The last two weeks have provided great reminders to me about why kids ministry is so important. I served as camp pastor at CentriKid camps for a week. The whole family came and we had a great time. The kids participated in Bible studies, recreation, track times based on their interests, and morning and evening worship gatherings. Then the next week, Kaye hosted a backyard kids club in our neighborhood for neighbors and friends from school. Friends and some incredible teenagers helped provide games, recreation, singing, crafts, and a Bible story each morning. About 50 kids came. The experiences reminded us why kids ministry is so vital.
For some churches, summer is a wonderfully slow season. From September to May, we put a lot of energy into events, classes, programs, and gatherings. But when June arrives, we pull back a bit. Some programs go on hiatus, guest preachers make an appearance, and volleyball games happen around every corner.
But one summer activity is decidedly not slow-paced: Vacation Bible School (VBS).
Do you know how to lament?
Pain, suffering, sorrow, illness, and grief are unavoidable in this world — but God has given us a way to find hope in the rubble of life. Lament is an underground tunnel to hope.
An entire book of the Bible is an exercise in lamenting before the Lord. We have numerous psalms of lament. So, why don’t we lament more in the church today? Why do we put the noise-cancelling headphones over our hearts, keeping ourselves busy to avoid the pain? Let’s not busy ourselves to avoid lamenting; let’s learn to lament well.
One thing we need to be very clear about is that religious liberty is not a government “benefit,” but a natural and inalienable right granted by God. Often at issue is whether or not the civil state has the power to zone mosques or Islamic cemeteries or synagogues or other houses of worship out of existence because of what those groups believe. When someone makes such a claim, they are not standing up for Jesus and his gospel, but standing against them. To empower the state to command or to forbid worship is not fidelity to the Bible.
When we say—as Baptists and many other Christians always have—that freedom of religion applies to all people, Christian or not, we are not suggesting that there are many paths to God, or that truth claims are relative. We are fighting for the opposite. We are saying religion should be free from state control because we believe every person must give an account before the Judgment Seat of Christ.
“Ambivalence” is not such a bad posture for Christians to adopt toward America, however. We have always had reasons to celebrate and reasons to lament America’s history. Even in 1776, Christians shared in the founding of America, but they did not dominate in the new nation’s leadership. Many of our founding principles accorded with Christian ones, but horrid violence toward Native Americans and the sinful institution of chattel slavery contradicted the Founders’ talk of universal liberty and God-given rights.
We find much to commend in the American tradition, but it can’t be our ultimate allegiance. As with Christians everywhere, “our citizenship is in heaven” (Philippians 3:20). Nevertheless, as we keep our eyes on the heavenly kingdom, Christians in America have many reasons to thank our King for the blessings he’s given to this imperfect nation.
The move is subtle. The switch from ordinary human achievement to blasphemy requires no explanation. It just flatout happens. Isaiah 44:12–17 demonstrates that there is only one step to becoming an idolater, and it is simply to mind your own business.
A favorite from the archives:
I have yet to see someone approach cancer with a blasé reaction. It inspires outrage. The disease itself is cruel. It is unrelenting. It is merciless and no respecter of persons. It confronts us with our own mortality in a way few other things do.
And I think that’s the biggest issue: when cancer strikes, we can’t escape the fact that we’re all going to die. And deep down, every one of us knows death is unnatural. Death is an interloper. It doesn’t belong in this world. Yet it is here. And we can’t eliminate it, try as we might.