This past week, I saw a wonderful illustration of what Paul says in Romans 8:26. We are told, “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.”
On Wednesday, June 21, Jamie had jaw surgery and had to spend that night in the hospital. When they got her to her room and transferred her from the operating room bed to the room bed and she was all settled in...she went to sleep.
But when she was awake, she started trying to talk. If you didn’t know it, her mouth is banded shut, so communication was a little difficult. But before Rachel and I came home Wednesday night, Monica was getting what Jamie said by about the second or third try.
Thursday morning, when I went to the hospital to pick Jamie and Monica up, I still couldn’t make heads or tails out of what Jamie was saying...but Monica understood most everything Jamie said.
And right then, my thoughts turned to Romans 8:26. Jamie knew what she wanted to say, but she couldn’t express it in a way I could understand. Because Monica stayed with her Wednesday night, she began to understand what Jamie was saying, even though I was still at a loss.
So Monica “translated” for me. She was Jamie’s “intercessor” for when Jamie wanted to say something to Daddy.
When we don’t quite know how to express those feelings that are deep on our heart...when our heart is so broken our mouth just won’t work...that’s just what the Holy Spirit does for us. He “translates” our groans into words for the Father.
It has always amazed me the devotion that some people have for their favorite sports teams. And yes, I can, at times be right up there with the, uh, “best” of devotees.
The passion they display in rooting “their team” on to victory. The disappointment they feel when “their team” suffers a loss (of course their team never really looses: they are robbed by bad officials, a corrupt system, or some other outside entity).
And should you ever go so far as to insult their favorite team...well “Katy, bar the door” because “them’s fightin’ words!” They will defend “their team” with their last dying breath!!
For some, every waking moment is consumed with “their team.” If “their team” wins, all is right with the world. If “their team” looses (see earlier comment about this scenario), they are in a bad mood for however long it is until the next game.
Have you ever stopped to consider how much more constructive that passion and energy could be were it used in spreading the gospel?
Or have you considered what our world would be like if we were as interested in defending Christ against those who insult Him as we are our favorite team?
Or what our lives would look like if we showed the same amount of pride in being a Christian as we do in being a “(insert favorite team mascot here)”?
You see, even if you are a season ticket holder, “your team” really cares nothing about you. If something were to happen to you, your seat would just be purchased by someone else and they would continue on with their season.
But Christ cares more about you then you will ever know. He loves you so much that He left heaven and came to earth. And, as if that wasn’t a big enough sacrifice, He suffered and died on the cross for YOU!
Now then, you tell me: who deserves your never dying loyalty?
A minister started a training class for children at the congregation where he preaches. This was not a class for the teenagers, it was for the children. Some of the children in the class were very young...perhaps kindergarten or first grade.
One of his assignments to the boys was that they would have to read parts of the book of Hebrews in front of the congregation. This absolutely terrified one of the younger boys, according to his mother. But this boy also was determined to complete the assignment.
So what is a young boy, trying to read a Scripture publically, but scared to death, to do? He was encouraged to practice in front of his family...but that’s really not a large enough audience.
One afternoon his mother heard this boy practicing his reading in his room. She peaked in and saw that he had set up all of his stuffed animals (and he had quite a lot) and was using them as an audience.
When I read this story, it reminded me that our children, even the youngest ones, are capable of doing GREAT things for God. But it also reminded me that they need our encouragement if they are going to reach their potential.
Often we see the value and importance of encouraging our youth in their physical pursuits (their school work, athletics, other extra-curricular activities), but we fail to grasp the value and importance of encouraging them in their spiritual pursuits (reading the Bible, prayer, working on their relationship with God, etc.).
Then, when they get involved in things that we know they know they should not be involved in or they grow up and leave the church, we wonder what happened.
Truth be told, even those who grow up in homes and congregations where they are encouraged in spiritual pursuits can be “dragged away and enticed” by Satan’s schemes (see James 1).
And it is NOT about insisting that our young men grow up to be a preacher and our young women grow up and marry a preacher. It is NOT about raising “super Christians.” It IS about raising our children to be faithful servants of God.
So, parents, what have you done lately to encourage spiritual growth in your kids? If they are young, do you have a daily time when you read the Bible to them? If they are older, do you encourage them to read their Bible every day? Do you ask them about what they read and how it applies to them?
Do you pray with your kids? Not just before a meal or before bed...do your kids know they can come to you with a request and you will stop whatever you are doing and pray with them?
(Just for the record, my toes are black and blue too after the last two paragraphs.)
Congregation, what have you done to encourage spiritual growth in our young people? Do you encourage the young men who help with leading our worship services? Do you try to help the young ladies find ways that they can serve? Do you encourage our young people to be involved in the life of the congregation...or are they “just kids”?
Do you make an effort to get to know our young people? Do you go out of your way to talk to them? Do you ever ask them how they are doing and see if there is something they would like you to pray about for them?
What sort of example are you setting for our young people? Have you ever opened up your home and hosted a devotional for them?
So often we hear the youth referred to as “the church of tomorrow.” They are not “the church of tomorrow,” they are a part of the church of TODAY.
There are so many competing forces. There are so many things in the world vying for the top spot in our young people’s lives (and all our lives).
If we don’t start encouraging our youth to read their Bibles to their stuffed animals, there just may not be a church “tomorrow.”
“Greetings from Jamaica, mon!” (OK, I’m not actually in Jamaica when I’m writing this, but I will be when you read it.) We are, presumably, having a wonderful time.
In the past, when we have gone on a family vacation, we have made plans to do this on this day and that on that day and had a schedule to keep. Well, this time we’re just relaxing...if we want to do something, we do it, if we don’t, we don’t.
Vacations are good. It is nice to get away from the stress and strain of the job and just take it easy for a while. Whether you have a rigorous schedule of places to go and things to do or not, it is good for the body and mind to just get away for a bit.
As good as vacations are for the body and mind, they must also be good for the soul and spirit...right? Well, not exactly.
Many times Jesus warns His followers that they need to be diligent in their service to Him. That they need to always be watching and serving. Just one example of this is His teaching in Matthew 24:36ff (the warning to stay awake and alert and busy serving, because we do not know when “that day” will come).
In other words, we are not to take a “spiritual vacation.” Jesus expects and demands that we continually serve Him from the moment we make Him our Lord in baptism until the time when He calls us home...without any vacation time.
This means that even when we are on vacation physically, we are not on vacation spiritually. We do what we can to find a local body of the Lord’s church wherever we are and assemble with them if at all possible.
I hope that wherever your vacation takes you this summer, you’ll remember that you are not on vacation from God...even if it is “only Wednesday.”
I am very much looking forward to meeting with brothers and sisters in Montego Bay, Jamaica this evening (Wednesday, May 31).
(Editor’s note: this was supposed to be in last week’s bulletin...but technical difficulties prevented publishing a bulletin last week. And we tried, but could not get in touch with the church at Montego Bay to attend services.)