Thursday’s Column: Captain’s Blog
Several of our classes have assistants to the Bible class teacher. She (or perhaps in select cases “he”) serves in a support role, helping students do handwork, find Bible verses, or occasionally keep order. These are vital roles, and often a teacher’s aid later actually becomes a teacher. Teachers’ aids are part of a great team and education system that benefits everyone in the classroom.
There is a constant, pressing need for more teachers’ aids. I don’t mean in the actual classroom during the “Bible class hour.” These aids are needed Sunday afternoons, late Wednesdays, Saturday afternoons, and/or opportune moments between these times. These aids have even more power than those helping the teacher in the classroom. They are the parents and care-givers of the students. There are several ways they can “aid” the teachers who put in hours of preparation time and tons of energy and emotion into the task of teaching.
Aid teachers by making sure your children do their homework. Most teachers give homework, memory work or activity sheets. This is a vital supplement to the actual lesson taught in class. When children come to class with their homework done, teachers are elated and made to feel that their efforts are appreciated. They feel that their students take the class as seriously as they do.
Aid teachers by asking about what they have learned. Ask your children what they talked about in class that day. Ask them to review as much as they can. Ask them what they learned and how they can make application from the class. What better topic of conversation can parents and children discuss on the way home from services?
Aid teachers by making sure they feel appreciated. One way to do this is by making sure you practice the first two suggestions. However, having the child send a thank you note or by personally thanking your child’s teacher, you are aiding through the means of encouragement. Everyone likes to feel appreciated. Teachers are no different.
The qualifications are simple enough. To be this type of teacher’s aid, simply do all you can to partner with the efforts of your children’s teachers. Your child, your home, and your child’s teacher all will be blessed by it.
I was cleaning out the basement and found a box of old photos. You know the kind of photos I’m talking about. Cheesy, dated, and awkward family photos. There was a reason we had them hidden in the darkest corner of our house. They weren’t worthy to be put on display, but they were also too precious to merely throw away. As I flipped through them, I stumbled across some ancient photos of my dad. In one picture he had an afro and this corny smile on his face. In another picture, my dad was standing by an old pickup truck wearing a long and baggy cut-off T- shirt. He had 80’s frame glasses on with large lenses, and a truckers hat that barely sat on his head.
To most people, those were embarrassing pictures. To most people, those were things that I should hang my head in shame over. But you know, all I felt was pride. I was so proud of who I came from, and as weird as he looked, I sat there defending his fashion choices in my mind. I’m proud to be the grandson of a preacher and the son of a preacher. But, there is nothing that fills me with more pride than the fact that I am a child of God.
There are so many reasons that I’m proud of that fact, but here is the main reason… because He loves me more than I deserve. Our sins put Christ on the cross. It was my sin problem that made Jesus cry out in agony, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken me?” (Matt. 27:46). When we commit sin, we are participating in the very thing that Christ came to die for. And yet, despite all of that, my God loves me. My Father has still taken me in. He has shown unconditional love, a love stronger than any mortal could show. My Heavenly Father has offered salvation, the forgiveness of sins, and a hope of eternal glory.
I’m proud to be a child of God.
Dale is the associate minister of the Forrest Park church of Christ in Valdosta, Georgia.
I found a treasure in a chest of drawers in my parents’ house this week. It was a Mother’s Day present I gave my mom when I was 8 years old. Actually, it was a project our third-grade teacher helped us put together. It was a recipe book concocted by us students without any adult assistance. The spelling and the recipes confirm this fact. My two recipes were “Peanut Butter ‘Crisbys’” and “Lemon Pie.” The first recipe was brief, but profound:
Put 3 C. rice crisbys in a bowl. Then
put 2 tablespoons peanut butter in.
4 C. Sugar.
Put in oven at 200 for 30 min.
The second recipe was more complex:
Put 4 eggs in the pan
Put 3 cups of lemon mix in
1 1/2 c. sugar
2 C. “flower”
Put in pan and cook for 1 hour at 200 degrees.
I assure you that nearly every recipe in this small book showed about as much culinary acuity. Why? We had been in the kitchen, but we had no concept about ratios, temperature, or baking times (or even if we used stovetop or oven). The result were “recipes” that would have been problematic to follow or eat.
What a challenge to me as I try to grow in grace and knowledge (2 Pet. 3:18)! I want to move beyond a childlike knowledge of Scripture and move on toward maturity (Heb. 5:11-6:1)! May I never be so lacking in knowledge that I cannot tell someone what to do to be saved, help someone know Christ, or speak about any matter pertaining to life and godliness (cf. 2 Pet. 1:3). May I have the humility to never “think more highly of” myself than I ought to think (Rom. 12:3). Otherwise, I may look naive or ignorant when asserting my expertise in a matter where I need considerable growth. I must bring the same humility to such complex subjects as marriage and parenting, as well as Christian living. That is not to say that I should not grow to the point where I cannot be helpful, but instead temper my advice and assertion with deference and cover it with lovingkindness and patience. On multiple occasions, the younger me made this mistake. In fact, I am still prone to do so. It reminds me to grow what I know and be careful not to share what goes beyond that.
Thom Vaught gave the “elders remarks” last night after the Young Lions participated in their annual program of Scripture reading, song leading, prayer, and preaching. The fourteen first through six graders obviously listened well and learned much. Thom noted how we look at the Christian life as a marathon, but these boys (and the seventeen God’s Precious Daughters who hosted a tea in the fellowship hall at 4:00 PM yesterday afternoon for 80 Christian women!) were actually the next leg in a relay race. Everybody seemed to leave the assembly last night so spiritually full and energized. Perhaps that was because of what we had seen (and learned) throughout last evening’s service.
…That genuine enthusiasm is infectious.
…That worship should be characterized by purity.
…That you cannot easily fake sincerity.
…That sometimes truth gets told most poignantly and effectively from such an innocent heart.
…That it is encouraging to see someone overcome their fears to lead.
…That we appreciate seeing those who lead us unashamedly show us their hearts.
…That worship should be joyful.
…That we should carry the experience of worship out the door with us into our lives.
When Thom asked those present last night who had formerly been through Young Lions and God’s Precious Daughters to stand along with the 31 children involved this year, it was overwhelmingly encouraging to see so many scattered among our healthy crowd last night who had received this wonderful training. The leadership training they have received through the years has contributed to the teenagers and young adults they have become, serving Christ and others. Some of them are married now. Others have graduated from preacher training schools or are students there. Others have gone on to Christian Colleges. They lead us in every phase of our worship regularly and effectively. We appreciate the men and women who came up with this program and all those who have served through the years. All of us are the better for it. Last night was a reminder of something Trent Woolley, who helped lead this year’s program, said to us, “Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven” (Mat. 18:3). I pray we will carry these lessons learned into worship with us next week and the weeks beyond that!
We are blessed to have quite a few young children in our congregation. Little boys and little girls, with unexpected observations, expressive faces, and humorous behaviors, make sure there is not a dull moment when they are around. Inspired writers use terms like “inheritance” (Prov. 13:22) and “gift” (Psa. 127:3) to impress us with their value. Jesus demands imitation of them (Mat. 18:3). Parents get so proud of their children, displaying their cuteness in pictures on social media. While so many kids reflect the good looks of their parents, it’s not looks that most make children adorable. What makes children adorable?
The qualities above reflect an attractiveness of godly parenting and an appreciation for biblical principles of conduct that will make them adorable adults one day. It reflects the “others before self” mentality Christ wants to see in God’s children (Phil. 2:1-4). It reflects the humility and service that causes greatness in His Kingdom (Mat. 20:25-28). It reflects the thoughtful consideration that ought to typify Christians (Col. 3:12; Rom. 15:1ff). It reflects the spiritual mindset necessary to be winsome, attractive ambassadors for Him (cf. 2 Cor. 5:20; Rom. 12:17ff; etc.). Sometimes, much greater emphasis is given to the style of their clothes than to the strength of their character. We cannot put fashion before faith, image over integrity, or sophistication above spirituality.
I want to thank so many parents who get this ideal and are striving toward it. No one’s children are perfect, just like none of their parents (or critical adults) are. But, parents who are trying to instill quality inner qualities in their children deserve highest honor! Keep rearing adorable children. You’ll have a lifetime to be grateful that you did.
Within five minutes of the Bear Valley church building, you will find Atonement Lutheran, Landmark Tabernacle, Bear Valley Church of God of Prophesy, Bear Valley Fellowship, Christ Congregational Church, Hope Crossing Church, and Light of Christ of Anglican. Expand the search by just a mile or so and that number increases quite a lot. For the casual passerby, who observes our plain, ordinary facilities, they likely consider us just another in a series of churches or denominations. In fact, to them, the words are exact synonyms. Were they to visit each of the churches listed, including us, these observers would conclude that we all share a certain number of things in common while each having uniquenesses that set us apart. Their deduction from this would run the gamut of perplexity, amusement, curiosity, inquisitiveness, and even, perhaps, disdain and hostility. When we all meet in large, four-walled edifices with foundations and roofs, with classrooms, an auditorium, some sort of rostrum, a foyer, and even some type of baptistery or “font.” So, just seeing us from the road or even stepping inside of our building is not enough to tell them who we really are.
If we are serious about the belief that we are trying to be the church of the New Testament, pre-denominational, and apart from Catholic or Protestant ancestry, what is our responsibility? What is our responsibility to God, one another, and the culture at large? Are there principles or precepts that should guide us in seeking to be faithful to the pattern the Lord left for His church to follow? If so, here are some priorities we must emphasize:
This is not the irreducible minimum, the end all of the discussion. But, if we will take who we are, whose we are, and who we are here for seriously, the uniqueness of simple, New Testament Christianity will shine through us and cause us to impact our community and our world for Christ. Isn’t that what we should desire?
Brooklin Yazzle, a Mesa, Arizona, wife and mother, apparently handed out her wedding ring with the Halloween candy last week. She had taken off her ring and put it in a candy jar to help her children carve pumpkins. Later, things got hectic and she absentmindedly dumped her ring along with the candy into a candy bag to give to children. Complicating things, among her treats were plastic rings. She has made an appeal through the news to get it back, stating that while it isn’t worth much monetarily it has great sentimental value (FOX News).
Many of us can relate to such a mindless blunder. To my everlasting chagrin, I lost my wife’s High School class ring back while we were dating (she married me anyway!). It is not uncommon for a person to remove their wedding ring to work or play, but removing it in such cases is to protect it from harm or loss.
The American Community Survey and the Daily Beast collaborated to provide a list of the “Divorce Capitals of the U.S.” The ignominious top ten list, from “top” to bottom, is: (1) Panama City, FL, (2) Sierra Vista, AZ, (3) Charleston, WV, (4) Medford, OR, (5) Reno, NV, (6) Deltona, FL, (7) Pueblo, CO, (8) Palm Bay, FL, (9) Jacksonville, FL, and (10) Grand Junction, CO. In six states, the divorce rate is between 12.64-14.35% per 1,000 people, age 15 and older (Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Kentucky, Maine, and Oklahoma). Yet, the best of states still average 6.05-7.65% (Ashley Reich, The Huffington Post, 11/4/13).
This survey is but an example of a trend that is only tempered by a falling marriage rate, as more and more couples are living together without the sanctity of marriage. It shows that the dissolution of marriage is not confined to one area of the country, or more like in a “Red” or “Blue” state. Are there steps we can take to keep our wedding rings?
This list is not exhaustive, but it already gives all of us areas to work on and improve in. We should remember God’s feelings, who said, “I hate divorce” (Mal. 2:16). Let’s hold on to our wedding rings!
My sons have had some notable incidents involving guns, particularly the air-soft variety. While these all are thankfully memories from the past, they continued a less than proud tradition from their father. I have stories involving my BB gun, easter eggs set on a fence, and a custom van parked in the next yard, “old west shootouts” involving BB guns and all our neighborhood buddies (including the loss of at least one permanent tooth), and one other BB gun story that stands out in my mind more than any other. It was shortly after the easter eggs incident, and my brother and I were playing cowboys and Indians on a warm Spring Sunday afternoon. It had been a tough week for Brent, not yet school-aged. Just a few days before he was climbing on a stair rail, lost his grip, and fell head first onto the concrete. He had recuperated enough from that to be outside with me.
Our shoutout rules were typical. If you got shot, you had to fall down and play dead for 10 seconds. Then, you got back up and resumed action. Brent had a cool toy flintlock pistol. I had my trusty BB gun in hand. As I recall, Brent came running around the house right into my ambush. I cried out, “Bang, bang, bang!” He fell to the ground and got up crying. He was bleeding under his eye and had a frightening gash. We both had great imaginations, but not that great!
Our parents heard the commotion and Brent told them, “Neal shot me!” That was sufficient investigation, given that the concussion and the easter egg incident were both fresh on their minds. Dad took my Daisy and in an incredible show of strength ended its functional use with a single application to his knee. A spanking quickly followed. Meanwhile, Mom had done triage on Brent enough to ascertain one additional fact. I had only pretended to shoot him (the Daisy was not loaded) and Brent fell on the sight of that pistol and produced that gash. Dad felt terrible and apologized to me before taking Brent to get stitches. Of course, with my checkered past with my low-powered air gun, I was not very incensed.
Since I have “grown up,” I have drawn my own conclusions without having all the facts. I have done this with my sons, and I have done it with my wife. I have done this at times with my brothers and sisters in Christ. I was sure I had all the facts and I reacted. More than once, I’ve felt the regret of being hasty and premature.
When that brother or sister seems cold, distant, or unfriendly, they may simply be having a terrible day or dealing with an incredibly heavy burden. When it seems that son or daughter has misbehaved, take the time to ascertain all the facts before reacting. When in a spousal spat, stave off assumptions, perceptions, and prejudices that may lead you to a hasty, false conclusion.
How many have fallen prey to “friendly fire” from loved ones? Be careful not to accidentally shoot first and ask questions later. If you do, have the humility to admit your mistake and make it right! If we can, we should avoid a “shoot out.” If we must, then we must fight fair!
Somehow, it has come down through the ages that Alexander the Great made this dying request, that he should be buried with his hands outside his coffin so that all his subjects could see that despite all the riches he had accumulated in life that he left the world empty-handed. Artists through time have famously depicted this posture. It has been retold repeatedly. Whether or not Alexander requested it, the sentiment reflects divine truth. Paul told Timothy, “For we have brought nothing into this world, so we cannot take anything out of it either” (1 Tim. 6:7). Similarly, Job said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I shall return there” (Job 1:21). Solomon similarly states of the wealthy, “As he had come naked from his mother’s womb, so will he return as he came. He will take nothing from the the fruit of his labor that he can carry in his hand” (Ecc. 5:15).
While even world conquerors cannot transport their treasures from time to eternity as they make the transition, everyone will exit the world having left so many things behind us. We leave behind so much more than our financial assets. We leave behind memories of ourselves, encouragements either given or withheld, speech either edifying or destructive, deeds which brought others closer to or further from Christ, family members influenced either to follow Christ or abandon Him, and similarly impactful matters. When we leave earth, our hands are empty. We have bequeathed all that we are and have for those whose lives we touched and influenced. They pick up our habits, worldview, pleasures, interests, and priorities. Some day, they will die and leave empty-handed, too, passing along what in some way we gave them to give.
You may never be a world conqueror, but here is how you conquer the world. It takes faith and spiritual rebirth (1 Jn. 5:4). But do not simply possess it. Be sure to pass it along.