Dear Members and Friends of St. John,
On Sunday, November 4, I led worship where my sister attends church at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Chiefland, FL. This was sort of a last minute request. I was also asked to lead Bible Study as well. Since I would only be at Good Shepherd one Sunday, I used an old Bible Study I had prepared from a Garisson Keillor monologue. Keillor often talks in his stories about life in the Lutheran Church of America’s upper midwest. Even though there is humor in his stories, there’s also some truth worth considering. So, in Bible class on Sunday we listened to Keillor share a story entitled, “Let us Pray.” This monologue focused on the anxiety and excitement in the local Lutheran Church when Pastor Inquist sends a letter to the members of “Lake Woebegon Lutheran Church” that on the next Sunday he will call on a congregational member to lead prayers in worship.
Prayer is an amazing privilege that God gives all people. We can go to the Almighty Lord of the universe and lay open our hearts and minds to Him. And . . . He listens! What an act of patience and love that the All Powerful Creator of all listens to us! But, prayer is not only a gift that we exercise personally. Scripture tells us in many places about the joint prayers of God’s people. So, considering Keillor’s story, are you personally comfortable leading others in prayer, or does that make you nervous, afraid, even? Many in the class last Sunday admitted that they were nervous about praying in public.
So Kathy told a story about our son, Tim, when he attended Parentshare Preschool at St. John. Since Tim has just turned 26, that was a little while ago. Back then Tim’s teacher, Linda Griese, confided to Kathy that she was needing to schedule more time at preschool for snack prayers. It seems that, in addition to singing the Johnny Appleseed song before snack, Tim also wanted to add some personal prayers. My understanding is that he would pray for family members, and even pets. Somehow, Tim’s enthusiasm caught on so that other class members also asked time for prayer. These preschool students would enlist their friends and classmates as they spoke to God about the joys and concerns on their hearts. So, Mrs. Griese had to schedule more time for prayer. She couldn’t stifle this spontaneous exercise of faith.
As Kathy told her story another lady attending class shared about her grandchildren. They are also quick to offer prayer. As we discussed these items in Bible class this lady commented, “If you teach children when they are young, it stays with them.”
You might say that you expect such behavior from a pastor’s son. But, the truth is that our home devotions at supper time did not necessarily come from the pastor in the house. For much of the time our children were at home we used the same book Kathy had used when she was young, “Little Visits with God.” Each night we would read the story and answer the questions. Actually, our children liked reading because then they could question their siblings. (We still use this book when our grandchildren come to visit.) Then we would pray the prayer at the end of the devotion and perhaps add other prayers for concerns on our heart. I believe this is where Tim learned to pray in public. We weren’t necessarily creative. We were persistent and persevering in practicing our faith in God and our belief that He listens and answers prayers.
I share these stories for a number of reasons. First, Scripture instructs parents that, in addition to caring for and protecting their children, teaching the faith is a parent’s main responsibility. In the New Testament we are told, “Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.” (Ephesians 6:4) This verse echos Old Testament instruction to parents that they teach their children about God. (See Deuteronomy 6:1-12 and 11:18-22, Proverbs 22:6) This God inspired guidance for parents is different from much popular thinking that says, “I’ll let my children choose for themselves when they are older.” Children will choose when they are older. But, how can they choose if they don’t have a foundation with which to compare?
Secondly, I hear many parents and grandparents tell me they are concerned about where our country is headed. It seems that our children are under attack from many influences that are unhealthy to their lives in this world, and unhealthy to their eternal welfare. Look at all the drug problems, the suicides, the anti-social behavior we see. What can we do to protect our children? There is no magic cure to our problems. Even Christian children struggle with these issues. But, when children are taught to love God and to love others, when children are taught that there are consequences to their sinful behaviors, and when they are taught that God loves them in spite of their sins and forgives them in Jesus, then our children are given some weapons to stand firm in their faith, and to fight back. Maybe they will remember that God loves them, that God listens to their prayers. Maybe our children will even lead others in prayer!
Do you want to equip your children, or your grandchildren, to face the challenges in today’s world? Do you want to teach them about God and His love for them in Jesus? Do you also want to grow in faith to face the challenges of each day with the strength and love of God? Would you like to be able to pray in public? Home devotions seems like an old-fashioned practice. But, God works in our hearts when we spend time in His word. When families spend time with God at home, and then back this up with regular worship, God grows faith in us that can face the challenges in our world.
A Child of God, Seeking to Strengthen my children and grandchildren in faith, and Seeking to Grow in Faith Myself,
P.S. As pastor I am serious about helping our folks grow in their faith in God’s love for them in Jesus. I strongly believe that personal devotions make a difference. Here are some devotional resources you may want to use in your home.
· Little Visits with God is the book we used most often. Here are copies of that book, and OTHER home devotional materials for families. (There are also some copies in the church library. - https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=little+visits+with+god&rh=n%3A283155%2Ck%3Alittle+visits+with+god
· Advent devotions – I recently bought 4 copies of these Advent devotions, 1 for each home where I have grandchildren, one for my own home, and one for the church. You may want to purchase one of these Advent devotions for your family.
· PERSONAL DEVOTIONS FOR 2019-2020? Will you to join me in studying God’s Word together? I plan to use the “Today’s Light Devotional Bible” from Concordia Publishing House in 2019 and 2020. . If you want to buy one of these Bibles and study with me starting in January here are links for the Bible.
o From CPH (Our Church’s publishing house) for $26.39 + $7.00 shipping -
P.P.S. I’m told Linda a whole list of “Tim stories.”
ABOUT ‘THOUGHTS FROM THE PASTOR’ - I am sending these e-mail messages, hopefully weekly, to all St. John members and friends whose e-mails I have. (I am regularly adding new names of friends and members – in case you are just receiving this e-mail for the first time.) However, if you do not want to receive this e-mail, please let me know, and I’ll gladly leave your name off my list for this message.