My six-year-old daughter is reading a chapter book. She is sounding out each word and asks for help with every third one. It’s been four days and she’s still in chapter one.
She asked about the word dinosaur the other night.
“Dad, what’s this word?”
“Dinosaur,” I told her.
She looked at the word and then asked me again.
I repeated myself, “Dinosaur.”
“Sometimes you tease me,” she said as she looked quizically at me. She didn’t believe me and this was her way of suggesting that I wasn’t telling her the truth about the word dinosaur.
I do tease at times and the situation was ripe for a little joke. But, I wasn’t teasing. The word really was dinosaur. Somehow, in her mind, that word didn’t fit with the rest of what she had read. I could see her puzzling and looking at the word again.
“Maybe the kids in the story went back in time,” I suggested.
“Yeah, cause they did talk about that,” she said.
And with that, she went on to the next word. The next day we attended church. This was our first in person church service in ten weeks. Shelter in place orders had kept us at home watching church on our television screens. It was good to be back with our brothers and sisters in the local church body.
As the Lord’s Table was being prepared, my daughter said to me, “The bread is the body of Jesus and the juice is His blood.”
“That’s right, honey,” I whispered back to her.
This was no time for teasing. Though the things of God seem strange to those outside the family of God, they are gloriously weighty and true and serious. I may tease and joke around about many things, but I never want my children to question the sincerity of what I tell them about Christ.
The Christian story is filled with wonder. God created everything from nothing. A man with a large boat survived and restarted civilization. The Red Sea parted and people walked across on dry land. A donkey spoke to a man. A small boy killed a giant with a sling and a stone. A man named Jesus claimed to be God (He was and is God). He died and then came back to life. He is now on a throne seated next to God the Father and will someday return to earth.
These are wonderful, strange, true, things. Things we shouldn’t tease about, things we should tell to the next generation with all seriousness.
In works of fiction, children travel back in time to meet dinosaurs. In God’s Word, we meet the maker of dinosaurs, the sculpture of the universe. This is why my daughter is learning to read. She is learning to read so she can meet God in His Word. Or, said another way, we are teaching her to read so that God can reveal Himself to her in His Word.
When my daughter starts to read the Bible on her own, she will come across words she doesn’t know. Most importantly, she will encounter the Word she doesn’t know. I pray that I’ll be ready to share the glorious, wonderful, serious, truth of the gospel on the day she asks, “Dad, what’s this Word?
When you think of joy in the Bible, what passages come to mind? Philippians is at the top of the list for many people – and rightly so. Paul told the church in Philippi to do all things without grumbling or complaining and to rejoice in the Lord.
Philippians 4:4 says, “Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, Rejoice.” This is a command
This is a good passage, but there is an overlooked Old Testament book that helps us consider how to find joy amid life’s troubles. Ecclesiastes is a difficult book to understand and the writer, at times, seems to have a hopeless outlook on life. But the book is filled with encouragement to find joy in the everyday, mundane things of life because they are a gift from God. Seven times the author calls upon the reader of Ecclesiastes to seek after joy. (2:24-26, 3:12-13, 5:18-20, 7:14, 9:7-10, 11:7-12:1).
God desires for you to delight in the stuff of everyday life. He wants you to find peace and pleasure and have a smile upon your face – even when things are ugly and hard and the full reality of Genesis chapter three presses in. Over and over the author of Ecclesiastes affirms this – God gives the gift of joy amid toil. The fact that we can enjoy our food, see a sunset, play catch with our kids, read a poem, stand on the beach and gaze at the vastness of the ocean, sleep in, laugh with friends, finish projects and feel satisfied by doing so – all these are gifts from God which we don’t deserve.
God is withholding the full effects of Genesis chapter three. This is God’s grace and He desires for us to enjoy ourselves in this life (under the sun as the author of Ecclesiastes says). God once wiped out all civilization; now He is restraining Himself. But not only is He withholding the full fury of His righteous wrath – He gives us the gift of enjoying life and the things of life – even the mundane and difficult things.
The author of Ecclesiastes says enjoyment in toil is a gift from God, but the author also tells us to “find enjoyment”, “take pleasure in toil”, “accept our lot and rejoice in our toil”, “be joyful”, “eat your bread in joy” and to do our work with might.
God gives the gift of enjoyment but we must do the work of rejoicing. Delight in the mundane is an enigma. God has a role, but we also have a role. God has the decisive role in everything, but He works through appointed means. God wants us to find delight in toil our daily tasks. The way we do that is to seek joy, to fight for delight, and to work at taking pleasure in our duties. As we do, we will find that God is right there giving delight and enjoyment to us.
The book of Ecclesiastes ends by pointing the reader up above the earthly realm, above and beyond the sin-filled, chaotic world in which we live. “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.” (Ecclesiastes 12:13)
Life under the sun isn’t the sum total of life for the Christian. We are to look beyond the toils of this earth to the treasures awaiting us in the new earth. We are to look past, or beyond, the things of this life and into eternity. There we will find reasons to be joyful which transcend our troubles and toils.
Find delight in God and you will find joy in this world.
God, you are holy and righteous and merciful and gracious. You alone are worthy of glory and honor. We thank you for the grace which you bestow upon us, for your watchful eye over us, and for your helping guidance over our homeschooling lives.
Each day we rise to tackle a task which is impossible without your hand. For you have told us, “Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it.” Lord, don’t let us labor in vain. Build our households. Build them upon the foundation of your Truth, upon the Cornerstone – your Son, Jesus. Use us in this process, but keep us humble. Let us never forget that we need you as we raise our children.
Our best homeschooling efforts are but meager efforts, our days of parenting are full of mistakes. Without you, we can’t raise our children for you. So, we invite you to come. Come into our living rooms, be at our kitchen tables, join our chat groups, fill our hearts and our minds.
The psalmist prayed, “Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy Law.” (Psalm 119:18)
Lord, open our eyes to see in your Word the glory of your Son. As we teach the next generation, be teaching us. Don’t let us give and give and pour out to our children without being re-filled with your grace and peace.
God be with us as we steward the lives of our children.
In the name of your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen
The current world health crisis dominates newspapers, television news, radio news, and internet sites. People are on the verge of panic. This is understandable. Nothing like this has happened in our lifetime. We’ve had pandemics and wars and natural disasters, but none quite the same as our current difficulty. So widespread, so many questions, and so few answers.
Churches are closed, hospitals are bursting, and businesses are reeling. What happens next remains to be learned – at least by us. What happens next is already known by God. He didn’t learn about this virus from a news outlet. He is sovereign and all-knowing today just as He was a few months ago. He holds the world in His hands, including COVID-19.
Why God allows such things to happen puzzles us at times. When we don’t understand such things, it’s good to recall what we know to be true about God.
First, God is good and merciful and kind. He has our best interest in mind even amid disaster and severe circumstances.
Second, God is ruling and directing the universe according to His will. Nothing (not even COVID-19) falls outside God’s jurisdiction.
Put these two ideas together. If God was kind but not sovereign, He wouldn’t be able to help us in time of trial. If God was powerful but not kind, He might not show mercy to us in our time of need. Because God is both good and sovereign, we can trust Him through our trials.
Your heavenly Father feeds the birds of the air. (Matthew 6:26)
Your sovereign Lord watching over the lilies of the field. (Matthew 6:28)
Your God knows what you need and will care for you in times of trouble. (Matthew 6:3).
COVID-19 will pass. God remains on His throne. Look to Him each day and trust in Him each minute.
By David West
*This article originally appeared in the SCOPE Newsletter Volume 27 – Issue 2. It has been slightly edited for re-publication.
As my daughter and I walked into a familiar fast-food restaurant, I sensed something was different. The parking lot was full and it was well after the normal lunch hour. Then upon entering the establishment, we found it packed with people. An overdressed patron occupied almost every table.
Turning to my daughter I said, “Something is happening here. I wonder what it is?” After ordering ice cream for two, I asked the cashier, “What’s going on today?” She informed me that the restaurant was having open interviews for jobs.
Not thinking much more of it, I found an open table and started to enjoy a tasty treat with my daughter. As it turned out, I couldn’t have picked a better seat in order to have a great opportunity to pass on some wisdom.
Our table was situated in just the right place for me to overhear the store manager interview potential employees. I couldn’t resist listening in and commenting to my daughter. We were close enough for me to hear the conversations but far enough away that I could whisper insights to her without being overheard.
“You always do that,” she said after I started talking.
“What’s that?” I asked.
“Talk about stuff that’s going on around us,” she reported.
“Yes, I suppose you’re right,” I said.
“Do you think the manager will hire that person?” I asked.
“I don’t know,” she replied.
“I wouldn’t if I were the boss. Do you know why?”
One of the potential employees hadn’t worked in over three years. The manager asked why and the person answered, “Because no one is hiring.” The manager then asked, “How many places have you applied?” The response came back, “Ten.”
I told my daughter, “She lacks initiative. As a store manager, I would hope she had been applying for ten jobs per week, not ten in the last three years while complaining that no one is hiring.” Another potential employee had a hard time keeping his pants up. I mentioned to my daughter that managers don’t like dealing with uniform issues. “If this young man can’t keep his pants up during an interview when he is trying to impress the boss, what will it be like after he is hired.”
And so the conversation continued like this through several interviews. I was enjoying the ice cream, but even more, I was enjoying a chance to share insights with my girl.
I told my daughter, “This would be bold and not many people would do it. But do you know what I would do if I were here waiting to be interviewed? Instead of sitting at a table and waiting for my number to be called, I would be picking up trash under the table and cleaning up after patrons. The manager would be sure to notice and then ask me about this when it was my turn. I would answer, “Since serving the customers and the establishment is what I will be hired to do, why waste time getting started?”
Parents have a great responsibility to train their children. This burden falls especially on the dads. Not only are we to teach them all that God has commanded (see Deuteronomy 6), but many practical things that will help them throughout life. Proverbs is full of this kind of instruction from a father to a son and it is a great example for us.
My young lady may not remember much of this conversation, but as many more just like this pile up over the years, they certainly will shape her thinking. My goal as a dad is not to see my daughter get a job at a fast-food restaurant. The goal is to see her grow up to be a woman who works diligently for the glory of God. The work ethic I was promoting that day is as relevant at school, home, or church. God tells us that whatever our hand finds to do, we should do it with all our might. These are the type of lessons I want my children to learn concerning the workplace. As a dad, it is my responsibility to help my children become productive, work-loving, self-starters. Modeling this is, of course, the best way. Another way is by always talking about “stuff” that’s going on around us.