Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Open the Eyes of My Heart, Lord

On Easter Sunday 2017, “60 Minutes” ran a story about two doctors, Dr. Sanduc Ruit and Dr. Geoff Tabin, who have helped reverse blindness in more than 4 million around the globe. The doctors work in Burma, also known as Myanmar, performing surgery on people who have lost their sight due to cataracts.

Dr. Ruit uses a technique that requires no stitches. The surgery involves making a small incision and the lens inside the eye which has become cloudy is removed and replaced with an artificial lens. The two doctors started a lens factory that produces the artificial lens implants — for a fraction of the cost in the United States — and they have a hospital in Nepal that has trained hundreds of doctors and nurses in their technique.

The surgeons have operated in more than 20 countries, including North Korea and Ethiopia, and restored sight to 150,000. Four million others have regained their vision through surgery performed by doctors trained by the duo.

“For these advanced cataracts, I'm performing the same quality of surgery that I would be doing in America,” says Tabin, a professor at the University of Utah Medical School in Salt Lake City.

I find this story quite interesting since my wife and I have both had cataract surgery on both eyes and I can attest to the miraculous improvement the surgery made in our vision and we were nowhere near blind. The people these doctors are operating on are literally blind!

We cannot help but think of the healing power of Jesus when we hear stories such as this. We are reminded of the story of Blind Bartimaeus who sat begging on the streets of Jericho when he heard that Jesus was passing by. As Jesus passed by, Bartimaeus began to shout, "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!"

"What do you want me to do for you?" Jesus replied.

Bartimaeus answered, "I want to see."

"Your faith has healed you," Jesus said — and immediately, Bartimaeus received his sight.

Jesus was filled with compassion for the physical needs of people, but he was even more concerned with their spiritual needs. Wouldn't it be wonderful if you and I would point others to the one who said, "I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life." (John 8:12)

Friday, March 03, 2017

Lent—What's It All About?

Just as the month of February brings thoughts of Valentine Day and love to my mind, the month of March brings the season of Lent to my mind. Being a teacher at heart, I thought this would be a good time to take a little quiz to see how much we know about what Lent is all about. Here are some questions about the traditions of Lent and their significance. The correct answers can be found at the end of the blog, but don't peak before you finish the quiz!

1. The original meaning of  the word Lent is ______________________.
A. Easter
B. Fall
C. Spring

2, Lent begins on ________________.
A. Ash Wednesday
B. Good Friday
C. Maundy Thursday

3. The purpose of lent is ________________________________________.
A. to increase in God's favor
B. to examine oneself and grow in holiness
C. to seek the approval of others

4. Lent lasts for _________ days.
A. 2-3
B. 21
C. 40

5. Lent helps us to remember _________________________.
A. the end of John the Baptist's ministry
B. the period that Jesus spent fasting in the wilderness.
C. the transfiguration of Jesus.

6. The reason people give up something during lent is ___________________.
A. to show off for their friends
B. to deny self
C. to lose weight

7. On Palm Sunday, Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a _______________.
A. white horse
B. chariot
C. donkey

Well, now you may check the answers at the bottom of this blog.  How did you do?  I hope that, if you did well, your heart doesn't swell with pride.  If it does, you have missed the true meaning of Lent. Lent is not a season where we earn God's approval by our good works and personal sacrifice. In fact, it is the opposite. It is a time when we strive to grow in a deeper knowledge of God's love and prepare our hearts for a deeper understanding of the miracle of his grace poured out on Easter.

Answers: 1. C 2. A 3. B 4. C 5. B 6. B 7. C

Sunday, February 12, 2017

The True Meaning of Love

The month of February is synonymous with love. Valentine Day is definitely a favorite holiday of children.  I remember the excitement I felt in my childhood as I addressed cards to all of my classmates.

As a child, Valentine Day was not so much about "love" as it was about "like." It was a time to give friends a card to let them know that I liked them and receive cards from friends to say that they like me too. And of course, I looked forward with great anticipation to those valentines that might come with a chocolate kiss or a heart-shaped lollipop attached.

As a teacher of children, Valentine Day provides us with a great opportunity to teach them about the true meaning of love - the love that we learn about in God's Word. Probably the best definition we find for love is found in the "love chapter" of the Bible. 1 Corinthians 13: 4-6 tells us that “Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. Love does not demand its own way. Love is not irritable, and it keeps no record of when it has been wronged. It is never glad about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance. Love will last forever.”

Of course, there are many other verses in Bible that teach us about love.  Here are a few:

  • Hebrews 13:1-2: “Keep on loving one another as brothers and sisters. Don’t forget to show hospitality to strangers.”
  • 1 John 3:11: ”For this is the message you heard from the beginning: we should love one another.”
  • John 13:34-35: “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another, everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
  • 1 John 4:8: "Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love."
  • 1 John 3:16-18: “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lie down our lives for our brothers and sisters. If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth."
  • John 3:16: "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

It is easy for children, and even adults, to love friends and those who show love and kindness to us. Jesus, however, went much further than that. Jesus taught us that we should love our enemies and those who persecute us.

  • Matthew 5:43-45: “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven.

What a wonderful world it would be if we would practice the kind of love that Jesus taught us. The love of true children of the Heavenly Father!

Thursday, January 19, 2017

The KISS Principle for Effective Children's Sermons

I am often asked for the secret to a successful children's sermon.  It really isn't a secret at all. We have all heard of the KISS principle — Keep It Simple S*****! No! No! I would never say that! Even small children know that the final word that most people use in the KISS principal is not a word that we should ever use in addressing one another. When I was teaching school, a child came to me one day and whispered, "David said the S word." Even to this child, the word S***** was not a nice word. So, here is my KISS principle: Keep It Short & Simple.

I have heard teachers deliver a great children's sermon only to spoil its effectiveness because they didn't know when to quit. I knew a pastor one time who was famous for his eighteen-minute sermons. When people asked him about it, he explained, "Few people ever hear anything you say after eighteen minutes."  If the adult attention span is eighteen minutes, how long do you think the attention span of a six-year-old is? My guess — about five minutes.

My usual format for a children's sermon is to begin with an object that can be used to illustrate the truth of the lesson. I like to use an object because it is a good way to get the children's attention right off the bat. It is best if it is an object that the children are familiar with because that helps to get the children actively engaged in the lesson.  After the introduction and a brief discussion of the object, the teacher should segue into the spiritual application of the lesson by saying something like, "You know that reminds me of something that Jesus said in our Bible lesson today."

A good example of this technique is a recent lesson called "A Recipe for Happiness." In the first part of the lesson we talk about what a recipe is and actually follow a recipe to create a tasty trail mix treat.  We then segue into the lesson by saying, "Did you know that Jesus gave us a recipe for living a happy life?" The application then is a lesson on the beatitudes.

Finally, it is important for the teacher to be on the child's level. The most common place for the children's sermon is on the chancel steps. If the children are seated on the steps, the teacher should be seated there as well. If you are in a classroom setting and the children are in chairs, the teacher should also be seated. It is also important to use vocabulary that is on the level of the children. We adults sometimes use theological terms that we use every day, but children don't understand.

Sermons for adults often fit into the mold "Three Points and a Poem." A really effective children's sermon should have one main point that you really want the children to take home with them. So, when you meet the children at the chancel steps, remember KISS. KEEP IT SHORT AND SIMPLE.