Then the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.”
Genesis 4:6-7 (NIV)
At our local church in Kingston-upon-Thames, we started at the beginning of our four-year syllabus for the third time and recently taught the story of Cain and Abel. We’ve been reminded once again how critical and foundational these opening chapters of the Bible are.
They not only explain very clearly who God is and who we are but also the nature of our relationship with our Creator.
Chapter 3 describes how sin entered the world. Chapter 4 shows how sin corrupts every aspect of our being (as exemplified by Cain), and chapters 5-6 show how that corruption is true of all people, everywhere.
The story of Cain and Abel, therefore, teaches the doctrine of ‘total depravity’. This does not mean that people are as depraved as they could possibly be, but rather that every aspect of our being is tainted by sin in some way. Sin affects Cain’s feelings (jealous about his brother’s acceptance), thoughts (plot to kill Abel), actions (the physical act of murder), and words (lying to God about his brother’s whereabouts).
In our lesson, we showed the children how a small amount of blue ink squirted into a glass of water slowly diffused throughout the glass.
In the same way, sin affects every aspect of our nature – feelings, thoughts, actions, and words. Each of these is a shade of blue.
At times we might choose not to do or say what we really think or feel (usually to maintain an appearance of morality), but there is no way of knowing how dark a person’s thoughts and feelings really are. If sin were the colour blue, then our thoughts and feelings are certainly a darker shade of blue than our words and actions! And in the same way that you cannot use a spoon to remove the blue ink from the water, so we are physically incapable of removing sin from our lives. Thankfully, God has graciously dealt not only with the penalty, but also the power of sin through the death and resurrection of Jesus. Hebrews 12:24 proclaims that Jesus’ blood speaks a better word than that of Abel’s.
Sadly, in certain quarters, telling children that they are sinners is now being labelled ‘spiritual abuse’. The concept of total depravity is an essential foundation stone of the Christian message, and we must not shy away from proclaiming it. Children need to develop a healthy distrust of their own hearts and turn to Jesus for mercy. The doctrine also happens to perfectly square with our experience of reality!
After more than 280 hours of cutting and pasting, we managed to get the new website online in the last week of August, just in time for the start of the new academic year.
Since then we’ve been tweaking the print-friendly layout for those who are not yet ready to go fully digital. We’ve also started getting our translation partners up to speed with the use of the translation portal. We’ll be working hard to get as much of the non-English content online as soon as possible.
We also decided to migrate our activity and craftwork pages across to Google Slides so that they can be translated in situ. This eliminates the need for every language to be typeset by our team and has already improved the flow of material in Latvian, Norwegian and Kinyarwanda.
The new platform is so simple to use; lessons can be shared from any device with internet access. We envisaged that people would email the links to their teams, but our partners in Rwanda are simply using Whatsapp. Only having to share a link significantly reduces the amount of data that a team collectively uses to distribute and receive the material.
We aim to have a year’s worth of fully translated Italian and French lessons online by April 2020. This will be in time for a large conference in Italy where Mustard Seeds is due to be promoted. Several French-speaking churches that heard about Mustards Seeds at the Brussels training day are eager to start using the resources. There is also interest from a French-speaking school in Kigali.
We generally don’t conduct any training in July and August, but the season began again on 14 September in Inverness. It was our first event in Inverness, although we conducted training on two occasions a few years ago in Elgin, which is about an hour away.
The next week it was on to another first; Derby. One attendee emailed to say thanks for an “incredible training session” and added, "My only wish was that I had heard your talk six years ago!"
The diary is once again jam-packed until December with several bookings for 2020 already confirmed.
Rory and Kim oversaw the kid’s ministry at Week 1 of the Keswick Convention. Apart from some technical hitches, it all went very well and provided a fantastic publicity platform for TnT. It was also good to start building a team with people from a variety of backgrounds.
Seeing how other people do ministry is always helpful as it forces us to evaluate how and why we do certain things the way we do. It was also a treasure trove of creative ideas which will no doubt appear at some point in new Mustard Seeds resources!
Laura continues to struggle with ill-health, and we are in the process of making the necessary adjustments to compensate for her reduced work capacity. Please continue to pray for her and Toby.
As ever, thank you for your ongoing support.
Rory, Kim and Laura
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Items for Prayer
- Give thanks for the completion of the new website. Pray that the more accessible and adaptable platform will better serve the global Church in multiple languages.
- Give thanks for the many translation partners that we now have working with us to produce resources that are faithful, creative and effective. Pray that they would be sensitive to the needs of the local cultures, but faithful in preserving the theological content of the material.
- Give thanks for Rory and Kim’s time at the Keswick Convention. Pray that the recruitment process for the 2020 event would go well and that we’d be able to build a good team over the next few years.
- Pray for the completion of the final lessons in the Mustard Seeds range for 3-11s. Pray especially for our work in Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel.
- Continue to pray for Laura’s long-term and debilitating health issues. Pray for relief from her chronic pain and a good ongoing healthcare plan. Pray for her husband, Toby, as he loves and supports her as best he can.
- Continue to pray for Rory’s time in Singapore and Malaysia in October. Pray that he will quickly gain an understanding of the culture in Malaysia since this will be his first time there. Pray for Equip Gospel Ministries as they promote and run the training events in Kuala Lumpur and Penang.