What does the text say? Growing in faith by reading the Word.

20150813_212401This weekend I got to do one of my favorite things in the world. I got to teach the scriptures to a bunch of 7-8 graders. They are squirmy, they are awkward, they are weird.  I love them. I love the reactions I love the laughs. I love the fun. I love how you can open the word to them and make them laugh and think all at the same time. Sometimes it is painful trying to get them to think(Ok sometimes we smell fire) it is so much work, but sometimes God blesses us to see the little light bulb in their heads go off.

I love teaching confirmation. I love teaching the scriptures period.  Actually one of my goal main goals for all Christians I come in contact with is to teach them a truth that was hammered home by the previous Pastor I served with.  He taught everyone he knew to look in the book and tell him what the text says. It is so simple yet such a profound part of teaching the faith to young people. It is profound for all of use to remember when teaching the faith to our families.

You see I believe that many of us know the answer is supposed to be Jesus, or faith, or love, or whatever.  We often miss the real answer because we aren’t looking in the book we are just giving the answer we were given as a kid. So when we are teaching our children about Jesus, or teaching ourselves about Jesus, don’t forget to look in the book.  You can find the real answers about Jesus there. You can hear God speak about himself and show you his amazing love in the book.

This week as you look in the book remember it is God speaking to you there.  Listen to what he is saying you might just learn something and grow in your faith.

Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true. Acts 17:11 NIV

Confirmation…invite them back to the family of faith.

This past Sunday I got to experience one of my greatest moments as a Dad.  My daughter stood before the congregation of St. Peter’s Lutheran Church in Big Rapids Michigan and confessed her faith in Jesus.  It was an amazing moment in her faith life and I couldn’t be prouder.  Standing next to her while she did it will be something I cherish for a long long time.

Confirmation is an important event. Sometimes I think we forget the importance of this event.  It isn’t however the end of our faith journey.  For some this can seem like graduation from our time of formal education with the scriptures.  I have heard is said by adults “I learned all I needed to about the scriptures in confirmation so I don’t need to go to bible study!”  My response typically to this lovely moment is you must have miss understood what confirmation is all about.  You must have thought confirmation was about making sure you know everything in the Bible! (This by the way isn’t even possible in a two year program) Heck I studied the bible for four years in college and can tell you with out a doubt in my mind,  I know very little. So confirmation is not about teaching you everything but about teaching you what you will be confessing before the Church.

You see Confirmation from a Lutheran perspective is standing before the congregation and confirming what God promised to do to you in your baptism.  God promised you in our baptism that he would bring you and conform you to himself. He would connect you forever with Jesus.  You are standing before God and the congregation and proclaiming you believe in the one who saved you. You are confirming your baptism is at work in you through the work of the Holy Spirit.  We have you study the scriptures so you know what that means.  Our prayer is you grow in faith more and more. You study the scriptures daily.  We pray you come to God’s house to hear his grace for you in the company of other believers, and when offered, receive the body and blood of Jesus for the forgiveness of sins.

As a dad that promise to walk with my daughter didn’t stop. I will continue to challenge her to be faithful to what she confessed. I will remind her of her baptism, continue to bring her to God’s house and remind her to partake of Jesus. She is a major part of the family of Christ.

So for those of you who are reading this and haven’t been to Church, opened your Bible or received the sacrament since confirmation I invite you back.  I invite you to remember the words of Jesus that worked in your heart that day so many years ago.  I remind you of the promise of Jesus who is going after the one lost sheep.  You are love and forgiven. In your baptism he claimed you and wants you to return.

For those reading this who have someone they love who has walked away from all this, I invite you to walk beside them.  To love and care for them enough to want to see them come back to this faith they confessed.

So have no fear of them, for nothing is covered that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. 27 What I tell you in the dark, say in the light, and what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops. 28 And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.[g] 29 Are not two sparrows sold for a penny?[h] And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. 30 But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. 31 Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. 32 So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, 33 but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven. Matthew 10:26-33 ESV

How are we helping families pass on faith?

WP_20140924_19_17_29_ProRecently I have had a few parents come to me after our confirmation classes at St. peters and thank me for making them talk with their children about faith.  Parents have the most influence in shaping kids spiritual life. They have 7 times the amount of time with them each week.  I know I have missed opportunities to help families do the thing God has called them to do which is pass on faith.  We are part of the family team.  We should be a part of helping students grow in faith. The more important thing to do is spend far more time with people who can have the most influence on the young people who we are serving.

This week I received one of the best and slightly shocking compliments I have gotten in ministry.  A mom came to me this week and said thanks for making her talk with her son about faith. I was a little shocked but almost did the imaginary fist bump in the air.  She said they are using the model I taught them in confirmation at home during the week. Not every night but that pattern has been great for them.  She said I never really talked with my kids about God in a direct way and she really appreciated the helpful nudge through confirmation.

I was blown away. This year we made a tweak to confirmation, I thought it would be better for all involved I just didn’t know it would have such a profound impact on families.  For our confirmation classes we have added and extra 30 minutes for parents to sit with their child and share three things; Highs and lows for  the week, questions based on the topic for the week, and most importantly how can we use this information during our daily lives. It is a requirement I thought would be good for families. I just didn’t know how much of an impact.

Parents and kids have been blown away by this simple questions.  It has helped parents share about how they see Jesus. It has helped students share with parents all the things they have questions about, and how they are living out their faith.  It has truly been profound.

So my question for all of us is how are you helping families pass on faith.  How can we share simple things for parents to disciple their children in Christ.  This simple thing is having profound effect in my ministry. How about you?