You Can’t Do It

That’s right. God has called you to something that you can’t do.

  • Father
  • Mother
  • Parent
  • Ministry leader
  • Spiritual leader
  • Disciple maker
  • Teacher
  • Preacher
  • Pastor
  • Sunday School teacher
  • Warrior

If your reading this, then you probably identify with one of the titles listed above. If so, then you have received a calling on your life that you are not up to. A calling that is much bigger than you are. Chances are,however, that most of you would not identify with the last one. The title of WARRIOR. This is exactly the title that Gideon was called to.

In Judges 6:11-24 we see the story of Gideon’s calling. Gideon was hiding in a wine press threshing wheat. this was a task that required wind to be done well. Hidden as he was, Gideon would have a hid a great degree of difficultly completing this task. So, why did he hide? At this time in the history of Israel they were being oppressed by the Midianites. So complete was their control over Israel that many of the Israelites were forced into hiding. This is where we find Gideon as “The Angel of the Lord” appeared to him. Most believe that this reference, “The Angel of the Lord” is actually Jesus appearing prior to his physical birth through Mary. So, JESUS appears to Gideon and says, “Look at you, you sorry excuse for a man. Clearly your NOT the man I was looking for to free My people from their oppression.” WRONG. This is NOT what He says. Rather He says,

“The Lord is with you mighty warrior.” (1)

WHAT?!? Mighty warrior? Isn’t this the same man that was hiding in a hole so that he wouldn’t be found? Yet, the Angel of the Lord calls him MIGHTY WARRIOR. Gideon was obviously thinking the same thing. He replies that his family is the weakest in Manasseh and the he is the least in his family. (2) The Lord however, had indeed chosen Gideon to free the Israelites.

As we continue reading the story of Gideon we see where Gideon gathered a mighty army, but God said, “…you have too many people for Me to hand the Midianites over to you…”(3) How can you have TOO MANY soldiers when going to war? God goes on to say, “…or else Israel might brag, ‘I did it myself.” You see God wanted to be certain that HE got the glory for this victory. Gideon started with 22,000 warriors. Before God sent them into battle this force was whittled down to just 300 men. With these 300 men Gideon concurred the Midianites and gained freedom fro Israel.

You see, there was something that Gideon missed when he was first called that we often miss ourselves. What God calls us to is NOT ABOUT US OR OUR ABILITY. Gideon started with a force that might have been able to bring down Midian without God’s help. But, that wasn’t God’s plan. Gideon was indeed from the weakest family and was indeed the least among his family. But, that’s the kind God wants to use.

Regardless of where you saw yourself on the list at the top of this post, or even if you have a calling that was not listed above, it is quite likely that God called you BECAUSE  you were inadequate. Consider these examples. God chose:

  • Moses – a murderer, with a speech impediment, and a complete lack of confidence, on the run for his crimes – to be the spokesperson for the children of Israel and to lead them from captivity.
  • Josiah – an 8 year old boy – to be KING of Judah, to repair the temple, to bring the book of the Law, the word of God back to the people.
  • Mary – a poor girl, unremarkable every way except for her love for the Lord – to be the mother of Jesus.
  • Shepherds – poor, social outcasts, that smelled of sheep and long periods without bathing – to be the first to see Jesus and to tell others about him
  • Saul – a self-righteous, violent man who over saw the arrest, torture and killing of countless Christians – to write much of the New Testament, to be one of the greatest spreaders of the Gospel to the Gentiles.

Just like the people, God has called you to something. Each of these people was inadequate for the task they were called to EXCEPT through the work and power of the Lord. In the same way we often feel inadequate for what God has called us to, and we are. BUT, in the same way that God empowered these people to fulfill their calling, He empowers us as well.

Scripture references:

  1. Judges 6:12
  2. Judges 6:15
  3. Judges 7:2
Matt Norman

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Home Discipleship 101: GO!

“Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you…”  Matthew 28:19-20 

Here we get our orders to make disciples. But, there doesn’t seem to be much more there. In the coming weeks, I want to see what we, as parents, can learn from this.

The word translated as “go” would be more accurately translated to “as you are going”. Jesus is saying that as we go about our lives we should be making disciples. As parents this means that discipling our children should be a regular part of our lives.
How do I DO that? I remember when my kids were toddlers. Nearly everything was a learning opportunity. Playing with cars became a chance to learn numbers and counting. Coloring became a chance to learn colors. Even as they have grown I look for opportunities to use everyday moments to teach. Discipling our children is the same.  It means looking for opportunities to teach them spiritually. For most of us this does not come naturally. It certain didn’t for me, and it’s still a struggle. But, with practice, it becomes easier.
How do I start? TV gives MANY opportunities to do this. Watch TV together, even if this means watching their shows. Go into it determined to find something that can be a teaching point. Watch for that moment and then use it. This can happen during the show or even during commercials. The idea is not to tear apart their favorite show. Rather it is to find that teachable moment and then teach. Here is an example to get you started:
  • Did you notice how (character) did (something teachable)?
    • From here you can talk about why it was good or ask about how they could have done better.
    • Remember that the goal is heart transformation so be sure to focus on how the other characters were effected, or how your child might have felt in that situation.
This is just one example. Look for moments like this that can be used to teach your child what it means to be Godly.
Matt Norman

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Your PERSONAL Year in Review

This post is obviously from a couple years ago. It was also written for another site that I used to write for, but the ideas shared here are good for us to consider every year. I hope you enjoy it.

Recently, I sat in staff meeting, and we looked back at the year and what God has done in our church. If you are anything like me, then this year has flown by really quickly. With the year moving so fast it is really difficult to take in everything. As we approach a new year, now is the perfect time to look back. So, take some time in the next few days to look back and remind yourself of what God has done through you this past year. I would even recommend that you write these things down, spend some time looking over them, and then file them away. This could be a really cool thing to pull out each year, review, and then add to.

I know that this may be kind of obvious, but now is also the time to look forward into the new year.  Look at what you have accomplished this year, and look at what worked and what didn’t. Look at the things that were really great and remember the things that really bombed. Then, look at how you can duplicate the good, and improve on or replace the bad. Pray over your list from this year and then set some goals for the new year.

Remember when you are setting goals that you need to set goals related to those things that you have control over. Setting goals for growth might seem logical, but there is NOTHING that you can do to MAKE your ministry grow. However, you can set goals to do more outreach, to improve your follow-up, and things like that. Whether you are a full-time children’s pastor, a bivocational pastor or a weekend volunteer, these things will lead to growth in your ministry and are things that you do have control over.

I know that saying that there is little we can do to make our ministry grow may cause some of you a bit of anxiety.  However, I believe this is a biblical concept. In 1 Corinthians 3:6 Paul says,

“I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow.”

So, what I am saying here is that God will make your ministry grow, but you have to continue planting seeds and watering. You may even have to do some plowing to prepare the land some, but at the end of the day God is the one that will make it grow.  The analogy to planting and sowing may seem far removed from many of us these days when we look out and see snow on the ground, but as the calendar turns, it is the perfect time to reflect on those activities.

So tell me, what was great about 2010? What lessons did you learn in 2010 that we could all learn from? What great things do you have planned for 2011?

Matt Norman

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Home Discipleship 101: I Don’t Have All The Answers

Being the primary spiritual influencers for our children can be a heavy burden to carry.  It can be very intimidating. What if they have a question that I can’t answer? Maybe you have thought this, or can at least sympathize. Well, here’s the good news. You don’t have to have all the answers.

I am a professional children’s minister. Some might consider me an “expert”. I would never claim that title, but it is what some people think. Unfortunately, this feeling that those of us in church leadership are the ”experts” can keep discipleship from happening at home. Well, here’s more good new:

I don’t have all the answers either.

The truth is that our kids don’t need us to have all the answers. In fact it is often better to help them work through these things for themselves. This is how they develop a faith of their own. When they come to you with a question that you can’t answer, TAKE them to the Bible. When we do this they learn that the Bible is where the answers are.

We lead our kids, not by giving them all the answers, but by helping them to find them, by finding the answers with them. We lead our kids by SHOWING them what it means to be a Godly man or woman, a Godly mother or father. This, too, can be intimidating, but don’t worry, they don’t expect us to be perfect. So, be encouraged. God has tasked you with being spiritual leaders for the kids that He has placed in your care, but He has and will give you the tools you need to do it.

Matt Norman

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Book Review: Parenting is Heart Work

There are two things that nearly every parent has in common: 1.) we want to be good parents and 2.) we worry that we may not have what it takes. This is why there are countless books on the subject of parenting. There are book on discipline. There are books on how to encourage our children. There are books on how to be the spiritual leaders for your children. This book is, in some ways, just another in this long line of books by “parenting experts”. But, this book takes a different angle in how we approach raising our children.

Behavior modification.
Many parenting books and techniques are aimed at  behavior modification. This is the idea that if a child does something good they are rewarded, also known positive reinforcement. The authors of this book would argue that behavior modification does not lead to lasting change. They seem to say, in the book, that there is no value in positive reinforcement. In this I am not in complete agreement. Even the Bible speaks of how we will be rewarded for WHAT WE DO. Certainly this not the answer to every behavior issue. Nor is it the ONLY answer to long lasting change in our children. But, I think that there is still some merit in it.
It’s about the heart.
According to the author, the key to long term change in a child’s behavior. On the surface I agree with this. However, this agreement is not without some reservation. The idea is that with positive reinforcement a child may change their behavior in order to get the prize. This only works so long as they want the prize. This leads to ever increasing rewards. This can be a dead end street that does not lead to lasting change. Conversely, if the heart of the child can be changed, then their behavior will change as a natural result. This is the premise  of this entire book. Once this concept is introduced the authors go into how to make this happen.
Who has the power to change hearts?
While I don’t think we can argue that a changed heart will lead to a lasting change in behavior I have to ask, “Do we have the power to change hearts?” I think that even the authors would agree that the only one that can change a heart is the Holy Spirit. This starts with salvation. So, I would say that the first step towards lasting change would be to build an environment in your home in your lives where the children are exposed to the Gospel, and to be sharing the Gospel WITH your children. The methods in this book are of little use without the life changing presence of the Holy Spirit. With the presence of the Holy Spirit, what the methods in this book CAN do is change a child’s “want to”. In other words it can help a child WANT to act differently. This can lead, through the work of the Holy Spirit, to a change of heart.
The other side of behavior modification.
As with many things in life there are two sides to behavior modification. We talk about positive reinforcement. The other side is negative reinforcement. This aspect of behavior modification seems to be completely left out of the discussion in this book. The authors seems to imply that there is only their method or the method of positive reinforcement. However, I think that there is great value in negative reinforcement. Our kids need to learn that our actions consequences. Sometimes it is through these consequences that heart change comes about. Where does the Bible stand on the idea of negative reinforcement? Well, there are many stories in the Bible of where people were disobedient and were punished. Jonah was caught in a storm that threatened to sink the ship he was on. He was thrown into the sea and was swallowed by a giant fish. As the nation of Israel was taking over the promised land they were instructed not to take certain things. One of them went against this and the entire nation was punished as they were defeated in their next battle.
Immediate obedience.
Ultimately there is one thing that this book seems to miss. When I tell my child to do something I expect them to do it right away. Ultimately I want them to WANT to obey, but there are times when they need to do it whether they want to or not. They need to fear the consequences enough that they obey without thinking about it, in some instances. Consider the small child that is running towards the street. When I yell his name I need him to stop IMMEDIATELY. As I said, I prefer that he WANTS to obey, but in that moment his life depends on him obeying, regardless of his want to. I fear that this is something missing from the methods mentioned in this book.
You SHOULD read this book.
So, after all I’ve said you may be ready to completely forget about this book, but you need to read this book. As I have said, there is value in positive reinforcement. There is also value in negative reinforcement. However, what both of these miss is the ability to change a child’s behavior later in life. Whether it’s a desire for a reward or fear of punishment, neither of these has much power over a child when they are not with us. They have even less power when our children grow and move on to other things, no longer under our direct influence. What this book teaches is how to work towards a change in the heart of our children so that when they go to college, get married, or whatever road they take after high school there has  been a lasting change that will go with them. THIS IS WHY YOU SHOULD THIS BOOK.
As with anything, when you read this book you need to be looking not for specific things to do, but for principles that can be applied to your life. Find them, then apply them
Matt Norman

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