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Persecuting God?

Acts 26:14-18
14 We all fell to the ground, and I heard a voice saying to me in Aramaic, ‘Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.’
15 Then I asked, ‘Who are you Lord?’ ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,’ the Lord replied.
16 ‘Now get up and stand on your feet. I have appeared to you to appoint you as a servant and as a witness of what you have seen of me and what I will show you.
17 I will rescue you from your own people and from the Gentiles. I am sending you to them
18 to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.’If you’re taking the time to read this devotional, then more than likely you are involved in Children’s Ministry. Whether as a pastor, teacher, or ministry team member, I believe that, as verse 16 says above, God has called you to this ministry. He has placed within you a burden and deep concern to reach children. Using the same words that He spoke to Paul, here is what He says to you. ‘I have appeared to you to appoint you as a servant and as a witness’ to the children.

For a moment, back up a few verses and you will find that this same man who was being called by God was also persecuting Him. How could a man, called by God, persecute Him? The expected response to this question would be that this is the point of change in Paul’s life. Though he was persecuting God, he would have his life changed with this calling and in totality serve God. This may be true, but there are many Christians, even teachers and Children’s Pastors, who are persecuting God today even as they try to serve Him.

I know that is a fairly bold statement, but let’s walk through it together as we consider another portion of scripture.

Matthew 25:31-46
44 They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’
45 He will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’

The above verses come from the ending of the parable of the sheep and goats. As you look at these verses, it becomes clear that these people were not offending Christ by what they were doing, but by what they were not doing. In the same way, we may be guilty of offending, or in other words, persecuting Christ by what we are not doing in ministry.

Jesus said, “Whatever you did not do for one of the least of these…” In all honesty, what group of people does the church in general usually consider the least? The answer is the children. Are the children at your church being spiritually fed? Are they leaving your services still spiritually thirsty? Do you give them an opportunity to experience the garment of praise? Are they spiritually sick, tired, weary, or imprisoned?

In an ever-changing world, we strive to keep up with the latest in technology and the newest teaching methods available. Yet, in doing so, we often begin to rely on the children’s excitement or the growing numbers in our church as a gauge as to whether we are ministering the life changing Gospel. Somewhere along the line we’ve missed the boat! A contemporary comparison would be that just because your website has more hits than all the other church websites doesn’t mean that people’s lives are actually being changed or challenged by visiting it. Remember, Jesus said the error is not what you are doing, but what you are not doing, what you are neglecting.

During the counselor’s staff meeting toward the end of a week of a kid’s camp at which Alisa and I were speaking, one counselor, pastor, who had been coming to this particular camp for several years made these comments. “At the beginning of the week, I had some questions about the services, like, ‘Where are the blacklight puppets and goofy characters? Why aren’t there more games?’ But as this week has progressed, I had to repent. I’m amazed to see what God is doing in these children’s lives. What these speakers are doing is incredible. We need to send them across the nation preaching these messages to our children.”

Those remarks sparked a session of comments that later led to conversations with several Children’s Pastors who were at the camp. Each one said basically the same thing. “We need to get back to actually ministering to the children.”

Think about this for a moment. We want to provide a worship service filled with challenging and entertaining teaching methods. Alisa and I use ballooning, trick cartooning, ventriloquism, contemporary worship music, computer projection, Gospel illusions, story sermons, games, outrageous object lessons, and more. But even more, we want the power of God present with plenty of time and opportunity for the children to experience His touch in their lives and hear from Him personally. After all, it is only their experience with God that will change their lives. They may remember Rodney, my ventriloquist dummy, as being a real cut-up, or the picture Alisa drew of the United States that changed into a portrait of Abraham Lincoln, but those memories will fade. What will last is their encounter with an Almighty God who will always be with them.

Here’s your challenge. Honestly and humbly before God search your heart and ministry. Be encouraged to do new things in your ministry. Feel free to add more puppet characters or install a video projector. However, in the process, allow more time for the children to be challenged by God’s word and changed by His presence. Give plenty of time for altar and worship. Take this commission that God gave Paul as your own.

Acts 14:17-18
“I am sending you to them (the children) to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.’

by Gary R. Linn

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