Children, Dentistry, and Diligence

Then children were brought to him that he might lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples rebuked the people, but Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.’
— Matthew 19:13,14
Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.
— Deuteronomy: 6:4-7
Do you the members of this congregation undertake with these parents the covenant responsibility for the Christian nurture of this child?
— Ch. 8 of our Directory for Public Worship

As I sat in the dentist’s chair this Monday morning for a scheduled teeth cleaning, I had some time to think. No matter how hard dental hygienists and dentists try, conversations cannot be held while someone has both hands on or in your mouth. So there I was. The lovely sound of metal scraping across my teeth set the tone of my thoughts as I lulled into a stream of thought moment. Y’all know what I’m talking about, right? Scrape. Scrape. Scraaaaape. Hmmmm. Mary Emmaline did so good when she came to the dentist last week. Scrape. Scrape. Scraaaaape. I can’t believe Mary Emmaline scraped her knee at the zoo the other day. The other day. The other day. Hmmmm. That youth group meeting the other day was really cool. Really cool. Really cool. Hmmmm. I’m so cool. Okay, okay, I threw that last part in to see if you were still with me. But the other parts went just like that! I was thinking of my own children, of our covenant children at church, and then that crazily combined with dentistry!

I realized that the desire of a dentist (a good one at least) was a pretty good illustration for the church’s desire for our children. My dental hygienist always exhorts me to diligence throughout the six months that I will be away from her. She tells me to remember to brush and floss every day. Yet even so, she also schedules my next appointment, so it can be on the calendar. And even beyond that, if there are complications before the six months are up, she tells me to call the office. They’ll fit me in, so whatever complication can be addressed by her or the dentist.

Jesus loves the little children. He wanted them to come to him (more than every six months of course!). In the midst of that, there is an expectation from God that believing parents of children would be diligent to tell them about God every day. Even so, God created a community called the church that parents and children find themselves in. When they come in for a “checkup,” both parents and children receive the Gospel in Word and deed. This is done on a larger scale (Sunday School programs, the Worship service, and so on), but it is also done through simple yet profound service opportunities (nursery, Children’s Church, youth group volunteers, and so on). We as a body take a vow before God regarding our covenant children, and we’re taking that vow seriously at Centennial!

My prayer is that God would continue to grow our desire to serve our youngest generation. May we never turn away little ones but call for them to come. May we maintain diligence both in our homes (if you have children) and at church (where you vowed before God that you do). And may God be glorified in it all. Midweek blessings to you all.


If the Shoe Fits...

I have led you forty years in the wilderness. Your clothes have not worn out on you, and your sandals have not worn off your feet.
— Deuteronomy 29:5

So, for those of you who don’t know, my daughter, Mary Emmaline, is two going on three. And like most two going on three-year olds, she is quite emotional and strong willed. Because of this, she is also a constant source of illustrations for sermons, Bible studies, and Postscripts. Currently, Mary Emmaline’s ability to fully dress herself is around 75%. She can usually put on her chosen articles of clothing with only a few mishaps (you know, like a head in a sleeve or two legs in one pant hole). By the way, matching is why it’s minus 25%. She must get that from me. But all in all, dressing goes well. The true difficulty begins with shoes. Mary Emmaline puts her shoes on the wrong feet so consistently that it must be intentional. Sandals, flip flops (the travesty!), tennis shoes, rain boots, you name it. And here’s the problem for her, the shoe fits.

Have you ever heard that saying? If the shoe fits, wear it. A quick Google search of the saying brings up this definition: used as a way of suggesting that someone should accept a generalized remark or criticism as applying to themselves. Here’s the problem with the saying, though. Generalized remarks and criticisms can sometimes fit, but it might be like Mary Emmaline—on the wrong foot. What follows is smooshed toes, a cramping foot, skinned knees from the inevitable fall, and weeping for days. I have noticed that the same thing happens in our personal (private) devotion time.

How is your personal devotion to God? In our American Christian culture, we would call this “quiet time.” I see four obvious answers: 1) you’ve fallen out of the habit, 2) you’ve never started, 3) you’re battling to keep it up, or 4) it’s right where it should be. No matter which of the four answers you resonated with, if God has wrought salvation in you through confession of Jesus Christ, you will agree that devoting time daily to God is not only appropriate but necessary. But here’s the tricky part, private devotion is not like a stretchy house slipper with the label ONE SIZE FITS ALL! on the tag. It’s more like a hiking boot for a straight and narrow trail.

Here’s the point: you are not me, I am not you, and we both need to do private devotions. Here’s an example: I have a little devotional called Licht Auf Dem Weg that gives me one Bible verse of Greek (from the New Testament) and one Bible verse of Hebrew (from the Old Testament) to translate. I imagine for most of you reading this, you either cringed at that idea or view it like you’re looking at an exhibit at the zoo—exotic, perhaps fascinating, but also not indigenous to the area. And that’s okay! You are not me, and I am not you. “Read the Bible in a year” plans are good unless they don’t fit. Bible study aids like devotional commentaries are good unless they don’t fit. Twelve chapters of Scripture a day is good unless it’s too much. One verse of Scripture a day is good unless it’s too little. Listening to God’s Word preached via podcast is good unless you aren’t listening. Who are you in personal devotions? I guarantee that all Christians deep down want to personally devote themselves to God, but one size does not fit all. And even if the shoe fits, I’ve seen some fit on feet that you’d think was impossible.

Pray to God. Ponder on who you are. Pray some more. And then seize a plan of personal devotion that glorifies God and edifies (strengthens) you. You will be surprised at how much easier walking the narrow path is with shoes, shoes that fit, and shoes that fit on the right foot.

Jeremiah Thomas

Thorny Vines and Christ Divine

And to Adam he said, ‘Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, ‘You shall not eat of it,’ cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.’
— Genesis 3:17-19
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.
— 1 Peter 1:3
But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.
— Philippians 3:20,20

One of the beautiful things about God’s Word is the connectivity and compatibility it has with itself. In other words, though the Bible is comprised of 66 books, it forms one whole and continuous story of God’s redemptive plan for his people. Likewise, this continuous story from start to finish has no contradiction because God is the one breathing it out to us (2 Timothy 3:16), and our God does not change (James 1:17). Because of this, certain Bible texts illuminate one another in wonderful and beautiful ways. Here are three parts of the Bible that have been floating in my head for the past week (they are printed above). I pray you will see an example of beautiful connection.

First came Genesis 3 and the fall of humanity due to Adam’s sin. I can’t get these verses out of my head. The reason why is simple: I have been pulling down thousands of feet of thorny vines in my backyard recently—literally thousands of feet. There are certain corruptions of the earth that reveal things are not as they should be. Thousands of feet of thorny vines in my backyard is one. How am I even going to get them to the road? My current protocol is to yank and pull until the thorny vines surround me rather than the tree. At this point I do my best giant impression as I stomp and stamp around, which smooshes them to the ground. Thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you…

The second Bible verse stuck in my head was from the Sunday School lesson from this last week, which I had the privilege of teaching. The topic was hope, and hope is an eager waiting for the fulfillment of things to be made right. But even as I confess Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, those thorns still remain (thousands more feet and still growing). This was followed closely by that text I was preaching from, which had to do with Jesus getting us home to heaven by his own power—actually making things right.

Here’s the point. No matter how many thousands of feet of thorny vines I cut, pull, and stomp, this world remains corrupted. That doesn’t mean I should stop seeking to be diligent in my work in this life. It does mean I need to remember my hope is a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ. And it is from there—from that reality—that I will await a savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, to come again. Whatever your thorns and thistles, be they metaphorical, literal, internal, external, or all of the above, may God bless you with his connected and comforting Word that reveals our Lord and Savior, Jesus.

Hopefully waiting,

Mountaintop Highs Translated

One of the many blessings of our denomination is the mountaintop campground called Bonclarken. At the sight of that word, most of y’all will probably be filled with joyful memories of camps, conferences, and retreats.

Summer Opportunities for Ordinary Care

Summer greetings, Centennial! Not only has the season officially changed but the flow of our church family has, too. I’m sure you’ve felt it in one of two ways (or both!). Do any of these thoughts fit your own?