Monday, January 26, 2015

Supports for Children in Worship

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If you read my post Walking the Christian Life, you may have noticed that I consider it vital for people of all ages to be in corporate worship. Today I'd like to share some resources for children that can enhance their understanding and participation in the service. Some of these were mentioned in the previous post Participation in Worship: for your family member with special needs.

Parts of the sanctuary

Understanding what different parts of the sanctuary are can help your child better follow along with the service. You may wish to remake this particular support with pictures from your own congregation, which you are welcome to do, but make sure that you cover all the main parts of the sanctuary, especially those that are used during the Divine Service.

Simplified order of service based on the Divine Service

Young children may be confused as to what is happening in a liturgical service. This simplified order of service can help them understand what the parts of the service are about.

Sermon guide for younger children

For children that are old enough to read but would not be able to write full sermon notes, this sermon notes guide can help them focus on the sermon. When key words are mentioned in the sermon, they can make a tally mark in the box for that word. If a word is used that they do not understand, they can write that down to ask about later. They also can draw a picture based on the sermon. For example, if the sermon text is the story of the prodigal son, they can draw a picture of the father embracing the son, or the son feeding the pigs.

Sermon guide for older children

Older children can take more comprehensive notes than younger children, so this sermon notes guide helps them to follow the sermon as the pastor covers Law (sin) and Gospel (grace). They also have a section to think about their response to the Law and Gospel, as well as a section to write down words they did not understand so they can look the words up later.

Please feel free to take any or all of these supports and use them or edit them in whatever way works best for your family.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

I Won't Be Seeing Fifty Shades (a List of Recommended Posts)

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On February 14th, the almost universally recognized holiday of love, the much-anticipated Fifty Shades of Grey movie will come to theaters. I won't be seeing it.

The topic of erotica and sexualized "love stories" has been treated so often and so well by other Christian bloggers that I see no need for me to cover it as well. However, I would like to share with you a few relevant posts on Fifty Shades of Grey that I agree with.

Why Erotica Will Wreck Your Sex Life by Sheila Wray Gregoire at To Love Honor and Vacuum

Is There Anything Redeeming in the "Fifty Shades" Trilogy? by Jonalyn Fincher at Christianity Today

I'm Not Reading Fifty Shades by Dannah Gresh at Pure Freedom

To Everyone Who Thinks 50 Shades Is All Sorts of Awesome: Please, Stop and THINK by Jonathon Van Maren at Life Site News

Will you be reading Fifty Shades? Will you be watching Fifty Shades? What are your thoughts on the series?

Monday, January 19, 2015

Why Denominations Matter

I recently asked my Facebook friends to weigh in on denominations. I'd been discussing the topic with family over Christmas, and I wanted to know what my Christian friends of different denominations thought. My brother, Dyami (pronounced Dee-om-ee) Pike, was among those to reply--and the only one commenting from the anti-denominational perspective. (I use the term "anti-denominational" as opposed to "non-denominational" because he believes that term has come to refer to a specific type of churches that are almost a denomination in and of themselves.) I'd like to respond here to what he said.

Here is what he said:

If denominations are a result of sin then we shouldn't settle into a certain one, we should strive to find what is wrong with them, I am all for going to a church and having a group of people to worship with cause it says in Matt.18:20 "where 2 or 3 are gathered together in my name, I'm there in their midst" but I also believe that there are common factors in all religions* that we should be more focused on than becoming a member of a church. I'm not a baptist, even though that's where I go to church, I'm not a Lutheran even though that's how I was raise. I'm a Christian, who believes in God and all the fundamentals of Christianity. Denominations are just a way to separate us from other Christians. Instead of seeing how are beliefs are different I think we should see how we are alike and get to a point where we can come together as one church. I used to think that the bible could have different meanings for different people, but that can't be true, you can't have the same question and get different results. The only way that's possible is if someone is doing it wrong.
Let's take this piece by piece.
"If denominations are a result of sin then we shouldn't settle into a certain one."
This statement was in response to my comment that "Denominations are certainly a result of sin--if there were no false teachings in the Church, there would be no need for denominations." I certainly agree that we should avoid sin and temptation wherever possible. James 4:7 says "Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you." However, were we to entirely avoid sin, we would have to leave this life. "Surely there is not a righteous man on earth who does good and never sins," says Ecclesiastes 7:20, and Isaiah 64:6 says "All our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment."

Denominations being the result of sin does not make them necessary to avoid. They are a response to sin, not a sin in and of themselves. For example, the Lutheran Church broke off from the Roman Catholic Church because the Catholics were teaching false doctrine, that is, sinning. This means that the Lutheran Church is a result of sin; not that the Lutheran Church is a result of Lutheran sin, but the result of Catholic sin that Lutherans responded to. So denominations, in theory, are a result of running from sin (James 4:7), which is how they can be a "result of sin" and yet not something to avoid.
"I'm a Christian, who believes in God and all the fundamentals of Christianity." 
Unfortunately, denominations disagree on what those fundamentals are. As a Lutheran, I believe the Sacraments--Holy Baptism and Holy Communion--are fundamental to salvation. (Not that it is impossible to be saved without the Sacraments, but that these are the means through which salvation has been provided for us.) Many Protestant denominations would disagree. Most Christian denominations believe that you have to believe in the Trinity to be a Christian; Mormons do not believe in the Trinity but claim to be Christians. Denominations help us clarify what the "fundamentals of Christianity" are.
"Denominations are just a way to separate us from other Christians."
I absolutely agree with this point. Denominations separate Christians. As Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 11:19, "there must be factions among you in order that those who are genuine among you may be recognized." While I would never claim that members of another denomination are damned, I would say that certain teachings of other denominations are dangerous. (If another "denomination" was confessing non-Christian doctrine, this would make them another religion, not another denomination, in which case I would claim, in accordance with Scripture, that this places them outside of salvation.) 

"Instead of seeing how are beliefs are different I think we should see how we are alike and get to a point where we can come together as one church."

It is right to want to come together as one Church, the Bride of Christ. While some within the Body teach false doctrine, however, it is also right to separate with them until they correct their errors.

In a marriage, when one person is causing harm to the marriage, such as being addicted to pornography, the couple will sometimes split until the problems are resolved. They are still married, but they are not in full unity. In the same sense, Christians sometimes have to separate themselves from other Christians until those that are in the wrong correct their errors. When these separations have to occur, denominations come into existence.

In an ideal world, all Christians would be entirely unified in belief, with no differences in our understanding of Scripture or how we practice our faith. One day, when we stand before the throne of God, we will be unified. Until that day, we remain in the sinful reality that is this earth, and so we cope with this reality the best ways we know how--one way being denominational separation.

As I remain in the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, I will continue to study Scripture and grow in my Christian walk, encouraging those around me to do the same. I pray that everyone, regardless of denomination, will study and continue to reform their beliefs to be most in line with God's Word. We all need to grow in our understanding of Scripture until Christ returns and we are unified entirely in Him.

Dyami requests that if you have any questions regarding his beliefs or would like to discuss this post you would email him at

*Knowing my brother, I am certain that the word "religion" used here was not intended to refer to different religions (Hindu, Mormonism, Islam, etc.) but rather to different denominations (Baptist, Lutheran, Catholic, etc.).

*All Scriptures quoted by me are from the ESV Bible.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

A Recommended Post: Is Porn Addiction Real?

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Many of you have followed my parenting seminars on talking to your teens about sexual ethics, and I've had a couple requests for more posts on sexual issues. Today, I'd like to share a post on sexual ethics from the Covenant Eyes® blog. Covenant Eyes® is a company that provides software and resources for fighting pornography, especially through internet accountability and filtering.

The post is an audio interview titled Is Porn Addiction Real? Interview with Dr. Peter Kleponis. The interview lasts about 45 minutes and was conducted by Luke Gilkerson, Educational Resource Manager at Covenant Eyes®. 

Also a note: the parenting seminar I led before Christmas on Talking to Teens about Pornography and Masturbation was recorded. I have not had the opportunity to edit and post it, but I hope to do so by the end of the month. Thank you for your patience!

Head over to Covenant Eyes® and check out the blog, post, and services!

Monday, January 12, 2015

When Your Adult Child Cohabits

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According to Pew Research, 9.2% of adults age 18 to 29 were cohabiting in 2011, and 7% of adults age 30-44 were cohabiting in 2009. As Christian parents, we need to be aware of how to guide our children in godly behavior, not only when they are eighteen and under, but also throughout their adult lives.

Do not allow them to share a bed in your home. This will most likely cause a fight, especially if they have children with their partner, or if you previously allowed them to share a bed. However, you need to be clear that you will not enable sin in your home, and while they are in your home, they need to follow your household rules. Be firm in this, and do not compromise.

Remember that the way to respond will depend on their faith. If they are Christian, they are already aware of God's Law, and the situation is simply a matter of recognizing and being convicted of their sin in this particular matter. If they are not Christian, however, they need to become aware of their overall sin and need for God's forgiveness before their actions change.

Be open and honest. Make it clear that you do not approve of their behavior, whether in your home or out of it. Share your Scriptural reasoning for disapproving. Don't avoid the topic when it comes up.

Be loving to them and their partner. There is no need to be hateful to your child or their partner because you disapprove of their behavior. Fostering a relationship with them without condoning their actions allows you the opportunity to share the Law (and later, the Gospel). Refusing to relate to your child's partner may lead to your child refusing to relate to you, and it is difficult to parent and minister to your child if no active relationship exists.

Do not try to control their behavior outside of your home, but keep in mind your powers of influence. Within your home, you have jurisdiction. Within their home, they have jurisdiction. You can, however, refuse to stay in their home while they share a bedroom. This places the choice in their hands: they temporarily cease their sinful behavior, or they miss an opportunity in the relationship.

Support and forgive them when they repent. Do not withhold forgiveness when they repent. Once the Holy Spirit convicts them of their sin, tell them they are forgiven. Then support them by helping them plan and implement the necessary change, be it marriage, moving out, or breaking up. 

Parents were given responsibility for their children not only through childhood and adolescence, but all throughout their lives. What parenting looks like varies depending on the stage of life, but no matter what stage your child is in, you are called by God to support, teach, and set an example for him or her in life and faith.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Encouraging the Christian Walk

A previous version of this post was titled "Encouraging Faith Formation" and had some slight differences in content. After working through the post with my pastor, I have revised and reposted the article to be more theologically and practically accurate.

The key in all the stages of life is exposure to Word and Sacraments. After studying the developmental theories of different psychologists, particularly Professor James Fowler, I have assessed various ways that God meets spiritual needs throughout the life span. Different life stages are in bold, with the key need in that stage italicized.

Prenatal: Parental faith
  • Your faith does not save your child, but parents should be concerned with the feeding of their own faith during pregnancy. Remain entrenched in the Word and Sacraments while you (or your wife, for the guys) is pregnant.
  • Read Scripture aloud to your child and be in church regularly. Research shows that even as early as 16 weeks, unborn babies can hear. We know that "faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ," (Romans 10:17) so the earlier your child hears Scripture, the better.
  • Begin planning for the baptism! Ideally, this should be done by your pastor as soon after the birth as possible.

Infant and Toddler: Exposure
  • Baptize! This is the most important step in this stage—when the Holy Spirit comes to your child to create faith in them through baptism.
  • Make Christianity part of your daily discussion—talk about it! Talk about Scripture, the Sacraments, and what we believe.
  • Have child in worship (use the cry room if necessary, but know that it’s more important for you and your child to be in worship than it is to avoid nasty looks.)
  • Let them touch and see things related to Christianity—pictures of Jesus, crosses, etc.—and name them.
  • Pray in front of them and encourage them to pray with you. Start teaching them memorized prayers as soon as possible—the earlier, the better!

Preschool: Repetition
  • Pray with and read Bible stories to them.
  • Make prayer and Bible reading an important part of your life. If children see that their parents place a high importance on prayer and Scripture, they will begin to learn that it is important in their own life.
  • Pray memorized prayers, but talk about what you are saying. For example, when you say “Hallowed be Thy name”, talk about how “Hallowed” is another word for holy (not a name).
  • Let your child lead prayers, decide on things to pray about, pick Bible stories, etc. Let them take ownership of what they talk to God about.
  • Emphasize forgiveness when they feel guilty for making a mistake. Talk about how Jesus’s death paid for all our sins.
  • Have a children’s Bible for them to read.
  • Short memory verses can be learned at this age, but be sure not to over-tax them.

School-age: Productivity
  • Allow them to participate in the service life of the church whatever way your congregation allows. For some, this may be acolyting; for others, ushering or participating in church clean-up days is a good way to remain involved.
  • Children learn how to behave in church best when they see other people doing it. Keeping your child in the church service with you will help them learn how to participate in worship.
  • Sunday school is a great way for kids at this age to become more familiar with the stories and teachings of the church.
  • Make sure they have a Bible in an easy-to-read but still accurate version. The LCMS uses the ESV. A paraphrase Bible (like the Living Bible or the Message Bible) is not necessary for most children once they are out of the storybook Bible stage.
  • Encouraging familiarity with the Small Catechism is a good way to prepare them for confirmation. CPH sells a My First Catechism book for ages 6 to 10 that can help your child begin to become familiar with the Catechism and chief articles of our faith.
  • This would be a great age to talk your child through the parts of the sanctuary!

Preteen/Teenager: Continuity
  • Ongoing learning about faith—encourage questions, do research and talk to your pastor (and encourage them to do the same) when something comes up that you don’t know how to answer.
  • Encourage them to become familiar with their Small Catechism. The morning and evening prayers can help them continue in their prayer life, and if they have any questions about what we believe, teach, and confess, a lot of the answers can be found there.
  • Have them in confirmation classes (once they are old enough).
  • Mandate church attendance. Though an unpopular technique among some, this is still vital to your child’s faith. Even when you think your child is old enough to choose whether or not to go to church, they need to be there. In the same way that you wouldn’t let your sixteen-year-old decide if he should go to the dentist regularly, you shouldn’t let him decide if he should go to church regularly.
  • Get them involved in church activities—not just age-specific, but intergenerational as well. If your child enjoys singing but there are no other teens in the church choir, that’s ok! The intergenerational relationships will be good for everyone involved.
  • Don’t force them to remain involved in non-worship/non-learning activities they dislike (church services, Sunday school, Bible study, and confirmation are the exceptions to this rule). If the church youth group’s only activities are attending concerts and having game nights, but your child prefers quiet discussion and one-on-one time with friends, that’s ok. Church wasn’t intended to be a social club, so don’t force your child to see it like one.

Young Adult: Relationships
Many young adults “fall away” from church attendance brieflyafter high school. Almost a quarter fall away and never return. Receiving God’s grace in the first four stages is vital in preparing your child’s Christian walk, but parents are still an influence in this stage. Proverbs 22:6 says “Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it.”
  • Encourage connections with other peer Christians. This can be done through a Bible study, fellowship group, or small group study. It can also be done less formally, through regular friendship building.
  • Help them find a Christian adult to mentor them in their Christian walk.
  • Make sure they have a Book of Concord and Bible—and become familiar with both.
  • If they moved or are moving away from their home church, help them find a congregation to worship at in their new place. If you are Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, you can go to the LCMS church locator and find a congregation based on city, zip code, or LCMS district.

Adult: Involvement and leadership
  • Encourage them to remain involved not only in weekly worship, but also in church activities, such as a Bible study.
  • Encourage them to find younger Christians to mentor. (For safety’s sake, someone of the same gender in a similar life walk is the best idea. A pastor’s wife would do well to mentor a young woman dating a seminarian, for example, and an older man with four grown children would be a good mentor for a new father.)

*All Scripture references are from the ESV Bible.