Children are very important from God's perspective. They are special and need our focus in teaching about God and His Way. God expects us to train them so that they become godly offspring that respond well to His calling. Let's look at the scriptures as a guide to how we can do this.
These are the notes taken live during services as captioning for the deaf and hard of hearing. This is not a word for word transcript. For the exact wording, please consult the audio recording.
So what good are kids today, anyway? They can be a handful. They can be into everything. They are always asking you questions. They tend to eat a lot. The grocery budget doesn’t go as far. They want more toys, more clothes, and more activities. They can be a distraction to life. They take time from things you want to do. They can be good gophers. Go get me a water glass. Take out the trash. They are very expensive to raise. The average cost is $220,000, from birth to 17. That is a lot of money. Between 1960-2009, the cost of raising a child grew at 22%. Based on a married couple’s cost of raising a child, the annual expenses were roughly $12,000 / year. Today’s families face hardships and conflicts. Marriages are more likely to end in divorce than not. In 1989, 1 child in 8 was on welfare. In 1990, 5 times more were born outside of marriage than in 1960. The suicide rate among teens has tripled in the last 50 years. Staggering statistics about what families face. Yet many families don’t face this. Before the feast, I gave a sermon on God’s Perfect Marriage Formula. Children can be a great addition to a man and wife.
So, what good are kids today? The simple answer is that they are potential leaders for the world tomorrow. God plans to use them to assist Christ in showing the world the way to peace. Today in our sermon, I want to look at the importance of our children through God’s way. And what our approach to them should be, as parents, grandparents, and others. Are our children being called? They attend services. They go the feast. They pay tithes. So are they being called? The answer to that question affects how we view these kids, teens and young adults. It affects our expectations of them. It influences how the kids view themselves. The church’s modern history has varied on this topic. Some feel they are called because of association with their parents. Others question the word “called”. If they don’t commit to this way, does that shirk off any future? Some whose kids didn’t stay in the church have a guilty conscious. Others feel it is God alone that decides whether they are called. In Genesis, we read of our first parents. God gave them access to the Tree of Life. Access to God’s spirit. Eternal life. But instead, they chose the other tree. Human self determination. I know what is best for me. I can make my own choices. They were driven from that paradise. God restricted them and their offspring from that tree. God has a plan to replace Satan’s rule with His own government. God has called some and trained them for leadership positions in the kingdom of God. Romans 8:30 God gives us an overview of the process He uses to bring us to conversion. It is a beautiful process.
A three step process: 1. To be called. That is not a choice that we have. The word “called” is “kaleo”. To call; to invite; to summon. Paul is describing a process. G2564 καλέω kaleō kal-eh'-o Akin to the base of G2753; to “call” (properly aloud, but used in a variety of applications, directly or otherwise): - bid, call (forth), (whose, whose sur-) name (was [called]). Thayer Definition: 1) to call 1a) to call aloud, utter in a loud voice 1b) to invite 2) to call, i.e. to name, by name 2a) to give a name to 2a1) to receive the name of, receive as a name 2a2) to give some name to one, call his name 2b) to be called, i.e. to bear a name or title (among men) 2c) to salute one by name Part of Speech: verb First God invites a person. 2. Justified. “Justified” is from Greek that means to set free, or make innocent. G1344 δικαιόω dikaioō dik-ah-yo'-o From G1342; to render (that is, show or regard as) just or innocent: - free, justify (-ier), be righteous. Thayer Definition: 1) to render righteous or such he ought to be 2) to show, exhibit, evince, one to be righteous, such as he is and wishes himself to be considered 3) to declare, pronounce, one to be just, righteous, or such as he ought to be Part of Speech: verb We have a whiteboard with all our sins and transgressions. At baptism, God wipes that slate. We are no longer liable for paying the penalty. 3. Glorified The final step is when Christ returns. The Greek for "glorified" is “to render honor and glory.” We will meet Christ when He returns. We will receive eternal life at that moment. We will receive new bodies. We will be welcomed into the family of God. G1392 δοξάζω doxazō dox-ad'-zo From G1391; to render (or esteem) glorious (in a wide application): - (make) glorify (-ious), full of (have) glory, honour, magnify.
Thayer Definition: 1) to think, suppose, be of opinion 2) to praise, extol, magnify, celebrate 3) to honour, do honour to, hold in honour 4) to make glorious, adorn with lustre, clothe with splendour 4a) to impart glory to something, render it excellent 4b) to make renowned, render illustrious 4b1) to cause the dignity and worth of some person or thing to become manifest and acknowledged Part of Speech: verb Matthew 22:14 The Greek for “called” is the same as in Romans 8. It means called or invited. The Greek for “chosen” means to be picked out of a larger group. G1588 ἐκλεκτός eklektos ek-lek-tos' From G1586; select; by implication favorite: - chosen, elect. Thayer Definition: 1) picked out, chosen 1a) chosen by God 1a1) to obtain salvation through Christ 1a1a) Christians are called “chosen or elect” of God 1a2) the Messiah in called “elect”, as appointed by God to the most exalted office conceivable 1a3) choice, select, i.e. the best of its kind or class, excellence preeminent: applied to certain individual Christians Part of Speech: adjective You have to be called. A few are called. Fewer are chosen. We have a doctrinal paper. Doctrinal Paper – Are Our Children Called? “Christ used the words “called” and “invited” nearly interchangeably in this parable (verses 1-14) about those summoned to a wedding. The concept of invitation is particularly important because it carries the notion that the invitees are welcomed and their presence is desired, but that they have a choice in how they will reply. God calls—invites, if you will—many people; each one's response determines whether he becomes chosen, part of the elect.”
Matthew 13 talks about the parable of the sower. It is a great illustration of the differing reactions of those that have been called. Some of those that are called don’t give God’s truth an opportunity to take root. Others start responding, but when they face hardship, give up. Others seem fruitful at first. But then they make poor choices, and step away from their calling. Others bear good fruit to the end. We have a three church circuit here. Our local statistics match the United Church of God as a whole. Statistics on our local youth:
• Total 43 kids ages 12 or younger. (My boys were delighted when they found out how many kids we had here.)
• Total 4 teens ages 13-18
• 19 to 21 adds another 4
• 21 & under = 51 people Let’s define our demographics in a different way.
• 1/3 of our congregation is 21 or younger
• 1/3 of our congregation is over 50.
• 1/3 of our congregation is in the middle (22-49) These are not round numbers; they are actual numbers. Often, we come to the church and see the teen and young adults. Why do they need to text the person next to them? I don’t get the music they list. The online time. The collaboration time on social networks. God is calling these 51 people. God is calling others who are not yet baptized. God is absolutely involved in these kid’s lives. Society calls them rug rats. But God’s view is very different. God is working with them. They are very special in God’s eyes. We must realize that. We must pay some attention to the young ones. They are special to God, just like we adults are special. Malachi 2:15 Let’s go back to our original question: Are our children being called? Our children should have a certain grasp of spiritual things. God wants godly offspring. To have godly offspring, it requires a knowledge transfer and a teaching that goes on to instruct those kids. The Bible gives us a record of kids that God has had a relationship with. I’ll just list the scriptures. Study them next week. 1 Samuel 2:18, 26 Samuel knew God even as a child. That takes someone teaching the child. Josiah was another example. He became king of Judah at 8 years old. Can you imagine your 8 year old ruling a nation? 2 Chronicles 34:3 Timothy was a great example of a child growing up in God’s church. He was at least a third generation Christian.
2 Timothy 3:14-15 There is a responsibility her to teach our kids. 2 Timothy 1:5 It was Timothy’s mother that taught him. Eunice could not have known that he would grow up to be a minister. But she taught him that he needed to know about God’s law. Where does that leave us as parents? Proverbs 3:1-4 It is the parent’s responsibility to train and teach their kids. We are to help them internalize God’s law and never forget it. We should not be surprised that God wants to be involved in the spiritual lives of our children. He values the young people in our congregation very much. God had expectations for this. Let me quickly read some scriptures. Deuteronomy 4:9-10 Deuteronomy 6:2 Deuteronomy 6:6-7 I live vs. 7. It doesn’t leave any time of day when we should not be teaching our kids. It is something that happens all throughout that day. We should talk about why we do these things. Why we tithe. Why we go to the feast. Why we don’t eat certain foods. There are tremendous blessings from teaching our kids.
Deuteronomy 30:19 Vs. 19 – This is a process that God never intended just to be taught to one generation and then die off. It was to be passed on. God made a covenant with Abraham that was to be an everlasting covenant. Doctrinal Paper: “Interestingly, of all the areas of Abraham’s obedience, God stressed one particular issue: “For I have known him, in order that he may command his children and his household after him, that they keep the way of the LORD” (Genesis 18:19). God looked not only upon Abraham, but included his children with an expectation that Abraham would pass on to them the knowledge and practice of His ways. … Furthermore, He expected those children would live that godly way, and would in turn teach the next generation the same truths. This generation-to-generation process was a vital key in perpetuating the promises of the Old Covenant.” We as parents, grandparents, and other members of the congregation, have a responsibility to talk to the kids about God. We do that through our example and talking with them. Their school life is much different from when you went to school. Ask about the pressures they face. Ask about their dreams. Ask what it was like to come back to school after the feast. I always dreaded coming back. There was a mountain of homework. And, “You went to church 8 days straight? Are you nuts?” We teach them by talking with them. We engage them in family discussions over dinner. We talk about the stories in the Bible and how they apply to us. Some stories seem odd to kids. What is up with being thrown into a den of lions? But if we make the story live, it becomes easier. They can then safely make the right decisions.
Proverbs 22:6 Where is the wiggle room in this scripture? There isn’t any. God clearly states what He desires and expects from us about our young people. God expects us to teach our children. They should know what happens if they choose life and what happens if they don’t. International Standard Bible Encyclopedia: “’Train up a child’ means more than to teach, and includes everything that pertains to the proper development of the child, especially in its moral and spiritual nature.” Training a child is more than helping them to memorize the Ten Commandments. Or the festivals. Or the books of the Bible. Or going to Sabbath School. It takes time and daily work. It is more than our desires and wants. This is what God commands us as parents, grandparents and friends to do. God commands us to teach the young among us. It is not good enough to keep the other commands. These are commands, too. God expects us to train the young ones around us. God doesn’t give us any wiggle room.
We can’t put it off because it is not convenient. Equipping our kids is a responsibility that God places on our parents, and by extension, members of the Church. Doctrinal Paper: “Parents and all members of the Church must view children as genuine, respected participants of the congregation, hoping and expecting that they will become baptized fellow members. The biblical perspective is always to encourage people to answer God’s calling, as opposed to offering loopholes legitimizing no response. Implying that it is equally valid for a child not to respond to God now is a serious mistake. Just as Abraham “commanded” his children, God urged ancient Israel to respond to Him for their own good. He said, “I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live;” (Deuteronomy 30:19). Because God’s calling represents the best life available, children should be kept well aware of God’s special invitation to them now.” The Church has long understood this. Sabbath school is a volunteer effort. It is a support system to give parents a few extra tools.
We have teen Bible Studies that I want to start back up next month. The church provides summer camps for teens and preteens. It is immersion training, where the kids can leave the world and be immersed in the zone. Then there is the Challenger program. We push their muscles beyond their comfort zone. But we push them spiritually as well. There is the Youth Corps program. The ABC program gives great opportunities to go through the Bible. I want to play a video from Camp Osage. It is interesting that there aren’t many older adults. There will be a quick review of the programs. Look at their eyes. Realize that God is calling them. They, like us, have an opportunity to be part of God’s family. The Church of God is bigger than just the grandparents among us. Or the career age adults among us. It includes the 51 people who are kids here, and thousands more like them. I hope this will inspire you to train up our children in the way that they should go. (Video starts - to view, go to http://uyc.ucg.org/camp/camp-osage) (Scenes from the 2010 UCG Preteen Camp Osage near Bartlesville, OK.)