How to Help Your Children Become Better Sermon Listeners

It takes work and forethought and planning and prayer… but you don’t want your kids to constantly be zoning out… They’ll have hundreds of hours listening to sermons in the coming years… This is a good article by David Prince.


How to Help Your Children Become Better Sermon Listeners – David Prince

http://ift.tt/2hzytnb

I was recently asked, “How would you explain to children in grade school what a sermon is and what they should be doing during the sermon?” I thought it might be a good question to answer in an article since I have frequently had similar questions over the years.

What is a sermon?

A sermon is when a man of God delivers the message of God directly from the Word of God (the Bible) to the people of God in the church and to unbelievers who are also listening. A sermon is not merely an intellectual lecture, form of entertainment, or self-help pep-talk; instead, a sermon actually transforms people by the power of God and his gospel. The preacher’s goal is to influence the whole person—mind, will, and emotions—with the truth of the gospel.

What should children be doing during the sermon?

1. Respecting others

Like any other important setting where groups of people are attempting to listen and learn from someone speaking, the child should think about how his or her behavior affects others. This understanding should have both positive and negative aspects. Negatively, the child should avoid actions that distract others, but positively, the child should be engaged by listening which can help others listen more effectively as well.

2. Actively listening

While this may seem obvious, it is important to point out that good listening is a learned skill; it is an active pursuit and not a passive one. Jesus said, “Take care then how you hear” (Luke 8:18), and every parent ought to be training their child to obey that command. Jesus also warns about those who hear but do not understand (Mark 4:12).

You can say to your children on Saturday night or Sunday morning:

  • “I wonder what God will teach us in the sermon on Sunday?”
  • “Let’s pray that we will understand the sermon and pray for our pastor.”
  • “Let’s thank God that we have His Word to guide us.”

3. Keeping a tally of important stuff

If your children are really young you may want to write down important words like God, Father, Jesus, Christ, Holy Spirit, church, gospel, and so on, and have them circle or make a tally mark by each one every time the pastor mentions that word. If they are too young to recognize the words, then you could do symbols for each one. This will allow you to point out that these key categories show up in the pastor’s sermons no matter what part of the Bible he preaches from (if the preaching is good Christ-centered preaching). Also, if you know what text your pastor is going to be in that week, you could draw out keywords from that particular text.

4. Drawing pictures

Many children will naturally take the bulletin and draw pictures on it during the service. That can be a good thing if you encourage them to draw pictures related to the worship service and particularly for them to draw what they are hearing in the sermon. This is both fun and fascinating. Parents can learn a lot about how their children are processing the sermon by talking to them about the pictures afterward. Focus on your children understanding the main point of the sermon while not being critical of anything they draw regarding the sermon.

5. Recognizing the windows

I like to think about illustrations in sermons as windows. You see through them in order to see something else. Illustrations are not like paintings, which are an end in themselves. Children will naturally listen to the practical illustrations in the sermon. If we call them windows and train children to listen to the sermon illustrations thinking about what they are supposed to really see as they look through them, then we will help them become better sermon listeners for life.

6. Listening for one thing ….

I think it is important to train them to listen to sermons without a me-centered attitude. I think in every sermon we should think first and foremost about God, second about others, and then how we can serve God and others. Here are a couple of things you can train your children to be listening for and to tell you after the sermon.

  • What is one thing you heard about the gospel of Jesus Christ?
  • What is one thing you learned about God?
  • What is one thing you can do differently to serve God and others?

Your interaction with them about these things should be lighthearted and enjoyable. The only wrong response is to not be listening. These listening strategies are merely points of contact for parents to utilize and guide the discussions in whatever direction they see fit. Some weeks will end in uproarious laughter over a drawing or comment, and others may lead to very serious and important discussions over biblical truth. Both are needed. These thoughts are certainly not exhaustive and you may have other creative ways that come to mind, but the key is to not act like getting them in the building is the end of your parental responsibility.

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Should Children Sit Through Big Church?



John Piper begins his answer with this warning… 

“I hope there is a strong leader in your church because weak leaders will never be able to stand up against the onslaught of criticism that is going to come if you try to do what I am going to suggest.”

See the video here or read the article:
http://ift.tt/2buxAfS

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A Type of Heaven – The Sabbath

McChenye writes beautifully about the comforts and joys of celebrating the Sabbath,

“It is a type of heaven when a believer lays aside his pen or loom, brushes aside his worldly cares, leaving them behind him with his weekday clothes, and comes up to the house of God. It is like the morning of the resurrection, the day when we shall come out of great tribulation into the presence of God and the lamb, when the believer sits under the preached Word and hears the voice of the Shepherd leading and feeding his soul.

It reminds him of the day when the Lamb that is in the midst of the Throne shall feed him, and lead him to living fountains of water. When he joins in the psalm of praise, it reminds him of the day when his hands shall strike the harp of God, ‘where congregations ne’er break up and Sabbaths have no end.’ When he retires and meets with God in secret in his closet, or like Isaac in some favourite spot near his dwelling, it reminds him of the day when he shall be a pillar in the house of our God and go out no more. 

This is the reason we love the Lord’s Day. This is the reason we call the Sabbath a delight. A well spent Sabbath we feel a day of heaven upon earth. For this reason we wish our Sabbaths to be wholly given to God. We love to spend the whole time in the public and private exercises of God’s worship except so much as is taken up in works of necessity and mercy. We love to rise early on that morning and to sit up late, that we may have a long day with God.”

Rev. A.A. Bonar, Memoir and Remains of the Rev. Robert Murray M’Cheyne, 539.

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50% Off Everything! In Your Hands Before Christmas – Guaranteed

Hello, we are writing to notify you of our “Christmas Super Sale.” We are offering 50% off all our resources site-wide! This deal ends on Saturday December 31st. To receive your order before Christmas, you must order by December 17th and choose Priority shipping.

Pick anything in our store and add it to your cart, use the code “Christmas2016” to receive your 50% discount.

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Most People Worship in Small Churches

Most of the churches on the NCFIC network of churches are small churches… I was struck by this reality nationwide through Karl Vaters, in his article, “3 Assumptions & 5 Realities About Why So Many Churches are Small.”  He notes,

 “Ninety percent of churches have fewer than 200 people. Eighty percent have under 100. Small churches are not in the minority. We are the overwhelmingly dominant way people have always chosen to worship Jesus. […] The nature of Church lends itself to smallness. […] Big- and megachurches are a gift to the body of Christ. But they have been, and always will be outliers in church life, not the norm. Bigness is the exception, not the rule.

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You are a Pastor With Trials and Tribulations in your Senior Years

Charles Simeon, found himself in time of trial, at 53 years old, after spending 33 years in a single church. His entire ministry was characterized by trials and tribulation. However, reflecting on his current difficulties in ministry at age 53, he wrote,

“I used to sail in the Pacific; I am now learning to navigate the Red Sea that is full of shoals and rocks.” 

This was written at age 53, after 33 years in a single church, now facing surging opposition.

John Piper comments, 

“May Simeon’s life and ministry help us to see persecution, opposition, slander, misunderstanding, disappointment, self-recrimination, weakness, and danger as the normal portion of faithful Christian living and ministry.  I want us to see a beleaguered triumph in the life of a man who was a sinner like us and who, year after year, in his trials, “grew downward” in humility and upward in his adoration of Christ and who did not yield to bitterness or to the temptation to leave his charge – for fifty-four years.”

From, “The Roots of Endurance: Invincible Perseverance in the Lives of John Newton, Charles Simeon, and William Wilberforce” http://ift.tt/1Qv1XMa

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Interview with Jeff Durbin on the Local Church



Our friend from New Zealand, Kris Baines recently interviewed Jeff Durban from Apologia Church (Tempe Ariz.) on various matters of church life. Here are Jeff’s comments on family integrated church life. See also Redemption church in New Zealand, http://ift.tt/2gfUlVS. Kris lives with his wife Becky, and their 7 children “down under” in Christchurch, New Zealand. He is one of the pastor-elders in the church he planted in 2002 as a Calvary Chapel. Since then, the Holy Spirit has brought about some challenging, yet exciting reformation in the church. This has included the transition to age integration, a deeper commitment to biblically qualified leadership, and the preaching of a gospel that emphasizes the sovereignty of God. In 2014, the church opted out of affiliation with the CC movement and became Redemption Church. In addition to pastoral ministry, and part-time work as a paramedic and composer, Kris leads The Psalm 12:1 Project – a ministry dedicated to the restoration of biblical manhood. One of the greatest passions Kris has, is to see believers embrace the sufficiency of Scripture and discover the blessings of God through Spirit-empowered obedience.

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Patriarchy – Five Grave Concerns

I hope you are able to check the Matt Holst article on Patriarchy over at the Reformation 21 blog which appeared a while back.

I am sure many of you who have been fighting for the restoration of biblical family life, and particularly for its instruction on manhood and womanhood, were happy to see the article by pastor Matt Holst, who lives just down the road from me in Raleigh. I was delighted to read it. I agree with almost everything he says. He has identified most of the egregious problems of the distorted understanding of male headship that we have heard about in recent times. Here are the five grave concerns:

1. Christian Patriarchy tends to supplant ecclesiastical authority.
2. Christian Patriarchy tends to supplant ecclesiastical community.
3. Christian Patriarchy tends to pervert the father’s God-given role in the home as prophet, priest and king.
4. Christian Patriarchy tends to pervert the mother’s God-given role in the home.
5. Christian Patriarchy tends to be a man-made, law based system.

Much of that distortion arises from zealous family reformers who practice poor exegesis, draw unwarranted conclusions, and misapply Scripture on the one hand and from feminism and homosexualism on the other.

But who are these people? Who are the writers who articulate these views? The are hard to find… At least, its hard to find them publishing anything. Instead, there seems to be some sort of “patriarchy underground” among professing Christians, and pastors and church members are concerned about them. These scattered individuals might show up in your church, but it is hard to identify specific teachers, so that you can quote them, or reference them in proper footnotes. Over the years, I have heard the errors Pastor Holst mentions, and have spoken against them; but I can’t say that I presently know any leaders or writers who publicly advocate the errors Holst exposes. But it’s not hard to find pastors who have had bad experiences with individuals who showed up in their congregations and caused a disturbance that was directly tied to one or more of Holst’s grave concerns.

The term, “patriarchy,” certainly has fallen on hard times and can hardly be used anymore without misunderstanding or without writing hundreds of words explaining what you mean by your use of the term. In Websters 1828 Dictionary, the definition is simple, “noun [Latin patriarcha; Gr. a family, father, and a chief.] 1. The father and ruler of a family; one who governs by paternal right. It is usually applied to the progenitors of the Israelites, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and the sons of Jacob, or to the heads of families before the flood; as the antediluvian patriarchs.” My impression is that most people who are writing or speaking against patriarchy are not exactly referring to this definition.

I liked Justin Taylor on the Gospel Coalition blog framed patriarchy in his article, “Why Does the Tale of Redemption Come to Us in the Language of Patriarchal Society?

From my vantage point, there are at least two uses of the word patriarchy currently used in a disparaging fashion. First, for the feminists, it simply means, anyone who believes in male headship. To them, male headship always means male abuse of women. But the Bible will have none of this. Christ Himself is “head” of the church, and He is not an abuser of His church. Second, there is what christian writers call “the patriarchy movement.” The people who disparagingly use this term often mean many things, including male domination and tyranny. Sometimes it is used to include various flavors of complementarians who are striving to be faithful to the biblical categories and commands of scripture regarding manhood and womanhood in marriage. Over the years, Ive known some good men who have been thrown in with the extremist hyper patriarchal pigs because they were somehow associated with this or that person or that they used the word “head” in the context of the male role in marriage.

When people ask me if I believe in patriarchy, I try to remember to ask, “what do YOU mean by patriarchy?”  After some conversation, I usually end up saying something like, “I do embrace patriarchy in this sense: I believe in the kind of headship that Jesus Christ displayed. As head of His church, He loved her and gave Himself up for her and He always leads her to green pastures.” That’s what I call biblical patriarchy (Ephesians 5:21-33; 1 Peter 3:7, 1-12).

While we are working for the recovery of biblical manhood and womanhood, we need the Lord’s help to discern truth from error and to shepherd churches to embrace the Headship of Christ in everything.

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Small Beginnings Produced by His Hand

“Thus out of small beginnings greater things have been produced by His hand that made all things of nothing, and gives being to all things that are; and, as one small candle may light a thousand, so the light here kindled hath shone unto many…” – William Bradford, Governor of the Plymouth Colony

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Small Beginnings Produced by His Hand

“Thus out of small beginnings greater things have been produced by His hand that made all things of nothing, and gives being to all things that are; and, as one small candle may light a thousand, so the light here kindled hath shone unto many…” – William Bradford, Governor of the Plymouth Colony

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Fourteen Thanksgiving Celebration Tips

It has always amazed me that we live in a nation where a holiday is given to the people for the purpose of thanksgiving. Let’s seize the day! It is a marvelous opportunity for us to lead our families in thanksgiving, building cultures of happiness and gratitude in our families that spill over into the church and the society at large. If there ever was a truly biblical holiday in America, Thanksgiving would top the list.

What follows are fourteen Thanksgiving Celebration Tips.  I write this that we “may proclaim with the voice of thanksgiving,” and to tell of His “wondrous works.” (Psalm 26:7), and to declare the praises of our Lord Jesus Christ across the land. In it you will find encouragement to read the scripture, sing the songs, recount the history and dedicate your family to building a culture of thankfulness.

1. Do what a fun family in our church does…

We have a family in our church that has a large and fantastic Thanksgiving celebration that engages all ages in the pilgrim story. It is educational and engaging for all. Anyone who comes must be dressed as a character of someone on the Mayflower, and ready to tell the story of their lives, reciting a speech to all – from the littlest to the oldest.

2. Read Psalm 136 

A couple of years ago, our family read Psalm 136 and each person gave a personal testimony of thanksgiving between each verse. Ezra 3:11 gives the basic idea for this, “And they sang responsively, praising and giving thanks to the Lord: “For He is good, For His mercy endures forever toward Israel.” Then all the people shouted with a great shout, when they praised the Lord, because the foundation of the house of the Lord was laid.”

3. Capture the opportunity to teach the sufficiency of Christ

Thanksgiving offers fathers a wonderful opportunity to intentionally use an entire day to teach your family and friends about the importance of giving thanks. Families need leaders who will establish and undergird and constantly reinforce a culture of joy in a family. Thanksgiving offers a brilliant opportunity for leaders to lead their tribes in thanksgiving and drive a stake in the ground to say, “thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 15:57), and to declare, “Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place” (2 Cor 2:14).

4. Play some Pilgrim games

It’s always nice to go outside and have some fun after such a fantastic meal. Over the years, we have played various pilgrim games. Here are some supposedly authentic pilgrim games. Following are two games that I think the pilgrims might have played that our family has played. 

The Spoon and Apple Race

Mark a start and finish line and move the apple along with a spoon. 

Pumpkin Roll 

Make a circle about 5 feet across out of a rope, and give the kids pumpkins around the circle at an equal distance from it. The first one who rolls the pumpkin into the circle is the winner.  

5. Exercise your guns

This is a distinctively pilgrim game. There is didactic evidence that the pilgrims got out their guns and went shooting… Here’s the reason we are confident this is a pilgrim game: Edward Winslow wrote, 

amongst other recreations, we exercised our arms, many of the Indians coming amongst us, and amongst the rest their greatest king, Massasoit, with some 90 men, whom for three days we entertained and feasted.” 

6. Have a hay ride to end all hay rides

For the past several years, we have had a Hay Ride on Thanksgiving. One year we pulled a low farm trailer with hay bales to sit on and we drove around re-enacting the voyage of the Mayflower, including people getting washed over board as did John Howland during a gale about half way in the journey… How was John Howland saved? 

“In sundrie of these storms the winds were so fierce and ye seas so high as they could not baree a knote of saile, but were forced to hull for diverce days together. And in one of them, as thus lay at hull in a mighty storm, a lustive yonge man, called John Howland, coming upon some occasion above ye grattings, was, with a seale of ye shippe, throwne into ye sea; but it pleased God that he caught hold of ye tope-saile hallards which hunge overboard and rane out at length; yet he held his hould (though he was sundrie fadomes under water) till he was hould up by ye same rope to be brime of ye water, and then with a boat-hooke & other means got into ye shippe again and his life was saved; and though he was something ill with it, yet he lived many years after and became a profitable member both in church and commonwealth.” (From Bradford’s, Of Plymouth Plantation)

7. Read the First Thanksgiving Proclamation of 1777

Read the rich and biblical language in the First Thanksgiving Proclamation, delivered in 1777 by the Continental Congress. The authors spoke beautifully of the elements of true Christianity. Here is a shortened version. They spoke of the, 

“Duty of all Men to adore the superintending Providence of Almighty God; to acknowledge with Gratitude their Obligation to him for Benefits received, and to implore such farther Blessings as they stand in Need of: And it having pleased him in his abundant Mercy, not only to continue to us the innumerable Bounties of his common Providence… (to) express the grateful Feelings of their Hearts, and consecrate themselves to the Service of their Divine Benefactor… (to enter into) Confession of their manifold Sins, whereby they had forfeited every Favor… (to offer) Supplication that it may please GOD through the Merits of JESUS CHRIST, mercifully to forgive and blot them out of Remembrance…”

8. Read George Washington’s proclamation, Oct 3 1789

This is a very eloquent and moving call to the nation to repentance, gratitude, prayer and to obedience to God. In the following excerpt, Washington appeals to, 

“all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor and also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech him to pardon our national and other transgressions…To promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue…”

Here you can read the Full Text of George Washington’s proclamation from the Library of Congress web site.

There are many Thanksgiving proclamations on record. Here are various Thanksgiving proclamations, from the web site of Pilgrim Hall, in Plymouth, Mass.

9. Read Edward Winslow’s description of the first Thanksgiving

Here is his description of the first Thanksgiving in 1621, in modern language,

“…our harvest being gotten in, our governor sent four men on fowling, that so we might after a special manner rejoice together, after we had gathered the fruits of our labors; they four in one day killed as much fowl, as with a little help beside, served the Company almost a week, at which time amongst other Recreations, we exercised our Arms, many of the Indians coming amongst us, and amongst the rest their greatest king Massasoit, with some ninety men, whom for three days we entertained and feasted, and they went out and killed five Deer, which they brought to the Plantation and bestowed on our Governor, and upon the Captain and others. And although it be not always so plentiful, as it was at this time with us, yet by the goodness of God, we are so far from want, that we often wish you partakers of our plenty.”

10. Explain the value of giving thanks from the Bible

Here are five ways:

First, do a word search on “thanksgiving”
Get out your computer or concordance and look for “thanksgiving,” “thankful,” and “thanks” in the Bible and find a few favorites to read.

Second, explain how in thanksgiving God calls us out of our sorrows
God is kind to lift His children out of despair by calling them to lift their voices in thanksgiving. He takes us beyond where we are. He takes us higher than we were. See how greatly the Father has loved us… He has done so much to lift us out of the despair that comes so naturally. He does this by calling us to give thanks.

Third, explain the value of acknowledging the goodness of God 
One of the blessings of God for His people is that He not only calls us to acknowledge the evil but to praise the good. God is a God of contrasts. He never leaves His people in the pit of despair. This is why we have so much to be thankful for. For His sovereignty over all things; for His provision for us; for the people He has put in our lives; for our churches; for a day of thanksgiving.

Fourth, explain the importance of praising God for victories
We can rejoice in His power of His Hand in the victories He has accomplished for us. This is one of the great uses of feasting in the Bible. For example, the first example of feasting in the Bible occurs when Melchizedek brings bread and wine to Abraham after his victory over five kings, “Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine; he was the priest of God Most High. And he blessed him and said: “Blessed be Abram of God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth; And blessed be God Most High, Who has delivered your enemies into your hand.” And he gave him a tithe of all.”  Genesis 14:18-20

Fifth, express gratitude for deliverance
The second example in scripture of feasting arose out of the victory of deliverance from Egyptian captivity where God commanded two annual holidays for feasting and thanksgiving. These feasts were, Shavout or the Feast of Pentecost and Sukkoth, the Feast of Tabernacles which was a celebration of the Ten Commandments.

Sixth, explain that through thanksgiving we endure the hard years
You may be thinking, ‘It’s been a hard year, and it is difficult to rejoice.”  Remember the first thanksgiving of the pilgrims in Plymouth.  They were giving thanks, even though only seven women were left alive after the first winter in America.  Yet, out of these seven women came the blessed rise of a “city built on a hill,” a light to the nations.

11. Read selections from “Of Plymouth Plantation” by William Bradford

Especially consider reading Chapter 4, “Reasons which led the congregation at Leyden to decide upon a settlement in America.”

12. Sing hymns the pilgrims sang

The pilgrims were lovers of music and singing. They sang the songs of the Ainsworth Psalter. Click the previous link and listen to Priscilla Mullins sing one of them. One of the more popular pilgrim songs is,  “We Gather Together.” You can listen to it here.  It originated during the time of the Dutch persecution in Holland. It is thought that Dutch Calvinists brought the song to  America in the 1620’s. This song was sung at the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953.

We gather together to ask the Lord’s blessing;
He chastens and hastens His will to make known.
The wicked oppressing now cease from distressing.
Sing praises to His Name; He forgets not His own.

Beside us to guide us, our God with us joining,
Ordaining, maintaining His kingdom divine;
So from the beginning the fight we were winning;
Thou, Lord, were at our side, all glory be Thine!

We all do extol Thee, Thou Leader in battle,
And pray that Thou still our Defender will be.
Let Thy congregation escape tribulation;
Thy Name be ever praised! O Lord, make us free!

The Old One Hundredth

There are various versions of this song. The lyrics below are from The Book of Psalmes : Englished both in Prose and Meter (Amsterdam 1612) by Henry Ainsworth, carried to New England on the Mayflower.

Leader:  Shout to Jehovah all the earth (Congregation Repeats)
Leader: Serve ye Jehovah with gladness (Congregation Repeats)
Leader: Enter His gates with singing mirth (Congregation Repeats)
Leader: Know that Jehovah He God is (Congregation Repeats)

It’s he that made us, and not we;
his folk, and sheep of his feeding.
O with confession enter ye
his gates, his courtyards with praising:

Confess to him, bless ye his name.
Because Jehovah he good is:
his mercy ever is the same
and his faith, unto all ages.

Following are some other lyrics that are sung to this tune:

All people that on earth do dwell
Sing to the Lord with cheerful voice.
Him serve with fear, His praise forth tell
Come ye before Him and rejoice

You faithful servants of the Lord
Sing out His praise with one accord
While serving Him with all your might
And keeping vigil through the night

Praise God, from Whom all blessings flow;
Praise Him, all creatures here below;
Praise Him above, ye heavenly host;
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.

Here are the words from the Genevan Psalter based on Psalm 134

You faithful servants of the Lord,
sing out his praise with one accord,
while serving him with all your might
and keeping vigil through the night.

Unto his house lift up your hand
and to the Lord your praises send.
May God who made the earth and sky
bestow his blessings from on high.

13. Tell the story of the pilgrims

My friend Stephen Hopkins, NCFIC Regional Facilitator in the Southwest, and pastor at Burnet Bible Church, has used the following to tell his children the story. It is taken mostly from selections of William Bradford’s “Of Plymouth Plantation.” It takes him almost an hour to get through it, so he breaks it up into two sections. Here is the full text of his notes. Feel free to plagiarize them.

14.  Use the day as preparation for heaven, where you will be giving thanks for all eternity.

Tell your family that this holiday for thanksgiving is a foretaste of heaven. Why? The Lord instructed us in several places that we ought to give thanks in everything (Eph. 5:18; Col 3:17; 1 Thess. 5:16-18). It is also the disposition of the godly, (Rom. 7:25; 1 Cor. 15:57; Rom. 6:17; 2 Cor. 2:14). Why? Because this is the activity of heaven… We give thanks today as a foretaste of that day when we will be filled with everlasting thankfulness… This will be one of the dominant emotions in heaven. It begins at the Lord’s Supper, and is continued at the marriage supper of the lamb which inaugurates times of everlasting joy. The day is coming when we will have everlasting joy on our heads. See Isaiah 51:11, So the ransomed of the Lord shall return, And come to Zion with singing, With everlasting joy on their heads. They shall obtain joy and gladness; Sorrow and sighing shall flee away.

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Golden Calf Christianity in a Town Near You

Jesse Johnson, in his article,  Tozer, Youth Ministry, and a plug nickel  plays the role of a helpful historian as documents a time period which I was a part of a… the rise of youth ministry in America. It was a time where evangelicalism lost its way and is still reeling. Johnson speaks of it as a “dumbing down.”

He notes how Tozer registered his concerns about youth ministry at the beginning of its rise, and the further demise that took place as youth pastors became pastors in America…

Tozer called it, “golden calf christianity.” I would add that Millennials have simply transitioned from this to big multimedia driven light shows, riveting hypnotic music and fog… same old thing in a different package. 

Here is the article:


Tozer, Youth Ministry, and a Plug Nickle

Jesse Johnson

Recently I was reading an Al Mohler book on preaching (He is Not Silent), and came across a series of A. W. Tozer’s laments about the decline of theology in the typical evangelical pulpit. Tozer rings prophetic as he diagnosed this negative trend consistently and for decades.

Tozer (d. 1963) points back to the dumbing down of youth ministry as the moment that the cancer of non-doctrinal preaching entered evangelicalism. When youth pastors began to fancy themselves as professional entertainers, they prepared the students to disassociate theology from church:  

We have the breezy, self confident Christians with little affinity for Christ and his cross. We have the joy-bell boys that can bounce out there and look as much like a game show host as possible. Yet they are doing it for Jesus’ sake?! The hypocrites! They’re not doing it for Jesus’ sake at all; they are doing it in their own carnal flesh and are using the church as a theater because they haven’t yet reached the place where the theater would take them. (Tozer on Worship and Entertainment).

He then watches that cancer work its through the body as those youth pastors became pastors, and those students either left the faith or became comfortable with a faith that didn’t challenge:

It is now [1960’s] common practice in most evangelical churches to offer the people, especially the young people, a maximum of entertainment and a minimum of serious instruction. It is scarcely possible in most places to get anyone to attend meeting where the only attraction is God. One can only conclude that God’s professed children are bored with Him, for they must be wooed to meeting with a stick of striped candy in the form of religious movies, games and refreshments.

This has influenced the whole pattern of church life, and even brought into being a new type of church architecture designed to house the golden calf.

So we have the strange anomaly of orthodoxy in creed and heterodoxy in practice. The striped-candy technique has been so fully integrated into our present religious thinking that hit is simply taken for granted. Its victims never dream that it is not a part of the teachings of Christ and His apostles.

Any objection to the carryings-on of our present golden calf Christianity is met with the triumphant reply, “But we are winning them!” And winning them to what? To true discipleship? To cross-carrying? To self-denial? To separation from the world? To crucifixion of the flesh? To holy living? To nobility of character? To a despising of the worlds’ treasures? To hard self-discipline? To love for God? To total committal to Christ? Of course, the answer to all these questions is “no.” (Man, the Dwelling Place of God).

As young people grew up, reared in a church that was even physically structured to entertain, it produced congregations that didn’t have a hunger for theology. The result is a dumbing down of evangelicalism:

We have simplified until Christianity amounts to this: God is love; Jesus died for you; believe, accept, be jolly, have fun and tell others. And away we go—that is the Christianity of our day. I would not give a plug nickel for the whole business of it. Once in a while God has a poor bleeding sheep that manages to live on that kind of thing, and we wonder how. (Rut, Rot…Revival).

So for pastors and youth workers, it is worth reminding ourselves that if people are drawn to church with frivolity, then—assuming they stay—that appetite will follow them as they grow. Youth groups should be fun—even Tozer would grant that!—but if the games edge out doctrinal instruction, that vacuum won’t magically be filled when (if) the students become members.

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Six Things the Lord Does


Sermon Audio Featured Sermon on 1 John 2:12-14

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The Greatest Is Love


In the final clause of 1 Corinthians 13, the apostle makes it plain that the purpose of everything in earth and heaven is love. Nothing matters without love. Nothing lasts without love. Nothing is beautiful without love. And, the whole story of history is summed up in these words in John 15:9, “as the father has loved me so have I loved you.” One theologian has called it a waterfall of love.” Here is how love works: The Father loves the Son; The Son loves His brethren; The husband loves his wife; The Father loves his son; The daughter loves her father; The wife respects her husband. God is the head of Christ and pours out His love. Christ is the head of man and He pours out His love toward man. Man is the head of woman and He pours out His love on his wife. Then the father and the mother pour their love out on their children…

This is the world of Love that God has created for His family on earth, and in heaven. It is the answer to the question of the meaning of life. What does it mean to be involved in an enduring work? What does it mean to do something of value with your life? 1 Cor 13:8-13 answers the question with perfect clarity.

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How Children are Left Out in a Family Integrated Church

I am confident that worship and fellowship in a church should be age integrated, following the biblical patterns. There are many benefits… For example, in churches were this is practiced there is a heightened relational depth. The fellowship times last longer than in many churches. People get very connected. In most family integrated churches, the whole congregation eats lunch together after Sunday worship. It’s wonderful! The people stay around. It creates a relational fabric in the church that is a blessing. The pastors can get better connected with the flock. Families end up sharing dozens of meals together each year… It’s great!

But something often happens in the midst of this kind of wonderful setting.  Parents can get so absorbed in their fellowship and their ministry with other adults, two things often happen.

1. Children are left to themselves.
The children are simply left out of the conversations the adults are having. Result: there is a de-facto youth culture running underneath the adult fellowship culture. Parents take little effort to involve the younger ones in their conversations. What do you get: an age segregated family integrated church… You get disinterested uninvolved children because the parents are so focused on their peers… It creates a peer driven church under the guise of family integration.

2.  Children can be neglected.
The children are sometimes just waiting for their parents to finish their conversations. They wait and wait and wait while their parents are engaged in their lively conversations with their peers. I wonder how many children eventually become resentful because their parents are so wrapped up in their fellowship binge. They wait patiently. They have nothing to do. They just wait until their parents are done. Not very exciting – for the children. 

What should we do? 

We ought to be far more caring for our children. We should love them enough to engage them. I realize it takes more work to engage them… it requires fore thought and actual love for parents to be sensitive of their presence.

Here is my advice:

  1. Keep your children with you as much as is practicable and engage them in your conversations with other adults. Be aware of them and bring them into the conversations. Make these conversations valuable and interesting. Make them a joy. 
  2. Don’t neglect your children and allow situations where they are waiting around for you all the time. I realize it may be necessary from time to time, but don’t make them wait… It’s not something that you would do to your friends, and it’s not something that should be done very often to your children.
  3. Adults, seek out the children of your brothers and sisters in Christ. We are brothers and sisters. Seek to minister to the  young people. Pray for them. Engage them in conversation. Prov. 27:9-10 speaks of the way families should operate regarding friendship. Ointment and perfume delight the heart, And the sweetness of a man’s friend gives delight by hearty counsel.10 Do not forsake your own friend or your father’s friend, Nor go to your brother’s house in the day of your calamity; Better is a neighbor nearby than a brother far away.”  Here, Solomon recognizes a level of friendship and/or familiarity between a young people and the friends of their fathers. 

If we are going to have a family integrated church, we must remember to love the children as well.

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