Often American-focused discussion about ethnic differences gets narrowed to just Black or African Americans and White Americans. It is fairly understandable, given US history, that we’d focus so much attention on black and white relations. My hope for God’s Very Good Idea, however, is that it would encourage all people made in the image of God to celebrate the differences in each other. God’s word says that we will be rejoicing with every tribe, tongue, and nation for eternity. That’s why I’m thrilled to share with you where you can find God’s Very Good Idea around the world. (Please note that this is not an exhaustive list. Click on the link below the country to find God’s Very Good Idea)
I hate sin. It is ugly. It disrupts life. It messes with precious relationships. It confuses the mind. Sin is pervasive and gross. Sin affects us to our core. Sin wreaks havoc on much, but perhaps the greatest area of impact is on the commandments for us to love God with all our heart and soul and mind, and to love our neighbor as ourselves. I think that’s perhaps one reason Paul rebuked the Corinthians about their selfishness and division with verses all about love.
We all know those famous verses in 1 Corinthians: “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things” (13:6-7). Despite how familiar those verses might be, they truly are the way of love. The Corinthians had trouble loving one another. This revealed itself in various ways, but came through clearly in their pursuit of spiritual gifts. Some had elevated their gifts (or perhaps certain gifts) over others. Paul reminded them, “there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit, and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord…” (1 Cor. 12:4). He then spent considerable time explaining that the church has many parts but is one body (1 Cor. 12:12-30). And after all of that, Paul made it extremely clear that one could use the gifts they were elevating and do so completely in vain—without true love for others and only for selfish gain and glory (1 Cor. 13:1-3).
The correction to the Corinthians’ selfishness is the same helpful correction to our selfishness and to the many sinful desires and struggles that cling so closely—love. If love is patient and kind, we will fight to learn to put on gentleness and kindness. Love does not insist on its own way—pride does, so we ask God to give us humility. Love is not irritable or resentful, therefore every relationship, if it is beyond surface-level acquaintance, must be doused in the patience and forbearance that can only come from the power of Christ. Love bears with one another and is not selfish; love believes the truth and the best until proven otherwise. Love hopes for the absolute best in all situations and in the gospel that reconciles. Love endures with hardship and trouble. Love doesn’t give up.
Now if you are like me after reading and reflecting on these commands to love, you are likely pleading with God for help. We don’t love the way we ought. We fall short—woefully short. But God has given us His Spirit and his enabling, empowering grace. We don’t love others because we are good people, we don’t even love God because of anything in and of ourselves (1 John 4:19). This is great news for us. It means we can ask God—the same God whose power changed our hearts of stone into hearts of flesh and whose power enables us to love him—to use the same power to enable us to love our neighbor as ourselves. We will fail, but there’s repentance and forgiveness available. Let’s call out to God for help to put off that nasty selfish sin, and love.
The majority of the time, open letters are meant as a critique. This is not that. As a matter of fact, it doesn’t even come close. Over the past few months, I’ve had the opportunity to reflect in greater ways on the labors of those who are working in children’s ministry: church, camps, and beyond. I have always served in children’s ministry, though much less over the past three years than ever before, but it’s been a part of my ministry work since becoming a Christian. It wasn’t until writing and releasing God’s Very Good Idea, however, that the weight of what you do week after week fully hit me.
I’ve never met a children’s ministry worker who wasn’t aware of the privilege of his/her job. Now this doesn’t mean they aren’t out there, but most of the people I’ve interacted with are eager and excited to share the Word with the little hearts and minds entrusted to their care. You, friend, are not a glorified babysitter. The work you do has significant impact on the kingdom. It is no small thing. Each lesson, coloring page, prayer huddle, and diaper change is helping children learn either about Jesus or about the effect of the Spirit in one’s life that would cause them to serve others above themselves.
As someone who has ministered to mostly adults, especially over the last few years, there can be times when we see the effects of our ministry immediately. This is not always the case, mind you, but often after I’ve given a talk or written an article, I get to speak with and hear from people immediately, read a comment or twitter response, or glance through a Facebook encouragement. While this doesn’t always happen, but it occurs often enough to spur me on to the next step of faith in writing or speaking.
You and I don’t often see these immediate evidences of God’s grace. I remember meeting with my editor, Carl Laferton, and he said to me, “You won’t get to see the effect of God’s Very Good Idea until the new creation. It will be brilliant.” I’m paraphrasing my British friend here, but in short, he was kindly reminding me that my little book could have eternal significance that I simply won’t and can’t fully know until we’re in Heaven. My faith was built! Similarly, many of the kids you work with may not be able to fully articulate how your teaching is affecting their heart. They may move to another church or they may even become a prodigal…but then return because of the faithfulness of God and how he used you in their past. You may never know. But you should know that your work in not in vain. We plant seeds, God waters and makes them grow. He promises to finish the good work he begins in little hearts and he will surely do it.
A Gift to Parents
And, finally, what a gift to parents you are. You do not replace the impact or influence of parents, nor would you desire to. But you do help us parents continue to plant the seeds, and you help us to engage in further conversations. And perhaps for some children you really are the only place where they hear and see the gospel being proclaimed. In a world where families can have a look of perfection, we often don’t know what’s lingering behind closed doors. Your words and actions could be God-ordained balm to the soul of that young image bearer.
So, thank you! Thank you for your service, sacrifice, and love of children. Keep going. Your work is a gift of God’s grace to the Church.
If I could give God’s Very Good Idea away to everyone I know, I would. I want to…and this post is a reflection of that desire. So, if you are a children’s ministry worker or if you’d like to “nominate” a children’s ministry worker, please simply tag them in Instagram or on Facebook or make a comment here. I will choose five winners to each receive three copies of God’s Very Good Idea to use for their ministry.
Simply comment below or tag your nominee to my Facebook page or Instagram. Giveaway ends at noon on Friday, Oct. 6.
Can’t wait to give these away!
A special thank you to The Good Book Company for this awesome giveaway! Thank you also to Carl Laferton, my editor, who graciously said YES to this project!
Our smallest offense deserves the full wrath of God. That’s hard to hear if we forget that God has indeed not only covered our sin because of Jesus, but also allows us to continually approach him to receive that grace anew. We also know that God is holy—set apart in his perfection, glory and majesty. We are sinners who sin every day. Our sin should grieve but not condemn us, because we serve a God who is good and gracious but also holy and just. So, what are we to do with this enigma of our sinfulness and God’s holiness, which clings so close to us? Repent and receive God’s amazing grace.
God, the Boogeyman?
There it is again. That eerie dark shadow lurking in the closet. He seems so unpredictable. What might he do next? What might happen? Will he jump out and get me? MOM!
Those used to be my fearful thoughts as a young child. I would fearfully snuggle into my bed, waiting for the boogieman to jump out of the closet and get me. When I became a Christian, I realized that much of the way I related to God was like that childlike fear of the boogieman. I felt like I didn’t have much control over my life, but instead of realizing I was in the hands of a good and loving Father, I viewed God as tyrannical. He had all the control, I thought, and the only love he showed was on the cross (which of course would have been enough!). I really did think God was like the boogieman hanging out in my closet just waiting for the right moment to punish me or cause some harm.
If we only know God as the sovereign ruler of the world, then we might make that same mistake I did as I young Christian. It wasn’t until I understood the great love of God that I began to see all His ways as good and loving. Yes, even those tough things in our lives are part of God’s loving hand (1 Pet 1:3-9; Heb. 12: 3-17). We can rest knowing that God’s thoughts are not our thoughts and his ways are not our ways and yet he is still thoughtful of man (Isa. 55:8; Psalm 8:4). We see evidence of this in Isaiah 55, which begins with an urgent call for us to come and drink—God delights in meeting our needs (spiritual and otherwise). We have a Father who invites us to the throne of grace to receive help in our time of need (Heb. 4:16). And though I didn’t fully grasp the significance of the cross as a young Christian, I now understand that God displayed his ultimate love for us through the sacrifice of His son on our behalf. Is there a greater love than this?
God is not the boogieman. He is the sovereign, loving, awesome God who came to redeem a people for himself. He is good and loves us relentlessly. So, in response to our knowledge of His loving character, we discipline ourselves to daily repent of the sin Christ already died for.
Walk in the Light
One of the many side effects I’ve experienced from getting older is an inability to see the road while driving at night. Everything glows and if it rains it’s as if someone is shining a bright light in my eyes. Like the responsible adult I am, it took me months to go to an eye doctor. So, I was driving around in the dark, blind as a bat. Thankfully, we don’t have to do this as Christians. We’ve seen the light. The gospel has shined light into darkness and this light isn’t disorienting, it’s a gift of grace that purifies and guides us.
But perhaps you’ve been walking around like you are still in the dark. God calls you to walk in the light. To walk in the light means to walk in the goodness and grace of God, living a life that is reflective of the Savior, and walking in a manner worthy of the gospel. Repentance is one of the clearest ways to walk in this light. John tells us that, “If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth” (1 John 1:6). To walk in darkness is either to walk with the knowledge of sin and ignore it, or to walk as if we are completely without sin never repenting (v.8). The grace of God allows us to not only acknowledge that we indeed continue to struggle with sin, but also to turn from our sin.
We see clearly that our walking in the light isn’t perfect, not even close. We will never reach perfection on this earth. That’s why repentance is such a beautiful gift from our God. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1:9). Oh what grace! We confess our sins to God—acknowledging our great need for him to turn us from our sin and what does he do? He does what he’s already done—pours out the grace we need to change. His wrath was reserved for Jesus. We don’t receive punishment or wrath for our sins—we receive grace. There are, of course, consequences for sin but even still our standing before God doesn’t change.
God is sovereign and rules over all. He is holy, yet because of Jesus we can approach him. Run, don’t walk to the throne of grace. Don’t walk like a blind man while you have the capability to walk in the light that is available to you. Walk in the light. Confess your sin and receive grace. There is no condemnation for you. Grace, that’s all he has for you and me.
A version of this article first appeared in Tabletalk