February 04, 2016

5 Comments


Growing a Servant's Heart in My Child

Growing a Servant's Heart in My ChildHow would you define being kind?

Lately, my husband and I have been trying to teach our 3 year old to "be kind". I so desperately want him to be kind to others, kind to his baby sister, and kind to the family pet! It is definitely a struggle for him to be intentional and actually remember to be kind in each situation. When I was trying to explain kindness and tell him what it means, the first word that came to mind was "nice". But kindness is so much more than just being nice. I found it a little difficult to define the word in a way that a three year old would comprehend. That is when I realized kindness is an action word. By demonstrating kindness, not only do you see the effect, but it also presents the condition of someone's heart. 

Ultimately, I hope that my little 3 year old will grow a servant's heart. A heart that truly cares for others, is sacrificial, and above all humble. This is what kindness embodies. So how do you grow a servant's heart? Well of course with a lot of prayer, asking the Lord to encourage this each day in your little one's heart. But I really think it starts with that action word...kindness. 

So all I need to do is model "being nice" and they'll get it, right? I think it first begins with the basics of our words and attitude. How do we respond in a situation? Is our first reaction frustration or anger? Are we negative around our children to the point that they start becoming negative themselves? This has been a huge lesson for myself as I have realized that little eyes and ears are always watching and listening!

 "Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with a heart of mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience,... Colossians 3:12

 What better way to celebrate Valentine's day this year instead of focusing on the candy, flowers and the hype, focusing on the heart!

 

 Lisa Joens is the Associate Producer at Theo Presents. She and her husband Brandon work along side each other on the Theo Productions. She is also a mom to two wonderful little kiddos.

January 21, 2016

5 Comments


3 ways to teach your child the Bible

Boy Reading the Bible

Teaching our children the Bible can be challenging in today’s busy world. Work schedules, long commutes, television, Internet, video games, iPhones, all compete for our time. But teach them we must. Children are a gift from the Lord, and if we wish to love our children as God would have us love them, then we must do it. Let me share three ways that we can teach our children about God.

Natural Revelation

Natural Revelation describes how God has revealed Himself through creation. Did you know that whenever we step outside, night or day, we are entering God’s classroom? Backyard, city park, or in a nearby forest or beach, it doesn’t matter; God’s fingerprints are visible everywhere.

In the opening verses of Psalm 19 we see that God has revealed quite a bit about Himself through His creation.

The heavens declare the glory of God;
the sky displays his handiwork.
Day after day it speaks out;
night after night it reveals his greatness.

In Romans 1:20, the Apostle Paul agrees:

For since the creation of the world his invisible attributes – his eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, because they are understood through what has been made.

God’s awesome power is revealed in the size of the universe, the myriad stars, the waves of the sea, the crash of thunder and lightning. God’s kindness is manifested in giving us rain and fields to grow food. Who can look at a puppy and not see the great and tender heart of our Creator? Who hasn’t been in awe at the spectrum of colors in a sunset, or marveled at a rainbow arcing over a rain-soaked sky? Yes, indeed, the heavens declare the glory of God’s glory!

I love the outdoors. I love walking through the woods with my binoculars, spotting a western tanager or lazuli bunting. Or pausing beside a stream to hear to the gurgling rush of water.

God made these for our pleasure. They teach us about Himself, if we will look, and listen.

A great way to teach young ones about God is to get them out of the house, away from video games and television, and take them outdoors into His classroom. When you come upon a beautiful flower, or mountain vista, say, “God made this. Isn’t He a big and powerful God?” When you see a colorful bird or butterfly, ask them, “Why do you think God made such beautiful creatures?”

Each pause to observe God’s handiwork can be a teaching moment; each teaching moment can awaken a sense of wonder in a child’s heart. Too often we don’t take time to stop and smell the roses. We should, and we should take our children with us.

Special Revelation

Special Revelation describes God’s written word of Himself to us, His plan of salvation, His Son Jesus. It describes what pleases God, His will for our lives, how we ought to train up our children. We must daily teach our children what the Bible says about God.

These words I am commanding you today must be kept in mind, and you must teach them to your children and speak of them as you sit in your house, as you walk along the road,  as you lie down, and as you get up (Deut 6:6-7).

God tells Moses that parents should be proactive in teaching their children about Himself. When? When we are in our homes, as we walk along the path, as we go to bed, as we wake in the morning. We are to teach them throughout the day.

If we leave the teaching of our children to others then it will be others who will mold their lives, for good or for ill. Some parents may say, but I take my child to Sunday School each week. That’s commendable, but your Sunday School teacher has your child for one hour. There are 167 more hours in the week. Who will teach them if their parents don’t?

Living Epistles

Finally, our lives and lifestyles speak volumes to our children. Regardless of what we say or teach, our daily lives are powerful testimonies of who we are and what we believe. If we tell our children that it is wrong to lie, then we must not lie. If we tell them to love God with all of their hearts, mind and strength, then our lives should reflect such teaching. Our children won’t believe us otherwise. 

You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by everyone, revealing that you are a letter of Christ, delivered by us, written not with ink but by the Spirit of the living God. (Corinthians 3:2-3).

We are living epistles to our children. If our lives are consistent with what we teach they will believe us. If we model Christ’s character they will see Jesus in our lives. This is not to suggest we live sinless lives, but lives that are filled with humility and grace. Our children will see your light and be drawn to Christ because of it. As they mature into adulthood our words will remain a treasure in their hearts that will bless them throughout their lives. So then let us teach our children through the world that God has made, through His special word to us, and through the godly example of our lives.

 

 Originally posted May 6, 2014

January 06, 2016

3 Comments


A New Year

With each new year comes new beginnings, new resolutions, new   hopes, and dreams. But no matter what we forecast our year to look like, the Lord has already planned our days. He knows our steps and our thoughts before we even have the faintest idea. 

"Your eyes saw me when I was inside the womb. All the days ordained for me were recorded in your scroll before one of them came into existence." Psalms 139:16

With each new year I start to think through what the year will bring. Will our family be healthy? Can we go on that big vacation? Are we going to be financially secure? These things the Lord already knows. He has my year planned out perfectly. The only thing I must do, is to trust Him each step of the way.  This of course is easier said than done. But before the scheduling and planning begin in the first week of this new year, it is imperative for me to remember that the Lord is good always. He has always and will always care and provide no matter the circumstance. I can find rest and peace knowing that my God is walking each day of 2016 with me. 

 

 Lisa Joens is the Associate Producer at Theo Presents. She and her husband Brandon work along side each other on the Theo Productions. She is also a mom to two wonderful little kiddos.

September 01, 2015

2 Comments


Icons of the Christian Faith

C.S. Lewis

At an early age, I remember hearing about a man named Billy Graham. My grandmother loved his ministry and would speak of him often. I can remember hearing her talk about how inspiring his sermons were and how his commitment to the Word not only brought so many to Christ, but impacted how people viewed the Christian faith.

In elementary school, I read The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis. This book was different than most books I was assigned to read. It was not only a magical story, but it had a deeper meaning that I hadn’t seen before in other books. There was a line that especially stood out as I read. 

“It’s quite all right. He’ll often drop in. Only you mustn’t press him. He’s wild, you know. Not like a tame lion.

This line is in reference to Aslan who represents Christ throughout the Narnia series. We serve a creator God who is able to use creative people, such as C.S. Lewis, to beautifully paint pictures of His character. The image that that line conjured in my mind when I first read it was enough to stop me dead. God in that moment said,"I AM WILD. I AM NOT TAME. I AM NOT BORING!"

As a young teenager, I came across another author named A.W. Tozer. He wrote about the Christian life in a way that was inspiring and awesome. His descriptions of pursuing God and knowing God were unlike anything I had read before. 

In The Pursuit of God it states: “He is, and none of the limiting and qualifying terms used of creatures can apply to Him. Love and mercy and righteousness are His, and holiness so ineffable that no comparisons or figures will avail to express it. Only fire can give even a remote conception of it. In fire He appeared at the burning bush; in the pillar of fire He dwelt through all the long wilderness journey.” 

God is an all consuming, purifying, uncontrollable FIRE!

Foundations for Faith 

Today, as I look back at these snapshots of my youth, and my experiences with these icons of the Christian world; I see that being exposed to their ideas and theology early helped to form foundations for my own faith. The influences that I took from these men helped to shape my ideas of what it is like to live out a Christian faith. To always remember and put into perspective what Christ did for me on the cross. To love and serve my God with my heart, soul, and mind. 

These men, along with so many other men and women of the past and present, offer such great gifts of wisdom not only to adults but to children. The world is a dark place, and there are so many influences out there that bombard our kids on a daily basis. Looking to Icons like J.I. Packard, Elizabeth Elliot, Charles Spurgeon, Fanny Crosby, to name a few, can teach our kids early about Christianity. God uses these brilliant men and women to create pictures that will inspire our imaginations and forever imprint on our hearts the awesomeness of who He is. They can give our children a sense of what faith and following Christ looks like beyond the church, parents and teachers. 

As a parent myself, I hope to introduce my children to these figures at an early age. It is my hope that through reading and listening to these great men and women, that God would reveal things to their young minds, and allow them to connect to Him on a deeper level. 

 

Which Icon of the Christian faith has inspired you?

 

 

Lisa Joens is the Associate Producer at Theo Presents. She and her husband Brandon work along side each other on the Theo Productions. She is also a mom to two wonderful little kiddos.

August 04, 2015

1 Comment


The Great Omission

Jesus commanded us to go into all the world and make disciples of all nations (Matt 28:19-20). It’s called the Great Commission; there is no greater commission on earth. However, with many churches it is more accurately called the Great Omission. What am I talking about? An omission when it concerns discipling children.

Some Statistics

Statistically, more children come to faith in Christ than adults. In fact, less than one out of four people receive Christ after their 21st birthday. Here are some Barna Group findings:

Nearly half of all Americans who accept Jesus Christ as their savior do so before reaching the age of 13 (43%), and...two out of three born again Christians (64%) made that commitment to Christ before their 18th birthday. One out of eight born again people (13%) made their profession of faith while 18 to 21 years old. Less than one out of every four born again Christians (23%) embraced Christ after their twenty-first birthday. 

Others studies suggest that 80-85% of people who come to Christ do so between the ages of 4 and 14. 

What’s the point of all this?

Given that most Christians come to faith before they are adults, you would think that churches would arrange their budgets accordingly. Not so. The average church spends the bulk of its ministry dollars on adult ministries, leaving a relatively small allowance for children. This is wrong; it’s upside down. It’s majoring in the minors.  

If we truly wish to obey Jesus’ Great Commission, we must, I believe, first consider the children, placing as much or more into discipling them as we do adults. Children are the ones who are the most tender of heart. They are the ones who have not yet been hardened or tainted by the world’s culture. They are the ones who will more readily believe and commit to their lives to the Savior.

Don’t Wait Until They are Prodigals 

Henrietta Mears (1890-1963) was a Christian educator, one of the founders of the National Sunday School Association, and someone who had a profound effect upon modern evangelicalism. Here’s what she said on the subject:

When you look at most churches–their programming, their staff, and their budgets–it appears that children must first become prodigals, then we will go about putting together elaborate programs and events to save them.

What is she saying? Basically, churches neglect discipling children, waiting until they have crashed and burned in their poor choices, before training them up with a knowledge of the Gospel. Again, if we have not won our children to Christ by the time they enter high school, the statistics of them believing later in life plummet drastically. So let us reach out to them when they are tender, not when they are hardened.

Let the Children Come

Jesus said, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these” (Lk 18:6). Moses, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, commanded the Israelites to train up their children when they rose from sleep, as they walked along the way, as they sat at home, and at bedtime (Deut. 6:6-8). In other words, throughout the day! These are very telling Scriptures. They represent the heart of the Lord in both Testaments.    

Therefore, I believe that children are the primary, not secondary, mission field for the Gospel. We ought to be spending our time training up children in the Lord, so that by the time they are adults they are solid in their Christian faith.

A Season for Everything

Solomon said, “For there is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens” (Ecclesiastes 3:1). The greatest season for reaching people for Christ is the season of youth.  

I became a believer when I was twenty. I beat the statistics. Of course this wasn’t my doing but the work of the Holy Spirit drawing me to Jesus. My heart had already hardened toward God by the time I was in high school. It took a lot of bad choices and wandering as a prodigal before my heart was once again tender. I wish I had spent my youth serving the Lord. Such a waste that I hadn’t.

The ministry of Theo is targeted at young ones. Our motto is: Teaching children God’s Word, and how they are to walk in the light of it. We are reaching out to parents, too, of course. Parents are the vital link to faith in a child’s life, they are incubators in which children thrive, grow, and are taught how to walk in the light of God’s Word. It is through parents that the Great Commission finds its greatest harvest.   

In all of this I am not saying that we should minimize adult ministries and evangelism. Adult ministries are important. But we should not have an imbalanced emphasis in our churches or homes, putting our greater efforts into fields of lesser harvest, while neglecting the more fertile field of discipling children. 

It is my prayer and hope that God will advance His kingdom through the ministry of teaching children God’s Word, and how they ought to walk in the light of it. May that be your hope and prayer too.

July 22, 2015

0 Comments


Reaching Our Communities for Christ

Image of Neighbors in the YardSummer is the season when people get outdoors, barbecue hot dogs, take walks in the park, hang out with friends and neighbors, head to the beach, and enjoy the long evenings. What a great time to be missional––to share Christ with people! Sounds fun, doesn’t it? To many it sounds scary.  

Most Christians want to obey Jesus’ Great Commission of sharing the Gospel, but they’re not quite sure how to go about it, or if they’re even qualified to do so. So they leave it to their pastors or Bible teachers. However, if you are a Christ-follower, then you are very qualified. The Holy Spirit dwells within you. He has filled you with His power and given you spiritual gifts to advance the kingdom of heaven. Remember, it’s the Spirit who draws people to the Son, not us; that task is in His capable hands. As ambassadors of the King of kings and Lord of lords, all we have to do is be willing vessels.      

I’ve listed some practical ways we can reach our communities with the Gospel. Choose one or more that fit your spiritual giftedness.

Start a Bible study

My wife and I started a study in 1988 when we moved into a new home in Southern California. The call went out to everyone in the neighborhood. Many came, and friendships were made, many of which have endured. What’s more, the Word of God was faithfully taught, and people were drawn to Christ. It was a study that lasted twenty-two years!

Perhaps you don’t feel qualified to lead a Bible study. That’s okay. Do you know someone who is? Offer your home as the place where people can come and hear the Word of God. Invite your neighbors. If we are missional, God will draw people to His Son.     

Invite your neighbors to a barbecue

Everyone loves to eat. What better way for you and your kids to meet neighbors? Advertise it with signs and balloons, just like a garage sale. Be bold: say a prayer before the meal. This will definitely set the tone for future encounters.   

We have done this with our new neighbors in Oregon. One particular couple we’ve met are not believers, but they had no objection when I asked them if I could pray before our meal. They said “sure.” They now know that we are Christians, and do you know what? We have become friends with them. We don’t beat them over the head with the Bible every time we get together, but we pray over our meals. God may use this one day; who knows?

Be winsome

Far too often Christians are viewed as judgmental spoilsports that are no fun to be around. Jesus was just the opposite. He hung out with sinners––tax collectors, prostitutes, and outcasts from society. People were attracted to His winsomeness. The “salt” in His words and life added flavor to the people with whom He came in contact. We may not live in neighborhoods with prostitutes or IRS agents, but we certainly live in neighborhoods where people are lost, hurting, and lonely. We can be like Jesus to them. That is, we can reveal truth, love, and God’s character in ways that are winsome!

Cathy and I are developing a relationship with a neighbor who comes over to our house to sit on the back deck and shoot the breeze. We talk about everything––fishing, hunting, ranching, irrigation. His dad is having health issues, so I told him that I’d pray for him. “Really?” No three point sermon outlines, but a natural outflow of my faith in Christ. I hope that in time I will be able to share the Gospel with him. 

Be intentional

it’s difficult to meet neighbors if we never go outside. My son told me that when he goes outside to do yard or housework, it’s amazing how his neighbors passing by will stop and talk. Our neighbors are real, flesh and blood humans with needs, hurts, and desires. Know that there is a God-shaped hunger in them that can only be filled with Jesus. Ask God to bring people by with whom you can strike up conversations, perhaps even share your faith. He will.

Be Active

if you live near a park or public playing field, bring a football or frisbee to toss around with your kids. Start a half-court game of basketball with them. Invite others who may be watching to join in the fun; their kids, too. These are great ways to break the ice, lower walls, and begin friendships. Afterwards, invite players to refresh themselves with a cup of lemonade or tea.        

Develop a Para Community

My pastor talks about going to the local Starbucks (he calls it St. Arbucks), and he uses the occasions to strike up conversations with fellow coffee lovers. He sees the same people regularly and has been able to build friendships. He is being salt and light in his para community. You can too.

Sporting events, such as soccer or Little League, are ideal para communities. Everyone at these events has something in common––their team.  Your kids. After the game, invite someone to a pizza place so that you can get to know one another.  Ask God to bring someone to you that you can befriend and allow the light of Christ to shine through. He will.  

Don’t be discouraged

Remember, it’s not important to “close the deal” with everyone you meet. Know that God may be at work with someone and that you are but a single link in a chain that may bring someone to Christ. I’ve been fortunate to lead people to Christ, where I was the last link in the chain. But there have been many more times where I was a link in the middle, or even at the beginning of God’s work in someone’s life.

These are but a few ideas of how our families can be missional this summer. We just need to be willing, prayerful, and bold. God will do the work. Ask Him to help you and your kids share the most amazing gift on earth with someone this summer: eternal life and a wonderful relationship with our God and Savior Jesus Christ! 

July 14, 2015

2 Comments


Holding it all Together

 Contemporary Christian Mom photo by Lisa Joens

My Job

I have one of the greatest jobs on this earth. A job that is tailored exactly for me. One that allows me to reap the best benefits, and rewards. A job that brings much joy and responsibility. It can definitely be challenging, but I am provided with a major support system whenever I need it. So what is this amazing position? Can you guess? 

I'm a mom! 

Many times we hear that being a mom is the most thankless, tireless job there is. No pay with maximum effort. Moms may often feel mis-represented, inadequate, exhausted, or simply just trying to do the best they can to make it through the day. Although this may be true for me at times, I choose to see my job as a mom differently. I see it more as what I first described above: a privilege and an honor. The Lord not only choose me to be a mother, but provided me with the best help. He is there each step of the way, to walk along side me and help me do this job to the best of my abilities. 

Responsibilities 

God has entrusted me with these precious lives to mold and shape. With this comes great responsibility to guide these little ones to seek Him and grow in their knowledge and faith. So how does a mom find the right time for this in the midst of swim lessons, doctor’s appointments, birthday parties, and getting dinner on the table?

Easy…she doesn't. 

But through each day there are little moments that allow for God to shine through in what might seem like just a daily routine or activity. It could be as simple as singing worship music together in the car. Maybe reading a story from the children's Bible before naps. Praying together at bedtime and choosing specific people/things to pray for. Or simply just having a conversation with your child. 

As a mom, I am always looking for ways to speak about Christ with my children. However, it really is never something that I have to bring up. It naturally comes up because kids are, by nature, inquisitive. They are always wondering; Why? Where? How? It is fascinating to me that I can just tell my son something about the Bible or about Jesus, and he just accepts it. Childlike faith is such a wonderful thing to witness. It really puts into perspective all the complication that we adults put on ourselves.  

Prayer is Key

Beyond the daily activities, prayer is essential. Praying for my children daily is something that I have committed to since the day they were born. I pray for their salvation, for their futures, and for me to be able to guide them the best way I can. Not only does this benefit them, but it benefits my own walk and relationship with my Heavenly Father. I find that this is where I am humbled by my failures and struggles as a mom and where God is able to wipe the slate clean and say, “we start fresh in the morning”. 

There will never be a day where I will have it all figured out. I know that God knows that too, and yet He is continually molding and shaping me to be the mom that my kids need,  one day at a time. I often think to myself, isn’t it ironic how my Heavenly Father uses my own children to mold and shape me, in the very job that I am to be equipping and leading them to Him? 

Because He Loved Us

It's always amazing to me to look at my kids and know that the love I have for them can't compare to the love God has for us. He so desires to have a special relationship with each one of his children. And so as I strive to have a meaningful relationship with each of my children, I keep that thought close to my heart. He is my Father and he gets it.

 


Lisa Joens is the Associate Producer at Theo Presents. She and her husband Brandon work along side each other on the Theo Productions. She is also a mom to two wonderful little kiddos.

June 24, 2015

0 Comments


The Gift of Growing up in a Christian Family

The value of being raised in a Christian home is incalculable.  Children are a gift from the Lord (Ps 127:3).  So are godly parents.  Their worth is immeasurable.  From the moment a child is born, and even while a child is still in the womb (through prayer), godly parents have the opportunity to lead a child from spiritual death to eternal life.  

What greater task, what greater joy!

Leading one’s child to Christ is the primary objective for Christian parents.  It’s more important than taking your child to soccer practice, or to ballet lessons or ball games, or fill-in-the-blank.  It matters more than setting aside money for your child’s college education. 

It’s the one task that God has commanded parents to do.  The other activities or disciplines, as important as they may be in a child’s emotional, physical and educational development, must follow the primary objective.

 

Think I’m off-base?

Consider Deuteronomy 6:6-7.  I know that I’ve written about this passage before, and I’ll likely write about it again––it’s that important as a foundation for Christian families.  The gist of the passage is this:

Teach your children the Scriptures when you sit in your house.  A home is the primary classroom for a child’s spiritual, emotional, and physical development.  The home is where a child’s character is formed, his Godward and social perspective.  The Scriptures should be the hub for every satellite activity.

Teach your children the Scriptures when you walk by the way.  This has to do with your whole manner of life––as you go to the store, as you walk in the park or along the beach, as you travel on the road, in everything you do together as a family.  Make the most of every opportunity to teach your kids about Jesus, about His wonderful creation, His love and grace.

Teach your children the Scriptures when you go to bed at night.  Every family should have a “family altar,” a time when the family gathers around the Word of God to discuss a verse or passage of scripture.  Prayer is an important part of this too; it’s an opportunity for each member of the family to express his or her needs, and to rejoice together when prayers are answered.  In this they witness God’s love and provision.  If your kids are small read them wholesome bedtime stories.  Bible stories are great, of course, but so are stories that teach what is good, what is wholesome, what is excellent, virtuous and noble (Philippians 4:8).

Teach your children the Scriptures when you rise in the morning.  From the beginning of the day to the end God commands parents to teach their children the Scriptures.  He is very serious about this, and so should we be serious.  In every way we are to be proactive in teaching our kids what is truly important, the Gospel––that we are all sinners and deserve the righteous punishment for our sins.  But by faith in Jesus Christ, by God’s unmerited favor (grace) we can be saved, we can live a life of grace, peace and joy, because of what God’s Son did for us at Calvary. 

Is God serious about how we train our children?  I think so.  Again, they are gifts.  They are special.  God has given them to us that He might be glorified in our families.  We will fail as parents, of course, not once but several times.  Like our children, we are sinners.  We’re selfish.  We blow it.

 

How then should we live?  

I believe that the most important lifestyle we can teach and model is our daily walking in the Spirit, allowing the Spirit to grow His good fruit in us––love, joy, peace, patience (yes, patience), mercy, kindness, and the rest.  If we are doing so, our children will witness our lives, though tainted by sin, nonetheless transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit.  They will see the light of Christ shining through us.  This is powerful. 

Just as our children must learn the meaning of walking in grace through faith, so must we as parents.  The walk of faith is not burdensome.  It’s not a drudgery.  It should not––rather, must not––become a legalistic treadmill that neither we nor our children can ever endure.  Pity the child that is taught that we must somehow earn God’s favor, His love.  Such a child will flee the faith at the earliest opportunity.

We as parents must be Christ followers not Law followers.  Without yielding to either legalism or licentiousness, the Bible should be central in our homes, and in our way of life.  It should be lived out with purpose, in grace, mercy, love, obedience, and trusted in every situation, good or ill.  

Finally, if Jesus is our way of life, morning, noon, and night; if He is our First Love, our Rock and Strong Tower, our Savior and Deliverer, our Righteousness and Peace, our Shepherd, our King, our Provider and Sustainer, our Victory, our Blessed Hope, if we are pursuing His righteousness and kingdom in all our ways and by His strength, then our children will see this in us and be drawn to our Awesome God.  Hearing His Word consistently taught and lived out in our homes will bring them to faith (Romans 10:17). 

What a gift it is to children to be raised in such a home.

June 15, 2015

2 Comments


The Symphony of Waiting

Symphony Orchestra

Most people have had the pleasure of attending an orchestral event of some kind.  If not an orchestral event, then a musical presentation—ensemble, amateur or professional, either staged in a civic center, outdoor amphitheater or on an auditorium stage at school or church.

My wife and I are fortunate to attend a church where the Word of God is taught faithfully, but it is a church that also sits a full archestra every other week, with a large choir.  The music and choral arrangements are truly inspiring, each arrangement clearly to the praise and glory of God.

One Sunday I happened to notice the musician at the timpani (kettle drums).  He would pound the skins every so often and then sit back, timpani sticks in hand, waiting for notes on the music sheet and conductor to signal him.  He wasn’t looking around, he didn’t appear to be bored; instead his eyes were fixed upon the music in front of him, upon the conductor, following along as he awaited his turn to play.

Then I noticed other musicians that were sitting, not playing.  The violin section was staring rapt at their music, turning pages.  Likewise the cellist, the flutists, the brass section.  And then, on cue, each lifted his or her instruments and played their parts as their music directed.  The choir sang on cue, their voices angelic.  It was all so beautiful and moving.

Then I looked back at the man at the timpani, still sitting, still waiting, sticks in hand, and I wondered: is he tired of waiting?  Does he feel unimportant or wonder if the conductor had forgotten him?

 

"Wait" lifting builds character

No one likes to wait.  By nature we want things now.  We want our meals served hot and fast, cooked just the way we like them.  Better not make me wait for a coffee refill.  Human nature.

But God is no hurry; however, He is always on time.  And further, He isn’t a waiter.  He doesn’t always give us what we want when we want it.  He wants us to wait upon Him.  Why?  Here are a few reasons:

  1. Waiting reveals our true motives (are my prayers me-centered, or God-centered).
  2. Waiting builds a trust in God (I believe that God knows what He’s doing, therefore I will trust Him as I wait).
  3. It tests our mettle (I will not quit, I will persevere, no matter what or for how long).
  4. Waiting prepares us for God’s answer. 

Yes, it does.

 

Let's make a Theo

I created Theo in 1978.  I was 27 years old.  I’d graduated Bible college with a degree in English Literature and Theology.  I had been in the animation business for about a year.  One day I saw how I could teach children the Word of God, using cartoons as my pulpit.  I asked God to provide financing for the project (a lot of money!).  But He said, “Wait.”  

I kept asking God, day after day, month after month.  The months became years.  Wait.  But the world needs this, God, I kept telling Him.  It needs it now.  Why aren’t you answering my prayers?  Well, of course, He had been all along.  It isn’t time yet, son.

I waited.

And then after 30 years of waiting God miraculously (I don’t use the word lightly) provided the funding!  Hallelujah!

Why did He take so long to answer?  

First of all, I think it was because I wasn’t ready to produce Theo at the time.  I needed years of experience before I was ready.  I had to learn the animation business from the ground up, working at every level, perfecting my craft.  

Secondly, God needed to prepare the man.  I needed to mature spiritually, emotionally, creatively.

Thirdly, my son Brandon, who hadn’t been born yet, would be needed to help me complete the task.  He would become my right hand man, a gift that I could not have done without.  I didn’t know that in 1978.  God knew.  Had He answered my prayers early on, it would have been a disaster on so many levels.

 

heaven is listening 

Back to my orchestra metaphor.  Can you imagine what would happen if the timpanist, tired of waiting for the piano solo to finish, suddenly decided to improvise an “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida” drum interlude?  Or what would happen if one or two of the cellists decided to play ahead of schedule?  Or even play a different piece of music?  Cacophony would ensue.  The conductor would throw down his baton, the musicians would cease playing, the audience would disperse and demand their money back from the management.

A symphony is a musical composition, usually written for an orchestra, with several movements that each build to a climax.

A symphony is written with a theme running throughout.  I believe that God has been conducting His Grand Symphony since before the creation of the universe. The theme is Redemption, with movements consisting of songs of praise to the glory of His Son Jesus.  These movements have been building throughout the millennia to a grand climax, at which time Jesus Christ, accompanied by an orchestra of a myriad instruments and voices—both angelic and saintly—will descend in glory to the earth.

Until that great day, God has called His children to perform in His Symphony.  He has given gifts to each of us through His Holy Spirit, according to His good purpose.  And like any good conductor, He expects us to practice at our gifts daily, so that when the notes on the sheet music call for us to lift our instruments, we will play with excellence, to the glory of God.

So whether you are waiting on God to answer a specific prayer, provide a ministry opportunity, or bring a loved one to Christ, keep praying expectantly, keep trusting joyfully, and keep hoping knowingly.

God’s timing is always perfect.  His musical score contains the exact number of notes to compose the glorious Symphony of Redemption.  Keep waiting, trusting, with your eyes fixed upon Jesus.  And when the Great Conductor signals to you with His baton, play well!   

All of heaven is listening.

March 30, 2015

1 Comment


Reflections on the Resurrection

1475 Giovanni Bellini The ResurrectionIt’s that beautiful time of year again when Christians around the world celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Churches will stage reenactments of the Last Supper or the crucifixion, or put on sunrise services celebrating the Resurrection. It is a time for reflecting upon Jesus’ Passion, for singing songs of triumph, a time of great rejoicing and praising our Lord and Savior who has risen from the dead.

The Resurrection of Jesus Christ is the single most important event in human history.  It is the hinge upon which the Old and New Testaments turn––that which the prophets foresaw, and that which we look back upon. It is that salient event alone that separates Christianity from every other world religion, for Christianity alone boasts a risen Lord, and not a dead prophet or teacher.

It is the cornerstone upon which every Christian holiday is founded.

Without the Resurrection the Christmas Story would be little more than a sentimental nod to a Jewish couple who gave birth to a baby boy, of dubious parentage, on a cold Bethlehem night.  Courier and Ives would not have made a single Christmas card.  Not a single Christmas hymn would have be written, nor gift given. Handel’s Messiah would have been an ode to a hopeless dream.

Without the Resurrection every religious holiday would be irrelevant.  Church services would be unneeded, even silly.  Bible schools, evangelistic crusades, and daily devotions would be a waste of time.  Prayer would be a meaningless beating of the air with our tongues.

But of even greater importance, were it not for the resurrection of Jesus Christ we would be lost in our sins.  Paul said:

“If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, your faith also is vain.  Moreover we are even found to be false witnesses against God that He raised Christ, whom He did not raise, if in fact the dead are not raised.  For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins.  Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished.  If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied” (1 Corinthians 15:14-19).

Were it not for the resurrection then the verses of Scripture that I just quoted are a lie.  And everything ever written or said about Him is a lie.  The Bible itself is false.  What’s more, Jesus said that He would rise on the third day.  If He didn’t then He was a liar. 

But the tomb is empty!

The Roman guards were the liars.  The Pharisees were the liars.  Jesus really did rise from the dead.  He really did appear to Mary Magdalene, to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, to the apostles behind closed doors, to hundreds of people over a period of forty days, showing irrefutable proofs that He who was once dead was now alive!  And finally, He showed Himself to Saul of Tarsus, who became the Apostle Paul!

Because Jesus rose from the grave the apostles and early followers of Christ went to their deaths in arenas, in obscure villages far from home, apart from the comfort of fellow believers, knowing that their faith was not in vain.  They had witnessed the Resurrection.

The Lord Jesus Christ is alive!

Because Jesus is alive I, too, have a blessed hope that one day I will hear the trump of God, and my body, which has died and decayed, will be clothed with immortality.  I will be raised incorruptible, glorious.  I will be fitted for life in God’s eternal kingdom.  I will see my Savior face to face.  It will all be made clear.  There will be no more tears.  No more death!

I will hear the words I have longed to hear, for forty-three years now, “Well done, good and faithful servant...enter into the joy of your Lord! (Matt 25:23).  There are no sweeter words in heaven or on earth, all because of the Resurrection.

Hallelujah!

Low in the grave he lay, Jesus my Savior,
waiting the coming day, Jesus my Lord!

Refrain:
Up from the grave he arose;
with a mighty triumph o'er his foes;
he arose a victor from the dark domain,
and he lives forever, with his saints to reign.
He arose! He arose! Hallelujah! Christ arose!
Christ Arose, by Robert Lowery (1826-1899)

1 2 3 11 Next »