Category Archives: Club & SS Thoughts…

Read Your Bible, Pray Every Day

Barna released their Year in Review recently that reported only 19% of Americans are what you call “engaged” in the Bible, meaning they read it at least 4 times a week & believe it to be the actual & inspired Word of God.  No wonder the American church is spiritually anemic!  Good news is, it can turn around TODAY.

As we enter another new year, we’ve been thinking of ways to get the kids we shepherd (our own as well as SS class & Wed night small group teens) to not be overwhelmed or discouraged in their Bible reading.  We all know, if you don’t have some kind of a plan, it won’t happen.  The BEST thing we can do for these kids is get them into the Word.  So…we looked for a flexible plan.  Here’s what we found.

Bible Reading Checklist-2015  

Note: We didn’t create this. The person who did put it on as a freebie but super complicated to share format, so I just made it a link here to simplify.  To give credit, here’s the original link if you’d like to get it that way.

This plan is great for a few reasons.  First of all, you can start wherever you want & go wherever you want in Scripture rather than feel like you have to start in Genesis & get bogged down in the Pentateuch (again).  You can start on January 1st or 10th or March even.  You won’t get frustrated by “being behind” or “reading ahead”.  If you hear a Scripture mentioned in a sermon or class & want to go home & dig further, DO IT.  Mark it.  Then as the year goes on, you can see the parts you’ve not hit & get busy reading those gems!  It may take three years (if you read one chapter a day) or you may “binge read” & get all the prophets read through in two weeks.  Doesn’t matter.  Just don’t neglect those letters from Paul or Psalms.  They are ALL important!!  “All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right.  God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work.” – 2 Timothy 3:16, 17

Keith likes that this plan has a prayer printed right on the sheet to remind you to start & finish by talking with your Father.  This is not just another item to check off the list  & get puffed up about.  This is a relationship you are building.

If you read as a family, you could mark those boxes in one color & your personal reading in another.  This way you can keep track of what you’re doing all in one place!  Nice.

So, print it out (we copied it front & back so it’s on one sheet & tri-folded it to make a bookmark) & hand it out to those you shepherd.  We think our kids will be encouraged as they see those boxes get colored in over time & actually see how much of the Word they’ve read. And we’ve already been able to pull it out to show the kids in SS how much we’ve read so it gives all of us accountably as well as an opportunity for them to see this is a life long pursuit.  It is exciting & fun!  It is VITAL.  It is the most beautiful, amazing, & life-giving Book.  Encouraging you to set those you shepherd on the personal God-seeking journey early & JOIN THEM. : ]

PS – We also encourage the kids to listen on their iPods.  It does speak to you differently when you hear it vs. when you read it.  Some people have a harder time reading & get so caught up in the letters they miss the message.  Even if that’s not you, it is interesting to see what jumps out when you hear bigger portions while you are on a jog or washing dishes.  It is worth doing if you’ve never tried it before.  Here’s a link to a few free ones: ESV New Testament, KJV & ESV complete Bible, or listen on line here to the entire NLT Bible.  That’s just what I found in a quick search.

Leaving you with an oldie but oft forgotten goodie that every preschooler I’ve ever taught has loved to sing way too many times.  (If you teach your littles this song, just be sure you explain the whole grow & shrink spiritually thing to them. They’ll take it literally otherwise!)  May the Lord richly bless the reading & hearing of His Word in 2015!


Set Apart

WARNING: This is more of a shot gun rant than anything.  Yeah, it’s that kind of day.

The Wednesday night time slot has LONG been abandoned by the church.  When I was a kid, that was what my folks wrestled over – ball practices & boy scout meetings on Wednesday nights vs. prayer/kids club.  Today, it’s Sunday mornings, and to my sadness, I don’t really even see a whole lot of church folk wrestling over it or challenging each other on it.

We’ve read the passages about Jesus & the Pharisees butting heads about the Sabbath & have as a Church whole, swung dramatically the other way in the last couple generations.  It is true Jesus condemned the religious rulers of His day for getting so caught up in Sabbath rules they put that above loving people.  Those Pharisees knew what God said in the OT!  And they took God seriously.  They got off track.  That is very true.  They missed the Messiah when He was right under their noses.  All that being said, I don’t think we’re in danger of over doing the Sabbath rules any time soon, do you?

This has been circulating around facebook the last few weeks.  Two words: Eric Liddell.  True, his decision didn’t effect a team; he switched his own personal races.  But his whole country had sent him to race!  Talk about pressure.  Obviously, his stand has been used for God’s glory & to get the attention of His people even almost a century later.  Here we sit these days contemplating how to “take back Sunday” from sports.   Why not just do it?  The world never took it; if you don’t have it, you gave it away.  Now it’s time for God’s people to simply honor God’s Day, gather with His people, be committed to that, & let chips fall where they may.  How hard is that?  After all, it’s not like we’ve yet shed blood here over it… (Hebrews 12:4)

Can I give you a small personal example from my life of honoring the Sabbath & God answering my prayer in it?  When I was in college, I moved to Marion for my last year to live with my grandparents.  (PRECIOUS memories, btw.  Wouldn’t trade that year for anything.  Highly recommend it!  And at the time, many kind of felt sorry for me that I had to “stay home” for my degree.  No need to feel sorry for what God blessed me with people!  Just saying.)  Anyway, I needed to get a job, so put in my application at two restaurants & one grocery store.  I was looking for a job where I didn’t have to serve alcohol or work on Sundays.  On Wednesday night, I shared this request with the prayer group at church.  Mind you, it was me, Pastor, and about 15 elderly in attendance as usual (in a church that had around 300 on the roll).  I was shocked by their response!  They shook their heads, patted my shoulder, & acted like I was soooo naive to think that could happen.   (Really, my naivety was in not understanding these people who had walked with the Lord for so many years could be so spiritually crusty – haven’t they seen God do even greater??)  But I was committed & prayed.  Within a week or so (can’t remember exactly, but I know I didn’t miss any income!), I had a job at the grocery store & praised the Lord at the small group.  They were stunned.  Within a few months, I was scheduled for a Sunday even though I had clearly told boss I couldn’t. I went to him as soon as the schedule came out & told him I couldn’t work for pay on Sunday so would fill the position since I didn’t want to mess anyone else up, but couldn’t do it for pay.  He didn’t know what to do with that.  I got switched & he never tried that again.  Again, the small prayer group watched in shock that God answered my prayer on all this.

Six months later, I got a waitress position & again, said I could work every Friday & Saturday but never on Sunday.  (Worked out GREAT for me – best tip nights!)  Nobody else wanted to work both weekend evenings so I always got them & it was never a problem.  I believe God WANTS to prove Himself in just these kinds of moments!  (Think Daniel & the lion’s den, Shadrach & friends, etc.)  I believe He GIVES us these moments.  Too often, we fail because we are too afraid of looking different, standing against the crowds, etc.

News flash: We are CALLED out of darkness.  We are set apart!  (1 Peter 2:9 – “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar people, that ye should show forth the praises of Him who hath called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.”)  These “resolves” are what it means to be a “peculiar people”.  It is exciting!  It is a little risky.  Sometimes it’s a lot risky.  We have to depend on the Holy Spirit to lead in each unique situation.  It looks different for each person.  That makes it hard to teach or talk about.  One family may feel led to never go out to eat or shop or even buy gas on Sundays – to do so causes others to have to work on a day they wouldn’t dare.  Another family may feel it best to take an electronic fast to set the day apart.  Or maybe even a food fast (vs. fast food!) on that day.  Or making simple meals to minimize food prep.  Some have used the Sabbath principle to start the night before – setting aside sundown Saturday to sundown Sunday.  To impose each other’s leadings/leanings on another is Pharisaical.  We want to love, love, love, love, LOVE, not divide & put each other under man made laws.

But I do want to challenge each family who loves the Lord to really wrestle with & pray about what God is calling them to do about this issue, and may I suggest you start with Hebrews 10:24 & 25.  Have you noticed how MANY times God talks about setting the Sabbath apart in the OT?  It is perhaps the most mentioned commandment.  And He is serious about it!  There are blessings & curses associated with honoring it or not.  (See a few links here if you’re interested.)  It was & is a pretty obvious way God assigned His people to be different.  Other nations worked for their own gain all week.  They didn’t give a thought to what God said to do or how to live.  We, God’s people, are supposed to be different here.  (Ezekiel 20:19-21 – “I am the Lord your God; walk in my statutes, and be careful to obey my rules,and keep my Sabbaths holy that they may be a sign between me and you, that you may know that I am the Lord your God. But the children rebelled against me. They did not walk in my statutes and were not careful to obey my rules, by which, if a person does them, he shall live; they profaned my Sabbaths.”)

I hear you…  “That’s Old Testament” you say.  “We’re under grace so get out of my face!” you say.  “The Sabbath was Saturday & we celebrate on Sundays now” you say.  Okay.  SO DO IT.  Celebrate Sundays.  SET THEM APART.  Make them holy.  Whatever that means for you & your family.  DO IT.  Stop twisting into pretzels with excuses as to why you’re out there & not in church on Sunday mornings.  Stop so easily giving in to the world’s squeeze on making it just like any other day.  Stop using Colossians 2:16 as a crutch & add a little Hebrews 13:8 & Malachi 3:6 in there.  Let this be the year you commit to setting God’s Day apart & see what He does with it.  “If MY PEOPLE, who are called by MY name… THEN I will heal your land.”  (2 Chronicles 7:14)   I know this is talking about prayer, but it applies in that it speaks of God’s people getting their act together THEN God heals lands.  (Don’t even get me started on the current state of (way too often anemic) prayer meetings in the American Church these days.)  I’m praying this is the year the American Church gets real about holiness; gets out of the muck & gets set apart as intended.

Imagine an American Church Body that looks different, is set apart, holy.  May it be so, Lord!  The world’s waiting…


Peace

Peace = “Proving that you care more about others than winning an argument.”

Romans 14:19
“So let us do all we can to live in peace. And let us work hard to build each other up.”

What a perfect virtue to have at the front of our minds in the month of August!! Our family is blessed with many strong & unique personalities, but with the blessing comes a challenge to teach them how to get along. The last few months, the boys have been pestering each other something fierce; no doubt the result of a few months of 24/7 togetherness & not much scheduling = summer! But it is also a wonderful time to “work it out” – focus on teaching them HOW to get along & love one another vs. just gutting it out until they can give each other space again. Thus peace, this month’s virtue, is really an answer to prayer. We’ve been praying for them more intently & this month’s Bible lessons really helps to zero in on a few things.

From a mother’s perspective, I told the boys I can see both of them changing & trying to love the other. The problem is, they are not doing it at the same time! When one tries to love & go the extra mile, the other takes advantage of the moment & gets extra irritating to the other. Then that brother feels guilty, tries to love & go the extra mile & the first brother decides he’s had enough & starts letting the other brother have it. And so it’s gone the last couple weeks. I told them both they will BOTH have to “go the extra mile” a LOT longer than they think they should have to & when they both do, eventually they’ll surprise themselves & meet each other’s best sides. And then there will be peace. And the whole family will rejoice. And I bet they’ll like it well enough to try to keep it up for longer than 5 seconds. (Well, one can pray for that, can’t one?)

My favorite lesson from this month is Isaac & the wells from Genesis 26. I’ve heard one sermon on that story from SM Davis years ago called “Dig Another Well’ & it sure has stuck with me. So, that’s kind of the Momma mantra I’m on these days. “Sometimes you’ve got to drop it – nobody’s winning here. Sometimes you’ve got to leave well enough alone. Don’t start it!! Seek peace & pursue it…” You get the idea. Anyway, Reggie Joiner did it again with a fantastic overview video on the subject. If you’re in need of a pep talk on peace to pass on to your littles these days, here you go…

Matthew 5:9
“God blesses those who work for peace, for they will be called the children of God.”

Psalm 34:14
“Depart from evil & do good; seek peace & pursue it.”


Note to Self: Must. Keep. Repeating!

It never ceases to amaze me how fast my children forget things I thought I’d run into the ground. Take for example songs. My Mom & aunt & I were talking the other day about Zacchaeus & of course, the Wee Little Man song came up. Low and behold, I realized how LONG it’s been since we’ve sung that song! In fact, my six year old would probably say he doesn’t know that one. My older ones would know it, but there’s a new group of littles that need to learn it. With all the great new songs there are out there these days, often the classics get lost in the shuffle. The churches barely have time to teach songs as it is, and I’m finding when they do, it’s rarely the oldies but goodies. (Generally, those that teach the oldies don’t teach the great NEW songs out there!) And when they do, they relegate these songs to the 2 & 3 year olds & then the kids never hear them again.

That’s MY job. The travel time in the van, running errands around town, at the breakfast table, …those are the times to teach these great old children’s songs of the faith. So that got me thinking about making a “must know” list of songs I don’t want our kids to grow up without having in their memory banks. This will be another one of those lists that’ll be added to over time, but here’s a start:

Jesus Loves the Little Children
Jesus Loves Me
This Little Light of Mine
O, How I Love Jesus
I Will Make You Fishers of Men
Read Your Bible, Pray Every Day
The B-I-B-L-E
If Your Happy and You Know It
Go, Go Joshua
I’m In the Lord’s Army
O, Be Careful Little Hands
If I Were a Butterfly
God Made Me
Ten Spies Song
Wise Man Built His House Upon a Rock
Zacchaeus Was a Wee Little Man
Peter & John Went To Pray
Ho-Ho-Ho-Hosanna
I’ve Got the Joy Joy Joy Joy Down In My Heart
My God Is So BIG, So Strong and So Mighty
He’s Got the Whole World In His Hands
There Were 12 Disciples
The Trinity Song (God the Father…)

Which ones did I leave out?

Rise & Shine & Give God the Glory, Glory
Father Abraham (as much as I HATE that song, the kids always love it)
Joshua Fit the Battle of Jericho
Give Me Oil In My Lamp (and all the fun verses following…hot sauce for taco, gas for my Ford, etc.)
Oh You Can’t get to Heaven (followed by the many ways you can’t: on Superman, in a Kleenex box, with a nickle in your jeans, etc.)


Honesty

Figured in keeping with the rest of the year, I should probably mention that we are talking about Honesty this month. The reason I’m not as excited about this one is I don’t have a problem with it. At all. My problem is I am TOO honest usually. And so far, my kids haven’t really struggled with it much. They’re pretty straight with me, too. Anyway, here’s the video that goes with Honesty for your viewing. It’s excellent as always.

And just for fun, thought we could take a trip down memory lane together & listen to Stryper’s Honestly just because it keeps going through my head right now with all this honesty talk…

Ahhh, the 80’s. Fun times! Now back to your regularly scheduled blogging.


Valentine Thoughts

Today in 1st Half (Sunday School class), we talked about the awesomeness of being redeemed through the blood of Christ. Wow. Talk about love! When you stop & really think about our utter bondage to sin, and our freedom through Christ, it blows the mind. I was a slave to sin. Now I am FREE! FREE!! How long has it been since I really meditated on all that that means? I am free, not to dismiss the Law, but to live it out to the fullest. Not just keep from doing wrong things (do not commit murder, steal, lie, etc.) but to do as God does…be His reflection! Give of myself the way He has given Himself to me – sacrificially. This is how our joy becomes FULL. “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.” John 15:11,12 Even though that doesn’t make sense in our minds (to sacrificially love in order to have full joy) He made us & knows.

Galatians 5:13 – “For you, dear friends, have been called to live in freedom – not freedom to satisfy your sinful nature, but freedom to serve one another in love. For the whole law can be summed up in this one command: Love your neighbor as yourself.”

Nothing can separate us from His love! We can be totally secure in His love. And this is what He commands us to do for one another. LOVE. He shows us what it is, then sends us out to show the world. Lots to think about there.


Good Year So Far

petri-desserts
(Click on the picture to find out what this is.)

We are having so much fun this year in Club! For those of you (you know who you are) who have stumbled across this blog for “Fruit of the Spirit”, I post these links to consolidate a few posts from my ministry blog for you to glean ideas. I’ve tried to be faithful in posting what we’ve been doing for parents to be informed as well as for future reference, but seeing as how we haven’t covered faithfulness yet, I’ve missed a couple. Maybe during the faithfulness month I’ll go back & catch up.

So far, we’ve talked about love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, & goodness. For helps on the verses, go here for the love verse, here for joy, & here for patience.

One cool thing that was added over the snowy weeks in January (kindness was cut short due to all the missed weeks) are the links for hymns found in the column to the left on the Pass the Baton blog. Originally, I was going to get a CD made of our church pianist playing & perhaps me or a few others singing the hymns to give each family a copy of all nine hymns we are focusing on this year in conjunction with each fruit. Didn’t happen. MIDIs are second best, but at least an option.

The experiments have sure been fun. Now keep in mind, these were chosen for their fun factor & I kind of loosely added the hook to the fruit of the Spirit, so some are a bit of a stretch but fun, you have to admit. We added these to the schedule when we found the children were finishing up their awards choices in record time & we needed to keep them quiet for ten or fifteen minutes while the prayer & verse groups finished up. Another very good outcome of the experiments has been that every child takes home something on awards night, even those who forgot to bring their notebooks or who didn’t get any of the assignments completed for the month. We have a few kids with no support at home, so this is especially important for them…

For peace, we made beakers of goo. God can give us peace in the storms in our lives just like the liquid turned to solid. He is our solid when everything around us feels shaky. For patience we made insta-snow. Be patient – snow is coming! For kindness, we made sun bead bracelets. When we are kind, it changes everything around us. We can be cold & white, or warm & color our world around us with kindness. For goodness, we did the petri dish. (See the blog for the goodness connection.) For faith, I’m planning this, but on a much smaller scale obviously. It takes faith to walk on liquid & trust you won’t sink, just like Peter on the water looking to Jesus. For gentleness, we’ll fill test tubes with oil & water. This is a generic fruit experiment. Just as oil & water don’t mix, so blessing & cursing don’t come from the same mouth, And good & bad fruit don’t come from the same tree. And for self-control, we’ll fill large petri dishes with candy (or this) without eating any! Then they can take them home.

More links will be added as the year winds down. I hope to have all the fruit in this post with links at the end of the year.