s a professional orchestra. You attend baseketball games yelling, “Get your hands up! Get down by the hoop! Good try!” And all the challenging days of raising kids can feel they are keeping you from your real life. But as my pastor Jason Vance says to parents, spending all day working out problems with your kids is your real life.

Among parents and grandparents and non-parents in the church I see the same disillusion about kids.  We tend to think of kids in the church as the people someone else will teach. Some of us think we’re too old, or not good with kids. Some of us think we’re too young and don’t know what to do with kids. Some of us find kids too annoying. Some of us find kids exhausting. But God has not called his people in the church to look at the coming generation and hope someone else is teaching them.

Jesus said we should not “despise” the little ones among us (Matthew 18:10).  Despising children is a real problem in the church. It’s easy to say we are pro-life, but refuse to lower ourselves to goldfish, fruit snacks, snotty noses, crying toddlers and telling stories on the floor about the God who made those rowdy kids in his image and sent his Son to lay down his life for their sins so they could be with him forever!

Not everyone is going to bear or adopt children. But all of us are called to pass on the message of the gospel to the generation coming up behind us. There are exceptions of people who should not work with children due to criminal convictions, or cannot work with children due to disability or injury. But for most of us, our excuses for not teaching the next generation of kids in the church the gospel fall short. In reality we despise how children expose our pride and selfishness.

Just as we are facing a tsunami of elderly folks who need the humble-service of gospel bearing lives, we are also facing a generation of children who unless we teach them, will grow up not knowing the ways and delivering work of our God in Christ.

In the book of Deuteronomy, Moses commands the older generation in Israel to teach the younger generation what God has done, delivering them from slavery in Egypt. He tells them, “Hey you guys, God is telling you all to do all these things and let all He has done for you be on your heart because you’ve seen what he has done for you. But the generation after you hasn’t. So do what I’m telling you to do! And talk to the kids in your everyday life about all God has done” (My paraphrase of Deuteronomy 11).

But in Judges 2:10, after Moses and Joshua are dead and gone, it says, “And there arose another generation after them who did not know the Lord or the work that he had done for Israel.” Israel had despised the children. They failed to let what God had done be on their hearts, and they failed to tell the kids among them what God had for them. Oh that we, the church in 2019 would not be guilty of raising a generation we despised, who don’t know the work the Lord has done for us!

Welcoming children in Jesus’ name, teaching them the gospel of Christ is a picture of the position of humility from which we enter the kingdom of heaven- like a little child, wide-eyed and rowdy, needing discipline and self-sacrificing love. We need to get down on the ground with the kids and remember the faithfulness of God to bear with us daily, like a grown up giving up his or her days to love and train a child in the ways of Jesus.

“At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me,

“See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven.”
‭‭Matthew‬ ‭18:1-5, 10‬ ‭

The best thing you can give away

I was thinking today about a time not so long ago when I was blogging like a mad-woman.  I’d read a passage of the Bible and my mind would go into a storm of thought and inspiration and I’d have to share it.  I had to.

I remember at the time feeling like I didn’t have a real “gift” or “talent” that I could use.  I’d think ridiculous thoughts like, “People paint, they write books, they make crafts, they excel in sports… and what do I do?  Write Bible-inspired blog posts?  Not exactly something you can wrap up and send as a gift.”  I embraced it though and thoroughly enjoyed the joy of knowing my God more and more as I would read my Bible.  I came to love knowing that I was given a non-tangible gift of encouraging others in truth.

Then came some really hard times.  And I backed off the blog because I really didn’t know what to write.  I’d read my Bible and weep, not write.  That season of overwhelming inspiration was gone.  A new season of walking through the valley of the shadow had come.  And all I could do was walk. Not talk. Not share. Not edit. Not even meditate.  All I could do was put one faith-foot in front of the other and keep walking my way through the scriptures and cling to the rocks of truth that promised me I wasn’t abandoned.

That dark season has passed, and the prolific writing seems to have gone with it.  I miss it.  Not so much the writing but the hearing of truths that shook me and bubbled out of me and were constantly on my mind.  People have been so encouraging about the soap-making that I’ve embarked on.  I’m really glad they like it.  I like making something tangible that is a blessing to someone else.  But I look back on the days when all I could give was an encouraging word and I realize what a gift that is, not only for the recipient, but for the giver.  It really is more blessed to give than receive.  And the word fitly spoken really is like apples of gold in a setting of silver.

Nothing is more satisfying to my soul than hearing the Living God speak through the words he’s preserved for millennia.  And when you can give that away… it’s just the best.

My friend and pastor is leaving for Costa Rica tomorrow to give away the best gift ever!  Those folks are so blessed.


Quieted,
Sheila

Momma-Preacher: Meditations on Deuteronomy 6 and 11

“You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words I command you today shall be on your heart.” Deuteronomy 6:5-6

Therefore you shall love the LORD your God, and keep His charge, His statutes, His judgments, and His commandments always. Know today that [I do] not [speak] with your children, who have not known and who have not seen the chastening of the LORD your God, His greatness and His mighty hand and His outstretched arm…what He did for you in the wilderness until you came to this place…but your eyes have seen every great act of the LORD which He did… Therefore you shall keep every commandment which I command you today…Therefore you shall lay up these words of mine in your heart and in your soul, and bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes…You shall teach them to your children, speaking of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. – Deuteronomy 11:1-2,5,7,8,18-19

Every night I tuck them in bed after hurried mornings in a divided house; away all day eye-ball deep in  the damaging effects of sin on and in our children, while they are in someone else’s care and under someone else’s teaching in this Egypt I live.

And when I read to them from the scriptures, or talk to them about a spiritual truth, or unpack to them some more of the nature of God as revealed in Christ and proclaim the gospel to them like the momma-preacher I sometimes become and they have a glazed over look in their eyes, and they sigh and start fidgeting around, and interrupt, and are obviously not captivated with what I am pouring my heart out to impress upon them, I remember Deuteronomy 6 and 11.  And I am renewed in faith and spurred on to remember its my being in love with God, and his words being on my heart, and because I have “seen”the chastening of the LORD in my own life and have experienced his work in my life, I am the one who’s going to be passionate and motivated in love and obedience to the One who has captivated me with His great love… not my children.

Not yet anyway.

That doesn’t mean they won’t be captivated one day themselves.  I pray they will.  I trust they will.

But for now, for now with a heart on fire and hands that serve them and a life laid down to nurture and teach them, I talk with them about this great God, who I love, and about his ways- which are wonderful and always good- and His amazing story and how he redeems and their only hope.  I talk with them when we’re doing our everyday stuff and when I get 5 minutes to tuck them in at night.  And I entrust the seed to the One who gives it life and who promised it will accomplish the purpose for which he sent it out of this momma’s mouth.

 Quieted,
Sheila

Will it work?

Artyom Sidorkin of Russia, who went into surgery this week for what doctors believed was a large, malignant lung tumor. Doctors found and removed a 3-inch-tall fir tree growing in his lung. “I thought I was hallucinating,” said the surgeon, who thinks Sidorkin must have inhaled a seed. -from The Week Magazine

I heard this story at the end of a message delivered from one of my favorite Bible teachers, Jon Courson. His message was JUST what I needed to hear today. I had it playing in the background while I was putting away laundry and working on a little preschool project with my 4 year old son.

My heart has been so discouraged lately with all the opposition I face due to my own past choices, my current circumstances, the unbelief of those around me and my own lack of believing. I’ve been downcast because I’ve doubted that the seeds of truth (God’s word) that I’m trying to plant in my sons, and live out in my life, are really going to take root and grow into a mature tree that produces righteous fruit.

I’ve looked at my marriage situation and thought, “My sons will never receive this from a mommy. They need a dad. A man who raises his voice in worship. A man who leads them into service. A man who prayers over them and with them.” I’ve looked at the response I’ve gotten from my oldest son… the eye rolling, the sighs, the “Not this again mom!” The, “Is this a GOD book mom? UHHHHH!” The, “Only mommies and girls go to church mom! Not daddies and boys.” The, “I don’t believe you mom!” With the backdrop to all those statements being non-stop excited talk about Star Wars and this fictional monster, and that make-believe villain, I’ve felt like I’m up against the god of this age. Me. A little housewife who struggles to believe on her own. Who rebelled against God when she was a pure virgin before Him. Who chose this way. I’ve felt like my feeble attempt at teaching my sons the way of the Lord is tasting like dry toast in the midst of all the candy offered them.

But then on this past Sunday the Lord encouraged me. He reminded me that He knew I was tired, discouraged and doubting, but that He was with me. And that I was being His witness here. And that He uses the weak to lead the strong.

Then today I listened to the message from Courson and he talked about how we, as Christians, are witnesses to the people around us not necessarily by leaving tracks on people cars or doors or whatever (not that those don’t have their place if that is something you’re called to), but simply by speaking the truth in every situation. The truth.

Pilot asked, “What is truth?” (John 18:38)

Jesus prayed, “Thy word is truth.” (John 17:17)

In every situation if we answer truthfully, interject what’s right, speak out what God says, we are being His witnesses.

Courson talked about how this will often cause people to despise us because it burns them, even though on our part we do it in love (and we should be sure that we are speaking the truth in love not in spite or reviling). Often speaking the truth in love will cause people to rejoice when we finally leave their town, situation, workplace… life. Often we’ll be rejected, but always God will raise up a remnant of those who will believe because we spoke the truth. We may not always see it, but it will happen.

Courson raised the example of Solomon’s mom. Just the example I needed to hear. He pointed out that Solomon wrote the Proverbs 31 chapter in memory of his mother. Solomon recounts what she taught him in verses 1-9.

The words of King Lemuel, the utterance which his mother taught him: What, my son? And what, son of my womb? And what, son of my vows? Do not give your strength to women, Nor your ways to that which destroys kings. It is not for kings, O Lemuel, It is not for kings to drink wine, Nor for princes intoxicating drink; Lest they drink and forget the law, And pervert the justice of all the afflicted. Give strong drink to him who is perishing, And wine to those who are bitter of heart. Let him drink and forget his poverty, And remember his misery no more. Open your mouth for the speechless, In the cause of all who are appointed to die. Open your mouth, judge righteously, And plead the cause of the poor and needy. – Proverbs 31:1-9 NKJV

There she implores her son not to go the way of the world… sex, drugs and rock n’ roll… etc. She points out he was destined for greatness… to be a king for God, to be a deliverer of the oppressed, poor, women and children. She calls him to rise to that call and not get caught up with immoral women and drunkenness. But as I was listening to Courson’s message, he goes on to say that she probably died not seeing her son become the man she desired him to be… the man she spoke truth to. Nevertheless, in Ecclesiastes we see the wayward Solomon come to realize that all of what he’d gone chasing after was stupid and vain, and that fearing God and obeying His truth is what really matters in life.

Ecclesiastes calls Solomon, “the Preacher.” Solomon’s mom probably died seeing Solomon as a rebellious, worldly man. But the truth she planted in him eventually sprouted up to make him a preacher.

Courson then shared that story about the man with the 3 inch tall fir tree growing in his lungs.

God’s word is an imperishable seed.

For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God. – 1 Peter 1:23 NIV

The Word is planted in our hearts, and in our kids’ hearts when we speak it to them and model it for them, and even though the odds against it growing seem more than that of a fir seed planted in a lung growing, it will grow! It will work!

Let us moms not grow weary in planting truth in our kids and in others God has brought into our lives. God will get what He desires from His implanted Word.

“For as the rain comes down, and the snow from heaven, And do not return there, But water the earth, And make it bring forth and bud, That it may give seed to the sower And bread to the eater, So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; It shall not return to Me void, But it shall accomplish what I please, And it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.” -Isaiah 55:10-11 NKJV

Isaiah 51:3

Learning in silence- A lesson from my haste

For whatever reason, it seems Christmastime (especially last year and this year) is a time when the Spirit really admonishes me- in every sense of the word.

I’ve been looking back, not in a longing way, not in a holding on to the past way, but as though I were an athlete looking at a previous game to learn from my mistakes that I might train myself to not perform them again.

I believe this is a godly sorrow that God is working in me. It’s not fun! It’s not condemning either though. It’s learning to despise my ways and love the Lords. And it’s clinging even more to His mercy and grace.

When I was a teenager I played basketball at my school. I wasn’t very much of a hustler. I was timid and scared of fouling anyone and therefore didn’t make much of an impact on the game for my team, other than rebounding. But in one game, the ball landed in my hands while my team was on offense. I was standing right under our hoop, but I was so excited about my destiny with the ball, convincing myself quickly that I could do this, that I made a terribly embarrassing error. I started dribbling down the court… THE WRONG WAY!!!! I heard all the screams and cheers and thought everyone was cheering for me, and then I made the shot. At that point, as I stood alone with a smile on my face under the opposing team’s basket I began looking around for my teammates to give them high fives. I suddenly realized what I had done when I saw my team hanging their shaking heads, my coach yelling my last name, and the opposing team cheering. I was mortified!!!! Utterly! I loathed myself and wanted to give up basketball forever. (That is a totally true story and one of the most embarrassing moments of my life by the way.)

This is sort of how I’ve felt this past week as the Spirit has “played the video” for me of previous “games” in my life where I’ve made grievous errors in judgement. I’m so glad God is more merciful than my 7th grade basketball coach. But I’m sad, because my sinful ways in life have caused a lot more damage than 2 points in the opposing teams basket.
I wanted to share with you (whoever you are out there in blogland) a sorrow I have from my past choices that has lead to a true turn around (repentance) in my life. I pray you will learn from my experience and not make the same error in your own “game”.

  • I sorrow that I did not learn in silence.

Women should listen and learn quietly and submissively.” 1
Timothy 2:11 NLT

The tendency, when I first hear that verse is to feel defensive and try to explain it away. But after having chosen to not learn in silence, being quick to start “teaching” others what I was so convinced I understood, I realize how shameful my choice was and how wise and right God’s word is.

When I first reunited with my husband I was so excited! For many reasons. One being I was convinced I was going to start some version of a Billy Graham crusade where women would see how much Christ loved and valued them and suddenly WANT to love their husbands in Christ-like, humble love. I had the basketball and I started running with it! Problem is, I was running the wrong way! I ended up sharing online, and with a neighbor friend, and even with a small group at church, what I was convinced was a sure “two-pointer” for our team, but it turned out to be a score for the opposing team.

It wasn’t that what I wanted was wrong. I wanted to score for “my team” (women in the body of Christ). I wanted to encourage other women with the same encouragement I’d received from the Lord. I wanted them to know what God was teaching me, but my running to the wrong hoop lied in the fact that I was still learning. And because I was still the “younger woman”, learning how to apply this revelation of Christ’s love for me in my own life, when I went around “teaching” others I delivered a mixed up message… I didn’t rightly divide the word of truth.

The result was even more humiliating and more damaging than scoring for the wrong team. I’ve had to go back and confess that I was wrong to the women I’ve talked with, and even one of their husband’s (with the wife present). I’ve grieved much over them because in my haste I misrepresented God’s word to them. I’ve given the enemy fuel for the accusing and have been stuck in a mire of pity and discouragement, and much more, all as a result of not learning in silence.

The call to the sidelines in the months which followed that first year or two of running to the wrong hoop (not learning in silence) was even harder than it was for me in 7th grade. God humbled me and I didn’t want to “play” anymore! But this past year He’s been teaching me the importance of having a godly sorrow that leads to turning around, not a worldly sorrow that leads to giving up (death). God doesn’t want me to stay sorrowful and stop running the race set before me (Hebrews 12:1). He wants me to receive with meekness what He teaches me in His word and let be implanted in me for true growth.

Therefore lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. – James 1:21

So this week as I was reflecting on this bad play from my past I thought, “Your Word is so good Lord! There’s nothing at all to be despised about 1 Timothy 2:11. It’s a rule of Your game of faith that will save many women from running to the wrong basket.”

Oh, how I wish I had of been more like Mary in the days, weeks and years following the miraculous intervention of God in my life. I wish I had just treasured up all the things God was doing and speaking to me, pondering them in my heart… learning in silence.

There’s a time to learn in silence and there’s a time to teach good things. But I would be wise to be sure I’ve learned before I teach.

So how do I know if I’ve learned something so that I might go teach it to another woman as God would have me?

Here are some questions I’m asking myself now:

  • Am I still learning?
  • Do I still have questions?
  • Has this topic gone from “taking it in” to “fleshing it out” in my life or am I still just taking it in?
  • Is what I think I’ve learned clearly in the Word?
  • Do other godly women and accurate teachers of God’s Word I know confirm the things I’ve learned in their teaching of the Word?

It’s SOOOOO important to stick close to the Word!

When God says “learn in silence” He’s not saying, “Don’t talk to anyone.” He’s saying take time to learn, and while you’re learning, keep quiet about it. He also says, “Older women be teachers of good things,” and then He even goes on to list those good things very clearly.

God does want us to “teach” other women in our lives, for we are “older” than someone in the Lord, and we are “younger” than someone too. But if we stray from the simple power of God’s word and add in a lot of our own thoughts (which I have done), sin is not absent.

In the multitude of words sin is not lacking, But he who restrains his
lips is wise.
– Proverbs 10:19

The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul; The testimony of
the Lord is sure, making wise the simple; The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; The commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes; The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever; The judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, Yea, than much fine gold; Sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb. Moreover by them Your servant is warned, And in keeping them there is great reward.
– Psalm 19:7-11

As I look back on my own mistakes I wish I had of made a few “passes” instead of running down the court with the ball. In other words, I wish I had of gotten together with another Biblical “older” woman in my life and discussed the things I was learning and then just prayerfully waited for who I should share it with.

Where there is no counsel, the people fall; But in the multitude of
counselors there is safety.
-Proverbs 11:14

None of us in our “learning” ever fully arrive at attaining what we’ve learned. Even Paul said,

Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press
on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me
.” -Phil.3:12

And we know that the Lord wants us to teach others what He teaches us:

Whatever I tell you in the dark, speak in the light; and what you hear in the ear, preach on the housetops. -Matthew 10:27

Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in
the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.
-Matthew 28:20

…the older women likewise, that they be reverent in behavior, not
slanderers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things– that they
admonish the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be discreet, chaste, homemakers, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be blasphemed. –
Titus 2:3-5

Yet there is clearly a time for quietly learning and waiting, receiving the implanted Word meekly, and letting it mature into seen fruitfulness in our own lives before we set out to teach it to others.

I am convinced, after my own sin in this, that there is a need to stop and truly spend time waiting on the Lord when He’s doing or has done something in our lives that we’re eager to share. I’m so quick to want to share with others what I’m learning, but there’s something to be said for just treasuring up what I’m learning, so that a day may come when I can effectively teach it to others.

Here I am, blogging about learning in silence. May seem to be a bit of a contradiction. And truly, the fact that I’ve set out to share my life and God’s Word on this blog should cause me to pause and check myself to be sure what I’m sharing is accurately God’s word. There’s a healthy tension God would have me press forward in. God does not want me to give up teaching good things- teaching the things He’s taught me, teaching His word accurately- but He wants me to restrain my teaching with silence while I’m learning. In this way I might go forward not like a wild horse, but like a trained and reigned in one.

To help me submit to those reigns gladly, yet move forward in the direction my Master would guide me, I’ve decided to embed these scriptures to the top of each of the posts I go to create. I want to be sure what I share here is clearly and accurately spoken by the Spirit in the scriptures and submitted to in my own life:

Dear brothers and sisters, not many of you should become
teachers in the church, for we who teach will be judged by God with greater strictness.
James 3:1 (NLT)

Women should listen and learn quietly and submissively.
1 Timothy 2:11 (NLT)

But as for you, promote the kind of living that reflects right teaching… live in a way that is appropriate for someone serving the Lord. They must not go around speaking evil of others and must not be heavy drinkers. Instead, they should teach others what is good. These older women must train the younger women to love their husbands and their children, to live wisely and be pure, to take care of their homes, to do good, and to be submissive to their husbands. Then they will not bring shame on the word of God.
Titus 2:1, 3-5 (NLT)

Oh Father, You’ve been so patient with me. I’ve despised Your discipline and pouted for a long time. I haven’t received Your chastisements as a loving Father dealing with His wayward daughter. Thank You for being patient to let me see that it is good that You deal with me so. Please set a guard over my lips, and fingers (for typing), that I might be restrained with silence while I’m learning something You want to teach me. And let me press forward in sharing Your word accurately. I know it begins in my own heart. This is my prayer:

Who can understand his errors? Cleanse me from secret faults. Keep back Your servant also from presumptuous sins; Let them not have dominion over me. Then I shall be blameless, And I shall be innocent of great transgression. Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart Be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my strength and my Redeemer. -Psalm 19:12-14

* Related: A Great Devotion from Elizabeth Elliot on Observation in Silence

Redeeming the time