Monday, June 22, 2009

Eager for Eden

By Joel Persinger

It’s a wonderful thing to experience God’s teaching. He teaches in such unexpected ways that it leaves me in continual awe of him.

By way of example, this past weekend we acquired three chickens and a coop. This may sound strange and I don’t blame you if you think so. After all, it wasn’t as if we were out looking for chickens and a chicken coops. I have a client who wants me to buy and resell his house and he had the chickens and the coop. Just making conversation, I asked him about them out of curiosity and he promptly asked, “Do you want ‘em?” And so, within a few short days our backyard was blessed with the presence of chickens.

Somewhere along the way, my wife reminded me that our daughter was going to be in a dance show at the San Diego County Fair in Del Mar. At first glance, this may seem to be totally unrelated to the chickens, but hang in there. I’ll tie it all together for you in a moment. Now, where was I? Oh yes… The fair… we couldn’t see ourselves missing the dance show, so we packed up our little future dance star and off to the fair we went. The dance program was wonderful. My little girl was a joy to watch. In fact, we were so elated by the event that when she asked if we could stay at the fair and ride the rides, her mother and I agreed (much to our collective wallet’s chagrin).

Somewhere in all the fun, my daughter won a fish! Now, it is my personal belief that pet stores are behind this. I say this because it is a well known fact that more fish tanks are sold as a result of kids winning fish at the fair than for any other reason. My wife will attest to this. While she was buying the obligatory fish tank at Walmart another parent was buying one too. Noticing what each other were about, they looked at each other, paused for effect and asked in unison, “Did your kid win a fish at the fair too?” It ended up costing us about sixty bucks to take care of that twenty cent fish. What a deal!

The day after our visit to the fair was Father’s Day. After church that morning we came home and just relaxed. I found myself sitting in the middle of the lawn in our backyard watching three chickens peck their way around the yard in search of bugs. It was one of the most interesting and relaxing things I have had the privilege of doing lately. There I was, sitting in the grass in the middle of the backyard among the fruit trees and chickens petting my dog and wishing it would never end. I must have been there for over an hour. Later that day, I caught myself doing the same thing watching the fish.

Both times I couldn’t help but wondering what Eden must have been like. Wildlife all around just being exactly what God intended them to be. It must have been a tranquil place before the serpent got involved. The memory of it must have tortured Adam and Eve every day of their lives.

Just for the record, I have never been to Eden. But, all of my life I have been drawn to such things. My family and I planted the fruit trees ourselves, we are planning a vegetable garden and I was overjoyed to be given the chickens and yes, even the fish. Somehow I wonder if God hasn’t instilled the memory of Eden in each one of us. Perhaps that is why so many of us are eager to be surrounded by things that remind us of a place where we have never been. Heaven will be like that, I think. It will be a place like Eden, a place where being still and knowing that God is God will be easy. Everything there will speak his name and rejoice at the sound of his voice and the very thought of him. And even better than Eden… there will be no serpents.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Baptizing your kids

By Joel Persinger

It is every Christian parent’s dream to baptize their children. Dee Anne and I had the joy of baptizing our son Nick this past April (watch the baptism on the video below). Since Nick’s baptism we have learned a few things that I would like to pass along.

The days and weeks building up to a baptism of your kids are times of deep prayer and reflection. Your child is studying the bible several times a week to learn what he or she must know before making the decision to follow Christ. You spend a lot of time begging God for your child’s salvation and looking back at what you did right and where you messed up at the same time. You’ll find that you’ve messed up a lot and this is part of what leads you to much prayer.

It would be nice if that was all it took, but your life will take some interesting turns that you may not expect. First, your schedule will be a disaster because you’ll be doing all the things that parents of teenagers usually do, plus running your child to Bible studies all over the place at oddball times of day. Then there are all the stupid things that come up. Suddenly your kid, who never seems to get into big trouble, gets into big trouble. It could be a problem at school, high school drama with a close friend, a sudden desire to date or you may have the police knocking at your door. The thing to remember is that YOU are in a battle for your child’s salvation. This latest disaster, however terrible it may seem, is nothing more than the devil’s attempt to hang-on to your kid. Never, never, never stop praying and fighting for your child!

When the day finally arrives and your child comes out of the water a saved soul, you truly realize the greatness of God. Baptizing your children cannot be done without God’s intervention and it probably will not be done in your timeframe or in a way prescribed by you. It will happen when God says it will happen. He knows best. God is the one who turns those mistakes you made as parents into good and He is the one who truly brings your child’s heart to Jesus.

So, there you are at the baptizmal. You’re clothing is all wet because your kid just came out of the water and gave you the best and deepest hug you have ever received. You’re thinking, “Thank you God… The battle is over.” But, you couldn’t be more wrong. You have just managed to baptize your child. Jesus has forcefully snatched your kid from the hands of Satin and the devil is not a happy camper. What you must know and be prepared for is the simple fact that the war for your child’s salvation has only just begun. By comparison, getting your child baptized was easy. So, now that I’ve frightened you to death, here are some quick tips to help you guide your child to maturity in Christ. They are in no particular order. I typed them for you as I thought of them.

1. Think spiritually: This is a spiritual battle, not a worldly one. If you get caught-up in the worldly view of whatever disasters strike, you will miss the point and lose the battle. You cannot fight spiritual battles with weapons of the world. Use your Bible as the weapon that it is. Your Bible isn’t called a sword for nothing. Gently, but firmly bring your child back to the Bible.

2. Walk with God: Your kids know you better than you do. If you are walking powerfully with the Lord, they will see it and will emulate it. The reverse is also true, so be careful. Your example is the one they will see most. Show them an example of Christ in you.

3. Pray: Pray continually about everything and especially about your child’s salvation. Pray with your children and as a family every single day.

4. Have quiet times with God along with your child. Nick needed that time with me and with God as he approached becoming a teen. He still does. So, I got him up at 5:30AM each Saturday. We went to a different place each time; a place where he could see God. One week we went to the tide pools at the beach. The next week I took him to a mountain lake. We talked and prayed and sometimes we opened the Bible and read a scripture that fit the moment. Then we went to Nick’s favorite taco stand and got a burrito together. We were home by 8:30AM. Nick still asks, “Hey Dad, can we get a burrito?” My answer is always, “You bet!” He cherishes those times. So do I and so does God.

5. Be real: Nothing encourages your children more than when you are real with them. I don’t hide my sin from my kids. I talk about it with them. I’m open about it and I pray to God about it in front of them. Obviously, some sins we commit, such as sexual impurity, are best not discussed with your small children. But: anger, impatience, worry, unfaithfulness, selfishness and the like are all things that our children should see us struggle against in prayer and openness. They need to see us run to God for help. That way they will learn to run to Him too.

6. Patience is the key: Your newly baptized child is now a baby in Christ. You are essentially raising a newborn again. Newborn Christians need to learn everything from scratch. Don’t assume that they know how to get advice or how to read and study their Bible or even how to pray or what to pray about. My son loves to help people who are in trouble. What he doesn’t know, is how to do it. He tends to jump right into the trouble with them and finds himself in trouble too as a result. His heart is in the right place. He just needs training in order to be able to get the job done without getting smashed to the ground spiritually in the process. The important thing is for my wife and I to help him learn how to help others without causing him to lose the heart to do so in the process. This can only be done with prayer, patience and training.

7. Remember the Holy Spirit: Your newborn Christian child has a helper that he or she didn’t have before, the Holy Spirit. You will be amazed as you watch God’s Spirit guide your child and work to mold that young heart. It is truly a miracle to behold. Whatever you do, do not hinder the Spirit of God, not in your own life or your child’s. Listen!

8. Use your team: Work with your teen minister and with the other teens to help your child work through issues and challenges. They will come in great number and you will need the help. You must remember that you are not alone. You have God and you have your fellow Christians. Work as a team.

I hope these things are helpful and I pray that your children will come to Christ as our son has. God is good!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Jesus is the only way

By Joel Persinger

I have been reading the book of Leviticus lately. It’s dry reading, I must admit. I found myself talking to the Lord this morning after reading Leviticus 5 and 6 and confessing that I find it difficult to keep my attention on the scriptures and frankly, just to keep my eyes open. It was at that moment that a realization came to me. It was very cool, so I thought I would share with you.

Each of the sacrifices listed and described in great detail in the chapters of Leviticus worked for one specific type of sin and only worked if done in a specific and precise way. In the same way, getting to God can only be accomplished in one specific and precise way; though Jesus Christ. I cannot come to God through Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism or any other “ism”, “religion” or belief. Neither can I come to God by ignoring everything and just being a “good person.” Each and every one of those things is a false road leading in the wrong direction.

When Jesus said, “I am the way and the trust and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6), it was not arrogance or pride that drove him to say it. It was simply a fact of God’s design. God is a god of specific instructions and clockwork perfection in all things. His plans are always detailed, complete and perfect. Thus, there is no need for a Plan B. Plan A works just fine. Plan A always works and no other plan works. Jesus is and always has been, Plan A. Just as the sacrifices listed in Leviticus were the only ones that worked for the ancient Hebrews in order to bring them back to God after they had sinned, the bloody and terrible sacrifice that Jesus made is the only one that will get any of us to Heaven.