One Generation to Another

“One generation commends your works to another; they tell of your mighty acts.” (Psalm 145:4, NIV)


In my last devotional, I wrote about how God had reminded me that in the busyness of life, I need to remember to share my faith in Jesus with my kids. My goal with these Monday devotionals is simply to share what God puts on my heart and says to me in the hope that it will encourage you to listen to what God is saying to you. I think more people hear from God more often than they realize, and if I can model or share how God speaks to me, perhaps it will help you learn to better recognize His still small voice in your own heart and mind. Occasionally, one of you shares with me what God is saying to you, or how He is working in your life. I love hearing those stories! Please keep them coming!

I also hoped the devotional last week would encourage parents (and grandparents) to be more proactive in teaching their own children (and grandchildren) about the Lord, and modeling a genuine faith in and relationship with Jesus for their own kids (and grandkids). I know there are many kids out there who don’t have Christian parents or grandparents. They are incredibly important. But, in our zeal to reach them, let’s not forget about the kids God has given us–they matter, too. God reminded me of the importance of investing in my own kids last Monday, and I passed it on to you because it’s what I do with these devotional emails.

That said, this week will be a little different because I want to follow up on last week’s topic. Last week was for parents. This week is for the church. For 30 years (maybe more), the prevailing thought among churches has been divide and conquer. We’ve assumed the most effective way to reach the next generation is to isolate them and create programming in which every second is designed specifically for them. But in the past few years, we’ve begun to realize the drawbacks of that model as more and more teens walk away not just from church, but from God, when they hit adulthood. And, alarmingly, a huge percentage of these young adults are not coming back to God or the church at all, even when they start having their own kids.

Some churches reacted to this by canceling all youth and children’s programming in favor of a fully family-integrated approach. I’m not convinced that’s the right approach, either. Why do we tend to run to the far end of the spectrum on almost every issue? The best way is likely not going to be at either pole, but somewhere in the middle.

The problem with an isolation approach is that you end up with a youth/children’s ministry that is siloed, separated from the rest of the church. The church isn’t a family to them. You end up with a group of kids only loosely connected with the larger church whose building they use for their programming. When the kids become adults, they often lose interest and walk away because they’re not really part of the church. And let’s be honest, our goal isn’t to pack out our programming with high attendance (no matter what age we’re aiming for, whether children’s ministry, youth ministry, Sunday worship, or senior adults). Our goal is to lead kids (really, people of all ages) in a growing relationship with Jesus that will last their lifetime.

The problem with a fully family-integrated approach is that it also ends up isolating people (not just kids). It leaves out those who don’t have a traditional nuclear family, which just happens to be the majority of our society. The very approach targeting integration ends up as just another form of isolation.

Let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater. I think what we need to figure out is not isolation or family-integration, but rather a church family approach to reaching the next generation. My desire is to see the church become a spiritual family. I want everyone (seniors, middle-aged, young adults, teens, and children) to have a place where they belong. I want every generation to know that they have a family–whether or not their parents are Christians–they have a family that loves them, cares for them, prays for them, and is there for them. They are welcome, they belong, there is a place they can call home. The church needs to be a surrogate family for those whose earthly families don’t follow Jesus or are not safe families. I want to see teens and children be loved by seniors who aren’t their biological grandparents but are their spiritual grandparents (of course, it would be great if their biological grandparents also loved them and helped them along in their faith journey).

Psalm 145:4 isn’t just for parents teaching their own kids (although it does cover that, too). It’s also for each generation within God’s family, the church, to pass their faith on to the generations below them with love, prayer, encouragement, admonishment, teaching, and leading by example. I’m fully in favor of age-appropriate programming and church-family-integration.

A Prayer for Sri Lanka

“I call out to the LORD…” (Psalm 3:4a)


Yesterday, suicide bombers in Sri Lanka killed over 200 people, targeting three churches during their Easter services. My prayers this week will include our brothers and sisters whose loved ones were martyred while celebrating the resurrection of our Lord. Those faithful saints are with Him face-to-face today, but their families and friends remain grieving (although not as the world grieves, see 1 Thess. 4:13-18). Psalm 3 offers a lament lined with hope and may be used as a guide for our prayer for Sri Lanka. I’ve given Psalm 3 in full below. Will you join me in praying for the Church in Sri Lanka this week?

Psalm 3 (NIV)

A psalm of David. When he fled from his son Absalom.

1 LORD, how many are my foes!
How many rise up against me!
2 Many are saying of me,
“God will not deliver him.”

3 But you, LORD, are a shield around me,
my glory, the One who lifts my head high.
4 I call out to the LORD,
and he answers me from his holy mountain.

5 I lie down and sleep;
I wake again, because the LORD sustains me.
6 I will not fear though tens of thousands
assail me on every side.

7 Arise, LORD!
Deliver me, my God!
Strike all my enemies on the jaw;
break the teeth of the wicked.

8 From the LORD comes deliverance.
May your blessing be on your people.

 

Alignment

“Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.” (Proverbs 19:21, NIV).

Recently our church did a painting event, where an artist walked us step-by-step through how to paint a Christmas tree with a cross as its trunk. I was helping my six-year-old son, Jack. We could see what the goal was for our painting, yet as we painted the artist often said, “If you like this, do this. If you want to do something else, go ahead and put your own style into it.” As we painted, Jack expressed his own interests and desires in what his painting should look like, and when I walked around the room, I saw many, many different Christmas trees with crosses for trunks. The variety was incredible, and yet the purpose of the artwork was the same every time.

This is a beautiful picture (no pun intended) of God’s purpose in our lives. He doesn’t just dictate his will to mindless slaves to obey or die. He invites us into the process. He created us with thoughts and emotions, dreams and aspirations. He is interested in what our hearts long for, and he makes space for us to express our own “style” as we go along the way. God works with us to accomplish his purpose, and that is profoundly amazing.

Yet, we must remember that ultimately, it is God’s purpose that prevails. If our plans go against his purpose, we will surely be frustrated. As I was reading and praying through Proverbs 19, the Lord brought verse 21 to my attention. I distinctly sensed him say to me, I want your plans to align with MY purpose. I think when that happens, we experience the fullest sense of meaning, freedom, and joy. We are painting with our Father, who is showing us the purpose while allowing us to be who he created us to be in the process.

This brings to mind Psalm 37:4, “Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart” (NIV). May the Lord forgive me the times when my plans have not aligned with his purpose!

My prayer for this week is that our hearts will sync with God’s heart, and we will find the sheer delight of aligning our plans with his purpose.

Rest in Him

This post comes from Tara Wheeler, our Children’s Ministry Director at LakeView Church.


“Your unfailing love is better than life itself; how I praise you! I will praise you as long as I live, lifting up my hand to you in prayer.” (Psalm 63:3-4, NLT)

Time to take a breath and slow down….this is what I’m telling myself…..but having a hard time applying it.  Slowing down goes against every fiber in my being.  I grew up on a dairy farm and there was never a lack of something to do.  We all worked together as a family to get done what was needed.  I’ve been told that I’m exactly like my grandma and that I simply don’t know how to sit and do nothing….a.k.a. RELAX.  Sometimes this drives my family nuts.  Sometimes I put my to-do list ahead of quality time I should be spending with the kids or my husband.  Then I find myself getting frustrated that the kids or my husband aren’t doing everything on the list I’ve created in my mind that HAS to get done.  Sometimes I put tasks first and think that I’ll open my Bible for quiet reading and prayer after I just get this one more thing done…

Yes.  Guilty as charged.  I’m totally a “Martha” a little too often. Take a look at Luke 10:38-42 for a refresher on that sister drama, but a humbling reminder from Jesus to keep HIM at the forefront of our thoughts and actions.  My anxiety and stress level lessen when I take time for HIM first.  I need to remind myself to put quality time with my kids and husband before my tasks.  They’re growing fast and I can’t get back time. As the holidays are approaching, it’s timely for me to share these thoughts if for nothing more than a reminder to myself of what’s IMPORTANT and not urgent. Just slow down. Rest. HE has control and will give the strength that is needed to get through every day.

Isaiah 40:29-31 “He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.  Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.  They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”

Dear Jesus,

YOU are important.  Thank you for your never-ending love, strength, and care for each one of us. Please bring calm to our spirits and our minds so that we stay focused on you, our families, our relationships, and the important things that you would want for us instead of our to-do lists. Thank you for your grace and love.

Amen

May you all have a safe and wonderful Thanksgiving holiday this week with family and friends!

~ Tara


I hope Tara’s words have encouraged you as much as they have me. Have a blessed week!

Lord, I Need You

The series on prayer continues with a look at Psalm 16, a prayer of dependence and confidence in God. How can we say that God is our only hope? Why do Christians put all their eggs in God’s basket? Why do we pray: “Lord, I need you”?

Better is One Day

“Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere; I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of the wicked.” (Psalm 84:10, NIV)

You may be wondering why I’m writing from Psalm 84 when I said a few weeks ago I was going to work through Leviticus. No, I haven’t given up on Leviticus (again)! In my study of the third book in the Bible, I came across this great quote from L. Michael Morales:

“Entering the house of God to dwell with God, beholding, glorifying and enjoying him eternally, I suggest, is the story of the Bible, the plot that makes sense of the various acts, persons and places of its pages, the deepest context for its doctrines. For this ultimate end the Son of God shed his blood and poured out the Spirit from on high, even to bring us into his Father’s house, in him, as sons and daughters of God… The primary theme and theology of Leviticus (and of the Pentateuch as a whole) is YHWH’s opening a way for humanity to dwell in the divine Presence.”1

What a great (and I think accurate) perspective of Leviticus! The primary theme isn’t the Law or all the regulations concerning sacrifices and offerings. The main point of the book is how we can dwell with God. All the other things drive toward that end. This brought to mind Psalm 84 and one of my favorite songs to sing in worship. I’ve linked it below.

My prayer for this week is that you will enjoy some time in the personal presence of God, even if it’s just for a few moments while you listen and maybe sing along with the song below.


1 L. Michael Morales, Who Shall Ascend the Mountain of the Lord?: A Biblical Theology of the Book of Leviticus, ed. D. A. Carson, vol. 37, New Studies in Biblical Theology (England; Downers Grove, IL: Apollos; InterVarsity Press, 2015), 21–23.

It is in Vain

“Unless the Lord builds the house,
those who build it labor in vain.
Unless the Lord watches over the city,
the watchman stays awake in vain.

It is in vain that you rise up early
and go late to rest,
eating the bread of anxious toil;
for he gives to his beloved sleep.”
(Psalm 127:1–2, ESV)

I get up fairly early to spend with the Lord each day (I actually have a standing appointment with God on my calendar, but I’m a geek and that’s another blog). This morning I was thinking about the busy week ahead, all the things on my list to do. And I thought, Maybe this morning instead of reading the Psalms with God I’ll get a jumpstart on sermon prep for the week. God knows how much I have to do this week and He’ll understand.

As I was thinking this, the Holy Spirit convicted me, and I decided to spend my time with God, but not in Psalms. I would generate a reading plan about the Holy Spirit and start reading through those passages as my “devotional” time. Even while I was trying to make a deal with the Holy Spirit, I realized that if this was my plan I would end up spending my entire “devotional” time researching reading plans, rather than meeting with God in His Word. Plus, researching Holy Spirit reading plans is one of the tasks on my to do list for the week.

I felt pretty strongly that God wanted me to keep my meeting with Him in the Psalms, and the Psalm for today is Psalm 127. I read through the Psalm a few times (it’s only five verses) and was listening to what God might be saying. I got hung up on verse 2 and the way different English Bibles translate it in different ways, so I read it in Hebrew and was thinking about the various translation options when all of a sudden the Holy Spirit turned a light bulb on in my head.

Here I had been trying to convince myself to skip my meeting with God so that I could rise up early and work ahead on my week. But unless the LORD builds the house, the builders work in vain, and unless the LORD watches over the city, the watchmen work in vain… And God couldn’t have spoken any more clearly to me: “It is in vain that you rise up early (v. 2). Unless the LORD shepherds the church, the pastor works in vain! Getting up early to work won’t work unless God is the One working. So if I’m going to get up early, I might as well enjoy a cup of coffee with my Lord and let Him empower my work later.

As God so patiently spent time with me and brought that to my attention, I couldn’t help but laugh. There was no condemnation in His conviction, and I could feel His smile when  I finally got what He was saying to me this morning. My prayer for you this week is that you’ll remember to spend time with God in the midst of the busy-ness of life.


Photo by Igor Ovsyannykov on Unsplash

In My Distress

“I call on the LORD in my distress, and he answers me.” (Psalm 120:1, NIV)

How is your prayer life? Mine has gone through many seasons alternating between fervent, regular, intimate prayer and periods of dryness where I feel like God doesn’t answer or I just plain don’t pray. One thing’s for sure, though, when I’m in a rough patch in life, my prayer habits tend to improve. Funny how distress often causes us to remember God! O that we would call on the Lord when times are good, and not just when trouble heads our way!

This hasn’t always been the pattern in my life. A few years ago, when Asher was a baby, he was pretty sick and had to go to the ER. Even though I was a pastor who counseled people to call on the Lord in times of trouble, it didn’t occur to me to apply that counsel to my own life. We got to the hospital, checked in, and were waiting for the doctor. Corinne asked me if I would pray for Asher, and I immediately recognized the Holy Spirit speaking through my bride: Are you going to ask for My help or try to muscle through this on your own?

The truth that God walks through our distress with us, giving us the strength to endure, fell from my head to my heart. I had learned it, but I didn’t know it–does that make sense? It took a little distress in my life for God to teach me that lesson.

One of my favorite things about God is that He answers us when we call on Him. He walks through life with us. He helps us when we’re weak and calms us when we’re afraid. He celebrates with us when things go well, and encourages us when they don’t. My prayer for this week is that you will call on the Lord and He will answer you, whether you’re in distress or delight.


Photo by Felipe P. Lima Rizo on Unsplash

Moses, Aaron, and Samuel

“Moses and Aaron were among his priests; Samuel was one of those who prayed to him. They prayed to the Lord and he answered them.” (Psalm 99:6, NET)

I love to read. I especially enjoy stories with dynamic and interesting characters you can get to know through the story. By the end of The Lord of the Rings saga, you almost feel as though you are friends with Frodo and Sam, Aragorn, Legolas, Gimli, and Gandalf, and many others in the story. It’s the same with Ender from Ender’s Game, Liesel Meminger from The Book Thief, Teo and Anna from the Chiveis Trilogy, and many others. The best books develop deep characters who are realistic enough you can relate to them (even if they’re a hobbit or a wizard).

One of the things I love about reading the Bible, especially the Old Testament, is that it is filled with incredible stories and fascinating characters. But whereas the stories I mentioned above are fictional, the stories from the Bible are true historical events. This makes them even more interesting! When we read in Psalm 99 that Moses, Aaron, and Samuel prayed to the Lord and He answered them, we’re not reading a pleasant poem about make-believe characters in a fictional story. We’re reading about real people who called on the Lord and received an answer to their prayers. And if God could answer them, then He can answer us when we cry out to Him in prayer. This isn’t pretend, it’s for real!

Think about some of the people whose stories have impacted your faith through the years. These could be people from the pages of Scripture, like Moses, Samuel, David, Solomon, Paul, John, and Peter. They could be people from the archives of history, like Polycarp, Augustine, Billy Graham, or Jim Elliot. And, think about people from your own life, whether inspirational or no, whose lives have changed your relationship with God. A grandparent, a parent, a sibling, a Sunday school teacher, a pastor, a friend, or even an enemy. Chances are, even if you’re new to your faith, you can think of a handful of people from your own life’s journey who’ve impacted your faith in some way. Some we’d like to imitate, and others to learn from their mistakes, but all have changed the way we walk with God.

My prayer for this week is to thank God for the true stories that have shaped my faith and for the people He has placed in my life to guide me (even the bad examples). I also pray that I would be a good example to those around me, so that someday my kids or grandkids will remember my relationship with the Lord and talk about how much it impacted their faith.


Photo by Brandi Redd on Unsplash

The Language of the Soul

“It is good to praise the Lord and make music to your name, O Most High, proclaiming your love in the morning and your faithfulness at night, to the music of the ten-stringed lyre and the melody of the harp.” (Psalm 92:1–3, NIV)

I have loved music as far back as I can remember. It’s in my DNA, part of how God created me to be me. It is commonly said that music is the “universal language” that transcends culture, history, and linguistic barriers, and unites humankind in a common expression. There’s just something about music that moves the heart and the mind in ways that words alone cannot.

Music has the power to engage us at the heart-level. It can stir emotions in us that well up from deep within. Music gives form to the expression of our souls; we create, listen, and engage with music in every area, in every season of life. Music can be an instrument (pun intended) to express our joy, our sorrow, our anger, our pain, and our love. And I think that’s exactly why God gave us the gift of music: to give a language to our souls for creating beauty, moving emotion, venting stress, and most importantly, for expressing worship.

I have had friends over the years who believed that emotion in worship was dangerous and best avoided. The music that characterized their churches was robotic and expressionless. And sad. If I can’t bring my feelings to God, where can I take them? Reading through the Psalms, I don’t get the impression that David suppressed his emotions, rather, at times he seems like an emotional hot mess! And he expressed his soul to God through music.

My prayer this week is that we will open our hearts to God through the gift of music, whether it’s something we play or sing ourselves or something we listen to. When we come next Sunday to worship together, allow your soul to speak the language of music in praise to the Risen Lord.

Yesterday in worship, I was moved deeply by the song Death Was Arrested. I hope you enjoy this song this week!


Photo by Mohammad Metri on Unsplash

A Shepherd

“[F]rom tending the sheep he brought him to be the shepherd of his people… And David shepherded them with integrity of heart; with skillful hands he led them” (Psalm 78:71a, 72, NIV).

Psalm 78 is a great overview of Israel’s history and how God led them, protected them, provided for them, and disciplined them when they sinned. It reveals God as the Shepherd of His people, and we shouldn’t be surprised that Jesus is also revealed as a shepherd in the New Testament, the Good Shepherd who lays down His life for the sheep (John 10:11). In Psalm 78 God raised up another shepherd to lead His people–David. And I love what the Bible says about David’s leadership as king of Israel: he shepherded them with integrity of heart and led them with skillful hands.

As someone God has called to be a pastor (or shepherd, for that is what the word pastor literally means) of His people I pray these words would be true of me as well. I confess my sin to God and ask for integrity of heart through the sanctifying power of the Holy Spirit. And I constantly pray for wisdom, that I may lead with skillful hands. I pray this as well for the elders and all those in leadership at LakeView.

Hebrews 13:7 says to “remember your leaders” and a few verses later in 17 it says that the leaders of the church “keep watch over you as those who must give an account.” The elders, who are also shepherds of God’s people, have a heavy responsibility. They will stand before God one day and give an account for every decision they made, every word they said, every policy they wrote as an elder and shepherd of LakeView. They need our prayers and encouragement to shepherd with integrity of heart and lead with skillful hands.

Will you join me this week in praying for each of the elders by name?

  • Mike Moll
  • Ryan Horrisberger
  • Wayne Hansen
  • Tom Roe
  • Kevin Louis
  • Gary Cook