Teachable Moments

The Real Work of Thanksgiving Preparation

Dear Friends – Here’s an early Thanksgiving treat for all of you.  I am going to introduce to you a guest blogger – Pastor Brian Smith (yep, it’s no coincidence that we have the same last name).  When my husband and I were discussing this upcoming Thanksgiving, he generously shared with me his latest bible study in preparation for this holiday.  It blessed me – may you be blessed as well!

Do you want to have a great Thanksgiving this year?  

Let’s not settle for a superficial thanksgiving. I am struck by how offended our God is with a thankless heart. The book of Romans starts with the warning that the wrath of God is being revealed. Why? “For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking…” (Romans 1:21). The natural response to having life and breath, food, clothes, and a family (and for the Christian, salvation, a church family, and the security of salvation) is to give thanks. 

Paul tells us that if we are not thankful there is something drastically wrong. Our thinking has become futile. The Holman translation puts it this way, “their thinking became nonsense.” The grumbling person is not in their right mind. The tragedy is that they think their thinking is just fine. Like the man who thinks he is the king of Mars others see his nonsense, but he sees his every thought as self-confirming of his kingship. 

The tragedy is that the thankless person can’t be reasoned into thankfulness. His reasoning is broken. What the thankless person needs is not to be reasoned into “having a better attitude”, but to repent of a heart set in rebellion against his Creator. Anything less is dressing the wound lightly (Jer 6:14) by working up some sentimental feeling of thankfulness. 

The secret to having a thankful heart is the opposite of what most people think. It is to repent of our rebellion. Cry out for a renewed heart. Long to be truly thankful for life, breath, health, family, our own green grass, the forgiveness of sin, the gift of a church family, the joy of music, and the promises in the Word of God. The problem with the thankless person is not with everyone else, it is within. It is ultimately with our Creator. The solution is not to complain, or to run to greener grass, or to be reasoned with; the solution is heart surgery. If you want a great Thanksgiving, will you turn off the media, find a quiet place, and take as long as it takes to pray this prayer, honestly, from the heart? 

Psalms 51:1 Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions.  2 Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin! 3 For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. 4  Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgment.  5 Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me. 6 Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being, and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart.  7 Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.  8 Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones that you have broken rejoice.  9 Hide your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities.  10 Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.  11 Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me.  12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit.  13 Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will return to you.  14 Deliver me from blood guiltiness, O God, O God of my salvation, and my tongue will sing aloud of your righteousness.  15  O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise.  16 For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it; you will not be pleased with a burnt offering.  17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise. 

Have a Happy Thanksgiving!

Pastor Brian

Friends – are you encouraged and challenged? I hope so.  May this year as we celebrate this Thanksgiving, no matter where or how, may we be thankful to the God who provides so well for us eternally.

Blessings and Warmest Thanksgiving Blessings – Elizabeth

Teachable Moments

Raising School Age Kids Who Thirst After Jesus

I wrote a book and I thought I’d give you a “foretaste” of what is in it.  It’s called, God Never Changes, But My Family Always Does, and you can buy it on Amazon. I hope you enjoy reading it if you do.  I love how I got the privilege of really thinking through what it means to disciple our kids to become God-worshippers throughout their childhood and adolescence.

Each life stage of a child is examined through a theological lens and then, practically worked out in everyday moments of family life.  Today, I’d like to look at our Elementary Age Kids – also known as the School Age or Middle Childhood years. These children are ages 6 – 10 years old.

I suggest we consider this:

“God is present with us, engaging with us on an intimate, emotional level.  God is also truthful…He never lies. This understanding of God along with a strong theology of work, offers a firm foundation for parents who are navigating the school age years (ages 6-10) in which children derive their future identity, purpose and faith.” (Smith, CH 4)

What theology is most pertinent to this life stage?

  • Work – God gives work to us as a divine responsibility and can show our faith in Him through our attitudes, behavior and work relationships.  The amount of work kids do at this life stage increases rapidly and exponentially.
  • Truth – God is the author of all that is true.  Children are learning more and more and as they think critically, have to decide what is true and what is false at this stage.
  • Emotions – God is an emotional God and we learn about our emotions and how to handle them as we study His Word.  Children’s emotions become increasingly more complex in this life stage.

What key things should we know about School Age Kids (6-10 year olds)?

  • BODY – these children form habits physically that they will carry with them for years to come
  • MIND – learning to read, developing critical thinking skills, and showing a preference for a particular learning style emerge
  • HEART – taking on more personal responsibility, growing in their self-efficacy, and developing their self-concept and self-esteem all influence their family relationships and friends
  • SOUL – discovering Bible facts, asking lots of questions about God and doctrine, and discerning where they stand in their relationship with Jesus are key faith formation issues

How does our theology direct how we interact with our kids on a day-to-day basis?

  • WORK:  School for children is the work of middle childhood.  Learning to read is one of their biggest tasks and making the most of their literacy skills helps ground them in God’s Word.  How can we help develop a biblical worldview of work for our child as they learn to read and get their homework done?
    • Monitor your attitude toward your own job.  If you complain about work, you might expect them to complain about school.
    • Develop conscientious work habits; we are to do everything we do with excellence (Colossians 3:23) as we work for the Lord.  Everything we do should glorify God – our attitudes and our actions in work (1 Cor. 10:31). Do children see that working hard at their schoolwork is a way they can glorify God.
    • Remember:  work isn’t just getting something done.  It is the divine venue God gives us to be a model for the world of what it looks like to serve and love God faithfully.  Discuss this with your child and model it with your life.
  • TRUTH:  As children develop their critical thinking skills, they will be trying to decide what truth is and where they find it.  How can we help children know what is true and where to find truth?
    • “God can never lie and therefore, we can trust God Himself and His word.  We can trust God’s will, promises and law. All that God reveals is true.” (Smith, CH 4)  Discuss what truth is and where it comes from so children know that God is the one they should turn to in order to understand their world and how to live within it.
    • “We do not set ourselves apart from the world because we are in fear of it, but rather we set ourselves apart in how we understand our world because of what we know about God.”  How does using scripture as a lens change how you see your everyday life and global events?  Discuss this with your child.
  • EMOTIONS:  Children learn to identify more complex emotions and feel more deeply as they grow older.  How can we help develop our child’s self-awareness about what they feel and how to manage their emotions wisely?
    • “God isn’t shy about expressing how He feels toward His creation.  God is always completely involved and is transparent with His feelings, expressing them appropriately and effectively.  God is many things, but He is never indifferent.” How does knowing that – we have emotions because we are made after the likeness of God and He has emotions – influence how we look at our emotions and how we handle them?
    • “God will never sin (impeccability) due to His emotions and is not tempted to be anyone other than who He is.”  Consider how your emotions tempt you away from being faithful in living a God-worshipping life and turn to God in prayer, asking Him for His Spirit-given self-control (Galatians 5:22-23).  Show your child we run to God with all that we are feeling.

Dear reader, let’s keep an eternal perspective while interacting with our children.  Realize that the ultimate goal is for our children to know and love God with all their heart, soul, mind and strength; don’t get too caught up in the hustle and bustle of raising school age kids that you miss the everyday Teachable Moments.  

May each of us be constantly redirecting our focus toward God and living a life that demonstrates what it means to worship Him moment by moment.  May our children notice and come to love Him too.

Blessings to each of you dear friends – thanks for reading!  Elizabeth

PS – This blog post is in honor of my dear friend, Dr. Mary Martin, who is following the call of God in her life by taking a new job.  While we may not be on the same faculty anymore, I have been blessed to work with you in the Elementary Education Major at Moody Bible Institute.  May God bless the work of your hands as you spread His truth by helping teachers and children love the Lord their God with all their heart, soul, mind and strength.  I miss you already, Mary. Love Always!