Weekly Devotions for Families

Each Monday, I (Sara Hlava, Director of Children's Ministries at Immanuel Lutheran) will be sending a weekly devotion that focuses on the scripture that was used on worship on Sunday that you can do with your kids.  It will change from week to week, but may include videos, books, ideas to try at home, etc.  I would love any feedback you have or things your family is doing that we could share with others.

***These weekly family devotions were written by Sara Hlava.  This publication my be reproduced and shared.

1/15/18:  New Life

Good morning! Do you ever sit down with your kids and show them their baby pictures, tell them about the day you brought them home, talk about different things they did as they have grown?  I love doing that with my kids and they love hearing all about it.  Yesterday we talked about baptism, what it means and why it is so important.  If you missed yesterday, I highly recommend that you listen to Pastor’s sermon online – here is the link  www.immanuelloveland.org.  (Due to the holiday, it should be available later in the day on Tuesday or Wednesday.)  Take a moment and think about your own baptism.  Were you an infant, child or adult?  What special things happened on that day?  I was baptized as an infant and very few people witnessed it as there was a blizzard.  My grandpa insisted that we were not going to postpone it and my family, godparents, the Pastor and a few other brave souls celebrated with us that day.  I LOVE the fact that my Grandpa was not going to let a snow storm stand in the way of me getting baptized.  It is a reminder that with Christ we can overcome any storm.  Today, take some time and talk to your kids about their baptism, tell them about yours.  Talk to them about the significance of baptism, how it means we are part of God’s family, that we have the Holy Spirit with us, how our sins were washed away and we were given new life.  Be intentional this year to celebrate their baptism as you would their birthday (yours too!)  Have cake and ice cream, look at pictures, light their candle and celebrate the gift we are given through baptism!

If you and/or your child have not yet been baptized, I want to encourage you to talk to Pastor, He will be happy to answer any questions or concerns you have.  You can reach him at gschlecht@immanuelloveland.org or 970-667-4506 or just respond to this email and I will be happy to help set that up.

1/8/18:  Shine!

I love to get up early!  I love to sit, work and drink my coffee as the rest of the world sleeps.  (or at least in my house)  I love seeing the sun come up.  Especially here in Colorado as the sun comes up, the rays from the east glistens the mountains as to say good morning.  I could watch it everyday!    As I sit here and write, I can’t help but to reflect on yesterday’s lessons during Sunday school and the sermon.  The elementary kids learned about Jesus being rejected.  I think it’s a safe bet to say that we all have been rejected by someone sometime in our life.  I bet you can picture those people right now.  When we let it, darkness can overshadow the light in our life.  This is why we must give our darkness over to God.  Only He can overpower the darkness.   The Bridge 56 class watched the story of Corrie Ten Boom.  (I think I mentioned it last week, but if you haven’t read The Hiding Place, I highly recommend it.  It tells the story of Corrie and her family hiding the Jews during WWII until they were eventually captured and imprisoned.)  During WWII, Corrie experienced darkness, not knowing when her next meal would come, if she would ever sleep in a bed without fleas, if she would ever see her family again, if today was her last day.  Her only comfort and hope was Jesus and she literally kept Him close to her heart – her bible was kept in her shirt and she read it and she shared it everyday.  It was her light in what seemed like total darkness.   As adults we all have walked through darkness of some sort, maybe it is death, illness, rejection of a spouse or a loved one, addiction, the list could go on and on.  But during these dark time, there is one constant – Jesus.  He is always there, we must hold him close to our heart and even during those very darkest times, His light will be there.  Maybe it will show itself to you through a friend, through a devotion, through a complete stranger, through His Word.  Do kids experience darkness?  Absolutely, it’s the unfornate reality of this sinful world.  Kids deal with a lot.  Through a number of devotions, I have heard about their darkness, dealing with rejection from their friends, dealing with divorce, dealing with death, dealing with expectations of themselves, and the list goes on.  How do we show the kids the light?  We show them Jesus!  One of the things that struck me in The Hiding Place, is that Corrie’s dad read the bible with the everynight and the one thing that kept her going and brought Corrie the most comfort during the darkest times, were the same words she heard over and over again as a little girl and those same words she shared with those around her.  What a gift her father passed onto her!  This year be intentional about sharing that gift with your children.  As the sun comes up and glistens the mountains each morning, your children (and you too!) will always have an opportunity to brighten someone else’s day, let’s do it with Jesus!

12/18/17:  Gifts

Yesterday the kids told the Christmas story during the service – what a gift it was to hear it from them.  The program was focused around gifts, the gifts that God has given us:  Light, Joy, Peace, Forgiveness, Life and Jesus.  Can you think of any better gifts to give?  We spend a lot of time, money and energy to try and find that perfect gift for someone and that is ok, it’s a good thing.  But I want to challenge you with this.  Think about the light, the joy, the peace, the forgiveness, the life and Jesus and what that means for your life.  How would your life be different if you didn’t have those gifts?  Now think about the time and energy you put into finding those gifts to others.  This Christmas ask God who He wants you to gift with the light, joy, peace, forgiveness, life and Jesus – and pour your time and energy sharing these gifts with them.  These gifts never run out, they never get old… share them!

12/14/17:  Watch!

Ready or not, Christmas is on its way and it will be here soon!  What are you looking forward to this Christmas?  Is there a particular gift, person, meal that you are looking forward to?  Maybe it is one of our wonderful Christmas services?  Maybe you are not looking forward to it at all.  It may bring memories of loved ones not here, maybe you are away from family, maybe the hustle and bustle of Christmas is just too overwhelming this year.  Maybe you are experiencing a little bit of all of these.  Yes, Christmas can incorporate a number of things and usually it means a variety of emotions.  I sometimes wonder what God thinks of our Christmas celebrations now.  We pour so much time and effort into making it “perfect”, then it is over and in all our busyness, have we really celebrated the birth of our Savior?  Have I spent any time telling people why we are celebrations?  It can be hard slowing down and just remembering why we are celebrating.  Yesterday, the season of advent started – the time we prepare for Jesus – here again at Christmas, we prepare for His second coming and we celebrate His coming today.  How can we fully embrace this time to celebrate Jesus?  Yesterday, we focused about watching.  Watching for God and all He has done and we discussed a number of ways of doing that.  A few examples from worship:  staying in scripture, praying, reflecting on your life (or even just your day), journaling your “God sightings”, sharing our stories, worshiping together and serving – allowing God to work through you and more.  This season I want to encourage you and your family to take some time, be intentional in putting Jesus in the center of your celebrations.  Are you making cookies?  Take a plate to a neighbor and put a card on it that says Happy Birthday, Jesus!  Have a birthday party for Jesus.  Read the Christmas story.  (My kids love acting it out.)  Sing Christmas carols in the car as you drive around and look at Christmas lights.  Find ways that you can watch for Jesus all year long – Watch and look forward to all that He will reveal to you!

11/20/17:  What have you earned today?

I don’t know about your kids, but mine were super excited to receive their $10 to bless someone yesterday in worship.  Two out of the three had a plan right away of how they were going to bless someone, one we are still working on the lesson.  J  As I sit back and reflect on yesterday’s lesson, the question that was posed sticks in my mind, what are our indulgences today?  We know that we can’t earn our way into heaven, but what are we trying to earn and at what cost?  My son loves to play on the computer, he has to do additional chores (not just what his daily responsibilities are) to earn screen time.  The reward is worth the effort.  It is easy to put forth the effort when the reward is right in front of you or almost immediate.  It’s when it takes a lot of time and effort and the rewards seem far reaching, that it hardly seems worth it.  If you don’t believe me, start an exercise program, seeing results and maintaining the results are very difficult.  So what does this have to do with Jesus.  If you are discipling someone, chances are they are not going to listen to you one time and then become a Christian.  It will probably take a lot of time and in a lot of cases, you may never know what will happen with this person.  So why do we do it, is there anything in it for us?  We already know that we are going to heaven, so what difference does it make?  What if no one ever told you about Jesus?  Where would your life be?  What a great gift you received!  You are here to also gift someone.  You can’t give someone faith, only the Holy Spirit can do that, but we can plant the seed.  The gift of eternal life that we have been given, is really a radical idea and contrary to what we think it should be.  So be radical today, go share Jesus, go bless someone without expecting anything in return.  Your kids will be watching, teach them to give, to be generous without reward

11/13/17:  Jam Packed

What hat are you wearing right now?  Are you a parent?  An employee?  A sibling?  A caretaker?  We all wear a lot of different hats, God has given us enormous responsibility.  Imagine for a moment you are sitting at work, picture the sounds, the smells, how you feel… now picture Jesus walking into your office or up to your desk and He says “Come follow Me!” and away you go to follow Him.  If you are like me, it probably would not be that simple.  You would have a ton of questions… “where exactly are we going?  How long are we going to be gone?  Is there food there?  I need to take care of x, y & z before I can go anywhere.”  In Mark 1:-18 it reads::  “As Jesus walked beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen.  Come, follow me, Jesus said, and I will make you fishers of men.”  At once they left their nets and followed him.”  Did you catch it “at once”  Can you imagine?  Just getting up and leaving… most of us cannot imagine, but that is what they did.  I have a friend a couple of years ago she felt God was telling her it was time to move from her current job and do something different.  So she quit her job and started asking God to open the door that He wanted her to go through.  Here’s the deal, she is a single woman who owned her own home.  For most of us this would be terrifying, but she trusted God.  It took a few months, but God did open another door, but it this door took her 700 miles from Colorado, 700 miles away from her friends and family but she felt that is where God wanted her and so she accepted the job.  She put her house on the market and it sat and it sat and it sat.  It took a long time, but it finally sold.  She had to sell it at a price that was below what she wanted for it and with the closing cost, she couldn’t “afford” to sell it.  But she insisted that God would provide and soon she was called into her bosses office and she was told as part of her moving package she received a bonus for x amount.  This amount just happened to be the exact amount down to the penny of what she needed to close on her house.  Wow!  God is good!  Why do I share this story?  Jesus is going to call us out of our comfort zone and we need to trust Him.  We wear different hats and I know for me, sometimes I don’t trust Jesus enough to trust Him to take care of those other hats if He is calling me to another area.  The disciples trusted, dropped everything and followed Him. How would it feel to have faith like that?  Wouldn’t you love to see your kids have that kind of faith?  To trust Jesus with every detail of your life is not just going to have a huge impact on your life, but the lives around you.  My same friend has a number of stories that she can share about how God has worked in her life and asked her to “follow Him”.  It is inspiring to me.  The next time Jesus says, “Follow Me” share your story.  Share these stories with your children, allow them to see Jesus in your life!

10/30/17:  Be Bold - Nail it!

Yesterday, one of the youth wore a t-shirt with Martin Luther’s picture on it and it was captioned “Nailed It”!  It was pretty awesome!  I would love to know if she wore it outside of church and if it opened any conversations with people.  As we celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Reformation and  I think of Martin Luther the word that comes to my mind is “Boldness”.  By nailing the 95 thesis on the church door, calling out the leaders of the time, all the while knowing that he could end up in prison or even be put to death for his actions.  I put myself into Luther’s shoes… would I have been brave enough to stand up, to say anything?  God revealed the truth to him, we are saved by grace through faith.  Martin Luther had faith, he was already saved – he could have went on his way, not rocked the boat, not risked his life and still received eternal life.  Have you ever had a feeling of unrest?  There was something stirring in you that you knew action had to be taken?  I cannot speak to how Luther was feeling, but I know that feeling.  Ok, I have never nailed 95 thesis to the church door or went on trial for speaking out.  But I have felt that nudge.  It is the nudge of the Holy Spirit – do this, say this… I also admit there have been plenty of times that I have ignored the nudge or tried to because of fear, fear of what others might think, fear of committing myself to one more thing, fear that I may be wrong.. the list goes on and on.  I wonder what fears Martin Luther felt, I wonder what he was wrestling with?   What is God nudging you towards?  I want to encourage you to BE BOLD!  Be bold and let the Holy Spirit work through you!  We celebrate Reformation today, because Luther was bold.  We will celebrate eternal life someday with our Father in heaven because Jesus was bold.  I don’t know what the next 500 years will look like, I don’t know what the Holy Spirit is nudging you with or your children with.  But don’t be afraid, the war is already won!  Be Bold with your faith – Nail it!

10/19/17:  The Word

In the book, Jesus Centered Life by Rick Lawrence, Rick writes “I had experienced transformation through a deepening relationship with and dependence on the person of Jesus, not by trying harder to be a better Christian.” – To me that statement reinforces why it is so important to be in the Word.  God reveals Himself through the Word.  He wants a relationship with us and that is how we get to hear from God Himself, we get to find out who He is.  But this doesn’t only apply to those of us who are old enough to read, it applies even to the youngest of our children.  In fact, if we can get our children into the habit of being in the Word everyday at a young age, it will become something they “just do”, not ever saying “I should do…”  Bedtime stories are a great way.  There are so many great children’s bibles out there, just grab one and make it part of your nightly routine.  If your children are a little older, let them practice reading it to you.  Play videos in your car.  The “What’s in the Bible” series is awesome for kids of all ages.  Let your kids see you reading the bible. Talk about what you read with them.  As they go deeper in their relationship with Christ, watch them be transformed by Him.  Watch your relationship be transformed through Him. 

10/2/17:  Fearless Living

Fearless living.  This is an area where we can learn from our kids.  Kids seem to live pretty fearlessly, not worrying if they are going to succeed or fail, what others will think of them, if they have time, is this really their spiritual gift, etc.  Kids just do it!  They share Jesus because they love Jesus and they want others to love Him too!  These are the same reasons that adults share Jesus, but something happens as we get older.  We worry, we make excuses, we let our fear control our choices.  We are called by God to live fearlessly.  He says GO and make disciples! He tells us to be strong and courageous.  He tells us we can do all things through HIM!  So how do we embrace the fearlessness that our kids have to share Jesus?  How do we capture it and make sure they don’t lose it?  We have to live fearlessly ourselves.  They have to see us outside our comfort zone, they have to see us sharing Jesus – even when we don’t want to.  How are you living fearlessly today?  What are you going to do tomorrow? How will your life look different a year from now?  Live out your faith and live out your faith fearlessly and be amazed by our awesome God!!

9/25/17:  Transformational Learning

When you hear the word transform, what comes to your mind?  For me, transformation means not just a simple change that can be reversed, but a permanent change.  Pastor used the example of a caterpillar transforming into a butterfly, once it is a butterfly it will never be a caterpillar again.  I think about transformational learning a lot in children’s ministry.  We throw a lot of information at our kids, we teach them the bible stories a number of different ways – reading the bible to them, sharing the bible stories with them, crafts, songs, object lessons, skits, involving them in worship, bringing them to church events where they are exposed to God’s word.  But for transformational learning to happen, for kids to understand the bible, know God and incorporate into every facet of their lives, it takes even more.  I know as a parent writing that sentence feels overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be.  It is a huge responsibility, but please know that you are not alone.  You have heard me say it before, but we are here to partner with you.  On Sunday’s we offer our Kids’ Rock program, where we worship together through song and learn the bible story and then we break out into our small groups to dive into the lesson even further at an age appropriate level.  Learning is taking place, but how do we turn that into transformational learning.  We have to keep learning it through the week. We will send home take home sheets, which I will also email out to you on Mondays.  I encourage you to at a minimum review the lesson with your child.  I keep them in my car and we talk about them in the car.  Kids learn by repetition and think about your own walk, how many times have you heard the same bible lesson and God revealed something new to you – God will do the same for your kids.  Our midweek program is two- fold, we teach the bible stories (by the way this year we are walking through the children’s bible “Friends with God” where they tell the bible stories in first person, so on Wednesday I am going into character – the kids have loved it!)  Second we focus strongly on relationships.  Their relationship with God, with their peers and with other adults.  You have also heard this from me before, but having other adults in your child’s life, especially as they get older, is a crucial element to faith formation.  Another way we partner with you is by involving your children in worship.  Children are an important part of our faith community and need to know they are an important part.  In the book stickyfaith, there are a number of statistics and personal stories that showed those kids who stayed in the faith felt they were part of a strong community, a place where they always felt welcomed and included.  Inter-generational ministry is another crucial element in faith formation.  Also as parents we are the biggest faith influencers in our children’s life, share what we learn with them.  Don’t be afraid to share your struggles, let them see your reliance on God.  The world is going to try to teach our kids that if you are struggling, you must be doing something wrong, you are weak, but as Christians God is made strong in our weakness.  Share how God is working in your life.  So which way produces transformation in our kids (or in our own lives)?  It’s not one thing, it’s God working through all these things and more.  Sometimes transformation can be painful, keep fighting and unlike the butterfly, know that God will keep transforming you into the person He wants you and your children to be.

9/18/17: Radical Hospitality

Yesterday we talked about radical hospitality and a number of different ways you can show it.  Ironically, yesterday I was the recipient of radical hospitality.  As we were leaving for Sunday School,  I loaded the kiddos up jumped in the van, turned the key and nothing.  I tried it again – nothing.  Praise the Lord we have another vehicle and we all jumped in and off we went.  Mike (the husband) is out of town and has our portable charger, so when I got to church I asked around to see if anyone else  had one.  No one had one, but Blake said no worries, he would come over we would push the car out and jump start it and low and behold my van was running that afternoon!  Now it was a beautiful Sunday afternoon and the Broncos were dominating  playing  the Cowboys.  Blake could have gone to the lake, taken a nap or watch the Broncos win, but he chose to take some time out of his day and help me out.  How awesome that God was able to show me an example of radical hospitality.  And one of the best things from this whole experience was my kids who said, “Wow, that was really nice of Mr. Blake.”  My kids witnessed radical hospitality and as you show radical hospitality your kids will too.  This week pray about opportunities to show radical hospitality to others, with your kids find ways that you can share Jesus with your actions.  For those who missed on Sunday, I want to encourage you to go to Immanuel’s website and listen to the sermon.  Mike Z. gave a powerful testimony of how radical hospitality impacted him and his faith.  God is mighty and can work through so much, let Him work through you!!!  Have a great week!  

 

9/11/17: Loving, Learning & Living

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind and, love your neighbor as yourself.” (Luke 10:27) –  Sounds easy, right?? I read this joke once where a woman was praying and her prayer went something like this:  Dear Lord, so far today I have not yelled, swore, complained, lied, gotten mad at someone, etc…, but I will be getting out of bed soon and really could use your help.”  I chuckled, but there is a sad reality to that prayer.

“Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” (Romans 12:2)  As Christians we have been commanded to live a different life than what the world would have us live.  To be transformed by the renewing of your mind – by the renewing of your mind – renew.  This is a process, it is not a one time event, but an ongoing transformation that we must continually focus on.

  “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.  And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age”. (Matthew 28:19-20).  GO!  We have also been commanded to GO and MAKE disciples.  God doesn’t say, “if you have time” “when you are comfortable”, He says GO and He also says “I am with you always”

On Sunday, we talked about the mission, vision and focus here at Immanuel.  Does this mean everything is going to change around here – no.  Does it mean nothing is going to change around here – no.  We are in another phase of our transformation.  We are being very intentional to carry out the work that Christ has commanded us to do.  We are being very intentional to show radical hospitality both within our community of faith and to our community at large.  We kicked off with our Free Lunch – Really.  We had over 500 people attend.  That is amazing.  I saw a lot of conversations happening, I saw a lot of excitement.  We have a world that is connected by technology, but the personal connection that people crave is becoming lost.  We have to be intentional about building relationships with others.  We have to be intentional about finding out what their needs are, so we can best help them.  Yes, this requires something from us and from them as a lot of people do not like to ask for help.  We live in a world where we are supposed to be able to handle it ourselves.  But we have to remember that God did not call us to conform to the world, but to be transformed.  You might be asking transformed into what? – Into becoming more and more Christ-like.  We are sinners and we will never achieve it, but the more we know Christ the more we can become like Him.  And then we take Jesus and we share Him.  Last week we talked about being a missionary right here in our own community.  We have to go and share the gospel.  During a bible study somebody posed the question:  “If you had the cure for cancer, what would you do?” – You would share it right?  Then she continued, we have the cure for death.  We have Jesus and we need to share Him! 

What about the kids?  Can they do this?  Absolutely!  Kids tend to do this more naturally than adults.  Kids are chained to the shackles of worrying about what others might think or if they know enough or if they have time to invest in someone.  They just go for it and we as adults we can just go for it to because the Holy Spirit will be with us every step of the way.  I’m excited to see what God is going to do through all of us, kids and adults alike.!  

9/5/17:  GO!

I grew up in a small country church in eastern Nebraska and just like on Sunday, we would have missionaries come and speak to us.  I was fascinated by their journeys and loved listening to their stories.  Their stories had all the good makings of a best selling novel or movie and unfornately that is how I thought about missionaries.  I never really saw them as “real” people, but as these superstar Christians that have a status that us “normal” people will never achieve.  I could not have been more wrong.  Oversea missionaries are people just like you and I.  They are not superstar Christians, they are Christians whose purpose is to go into other countries and share their love of Jesus.  Webster defines a missionary as a person undertaking a mission and especially a religious mission.  Please note, that location, age, gender, social standing, etc. is not included in the definition.  We are all missionaries form the very youngest to the very oldest, we have all been sent on a mission to share Jesus.  So what is your assignment, what mission has God put you on?  What mission have your kids been put on? Sharing Jesus is not easy, whether it is at our work, at the grocery store, a community where most don’t know Jesus, in your own family or overseas, it requires us to step out of our comfort zone, it requires us to lean on Jesus that he will give us the words and the opportunities, it requires the prayers and the support of other Christians.  This week I want to encourage to you share your story with your children, share with them your struggles, your victories and how God was with you every step of the way on your mission.  Empower your children, find and encourage opportunities to let them share Jesus. Pray together for other Christians, support our overseas missionaries, with your words and if you feel led, your financial support as a family.  Now Go!  Share Jesus! “ This is your mission, if you choose to accept it…” (ok, I stole that last phrase from the movie Mission Impossible)  Have a great week!

8/28/17:  Rest Time

So I have a confession to make.  A couple of years ago I was attending a women’s retreat and the topic was all about Sabbath and resting in God.  Unfornately, I think I missed most of the lesson as I shut down pretty quickly as she talked about really finding time to rest in the Lord.  She talked about how on Sundays she didn’t touch electronics or do chores.  I thought to myself “that must be nice”.  I missed the whole point because I was too caught up in thinking about my “to do” list and her crazy suggestions that just don’t fit into my life at this time.  I went home that weekend and instead of feeling refreshed, I felt like I had just added more to my list of things to do.  But one point did stick, she used the illustration of a gas tank  - a car doesn’t run on empty and neither can we.  I knew I was trying to run on empty, the Holy Spirit really convicted me.  I just didn’t know what to do about it and it is something I continue to struggle with.  I attended worship each Sunday, but my kids were young and my focus was often on them and I felt like I was more of a distraction to everyone.  I remember after one service I had an older lady in the congregation come up to me and said “oh I just love seeing your kids in worship each week! They bring me so much joy!”  At this point I was on the verge of tears and all I could do was smile and say thank you. I was hoping she would offer to sit with them during the service, but that didn’t happen.  My point is we are in a season that is hard to find rest, but just like a car can’t run on empty, we can’t either and our kids need us.  As parents we are the number one faith influencer in our child’s life.  So what are some ways that we can find rest and “re-fuel”?  Here are some that have worked for me or I know that others do.  If you are finding yourself struggling to find that Sabbath.  Please don’t put this off.  I know I always thought “when my kids get older, it will be easier.”  Sorry to burst your bubble, but as kids get older, it doesn’t get easier, you are not less busy.  It brings a new set up challenges and a new set of busyness.  I keep saying this, but we are the examples, the bible tells us why it is important to rest in the Lord, we can help teach our kids the how.  Have a great week!  The list is below.  If you have ways that help you stay rested, I would love to hear them! 

  • Commit to attending worship each week – if focusing on the entire service is difficult, choose one portion and just really focus your energy on it
  • Find a group bible study, if you can’t get away from work or your kids, there are a number of online studies that you can do at your own pace
  • Read the bible to/with your kids – talk about it with them
  • Sing worship songs with your kids – you can do this while doing dishes, laundry, car
  • Pray first thing in the morning, with your kids on the way to school or to get groceries
  • Download devotional podcasts on your phone – listen in your car or while you take a walk – Pastor’s sermons are also available online
  • Read a short devotional first thing in the morning
  • Set timers throughout the day to remember to pray
  • Journal – write out your prayers
  • Keep working on your “God sighting” jars

8/21/17:  #1

Good morning, I don’t know about you, but I love my “me time”.   I cherish those moments and always try to make the most of them, it can be hard though as it almost always seems there is something else I should be doing.  On Sunday we focused on the first commandment “you shall have no other gods – we should fear, love and trust in God above all things.”  As I reflect on that, it makes me wonder what are my other gods?  Is it my husband, children, job, busyness, my “me time”?  If I’m honest, yes at times, it could be those things and other things I have not mentioned.  Life is busy.  That is not going to change, so how do we and how do teach our kids to make God #1 in our lives?  Do we have to give up everything?  No, everything we have are gifts from God, even our own lives, we were created to be in relationship with God and to glorify God.  Are we spending time with God each day?  A couple of years ago while we were at LVR (Lutheran Valley Retreat), I noticed the DCE always reading his bible outside.  We somehow got to talking about that and he said he always did it so the counselors would see him spending time with God each day.  Throughout the week, I would notice counselors would also be having their quiet time where their  kids could see them.  They were being examples.  That is how we have to be to our kids.  They need to see us in the word.  Kids need to see their parents praying together.  We need to be intentionally putting God first in all things.  And sometimes it does mean we have to change something or give up something to make sure God is first in our lives and our children’s lives.  Making God number one in our lives, everyday is not easy.  Making God number one in our kids lives, is not easy.  But all those things competing with that top spot, are temporary,  Jesus is forever. 

8/14/17:  Temptation

Good morning!!  On Sunday our youth taught on temptation.  It was great hearing their personal testimonies as to how they handle temptation.  Temptation is something we can not protect our kids from, they are tempted, just as we are, everyday.  What I like about kids is the honesty that comes with temptations.  When Ella decides that she is going to do something, something that she knows she is not supposed to do and is caught her response to “Why did you do that?” is almost always “because I wanted to.”  The hard thing about temptation is that the thing we are always tempted with seems really good at the time or somehow worth the risk if we get caught.  Our kids are growing up in a world of instant gratification.  Think about your own life.  What brings you the most joy? Satisfaction?  Sense of accomplishment?  I would guess that these things have not come without hard work, patience, perseverance, etc.  During those times how easy would it have been to quit, give up, try to figure out an easier path?  We talked about forgiveness a couple weeks ago?  Is it easier to forgive or just “ignore” the situation?  Is it easy to find time to do a devotion?  Is it easy to invite a non-believer to church?  Is it easy to talk about your faith?  Is it easy to be Christ-like driving down I-25 on game day?  We have to teach our kids how to handle temptation.  Unfornately that does not mean “do as I say, not as I do”.  We have to stay in the word and know when temptation is upon us, we have to know if we are being trapped in the “temptation box” – our children are watching and they will call you out.  If you don’t believe me, try eating a cookie in front of them before dinner. :)

7/24/17:  Live It Out!

Have you ever been helping your child with their homework and they ask “Why do I have to know this, I’m never going to use it!”.  Have  you ever read a self help book and then said “if only I applied it.”  On Sunday, we talked about “Kingdom Living” and for this devotion, I’m going to focus on Colossians 1:9-14.  Paul was writing to the Christians in Colossae.  They were new Christians, they had began to follow Christ but didn’t really understand what that all entailed.  Paul was the perfect teacher.  Even when Paul was Saul, He knew Jesus but He didn’t know what following Him meant.  What did Paul pray for?

  • Complete knowledge of His will
  • Spiritual wisdom & understanding
  • That their lifestyle would always honor and please the Lord
  • That they will produce good fruit
  • Strength with God’s glorious power
  • Endurance and patience
  • Joy
  • Thankfulness for being rescued

Paul knew it was going to be a hard road ahead for him and for the early Christians.  Today, not much has changed.  Christians are still being persecuted, there is a tremendous amount of pressure to conform to the ways of the world.  Our children are not excluded from this.  But we can give them the tools they need to live as a follower of Christ.  As parents/guardians we are the number one faith influencer in our children’s lives, how we choose to live will influence our children.  We have to take that responsibility seriously.  We have to pray for our children as Paul prayed for the Colossians.  We have to share the knowledge of Jesus and help them learn what it means to apply it to their life.  Talk with your kids about why you make some of the decisions that you do.  When they have decisions to make, pray with them.  You can do this even with smaller children, the request might be for something small, but it will teach them to pray about everything and really consider what God wants them to do.  Live out your faith!  

7/10/17:  Hanging On

This past week I had the privilege of bring 20 kids to Lutheran Valley Retreat.  As part of their ignite program, they require a group leader to stay the week, which is awesome because I get to experience camp right along with the kids.  My mornings are spent with different groups of kids going on hikes, archery, fishing, bouldering, etc.  While camp is fun, they also really challenge the kids to get out of their comfort zone and into their challenge zone or what I like to call the growth zone.  One day the 11-13 year olds had the opportunity to do the high ropes course.  I don’t know how high this course is, but I do know it’s higher than anything I’ve ever been on.  Anyway, I was very impressed.  The kids harnessed up and jumped in line ready to conquer the course.  The instructors explained how everything worked and showed them that even if they fell, the harness would catch them.  They went through all the safety checks to ensure that everything was safe and ready to go.  As the kids went up, their outlook changed.  The reality of the wire being so high off the ground, the unstableness of the wire, the length between the ropes that they had to grab completely overwhelmed the kids and at the point most of the kids wanted to be let down and all they would have had to do was let go and lean back and the safety ropes and the instructors at the bottom would have lowered them to the ground safe and sound.  Here’s the thing, they wouldn’t let go, they hung onto to the rope because it was the only thing at that point that made them feels safe.  Our lives with Jesus are often like that.  Faith is the rope that keeps us safe, Jesus is always holding the other end of that rope.  Yes, in our journey we are going to fall, we are going to be scared and that’s ok, because we have Jesus to pick us back up to encourage us and to keep us safe.  After the kids completed the course, they were excited to go again and when they got up the second time – it was still scary, but there was a confidence that they could do it and they truly believed that they would be ok if they fell, because the safety ropes would really catch them.  On Sunday Pastor asked what made Jesus so awesome and the kids answered beautifully, they know that Jesus loves them, that He died for them, He will never leave them, He will forgive them, etc.  I know I write this in every devotion, but continue to point out they ways that Jesus is our rock, our anchor, our safety net, our provider, etc. it is easy to “know it”, but to experience it takes their faith to a whole new level.

If you or your child is going through a rough time, boldly ask Jesus for what you need and confidently know that He hears your prayers and has a plan for you.
If your cruising through life right now and all is good, thank God for it all and ask Him how you can bless someone else.
Continue to add to your God sighting jars, the more we see Jesus the more we learn to lean on Him and trust Him.

** Another assignment:  Last week I was reading Acts in my Jesus Centered Bible and the question was raised:  “How is a relationship with Jesus affected by the fact that we can’t see, touch, or audible hear Him?” – I encourage you to think about this and if you would like, please share your thoughts.  I had a 5 mile hike to think about it and I wrote my thoughts down to eventually share, but would love to hear yours.  

6/27/17:  He Provides

This devotion is a little late, hopefully your kids have been telling you all about VBS and how they were  made for a purpose.  I started writing this devotion on Sunday and I just couldn’t make it make sense and after a  couple of days at VBS and seeing first hand how God provides – I can’t help but share.  If there is anything that makes me worry, its VBS.  There are a lot of details to take care of and it is easy to allow the worry to take over.  I worry because I know I’m not capable, but I shouldn’t because God is.  When we turn to God ask Him to “give us this daily bread”  He will give us what we need.  Although sometimes what we think we need is not always what God knows we need. If we don’t always know what we need,  how do we teach our kids about God’s provision? 

The bible has countless number of stories that tell of God’s provision – read the stories to your kids – talk about them
Share your story!  Tell your kids ways that God has provided, write them down and keep them in your “God sighting” jar.
Pray with your child everyday.  Ask God to provide you with what you need for each day.
Don’t be afraid to stop in the moment and pray.  There was a time this school year, where I was in a rush and trying to get too much done in a short period of time.  I was feeling pretty frazzled and it was time to go and do devotions with the kindergartners.  I got there and sat down with them and just told them, I had a busy morning and asked them to pray with me before we started.  It was great, I felt refocused and it showed the kids that even big people need Jesus.   
Give to others in need, let God use you as the provider – make non-perishable food bags and keep them handy to give to those in need, volunteer at the Community Kitchen, etc.

My encouragement to you is to continue to help your child see how they fit into God’s story and a lot of that comes from reflection and recognizing how God is working in their life.  This is a very difficult concept for kids and it is easy not to do when you just don’t see them getting it.  But stick with it, as you point things out and share your sightings they will learn to reflect and recognize God in their life.  

6/12/17:  We're in this Together

Let’s get real this morning, how many of you have ever looked at your spouse after one of your kids misbehaved or just did something crazy and you looked at your spouse and said – that’s your child!  Ha ha.. Sometimes the reflection of ourselves through our kids is very humbling.  Let’s face it though, the statement about how it takes a village to raise a child has a lot of truth behind it.  What a gift God gave us when He gave us the gift of a community of faith.  We are not alone on this journey, we have each other to walk alongside through the difficult times and to celebrate the good times.  On Sunday, Pastor threw out the question “what is the first thing that comes to mind when you think “church”?   - Many different answers were given.. building, people, worship, Jesus, community, etc.  One thing that struck me, was if this question was asked outside of a church we may get many different answers.. hypocrites, outdated, irrelevant, intolerant, etc.  Our kids are growing up in a world that wants to silence Jesus, our kids are growing up in a world that operates in isolation and a longing to be a part of something.  So as parents we go against the tide and not only do we teach our kids about being part of a community, we value them as part of our faith community.  They are not the future of the church, they are the church – just as you and I are.

This week:

  • Intentionally take time and pray for others as a family
  • Intentionally seek out mentors for your kids  - at least 5 adults other than yourself that intentionally care and mentor your kids.
  • Talk to your kids about their perception of church – do they see church as a building or something bigger than themselves that they are actively a part of?  Don’t be afraid to ask even your preschoolers, you might be surprised at their response. 

**I also want to take this time to hold out an excellent resource “Stickyfaith” by Dr. Kara E. Powell & Dr. Chap Clark.  This book give practical ideas to build lasting faith in our kids.  Throughout the book one common theme is relationships and community.  As the authors interviewed young adults who stayed in the faith they often talked about having relationships with adults within their faith community.  One said he could not leave church without being stopped by 3-4 people asking how he was and what was going on in his life.  Others said they wish the church would have been more intentional about intergenerational ministry and valuing the youth.  Creating faith is not our job or even  something that we can do, but if we allow the Holy Spirit to work through us, He can do BIG things in the lives of our kids.

God has given us all a huge responsibility –to share Jesus!  As parents we also have a responsibility to not only teach who Jesus is to our children, but how to be his disciples.  Let’s use our individual gifts and the gifts of our faith community and together share Jesus!

6/5/17

When I came into work this morning and flipped over my daily scripture calendar this was the verse:  “ Jesus said, “With man it is impossible, but not with God.  For all things are possible with God.”  Mark 10:27 and what a perfect verse after yesterdays worship service.  Yesterday we celebrated Pentecost.  Simply put, Pentecost is the day the Holy Spirit came to the believers and they were able to share Jesus in a number of different languages and thousands came to Christ that day.  You can read the entire account in Acts 2:1-21.  Why is this important to us and our children?  We want them to know that through the Holy Spirit, we can do anything God asks us to do.  When Jesus ascended into heaven, He told his disciples they would receive the power of the Holy Spirit and that they would be His witnesses.  In an excerpt in the Jesus-Centered Bible, they refer to this as the Holy Baton Handoff here it is: 

6/5/17:  Acts 2- The Holy Baton Handoff

Elite track teams spend hours practicing the handoff of the baton – the crucial make-or-break moment in a successful relay race.  After Jesus dies, is resurrected, spends time with the disciple, and ascends into heaven, there is a brief time when the early Christians are on their own while a holy baton handoff is in the works.  On the day of Pentecost, because Jesus is no longer walking among them in the flesh to encourage and empower, God gives the Holy, another facet of the Trinity, another part of God’s own self, to the people to fill them and equip them to represent God on earth – to be the church.  Pentecost is often celebrated as the birthday of the church – not of any particular congregation, but as a living representation of Jesus on earth.  It reminds us of the holy handoff – and the responsibility we have to be the hands and feet of Jesus on earth. 

My encouragement this week is talk to your kids about Pentecost and what it is.   Here is a great clip from the creator of Veggie Tales:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xtokHQOmFu0   Here another video for the older kiddos:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gwuAeDHLDFc

Talk to your kids about their baptism and how they have received the gift of the Holy Spirit.
Talk to them about things that you have done with the help of the Holy Spirit.  If you started your “God Sighting” jar from last week, add your story and review your sightings from last week.
Pray together about something you can do as a family to be the hands and feet of Jesus.  Then do it.  I would love to hear your story.

It would have been easy for Jesus to stay on earth, but He didn’t -  he called His disciples to be His witnesses.  He has called us and He has called our children.  Let’s teach our children to see the Holy Spirit work in their lives, so as they grow and mature in their faith we will successfully (with the help of the Holy Spirit) pass the “Holy Baton” to them and together we can be the hands and feet of Jesus.

5/30/17:  Bringing it Home

On Sunday, we focused on 1 Peter 4:12-19.  It is a great launching point into the summer teaching us the importance of being in scripture and trusting God, even during the tough times in our lives.  Scripture tells us as Christians we will have suffering, we will have trials.  We talked about Satan.  Satan is real.  Satan is at work.  He will stop at nothing to try to keep us from sharing Jesus, from knowing Jesus.  And he does not care how old we are, he will come after our children also.  So as parents – what do we do? We can not shelter or hide them, we must teach them to trust the one that has already defeated Satan.  We must arm them with the full armor of God – daily.  How do we do this?  We pray, we ask God to help teach our children, we pray over them asking for God’s protection and provision, we pray that their hearts and minds are open to hearing about Him, we pray that they know, love and trust in God, we pray that they turn to Him in every circumstance, we pray, pray and pray some more. But we don’t stop there, we teach our kids the scriptures, we teach our kids with our actions and how we live our lives.  Yes, it is a huge responsibility, but one that is worth it.   Below are a few simple ways that you can make part of your daily routine, to help your kids see and know Jesus.  I would love to hear if you try these and how they worked for your family. 

Start a “I saw God at work today” jar. – At the end of the day, talk to your kids about how you saw God working in your life and then write it down and put it in the jar, then have your kids do the same.  God works in big ways and in small little details.  These can be things like:  I got to work safely today. – God protects us.  I paid the mortgage today.  – God provides.  Grandma’s surgery went well. – God heals.  As kids learn to see Jesus work everyday and trust Him with the “little things” they will be able to see and trust Jesus in all situations.

Daily devotion – Diving into the scriptures everyday.  When Jesus was in the desert, Satan tried to manipulate scripture to tempt Him.  Jesus knew the scriptures, we must also know the scripture.  There are a number of wonderful children’s bible out there.  Make it a goal this summer to read the bible with your children everyday.  If you have older kids, have them read to one another.  Go to YouTube, they have some great bible story videos.  Here is a link to the beginners bible, which is great for preschoolers:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_VY5A2l6J_0   Have the kids pick a story and act it out.  Turn on some music and have a dance party.  Hillsong worship has some fun songs or grab an old VBS dvd or cd or get pick up a new one from this summer. The church library also has a number of books, bibles, videos, etc. that you can check out. HAVE FUN!

Pray together – Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable with your kids.  Kids need to know that adults need Jesus too and when they see you relying on God, they will learn to rely on God also.