Archive for the ‘Children’s Ministry’ Category

Christmas: God’s Plan and Response For Man!

God With Us

https://trinityandhumanity.files.wordpress.com/2015/12/15-12-20-christmas-gods-plan-and-response-for-man-matt-1-2-9-10-tah.mp3”

In this Message on the 4th week of Advent, and heading toward Christmas, the Gospel of Jesus Christ is proclaimed to those gathered in worship at New Life Fellowship of Baltimore. The special emphasis of this message is that just as the Head, Jesus, was born into this world 2000 years ago as God’s Plan and Response for humanity, His Body, the Church, follows Him today, participating with Him in his ongoing work of redemption in this present world!

Check it out and be assured and unafraid as you GO with Jesus into our world, proclaiming Him in word and deed!

 

picture courtesy of ad-ne.org

Train Up A Child…

From a youth I have had a keen appreciation for antiques… sort of. Let me explain. While I do appreciate fine antique furniture and ornate wrought iron gates it is the tools used to create them that have always intrigued me. I have a growing collection of antique tools that I love to use. I am not one to buy an old tool and put away only to look at it or show it off to visitors- I put them to use. From my anvil that was made in England in the 1830’s to old chisels and hand planes (some of which were made before the Revolutionary War) I use them to do the tasksTrain Up A Child for which they were intended.

One of the first rules of hand tools or any tool for that matter is to use it for its intended purpose. I once saw someone take a finely honed 19th century Lakeside chisel and scrape a sticker off a metal lunch pail. YIKES!

In Proverbs 22:6 we are told to “Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it.” Wow, those words can either be an encouragement to parents or worrisome. It mostly depends on how you read it.

Well without boring the reader with the grammars and morphologies of ancient languages let me just tell you that the original text would read more like… “Train up a child the way he/she is bent and they will not depart from it even in old age.”

So the writer of the wisdom in Proverbs 22:6 is basically admonishing parents to look for where the child is naturally gifted and then to encourage and assist them in exploring that gift.

Think of another type of tool, a bow, if one wishes to launch an arrow with a bow one must draw the bow the way it is “bent”. If one were to draw the bow a different way from how it is bent the bow will perform poorly and may even break.

Our children are certainly not tools that we use but they, like a finely set Isaac Field smoothing plane, must be carefully observed and encouraged to do what they were created to do.

Some children love mathematics, some love animals, some love to act and entertain, some are gifted musically. Whatever gifts the Father, Son, and Spirit have given your kids encourage them, in any way possible, to chase their passions and even when they are old they will not depart from it.

Now where did I put that Stanley no. 48 tongue and groove plane Davina got me…

Group Hug

Higher Ground LodgeRecently I had the privilege of serving as Chaplain at Higher Ground Summer Camp in the beautiful mountains of North Carolina. Throughout the camp each dorm is given multiple opportunities to sit and chat about whatever is on their minds. I have attended many of these chats over the past decade and I have to say they are never boring and to my perpetual amazement young people seem to be far more tuned in to the world around them than we might think. Teens and preteens are concerned about many of the same things that matter to adults. What is so different is that teens and preteens often feel powerless to control their circumstances. They often feel unequipped and unprepared to handle the myriad of challenges that they face.

So there I was with boys’ dorm 3B fielding questions and facilitating discussion about everything from whether we should stomp on little beetles just for fun to why bad things happen to good people. Well, during the course of our time together a young man named Jared asked me a very serious question.  His demeanor in asking the question told me how important this was for him. He leaned forward placing his elbows on his knees and clasping his hands in nervous anticipation of how his question would be received. Clearing his throat he managed, “How do I get closer to God?”

Now the me in me tends to answer right away and the answers tend to be less than stellar when that happens but on this occasion I waited to hear from Holy Spirit. What she gave me was worth sharing with the readers of Trinity and Humanity.

As I waited for Holy Spirit she gave me two words and a picture. I looked at Jared and said the two words , “You can’t.” Fear overcame his expression so I asked him to stand up. Now we were going to build the picture. I then asked permission to give him a hug. He agreed and right in front of the whole dorm I embraced him. As I held him tight in my arms I said to him, “Jared, Jesus has embraced you. But this is not a clear enough picture.” I motioned to a staff member named Linn. Linn came over and he wrapped Jared and I in his arms. I then repeated to Jared, “Jared, Jesus has embraced you in the fellowship of the Holy Spirit but this is not a clear enough picture.” I motioned for one of the counselors to come over and Jonathan embraced the three of us. I repeated again, “Jared, Jesus has embraced you in the fellowship of the Holy Spirit with the Father’s embrace.” Then I whispered to him, “Now you tell me how you get closer to this?” Jared was over-joyed to the near point of tears.

You see, Jesus has embraced us in the Holy Spirit with the Father’s embrace. We are in Jesus and He is in us. (Jn 14:20) We may sense a separation we may sense an estrangement but we can never be any closer to Triune God and we can never escape this all-inclusive embrace.

Lord show us and help us feel the group hug that surrounds us all! In Jesus name! Amen.

~ Bill Winn

The Gift From Jesus – The Holy Spirit!

pentecost_Holy_Spirit

https://trinityandhumanity.files.wordpress.com/2013/06/13-05-19-the-gift-from-jesus-the-holy-spirit-john-14-9-27-tah.mp3

Rehearse, Remember and Receive with New Life Fellowship of Baltimore, Maryland that “When God Sends forth the Spirit amazing things happen!”

Of merit badges and fruit

In my ongoing process of learning to raise my kids in the light of the Triune God of grace, I am starting to rethink the Boy-Scouts model of character formation.  You know what I’m talking about:

  1. I want my child to embrace values like Service, Honesty, Citizenship.
  2. He won’t embrace these values on his own, so I provide an external motivator (like a merit badge).
  3. He performs the necessary tasks in order to earn the merit badge, but in the process also (presumably) builds the character traits I wish to see.
  4. As he matures, he will (presumably) grow to value character more than merit badges.

I’m not bad-mouthing Scouts here.  There are probably several contexts where that model of training works great.  But I am beginning to doubt its usefulness in the area of spiritual formation, and for parenting in general.  Then again, my doubts could be wrong; Christian lists have been around a long time:

  • Saint Paul (love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, etc.)
  • The medieval church (prudence, temperance, fortitude, etc.)
  • The monastic tradition (poverty, chastity, obedience)
  • The Puritans (submission, fidelity, industry)
  • Purpose-Driven Church (worship, fellowship, discipleship, service, evangelism)

Because of this long history of Christian list-o-philia, I have toyed with ideas of defining a list of Stonecypher Family Virtues, and then being intentional about promoting and pursuing these virtues as a family.  I even looked into non-Scout merit badges that you can buy, for anything from Bible-Reading to Dishwashing.

Here’s the rub:  These are all ways to manipulate people’s insides so that they will match an external standard.  But what if it’s true that Christ is already inside them?  What if it’s true that the Incarnation has already put the Triune Life into the basic human equipment my children were born with?

I’m still figuring all this out, but here’s how I try to parent these days:  I live among my children and I keep my eyes and ears open.  I look for what’s going on in their lives.  I listen for whispers of the Divine Triune passions getting expressed in their feelings and thoughts and actions.  I try to fan the flames when and where they arise.

Yes, we still read the Bible together and pray together and all that.  We still talk about why patience and honesty and self-sacrifice are good. But I would say these activities are secondary rather than primary.

Trees don’t produce fruit because it gets them merit badges.  Tree produce fruit by simply being trees.

Sermon: Don’t Say “I am Just a Child”

Don’t Say “I Am Just A Child” by Tim Brassell

What does the Good News of the Father, Son and Spirit say to, and about, Youth and Children? Here are four things all Youth (and parents!) should (and will!) know!

Drowning in pictures

My 7-year-old, Ian, gets theologically frustrated with me.  He asks me why Jesus died and how it saves us, and I reply with the various metaphors for how atonement works.  My 5-year-old, Brendan, enjoys the metaphors, because he thinks in pictures like I do.  Because of our conversations, he paints some odd pictures, which we sometimes discover strewn about the house.  There is one I especially like, a finger-painted picture of “Death Jail” next to a picture of the key that unlocks our jail cell.  There is also a helicopter in that picture, but Brendan says it has nothing to do with the atonement; it just seemed a good space to put a helicopter.

Anyway, these talks are not entirely satisfying to Ian, who is very left-brained and can spot illogic 10 miles away.  When I float off into word-pictures about the atonement, he says “DAD, I don’t want to know what it’s LIKE; I want to know what it IS.”

Can I give him what he wants here?  I honestly don’t know. 

Back in the day, Anselm had a similar issue.  He dealt with it by taking one of the metaphors (the legal courtroom drama) and saying “This is not a metaphor.  This is what’s actually going on in the atonement.”  The thing is, I don’t think that turned out very well, because that metaphor breaks down in several important places.  Just like how my “Death-Jail” (Christus Victor) metaphor breaks down.  Just like any metaphor would.

In my reading of Torrance and others, I sense they are trying to talk about the atonement beyond mere pictures.  Torrance is a scientist, after all.  Whatever metaphors and images he uses, he uses them so that we will stop looking at the picture and come face-to-face with the Reality.

When we talk about Jesus adopting us by assuming our humanity and healing it from the inside-out, is THIS the Reality that the various word-pictures are trying to describe?  Or is this just another metaphor?

I’m trying to stretch my my mind today, but I may be getting a cramp.  Help!

On Step-Fathering

Traditionally, the second week of the Christmas season focuses on ‘the holy family’—Jesus with Mary and Joseph.  If there is a patron saint of step-dads, it should certainly be Joseph.  He did the holy work of fathering another guy’s kid.  Joseph was not the father who gave little Jesus his origin or his destiny.  I like to think he understood that it was important that he not impose his own agenda on this boy he was tasked with raising.

That makes me think of how I raise my sons.  I am their biological father, so it’s not the same, but it’s not entirely different, either.  I am not their ultimate Father.  My boys do not belong to me in the way they belong to Father.  I have begotten them, but I have not in any sense created them.  My status as ‘Dad’ to them is about stewardship rather than ownership.  Father has granted me the opportunity to ‘play dad’ to two of HIS beloved sons.

Step-fathering requires a certain restraint that comes from knowing ‘This kid is not MINE, and I must not treat him as such.’  As I grow to identify more with Joseph, I am learning to adopt that mantra as my own.

As spiritual stepfather to my biological sons, it is not my place to have an agenda for them.  Whatever my unfulfilled dreams are, woe to me if I foist them onto my spiritual stepsons.  Their destiny does not belong to me, not even a little.  Their True Father has his own agenda for them, an agenda for their glorious freedom and joy, an agenda He has sworn to accomplish.

Thank you, Father, for giving me to share in your work of parenting your sons.  Help my lingering foolishness not to get in the way too much.

~ John Stonecypher

Encouraging Words You Could (and Should) Share With Others!

You may come from the school of thought that it is better to feed the hungry than to say “Be well fed!” and then leave the scene without feeding them.

Though I don’t completely disagree with this principle from scripture, I don’t believe it is really an either/or situation. I believe you should not only feed them but relate with them in the feeding by speaking words of encouragement, too! Maybe something really encouraging like “Be well fed!” Ha-Ha!

Do you see my point?! God the Father, Son and Spirit do not just do for each other and never speak to each other!

“Proof” of this is that Jesus is the WORD of God made flesh! Within the Triune Godhead there is a Word and communication going on! Is that communication different than the Being and Doing of the Trinity, or is it Congruent with it?

The main point I want to make in this post is that it is not enough simply to do good to others, we must speak good things too! Most wives do not simply want a home, money and a few flowers. They also want to HEAR that you love them! Your kids do not just want to be fed, sheltered and clothed. They want to hear you say that you love them, and even that you like them, while looking them in the eye!!!

I have lived long enough and had enough experiences to know that if you take this seriously and begin to try it with your family, friends and neighbors, you should be ready for a few tears along with the awkwardness, even if you are a man!

We are so meant to HEAR the love, and it is neglected in so many of our relationships, people literally cannot help but cry for the joy of a deep desire finally being met when hearing the love! It will also choke your throat and threaten to nail your eyes to the floor in shame and embarrassment, so hang in there, choke the words out and force your eyes to look into theirs when you say it! I promise, it will get easier and you’ll all start to appreciate it! We’re made for it!

Ever wonder what you could, or should, say to others? Here are some things I have said to others along with participating with Jesus in His doing for them:

“God the Father loves you so much, and has embraced you so tightly and in such a unique way in Jesus Christ, that he will NEVER let you go!”

“You are good with the Goodness of the Father, Son and Spirit, and I sure appreciate it!”

“Did you know you are the son (or daughter) God the Father always wanted? He has always wanted a son/daughter just like you!” (Thanks for that one Dr. Kruger!)

Every morning my youngest daughter and I are in a contest to be the first one to blurt out “God the Father, Son and Spirit Love and Like You Very, Very MUCH!” This is one of the positive family contests I recommend! Ha-Ha!

This evening after family prayer I grabbed the faces of each of my family members and told them distinctly, “God the Father, Son and Spirit does not know how not to love you, and neither do I in His grace!”

What creative things could you (should you) SAY to others in the magnificent truth of all of humanity’s inclusion into the life of the Trinity in Jesus, as you also participate in His doing?

Remember my post “Fake it till you make it”? You don’t have to feel it or even mean it at first, in order for you to practice being who you really are in Jesus, or to baptize others in the assurance they were meant to hear! Just saying it will facilitate your “doing it” and “being it” in the grace of Jesus! After all, speaking is doing something too!

Because you belong to God the Trinity, you are not going to be able to get away forever without also SAYING Gospel to others!!!

~ by Timothy Brassell

P.S. I almost forgot! Not only will the tears start flowing, but the pearly whites will start beaming so brightly and WIDELY that the entire bunch of you who are speaking and hearing such things will be able to start eating bananas sideways! Ha-Ha!

The Real First Three Laws of Human Relationships, Part 2

This post is about the second of the first 3 commandments given to mankind by the Father, Son, and Spirit.

You can read about the first of the three commands in part 1 of this series. In these posts I am briefly discussing the commandments we have tended to overlook in our enthusiasm to try to fulfill the Ten Commandments as handed down from God through Moses! In knowing Who Jesus is we are actually being instructed to take these first few commands seriously, again, as we understand the Relationship of the Father, Son, and Spirit better, and as we understand Who Jesus is and who we are in Him!!

Let’s review the first three commandments that come from Genesis 1:

Then God said, “Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.”

So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.

God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.” ~ Genesis 1:26-28, NRSV

The second command Triune God gives humankind in the same sentence is to REPRODUCE, or “Multiply, Fill the earth and Subdue it

Did you notice that this second command is NOT, “Make sure you always use birth control!”, “You MUST be celibate to walk “right” before me” or “Be self-centered and keep all this property to yourselves!”?

Let’s be real! Our violation of this commandment has pushed far too many of us into the self-centered and cold icebox of empty high-rise condominiums, where we peer at life behind frozen gated communities through plastic and frigid personalities! Yikes! This doesn’t sound like the outward, self-giving nature of the Triune God with Whom we are united!

Aren’t we learning that self-centeredness, fear and hiding is NOT the experience of Jesus the Divine/Man in His relationship with the Father as a human being (Mark 10:45, Acts 20:35)? Self evidently, many have gotten so “burned” in relationships that were dead and fake that we all know that to be so phony and unreal HAS to be a participation in a lie about the Father, Son, and Spirit and who we are in Him (Eccl 2:1-11, Matt 4:1-10)!!!

We have experienced and written from our guts this saying:

Money is like manure; it’s not worth a thing unless it’s spread around encouraging young things to grow. ~ The Matchmaker

The joy we hear in the Father’s voice as He gazes at His children “in the Beloved” (Ephesians 1:6) is what we REALLY want to experience as parents and grandparents in the reproduction process! We want to leave a legacy and an experience with our children and grandchildren that says, “with you I am well pleased!”(Mark 1:11) Hey, I even want my potential great-grandchildren to experience that, too, don’t you?!

And here is the BIG DEAL about honoring these commandments and taking them seriously NOW:

Jesus says that in His Body of Resurrection shared with us in the future that we won’t be able to marry and reproduce as now (Matthew 22:30), but will be like the angels in heaven! You’ve got to get this first good stuff going NOW while the going is good NOW!!!

Well, tune in for the next post on this subject where I will discuss the third of the first three commandments given to mankind. I also see a fourth command that I will mention as a further way of helping you to think in a more Trinitarian way about this all!

Because the character of the Father, Son and Spirit changes not (Hebrews 13:8), He still Loves and Likes you Very, Very Much, TODAY, and indeed, He still Loves You, and Loves all of US, MORE than He Loves Himself!

~ Timothy Brassell

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