Monday, May 23, 2011

Vison of Hope

As we gathered for worship yesterday, we celebrated "Hope Sunday," a day to focus on helping children out of poverty.  With the help of World Vision, we learned about ways we can really help eliminate poverty.  We heard from several folks at Crossroads who already sponsor children, and it was a moving experience.  Helping these children has really brought us closer to Jesus.

At last count, we had 9 children around the world who had new sponsors!  (Please let us know if you signed up as a sponsor at home, so that we can see how many children have been blessed through Hope Sunday!)  It was especially encouraging to see our teenagers leading the way, being the first ones to "adopt" these children. 

I especially like World Vision's approach to helping the poor.  On their website, World Vision says,

"We seek to facilitate an engagement between the poor and the affluent that opens both to transformation. We respect the poor as active participants, not passive recipients, in this relationship...The need for transformation is common to all. Together we share a quest for justice, peace, reconciliation, and healing in a broken world."

Giving people food and shelter may help temporarily, but it can leave them waiting for the next delivery of aid.  When we work to transform their living environment, we see sustainable change.  This happens when we actually share the love of Jesus, through education, medical aid, clean water, economic opportunity and the gospel. 

As we share Christ's love holistically, he can change their hearts and truly transform their lives.

And, as World Vision says, we who give are also transformed.  We began to see that yesterday.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Ready for Graduation

Next year I will have the privilege *sob* of having my oldest child graduate from high school.  So graduation season this year is particularly poignant for me.  Students have spent virutally their whole lives growing and learning and preparing for the transition to the world of adults.  The world is full of promise and opportunity; temptation and risk. 

It is the parents' responsibility to raise children and prepare them to enter the world of adults.  The transition is much more than the moment of turning a tassel on a mortar board.  It begins years before as children gradually take on more and more responsibility.  It continues long after high school graduation as they seek counsel and advice about education, jobs, and relationships.

But the moment of high school graduation often marks a turning point.  It is a time after which children don't really live at home; they live in dorms, spend summers away at summer jobs, move into their own apartments.  For the parents, it is the time of transition to being empty-nesters.

Before I get too sappy and sentimental, I want to consider how we parents prepare children for that moment when the routines of life change dramatically.  We need to equip them with life skills.  We teach them how to get along with others, how to mow grass and set the table.  We teach them manners and the perspective of empathy.  We make sure they have the necessary formal education, whether in the classroom or at home.

And we have to instill in them the most important thing of all:  love for God.  Jesus said that loving God is the most important thing in life.  From loving God, all else in life flows.  If we love God, then he can equip us to love our neighbors.  If we love God and love our neighbors, Jesus says, then we really have a handle on life.

Remember too that Jesus specified the ways in which we are to love God:  with our heart, soul, mind and strength.  Loving God with our minds requires us to gain some understanding of this world.  If we don't have a firm understanding of this world as God's creation, then we can easily buy into the world's false philosophies.

So often Christian students enter their college studies with great confidence in their beliefs.  But then they face challenging questions in the classroom, from professors and other students.  These questions cut to the heart of their beliefs; they feel foolish for ever having believed in the God of the Bible.  In their minds there are only two reasonable ways to resolve this tension:  ignore the questions with blissful ignorance, or abandon the faith.

What so many Christians don't know is that there ARE answers to these questions.  The God of the Bible does make sense.  We don't have to choose between reason and faith.  The two are more than compatible.  In fact, they go hand in hand as we understand this world in which God has placed us.  I recommend Nancy Pearcey's book Total Truth for an engaging explanation of the Christian worldview.

But while we have children at home, we can enthusiastically teach them about God.  And we can encourage them to ask lots of questions about God, science, morality, the Bible, faith, history, economics and setting the table.  There are answers, even if we have to work to find them.