I have a confession to make. I know many of you will be shocked by this, but I am a thief. Every year around this time, I go around my house and take all the Wise Men. I also take them from church if I see them and they can be removed. You might be thinking, “How can you do this? Steve, why would you do such a thing?” Well, let me tell you it is something I have done for the last 25 years and it has a purpose.
Many people don’t know or don’t remember that at the Nativity the Wise Men weren’t there that night. In fact, they did not arrive until Jesus was at least a year old. (Matthew 2:1-12) The only people who visited the young couple that night were the shepherds – the lowly people who were outside of town in the fields, watching their sheep. The Magi were important, but they didn’t come until later. So why steal them?
Well, I actually don’t steal them. I just move them. I move them around my house or around the church. I do it for two reasons. First, I want it to be more biblically accurate. Too often I think Christians may not fully know the story of Jesus. We take it for granted and teach our kids the wrong story. This can be a challenge for kids as they grow up, when they think they were lied to or tricked. Second and more importantly, the Wise Men came during Epiphany. The story of the Wise Men is about a group of people outside the promise of Abraham receiving the promise of Jesus. It is a story worth telling. We celebrate it in the Church 12 days after Christmas. So this year if you come to church and find the Wise Men missing, just know that I or someone else may be trying to teach a lesson.
(P.S. – This year at church, I convinced the pastors that I should be able to move the outside Wise Men around the campus before Epiphany. So if you are around St. John, drive by and see if you can find them. They will travel during all of Advent and make their way to the house on Epiphany.)
Recently I have started telling Middle school students they can ask me any question they want and I will answer it. These students don’t know me very well so they think if they ask something like “How are babies born?” I won’t answer. Much to their surprise, and quite honestly disgust, I am more than willing to talk about that. Just ask any former student and they will tell you I talk about that a lot with students. I think many people are terrified to tell middle school kids or anyone for that matter, to ask them anything. I have found it to be most helpful in striking up conversations with young people. I even have this same policy with my own kids. I want them to ask questions and I want them to learn. I find when I allow questions it allows students to ask and to be willing to learn.
Many moons ago I went through a class in college by Dr. Steve Arnold that helped me to articulate something I understood but didn’t know how to explain to others. The idea is that in order to teach someone something they have to give you permission to teach them. Students, adults and just about everyone will only learn something from you if they give you permission. Most often it occurs in the form of a question they have asked. You see many people still teach in a way that says you are going to learn from me because I am the teacher. What I have found with kids today is they don’t care if you are the teacher, pastor, DCE, mom or Dad. They want to know you care first and then they will give you permission to really teach them something.
This waiting for permission is hard and sometimes I fail to remember my own lesson. I do know that students and most importantly my kids learn best when I get permission. I love to have my students and my kids ask questions. Those questions open them up to my answers. It opens them up to hearing about Jesus. It opens them up to hearing about life.
My encouragement for you as parents, fellow believer and fellow Church workers is to let your kids ask questions. Let the adults ask questions. Let them learn from you. Don’t answer questions they are not asking. Develop a culture of questions. You may be surprised by the amount of sharing you can do if you wait for the question.
17 After he had left the crowd and entered the house, his disciples asked him about this parable. Mark 7:17 NIV
When I was first in ministry I worked with a wonderful women who worked in our Sunday school Pre-school. If I could multiply her by 100 I would. She was amazing at what she did with young children. She amazed me with how she could work with any young child. She taught me something I use every day when working with young people. She taught me to get on the floor and look them in the eyes.
It is something so simple we often forget it. When I teach with young people one of the most important things I try to always do is get down on the floor and look them in the eyes. It changes the dynamic. It allows them to see you as a person and allows you to share Jesus with them. It allows you to listen and speak with them. It allows you to be in their world. If you don’t do this with little kids I would totally challenge you to do it.
Here is the thing. I want to remind you as a parent, minister, and friend please get on the ground. Look them in the eyes. When you do, you can share Jesus with them. The first pastor I served with shared with me this thought “People don’t remember the sermons, or messages. They remember the time you sat with them and listened. They remember the time you prayed for them. They remember the time you were just present in their time of need.”
We all have people in our lives we want to stand in the pulpit and preach at. However I would challenge us all to bend down and talk to them on their level. To listen and look them in the eyes so we can share Jesus with them. Too often we stand tall and preach. We need to be people willing to get down on the ground in order to share Jesus.
Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Col 3:12 NIV
This 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
This year my family and I have decided for family devotions we are going to try and read the whole bible in a year. We grabbed my 12 and 10 year old their own one year bibles and grabbed the ones my wife and I had gotten a few years ago and started reading. My six year old also got her first bible this year. So far it has been interesting to say the least. It has been a struggle, humorous, and at times just plain awkward. I think it is funny how being in God’s word this way has opened up some great family time. We ask each kid to read a section from the bible, either the old testament, new testament, or Psalm section. It also brought some guilt when the kids missed the month of March because we just go busy and I didn’t make them read. My wife and I had to read an number of days to catch up but now we started as a family again just a few days ago in April.
My favorite family moment so far this year is when my son was reading out loud and got to the story of Lots girls sleeping with dad and instead of saying laid with dad he inserted hubida-hubida. We all laughed so hard at his dead pan and the awkwardness of the moment that it took some time to have our bodies be able to adjust to the lack of oxygen. We have had countless other funny moments and laughter but that one probably was the greatest.
So why do I bring this story up. I think sharing Jesus and the bible with your kids is the single greatest responsibility we are given as disciples of Jesus. I for one have failed in a lot of ways passing on faith with my kids. This year of being in the word every night as a family and laughing at some of the weird stories in the Bible has brought us greater opportunities for faith conversation and how God is working through history. Any family who can read through the books of Leviticus and Deuteronomy together without falling asleep will be stronger I am sure of it. We have had some great a-hah moments as we struggled through some of the texts together. I got to answer some great questions and help my kids see the bigger picture of God’s faithfulness. My wife also enjoyed watching me try to explain some crazy stories in the Old Testament to a 6 year old.
So what is the point? Well my point is I wish I had done this years ago with the kids. I wish I had taken the time to get through the scriptures together so we could explore this thing called faith more and more together. Start today, start tomorrow, but start reading together, it will change your life.