Friday, January 10, 2014

Presents vs. Presence

Presents vs. Presence


Last night, I was struck with thoughts of the purpose of children's ministry and the ultimate goal we have in serving, teaching, instructing and guiding the faith of our kids. As many of us asked the kids for answers to questions and did somewhat of a "fact check", I was so impressed by the knowledge possessed by our children. All of the sudden, in a frustrated tone, one of our 6th graders spoke up,
 "I know so much... I know all of the books of the Bible... I know like 50 verses by memory... I know stories... I know characters...   SO WHAT? What am I supposed to do with it?" 
 Oh, sweet church, my heart sank deep into my chest. A feeling of defeat came over me. Don't get me wrong, I know full well that knowledge is something to be revered; wisdom is something to be attained and insight is something to be developed. However, I could not help but begin to ponder the attitude of many believers today. We all know the head knowledge/heart knowledge tension. Remember, even the demons believe God and shudder (James 2:19). 

So the question is... How do we teach and instruct so that the knowledge of God and His Word brings the presence of God and His power? Do we, as ministers, live as though the Word of God is living and active? Do we let it cut deeply into our soul, our innermost thoughts, and expose who we are and what we need? My sweet 6th grader desired something deeper and desired some sort of application. I know we have all sat through a class where we said to ourselves, "I'm never going to use this information." If what we teach our children falls into the mundane grind of everyday learning, then we will quickly lose them to their compartmentalization tactics for survival in an a society of superfluous information. 

What sets this Bible knowledge apart? What makes the 66 books titles pertinent to a life of faith? What makes the address to certain scripture beneficial to our walk with Christ? First, we have to remember to treat these books as HISTORY not a bunch of stories pieced together as a small group of fables. God's GREAT STORY is part of HISTORY! Secondly, although we read scripture in its historical and literary context, we must not forget to apply God's message to our current life situation. Once we give our lives to Christ, our identity changes. We have new purpose and hope. We realize that God is a necessity and NOT an accessory.  Lastly, in order to instill the necessity of scripture study in others, it MUST be a necessity for us.

Shortly after my 6th grader expressed frustration in his abundance of KNOWLEDGE, our group discussed what it is like to encounter God. I asked them when they felt that God was near and if they felt the Bible was necessary for the nearness of God. Per usual, the kids were in tune to the truth. Almost all of them expressed a sense of God's presence when they prayed to Him, when their families were hurting and when they struggled to be successful at certain tasks. This opened the door for conversation about the knowledge that we have about the Word of God. Without the Word of God, we all agreed that it would be difficult to feel God's PRESENCE in the midst of trials and uncertainties. But because of HISTORY and because of God's GREAT STORY, we know that He is near. Many expect to only receive clean, perfect and miraculous moments as a result of following God. And unfortunately, I think this was the expectation of at least one preteen in the room. God's story is not as neat and tidy as 66 books divided by theme. His message is not as simple as a historical timeline of events or kingdom rulers. And though God is holy and perfect, His miracles often appear at unlikely times. It is a miracle to be able to respond in kindness when treated unfairly. It is a miracle to have the compassion to show love to those who are undeserving. It is a miracle to be able to reference God's truth in the midst of conversation and not realize that God had placed that tidbit deep within our soul for a time when we needed it most. God is working miracles through His people and because of His presence.

The answer to "SO WHAT?" is... the presence of God. Knowing Him with your head beckons your heart to draw near in a similar manner. As this process matures, we also mature. We  no longer wonder why our lives are not meticulously aligned to perfection.  
We do not look for presents from God;                                                                we look for the presence of God.
What kind of knowledge do you hope to bestow upon those within your ministry? As Dwight L. Moody said, "The Bible was not given to increase our knowledge, but to change our lives." May the knowledge of God's presence be LIFE CHANGING for you and yours.

"The good man does not escape all troubles-- he has them too. But the Lord helps him in each and every one." --Psalm 34:19