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Elly, your story is great, with the help of people to get a quadriplegic on a hiking trip.   But if you google Camrose Alberta for a 3D view, you will not see any mountains at all anywhere from Camrose.   An 8000 foot mountain is pretty high, and Camrose is still in the prairie part of Alberta.   Should the location have been Canmore perhaps?  

These stories are great!  I am reminded of a girl, Colleen Buitendyk, who has been in a wheelchair all her life with cerebral palsy, who used to enjoy having a two wheel cart attached to her powered wheel chair and pulling little kids behind her in it, across the grass and the gravel parking area at our place.  Or her independance in tearing across the playing field at the local Bible Camp. 

I am reminded of a nephew in a wheel chair with mental capacity issues, who attended his sister's wedding.   When the minister asked her if she would take "this man to be her husband", her younger brother yelled out, "No!"   .... and there were some chuckles.... and no one was upset....   and the wedding went on....

  " At the level of a council, there are a number of things which can be especially helpful:• View the pastor as a partner in ministry; with the elders, a shepherding team..."   This comment made above is particularly relevant.  However, the suggestions that followed this comment do not seem to follow from it, since they emphasize how the pastor is different, not how he partners.  The heavy reliance on the pastor, such as for preaching on christmas day for 25 years, for example, is caused mostly because of the inability of the partners to carry on the task.  In order to have true partnership, the elders should be able to be a true shepherding team, and carry on the task if the pastor has personal desires and obligations.  It is for this reason, as well as for enhancing the partnership, that pastors should be training the elders, and elders should be training each other.  While the primary role of the pastor is understood, and the function of primary caregiver is known, it should never be thought that others are unable or unwilling to carry out the tasks, roles and responsibilities.   This alone would relieve a great deal of stress and pressure from the pastor, and would encourage growth of the entire church.

I think we need to be careful not to confuse giving, with stewardship.  Giving 10% or 20% of your income to the wrong causes could be very poor stewardship.   Giving 10% to the church is allowing the church to be stewards of that money.  If the church is a good steward, then the money will be used effectively and efficiently in causes that honor and glorify Christ, and which promote the gifts which God has given us. 

In terms of encouraging others to give a "stewardly" amount to the church, I think this should be done holistically.  First of all, it needs to be seen and felt to be voluntary, the results of cheerful and thankful giving.   For those who want to be cheerful givers, they should consider "giving back to God" as their first priority, not just checking whether there is something left over to give after buying the fancy boat or cottage or vacation or big screen TV.   Giving is always a sign of spiritual health, a sign of thankfulness and contentment with God's blessings, and a sign of willingness to trust God for our daily needs.  A lack of giving is sometimes a sign of idolization of money or financial security, and sometimes a sign of poverty.  

And Jesus was very clear that "giving to God"(church) can never be a substitute for obedience to God, which includes obeying God, loving your neighbor and looking after the needs of those placed in your care.

Mutual comments to each other in the council room ought to include thanks to God for the work that others are doing.   Yes, sometimes there are things lacking, things undone, words that should not have been said, wrong attitudes portrayed, but, God still also uses the faith and work of those who honestly strive to serve him.  The prayers, visits, leadership, and support of council members for the work of God's people should also be appreciated.  Elders and deacons including pastors then ought to be eager to hear what can be improved, or how they can build on their gifts, and use the opportunities provided to them by God.  In that spirit, the point is not mainly one of censure, but one of growth, of learning the will of God in their lives.  In that way, it is God's name that will be praised! 

While God can use people of all ages to serve in his kingdom, and in his church, it would not be appropriate or beneficial to have teenagers or very new christians to lead and rule if older (elder) christians are available to do so.   It is quite possible for many teenagers to do deaconal work without being ordained as ruling deacons, since every church member ought to engage to some extent in deaconal activites, such as caring for the less fortunate.  But the idea that the youngers should be elders runs counter and contrary to the notion that learning and experience and wisdom in the Christian life are gained through time.  It runs contrary to the whole idea of the title of 'elders" as well.   Sometimes, if older people are younger christians, then they too would not be good candidates for eldership, even while they would still have lots of opportunity for service.   On the other hand, I agree that qualifications for eldership should be based primarily on spiritual maturity, not on chronological age. 

In future, it would be avisable to give all or part of such a gift in a later year, if the person is retiring, in order to reduce the impact on income taxes payable. 

I would suggest that you do not worry too much about what others do.   Rather, ask yourself what is edifying in your situation.   We have decided to have Sunday School classes , including also adult Bible study, before church, not during church.  Some sunday school classes sing, others do not.  Sometimes they get together to sing, other times not.  But every Sunday the sall children do come to the front at the beginning of  the service to hear a story and to sing some songs (mostly by memory), in front of the congregation.   And the rest of the congregation sings with them.  It is a way for everyone to share in the joy of the children, and for the children to know that they are welcome in church. 

Great points.   To go from the theoretical to the practical....   of course you can make friends of people from all colors and backgrounds.   But sometimes that is difficult, and does not always or even often lead to a change in your actual church body, since other people have as much a tendency to congregate with people of like backgrounds as we do.   More practical is to be foster parents or adoptive parents.   You will find that color thing changing more rapidly.  

And, it's not all about color.   There are people of quite different backgrounds who also can join in and become part of the local church, including former presbyterians, united, methodist, lutherans, rom cath., etc., as well as people from a whole host of different countries where color would not be noticed, such as ireland, france, switzerland, poland, sweden, norway, australia, south africa, eastern europe, and all the stans:  kurgistan, kazahkstan, etc., and russia, hungary, czechoslovakia,....    Immigrants from all over....  

The more attention you pay to color, the more difficult it will be.   The more attention you pay to the person, to the people, and to their needs,  the easier it will become. 

Matthew, it sounds like to me, that maybe you are saying that there are two kinds of knowledge:  one derived from scripture (what God tells us), and one derived from nature or what we see (secular).    This is one way of understanding a difference.  Craig is hinting at a problem with that in the sense that secular knowledge comes from what God created.  Secular knowledge is based on what we see of God's creation, God's natural laws working. 

So what is the relationship to morality, eschatology and purpose, you ask?   One relationship is that they are directly connected, not disjointed.  The laws that God gave us in scripture are related to the creation that He made.  The creation that He made reveals also who He is and what He is like, but often we don't understand this very well unless we know scripture.  The Bible says His word is all connected.  The word that spoke creation into being, is the word of God, and is also the son of God, who is the Word made flesh. 

A secular person will try to separate the secular from God, but as Christians, we know it all belongs to Him.  We can also see how God's moral laws for us make sense from an empirical perspective, even thought that is not our primary purpose for obedience to God.  Scripture provides with a lens and perspective on how to see the laws of nature.... for example how does predation fit in, or how does murder or adultery fit in to nature.... is it natural or unnatural and why?   Our value judgements color how we look at empirical evidence;  the empirical evidence is what we see, but does not by itself determine whether what we see is good or bad. 

In some cases, it is even difficult to determine meaning of empirical evidence without a value framework, or without a world and life view.   Is monogamy good or bad... is pornography acceptible or not.... are bribes another form of taxes.... should parents or government raise children.... is it okay if some species become extinct....  does it matter if poor people starve...   etc.   Usually world and life views even shape the collection of evidence, the way "secular" news is presented, and the interpretation or investigation of empirical evidence.   EG.  it is true that both the inquistion and Stalin and Hitler killed many people, but which one is more significant to you, and why? 

How do you interpret other phenomena for example.  Empirically we know that there were giant camels and mastodons and other mammals and large trees in the high artic and the Yukon, some frozen, and some fossilized;  we know that there were dragonflies with four foot wingspans and we know that there are many seashells on the tops of mountains.  What we interpret is how they got there, and it makes sense for people to derive that interpretation within the context of  their world and life view. 

Maybe this gets a little closer to answering your question? 

I appreciate this article.  Prayer without the willingness to act, is kind of an empty prayer, although  God surprises us anyway in sometimes forcing us to act as we pray.   But diakonia with prayer assumes that our prayers are primarily about the physical welfare of others?   Given that we often distinguish between the role of elders and deacons, we ought to perhaps consider that elders might pray also for the spiritual welfare of others.   This might mean praying for spiritual awakening, or for proper discernment of God's will, or praying for obedience to God and scripture.  \it might mean praying for the grief of others, or for an opportunity to serve, or for patience, or a listening ear.    And yes, this means an eagerness and willingness to accompany prayer with action. 

And maybe this is what you were trying to say anyway...

Jesus said, let the little children come to me. If you do not become as these little children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. We often take these statements too lightly, and pass them off as fluff, when they are actually at the heart of the gospel.

In our church, we spend the first fifty minutes having Sunday school. Everyone is involved, from small children to adults. Adults who are not teaching can attend an adult bible study, while some simply drink coffee and fellowship. Then, after a ten minute break, we have a song service, maybe 3 or 4 songs, and then a special story for the children, which the adults also get to listen to. About ten or 14 kids go to the front to listen, answer questions, and suggest kids songs to sing. Another 2 or 3 kids songs then are sung, usually from memory.

Then the regular service starts, at which all children are welcome to stay, but a few go to nursery. Particularly infants. Making the worship service for children is important, but also the entire environment. We have a playground outside also, which gets used in summer after church, and a foosball game in one of the nurseries, which kids get to play while the adults have coffee after church. Anyway, just some ideas for paying attention to what Jesus said, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them."

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