Wednesday, August 27, 2008

I am the Lord's!

This past Sunday, after a year of special preparation, five teen-aged young ladies professed their faith publicly at Sycamore Reformed Presbyterian Church. Centering my preaching on Isaiah 44:3-5, where God promises the outpouring of His Spirit upon the children of believers, I reminded the congregation that what we were witnessing in these covenant youth was a powerful working of God. Though these young ladies have grown up in nurturing homes, my theme was that "the church needs to learn to anticipate and celebrate in the protective salvation of covenant youth in the same way it rejoices over a dramatic conversion." These young people were not justified by their family nor by their age. Rather, they have been justified by faith in Christ as the Spirit of God has worked in their lives according to His promises.

Because young people growing up in the church often have difficulty expressing their testimony, as the "normal" testimony paradigm is of a dramatic conversion, we have put together a "Covenant Child Testimony" worksheet to help them. Through interviewing their parents and looking at God's work through generations, it is designed to help them identify God's active influences in their own lives. We were greatly blessed hearing the testimonies of the five ladies who worked through this. I thought I would share below this worksheet in the hope it might encourage others.

in the name of the Triune God we baptized these young ladies years ago as infants of believers, God was placing His name on them. In essence, God was saying, "You belong to me. I have put you in a Christian home and in the church. Thus, you are to walk in the way of your parents and inherit the blessings of My kingdom. You are to grow up and one day call upon Me. You are not to view Me as only the God of your parents, but as your Lord and God." That is what we witnessed Sunday. These young ladies were speaking from their hearts the words found in Isaiah, "I am the Lord's!"

How exciting is that! Centuries-old prophecy fulfilled right before our eyes!

COVENANT CHILD TESTIMONY (For those whom Christ placed in a Christian home)

Introduction to a covenant testimony. If you were brought up in a faithful Christian family, you may not remember the exact time of your conversion. You may even think that your testimony is “not as exciting” as one who was dramatically converted out of a godless lifestyle. Yet remember that God was working in your life even before you were born. As He tells us in Deuteronomy 10:15, “Yet on your fathers did the LORD set His affection to love them, and He chose their descendants after them, even you above all peoples, as it is this day.”

Interview of Parents. The Scripture above from Deuteronomy reminds us that God can and does work through families and generations. Talking to your parents can help you to prepare a faithful testimony of God’s work in your life. Set up an interview with your parents and ask them the following questions:

1. Briefly explain how you became a Christian.

2. What evidence are you aware of that God was working in the generations of our family before us?

3. Have you seen evidence that Jesus Christ has saved me from my sin? What do you see?

4. What are some definitive moments in my life when you have seen me learn to trust Christ and walk with Him?

5. Do you think I am ready for the responsibility of coming to the Lord’s Table? Why?

Personal Review of Your Life. Now jot down things that come to mind with regard to these subjects:

1. Memories you have of the Christian training in your home (“We had family worship every night,” “We saw the Lord answer our prayers,” “We memorized Scriptures”).

2. Struggles with sin that Christ is helping you overcome, particularly ways you have seen yourself become less self-centered and more Christ-centered.

3. Significant verses that God has used in your life.

Writing of your testimony. Using the ideas gathered above, write out your story in such a way that a listener could understand how God saved you and what it means to believe. Try to keep this story around 5 minutes in length. Put in details that help aid the story, but avoid too many details that clutter it up.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Rolling in the Light

A blogger's inner musings:

What about reviewing some of the great books I've been reading - Rutherford's Letters, Keller's The Reason of God, Owen on sin, etc.? Naw, certainly someone else has done it better - just use them in preaching. Hey, what about false unity at the Olympics? Ministry of the youth? Intern outtakes (catchy name but might make Bill and Jason mad)? Nope. Nope. Nope. Maybe another time (especially the one on interns). Could write about my final breakfast with Lindsay before college. No, too personal. But her lifting her iced coffee to her mouth and sucking her spoon thinking it was a straw sure was funny. Hey! There's an idea! Funny things this summer...
Last week I visited Bill Scott, a member of our church who is now a double amputee, at the nursing home where he lives. After nearly dying twice earlier this year, the Lord has amazingly raised him up. Bill was in good health and spirits, and is looking forward to his 70th birthday next month. It was a glorious, unseasonably cool August day, and as we visited Bill was sitting in his wheelchair as I reclined on a bench out in front. As we were reading and discussing from I John 1:5-10, a lady visiting her mother walked by who obviously knew Bill. Overhearing our conversation, she paused in front of us and asked, "Bill, are you walking in the light?" Bill paused for a moment, then said, "Naw. I'm rolling in the light."

A few weeks ago Trevor and I were in the neighborhood by the church handing out flyers for an upcoming event. He was on one side of the street and I on the other. As Trevor approached a rather rough-looking group of young men on a front porch, he was too pre-occupied about what he was going to say to the guy in front of him to notice exactly what that wrapping was around his neck. Suddenly it lifted its head and hissed in his face. Trevor realized he was nose-to-snout with a boa! He took a step back and then finished his invite like a man. As he related this to me later, he said, "When I first walked up, I thought it was too warm for him to be wearing a scarf."
While tending a booth for Sycamore Covenant Academy (see our new website!) at the local home school opening fair, I was glad to see again the physical therapist who had worked on my knee after ACL surgery years ago (when a guy massages your knee for weeks on end, you tend not to forget him nor he you). After a bit, he said, "You know why I remember you so well, don't you?" Thinking he was about to recall some spiritual insight I had given him in our many conversations or at least how well I had done in therapy, I responded humbly yet expectantly, "No. What?" He asked, "Do you recall that one time I lifted your foot in the air to test your flexibility, put your leg back down, then asked if you had a dog?" He remembered me by what he had found on the bottom of my shoe.
Want some guaranteed giggles? Go to the local pet store, buy an American chameleon (an anole) for five or six bucks, and give it to your nearest five year-old girl. I actually got two, one for Celia and one for Spencer. They dubbbed them "Spiffy and Spoofy," avoiding the more prophetic-type names like "Squishy." This morning I left with her giving me my customary hug, she laughing in delight as on one hand was Spoofy and on the other was Spiffy (don't ask me how she tells them apart, but she does). Receiving lizard hugs, hearing her constant commentary as we catch crickets and flies for them out back, and receiving reports when I come home from work makes me shake my head in wonder at how God can give so much pleasure to one of His little ones through one of His little "creeping things" (Genesis 1:25). Yet I guess I should not be surprised. If we are to marvel at these little creature's wisdom in getting into king's palaces (Proverbs 30:28), should I really be that surprised at the uninhibited wonder she has in what the God of wisdom has created?
A blogger's final musing:
Hmm. I hope laughing at these things out loud on a blog is not too unbecoming for a pastor. But am I not like that lizard in her hand - small on the earth, yet in the palace of the King? Is not this whole creation for us to delight in? And am I not like a little child by a daddy's side? Does He not find delight in us as we learn to wonder in Him? Surely those who read will understand that, won't they?

Sunday, August 03, 2008

On Our Twenty-Third Anniversary

To my beloved wife,
For in you I see

Our blissful union,
What sweet communion!
God’s fragrant rose of Sharon to me,
My lily in life’s valleys,
Your love is better than wine.
For in you I see no other could be mine,
In you I know a love where hearts twine.

The Blessed Union,
O what fierce Communion!
God’s King over His bride,
Our Lion strong made the Lamb slain,
Your love is stronger than death.
For in You we see the enemy slain by mere breath,
In You we know love without width, height or depth.