Crying Out Loud – Part 2

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Last month we began looking at the topic of children in church as requested in this e-mail.

We have three children and one due in January. Their ages are six, four, and one. We have always thought it was important to have our children in church with us so we have done that from the birth of our first child. Not long ago we joined a church that was as close as we could find to what we wanted. Just recently we were asked to put our one-year-old in the nursery because of the noise and distraction he was causing. Could you refer me to any Dad’s Corners that may address this issue? A questioning dad

If you haven’t read Part One, it would be helpful for you to read it first.

When we left off, I had just finished describing how we taught our children to sit quietly in church. Prior to the child’s accomplishment of that ability, one of us would immediately take him out of church if he made noise. Even after a child had learned to sit quietly, if he were cranky due to teething, for example, then one of us was prepared to take him out of worship or stand in the back with him.

It was our practice when we had young ones to always sit as close to the back of the sanctuary as we could, preferably in the back row. We wanted to be together and not be a distraction to anyone if we needed to take a child out of the service.

There is something a bit amusing about noisy children, though, that we have noticed, and a reader commented on following last month’s Corner. Little children are much smarter than sometimes imagined. They quickly learn that if they make a noise, they are taken out of the service and allowed to get down to play in the cry room or hallway. So instead of taking them out being a deterrent to their noise, it becomes a reward. To prevent the children from training the parent, we would recommend that if you take your child out of the service for being noisy, find a place where you can continue to practice sitting quietly without him disturbing others. Teri often sat outside the service in the back of the entryway holding one of our children who was still learning to sit quietly on her lap. It was a temporary season, and one that was well worth investing the time and inconvenience into knowing that we would soon be able to worship as a family with all of our children beside us. We loved having our children with us during worship. I still remember holding a little one on my lap and cuddling him while we worshipped.

We believe a major reason that parents often fail at teaching their children to sit quietly is that the parent isn’t committed to the goal. For example when taking the child out to the cry room, it is more enjoyable for the parent to fellowship with other adults than to sit quietly, teaching their child to be quiet while listening to the message.

Teaching children to be quiet and have self-control takes commitment, consistency, and effort, but there are a number of benefits that are likely to result. (If you are fine with your children in children’s church or Sunday School, you need not read any further. I’m not seeking to change your mind in this area. I leave that fully between each parent and the Lord. He is the One Who should be directing each of us.) First, when your children are in church with you, you know what they are learning. One dad on staff at a church shared that it was his responsibility to sequentially sit in on Sunday School classes to confirm that the material was being taught correctly. He was always ready to take over a class and begin teaching if necessary, and that did happen on occasion. I appreciated the care this church was taking to teach accurate and appropriate information, but as he acknowledged, there were times he had to step in and take over. He was only one person with several classes to monitor. How much better to have the children with the parents, and then there is no doubt as to what the children are being taught.

The second benefit of children in church with their parents is the avoidance of developing an entertainment-centered appetite for worship. One of the appetites that we can inadvertently give to our children is the appetite of entertainment; this appetite is one of the hardest to break. Once a child has been hooked by it, he will struggle with wanting everything to be fun and exciting. I have heard that many children’s church programs that run concurrent with the preaching service are highly entertaining with the goal of keeping the children’s interest. That may work for awhile, but it teaches the children that church must be wild, humorous, or exciting in order for them to be interested in it. What is reaped from those seeds sown is that when finally exposed to Biblical preaching, it can be seen as boring. “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap” (Galatians 6:7).

Another outcome from having your children with you in church will be that your children will learn to reverence God and His Word. The Word of God is so valuable and critical to our lives that our children must learn to respect it by sitting quietly and being attentive. If we honor the Father and His Word, should we not teach our children reverence?

To invest the time to teach children to sit quietly in church means that you don’t have to leave your church just because it isn’t family-integrated as we know some have done. Perhaps others have been disturbed by your children’s noise and will now be happy when they observe them sitting quietly and not being a distraction.

A further benefit of children in church is that they should be challenged and instructed spiritually. Some might question how much young children will understand in an adult service. Have you ever looked at reading primers from the 1800’s? Children were learning material that was shockingly difficult. Much of our education now is “dumbed-down” with the likely result that children of today are not as well-educated when compared to children of a century or two earlier. When given the opportunity, children demonstrate an uncanny ability to learn and understand. There is something incredible about how a child’s spirit can absorb the spiritual truth of the Word. By having our children in church with us we are helping to teach and grow them spiritually.

As we have our children in church with us we can help them learn to respect others, and others will often see that children are a blessing rather than an inconvenience. Part of communicating to a child that it is important to be quiet in church will be discussing the need to respect those around us and not to interfere with their ability to worship by distracting them. Through this our children develop respect for others and instead of them being a curse to worshippers when they are noisy and a distraction in church, they become a testimony of blessing to the Lord. I’ve talked to many families who mention how their children receive compliments for being well-behaved in church.

We can show others that children are a blessing by teaching them to reverence the Lord and respect others while in church by being still and quiet. We have found it such a blessing to worship together as a family which we have done from the time we first realized our children didn’t have to be in the nursery and children’s church. We have been pleased with the positive fruit we have seen in our children’s lives when the Lord told us to take responsibility for discipling our children. I would encourage you to get a word from the Lord and obey. Obedience will always yield glorifying fruit.

I want to encourage you as the dad to take the leadership role in teaching your children to be quiet in church. Set up a plan for this part of their education by practicing during family Bible time. Then you can enjoy the pleasant fruit of having your children worship with you while not disturbing others in church. I think your wife and your children will be blessed by your efforts.

Unwanted Feelings – Part 2

Last month we began a series of articles on how to biblically deal with unwanted feelings.

I used part of an e-mail from a friend to kick off our discussion, so I will share that again.

I woke up hurting and aching about the adoption this morning, and the feeling never left. Seeking HIM and seeking the peace and clarity that only HE can give.

Could you please pray for me to find my comfort in Christ? And to trust HIM. If you have time, could you please send me a Scripture that brings you comfort in times of loss? I will meditate on it. Amy

Amy had just learned that a newborn adoption her family had been pursuing wasn’t going to work out, and she was feeling sad. We will all face emotions that are painful, from grieving to loneliness to anxiety. Amy’s sadness wasn’t wrong; it was a normal emotion that comes when there is a loss. However, what she does with that emotion when it arises will most likely determine whether she becomes consumed by her grief or whether she experiences the comfort that the God of all comfort offers her, allowing her to move healthily through her sadness.

As an example, I have interacted with several moms who have lost loved ones, and when they write to me they have become immobilized by their grief. When we give in to self-pity in our sadness, then we are dealing with unwanted feelings. So often we will discover that our unwanted feelings are rooted in our own selfishness. We don’t get what we want. Things don’t go the way we prefer them to go. The children don’t do what we told them to do. Our husbands aren’t communicating the way we would like them to communicate. The foundation of the unwanted feelings is bound up in selfish thoughts that we might not even recognize or be willing to acknowledge.

In February’s article, we evaluated Amy’s cry for prayer support. We learned that when we make such a cry, we are requesting His strength in our weakness and His grace that is sufficient. As we cry out for His mercy, we are taking our focus off ourselves and putting it onto the One Who cares the most for us. “Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you” (1 Peter 5:7).

We also saw that praying with thanksgiving moves our focus off of our pain and onto our blessings: self-thoughts then migrate to grateful thoughts.

The next step in dealing with negative feelings is to seek the Lord Jesus Christ. That is what Amy said she was doing: seeking Him, His peace, and His clarity. For Amy’s need, He is the God of all comfort. “Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4).

One clear way we seek the Lord Jesus is by being in His Word. “And Jesus answered him, saying, It is written, That man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God” (Luke 4:4). When we are in His Word on a daily basis, He is growing us, teaching us, comforting us, and nurturing us. In many ways, we are like those newborn babies we love so dearly. “As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby” (1 Peter 2:2). We have to desire the sincere milk of the Word if we want to grow spiritually.

We are prone, though, to make excuses as to why we aren’t in the Word. It usually has to do with being too busy, too tired, or too forgetful. Yet that busyness, tiredness, and forgetfulness make it all the more imperative that we keep our priorities correct and that we receive the daily spiritual milk and bread that we need to be the spiritual women God wants us to be.

As we are in the Word, we receive His comfort in times of grief, we learn how to deal with loneliness, we become more patient, we discover how to love, and so much more. As all of that is developing in us, the negative feelings will control us less and less. It is truly the fruit of the Spirit evidenced in our lives. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law” (Galatians 5:22-23).

Amy was also seeking the Lord by asking for specific Scripture that would meet the need of her grieving heart. As we find those verses, read them, and even memorize them, we have a powerful tool in our hands for attacking negative feelings, whether they are feelings of grief that want to overwhelm or feelings of anger that want to lash out. “And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Ephesians 6:17).

Here are some verses that Amy could read and even memorize. Consider how they would help to bring comfort to her heart.

“Then Job arose, and rent his mantle, and shaved his head, and fell down upon the ground, and worshipped, And said, Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither: the LORD gave, and the LORD hath taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD. In all this Job sinned not, nor charged God foolishly.” (Job 1:20-22)

“In the multitude of my thoughts within me thy comforts delight my soul.” (Psalm 94:19)

“This is my comfort in my affliction: for thy word hath quickened me.” (Psalm 119:50)

We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed.” (2 Corinthians 4:8-9)

“For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.” (2 Corinthians 4:17)

“Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.” (Ephesians 6:16)

When you have those unwanted negative feelings this month, I challenge you to pray and ask the Lord to take those feelings from you. Turn your thoughts to ones of gratitude to the Lord for the blessings He has placed in your life. I also suggest that you determine right now that you are going to be committed to spending time reading your Bible every day so that you are renewing your mind. “And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God” (Romans 12:2). Finally memorize some key verses in the areas where you most frequently have negative feelings so that you have your ammunition available with which to attack those feelings.

Join me next month as we continue our consideration of how to deal with unwanted feelings.