Tuesday, July 18, 2017

A Christian Perspective on Boredom

Is it possible that one of the problems facing our culture today, and particularly our kids and teens, is the lack of boredom? You might be thinking, “this cannot be an issue that we need to give attention to.” In fact, you might be thinking, “I thought getting rid of boredom was a good thing!”

Let me explain.

Our culture today is on a frantic pace to embrace new and exciting things. On top of this is parents filling up their schedules with loads of extra curricular activities. If you throw in smart phones, tablets, Netflix, Youtube and video games, kids today literally have very little time to be bored with access to screens which demand their attention and provides endless content that promises something new and exciting.

However, maybe boredom isn’t inherently bad or a thing to be avoided. As philosopher Blaise Pascal put it, “I have often said that the sole cause of man’s unhappiness is that he does not know how to stay quietly in his room.”

Already we should clarify something. The issue isn’t that kids are never bored. They are indeed. The issue is that they are not being equipped to handle boredom or that it is ok to be still, with nothing to do. The real problem created by technology is that it makes it incredibly easy for parents and kids alike to avoid boredom like they avoid getting bit by mosquitoes. Let’s face it, it is easier to turn the tv on or let your child play with a phone than it is for them to embrace stillness. In fact, the accessibility of entertainment seems to suggest that boredom is inherently bad if there is such an easy remedy for it.

However, it may be possible that losing the ability to embrace boredom is adding to a deeper sadness, even hopelessness that the next generation faces. This sadness can even include what is commonly referred to as depression. Consider this quote from Ed Welch:

“Perhaps it is because they have compressed sex, drugs, and money into a shorter period of time and found them unsatisfying. With nothing new to entertain them, they are dreading the decades to come. With no particular purpose, their goal is to tolerate and survive a boring, goal-less existence that will probably be less affluent than that of their parents.”

In other words, the younger generation today is like a kid who finds all their Christmas gifts a week before December 25 and has nothing left to be excited for on the big day. In the effort to avoid the great malaise of boredom, the compression of pleasure is actually limiting the younger generations ability to look out and imagine any pleasures worth living for. The great irony here is that the effort to avoid boredom is dooming the next generation to an existence of boredom. Yes, I agree, this is a little depressing.

Thus, boredom may be useful. Let me argue that only Christianity can convince us that boredom can be truly useful.

Augustine is one of the greatest minds in the Christian church and he suggested that joy is only possible when our minds and hopes are fixed on something eternally wonderful and beautiful, namely God. He said that “true joy is the delight in the supreme beauty, goodness, and truth that are the attributes of God, of which traces may be found in the good and beautiful things of the world.

C.S. Lewis is helpful on this point as he has thought at length on the subject of joy. He found joy in the observance and delight in the many little gifts of God that are manifested throughout this life. It is important to note that Lewis and Augustine affirm the same thing, namely, that joy cannot be found in the gifts of God if they are separated from God. True joy, by contrast, is a manifestation of God’s glorious character through creation, whether ice cream, frogs, trees, hot, cold, water, sunshine, blue skies or rain. These things do not hold joy in themselves. Only when they serve as windows into God’s glorious character is joy produced!

In fact, these theologians are merely restating something the Apostle Paul has revealed in Philippians 4:8

“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”

We can say at least three things about thinking:

1.     Thinking is a learned ability
2.     Thinking is a human responsibility/discipline
3.     Thinking is necessary to knowing God

True thinking is central to being human. More specifically, true thinking is necessary to see the glory of God in a blue sky or a piece of music. In other words, thinking is the ability and discipline which connects a human being to their creator, the source of endless creativity, opportunity, delight, satisfaction, excellence, and praiseworthiness.

Thinking on the part of a human being is crucially important to them growing in their awareness of the greatness of God and their relation to him. Thinking is key to a person’s practical connection to God and all the possibilities and implications of what it means to be made in his image. Psalm 46:10 says be still and know that I am God.  We can say that knowing God is necessary for stillness. At the same time, stillness is also necessary for knowing God.

If a child is endlessly crammed with boredom-saving activities then they are essentially being trained to what Julie Lowe warned about: mindlessness. Who would have thought that mindlessness would be connected to the severe consequences of depression and hopelessness?

As Christian parents we have a responsibility to teach our children to embrace their boredom, to steward it as an opportunity for stillness that leads to thoughtfulness about the glories of their creator. When this connection is made true joy can be experienced in the endless possibilities of being made in the image of a God who is eternally glorious.

May our kids learn the art of thinking and observing. For the eternal joy of their souls in the glorious character of God!

Pastor Kevin

When Children Say "I'm Bored" By Julie Lowe

This Article is written by Julie Lowe and was originally posted on the CCEF blog. 

I highlighted the areas of particular interest. I had already prepared a blogpost on dealing with boredom from a Christian worldview and then came across this. There is much overlap between the two, perhaps this one is more concise while my work attempts to explain the connection between the ability to think and the ability to be happy.

You can visit the original blogpost in the link provided below. 

 We have a common crisis in our home; it is the calamity of boredom. Our children might even consider it a catastrophe. “I’m bored” is repeated so often it would not be an overstatement to say that these words echo continuously throughout our home especially during any break from school. These are children with limited media time but still children with a Wii and Xbox system, a pool outside our door, multiple games, toys, and other planned activities. Yet “I’m bored” rolls off our children’s tongues with great frequency and displeasure.

As a result, we came up with a clever solution. We told our children that every time we hear the words, “I’m bored” (and all versions of boredom: “I’m tired”, “Nothing to do”, etc.), we would assign a chore to do. It didn’t take long before the words slipped out and thereafter, my kids appeared to find ways to occupy their time. Though it is a clever solution (and a great way to get the house cleaned), doing chores does not address their more fundamental struggles.

First, young people struggle with being over-entertained. When left to their own devices, they will often turn first to technology which allows them to be passively entertained rather than actively engaged in a hobby or activity. By spending time on social media, video games, TV or movies, they are, quite literally, entertaining themselves to mindlessness. When there is a moment of silence or inactivity, the adversity of boredom descends upon them and they feel incapable of overcoming it. Assigning a few chores makes them aware of their plight, but it is only an external impetus for behavioral change. They need to learn to engage free time more productively.

Second, we need to help our children foster the neglected gift of stillness. There is something lost when we do not learn to just sit, to be quiet, swing on a hammock or take a walk without something bellowing in our ear. We all need to stop and smell the roses, experience creation, to cease striving and know that He is God. We need to learn to enjoy such moments as a delight, not a period of boredom. Like us, children need to learn to reflect, contemplate, and meditate on the things of God. How will that happen if we do not endeavor to instill this in our children?

Third, kids need to be less self-consumed by their personal comforts and desires and learn to think outside of themselves. There is a world of need, service, job opportunities, education and life to be lived and they need to be nudged (or sometimes dragged) in the right direction. Teens are not going to wake up one day and feel charitable and ask to go serve in the local food pantry. It requires cultivating generosity and a desire to serve. It means instilling in them a willingness to give of both time and resources. As parents, we have to be willing to do the hard work of steering our kids towards service and imparting within them a desire to be other-centered.

So, if your kids are bored at home, you might try the chore response. It does have a certain appeal. But recognize its limitations. It will not instill in them the godly character you really desire for your children. That only comes through careful examination of what captures their affections, and equipping them to thoughtfully steward their free time.

Good Fear, Bad Fear, Freedom in Fear

Scripture is not schizophrenic, although it may seem as though it might be. One of the most common commands in the Bible is essentially this: “Do not fear.”

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9

Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. Isaiah 41:10

Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Luke 12:32

For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. 2 Timothy 1:7

On the other hand, Scripture is also filled with passages commending and commanding fear:

For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; …As a father shows compassion to his children, so the LORD shows compassion to those who fear him. Psalm 103:11, 13

In the fear of the Lord one has strong confidence, and his children will have a refuge. Proverbs 14:26

Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor. 1 Peter 2:17

If you are familiar with the Bible you will probably already be able to see that when God commends or commands our fear that it is always related to fearing God. In other words, good fear is when it is the fear of God. This isn’t describing panic or terror or freight like we would get from watching a horror movie or witnessing a Justin Bieber concert. Rather, it is a deep respect and reverence of God. To fear God is to live as though he is God, to respect him as God and to obey him as God. It is like the feeling we get if we were next to a majestic canyon or a raging river. While we enjoy these incredible aspects of creation there is a natural reverence for them, being very careful to respect their characteristics because the consequences of trifling with them would be severe. In this case, fearing the canyon or river is key to enjoying it from a safe disposition.

On the other hand, there is fear that is bad and brings about panic, anxiety, and angst. This fear is not rooted in a deep respect or reverence from God. Quite the opposite, this fear is the result of failing to trust God. Scripture tells us that fear is the natural symptom of faithlessness. It goes like this: if there is no almighty and good God to put your trust in, it is acceptable, even logical, that you would be filled with terror, to be unsettled within your soul. Perhaps this is what Jesus is getting at in Matthew 6:25-34. Making a contrast with God’s people and the Gentiles, Jesus argues that worry about provision is illogical for believers but completely reasonable for an unbeliever. Why? It is because believers have a father in heaven and unbelievers do not (Matthew 6:32). The implication is that if the almighty God is also a loving an providing father, his children have no need for worry.

This world is filled to the brim with reasons to worry. It is filled to the brim with reasons to fear. However, the fact that Christians have a father in heaven leads us to conclude that if you are trusting in the almighty God, there is no reason to fear but great cause for confidence. This is how the Bible is not schizophrenic when it commands us to “not fear” but to “fear God.” In fact, fearing God is the remedy to anxiety. It is the fear that drives all other fears away!

This brings me to Proverbs 14:26 that I originally wanted to say something about.

In the fear of the Lord one has strong confidence, and his children will have a refuge. Proverbs 14:26

We already noted the connection between fear and confidence. Assuming this is clear we can move onto the second half of this verse that says something about the effect that a parents faith in God will have upon the children.

The Proverb assumes there is an unavoidable display of faith in a parent that a child is always picking up on. This is both scary and relieving. Scary because who you are and what you believe is impossible not transmit to your child. It is relieving for the same reason. This means that it isn’t necessary to read endless books on parenting technique (although some are helpful). Rather, parenting is really very simple: fear God. Among all the other things we can conclude from Proverbs 14:26 we can say that the single most important thing a parent can pay attention to is not their parenting technique but the God whom they worship and the sincerity of this worship

We see the generational impact that comes with a parent who loves God. Parents, do you fear God? Are you growing in your knowledge of God? Do you prioritize technique above the Bible? I invite you to examine yourself and determine whether or not you can say from your heart that fearing God is your top priority. It is the most important parenting question you must answer.

In Christ,

Pastor Kevin

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Sermon Questions - July 16, 2017

Rivers of Living Water
John 7:37-52
July 16, 2017

Questions for Study and Meditation

  1. Read 7:37-39. Given the context of 7:1-36, why did Jesus choose to speak about the Holy Spirit at this time? Why does he compare the Holy Spirit to rivers of living water? What is the connection between the giving of the Spirit and the glorification of Jesus?
  2. Read 7:40-44. What did the various groups of people think about Jesus? What does this lead them to want to do? What did they actually do, and why?
  3. Read 7:45-52. Why did the officers not bring Jesus to the rulers? What was their response? Why did Nicodemus speak up, and how did they respond?
  4. What’s the most important thing you learned from today’s sermon? From John 7:37-52?
  5. How has this sermon helped you to grow in love for God and others?
  6. What’s the most important thing Jesus would have you do in light of this sermon?
  7. Take some time to worship Jesus. Thank him, praise him, and ask for his help as you seek to strive with other believers for the faith of the gospel.

Announcements - July 16, 2017

Announcements - July 16, 2017

Change in Location for Sunday Worship Services from July 16-August 20: We will be worshiping at Elk River High School (in the little theater) July 16 through August 20. Please mark your calendars and plan to join us there!
Pastor Charlie on Vacation July 17-August 7: After the service today, Pastor Charlie will be leaving for three week’s vacation. If you need assistance with anything, please contact Pastor Kevin at kevin@gcfmn.org. Please pray for the Handrens as they draw away with Jesus and seek to refresh their souls in Him together.
Father Son Quest July 20-23: Please pray for our annual Father Son Quest that takes place July 20-23 at Lamb's Resort on Lake Superior. This is a camping trip filled with adventure and activities for fathers and their sons, designed to pass on a biblical vision of manhood to the next generation. Please be in prayer for our trip. If you have any questions you can direct them to Pastor Kevin (kevin@gcfmn.org).
Kenny Stokes Preaching July 23: It is our privilege to have Pastor Kenny Stokes bring the Sunday sermon on July 23 in Pastor Charlie’s absence. Pastor Kenny is the Pastor for Church Planting at Bethlehem Baptist Church, and has been Pastor Charlie’s mentor for the last fourteen years. He will be preaching from Ephesians 3, so please pray for him as he prepares.
Youth Camping Trip August 6-9: The youth camping trip is targeted to high school students but junior high students who enjoy hiking and camping are also welcome to attend. This is an adventurous trip designed to use exploration in God's creation as a way to make disciples for the glory of Christ. If you would like to sign up you can do so by submitting $10 payment to Pastor Kevin. Please direct any questions to Pastor Kevin (kevin@gcfmn.org).
Wednesday Morning Prayer Meeting: Please join us for this weekly time of prayer as we bring our praises and requests to the Lord. The meeting takes place every week at the church office from 6:00-7:00 a.m.

Next Week's Fighter Verse
For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler and from the deadly pestilence. He will cover you with his pinions, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness is a shield and buckler.
Psalm 91:3-4

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Growing in Grace by the Word of God, by Pastor Charlie Handren

Growing in Grace by the Word of God
By Pastor Charlie
The Apostle Peter drew his second letter to a close with these wise and pastoral words: “But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen” (2 Peter 3:18). The word “grow” is an exhortation and a command, and it implies that if we’re to progress in Christ we must play an active role, by the grace of Christ, in building habits that nurture our progress. Therefore, I am offering a series of devotionals this summer on eight essential habits that help us to grow in grace. For today, let’s consider the place of the Word in the Christian life.
Isaiah wrote, “The Lord God has given me the tongue of those who are taught, that I may know how to sustain with a word him who is weary. Morning by morning he awakens; he awakens my ear to hear as those who are taught” (Isaiah 50:4).
The longing of our God and Father is to draw near to his children morning by morning, opening our eyes to his glory and our hearts to his mercy. He wants to use his Word, by his Spirit, to lavish his love upon us that we might lavish his love upon others. For it is in receiving mercy that we’re able to give mercy, in receiving wisdom that we’re able to give wisdom, in receiving encouragement that we’re able to give encouragement, in receiving blessing that we’re able to be a blessing.
Therefore, our Father most lovingly calls us to allow the word of Christ to dwell richly in us (Colossians 3:16). His heart is not that we would legalistically hear, read, study, memorize, meditate on, apply, and teach the word. No, his heart is that we would seek him, that we would long for him to draw near to us and minister to us and transform us into his image, and that we would share in his joy and become a blessing to others.
So whatever place the Word of God has in your life right now, I want to challenge you to press on and let the word of Christ dwell in you all the more richly. Grow in the daily habits of hearing, reading, studying, memorizing, meditating on, applying, and teaching the Word of God. But as you do, remember that the aim of pressing on in the Word is to connect, heart to heart, with our Father. Mere reading and such will do us no good.
Let us remember the words of Isaiah: “The Lord God has given me the tongue of those who are taught, that I may know how to sustain with a word him who is weary. Morning by morning he awakens; he awakens my ear to hear as those who are taught” (Isaiah 50:4).

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Sermon Questions - July 9, 2017

Authority and Glory
John 7:1-36
July 9, 2017

Questions for Study and Meditation

  1. Read 7:1-9. Why did Jesus’ brothers encourage him to go to Jerusalem? Why did he decline to do so?
  2. Read 7:10-24. Why did Jesus go to Jerusalem when he said he would not go? What is at the heart of Jesus’ teaching to the Jews in these verses? How did the Jews respond to him and why?
  3. Read 7:25-36. What did the Jews in Jerusalem think about Jesus? What is at the heart of Jesus’ teaching to the Jews in these verses? How did the Jews respond to him and why?
  4. What’s the most important thing you learned from today’s sermon? From John 7:1-36?
  5. How has this sermon helped you to grow in love for God and others?
  6. What’s the most important thing Jesus would have you do in light of this sermon?
  7. Take some time to worship Jesus. Thank him, praise him, and ask for his help as you seek to strive with other believers for the faith of the gospel.