Old Testament... New Kids
I go to a really small church that geographically sits on a line between “gentrified” and “poverty.” The vision for this body is to reflect the kingdom of heaven by celebrating diversity of wealth, race, and life experiences. A year ago, this body was meeting in a house church. Ten months ago, a barber shop. The body has grown and shifted and changed over the past year, but it has been a joy to watch.
When we moved out of the barber shop and into our current space last fall, it was time to start developing a children’s ministry. I had recently joined, but immediately knew that I would be taking on that role. With a background in education and experience in “church plant children’s ministry,” I had a pretty good idea what I would be getting into. Before I agreed to take it on, though, the pastor and I sat down to talk details. I wanted to know what he wanted out of the ministry and he wanted to know what I wanted out of it.
Our hearts were pretty closely aligned, even though we came into the conversation with different perspectives and experiences. We both agreed that the purpose of children’s ministry was to prepare our kiddos to know and love God, to eventually become active parts of the church body. And we felt it was important for parents to know what their kids were learning and take an active role in that.
So each week, I take great care to somehow connect our kids’ lesson to the sermon. Some weeks are easy - like when our pastor preached from Matthew 11 and talked about being gentle and lowly, giving God our burdens. But other weeks this gets pretty hard. Have you ever tried to teach kids about sin? Or God’s sovereignty?
Through this process, I have to simplify really big ideas (like Sarah being barren) and dance around hard topics like adoption and racial injustice. But in doing this, God tends to reveal simple truths that I have forgotten. As the pastor has preached through Romans, I’ve had my work cut out for me. But with each big and scary concept, I’ve managed to find an Old Testament character who gives it some sort of context.
Romans 4 & Abraham
In Romans 4, Paul describes Abraham’s faith journey and the way he believed in God despite all of the cards being stacked against him. It is far too easy for me to look at my life and think, “Nothing is ever going to work out.” But then Abraham’s story sneaks up on me in the context of the New Testament and I am reminded that no matter what, God can make things happen. There is nothing I have to do for this except have faith.
Abraham’s story didn’t have a happy ending because he worked really hard or checked all of the boxes on a to-do list. His story had a happy ending because he lived out his faith.
Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him…
Abraham believed it would be so because God said it would be so. Did his faith ever waver? Yes! (See Genesis 16.) But ultimately, Abraham’s faith continued to grow until he was “fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised” (Romans 4:21). When God makes a promise to us, He will not break it. You can depend on Him above all else.
Romans 8 & Moses
Moses ran away. He disappeared from his day-to-day life as a prince because the pressure of who he actually was and who he had been raised to be was too much. There was tension between those two identities… so he just took off. If our stories ended when we walked away from God, the Bible would be pretty dull.
Moses walked away and then God found him through a Burning. Bush. Let’s look at Exodus 3.
Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian, and he led the flock to the far side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up. So Moses thought, “I will go over and see this strange sight—why the bush does not burn up.” When the Lord saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, “Moses! Moses!” And Moses said, “Here I am.”
At this point in time, God is calling Moses out of his “hiding” to lead the Israelites to the Promised Land. After his self-imposed exile, it’s time for Moses to step into the purpose that God has for him. Despite feeling unqualified and unable to face this, the Lord called Moses. And God will do the same for us. Romans 8:26 says, “Likewise, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.”
Romans 9 & Rahab
Romans 9 is hard. For long-time believers, we can’t wrap our fleshly minds or hearts around the idea of Christ’s sovereignty. And I’m not even going to try to get into the depths of that issue. But what’s important to draw out from this chapter is that God has a plan. And His plan probably won’t look like yours.
That’s why we have Rahab. Rahab was a prostitute. She was an outcast of society. She was rejected and scorned. But God used her to save the Israelite spies, to take down the city of Jericho, and eventually to bring about the birth of Jesus Christ (Matthew 1:5). Nothing about Rahab qualifies her to be a part of God’s plan. And yet here she is.
As I’ve gone through Romans and tried to take these big ideas and make them accessible for my young friends, truth has opened up to me again and again. I would encourage you to dig into Scripture with this new perspective.
When you read your Bible, don’t look for new, big revelations. Instead, see how God is revealing the simple truth of his nature to you and ask yourself…
How could I share this with a five year old?
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Mary Elizabeth has been doing life in Nashville, TN for five and a half years. She currently work for a faith-based nonprofit as an after-school program coordinator... and wearer of many other hats. Outside of work, she is known for her baked goods (it's been suggested that she start a "Muffin Ministry") and her tendency to disappear into the woods at random intervals. You can follow her on Instagram at @emmyelle.