China’s government has intensified its crackdown on Christianity in recent months, including its enforcement of a law against the conversion of children and teens.
“One of the rules that have always been in their law is that you cannot proselytize or you cannot convert somebody under the age of 18,” Eric Burklin of China Partner told Mission Network News.
Previously, he said, “People were having their children come to church and many churches started what we would call Sunday school classes. They would use that time to teach children Bible verses and teach them Christian songs and so forth.”
Now, though, “any churches have been notified by [China’s] Religious Affairs Bureau heads that you can no longer conduct Sunday school classes in your churches.”
“They even put signage up in the entrance of some churches to indicate that,” Burklin said.
I was having a rough time teaching Sunday school this past week. One of those times where I felt like a stranger in a group I’ve known 10+ years. The path of faith felt heavy, I was tired. In the midst of me fumbling through a lesson, one of the guys, who doesn’t talk too much, spoke up. He said (and I paraphrase):
As a high school coach, football practice has started back up. With the heat, no one wants to be there. He said as he watches the guys run down the field, he watches their heads, where they are looking. Many of the guys look around, making sure that they are keeping pace with others… instead of giving their all and running.
He said that we all do that as Christians. We focus too much on others, comparing, instead of looking forward and running the race.
And with that, God slapped me upside the head.
Are you looking forward or looking around?
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. – Hebrews 12:1 (NLT)
Intro: More than 24 times in the Gospels, Jesus invited people to follow him. Who did Jesus invite?
- The wealthy and powerful.
- The casual observer.
- The spiritual seekers.
- The religiously devoted.
Read Matthew 4:18-20
18 One day as Jesus was walking along the shore of the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers—Simon, also called Peter, and Andrew—throwing a net into the water, for they fished for a living. 19 Jesus called out to them, “Come, follow me, and I will show you how to fish for people!” 20 And they left their nets at once and followed him.
Note: Peter and Andrew knew Jesus. He had talked with them previously (John 1:35-42) and had been preaching in the area. They knew what kind of man he was.
Read Matthew 4:21-22
21 A little farther up the shore he saw two other brothers, James and John, sitting in a boat with their father, Zebedee, repairing their nets. And he called them to come, too. 22 They immediately followed him, leaving the boat and their father behind.
Note: Verse 22 says that they immediately followed him, no excuse.
Q: What excuses do we give God daily?
Side Note: When Jesus asks us to serve him, we must be like the disciples and do it at once.
Read Mark 1:16-20
16 One day as Jesus was walking along the shore of the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon[a] and his brother Andrew throwing a net into the water, for they fished for a living. 17 Jesus called out to them, “Come, follow me, and I will show you how to fish for people!” 18 And they left their nets at once and followed him.
19 A little farther up the shore Jesus saw Zebedee’s sons, James and John, in a boat repairing their nets. 20 He called them at once, and they also followed him, leaving their father, Zebedee, in the boat with the hired men.
Note: The disciples were not men of great faith when they met Jesus.
Read Luke 5:1-11
One day as Jesus was preaching on the shore of the Sea of Galilee,[a]great crowds pressed in on him to listen to the word of God. 2 He noticed two empty boats at the water’s edge, for the fishermen had left them and were washing their nets. 3 Stepping into one of the boats, Jesus asked Simon,[b] its owner, to push it out into the water. So he sat in the boat and taught the crowds from there.
4 When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Now go out where it is deeper, and let down your nets to catch some fish.”
5 “Master,” Simon replied, “we worked hard all last night and didn’t catch a thing. But if you say so, I’ll let the nets down again.” 6 And this time their nets were so full of fish they began to tear! 7 A shout for help brought their partners in the other boat, and soon both boats were filled with fish and on the verge of sinking.
8 When Simon Peter realized what had happened, he fell to his knees before Jesus and said, “Oh, Lord, please leave me—I’m such a sinful man.” 9 For he was awestruck by the number of fish they had caught, as were the others with him. 10 His partners, James and John, the sons of Zebedee, were also amazed.
Jesus replied to Simon, “Don’t be afraid! From now on you’ll be fishing for people!” 11 And as soon as they landed, they left everything and followed Jesus.
Q: What is Peter’s reaction to the fish?
- Realizes what Jesus has done.
- Realizes his own insignificance/sin.
Q: What did following Jesus equal?
- Leaving old life.
- Being trained by Jesus.
- Learning to obey Jesus (coming under his authority and leadership).
- Having a life that looked like his (character, priorities, and practices).
Who are you living for today?
What does it mean to follow Jesus today?
How can you refocus your relationship/walk with Christ in 2019?
John 3:17 – “God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.” (NLT)
These are my notes from teaching this morning. I thought sharing them might be helpful.
Taught my first Advent lesson for Sunday School yesterday. We talked about how Jesus is our hope, light, and peace. I shared how this holiday season can be one of darkness for myself. How Advent helps me focus on the light of the season, Jesus. Got me thinking about the things we bring into the holidays. I was telling Tab that we battled The Christmas Monster, even as a married couple, for a long, long, time. We’ve worked hard though to create our own traditions (which I love) and refocus what Christmas is all about for our family. Below is a post I wrote about the Christmas monster in 2015. Enjoy!
The holidays are a battle. A war filled with presents.
The Christmas list is a list that must be structured to maximize gifts received. I’m not sure what year I learned how much family members spent on me for Christmas, but I did. Strategic planning ensued. I would organize my list so that the most expensive items were at the top of the page. As one would read down the list, the items became cheaper. I would even take this a step further by listing the items retail price. I was a monster, used to three family Christmas events. One with my dad’s parents, one with my mom’s parents, and one with my immediate family.
My Aunt Jody has no children. She loves giving; she loves Christmas time. On the other side of the Christmas campfire, my mom felt the need to compete with my aunt and grandparents. Growing up, she co-owned a craft business with a friend. My mom would spend hours out in the garage, cutting out craft pieces with her scroll saw. She would then paint these items, piece them together, and then go to a weekend craft show to sell. Generating money for Christmas that we did not have. I remember my Grandma and Grandpa Ayers coming out to help her paint and get items ready to sell. The holidays were stressful for my mom. I’m sure she wouldn’t tell you that. I’m sure as a kid I couldn’t have told you that my mom was stressed over having to compete. But she was.
The gift overload distorted my view of Christmas. The season became all about what I could get. I didn’t see the stress it was causing those around me.
My mom has since learned to let go and not compete. But I’m still learning, shaping, what Christmas looks like for my family. I don’t want Wyatt growing up thinking that Christmas is about maximizing what he can get. Sure, maybe kids do that to a point. But I do not want to raise a Christmas monster.
What does Christmas look like for you and your family? How do you go beyond presents?