Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

● Serving Children from a Shepherd’s View

                                    Message One

                 Serving Children from a Shepherd’s View

I. A person who serves children is a shepherd – John 10:2-16
        A. A shepherd is one who has a special bond with the sheep.
            1. “The sheep hear his voice.” – John 10:3
            2. “He calls his own sheep by name.” – John 10:3
            3. The sheep follow him.” – 10:4
        B. A shepherd is not a stranger or a hireling but one who takes the Lord Himself
            as an example.
          1. A stranger (v. 5) is one who is unknown to the sheep. This signifies one who comes to serve the children without prayer, preparation, or burden. At most he or she is fond of children and likes to be with them.
           2. A hireling (v. 12-13) is one who has the talent to serve, but only does his or her work as assigned. This signifies one who gets personal benefit or satisfaction in teaching children. Hirelings may do an acceptable job by the world’s standard, but when difficulties or conflicts arise, they attend to their own things first.
            3. A shepherd is one who is willing to spend time and energy to care for the children, their home and school life, their families, and their well-being, to render help to them at the appropriate time, during the week, and beyond the regular meeting time.
C. Shepherding children is a commission from the Lord.
          1. The Lord charges us to shepherd his sheep. – John 21: 15-17
          2. The Lord not only heals adults, but also children. “Talitha koum.” – Mark 5:41
       3. The Lord sets an example of how to take care of children:
 a. “Whoever receives one of such little children because of My name, receives Me; and whoever receives Me, receives …Him who sent me.” – Mark 9:36-37
                 b. “Then little children were brought to Him that He might lay His hands on 
                      them and pray, but the disciples rebuked them.” (Matt. 19:13) But Jesus, 
                      seeing it, was indignant and said to them, Allow the little children to 
                      come to Me. Do not forbid them, for of such is the kingdom of God. Truly 
                      I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a little 
                      child shall by no means enter into it. And taking them into His arms, He 
                      fervently blessed them, laying His hands on them.” (Mark 10:14-16)
           D. Shepherding involves loving, seeking, feeding, healing trengthening, and 
             1. Love and compassion are needed.— “And seeing the crowds, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were harassed and cast away like sheep not having a shepherd. – Matt. 9:36
              2. Searching and seeking are the shepherd’s responsibility.— “ For thus says the Lord Jehovah, I Myself, even I, will search for My sheep and seek them out.” (Ezek. 34:11) “ Which man of you, who has a hundred sheep and has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the one which is lost until he finds it?” (Luke 15:4-7)
           3. Feeding and care are required.— “Woe to the shepherds of Israel who feed themselves! Should not the shepherds feed the sheep?” (Ezek. 34:2) “I will feed them with good pasture…and on rich pasture they will feed upon the mountains of Israel” (Ezek. 34:14)
            4. Healing and strengthening are included.— “I will seek the lost one and bring back the one that was driven away and bind up the broken one and strengthen the sick one…” (Ezek. 34:16)
               5. Peace and blessing will be given.— “And I will make with them a covenant of peace and banish evil beasts from the land, so that they will dwell securely in the wilderness and sleep in the woods. And I will make them and the places around My hill a blessing, and I will cause the showers to come down in their season; there will be showers of blessing.” (Ezek. 34:25-26)
  II. Children occupy an important part in God’s eternal economy.
A. Gain a child and you gain his entire life. “Train up a child according to the way he should go; even when he is old, he will not depart from it.” – Prov. 22:6
B. The Lord appreciates the spontaneous praise and worship from children. Jesus said, “Have you never read, ‘Out of the mouths of infants and sucklings You have perfected praise’?” – Matt. 21:15-16
C. We receive the Lord and the Father by receiving children. – Luke 9:48
D. Children must be treated with respect and care.
1. “Whoever gives to one of these little ones only a cup of cold water to drink… shall by no means lose his reward. – Matt. 10:42
2. “Inasmuch as you have done it to one of these, the least of My brothers, you have done it to Me.” – Matt. 25:40
3. “See that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that their angels in the heavens continually behold the face of My Father who is in the heavens.” – Matt. 18:10
E. Children need to be brought to salvation. “In the same way, it is not the will of your Father who is in the heavens that one of these little ones perish.” –Matt. 18:14

F. Children are a pattern of simplicity and humility we need to learn from.
1. “Unless you turn and become like little children, you shall by no means enter into the kingdom of the heavens.” – Matt. 18:3
2. “He therefore who will humble himself like this little child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of the heavens.” – Matt. 18:4
G. The Father desires to reveal mysteries to children. “In that hour He exulted in the Holy Spirit and said, I extol You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because You have hidden these things from the wise and intelligent and have revealed them to babes. Yes, Father, for thus it has been well-pleasing in Your sight.” – Luke 10:21
1. God revealed to the boy Samuel what He was about to do in Israel. – 1 Sam. 3:11
2. God unveiled to Joseph (still in his teens) in two dreams His divine view concerning the nature, position, function, and goal of God’s people on earth. – Gen.37:5, 7, 9.
3. God revealed to Daniel (who was brought to Babylon as a child) in a night vision the mystery of the dream He showed Nebuchadnezzar – Dan. 2:19
4. From a babe, Timothy had “known the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise unto salvation through the faith which is in Christ Jesus.” – 2 Tim. 3:15
           H. The Lord superabundantly blesses what a child has to offer to accomplish His purpose. The Lord uses the five barley loaves and two fish brought by a little boy to feed five thousand people. – John 6:5, 6, 9, 11

Message Two

Before, During, and After the Children’s Meeting

I. The preparation of a shepherd
         A. Proper relationship with the Lord
             1. Loving the Lord – John 21:15
             2. Having an intimate and personal fellowship with the Lord
             3. Receiving spiritual supply through the word of the Lord – Pet.2:2
        B. Proper relationship with the children
             1. Loving the children – Mark 10:16
             2. Caring for their situations, needs, and circumstances
        C. Proper relationship with the parents
             1. Getting their cooperation and support
             2. Understanding their family situation and background
        D. Proper relationship with other shepherds
             1. Coordinating with co-shepherds – Deut. 32:30
             2. Bearing one another’s burdens – Gal. 6:2
II. The pattern of a shepherd – 1 Tim. 4:12
A. Not letting anyone “despise your youth”
1. In word – utterance, speech, proper vocabulary, no slang or street talk, no jesting – Eph. 5:4
“And obscenity and foolish talking or sly, filthy jesting, which are not becoming, but rather the giving of thanks.”
2. In conduct – not frivolous; “Jesusly human”; having a subdued will
3. In love – stable in emotions, balanced in feelings
4. In faith – established in the truth, poor in spirit
5. In purity – pure in motive and action; renewed in mind
B. Wearing proper clothing – 1 Tim. 2:9
1. Clothing – implying deportment, demeanor
2. Modesty – shamefastness, not forward or overbold, but moderate
3. Sobriety – sobermindedness, self-restraint, restricting of oneself discreetly
C. Fleeing youthful lusts – 2 Tim. 2:22; 1 John 2:16
1. Lust of the flesh – the passionate desire of the body
2. Lust of the eyes – the passionate desire of the soul through the eyes
3. Vainglory of life – the empty pride, boast, and display of material things, of the present life
D. Pursuing righteousness, faith, love, peace
1. These items being the virtues of Christ – ergo, Christ Himself
2. With those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart – with spiritual companions
III. The service of a shepherd
A. Leading the children to pray and give thanks – 1 Thes. 5:17-18; Col. 4:2
B. Teaching the children to sing – Ps. 100:2; Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16
C. Helping the children to read and understand the Bible – Col. 3:16
D. Training the children to memorize the word of God – Ps. 119:11
“In my heart I have treasured up Your word
That I might not sin against You.”
E. Stirring the children to praise – Ps. 100:4
F. Encouraging the children to speak for the Lord – John 1:45-46
“We have found Him…, Jesus…” “Come and see.”
(Talk to friends about the Lord. Invite friends to the children’s meeting.)
G. Reminding the children to apply each lesson in their daily life – 2 Thes. 3:4
“And we have confidence in the Lord concerning you, that what we
charge, you both are doing and will do.”
H. Instructing the children to love and serve the Lord – Eccl. 12:1
IV. At the children’s meeting – essential tasks and traits
A. Before the meeting
                 1. Prayer throughout the whole week
                 2. Lesson preparation DAYS (not hours or minutes) in advance of the meeting
                 3. Supplementary materials, audio-visuals, etc. ready to be used
B. During the meeting
                 1. Attendance – no tardiness, early leaving, or absence without leave
                 2. Appearance – attire, posture, bearing
                 3. Articulation – volume, intonation, tone, and clarity of voice;
pronunciation and enunciation
                 4. Attitude – sincere, serious, strict but not overbearing;
understanding, supportive, longsuffering
                 5. Anointing – sensitive to the inner sense of life, the instant feeling
                         from the Spirit
C. After the meeting
                 1. Follow-up shepherding, by phone or visits
                 2. Exercise and practical application in daily life
                 3. Memory verses and assignments
V. Evaluation of a shepherd
A. Telling stories with an exercised spirit, sober mind, and loving heart
B. Telling stories faithfully according to truth, within the topic, and relevant to the children’s level
                1. Accurate details, not leaving out crucial information
                2. Appropriate words for the corresponding level
                3. Suitable examples and illustrations as applied in daily living
                4. Logical sequence of events
         C. Distributing time proportionately for each activity
D. Attending monthly trainings for recalibrating and readjusting, refocusing
    and realigning, recharging and revitalizing

Message Three

Getting the Children’s Interest and Holding their Attention

I. Children learn by their natural curiosity.
A. Children who are interested ask questions.
1. Know exactly what they want to know.
2. Answer according to the scope of their question, just enough to make them understand.
3. Give straightforward answers.
4. If you do not have the answer, say so, but find out the answer soon.
B. Children who are interested pay attention.
1. Keep the message/lesson/story short and simple, fresh and living.
2. Give only what they can handle at one time.
3. Maintain eye contact and look for responses or reactions.
4. Speak with a clear and audible voice.
5. Use facial expressions and gestures for visual effects.
C. Children who are interested learn fast.
1. Provide additional reading materials on the subject.
2. Measure their progress with practical tests.
II. Children learn by examples and repetitions.
A. If you show interest in what you teach, you will get their interest, too.
1. Laugh, sing, cry, jump, and do things with them.
2. Use appropriate pictures and demonstrations to illustrate an idea, concept, or truth.
3. Make them feel they are part of the story.
B. When you repeat something, they will know it is important and is worth remembering.
1. Emphasize key points.
2. Have them memorize crucial words or passages.
3. If you want the children to memorize a verse or paragraph, you must be able to memorize it yourself.
III. How to tell a story to children
A. Be genuine in love, care, and concern for the children.
B. Make sure they are comfortable, at ease, and free from distractions.
C. Get the message across; deliver the lesson effectively.
D. The contents must have impact as well as appeal.
1. Be accurate in facts and details. Read through the lesson several times during the week.
2. Be exact in quoting verses.
3. Unless using flashbacks, tell the story in a chronological sequence.
4. Do not leave out essential information. Such missing information may ruin the continuity of the story.
5. Be careful not to add extraneous or irrelevant materials.
6. Do not digress.
7. Finish with a strong ending. Tie a good knot at the end.
IV. From mediocrity to excellence
A. Have a periodic assessment and evaluation of your story-telling.
1. Strive to do better every time.
2. Uplift the standard of spiritual education.
3. Do not be satisfied with what you already have.
B. There is always room for improvement.
1. The truth can never be changed, but the way to understand or impart the truth can always be improved.
2. Aim for better understanding of the lessons by pursuing the Word and by being constituted with the Word.

Message Four

Nurturing in Life, Truth, and Character

I. Life is seen throughout the Bible.
A. The purpose of God’s creation was to produce life.
1. Inorganic matter was created to sustain organic life.
2. Plants and animals were created for humans.
3. Humans were created to contain God’s life.
4. Help the children know and honor God as the Creator of all things.
   B. The tree of life is the center of the garden of Eden, a sphere of life.
1. The tree embodies, portrays, and typifies Christ as life and life supply to man.
2. Man must take the tree of life in order to fulfill God’s purpose.
3. Help the children touch life in every lesson, song, and verse that you teach them.
C. Man was created to contain life.
1. The spirit of man is where the divine life comes in to dwell.
2. Without God’s life in our spirit, we are just empty vessels.
3. Help the children appreciate the God-created human spirit and use their spirit to contact God.
D. Life is in three aspects.
1. The physical life (bios) is for contacting the material world.
2. The soul life (psuche) is for contacting the psychological world.
3. The divine life (zoe) is for contacting God.
4. Help the children pay attention to the inner life.
E. Lead the children to know God as the source of life.
  1. As the source, God is the Originator, the Creator and Sustainer of life.
  2. Help the children come to God for their needs in life.
            F. Christ is our life and the church is our living.
         1. Jesus came so that we (the sheep) may have life abundantly. – John 10:10
         2. Christ is our life (Col. 3:4) for us to be manifested in glory.
         3. The church is the sphere of our living and service.
         4. The church is the place for us to be dealt with, to be transformed, adjusted, perfected, and established.
         5. Help the children fellowship with the Lord and with brothers and sisters in the Lord.
G. Life needs nurturing to grow, develop, and mature.
1. Nurture the children’s spiritual life by feeding them with God’s word.
2. Nurture the children by helping them experience God’s salvation.
3. Nurture the children by helping them deal with shortcomings, faults, weaknesses, sins, and other negative things.
H. Make the children aware of the characteristics of life.
1. Life is full of feelings.
2. Life delights in light and dreads darkness.
3. Life grows and undergoes transformation.
4. Life reproduces and propagates its own kind.
                      5. Help the children see the need for God to be increased, enlarged, and expressed in humanity.
II. Truth makes life real and practical.
A. Truth is reality, the realization of all positive things.
1. Truth is the Triune God coming to us as grace and reality.
2. Help the children know God as the true and living God.
B. Truth is what makes us right before God.
1. Help the children exercise honesty, truthfulness, and sincerity.
2. Help the children discern lies, falsehood, deceit, and hypocrisy.
C. God desires all believers to come to the full knowledge of the truth. – 1 Tim. 2:4
1. Knowledge of the truth comes by the word of God.
2. Formerly as Gentiles, we were darkened in our understanding and walked in the vanity of our mind. Now as believers, we put off the old man that lived according to the old manner life, and are being renewed in the spirit of our mind, having put on the new man. – Eph. 4:17-18, 22-24
3. Knowing the truth is knowing God’s person, attributes, will, desire, purpose, economy, and consummate goal.
4. God is seeking worshippers in spirit and in truthfulness. – John 4:23-24
D. We need to walk in truth by letting God operate in us, by living Christ, and by walking according to the Spirit.
1. “For I rejoiced greatly at the brothers’ coming and testifying to your steadfastness in the truth, even as you walk in truth. I have no greater joy than these things, that I hear that my children are walking in the truth.” (3 John 3, 4)
2. “For it is God who operates in you both the willing and the working for His good pleasure.” (Phil. 2:13)
3. “For to me to live is Christ ...” (Phil. 1:21)
4. “But I say, Walk by the Spirit and you shall by no means fulfill the lust of the flesh….If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.” (Gal. 5:16, 25)
5. We can bear the fruit of the Spirit, which is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, meekness, self-control.
III. Character contains and conveys life and truth.
A. A person with a proper character is like the good earth into which the seed, the word of God, is sown and produces fruit a hundredfold. – Luke 8:8, 11
1. “But that which is in the good earth, these are those who in a noble and good heart hear the word and hold it fast and bear fruit with endurance.” – Luke 8:15
2. “The good earth signifies the good heart that is not hardened by worldly traffic, that is without hidden sins, and that is without the anxiety of the age and the deceitfulness of riches. Such a heart gives every inch of its ground to receive the word that the word may grow, bear fruit, and produce even a hundredfold.” – Matt. 13:8 footnote
B. To have a proper character is to “learn Christ, if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught in Him as the reality is in Jesus.” – Eph. 4:20-21 and footnotes
1. “Christ is not only life to us but also an example (John 13:15; 1 Pet. 2:21).
2. “We learn from Him (Matt. 11:29) according to His example, not by our natural life but by Him as our life in resurrection.
3. “To learn Christ is simply to be molded into the pattern of Christ, that is, to be conformed to the image of Christ (Rom. 8:29).”
4. “The reality is in Jesus refers to the actual condition of the life of Jesus as recorded in the Gospels. In the godless walk of the nations, the fallen people, there is vanity. But in the godly life of Jesus there is truth, reality. Jesus lived a life in which He did everything in God, with God, and for God…We, the believers, who are regenerated with Christ as our life and are taught in Him, learn from Him…”
C. To have a proper character is to have the divine values, concepts, attitudes, and actions.
1. “Finally, brothers, what things are true, what things are dignified, what things are righteous, what things are pure, what things are lovely, what things are well spoken of, if there is any virtue and if any praise, take account of these things.” – Phil. 4:8
2. “In lowliness of mind considering one another more excellent than yourselves; not regarding each his own virtues, but each the virtues of others also. Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus.” – Phil. 2:3-5
3. “To have such a mind requires us to be one with Christ in His inward parts (Phil. 1:8). To experience Christ, we need to be one with Him to this extent, that is, in His tender inward feeling and in His thinking.” (Phil.2:5 footnote)
D. To have a proper character, we need to follow the examples and patterns of Biblical characters (persons).
1. Abraham, in spite of his age, believed God would give him a son “out from your own body” and “he believed Jehovah, and He accounted it to him as righteousness.” – Gen. 15:4, 6; Rom. 4:3
2. Joseph resisted temptation and was kept from sinning. – Gen. 39:7-12. “Jehovah was with Joseph, and He extended kindness to him… and whatever he did, Jehovah caused it to prosper.” – Gen. 39:21, 23
3. Samuel was obedient since his childhood and was careful with God’s word. – 1 Sam. 3:1-18. “And Samuel grew, and Jehovah was with him and let none of his words fall to the ground.” – 1 Sam. 3:19
4. David was a man after God’s heart. – Acts 13:22 “…I have found David, the son of Jesse, a man according to My heart, who will do all My will.” “Who found favor before God, and asked to find a habitation for the God of Jacob.” – Acts 7:46
5. Enoch walked with God. – Gen. 5:22, 24 and footnotes
“To walk with God is to take Him as our center and everything, to do things not according to our own concept and desire but according to His revelation and leading, and to do everything with Him. This implies the denying of our self and everything that is of our self that we may be one with Him.”
“Enoch was the first person to be raptured….Our being raptured depends on our being mature in the divine life by our walking with God.”
6. Noah found favor in the eyes of God. – Gen. 6:8 “By faith Noah, having been divinely instructed concerning things not yet seen and being moved by pious fear, prepared an ark for the salvation of his house, through which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is according to faith.” – Heb. 11:7
E. To have a proper character, we must exercise the thirty points of character.
Genuine Exact Strict
          Diligent Broad Fine
          Stable Patient Deep
          Pure Just Calm
          Single Corporate Open
          Affectionate Ardent Accommodating
          Strong Pliant Submissive
          Suffering Lowly Poor
     Steadfast Enduring Bearing
          Clear Magnanimous Grave
F. To be effective in shepherding children, we need to incorporate life, truth, and character into the lessons, songs, verses, and activities in every meeting.

Message Five

Concerning the Children’s Work and the Children’s Group

I. The children’s work is a vital part of the church life.
From experience we know that the children’s work is very important. The children’s work should not be merely taking care of the children when their parents come for the meeting. Although circumstances require parents to bring their children along to the meeting and there is a general need to look after them, according to the present situation, the children’s work must have the effect of cultivating and nurturing our children.
A. Once they are saved, the children can gradually become the gospel seeds in every campus.
God has ordained that man be fruitful and multiply and fill the whole earth (Gen. 1:28). After reproducing and giving birth, where are we going to put the children? We do not realize that the children are a great gospel work. We only care for preaching the gospel, but neglect the fact that the children are also our gospel fruit. When they get saved, they become our young people. When they graduate from elementary and go to high school, they become the gospel seeds in high school.
B. From childhood, the children are nurtured in the church.
If these children are educated in the church from six years old, and are saved in due time, they will have received 16 years of spiritual education and nurturing. This is a worthy task.
C. Through the children, unbelieving families are brought to salvation.
Children like to make friends and it is very easy for children to bring in other children. When they sing hymns together, the gospel comes into effect, and they can also spread the gospel to other children. Our goal, however, is not just to gain the children, but through them to reach their parents and siblings.
II. The principle of the children’s work is multidirectional.
The children’s work must be done in a multidirectional way. The place, the time, and even the teaching materials should be multidirectional, not unidirectional.
A. The place must be multidirectional – in the homes of brothers and sisters.
As in our method of spreading the gospel, every brother and sister’s home must be open for the children’s meeting. If you have children at home, you may open your home and ask your own kids to invite the neighbors’ kids and their classmates to your home. If you do not have children at home, the best way is to have the burden to open living room in your home and invite five or six children for a children’s meeting at home.
B. The teaching materials must be multidirectional.
In teaching styles and materials, the method should be adaptable and multidirectional. Whether reading, doing assignments, singing hymns, praying, telling stories, playing games, or doing crafts, the most important thing is to use a two-way, interactive approach that allows the children to speak and to have a chance to participate, instead of relegating them to be passive listeners. As a result, all the children who come, whether the peculiar, the naughty, the hyperactive, or the quiet ones, will find their rightful place.
C. The time must be multidirectional.
It is best to conduct the children’s meeting at a multidirectional and flexible time, not necessarily on the Lord’s Day. Whenever the children are out of school on vacation or a pro-D day, you may have a children’s meeting at home.
III. The children’s group has a particular format and practice.
As to practice, it all depends on the leading one in the children’s work to contact the family that open their homes, to receive the same burden and to be faithful in the children’s gospel work.
The children’s group is formed on the basis of intimate concern for one another, having fellowship with the children, interceding for them, caring for and shepherding them. Never use old, worn-out methods and practices to begin the meeting. Cherish the children by caring about the things that happen in their daily life. In such caring, encourage them to speak out what is in their heart, and then through shepherding and fellowship, bring in intercession and lead the children to say concise prayers, so that as they are being cherished, they may also learn to take care of others and pray for others.
IV. The children’s group has a particular center and content.
The children’s group is not just a once-a-week meeting, but rather takes the children as the center, takes care of them in their living and cherishes them in the meetings. Then the group will be relevant in life, in organic function, and in living. To arrive at this stage, the following aspects must be put into practice.
A. Be connected with the children in their living, so that they become a part of our heart. (Phil. 1:8)
B. Cherish them with loving care, as a nursing mother cherishes her own children. (1 Thes. 2:7)
C. Turn and become children. Take the likeness of a child in order to draw near to them. (Mark 10:15)
D. The children’s group is a meeting that belongs to the children themselves. They are the center. We stand in the role of being their guides, understanding what their needs and problems are and teaching them the truth organically.
E. By means of caring and intercession, manifest the flow of the divine life.
F. By means of stories and fellowship, express the glory of the divine light.