Thursday, February 21, 2013

Why and How We Do Good News Club

Tuesday afternoon I walked out of the band room at the elementary school, Bible in hand.  My husband sat on the floor in the hallway with four children.  "Why did you want to visit with me?"  he asked.
"To know more about God," one said. 
"To ask God to forgive me," said another. 
It was a dream come true!

(For an update on Good News Club, click here: What Good News Club Means to Me: 12 Years In).

For years we drove a 15-passenger van full of children to and from our children's program at church, but it was in a different community than our own.  For some children it interfered with bedtime, some parents didn't know us personally, and many times we simply ran out of room.
We prayed, asked questions and looked into options--leaving our local church to join one closer to our community, working with area churches to begin a children's program--none of them seemed right.

We had a burden to share with children the truth of Jesus' life, death and resurrection because we know it's the only answer that makes sense of life. Jesus is the only way to have a right relationship with God (John 14:6). And children are so ready to hear and receive truth!

After three years of praying and seeking, we contacted the state missionary for Child Evangelism Fellowship (CEF) and asked how to start a Good News Club in our public schools. Individuals were ready to help, we just needed to know how.

What is Good News Club?  According to Child Evangelism Fellowship, "Good News Club® is a ministry of Child Evangelism Fellowship® in which trained teachers meet with groups of children in schools, homes, community centers, churches, apartment complexes, just about anywhere the children can easily and safely meet with their parent's permission. Each week the teacher presents an exciting Bible lesson using colorful materials from CEF Press®. This action-packed time also includes songs, Scripture memory, a missions story and review games or other activities focused on the lesson's theme."

One of the children's Bibles marked with memory verse slips.
You may be familiar with the wordless book or the gospel colors--gold, black, white, red and green.  Those are trademarks of CEF from decades ago, and they're still here. 

Beth Lamb, our state director, sent a letter to the superintendent of schools and made her aware of our desire.  In the United States, a 2002 ruling of the Supreme Court states that any school which allows outside clubs and entities to use its facilities is required to allow a Bible club as well.  It would be discrimination not to.

Beth offered training in our local church, helped us choose materials, gave us sample forms and invitations and sent us on our way.

We meet in band room once a week for an hour and half immediately after school.  Our club is for all children ages 5-12--kindergarten through 6th grade--and it works! 

Six years later, we have 30-50 children joining us.  God has blessed and is blessing His Word.  If you are involved in a club of your own or have questions, I'd love to hear from you.  It's a hassle to leave a comment on a blog, but you could greatly encourage someone else with your idea or question. 

But Jesus called them to Him and said, "Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God." (Luke 18:16)

Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to finish His work.  Do you not say, ‘There are still four months and then comes the harvest’? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look at the fields, for they are already white for harvest!  And he who reaps receives wages, and gathers fruit for eternal life, that both he who sows and he who reaps may rejoice together.  (John 4:34-36)

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Up the Spiral Staircase

If you've read many of my entries, you may have noticed my struggles aren't especially varied.  Like you, I go around and around with the same things, time after time.  It's the way God made each of  us, with weaknesses He's allowed.  I have mine. You have yours. On the positive side, Proverbs 22:6 counsels parents to train each child according to his bent, "in the way he should go." Each person, even as a child, has a natural bent, a specific design. On the negative side, Isaiah 53:6 says "each one has turned to his own way."  My way is what I would choose, left to my own devices.  I am apt to choose my way, not yours--or God's.  Proverbs 14:12 says, "There is a way that seems right to a man, but the end thereof is death."  Thank God, He can change all that--and He has!

Although the same areas of sin hound me, they come around on a different level each time--or they should. This process of growth reminds me an upward spiral. We struggle with our selves, our way, our bent over and over, but as God does His faithful work, we experience it to a different degree, moving upward and onward, with each trip around the circle bringing us closer to Christ-likeness.

Years ago as I prayed over controlling my weight, 2 Peter 1:5-7 struck me with its practicality :
"For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness;  and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love."

1) Add to your faith.... I believe in Jesus (if you're unsure about this for yourself, check out the panel to the right side). I believe God works all things together for my good and His glory.  This is my faith.
2) Add to your faith, goodness.... As the Holy Spirit convicts me of sin, I desire God's good for my life; I want to imitate His goodness. 
3) Add to goodness, knowledge... What does God's Word say?  I add knowledge as I read, memorize and meditate on the Bible.
4)  Add to knowledge, self-control.... By God's grace and with His help, I will obey God's Word and do His will instead of my own. 
5) Add to self-control, perseverance.... I may be able to do what is right once or even twice, but God wants me to change.  Through prayer (dependence on Him), accountability (dependence on others), and meditation on His Word (renewing of my mind), I will practice and learn to do what is right more often than what is wrong. 
6) Add to perseverance, godliness... Once this behavior or thinking or speaking is more consistently Christlike, I need God's help to change my attitude of victory--it is God's work, not mine.  It should reflect God, not me.  Godliness, not selfness.
7) Add to godliness brotherly kindness.... As God works change in my life, I am more aware of others who struggle with the same thing.  My initial reaction is criticism, comparison and judgment. Instead, God says to extend brotherly kindness and grace. 
8)  Add to brotherly kindness, love.... Not only am I to act with kindness, I am to love sincerely, from the heart.  Love covers a multitude of sin.  When this is the case, God's work in my life is just that--His work, not my own.

The Christian walk is one of continuous victory, but it leads upward and onward toward our Savior. "In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, being  having been predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will, that we who first trusted in Christ should be to the praise of His glory" (Ephesians 1:11-12).

Friday, February 8, 2013

When God Speaks

I put off writing an entry this week because I couldn't think of anything.  Bumbling around the kitchen Thursday morning, I asked God, "What would You write? If I were the reader, what would I need to know?"
Friday morning I sat down with my first cup of coffee and realized God had been speaking to me all week.  This is what He said:
- I am the only God.  The Sovereign Lord, your Helper. (Monday: Isaiah 50:4,7,10)
- Knowing Me is the ultimate knowledge and experience of life (Tuesday, Wednesday: Seeing with New Eyes by David Powlison, Ephesians 1 and The Truth Project, "Who is God?")
- When you are under attack, (and as my representative on earth, here and now, you are always under attack), My armor is available, perfect, sufficient, flawless (Wednesday: Ephesians 6:10-17).
- Serving Me results from gratitude for Jesus' atonement; as you learn of Me, your obedience will also be motivated by hatred of sin, a growing faith, and a knowledge of the newness of Christ in you (Wednesday, Thursday: The Complete Green Letters by Miles Stanford).
- Loving others the way I do means being sensitive and speaking words that match the emotional and situational state of others, not yourself (Friday: Proverbs 25:20; 27:14 , Developing Genuine Friendships).
- I am holy.  Do you really want to enter My "holy of holies?"  To stand in My presence, surrounded by My presence?  You will be an offering, stripped of every impurity.  Are you ready?  If you were at the temple, where would you be standing at this moment?  In the outer courts or the holy of holies or somewhere in between? (Thursday: listening to Kutless', "Take Me In" on the radio).
- Seeking to control others leads to hatred and strained relationships (Thursday: example of Leah and Rachel's ruined friendship and sisterhood through Getting to the Heart of Friendships by Amy Baker).
- Knowing and trusting Me completely will bring you comfort and Me worth-ship (Sunday: Pastor Tim Waldron, Revelation 4:11).
- To know Me is to live a life of thanksgiving and praise.  Creation praises Me regardless of wind, rain, cold, heat, distance or damage.  (Tuesday: Psalm 96, read with my wonderful gift of a husband.)
- When tragedy strikes, I am near.  Trust Me.  Set your mind on Me.  I will bring peace (Thursday: Isaiah 26:3, given in response to an unexpected death in a friend's family).
- I am calling you to change, to growth, to newness of life (Sunday: Colossians 2:7, youth Sunday school class).
- When you're unsure how to bless someone who has hurt you, "love never fails" (Thursday: 1 Corinthians 13:8).
God is speaking.  The question is, am I listening?  Am I stopping?  Am I available to His voice through His Word by His Spirit?

Friday, February 1, 2013

It's the Little Things

As our children were getting ready for school this morning, I offered to help.  "Got it, Mom."  Looking more closely I asked, "Would you like me to wash your glasses?"
"That'd be great!"
In that moment I was reminded that loving others, serving and ministering to their needs is not the big, never-fear-mom-is-here, heroic moment.  It's the watching, the seeing, the willingness to address the little things that lighten another's load.  It's saying in my heart and by my actions, what's important to you is important to me.  And for me, lately, it means being gentle--knowing another's weakness and protecting instead of damaging.
I have been helping Joy, my friend from the Congo, learn English.*  This fall we started the Bible study, Developing Genuine Friendships Helping her translate the Scripture and questions has been enlightening--for me.  Our daughter, Laura, said, "It's like being a thesaurus, Mom, you just have to use a lot of synonyms."
Last week we studied Philippians 4:7, "Let your gentleness be evident to all.  The Lord is near." The English word gentle was new to her.  "When our second child was born, our oldest was Caroline's age," I said, gesturing at her 2-year-old.  "We told him over and over to be gentle with the baby--to be careful, soft."  Yes, she understood.  "Or, if you carry an egg home from the market in your hand, you're gentle because it's easily broken.  That's what we should be like with others.  Our gentleness should be evident; something they can see, something that's shown."  And with each description, my mind said, "ouch!" thinking of the many times I had not been gentle. This was a hidden area I struggled with but couldn't put my finger on. God was using this time with Joy and His Word as a tender reminder.
"The next part says, 'The Lord is near.'  Maybe because God is near--like me with our new baby.  He is watching, like a Father, and we are to be careful with those he loves. Or it could mean our gentleness is seen because God is nearby, helping us be gentle."
For the next question in the study, "application," we shared personal examples and were encouraged that God is changing us.
In the week since we studied that verse, I have recalled her beautiful lilting voice recite Philippians 4:7 and I have been blessed.  I have examined the speed and abruptness with which I go about my day.  It's fine when I'm alone, but as soon as someone else is involved, I need to slow down--to be aware of their interests and limits and adjust my tone, focus and process accordingly. 
How good God is to use the little things to teach us--and to allow us to love others through the little things of life!

Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!
Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand.
Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things. The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you.
*Shared with permission.