Thursday, March 22, 2012

Kids in the Worship Service

Recently I was involved in a discussion about kids in the worship service; should we have Sunday school classes, can small kids gain understanding more fully in the service with their parents than they could from having their own class of, let's say, 3-5 year olds?

Though I am not the expert, per se, I do feel like I missed a pretty good opportunity to make some observations that might have been helpful at the time.

So here they are-
Can kids hold still that long? While in Ethiopia, Teresa and I had the privilege of moving an entire small orphanage from Addis Abba out into a rural village area. We loaded all the beds and things on a flatbed and all the kids onto the bus. We had no idea that the trip would take us 10 hours. Yes, 10 hours on a bus with kids that barely spoken English.

There was much debate within the leadership as to what we should do for food and water. We Americans, there were 3 of us, thought that we should feed them breakfast, after all their last meal was last night, and then take some food and lots of water with us. the Ethiopian leaders were so "mean". They didn't want to give them breakfast and only thought that we should take a few bottles of water and a couple of sleeves of crackers. We
followed their lead.

10 hours on a old, beat up bus is a long time. Add to that kids who are throwing up and that makes it all the longer. No diapers, barely any water or food and 1 single "bathroom" break in a 10 hour trip.

Even the kids who were throwing up barely cried because that was not acceptable. I couldn't understand what they were saying but basically, "Buck up, sit down and don't fuss". Did I mention it was 10 hours? T held an 11 month old almost the entire time and I had an 18 month old. I actually was harder on me to sit still than it was for them.

Yes- when trained, kids can sit still for 1 hour.

Should kids even be in the service? Are they getting anything out of it? Would they be better off somewhere with a group of kids? Well, let's think about how Jesus did it- He's a good example of ways to do things.

When He was young the entire community went up to Jerusalem to worship. Jesus got left behind and it wasn't like He was trying to sneak around behind His parent's back. They were busy with other kids and family members and forgot Him- that must mean that the Jews thought that the entire family should worship together.

In the OT there was a sacrificial system that must have required people to stand in some sort of line to offer their sacrifices. When mom sinned did she leave her kids home or were they in line with her half the day? Were they getting anything out of standing in line, watching the graphic
killing of animals? God must have thought it was ok for them to be there as it doesn't seem like there was an Sunday school area for them there.

Oh, and Jesus, as a teacher, gathered 4000-5000 men together with their families and taught them for the better part of a day out on the hillside. Maybe it looked something like this. Notice- there are no restrooms, water fountains or jungle gyms.
Were the kids listening too? Did they send the kids to another area? It certainly doesn't seem like it since Jesus used the lunch of a "YOUNG BOY" to feed the entire group. How would that have been possible if the kids were separated off in another area that was more age appropriate? Kids were still kids back then, but maybe we have just let them have their way too much

Lastly, worship is supposed to draw us nearer to God. When Jesus was teaching and the disciples saw that the little children were "bothering" Jesus they were trying to push them away. Was that towards their area where they wouldn't distract the adults in their worship? Was that so they could be better taught by their moms or someone else?

How did Jesus respond to that pushing away? He said , "Bring the little children to me". Don't push them away but rather bring them closer.

If Jesus thought it was ok for the kids to get up and go to the bathroom in His long talk on the hillside, if He thought it was ok to have them closer to Him when He was teaching rather than farther away, then maybe there is something good about having them around. Maybe they can hold still and maybe they can really learn something valuable from that time.

Jesus did things with a purpose and perfectly and so it was no mistake that this is the way the system was set up. Maybe we are just trying to hard to make it comfortable for us to sit still and not be distracted and maybe the kids actually can sit still and learn if we get past our issues and teach them that going to the worship service is different than going to playland at McDonalds.

All this was just keeping up all night and I wish I would have said it in the moment, but maybe this is better. Love to hear your response.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The New Best- Whatever

I have a Cookbook and it looks just like the one on the left. I received it from a friend, as a gift, some years ago. I assume the reason they chose this particular one was very specific. Maybe it was the title. Maybe they read it from cover to cover, some 800 pages, and thought I would like it. Maybe they already have this one, they'd made 1 dessert that was amazing and said "Chuck will love this dessert, I'll get it for him". Maybe they think I am a proud person and only will look at something if it says "Best" on it.

I didn't prejudge their motive in giving it to me; I was/am thankful for the gift and enjoy many things about it.

What's in the Book Matters and so is What's Not.
There a many words in this book, a few pictures and literally thousands of recipes tested. There is NOT a recipe for everything that you might ever want to cook, but rather the book covers the basics of what we, as Americans, might want to cook and find difficult to cook really well. Every French, Italian and Chinese recipe is not listed here, but if you want to know about cooking the BEST Hamburger, Prime Rib or Thanksgiving Turkey, this is your book.

As I stated earlier, there are some 800 pages, in this book and there are really not that many foods selected for so many pages. I could be upset that for having such a large cookbook they could have given me at least 1200 recipes, but there are probably not even 600. That's not the point of this book.

Is it REALLY the BEST?
How can someone say that about anything, especially in America, where we have a better X for everything that hits the street?

Let's talk TURKEY!

I am going to use a turkey as an example for this post.

This Thanksgiving I decided to butcher my home-grown turkeys to eat; we named them "Thanksgiving" and "Christmas". Don't even start with me about, "How could you kill your own turkeys?" blah, blah, blah. Someone killed yours if you ate turkey and frankly, it was kind of fun, in a "fulfilling" sort of way- pun intended.

Naturally, since we went to the work and expense of raising and then butchering our own birds, I wanted to have the BEST way of cooking the birds. Yes, I said "BEST". In the cookbook they have literally experimented with 50-60 birds to wind up with their recipe. I generally cook 1 turkey in November and 1 in December each year and I want each one of those to be really good. I don't want to buy a bird and experiment with a different failed recipe each time to finally end up with a great turkey when I am 75. Enter the TEST KITCHEN chefs.

In the book they talk about fresh, frozen and home-grown and organic birds. They talk about brining, deep frying, tenting, stuffing, optimal bird weight, seasonings, internal temperature and even resting before carving. That's a lot of info just to cook a bird. They go through the myths that your grandma taught you and even the science of many parts of their process. As an aside- do you know why a hamburger gets fat on the grill and almost turns into a meatball? Do you know a simple way to combat this? I do-because they told me.

You just think you're so Smart!

When I read the recipes and the foundational info connected to each recipe I could think the above. I mean, I've cooked some turkeys and some of them have turned out pretty stinking good. In fact, I've cooked some frozen turkeys, because they are like $.25 per pound around Thanksgiving, and some of them were really good, so don't go telling me that a frozen turkey will never be as good as a home-grown, fresh bird. (Stomping my feet and acting all childish.)

Doesn't that sound sort of stupid? I can look through the cookbook, read all the background for each recipe, understand better what the chefs are trying to aim for and then disregard everything they have said because "my mom told me that this was the best way and her turkey was pretty good most of the time". Great- throw away the cookbook and do it your way. Haven't we missed the point of the book by this time?

Sometimes there is a BEST.

In America we seem to have this idea that everyone should get a ribbon for participation or that to say something is BEST means that everything else is C.R.A.P. There's BEST and all else is not 2nd, 3rd, 5th and 8th place, but 1st and "off the scale terrible". You win the Superbowl- OR you suck, even if it was a 35-34 double OT game. I'm not sure why we think that. There is a clear winner- they are BEST. There are clearly those in 2nd and 5th and they too are probably good or even great but not BEST; at least not that day. If you come in 2nd, try to do better tomorrow. If you come in first- the same applies.

Back to the cookbook. The turkeys we cooked this year were REALLY good. Were they the best ever? I think so. Did we follow EVERY letter of the "rules" of the recipe? Nope. The birds were bigger than they said were optimal- stupid birds ate too much:). Oh, does that mean that I can't use any of the principles outlined in the cookbook? Nope. If the turkey was frozen because I didn't want to wait until 2 days before Christmas to butcher the 2nd one, does that make it "less good" than the one on Thanksgiving. Maybe, but it's better than getting one that was frozen 10 months ago that was full of hormones. Make sense?

Throwing out Babies and Bathwater.

Hopefully you can see the point of the post thus far. As is my usual tendency- there is a spiritual point to this.

We have been talking a lot about liturgy in our worship lately. There is also some talk as to whether what is being said means that everyone else's worship is "bad". Can there really be a right way? God sees our hearts more than our actions, right? He sees both and there is some guidelines to our worship. Some foundation has been laid as to why we are doing things the way we are doing them; like the science and testing done by the chefs in the book.

If God has placed men in authority over a given church body, as leaders, and His Spirit is directing those men to introduce "new" things to us in the worship service, it seems there are a few ways to respond. I was going to add those responses but you can fill them in for yourself.

We should NOT ignore the "chefs" who have tried to help us understand why they believe this "recipe" will produce the best worship experience for this local body. If we do that then should we even have elders?

I don't have time, personally, to try out every form of worship combo that is being tried today, let alone in the past 2000 years, so I'd like to follow some people who have my best interest at heart, are taking their responsibilities seriously and are willing to step out an lead; not just stay stuck, in fear, that "we've always done it this way and we better not rock the boat".

Let's go and try to be the BEST worshippers we know how to be. Let's do that without saying that all others are in 7000th place, are heretics or all all going to Hell. Let's understand that there are ways to draw nearer to God in worship, which means there are things that cause us to move farther away. Let's follow the Book and the leaders given to our local portion of the Body. Let's do it with joy and make the loudest "BOOM" we are able, be pleased with the noise we are currently making but not satisfied that there is no way to make it louder.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Viewing Death

Words AND Works Make a Difference

We, in our churched circles, often hear about dying to self and while that is good to say- words- what does that really look like-works?

When someone says "Die to self"-DTS- what does that look like? Does it look the same to you today as it did last week? Since we have been going through a series on corporate worship I have been thinking about how that might look different to others on any given Sunday morning.

Dying is NOT comfortable.

One thing that "Die to Self" does not look like is sleeping in to whatever time you like and not going to church. DTS actually takes planning sometimes. Planning to get up early on Sunday so you and I can have our hearts ready to give to others. Staying up late on Saturday and being too tired on Sunday to give of ourselves is not DTS.

Dying looks Different.

For one person DTS might be that they need to talk more and to the person right next to them in the pew it might mean they need to talk less. Because DTS is not comfortable and God calls us to give of ourselves we may need to do what seems like the hardest thing for us to really know what it means to DTS.

Getting dressed up can be a form of DTS- not comfortable wearing a tie- wearing a tie is then dying to self. We all dress for comfort but whether it is for the comfort of ourselves or others is DTS.

Singing can be a form of DTS. Making a joyful and yet not so beautiful noise is DTS. The Bible does not tell us to make a beautiful noise but it tells us many places to sing, make melody in your hearts and make a joyful noise. Out of the overflow of our hearts to God comes songs of thanksgiving to Him and if we are too worried about not being able to sing beautifully so we don't sing at all, that is not DTS.

Sitting in a different place might be DTS. Maybe you aren't comfortable sitting towards the front. Move up anyway. Maybe you are moved to say "Amen" but that seems like a distraction- DTS. Maybe you are thinking about raising your hands in worship but no one else is doing it. Maybe many others want to do the same and so it wouldn't be a distraction at all next week.

Hopefully you are getting the point. DTS is not something we actual do well or often, but as we work through what it means to be One Body maybe this will help us understand that each person's DTS can look different but in DTS we give life to others and in the end to ourselves.

Jesus was our Example.

Jesus stayed up all night preparing to Die. Jesus came to earth, out of the comforts of Heaven to die. Jesus did the hardest thing for a perfect God-man to do- He took on our sin. Jesus died to bring us life and in His dying the Father exalted Him.

If Jesus would have just said "I love you" without showing His love for us in dying for us, it would not have been enough. Words do make a difference and those words lead us to works; works that God has perfectly planned for each one of us to do and then perfectly equipped each of us to do through the Spirit.

If we are walking in the Spirit we are ready to DTS, we're equipped and we have the grace to do it, now we just need to let go of our life and give it up for others. Easier to say, in words, than to do, with works.