Its the start to a new year and change is in the air! This is the time of year that everyone's best intentions are on full display. Even my son's elementary school is getting in on the action. Each of the almost 400 students had to answer about five specific questions about themselves with an eye toward personal improvement. This got me thinking, why not do the same around my home?
I'm sure you've seen how many churches, organizations and even individuals will choose a specific theme or trait for the year upon which they'd like to focus. This is what we're doing in our home. So we've decided on a theme for the year. Something we all (parents included) need to be working on anyway. What is our trait/theme that we've decided to work on? Gratitude!!
So step one, after deciding on the theme (get your kids involved in this part), is making sure both of our young kids fully understand what this is. Step two was to find a memory verse that would be the basis of our focus for the year. (Ours is 1 Thessalonians 5:18: "Give thanks in all things, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.") Step three is to help them see how they get to show and experience gratitude day to day. This one is an on-going, throughout the year type process. The final step (another on-going through out the year type thing), is to hold each other accountable for living this gratitude out. If your kids are anything like mine, this will probably be their favorite!
There are so many aspects to this type of activity that are great learning tools for our kids! We've got prayerfully considering a decision together as a family. You've got scripture memorization. This has become a favorite of mine. As I get older I recognize the benefit of having scripture at the ready in my head/ heart. You also have the application of scripture lived out in real life. And last but not least, we've got the accountability piece of living in a village. As the Lord's church, this is part of our job description. One of the benefits of the local church is the fact that each of us has folks that we see on a least a weekly basis who can speak life into us and call us out when we're messing up.
I'll check back in with you guys over the next couple months so you can see our progress attempting to live out gratitude in our lives. I'd love to hear about your experiences!! Have you had a family verse or theme for the year before? How'd that work out for you?
My husband and I have a three-year-old. For some reason this is an intense age. Since she is very strong willed, we but heads daily on who’s will is going to win. I am not one who believes a strong will is bad. As long as your will can be brought into submission to His will, this can be good! (We are still working on the submission part with my daughter.)
We often have “girls” devotion time while her dad is at work and her brother is in school. During this time, I try to help her see a principle that is evident and repeated in scripture. Each time I walk through a story with her, we discuss the same three questions at the end. “Who did we talk about in this story?”, “What did they do?” and “Did they follow God’s directions?”.
Turn over to Judges 2:1-5, CSB,
“1 The angel of the Lord went up from Gilgal to Bochim and said, “I brought you out of Egypt and led you into the land I had promised to your fathers. I also said: I will never break my covenant with you. 2 You are not to make a covenant with the inhabitants of this land. You are to tear down their altars. But you have not obeyed me. What is this you have done? 3 Therefore, I now say: I will not drive out these people before you. They will be thorns in your sides, and their gods will be a trap for you.” 4 When the angel of the Lord had spoken these words to all the Israelites, the people wept loudly. 5 So they named that place Bochim and offered sacrifices there to the Lord.”
Up to this point, God had told His people a number of times that they needed to follow His directions. Here he is telling them that they will be punished through the Canaanites for disobeying. This is the principle I want my daughter to learn early. Let’s compare.
Flip over to Genesis 6:22, CSB,
“22 And Noah did this. He did everything that God had commanded him.”
In Genesis 6 we learn about the instructions that God gave Noah about the ark. We see at the end of the chapter that Noah did follow His directions. Then the rain came, and everything that breathed air died. After the storm, we see what happens when we obey God.
Head over to Genesis 8:1-4, CSB,
“1 God remembered Noah, as well as all the wildlife and all the livestock that were with him in the ark. God caused a wind to pass over the earth, and the water began to subside. 2 The sources of the watery depths and the floodgates of the sky were closed, and the rain from the sky stopped. 3 The water steadily receded from the earth, and by the end of 150 days the water had decreased significantly. 4 The ark came to rest in the seventh month, on the seventeenth day of the month, on the mountains of Ararat.”
Because Noah did “everything God commanded”, “God remembered Noah” by saving him from the flood! The juxtaposition of these two stories shows us the principle I’m praying she learns (soon). On the other side of our obedience are the blessings of a just and loving God.
What this shows me, is that teaching my children to follow my directions is more important that just having well mannered children. Teaching my children to follow directions (or obey), is preparing them for life in the Kingdom of God! If we want good Kingdom citizens for children, we need to broaden our thinking in these areas. They need to know that the best way to live joyfully in the Kingdom, is to walk in obedience to the will of the One and Only King of Kings and Lord of Lords…. Jesus!!
“23 However, I did give them this command: ‘Obey me, and then I will be your God, and you will be my people. Follow every way I command you so that it may go well with you.’”, Jeremiah 7:23, CSB
“22 But be doers of the word and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. 23 Because if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like someone looking at his own face in a mirror. 24 For he looks at himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of person he was. 25 But the one who looks intently into the perfect law of freedom and perseveres in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer who works — this person will be blessed in what he does.”, James 1:22-25, CSB
Before I could put a title to my desire to be a disciple maker in my home to my children, one thing I knew was that I wanted them to truly understand the importance of Christmas and Easter. I wanted to make sure they knew it wasn’t about a jolly old elf who could slide up and down chimneys bestowing gifts upon “good” little kids or about huge bunnies that lay plastic candy-filled eggs in your yard. I wanted them to know that these holidays were supposed to direct their attention and intentions to the God who loves them more than even I could. As my children have grown older, I find this even harder than it used to be simply because misconceptions are in the air around them.
In my attempt to make sure they remain focused; I have come up with a few things to hopefully keep them (and their parents) focused on the Lover of our souls. If we think about who Jesus was while He was here on earth in the flesh, one word that comes to mind is servant. So what better way to remind ourselves of Him than to be servants?!
Flip over to Luke 22:27,
“27 For who is greater, the one at the table or the one serving? Isn’t it the one at the table? But I am among you as the One who serves.”
Keep in mind that you’ll want to do as much of these as you can as a family. Try to avoid doing all (or most) of the preparations alone. Also, these are all things that can be done throughout the year. We don’t have to wait for the Christmas season to find a way to serve the world around us.
So here’s the list. Feel free to lump some of these together. Feel free to invite friends or family into the serving action with you.
Perhaps you’ll do one or more of these things. If you do take a picture and let us know how it went. That would be great!! Just know God honors us when we try to keep His children focused on Him. Make every effort to keep Jesus at the center of the holiday. Stand strong! Be firm! You can do this!!
I hope you're having a Happy Thanksgiving!! I thought I'd honor the holiday by sharing something for which I'm thankful.
Wait for it.... I'm thankful for...… PODCASTS!! Aren't they awesome!
In all honesty, I'm serious. I am thankful for a couple of specific podcasts. My kids and I spend a bunch of time in the car. Earlier this year, I came across these podcasts. There are three that I will be sharing with you today.
First I want to encourage you to think about using podcasts as an effective way to share Biblical truths with your children. I have a friend who calls kids a captive audience in the car. They can really only listen (or watch) what you make them while in the car. It's not like they can walk away. However, the fun part is that these are podcasts my children ask for by name. Let's take a look!
The first one is "Kids Bible Stories" by Jessica White.
Jessica does a great job of retelling stories in scripture. Each podcast is about 8-12 minutes long, which is a perfect length for younger listeners. She jumps around throughout the Bible and even attaches an application with each story.
The second one is "By Kids, For Kids Bible Stories" by Audiovisual Education.
This one will warm your heart!! It is hosted by two Australian boys. They dramatize each story complete with voice changes and dramatic music for effect! They stepped through major stories from Creation to the time of Joshua. I'm not quite sure why they stopped making new episodes, but hopefully they will start up again in January. Each episode is about 5-9 minutes long. This is my three year old's favorite. She asks to listen to it, daily even though we've listened to each episode at least three times each.
The final one is my favorite and thankfully my kids thoroughly enjoy listening to it. "Truth Seekers: Bible stories for Kids" by Sherilyn Grant is the best!!
Sherilyn started at creation and began walking through the story of Truth. Each episode is about 10-15 minutes long and covers one specific piece of the story of the Children of Israel. At the end of each episode she asks the question, "What truth do we see in this story?" and invites the listener to discuss a truth about God that we can learn from this story. She also never leaves an episode without telling you exactly where in scripture you can read the story discussed.
All three of these podcasts have been a blessing! This is a fun way to fill my kids with scripture daily!! I love how these shows start conversations about God's Word and pricks their hearts with questions.
Another suggestion is the Bible app that allows you to listen to scripture with no frills. We used this feature while studying for the Bible Bowl earlier this year. This feature is available in multiple versions so that you can choose one that will be understood by younger listeners.
I certainly hope you're able to take time to share your faith with family and friends this week (including your children)!! I hope that you're able to show your family and friends just how thankful you are for them being the blessings that God meant for them to be in your life!!
I'm so amazed by my God! He opens my eyes to spiritual lessons through even non-spiritual means. The reason I love this so much is that He loves us enough to teach us where we are and using what we already see/hear/experience. I was watching a TV show a few weeks back when this lesson smacked me upside my head.
There's a father with a college age daughter. After ghosting him awhile (with him relentlessly pursuing her), she finally agrees to dinner with him. During dinner, she drops the bomb on him... she's pregnant. This is why she had pulled away from him. Sound familiar? Her "mistake" (sin) had caused her to be afraid to be in the presence of her father! (If this doesn't sound familiar, here's your homework: Luke 15:11-32 and Genesis 3 paying special attention to verses 9-13.)
Now she had decided to "fix" her mistake by having an abortion and she wanted her father to go with her to the clinic. Even though he wasn't devoutly faithful (he mentions having not stepped foot in a church for decades), he just doesn't think this was the best option because of what little faith he had. He also had no appetite to support it. So he pays for the food and leaves her at the restaurant....alone.
Now you know, as a parent, this wouldn't be something that he just doesn't think about. This whole situation eats at him for quite awhile. Later as he's walking around the city looking for clarity, he happens upon a church. He goes in to schedule an appointment with the minister. Instead he happens upon a wise janitor. After explaining in broad detail his situation and how he's feeling, the janitor paraphrases Hebrews 13:5 ("...The Lord has promised that he will not leave us or desert us.") and tells him that one of the best qualities of Christ is that He won't leave us, EVEN when we're caught up in the consequences of our sin!
Now regardless of your views on abortion, you can't negate God's rules for us sexually. It is only within the bonds of marriage, and only with your spouse. This girl had messed up, and more than anyone else, she knew it!
Here's the lesson I heard from this. When our children are in trouble, ESPECIALLY of their own making, we CAN'T just walk away if we want to imitate Christ's love for them. Now by no means am I saying that we should ignore their iniquity and call it love. What I am saying is that no matter what, my kids have me!
Another place we see this spelled out in scripture is in Deuteronomy 31:6,
"Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”"
Thank you, Lord!! Thank you for not running to leave me alone every time I've messed up! Thank you, Lord for loving me through the mess, not just after I'm cleaned up. The reason God wants us to obey His commands isn't because He's a control freak. It's because He knows one of the things that happens to us when we sin is that we put space between us. He wants to be close to us at all times. He wanted to walk in the garden with us, but we couldn't follow the rules. Our children are affected by the exact same illness (sin).
One of the ways that we get to model the unconditional love that God has shown us, is to be there when they mess up; and continue loving on them.
Father help me to be the example of You perfect love that my kids need to see. Help me not to run away in the times that they need me most. EVEN when they've chosen sin over you.
I don’t know about you, but I have this image in my mind of who I want my kids to be as adults. Before you go beating me up, yes there was a time when this image included a loving spouse, a great fulfilling career and 2.5 kids in a great school district. Thankfully I have spiritually matured past this. These days this image I have of my kids’ future looks dirtier tougher and even more fulfilling than any career could ever be. My desire now is to see my babies living a servant’s life. My desire is that my kids’ lives are marked by the pain and heartbreak that Jesus experienced as He walked through this fallen world. (But let’s be honest, I’m still hoping that at least one of them has those 2.5 grankids for me!!)
Not too long ago I heard a sermon about next level living. The preacher talked about how over time, your life should be marked by a change for the better. Sports is an area in which this is very clear. Take a great high school basketball player. When she firsts starts playing, she can barely dribble the ball and maybe she only plays a day or two a week. As she matures, she plays more often, eventually daily, and she’s able to dribble with her eyes closed. When she gets to high school, her workouts are more intense than they were years before this. By the time she makes it to college, her workout routine is even more intense. Once she gets drafted by the professional teams, her workouts and practices are much more intense and frequent. This is like the saying, “What got you here won’t get you there.” The same is true in your spiritual walk. Each day should be a maturing effort toward the Standard (Jesus).
One of the points he made that stood out the most to me is this, “Don’t be pharisaical in your walk. You should be pushing your brothers and sisters to be better, rather than looking down on them”. Do you remember the parable Jesus told? Flip over to Luke 18:9-14,
“The Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector
9 He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and looked down on everyone else: 10 “Two men went up to the temple complex to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee took his stand and was praying like this: ‘God, I thank You that I’m not like other people — greedy, unrighteous, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of everything I get.’
13 “But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even raise his eyes to heaven but kept striking his chest and saying, ‘God, turn Your wrath from me — a sinner!’ 14 I tell you, this one went down to his house justified rather than the other; because everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”
In this parable Jesus specifically addresses this pharisaical thinking. It was the fact that this Pharisee was so caught up in his own righteousness, that he forgot the true goal of our lives. Looking down on those around you for any reason, is wrong and against the call of God on our lives. His intent for you being set apart was never so you could sit on a pedestal and look down on the other image bearers around you. His goal was that you could show others that He loves them even in the midst of their sin covered mess….just like He did you!
Our goal isn’t to just make it to Heaven. Our goal is to make it to Heaven and take as many people with us as we can!! This is what’s called being mission minded. This is what I want to see in my children once they become adults. I want my babies to see God’s image all around them and like Jesus, be so moved with compassion that they desire to serve and love on them so much that they ask, “What must I do to be saved?” (Acts 2)
What about you? What is it that your heart desires to see in your children?
Earlier this summer I was at a lectureship. I was struck by so much of the teaching being shared! One of those lessons that won't let me go is the idea of the tent. You've heard the phrase "Big tent, room for all". Perhaps it was in relation to politics. Basically it means that in order to have room for many people, you have to make the bar low for entry and high for removal.
Many outside the church would characterize us by what (or who) we are against rather than what (or who) we believe. Others may even go far enough to call us judgmental (and at times they'd be correct). There are so many organizations, pundits, teachers, politicians, etc. who tell us that we should shop at certain restaurants and stores or that we should vote a certain way or that we should send our kids to specific schools. They would also tell us that if we question this or choose not to, that somehow that's un-Christian of us. Or what about the attire we choose to wear to communal worship services? Or the way we worship Jesus? Or what about the attire of the preacher before us? Can Christians get tattoos or piercings? Can Christians walk around with green and purple hair or a mohawk? Can any of these be backed by scripture? There are many teachers in the church who teach that there is only one way to do many of these things, even when they aren't backed by scripture. Let's take a look at what scripture does have to say.
Flip over to 1 Corinthians 15. Here Paul challenges the church at Corinth of the most important point. This is a really good read and I encourage you to read in its entirety. However for right now let's focus on verses, 12-19.
"12 Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say, “There is no resurrection of the dead”? 13 But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised; 14 and if Christ has not been raised, then our proclamation is without foundation, and so is your faith. 15 In addition, we are found to be false witnesses about God, because we have testified about God that He raised up Christ — whom He did not raise up if in fact the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, Christ has not been raised. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins. 18 Therefore, those who have fallen asleep in Christ have also perished. 19 If we have put our hope in Christ for this life only, we should be pitied more than anyone.",
1 Corinthians 15:12-19, HCSB
Our faith loses foundation (and we are made to be pitiable liars) without belief in Christ's resurrection! It's not that our beliefs on what we wear to worship service, or what time we meet together, or how often we have group Bible study (or where). It's our belief in the resurrection of Christ Jesus.
Now let's look at another verse, Jude 1:22.
"22Have mercy on those who doubt", Jude 1:22, HCSB
Now we get to the crux of the lesson I attended. As a parent can you make room for your children to move away from some of your traditions, norms and strongly held beliefs as long as they can hold fast to the truth of the resurrection of Christ? As a point of transparency, this scares me a little. However I'm willing to let God mold me into the type of disciple who simply lifts Jesus high and let's Him handle the rest.
I'm not saying that we ignore the wrong decisions or sinful behaviors of our children and call it "having mercy on his doubt". I'm simply saying let's give our children room to grow, learn and have some doubts. Especially if they continue to hold fast to the truth of the resurrection of our savior Jesus Christ!
I heard this as an example not to long ago and thought it was super cool! You could even use this as a visual aid on the importance of integrity and actually “walking worthy of the calling to which you were called.” (Ephesians 4:1)
When you go to the grocery store to buy water, you hand the cold unopened bottle to the cashier. He or she will then scan the black and white rectangle. After this, the computer (cash register) will register that this is a specific brand and size of water along with the price of the item. Now imagine that the same bottle was empty. If we then scanned it, the computer would still register the price, brand and size. And once more let’s pretend that the bottle had been refilled with dirty water. Once again when you scan it, you would still see the same specifications on the screen (price, brand, size).
Maybe you already see the point. There are many people walking around today who if you asked, would label themselves a follower of Christ. They would call themselves a Christian. However, if you were able to cut their spiritual hearts open you wouldn’t see the living water that Christ offers, but rather the filth left behind by sin or maybe the emptiness of a life lived for one’s own pursuits and interests rather than a life lived for Christ. The best way to identify the content is not by the bar code.
Jesus offers another way to know the truth of someone’s master, and its not the bar code. Flip over to Matthew 7.
“15 “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. 16 By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? 17 Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.”, Matthew 7:15-20, NIV
Jesus here is specifically talking about false prophets who come to His children on behalf of satan trying to pull them away from Christ. He tells us to determine their validity by the fruit they are producing. So the question is, what type of fruit are you producing? Or back to our example, what’s in your bottle?
This would be an easy lesson for your kids! Depending on their age, maybe you pour them a glass of water from the good bottle. Maybe you let them collect some dirt from the backyard to put in one of the bottles and explain that our sin is dirty to God and only He can cleanse it from us. There are many directions that this lesson can go. Share it age appropriately!
I don’t know if this ever happens to you, but recently I was doing some reading in Deuteronomy and something hit me differently than it has in the past.
Let’s take a look,
“4 ‘Listen, Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 5Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength’ ”, Deut 6:4-5, CSB
In my study, I learned that this is called the Shema in Judaism. ‘Shema’ is the word that is translated here as ‘listen’. It is also the name of a prayer that has been repeated by the Jewish people for many, many generations. This Shema is also the scripture that Jesus quotes later when He is asked “What is the greatest commandment?”. I would say these “coincidences” meet together to mean something big about this scripture.
As interesting as all this is, it’s the next two verses that hit me like a ton of bricks. Take a look,
“6 These words that I am giving you today are to be in your heart. 7 Repeat them to your children. Talk about them when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.”, Deut 6:6, CSB
Right after Moses gives the children of Israel these immensely important words, he goes into raising children! One of the first times that God gives instructions about parenting, He tells us to teach them God’s ways.
As parents, we are constantly concerned about tomorrow. Young parents are consistently told to enjoy the days of potty training and scraped knees that need kisses or rolling over in the middle of the night to find your frighten toddler in your bed. The reason they are told this is because, especially in the midst of sleeplessness it can be easy to long for a new day in which the “troubles” of today are over; only to look back in nostalgia once they really are over.
Today I want to talk about tomorrow. Today we’re going to talk about legacy. I’m hoping and praying that you’re planning and preparing to leave a rich legacy to your children. However, I’m not talking about money. It is absolutely important to be concerned about your child’s financial well-being in the event that something happens to you. But I’m talking more so about your spiritual legacy. What will you leave behind in that respect?
In the portion of scripture often called the Great Commission, Jesus tells His apostles to go, make disciples, baptize and teach. This is the scripture that most people turn to in relation to the growth of the Kingdom. The expectation is that each of us is teaching and growing the Kingdom. This is your legacy!
“22 A good man leaves an inheritance to his grandchildren,
but the sinner’s wealth is stored up for the righteous”, Proverbs 13:22, CSB
Have you made plans for your legacy yet? What should you be saying/preparing for your grandchildren?
Have you seen the Disney movie Moana? It was released in 2016. Here’s the basic premise. The creator “god” was robbed. Her heart that holds the mystical powers of creation was stolen by a demi-god. Because of this theft, life was being drained from islands, trees, fish etc. Without this “heart”, she couldn’t maintain life, even to the extent that she became a monster.
I’m not simply recounting this movie for fun (though I have to admit I love it! My 3-year-old daughter and I have seen it at least 30 times). Over the many times I’ve seen this movie, it has occurred to me that though the movie is not theologically accurate there are many, many spiritual lessons to be learned here. If you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend it to you! I promise my synopsis doesn’t give too much away.
One of the lessons that glares at me through this movie is about parenting. Sometimes with the intent of protecting our children from harm, we hold them back from something to which they have been called by God or we push them in areas for which He has not equipped them. Moana’s father, the chief, as a teenager had longed to sail on the ocean. When he finally decided to sneak out and steal a boat, his best friend begged to go along. While out on the seas, Moana’s dad (he has no other name) hit rough seas and the boat capsized. This threw his buddy over into the sea, he eventually dies. With a past like that it’s easy to see why her dad wouldn’t want her on the sea.
The problem however is that the whole movie is about Moana and her calling. The ocean “god” chooses Moana when she’s just a toddler in the very beginning of the movie. We can’t allow our biases and fears to hold our children back. Just because this thing didn’t work out for you (or anyone you’ve ever known), doesn’t mean God hasn’t specifically equipped your child for that same task.
Let’s take a look at the call on someone’s life in scripture whose family probably wouldn’t have approved. Flip over to Acts 9:15,
“The Lord said to Ananias, ‘Go! I have chosen him to tell foreigners, kings, and the people of Israel about me. 16 I will show him how much he must suffer for worshiping in my name.’ “, CEV
Here we see God telling Ananias to, “GO!” place his hands on Saul and baptize him. Later in the book of Acts (after we’ve read about much of Paul’s ministry), he tells King Agrippa that he comes from a line of pharisees. Remember them? The group of Jewish religious leaders, many of whom opposed Jesus while He was in the flesh and then began persecuting His followers after He had returned back home. Paul (when he was Saul) was one of them. For the first almost half of the book of Acts he along with other pharisees sought to imprison and kill followers of Christ. But by the end of it he’s one of the prisoners being persecuted for Christ. Imagine if Saul had asked his parents’ opinion of joining up with these people of the Way? They probably would’ve lost their minds. But look at the end of Acts what Jesus says to Paul about his calling,
“15’Who are you?’ I asked.
Then the Lord answered, ‘I am Jesus! I am the one you are so cruel to. 16 Now stand up. I have appeared to you, because I have chosen you to be my servant. You are to tell others what you have learned about me and what I will show you later.’ “, Acts 26:15-16, CEV
Jesus had called Saul to be His servant! The call that God has placed on the life of my child is bigger than anything I could ever think or imagine. And even more importantly, God has a plan to move His agenda forward on this Earth. My child’s involvement in that movement is more important that what I can even see.
Lord, don’t allow me to stand in the way of Your calling on my babies’ lives. Help me remember, that its not my will but Yours that must be done. Thank You, Father for my babies!!