Thursday, April 28, 2011

Kid's Book: Learning Psalm 23 from a Sheep

We just reread the chapter in Sammy and His Shepherd, by Susan Hunt where "My Friend" (Sammy's dear friend from the other pasture) is rescued by the Good Shepherd. My eyes are welling up as I think of Him renaming her "Precious". She's ratty, scrawny, and needy. Yet He sees her as precious. So thankful for this reminder of how my Good Shepherd knows me, sees me clearly and still came and rescued me... and now He calls me precious.

Does anyone else ever feel like kids books are really more for parents?
Amazon's Product Description:
In Sammy and His Shepherd, veteran children's writer Susan Hunt takes youngsters on a delightful trip through Psalm 23 from the point of view of a sheep named Sammy. Sammy lives happily under the care of his faithful shepherd. But one day he meets a sheep from another flock, one who lives in misery because her shepherd is not so caring. Eventually, to the delight of both of them, Sammy's shepherd buys the needy little sheep for his flock and gives her a name Precious. Thereafter, Sammy tells Precious all the wonderful things about their shepherd. At first, Precious has a hard time believing that the shepherd can be so good. But eventually, as she sees the shepherd pouring out his energies for the good of his flock, she comes to trust him, for she sees that he loves his sheep unconditionally and sacrificially.

Each chapter of Sammy and His Shepherd is an exploration of a passage from Psalm 23. As they work through the book, children will grow in their understanding of the metaphors the psalmist used in composing this beloved poem. But more important, they will gain a deeper appreciation for the one who is the subject of the psalm: the Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ. Captivating illustrations by Corey Godbey help Sammy and Precious come to life for children. A special section in the back of the book provides Bible passages, discussion questions, and activities to reinforce the lessons of each chapter.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Jesus clung to God's Word

"Then Jesus, calling out with a loud voice, said, 'Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!' And having said this he breathed his last. " (Luke 23:46)
I was reminded as I read through Jesus' dying moments that He really was in control the entire time He was dying. This wasn't a weak gasp to God, he cried out in a loud voice as He committed Himself fully to God beyond death. He willingly took on this suffering, cried out purposefully in it, and ended by committing His spirit fully to his Heavenly Father. And all to save us from our rightful punishment (2 Corinthians 5:21).Wow!

There is sweet comfort in knowing He was in control, but also a model for how to live well, suffer well, and die to God's glory. Jesus taught from His early temptation, through his teachings, and by His miracles that we live to God's glory by knowing His Word and clinging to it. Here at the cross, He showed us what to do and where to cling in suffering and death: still to God's promises in His Word!

Here's how James Montgomery Boice words it:
"This shows what Jesus was doing on the cross, particularly in these last moments.   He was reflecting on Scripture… Four of the seven last words were from the Old Testament.  Only Jesus’ direct addresses to God on behalf of the soldiers, to the dying thief, and to his mother and the beloved disciple were not.  This means that Jesus was filling his mind and strengthening his spirit not by trying to keep a stiff upper lip or look for a silver lining, as we might say, but by an act of deliberately remembering and consciously clinging to the great prophecies and promises of God.  If Jesus did that, don’t you think you should do it too?  And not only when you come to die. 
You need to fill your head with Scripture and think of your life in terms of the promises of Scripture now.  If you do not do it now, how will you ever find strength to do it when you come to die?  You must live by Scripture, committing your spirit into the hands of God day by day if you are to yield your spirit into God’s loving hands trustingly at the last."

Amen. In Him alone is breath and life. I need His Word. And in times of great suffering and even death, even when it seems impossible, clinging to His Word will bring me through and draw me to Him. I don't know when those moments will come, but the truth will be there to cling to if I'm daily in the truth now. Praying that I'll daily seek Him in His Word and cling to His promises now, so when suffering, trial, and death come, His Word will be firmly planted and bring fruit in me to His glory.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Is Death Ever Sweet???

"...Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God." -Ephesians 5:2
 Have you ever thought about this verse?

"Christ loved us"- Jesus- perfect, sinless, fully God. He knew fully our hearts. And He loved us. The very people who hated Him. Christ is for us.

"and gave himself up for us" I love that picture. He gave Himself. He set His mind to go to the cross. No one took His life. He laid it down(John 10:18)! That's such control and strength. But why? To give Himself to us.

"gave himself up for us" He gave us not just a gift, but the gift: Himself. He gave us His righteousness. He gave us forgiveness from God's wrath. He gave us eternal life. He gave us joy. He gave us the Holy Spirit to be our Helper and guide. He gave us His Word come to life. He gave us His position with God in heaven. We are now partakers in His glory... The list goes on and on! It's crazy and amazing to think of all He gave us in Himself.

"a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God"- How have I never noticed this part of the verse before? His death was out of love. He died willingly. He died willingly for me. He took on the fullness of God's wrath. But here I'm seeing what's even sweeter: His obedience was a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. His obedience pleased God! It honored God. It delighted God and smelled sweet to Him.
Jonathan Edwards said it was "a holy act of obedience, an expression of love and respect to God and his glory, an act infinitely lovely in the eyes of the Father."

His death was for us. Out of His deep love for us. And we gain everything through it. But, though it was for us,  it wasn't primarily about us. It was about God the Father and His glory. Jesus obeyed and honored Him fully. And it pleased God. And we benefit fully because of it. What a beautiful picture of our loving Savior.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

He Is Risen #7- Easter Sunday

We have a lot of traditions in this one day, but I love each of them SO much. It's so refreshing to take the day and just be excited about Jesus beating death and the precious gift that is to those of us He calls His own! 
Here's our day:
1) I get everyone up before the sun rises and we go watch it together. Our old home was blocks from the beach. That was our favorite spot, but last year we watched from our hotel room window.
-Getting up to go is not easy, but it's so exciting to cheer and clap and sing HE IS RISEN as the sun rises. As the boys get older, we're adding a little more (Andy reading the Word, Jimmy picking a song to praise God to, me praying, etc...) I'm praying it's a sweet family worship service we enjoy for years to come. What a beautiful gift from God.

2) We race home to see if Jesus is still in the tomb we made. I decorate the table and it's fun to look for Jesus who is no longer in the tomb, but has risen again (and is hidden in the room somewhere for the kids to find)

3) We go to church and celebrate with our church family. There's nothing more exciting to me than singing praise and hearing the gospel preached passionately with others who delight in Christ. Last year, we were visiting a church (our current church is in this family of churches) and we laughed, sang, and cried right with them. We felt so knit together in Christ even with these "strangers".

4) We come home and do our Resurrection Egg Hunt

5) Then, we have a basket exchange: We talk about Christ's gift of salvation and how He died for the ungodly. We're the ungodly. We share how we are ALL sinners and do not measure up to God's standard of perfection and we need forgiveness (just like the empty basket, our lives our empty, alone, separate from our Creator), but God didn't leave us alone in our sin. His Son died for us and then beat death! And now, those who are His can live a full/abundant life (like an overflowing basket filled with good things) forever because of His payment for our sin

Then we exchange Jimmy's empty egg basket for this new basket that's FULL!!!! We show through the baskets how God pursues us. Even when we don't see our own "empty basket", He does. And He takes it and gives us a new, overflowing basket (heart/life) when we trust Christ for the forgiveness of our sin. So we get to leave our sin that leads to death (empty basket) for his gift of heaven (the abundantly overflowing basket).
enjoying the fun books and toys from his basket
Jimmy is always PUMPED at the "abundant life" basket. We've had great conversations about ways we try to "fill" our baskets (lives) and how it never really works, but God totally took away our empty hearts and made them new to want to love Him, delight in Him, and even obey Him! 

6) We feast! We celebrate Christ's death and resurrection and the incredible promise of life that is for those who believe. We enjoy time together and good food. It's a fantastic way to end a great day in Him together. 
Easter meal at Papaw and Gigi's- yum!
7) Sometimes we watch Easter movies in the evening together. We often play with the goodies from the Eater basket and enjoy time together. This year we will light ALL the candles for our "Lenton Lights" reading (which were snuffed out as a countdown to Jesus death on Good Friday) and celebrate that the "Light of the World" beat death, has risen to heaven, is seated at the right hand of God risen and will come again to reign forever!

On Easter we celebrate that Jesus beat death. We remember that His death paid for the sins of those who were His. We thank Him and seek Him. We praise God. And we press forward into Him as we wait for Him to return and reign forever!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

All About the Home?

"A woman who creates a home does on a personal level what the Church does for Christ on a corporate level; and also what Christ does in His Father’s House on an eternal, heavenly level—She creates an environment that’s welcoming, nourishing, healing, and conducive to life and growth."- Mary Kassian

I read this quote and felt like it so aptly sums up my ministry. I enjoy learning about simplifying our home, reading financial wisdom, biblical parenting tips, and creative family night ideas. I want to learn from others who excel in those areas, not because that's what a "stay-at-home-mom" does, but because I see the value they have in creating a great home environment. It's not just about having a fun (and clean) home and good memories. It's about Jesus. In other words, I care for our home, but it's not all about the home, it's about pointing to Christ through it. I learn and grow in those areas (and many more) to create an environment that exudes Jesus and points us daily back to Him.

"The heart of her husband trusts in her,and he will have no lack of gain. She does him good, and not harm, all the days of her life."
I pray that Andy will come home from busy days and find a peaceful and fun place to recharge and go back out to serve again. This is exactly how I feel each Sunday after church. It's a place where we come together in worship and the Word and come away living it out through our daily lives. It is my heart when I'm cleaning before Andy comes home, making a meal, listening to his day, and praying with/for him before he leaves in the morning. I'm praying Andy will come away from our home knowing he is cared for, prayed for, valued, sincerely loved, helped, and wanted.

"She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue."
I pray that my boys will see Christ daily as I walk, talk, clean, teach, play, and pour into them and that our home will be a place where they gain life. I desire to live out a life of awe of God and self sacrifice towards my family daily in front of my children. I am horrible at this at times. But I dream that even my weak attempts to love God and others might help my children know Him and see the joy of His Word lived out. Oh, may our home be a place where they feel free to ask anything, are confident that they are loved and valued, experience joy daily, and learn more deeply over time who is truth and how to know Him.

"She opens her hand to the poor and reaches out her hands to the needy."
I pray that we as a family would be generous givers who know that everything is God's and openhandedly give to anyone who has need. This is at times a painful struggle as I cling to things (ouch!) and miss true joy in Christ alone. But what a nourishing and beautiful glimpse of God it is when we actually obey in this area.

"She looks well to the ways of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness."
I'm praying God will give me grace and wisdom to work hard in my role in our home to create an environment that points to Him and never miss that my daily life is a sweet ministry. Daily, He gives me opportunities to seek Him, grow, love others, serve humbly, and share His love. What an honor and great responsibility I've been given. Praying I live it out well to His glory.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

He Is Risen #6-Making a Play Dough Tomb

"God... saved us and called us to a holy calling... which he gave us in Christ Jesus... who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel..." - 2 Timothy 1:9,10
One tradition we have to do each year on Easter week is to make a tomb. I read about it in Noel Piper's book "Treasuring Our Traditions" a few years ago. We have so much fun mixing the dough and baking it. You can decorate it or leave it plain. We use the tomb for our kids (Jimmy started at age 3) to tell us the Easter story.We take a family walk and collect sticks while we are out (to be used as crosses). Then we come home and mix our dough (you could just use pre-made play dough if you prefer.) Check out Noel's blog post for her recipe and pictures.

It does take a bit to cool. we usually make the dough into the mountain on Thursday night, so we can let it sit overnight and use it Friday morning.

Then we put a picture of Jesus on the cross on our cross and place it on the mountain
Jimmy pretending to be sad because Jesus had to die.

We close up the tomb by rolling the front stone after placing Jesus inside...

And on Easter morning, we look to see if He's still there.... and then REJOICE as we read that He is not there, He has risen- As He said He would! And we go look for Him 
*finding the picture of Jesus hidden somewhere in our living room is fun for us. I realize it's not for everyone*

Thursday, April 7, 2011

He Is Risen #5- How eternal life sounds to a 2 year old

I think it's important to talk through Scripture my kids are exposed to, see what they are learning, and explain concepts I think may be hard to grasp. 

When Jimmy was 2 1/2, he was fascinated by the cross in the middle of the entryway at our church and often asked me to tell him about why Jesus had to die. I was sharing how those who believe in Christ’s death and resurrection by faith can live forever with God. Then I said, “Have you ever heard people say that Jesus gives us eternal life? Because Jesus is eternal, through Him now we can be too” 

After a minute of silence (where I assumed I went too deep and he lost interest) Jimmy spoke up and said, “Mommy, Jesus is NOT a turtle!” Ha! I guess “eternal” and “a turtle” do sound alike.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

He is Risen #4- Lights

“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it”- John 1:5

I adore Noel Piper's traditions and we use many of them in our homes to point to Jesus. One we are starting this year as a family this year is her "Lenten Lights". It's a good way to sober our hearts to look at our own sin, repent, and turn to Christ and to prepare to remember the horrible death of Jesus. THEN, we will celebrate that He rose again and brought life for us.

The Pipers light 7 candles and then each week during the lenten season they read a family devotional and snuff out one light, leaving the last to be snuffed out on Good Friday.

Here's a quote from "Lenten Lights":
Your seven candles symbolize the Light of the World—the Light that was God’s glory and that illuminated God for us—the Light that, in the end, seemed to have been darkened. As we move through the season preceding Easter, the candles are snuffed out one by one, until all are dark on Good Friday, when Jesus died and the earth was covered with shadow. Darkness apparently had won. The Light of the World had been extinguished. It was finished.  But NO! Easter brings resurrection! Life! Return from death! The Light has won and all the candles burn as we praise him—the Light of the World, the Bright Morning Star, the Glory of God.
We are adapting it since our kids are small and lent is a long time for them to track with us. So, we are starting Saturday, April 16th and reading the devotional each evening after dinner (with candles lit to snuff out one more each night) through Good Friday. Easter Sunday all 7 candles will be relit to remind us that the "Light of the World" has come and shone in the darknessWe have good reason to rejoice!