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Not Ashamed of the Gospel

Carolyn Ylitalo | The Voice of Zion September 2022 - Home and Family Article --

Here as a flick’ring candle has been my life of faith; often my footsteps stumble and waver on the way. But from the open fountain which freely flows in Zion new strength I here receive. – SHZ 560:1

The songwriter so beautifully portrays the life of a believer. As believers we are “not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation” (Rom. 1:16). The gospel message flows freely from our brothers and sisters in faith. Many of us are blessed with escorts in our home setting, or they are a phone call away if we live alone.

Our lives ebb and flow. We go from school life to work life. Regardless of one’s calling and individual place of watching, we endeavor daily to walk as children of God. We are strangers in a foreign land. Our school mates and coworkers may notice we are different. God’s children identify as a group – people who believe the same.

Part of our identity is being a child of God. It is a treasure to be identified this way. Yet we stumble, like Peter did when he was hesitant to admit he was a follower of Christ. Sometimes I have felt embarrassed in public when someone has made a comment that singles me out. For example, at a previous workplace two coworkers were visiting in the break room and their talk included a string of swear words. As I walked into the room, the speaker apologized to me for swearing. I mumbled, “That’s okay.” I felt sheepish that they would notice this difference.

I think this is only a small part of the text, “for I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ.” A word similar to “ashamed” is “embarrassed” and as timid believers it is easy to feel embarrassed. Without even opening our mouths we may be noticed to be different and being different can feel uncomfortable. It wasn’t until later that I appreciated the apology for swearing in front of me. I didn’t need to be embarrassed of my faith. We can be flickering candles in the dark world. We pray for strength and pray that those outside of God’s kingdom could be called into God’s kingdom.

How do we keep our individual walks of faith aligned with God’s kingdom? When we put away sin it is our desire to be obedient to God’s Word. Our desire is to attend services to strengthen our faith. At services the sweet message of the gospel is preached. Throughout my life Satan has tempted me many times not to go services. My list of reasons changes over time. I have heard speaker brothers also share this temptation to stay away from the hearing of God’s Word. “The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.” Once we get to services, we are happy to be there; thankful that we came. The gospel gives strength to travel one more day.

At times I feel ashamed to ask for the gospel when Satan tells me no one will understand or when I have become proud and convinced that my actions and poor behavior are justified. Whatever lies Satan uses to deceive us are not true. Our escorts in faith freely preach the gospel. They are drowned in the sea of grace never to be remembered again.

Dear youth, remember that your parents and grandparents were young once and there are no new sins under the sun. Freely go to the grace fountain to care for your matters. Parents, today is the time to start blessing your children. When I was a new mother at mother’s camp, the minister gave instruction to bless your babies. At first I thought it felt a little funny to bless an innocent baby. Yet, they have inherited sin. I would have not known when is a “good” time or age to start. It is so beautiful when three-year-olds learn how to bless you in return. Children are so forgiving and are wonderful teachers on how to believe.

When we endeavor to keep faith and a clean conscience a great reward awaits us in heaven one day.

Blended-Race Family

Christine Hautala | The Voice of Zion September 2022 - Home and Family Article --

Greetings from our Finnish-American-Colombian family! I am Christine, married to Onni Hautala and we reside in Helsinki, Finland. We have lived here in the capital region of Finland for most of the nearly eighteen years of our life together.

After getting married in 2004, we thought our family would grow as so many other families do. God had His own plans for us, however. Our first son, Noa, was born in January 2009. We were given several years with Noa as our only child. We embraced the chance to give him our undivided attention and the opportunity to travel the world with him. By the time Noa turned eight, a feeling had strengthened within our family that our home and our hearts had more love to give. Gradually we came to understand that if it was meant to be, we could also become adoptive parents.

Our journey to adopt started in 2018. In November of 2020, we found ourselves packing our bags to travel to Colombia – Luka, our four-month-old baby son, a brother for Noa, was waiting for us to come and bring him home.

During the lengthy adoption process and before we knew anything about Colombia, we had several conversations with our social worker on various topics. One discussion in particular stood out. We were instructed to ponder the various special needs or backgrounds an adopted child may have. We had to think about the ethnicity of the child – Colombia is a diverse country. Furthermore, in addition to possibly having physical disabilities, a child waiting for adoption has a family history which can be traumatic. These considerations were required in the formal process in which we had to define what kind of a child we believed we would be able to care for.

Our faith and the outlook on life that comes with it was a solid refuge in the midst of these contemplations. All children are gifts of God, regardless of their ethnicity, background or how they have entered the world. They have the right to be accepted and loved just as they are – innocent saplings from heaven.

Already a family integrating two distinct cultures, it felt natural for us to pursue an international adoption. Over the years we had blended traditions to create our own family heritage and cherished the richness this brings. Getting the chance to learn about another culture would only yield more to all of us. Consequently, with the newest addition to our family, there is another identity now that is visible: race. We are thankful to our heavenly Father that in this age and time we are living, people are generally aware of the sensitivities related to this topic. In the year and a half we have had Luka, we have received overwhelming love and support from family, friends and the community around us.

As we felt with Noa, Luka is a reminder of the power of God in our lives. Somehow, this is captured in Psalm 139 which we revisited around Luka’s baptism: Your eyes saw my unformed body. In your book all my days were written, the days that were ordained for me, when as yet there were none of them.

It is with awe and thankfulness that we look back over the past years, times of joy, sorrow and even excruciating uncertainties. As we were told in the beginning of our married life, we can plan, but God decides. So it has been.

Positive Identity: Being a Child of God

Erica Hendrickson, pre-school education specialist | The Voice of Zion September 2022 - Home and Family Article --

How do we help a child discover who they are as an individual and hold true to that while also keeping their identity as a believer in a world with so many opinions and beliefs? There are many forms of identity we have as a person, and we hope they all meld easily into one to make our whole: our identity as an individual, who we are in a family unit, in a friends’ group, and our identity in a larger community.

Adults can encourage children’s sense of individual identity by showing interest in the things children are interested in. Conversation about interests and about the day’s activities also encourage the individual. Noticing and conversing helps a child feel valued as an individual and also keeps communication lines open. If that line of communication is free and open when children are young, then they will be much more likely to talk about important issues that come up when they are older. When young people have a positive sense of who they are as individuals, they are less likely to want to change for others or to seek less desirable means of connection. When disagreements and other negative behaviors arise, modeling for children how to say “I’m sorry, I was wrong” is an important restorative measure, along with the power of the gospel, to restore love.

Individuals also need to feel respected and valued as part of a family and a community; this means having a place where you feel you belong. We can ask key questions to think about this:

  1. Does every child feel like they are an important part of the family unit?

  2. Does every child feel they belong at church?

Personal connections are needed for a sense of belonging. One way to foster this connection at church and Sunday school is to greet everyone by name. We can encourage children to say hello and greet others by name as well. Even if we don’t have common interests with another person, we can still be welcoming and polite. This helps us keep a loving connection with everyone at church, instead of ignoring those with whom we find it challenging to connect. We all want a place where we can be ourselves and still belong. Every child wants to feel seen and heard. We all have different personalities, interests and physical appearances and God intended us to be created that way.

Developing a sense of empathy allows children to help others find connections and a sense of belonging. Look at other children’s faces and identify the emotion that is there. Then talk about what makes us feel a certain way. Developing this skill as a young child helps them express how they are feeling as well and as children get older, they will have the words to explain how their peer relationships are going and they will also be able to notice how others are feeling. This ability to articulate and express feelings helps children develop their own identities – by being heard. And this practice helps others by developing the habit of noticing when someone else may seem lost or struggling to fit in.

The beauty of looking at things through the eyes of a child is that most things can be simplified into being kind. Some people look different, some people like different things, we may not agree with some things people do or say, but we can still be kind and respectful because these are people God has also created. How can you be a light unto the world? It starts with small acts of kindness that become an instilled behavior, so when children get older, they are respectful towards others and may be able to have open conversations with others, even with someone who may be seeking God’s kingdom.

A concept we work on at the preschool level is self-advocacy. A key adage to remember here is “If you don’t like something, say something.” It is good to start at a very young age to encourage children to say something when they are uncomfortable. It is also good that they are aware not everyone thinks the way we do, and they may do things differently in their home. The innocence and boldness of a child is a reminder of how we should live our lives. They are willing to accept people as they are, bold enough to say when something is wrong, kind enough to welcome them in.

The ability to say no is important. When we allow children to say no at a young age, they have the practice for when they encounter more peer pressure at an older age. For example, if a child is not done playing with a toy it’s ok if they do not share right away. It’s a balance between not keeping things all to themselves and not feeling like they must give something up just because someone asks. We hope that when they face peer pressure at an older age, they will have the confidence to say “no” or “I don’t like that” or “I don’t want to.”

Parents are a child’s first and most important teacher. It is the duty of parents, friends and family to teach the ABCs of faith. We are fortunate to have a variety of resources at our fingertips to help teach our young. The LLC has produced several books and music albums to fill our home, materials that we know will help teach the basics. Books are a great catalyst for conversation about how we believe. Music is also a powerful tool. Children remember, as adults, the songs they sang as a child. Most of us are also fortunate that we are able to attend church regularly. Though it is sometimes taken for granted and one may become complacent in attending, prioritizing church attendance for children is so important. Bringing children to church functions helps them build the most positive identity: that of believing, being a believer. There at church we hope all children can make positive connections with peers who will be their escorts along the way.

Questions for Discussion

  1. What helps us identify another believer, even one who is previously unknown? What traits do we notice?

  2. Our identity is socially developed. In view of this, what contributes positively to a child’s identity development? What contributes negatively?

  3. Explain how name calling, often using an identity label viewed as negative, can be hurtful to all people involved.

  4. Our children and young ones learn by example. In what ways do adults’ actions and words contribute to a young person’s upbringing and identity?

  5. Believers’ identity is tied to the gospel. Explain this connection!

2022_09_Pub_SepVZ_HF_Not Ashamed of the Gospel
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