Saturday mornings in my childhood were special. Especially in the summer, they generally meant that we had no (or few) obligations for the day. This meant it was the closest thing to a free day as we could get. Of course, I used to love Saturday morning cartoons. As I got a bit older, there was one show in particular that I truly enjoyed watching. It was one of those narrated nature shows. Generally you never saw a human on this one, they were just narrating and teaching you about the animals and explaining what was happening as you watched the drama unfold. As an adult, I still like many of these shows (and so does my son!). Generally speaking my son and I both have a love of learning about nature and the world around us.
As my faith has matured, I can see spiritual lessons present in the way animals live and love. take for instance the zebra. Baby zebras are born with their stripes and are generally able to walk within just a few hours. They are also able to eat grass within just a few short days although mom will continue to lactate for about 16 months. What is interesting though, is that once a mother gives birth, she will remove both herself and her foal to a secluded place away from the herd for about 2 days. The reason? Intimacy. She spends so much time with her new baby that he genuinely gets to know mom's sound, smell and stripe pattern. I can't tell them apart, but zebras' stripes are as specific as our fingerprints. So for the baby zebra to learn his mother's specific makeup is important, so that he can find her once joined back with the herd.
Another lesson from the animal kingdom is the fierce group protection that elephant mothers receive. While an elephant mom is in labor, the rest of her herd (generally made up of other mothers, sisters and children) circles around her with their heads pointing away from her, guarding her from any predators that may be lurking. Once the baby is born there is a celebration and they all turn to assist in cleaning the baby using grass, mud and sticks. If there wasn't a cleaning process there would be a smelly invitation sent to all the predators around.
I think Psalm 104 is a beautiful illustration of of the praises we can send up because of the majesty we see in the natural world. I won't list it all here, but even the Psalmist points out lessons that we can learn from animals. (Homework: Read Psalm 104)
"24How countless are Your works, Lord!
In wisdom You have made them all;
the earth is full of Your creatures.
31May the glory of the Lord endure forever;
may the Lord rejoice in His works.
32He looks at the earth, and it trembles;
He touches the mountains,
and they pour out smoke.
33I will sing to the Lord all my life;
I will sing praise to my God while I live.", Psalm 104:24, 31-33 HCSB
What do these lessons mean for us as human parents? Zebras provide a short time of intimacy to make sure that this foal (baby zebra), adequately and readily knows his mother. We likewise should have a time of intimacy with our Heavenly Father so that we adequately and readily know Him. We also should be spending time with our children so much so that they can pick us out in a crowd. What can we learn from the elephant? As a congregation, we should be fiercely protective of new babes in Christ. We know that this is a time that the enemy is lurking. He can smell that someone is close to making a decision against him, but if we have formed a ring of protection around them (even if we aren't the primary one leading them to Christ), they have a better chance at growing into maturity than if we just left them to themselves.
Are your mornings like this? Wake up rush into the shower, rush into clothes, rush kids into clothes. Rush into the kitchen to get breakfast going, follow the plan for the day. Answer emails, answer texts, etc?
There was a day not too long ago when my kids slept in a bit due to a really late night. So when I got up I wasn't really rushing. I got my shower in and clothes on. I made my tea and sat down to do some reading and listen to a devo. Once my kids woke up and got dressed we spent some time in prayer together. (All this social distance is taking a serious toll on my outgoing extroverted family). I'm not going to say that day was perfect, because of course it had its challenges. However we did have a much smoother day and arguments were resolved much quicker than they had been in days passed.
In scripture we see that Jesus did this too. Let's take a look at the beginning of His ministry in the gospel of Mark.
"35Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, He got up, went out, and made His way to a deserted place. And He was praying there. 36Simon and his companions went searching for Him. 37They found Him and said, “Everyone’s looking for You! ”
38And He said to them, “Let’s go on to the neighboring villages so that I may preach there too. This is why I have come.” 39So He went into all of Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and driving out demons.", Mark 1:35-39, HCSB
If you start at the beginning of the gospel of Mark, you can see a summarized version of how Jesus started out. First we meet John the Baptist; Jesus gets baptized and heads into the wilderness for 40 days of fasting; John gets arrested; Jesus heads into Galilee; He calls His first disciples and they head to Capernaum. As soon as they get there they head into the synagogue and Jesus starts teaching. He then drives out a demon which kicks off a chain reaction that leads to many many more healings in this town.
At some point they are able to get some sleep. While everyone else is still sleeping, Jesus heads out to pray. What sounds like a really long day led to some much needed rest. Then Jesus began His day with God.
It's interesting how this to some of you is a no brainer. I know there are many of you who regularly spend your first few moments of the day with God. Some of you, however may be more like me in that you don't always spend the first few moments with God. I was excited to see how well this worked for our day! I am pushing myself to do this more in the future. I encourage you to as well.
Hey parents! Here’s a fun activity for you to do as a family!
God is a God of remembrance. Many times in the Old Testament (New Testament as well), He institutes a festival or holiday for the His people to commemorate a specific day. Think about Passover. The Israelites were to celebrate Passover as a remembrance of the salvation they experienced by the hand of God out of Egypt. Think about the Festival of Booths we read about in Nehemiah. This was the time they were to remember how God took care of them while they were in the wilderness. Also there are the days of Purim. This is the festival that celebrates how God saved them from genocide at the hand of Haman that we read about in the book of Esther. Think about the stones set up on the banks of the Jordan river in Joshua as the Isrealites crossed over the Jordan on dry land as they entered the promised land.
I think one of the reasons that God wanted His people to celebrate these many holidays was so that in the hard times, they would have something to point to and say, “Today may be hard for any number of reasons, but I know God is faithful. He took care of us at this time in the past, so He will again.” This is true for us today as well. Many Christians don’t celebrate these holidays, but we can still celebrate regularly what God has done for us, but only if we remember.
So the activity today is to create a wall (or posterboard) of remembrance. The memories for your wall of remembrance can be absolutely anything that has happened in the life of your family where God showed up and showed out!! An example from my family is the fact that God healed my oldest son so that he could come home from the hospital after being in the NICU for 8 days. You can add any pictures of the time (or person), a memory verse or two that were helpful to you at that time. Also, commit to adding to this wall as time continues. Return to it every time something happens in your lives when you see God moving. When the hard times come, as a family you can look over this wall and know that God sees His people and is still moving, even when we can’t see or feel it.
You could connect this with a study of any of the times that God instituted a holiday or day of remembrance in scripture. What a cool way to help teach our kids to turn their eyes to God in the hard times!
“Keep this word. It’s the law for you and your children, forever. When you enter the land which God will give you as He promised, keep doing this. And when your children say to you, ‘Why are we doing this?’ Tell them: ‘It’s the Passover-sacrifice to God who passed over the homes of the Israelites in Egypt when He hit Egypt with death but rescued us.’ “ The people bowed and worshipped.” Exodus 12:24-27
There's no doubt about it. Parenting is important. The way we steer our children, spiritually, emotionally, physically and academically really matters. We have the ability to set them up for success, however you define it, or leave obstacles in their path. If you've read any other entries in this blog, I would hope you recognize my belief in this fact.
As my children grow older, I recognize more and more that regardless of the direction that their father and I set them up on now, ultimately it will be their decision how to manage and lead their lives once the time comes. As I read through 2 Kings (BIBLE BOWL 2020), I see this over and over. There are godly kings who end up having kids who turn out to be evil kings and vice versa. In so many ways this confounds me. I want there to be a simple formula that says, "Teach your kids God's ways. Read the Bible to them. Take them to youth activities and pray over them. Then you will have godly kids." Sadly however, there isn't one. I'm sure you know people who did all the "right" things with their kids and still ended up with kids making heart breaking decisions as adults. Here's the king & father duo who brings this out most of all, Josiah and Manasseh. Take a look,
"1 Josiah was eight years old when he began to reign, and he reigned thirty and one years in Jerusalem. And his mother's name was Jedidah, the daughter of Adaiah of Bozkath. 2 And he did that which was right in the sight of the Lord, and walked in all the way of David his father, and turned not aside to the right hand or to the left." 2 Kings 22:1-2, KJV
Josiah is one of only 5 kings listed in the combined books of 1&2 Kings as doing right in the sight of the Lord. There are almost 40 kings listed in the whole book! Josiah at the tender age of 8 is listed as one of the good kings. Here's how this gets even more interesting. His father Manasseh is considered by some as the worst king in all of Judah. He was incredibly evil. Child sacrifice and idol worship were just two of the sins that he committed. And yet somehow his son became one of the best, in the sight of God!
Now don't misunderstand me. By no means am I saying throw caution to the wind and stop trying to teach your children about Jesus or all the many other lessons we know we need to teach. However, I am saying (to me, and you just get to listen) that we can relax the pressure that we place on ourselves to ensure that we raise godly children. One of the lessons that I'm learning more and more is this is all in His Holy, just, and more than capable hands. My job is to do the absolute best to the absolute best of my ability and allow Him to make Himself known to them. He adds the increase!! Thank You, Lord!!
()Across the country (and truly the world) right now we are dealing with a varying degree of social distancing. Because of this many churches have followed the advice and recommendations of the CDC to close their doors. However (and here's the awesome part!), churches around the country have began flooding the internet with Bible studies and worship services in an effort to continue ministering to their flock, neighbors and community.
Now we have a choice. We get to choose where we place our focus. We can either focus solely on trying to quell the cabin fever we will inevitably begin to feel, or we can focus on the beautiful opportunity we have before us!
As Paul was closing out his letter to the Church at Phillipi, he wanted to remind them to focus and think about the right things.
"In conclusion, my brothers and sisters, fill your minds with those things that are good and that deserve praise: things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, and honourable.", Phillipians 4:8, GNB
So your focus matters! Lets take a look at some of the things you can do as a family to keep Jesus central to your quarantine.
1. I have suggested this site to you before. Here's your chance to try them out for free! Because they know many churches are closing their doors, they recognized that families will possibly no longer have access to children's Bible study and worship services. It may be hard for younger children to focus on an adult worship service. To that end, they are offering some of their worship and devotions for free. Here's the link: https://www.gominno.com/lp/church-at-home/
2. Use this time wisely! One of the reasons so many of us busy parents don't have Bible studies with our kids at home is time. We are always on the move so we don't have the time to plan and read scripture with or to our kids. During this time that everyone and everything is shut down we have nothing BUT time! Let's use it to God's glory!! Since Easter is coming up, you could start there.
3. SWAG FB page. We have started two different video series. Molding the Clay is our series for our youngest SWAG members (Clay: preschool). A number of guest readers will read a Bible story from Jesus Calling: Storybook Bible by Sarah Young. You can use this as your bedtime story for your little ones. For our elementary (Fearless, k-5) aged members, we've started Fearlessly Focused. These videos are about 10-15 minutes in total. During these we will walk through a Bible lesson. Feel free to use the video as a starting point for a deeper conversation about the truth of God's Word.
4. Get your kids up and moving!! SEEDs is another ministry that I've suggested to you before. They have many videos on YouTube of worship music and scripture set to music.
5. Google!! Easter is one of the holidays that makes me concerned as a parent. I've always wanted to make sure my kids know the importance of what we celebrate on this holiday. It isn't about chocolate, or bunnies, or spring or even eggs. It's about the resurrection of Christ! The tomb was EMPTY!! Use google to find easy crafts and Bible studies to focus your minds on this truth!
6. As a family, set a goal of how many verses you'd like to memorize together. Set up a chart on the refrigerator with everyone's name on it. As a family member is able to recite a verse, place a mark next to their name. See who can recite the full number first!
These are just a couple things that your family can hopefully use to bless your time together. Don't forget to discuss GRACE. With families being this closely packed in with each other, it will be easy for everyone to lose grace and kindness toward each other. Use this time to discuss the beauty of God's grace toward us and how He expects that we respond to each other the same way.
During our last family devotion we studied the rebellion of the sons of Korah in Numbers 16. Our conversation fairly quickly turned to the lack of respect these men had for the authority dictated to Moses and Aaron by God. We started talking about ways that we quite often will disrespect those in authority over us. Great conversation for sure!
As the kids later began getting ready for bed, I began to think about how often I (as a role model for my kids) don't respect those in authority over me. The times that I fail to give them their full due or rather than build them up and make their jobs easier, I backbite, complain or only begrudgingly submit. God's response in this story to these disrespectful Israelites, was swift and unmistakable. Throughout scripture we see that even when the person in authority seems to not get it, or they seem to be doing the opposite of what God would want, we still are expected to honor the authority given them by God.
Flip over to 1 Samuel 24,
"3 He came to the sheep pens along the way; a cave was there, and Saul went in to relieve himself. David and his men were far back in the cave. 4 The men said, “This is the day the Lord spoke of when he said to you, ‘I will give your enemy into your hands for you to deal with as you wish.’ ” Then David crept up unnoticed and cut off a corner of Saul’s robe.
5 Afterward, David was conscience-stricken for having cut off a corner of his robe. 6 He said to his men, “The Lord forbid that I should do such a thing to my master, the Lord’s anointed, or lay my hand on him; for he is the anointed of the Lord.” 7 With these words David sharply rebuked his men and did not allow them to attack Saul. And Saul left the cave and went his way.", NIV
So prior to this David had been annointed to be the next King of Israel. For this reason (among others), Saul was not a fan of David and wanted to take his life. So David was on the run trying to keep from dying at the hands of this current crazed King of Israel. Saul gets an intelligence report saying that David was in the area. While out looking, he pulls over to use the restroom in a cave. This is when David finds him. This man who was out to kill him was indisposed in his presence. Rather than using self defense as the reason that he killed Saul, David cuts off a piece of Saul's robe and immediately feels bad for having done this. Take a look at why,
"6 He said to his men, “The Lord forbid that I should do such a thing to my master, the Lord’s anointed, or lay my hand on him; for he is the anointed of the Lord.” 7 With these words David sharply rebuked his men and did not allow them to attack Saul. And Saul left the cave and went his way.", NIV
Clearly, David was not in agreement with all that Saul did. His conscience wasn't stricken because of Saul, but rather the fact that Saul was God's annointed. In other words, because God had raised this man up to be in authority over him, David honored him and for this reason alone.
I want to model that kind of honor for my children. I want them to be the kind of people who honor and respect those in authority for no other reason than God placed them there.
Homework: Numbers 16, 1 Samuel 24, Romans 13
Have you ever felt insignificant? I mean just think about how many people currently live on Earth, (according to google, you are 1 in 7.8 BILLION). We don’t even have the capability to estimate how many people have ever lived on Earth! I constantly struggle with feelings of insignificance, and yet for some reason I’m still here. I choose to believe that this is by design, not accident. I choose to believe that God has a specific reason for my continued existence, and its bigger than just me.
I thought about this the other day as my son and I were doing some study in preparation for the upcoming Bible Bowl. (Shameless plug, start reading 2 Kings with your kids now! We can win this thing!!) So as is the story throughout most of the Old Testament, Israel had sinned continually by turning away from serving the one true God; so God allowed their enemies to oppress them. Because they were His, when they cried out, He came for them even though He knew they hadn’t truly repented of their wrongs. They were primarily crying out in their pain. Anyway, back to the saving part. Take a look at this verse,
“The Lord provided a deliverer for Israel, and they escaped from the power of Aram. So the Israelites lived in their own homes as they had before.”,
2 Kings 13:5, HCSB
I’m so used to seeing the heroes named that I passed over that verse the first few times that I read it. Eventually, however, I noticed that this person who did a magnificent work for God’s people is not named in scripture! When we get to heaven and this person introduces themselves to you, you will have no clue who they are in history!!
There are probably a great many reasons as to why God the Spirit didn’t illuminate this name for the writer. One I can think of, is that this (along with all the great stories in scripture and life) are really about God’s ability, not some human who’s just following orders. However, regardless the reason, we can’t miss the fact that they did a marvelous work on behalf of God’s people!
Are you a nameless face? Perhaps to some. But you’re not nameless to the One who created you. There is a great work placed before you. If you are a parent, I believe that at least part of that work calls you “dad” or “mom”. So let’s get to work!!
Hello everyone! I'm excited about today's post for a number of reasons. The first is that I'm always excited to bring you easy hands on activities for placing Jesus before your babies! Also, this is something I heard about not too long ago and have wanted to share with you ever since!
This will be a quick post as it's a super simple activity! All you need in the way of supplies for this is a writing implement and a surface upon which to write.
What are the Psalms? Simply put, the Psalms are songs and prayers that either lament or praise to the Lord. They are full of imagery, comparisons and lofty language. These poems are masterfully crafted. Let's read one:
A psalm of thanksgiving.
1 Let the whole earth shout triumphantly to the Lord!
2 Serve the Lord with gladness;
come before him with joyful songs.
3 Acknowledge that the Lord is God.
He made us, and we are his--
his people, the sheep of his pasture.
4 Enter his gates with thanksgiving
and his courts with praise.
Give thanks to him and bless his name.
5 For the Lord is good, and his faithful love endures forever;
his faithfulness, through all generations.", Psalms 100, CSB
This Psalm is a praise of thanksgiving! Being grateful to God for all His many blessings should be a natural posture for each of us as followers. Discuss each verse with your kids and talk about the different actions the writer expects followers of God to do throughout this chapter (Shout, Serve, Come, Acknowledge, Enter His gates, and Give).
Once you've discussed each of these items its your turn!! As a group decide on a attribute of God that you would like to praise. Once you've done that, begin writing your psalm to the Lord. It can be as long or short as you'd like just try to make it full.
When you're done, we'd love for you to share it in the comments or on social media!! We'd love to know how your kiddos enjoyed this activity! Please share!!
So I'm kind of cheating today, but I promise its a good thing! These posts are generated by my life, things I read and other things I see and hear. A few weeks ago I read something I just loved. Instead of me rewriting it, I'll just link you to it.
Before I do that, though, I want to frame it. Throughout scripture, the Lord has consistently given us the choice between two options. This is so vitally important to teach our children. The world around them will tell them they get to choose from among many, many options. However this is not what Jesus says,
"6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.", John 14:6, NKJV
He doesn't give a couple different choices (though the world around us will say that there are many choices). He is THE way, THE truth and THE life. The choice is between Him and the wrong choice.
Our job as parents is to point our children to Jesus, recognizing we can't make the choice for them. Just like the star that led the wise men to Jesus in the manger, it is our job to lead them to the risen Savior so they can choose Him. Leading them to Him means placing the choice before them and helping them know that not choosing Him means choosing death. Choosing Him means choosing life!!
"See, I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction. For I command you today love the Lord your God, to walk in obedience to Him and to keep His commands, decrees and laws; then you will live and increase and the Lord your God will bless you in the land you are entering to possess.", Deuteronomy 30:15-16, NIV
Without further ado, here's the link I promised. Please take a read and be blessed!!
I'm not sure if you missed it, but this week marks 75 years since the prisoners of Auschwitz were liberated. Such a dark time in the recent past. Citizens watched (and too many sat silent) as their fellow citizens (friends, neighbors, teachers, grocers etc.) were first marginalized, then forcibly ostracized from the communities they had help to build. Too many other countries sat silent as such a dark evil was allowed to sweep across Europe. Such an important time to remember and NEVER forget.
As I was watching some of the coverage of the memorials and events marking this day, I was awestruck by the story of one survivor in particular. Mrs. Tova Freidman was 5 when she and her family went got to Auschwitz. At such a young age, I'm sure she didn't immediately fully understand the horrors that awaited her, her family and the other prisoners. This didn't stop her mother though. Tova spoke about how her mother protected her by telling her the truth!! She said that her mother didn't ever hold back. This shocked me. I can only imagine my young children being there and how knowing what was likely to happen, how I would try to pretend that all was ok. This is not the choice Tova's mother made. She didn't hold back and always told her daughter what was happening and why. This would allow her to respond accordingly.
After hearing this interview, I started thinking about my kids. My first thought was this world and the conversation that Paul has in Ephesians 6. Its easy for us to think it wise to not tell our children that they are in the midst of a war. But it is a spiritual battle. Take a look at 2 Timothy 2:22,
"Flee from youthful passions, and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart. ", HCSB
There can't be "youthful passions" (or "adolescent cravings" according to another version), if it was only adults in the war. Scripture also talks about satan setting traps for us; some of those traps are specific to the youth of the day.
Now, obviously I am not saying that we should terrify our children with stories of devils and demons lurking behind every corner, but we shouldn't shy away from talking about the great deceiver either. Especially in light of one of my favorite verses,
"...the One who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.", 1 John 4:4 HCSB
Remember the one who is in the world is that old liar from the start. The One who is in you, died on Calvary for your sins and mine. And NEVER forget, He got back up!!
Take the lead from Mrs. Tova Freidman's mother. Tell your children that they are in a war. They are in a battle. Then prepare them for war against an enemy who has already lost. As long as they get on the right side of the battle, they will be victorious!