Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Faith Like a Child - Part 3

What role do children play in overcoming evil? That question may seem strange, even a little uncomfortable. I think we too often view children as "cute and sweet" at the expense of some significant scriptural teachings about their power and potential. These are really just "out loud" thoughts; I don’t intend to be dogmatic about these points. Still, it is worth pondering.

Let's consider the
8th Psalm, a psalm of David. This psalm opens and closes with the declaration, "O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!" We can easily get that this is a psalm about the majesty of the Lord, but focusing in on verse 2, it reads:  "From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise...". This is usually the only part of the sentence that you hear recited, and if left there, again we reach that "cute and sweet" reaction most of us have to God and children. However, the verse does not stop there in reality. It actually continues:  "...because of your enemies, to silence the foe and the avenger." Whoa! Would it be an overstatement to say that God has ordained praise from babies not just to be cute and give us a warm fuzzy, but as an act of war? An aggressive battle move? A strategy to overcome those that would come against his holiness?

I don't want to exaggerate the claims here, but I do want to pause and reflect on what could be something very powerful in the spiritual realm. Maybe, we human adults, don't understand the praises that an infant can make and express, but perhaps the enemies of God understand it full well. I can't be sure, but I wonder.

After looking up the Hebrew behind some of these words that have been translated into English in this verse, my paraphrase would read something like this:  The God that is full of majesty and glory in all the earth and the heavens finds it fitting to have children and infants praise him to shut up his enemies, to put out of commission those that would try to take him on.


Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Faith Like a Child - Part 2

As a teacher, parent, former youth pastor, and teen/family counselor, I have often been asked the when question regarding teaching something to children. Examples: When should we talk about sex? When should I tell them about Santa Claus? When will they understand this or that about God? When should I teach them about faith, serving others, the Holy Spirit, etc.? (We have many of the same discussions in the education realm - When are they ready to write in cursive? Or, should we at all? When should we introduce fractions?)

There is a lot about the brain and human development that factors in here, and while that is very important, we can't all be neurologists or developmental psychologists. Besides, even within those fields among the experts, there is so much debate and disagreement. So, I have only one suggestion here - a "rule of thumb" if you will - to help us. The idea actually comes from the teachings of Scripture thousands of years ago.

In the Old Testament, we come across a phrase more than once that reads like this:  "And when your children ask you...then tell them...". Someone asked me recently when teaching takes place with children in the organic church life. My answer - "When you breathe." The spiritual formation and overall education of our children is a constant, daily activity. Don't be fooled into thinking that learning takes place "at school" or that worship takes place "at church." That mindset will rob you of the rich experience of discipling your children, and frankly, has probably done more damage than good in the name of religion.

Instead, we can be looking and listening for the teachable moments, what Dr. James Dobson referred to as "incidental learning," the type of learning that takes place in the midst of everyday life. Of course, this means we have to be present with our children, not just physically but also emotionally and mentally. (This is an area I have to constantly work on.) 

In sum, a good guiding point as to when children are ready to learn about something is whenever they ask about it. And the assumption in the Old Testament seems to be that if you're really living faithfully for God, then that alone will prompt them to ask questions. There is no need to wait for them to be put in artificial settings (classrooms, Sunday School, youth groups, etc. - although these can sometimes help) for them to receive instruction. And the icing on the cake is that while we are looking for these ongoing opportunities to pass on truth, faith and love to the next generation, we just might learn something from them, as well.