Why Our Church Cancels Children’s Church on Communion Sundays – and why it has turned out to be a incredibly awesome!

kid glasses smilingBut they won’t sit still!  They don’t understand what’s going on!  I can’t get anything out of the service if I have to keep my kids under control!  They are a distraction to everyone else!  They need something just for them!

I have heard all of these reasons from parents (and many more!) in response to our church’s decision to cancel children’s church on the first Sunday of each month and have children ages 3 and up stay in the worship service.  I have four kids of my own (currently spread between ages 1 to 11) so I understand how hard it is to have the kids sit through a church service – though I probably don’t understand this quite as well as my wife!

We first made the decision to cancel Children’s Church on Communion Sundays for two main reasons.  First, we realized kids never had an opportunity to take communion.  Second, we realized that some children’s volunteers were always missing communion because of serving in children’s church.  These were good reasons, but they were small in comparison to how God has used this in our church.

By including kids in the worship service on communion Sundays we were causing children to ask their parents about Jesus.  Here are some things I’ve heard from parents now that we have been doing this for a few years:

  • My son/daughter asked me if he could take communion so we talked about what Jesus did and whether or not he/she understands the gospel.
  • I was able to pray with my child to accept Jesus.
  • Can you help me know how to talk to my child about Jesus?
  • How do I know if my child is saved and should take communion?

Think for a moment about all the incredible conversations these ideas and questions (and many, many more like them) have sparked between kids and parents in our church!  I have had the opportunity to meet with parents and kids to help them in these conversations which is one of my favorite things as a pastor.  I believe that having the children in the service when we take communion has done more to facilitate gospel centered conversations between parents and kids than anything else we have attempted – and that is incredibly awesome!

photo from pixabay

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Truth Expressed Through Love


The other day I saw a Christian – I’ll even go so far as to say a pastor – on Facebook ridicule a song by a young Christian musician.  Now I’m somewhat musical and have dabbled in song writing here and there and I can be as critical as the next person when it comes to lyric content (I think I frustrate our praise team with songs I refuse because of content – or lack of content).  But let’s put this in perspective.  If this young woman was to show up at your church, would you bring her up on the platform and publicly denounce her in front of the whole congregation?  No?  THEN WHY POST IT ON FACEBOOK???  You’re doing the same thing!

Truth is not a billy club

We have gotten into a rut in the modern (postmodern? Gen X?  When did labels get so confusing?) church.  So many believers grab truth from Scripture and then use it to beat up everyone around them!  Why is it we choose some important truths from Scripture and use them to ignore the clear teachings of Scripture that we are to love our brothers and sisters in Christ?  Why is that we ignore the clear teachings that our love for one another is one of the surest signs of being a follower of Christ for a watching world to see (John 13:34-35)?  We are to know Christ and to grow in our knowledge of Christ, but as we gain understanding of Christ we should not use that truth as a billy club to beat up others around us.

Enduring in Truth is Not Enough

In Revelation 2:1-7, Christ commends the church in Ephesus for enduring in truth.  They have faced false teachers from within the church and have not given in to their teachings.  They have faced persecution from the culture and were unwilling to compromise the truth of the gospel.  Then Christ unloads a bombshell.  He says, “Yet I hold this against you:  You have forsaken the love you had at first.”  A little further down he also says, “If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place” (Revelation 2:4-5).  It is an interesting study to think about exactly what “love” they had lost, but let’s for the moment just take it in the most general sense of love for God and love for others (I assume it was at the very least one of those two!).  Christ is saying he would rather not have a church in Ephesus at all – since that’s what removal of the lampstand would mean – than to have a church that is unloving.  Why?  Isn’t it enough that they were holding on to truth?

There is no Truth Without Love

It was at this point in my sermon preparation on this passage that a light went on in my mind.  Truth that is not expressed in love is not actually truth – no matter how sound the content – because the bible clearly teaches that we are to love one another and clearly teaches that God is a loving God.  Certainly we must make sure that we define love on God’s terms and not ours, but we should be left with a better definition of love, not a complete lack of it.  If someone has studied Scripture, has great knowledge of theology, yet does not love fellow believers and/or does not love God then then they may have gained a lot of knowledge, but they have missed truth.  They have missed the truth that the God of all truth is loving and has commanded us to be loving as well.  They have missed the truth that this incredibly smart, knowledgeable, and truthful Savior’s greatest expression of his truthfulness was to love us (even in our ignorance and error, our desire to hold on to untruth and half-truths) by sacrificing himself to die on a cross.  If we miss the essential truth of love in God’s treatment of us, which should then be the standard of our treatment for others, then we have not comprehended truth.  There is no truth without love.

The Hard Road of Truth and Love

So where does this lead us?  It leads us to a more difficult road.  It is easy to seek to be truthful and not care how you impact those around you.  It is easy to be loving and not care about truth (which I wrote about here).  It is difficult to walk the road of love informed by truth and truth expressed in love.  Yet I believe this is exactly the road Christ called us to when he said, “Come, follow me” (Matthew 4:18).  It is also the road that he called us to when he said “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me” (Mark 8:34) because the cross is the greatest expression of truth and love in perfect union that there ever was.  We live the way of the cross when we humbly speak truth in love and boldly show love based on truth.


The ideas from this post were taken from a sermon I preached on Revelation 2:1-7 which you can listen to here.

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Love informed by Truth


Love that is not informed by and rooted in truth is not love at all.  In fact, it could be hurtful, harmful and, as such, even hateful.  At its core, I believe love is wanting and working for what is best for someone else.  But when we seek to love someone, we are acting out of what we believe is best for them.  It is common in the world today to say that love is simply giving someone what they want, but certainly this standard is flawed.  If my child wants to eat candy all day I do not think anyone would say I was loving if I let him.  Instead, I would be harming my child and failing to show love because I was acting on what my child wanted rather than the truth of what I know is good for him.

It is tempting to go the other way and say we love someone by giving them what we know is best for them.  This presumes we do know what is best at all times which would take unlimited knowledge of the person and the situation.  Too often people do things with the best of intentions that are actually harmful to others.  We justify these things by saying we had good intentions, but good intentions only become good actions when they are based on truth.

Love must be informed by truth if it is to be truly loving.  Only God knows what is best for us.  His love is not limited by our feeble desires, but instead is rooted in the eternal truth he knows about the world (since he made it) and about us (since he made that too).

True love must be rooted in truth or it fails to be loving at all.

Tomorrow I will be writing on “Truth Expressed in Love.”

These thoughts come from a sermon I preached on Revelation 2:1-7 where the church in Ephesus is commended for how it endures in truth but strongly warned that it has lost love.  

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Living a Life that Points to Christ

billboard-63978_640As believers, we want to live lives that point to Christ.  So often, though I think we end up living lives that point to us.  The apostle Paul has some great instruction about this in 2 Corinthian 6:4-10:

“As servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses; in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger; in purity, understanding, patience and kindness; in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love; in truthful speech and in the power of God; with weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left; through glory and dishonor, bad report and good report; genuine, yet regarded as impostors; known, yet regarded as unknown; dying, and yet we live on; beaten, and yet not killed; 10 sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything.”

We don’t point to Christ by making much of ourselves.  In fact, when we make much of ourselves we are guilty of idolatry and leading others to worship an idol – but in this case the idol is US!  It is time for Christians to stand up and declare that we trust in Christ – no matter what may come.  We need to know that how we respond when the difficulties comes speaks just as much about the truthfulness of Christ as anything we say we believe.  Throughout Scripture it is the ability of God’s followers to endure in faith even through – maybe even especially through – persecution and hardship that shows a watching world the truth of what we say we believe.

When we start preaching, teaching, or living a life in Christ that says Christ is good only when good things are happening then we have lost the truth of Scripture even though we have nothing, we possess everything.

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Five Things I’m Thankful For – #5: Eternity

I wrote this several weeks ago and left it sitting in my drafts folder on accident…

There are moments in life when we experience something that strikes a chord in the depths of who we are.  Moments when we know, like Eric Liddell of “Chariots of Fire” fame, that we have found something we were created for.  It’s like when I’m doing some work in the garage and trying all different tools that sort of, kind of, just barely get the job done (but are incredibly frustrating) and then I find that tool that was made for what I need.  It’s like when you step out in faith to do something that at first terrifies you but as you do it you know that somehow, some way, God has wired you to do that very thing.

So often we look at spending eternity with God as getting everything we want, but what we want is way too small.  Eternity getting what we want (especially getting what we want this side of heaven!) would be extremely limiting, boring, and disappointing.  I am thankful for eternity because it will not be the ongoing experience of getting what I want, it will be the ongoing, ever-expanding experience of finding the purposes for which God has created me.

Every moment of eternity will be a new discovery of God’s grace in how he has created us, how he sustains us, who he is and who he has made us to be.  We serve an eternal and infinite God and we will have the extreme joy of spending eternity experiencing the depths of his love, grace, and wisdom.  We will know the fulfillment of Paul’s prayer in Ephesians 3:14-19 that we would know “how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ”.

This side of heaven these moments are gifts that give us a scaled down glimpse of eternity.  But every day with God in eternity will be a new experience of joy, a new discovery of who we are and who God is.  Every moment will be an “aha!” experience that makes us want to jump up and call out to anyone who might hear, “Have you ever seen something this amazing?!”

In eternity we will find something we long for in this life – something people too often despair of and so seek selfish pleasures instead.  We will find and experience in ever increasing measure the purpose for which we are made – to see, experience, and live for the glory of God.  It is the reason we are created, the reason Christ died and rose again, and it is the promise that is summed up in Revelation 21:3: “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them.  They will be his people and God himself will be with them and be their God.”

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I thought my friend was lost.

I went looking for a friend the other day.  Many said he was missing or that he had somehow failed in his duties.  I decided to go looking where I knew I had seen him so many times before.

I looked in a manger surrounded by animals and meager shepherds, and I found a baby.  This baby is Emmanuel – God with us.  Here I found Jesus, the Son of God, who left the glories of heaven and the perfection of the Father’s presence and was born weak and frail to live among us.  He had the power to speak the world into existence but chose to become dependent on a young girl and her husband for food, clothing, and shelter.  He is so righteous and holy that sinners cannot stand in his presence yet he chose to be born and live among us sinners so that we could know Him.  He experienced our pain, our ridicule, and our rejection.  Yes, I found my friend where he always is: right here with us as Emmanuel, God with us.

I looked at a hideous cross which was used to brutally torture and kill criminals.  I saw a crowd shouting insults at one whose brow was dripping with blood from a crown of thorns that had mockingly been placed on his head.  I saw his flesh being torn by the cruel nails that held his body to this instrument of disgrace.  As I looked I noticed this was the same person I had seen in the manger.  This was Emmanuel, God with us.  He did not deserve to be on that cross.  He had done nothing wrong!  But he hung there in our place.  He was there because of every sin ever committed so that every sinner who cries out for hope can find it.  He took that pain, that disgrace, that punishment so we don’t have to.  Yes, I found my friend where he always is: saving us from our sins.

I looked in a borrowed tomb.  Here my friend had been placed after his executioners were done with their deadly work.  But my friend was not there, dead in the tomb, he was outside of it, alive!  He has risen from the dead conquering sin and death and offering eternal life to all who believe!  Yes, I found my friend where he always is: alive and victorious over my sin and the sins of everyone who will accept His offer of salvation.

I looked ahead through the long distance of time and saw what we all hope for.  I saw an end to evil and suffering.  I saw my friend making all things right and removing all wrong.  I saw my friend coming as a conquering king and justly punishing those who think they are able to do whatever they want no matter what the consequences to others.  I saw every tear wiped away and death was banished from existence.  I saw children who could live in peace with no fear of harm and parents who would never receive a call that no one should ever have to get.  I saw His kingdom living in peace for ever and ever.  Yes, I found my friend where he always is:  coming to judge the evil in the world, to set all things right, and to reign in perfect peace and justice for all eternity.

And then I looked around me and I saw confusion, despair, doubt, and death.   I realized these things were not just in the world around me, they were in me as well.  I saw that I was desperately lost and suddenly I realized that I didn’t actually find my friend at all for he was never missing!  I was…and he found me.  And now he is sending me and all who have been found to find others and bring to them the news of who he is and what he has done so they can be found too.  And as we do this, he who has all authority in heaven and earth promises “I am with you always, even to the very end of the earth.”

God is not lost.  He is where he always is:  reigning over heaven and earth but also here with us, seeking and saving those who are lost and offering the hope and rescue that only He can give.  A lost world will sometimes get glimpses of just how lost it is, but in these moments let us cling to the one who finds.

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Five Things I’m Thankful For – #4: The Church

The church I attend (I’ll never feel comfortable saying “my church” as if it belonged to me) and serve as pastor is pretty amazing and I’m incredibly grateful, but the #4 Big Thing I’m thankful for is not the local church I’m privileged to be a part of, but THE CHURCH that spans around the globe and throughout history.

I am thankful for the Church because I am a part of something greater than myself.  I am part of the multitude of people who have trusted in Christ.  This multitude encompasses generations long past whose testimony stands as a great example for me today.  This multitude includes people whose skin, language, and worship styles are all very different than mine which teaches me that I am not the center of the universe and I do not know everything.

The Church for which I’m thankful has nothing to do with buildings, logos or programs.  The Church is found gathered on lawn chairs under tin roofs, in basements with closed windows, and in building specifically designed for worship.  The setting is not what makes the Church special.  No, it is the Savior that makes the Church special.

We are a rag tag group of misfits that believe in something that the world says is foolish.  We are a bunch of sinners trying to point people to a holy God.  We are flawed and sometimes foolish.  We sometimes loose our way and get distracted.  But our core identity is not about who we are or what we can do, it is about what God is doing.  God is at work in the world drawing imperfect people, saving them through his son’s work on the cross, and then holding us up as a display for the rest of the world to see what he can do.  I am thankful for the Church because we are all in this together and those things that divide us are nothing compared to what joins us together.

Recently among Christians it has become popular to ignore the Church.  Some think they can draw close to Christ without the Church, but they are very, very mistaken.  Those who follow Christ are necessarily joined together by an intentional bond planned by God himself.  This plan was for us together to show his grace, his mercy, his justice to this world.  We need to be more thankful for the Church together because it is God’s work through us, the Church, that is the hope of the world.

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Five Things I’m Thankful For – #3 Salvation

“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” – Romans 5:8

This week I’m writing about the top 5 things I’m thankful for and we’ve come to number 3 – Salvation.  I worked as a life guard one summer at a camp.  During that summer I had several rescues.  Some rescues were quite easy.  I simply called out to the child and said “STAND UP.”  Once the child realized they could stand on their own with their head above water they were fine.  There were a few, however, that were not as easy where the child was really drowning and powerless to help himself or herself.  There was no other way to save them except to jump in the water, grab them, and pull them to safety – to do for them what they could never do for themselves.

I wonder if we really understand which sort of salvation the bible says is  necessary for us.  Do we just need to learn a little more, try a little harder, and have God help us a little bit so that we can then go on our way or are we desperately hopeless, drowning and powerless to save ourselves?

As a pastor I want to help people.  I want to encourage them and keep them involved in church.  It becomes easy to want to change the message of the bible to simply a message of encouragement – like saying “STAND UP” – so that people will feel good about themselves and go on their way enjoying life.  But yelling “stand up” to a child who is in over their head in water and completely without any hope of helping themselves would be disastrous.  Sure we could give tips and encouragement and the child might look better as they drowned, but they would still drown.

The salvation I am thankful for is not just guidance in my life to help me “STAND UP”.  It is not just encouragement to make me feel a bit better about myself.  No, it is the understanding that I was desperately lost and hopeless.  In my sin I had made myself an enemy of God and rebelled against his authority.  I was choosing death over life and I was drowning.

And God, as the best guard of life ever, did not merely shout tips or life hints to me.  He did not just give me a list of things to do better and hope that I would get it sorted out.  He sent his son, Jesus, to take all of my sin, my rebellion, my death on himself.  Then Jesus rose from the dead and offered me eternal life.  This is salvation for which I can take no credit.  I cannot boast about my ability to get myself out of the tough situation for I could not.  I cannot brag about my ability to better myself because that would never have been enough.  No, all boasting or bragging is worthless.  The only thing I can do is accept and give thanks.


photo by flickr user heather

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Five Things I’m Thankful For – #2 Life

 “I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. He will come in and go out, and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” – Jesus (John 10:9-10).

We were created for life.  We need this reminder in a world where we are surrounded by death.  We have accepted death as natural, but it is not – it is an intruder.  So often we pursue a “good life” and settle for a “simple life” but Jesus promises full life, great life, abundant life.  Is it possible that we need to redefine life because we have accepted a warped definition?

Life is more than simply the action of our cells or the sum total of our day to day occurrences.  Life is the experience of being what we were made to be.  We were created to be in a loving relationship with our Creator.  We are made to live in God’s presence and experience and enjoy his glory.  We were made for this and Jesus came to save us for this very purpose – real life, true life, full life.

We must not be tempted to think that this means we will get everything we want because the truth is what we want is too little.  Our appetites are too small and we fill them with trivial things.  No, the life promised by Jesus is far greater than mere fulfillment of our temporary pleasures.  When Jesus promises life, he is promising a return to the very purpose for which we were created.

Real life is the absolute joy of knowing we are loved and accepted by the perfect God who has given his son to die in our place and declares us righteous because of that sacrifice.  It is the overflowing and unending joy of knowing that the greatest need we will ever have has been met and that all other needs pale in comparison.  It is the confidence that comes from knowing our life does not depend on this changing world, on fickle people, or even our own abilities, but is anchored in the unchanging love of God.

Life exists because God has created life, provided salvation for life through Jesus, and calls us to life that “whoever believes in him (Jesus) might not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). Yes, this Thanksgiving I am thankful for real, full life.

image from flickr user HAMED MASOUMI

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Five Things I’m Thankful For – #1 Creation

It is the season for giving thanks and while we shouldn’t need a season for such a thing, it is a good reminder to think about all the things in our lives for which we should be thankful.  So this week I’m going to post 5 things for which I am thankful.  I am certainly thankful for my family, my job, my home, my friends, etc., but the 5 I want to focus on this week are even bigger than these incredible things.

First, I’m thankful for Creation.  I certainly love nature – the mountains, trees, oceans, and animals – but I’m not talking about creation in general.  I mean that I’m thankful for my creation.  It is an amazing miracle that I was created at all and that any of us were created.  I thank God that he created us because the cost to him was so great.

I believe God knows all things – past, present and future.  This means that when God created humanity he knew exactly what would happen.  We would not only turn away from him, but actively rebel against him.  Through our disobedience we would be saying to God, “We know better than you and will do what we want.”  God saw this rebellion and, in love, created us anyway.

But the wonder of our creation doesn’t stop there.  Not only did God see our rebellion, he also knew his plan.  His plan from the beginning was to create people to be with him forever in a loving, glorious, perfect relationship.  Since God is all-powerful, that plan would not fail, but the cost of its success would be God’s own son.  The moment God created me, created us, he condemned his son to die on the cross for our sins.  He made a choice that creating us was somehow worth the cost of Christ’s death and resurrection.

I do not understand how God could love us like that – how he could love me like that.  But thankfulness does not require understanding, just recognition of what has been done and giving of thanks.  So God, thank you for creating us – creating me – though I do not deserve the grace of being created by you at the cost of your son.  I may not understand the choice to create me at the great price of Christ’s death on the cross, but I can certainly thank you for doing this in your plan, your wisdom, your grace, and your love.  So this Thanksgiving I am thankful for creation.


Picture is of my daughter as a baby.

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