On the prowl pic

What keeps Satan “up” at night?

God is capable of doing anything – as long as it does not violate His other attributes… His power is not an abstract idea but a force to be reckoned with.     —Bill Bright, God: Discover His Character

 

God is All-Powerful. Sometimes I have to stop and think about that reality. It’s so easy to be caught up in the daily challenges of life and overwhelmed by the powerful forces dragging our culture down. Is God really the Biggest and the Strongest (as we teach the young children)? Yes, He is! The enemy of our souls knows it and he works overtime to keep us from trusting in it. Satan knows if we try to live life in our own power, we will stumble and fall.

 

God has no weaknesses. There are no chinks in His armor. We have access to His power any time, anywhere.

 

I also pray that you will understand the incredible greatness of God’s power for us who believe Him. This is the same mighty power that raised Christ from the dead and seated Him in the place of honor at God’s right hand in the heavenly realms. Now He is far above any ruler or authority or power or leader or anything else—not only in this world but also in the world to come. Ephesians 1:19-21 NLT

I pray that from His glorious, unlimited resources He will empower you with inner strength through His Spirit.  Ephesians 3:6 NLT

 

Pretty incredible isn’t it?!  The king of darkness fears the relationship we have with the Savior. One that is born in quiet communion with Him each day, strengthened on the meat of His Word, and takes flight in the Power of the Holy Spirit. This is what keeps Satan “up” at night. He will pull out every trick in his playbook to keep you from cultivating your relationship with Jesus and living each moment in His power.

 

If you feel the enemy is winning. If your spirit is weak and joy is fading. You are not alone. Ask for His power, courage and comfort. He will fight for you. He will win.

 

“I can do everything through Him who strengthens me.”   Matthew 7:8

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It’s why I do what I do…

Today I was reminded why I do what I do.  Seven children were forever changed.

Last night forty children in the Awana “Sparks” group at Matt’s church listened intently as he read our new book, Getting to Know Jesus for Little Ones.  The story of Tommy, Keesha, Marco and Su’s adventure to find God captured their imaginations and their hearts.

The story follows the four friends as they search for four keys that will help them begin a relationship with God.  Each discovery gives them important information about having a relationship with God as well as a clue to find the next key.

After Matt read the prayer at the end he told the kids that he was going to read it again.  If they had never asked Jesus to forgive their sins and be their friend and king they could do it right then by silently praying with him.  With heads bowed they talked with God in prayer:

 

“Yes, Lord Jesus, I need You.

Yes, I want to be Your friend.

Thank You for dying on the cross

And paying for all my sins.

Yes, I open up the door of my heart.

Please be my friend and King.

Help my to obey You

And trust You with everything.

Yes, I want to know You better

Each and every day.

Yes, I want to love You more.

Please help me listen and obey.”

 

After Matt prayed he asked them to raise their hands if they accepted Jesus.  He assured them that God knows their heart and they don’t have to raise their hand if they don’t want to.  Seven children raised their hands!

That is why I do what I do.  I prayed a similar prayer when I was eight and it changed my life forever.  My heart’s desire is to help as many children as possible to trust in Jesus and live in His love.

Because all the royalties from the book will go directly into ministry and not to Brad and me personally, I feel free to share with you our prayer that God will use this book to draw hundreds of thousands of children into relationship with Him!

The official release date is February 1.  However, we are giving away one book per day this week!  To enter, go to our FB page, Discover God 4Kids, and comment on today’s post about the book.

When you talk with God tonight, will you join me in giving thanks for the seven precious children who began a relationship with God last night and for Matt as he continues to invest in their lives?

P.S.  You can pre-order the book from Amazon, Barnes n Noble or from our website, discovergod4kids.com.

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What would you choose?

I’ve been pondering something for the last few months and I want to put it out there and see what you think…

What is the most important thing for a child to know about God?

Is it His love?  Many Christians would say ‘yes!’

On our website, discovergod4kids.com, we have daily bible teachings and activities to help weave 13 of God’s attributes into every day life.  Our analytics reveal that most people use the resources for God’s Love but very few ever check out God’s Holiness.  It’s not surprising really.  When was the last time you heard a sermon on God’s Holiness?  If you have heard one, did you understand it?

God’s Holiness is hard to wrap our heads around.  Sadly, most theologians haven’t helped us.  It’s true that His Holiness sets Him apart from everything we see, feel and touch.  It is what makes us fall to our knees before Him because we realize how unworthy we are to even speak His name.  But it is also the attribute that, more that any other, gives us HOPE.

Bill Bright wrote in GOD: Discover His Character,

Of all God’s attributes, nothing compares to the splendor and beauty of His holiness.  It is chief among His attributes.  That means His character is perfect in every way.  He is totally pure. (page 130)

 Did you catch that?  His character is perfect in every way.  God’s Holiness is what makes every other attribute perfect, without flaw or weakness.

I do want my kids to know that God is Love.  But His love isn’t just any love.  It doesn’t change with the cultural norms.  It’s not a love based on selfish desires.

God’s love is perfect.  It’s holy.

I want my children to know they can count on God’s love even when they blow it.  I want them to be confident that, no matter how many times they ask, God’s perfect love will never let Him compromise what He knows is best for them.

I want them to know that God is Holy – so they can know that His love is Holy.

So if I could only teach my children one thing about God I would teach them that He is Holy.  His Holiness makes every other attribute perfect.

What are your thoughts?  What attribute do you think is most important for your kids to know?

Red Valentine's heart

Rhonda

It is finished…three words a friend texted me this week when Rhonda won her battle with cancer and danced into Heaven.  Three words that ripped my heart and healed the wound.  Three words that ended the race and hailed the start of a life in Heaven that’s beyond our wildest dreams.  Three words so devastatingly final and yet so fantastically full of hope.

Sent when I desperately needed a kindred spirit friend, Rhonda was a gift from God… an answer to prayer from a lonely heart.  Don’t misunderstand, Brad and I have an incredible relationship, but we all need additional friendships and my circle of close friends was pitifully small.   I will be forever thankful for the way she came alongside me, spurred me on in my faith, challenged me to never “settle” and made me feel accepted even when my “dark side” reared it’s ugly head.  Rhonda was safe–a rare gift indeed.

My heart has a lonely spot again.  I know that God has not forgotten those of us who are left behind.  He will give comfort.  He will bind the wounds and help us keep running our own race to the end.  But it still hurts.  A.A. Milne wrote in Winnie the Pooh,

 

How lucky am I to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.

 

Thank you Lord, for a friendship so deep and dear that loosing it is so hard.

Thank you Jesus, for leaving Your glorious home in Heaven to be born in a barn, grow as a commoner, live as light in the darkness and die so that we might live.  Thank you for declaring “It is finished” (John 19:30).  Death has lost its victory.

 

P.S.  Yes, I did say she “won” her battle with cancer.  Cancer does not win when a person knows Jesus.  I had found myself saying, “She’s losing her battle with cancer” and I stopped mid-sentence.  Rhonda was a light of Jesus’ love, grace and beauty through this ordeal.  She told ambulance drivers, nurses, doctors…everyone about Jesus’ love.  No, cancer did not win.  Rhonda won, in the power of the Holy Spirit.  She ran the race to the end and has the prize.

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God’s purpose for cake…

Okay, this may not be God’s purpose for cake… but at least my LOVE for cake finally has a purpose other than expanding my waistline!  Mix it with a little Christmas baking and it’s a win/win…

Christmas is full of teachable moments. One mom capitalized on a moment in the kitchen and taught her daughter an invaluable lesson about life. I hope it will give you an idea of how you can weave life-defining truth into the fun of the Christmas season!  I know it helped me!

A daughter is telling her Mother how everything is going wrong, she’s failing algebra, her boyfriend broke up with her and her best friend is moving away.

Meanwhile, her Mother is baking a cake and asks her daughter if she would like a snack, and the daughter says, “Absolutely Mom, I love your cake.”
“Here, have some cooking oil,” her Mother offers.
“Yuck” says her daughter.
“How about a couple raw eggs?” “Gross, Mom!”
“Would you like some flour then? Or maybe baking soda?”
“Mom, those are all yucky!”

To which the mother replies: “Yes, all those things seem bad all by themselves. But when they are put together in the right way, they make a wonderfully delicious cake!”

God works the same way. Many times we wonder why He would let us go through such bad and difficult times. But God knows that when He puts these things all in His order, they always work for good! We just have to trust Him and, eventually, they will all make something wonderful!

God is crazy about you. He sends you flowers every spring and a sunrise every morning.   Whenever you want to talk, He’ll listen. He can live anywhere in the universe, and He chose your to live in your heart.

It’s a good reminder for us adults too don’t you think?  So when you’re cooking or baking, think of the challenges you face as you add each ingredient.  When you sit down to the meal, or savor the dessert, thank God for the opportunity to see Him “cause everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose for them.”  Romans 8:28 Discover God Bible, NLT

Matt and the Elf pic 2

My Elf Experiment…

Matt is a member of our Discover God 4Kids team and my guest blogger today.  When he told me his very funny story about Elf on the Shelf I asked him to share it!

My Elf Experiment…

We have an Elf on the Shelf.

A very well-meaning, family-oriented, God-fearing family gave him to us this year. What did I do to merit such harsh treatment? I thought we were friends.

I am not a fan of the elf doll who supposedly comes to life at night and moves about the house getting into mischief.  The accompanying storybook says his job is to keep an eye on younger children and give Santa a “naughty or nice” report… Santa spy.

Am I a Scrooge, or is there something seriously wrong here?

After all, I thought Santa “…sees me when I’m sleeping, knows when I’m awake, knows if I’ve been bad or good…” Is that not true???

I think I have very legitimate, social and theological reasons for despising the elf—all elves on all shelves—what’s a dad to do?  Am I supposed to be thrilled that our culture has permeated my home with another commercialistic lie to try to bribe my children into good behavior?

My wife says no one cares. She feels differently than I do about the elf… She is excited to establish a fresh, new, endearing Christmas tradition.

My kids feel differently about the elf…   They love that they are finally normal like all the other kids in our neighborhood and can trade elf stories.

I was stuck.  So, I decided to have some fun with it…

“Elf” needed a name. The storybook emphasizes that the Christmas “magic” doesn’t work if the elf has not officially been given a name.  Each family member made a suggestion and then we anonymously cast our vote for the name we liked best.

I was ecstatic when my name idea won! “Mephistopheles” was ready to spring into action. Sadly, I felt it only fair to tell my wife that Mephistopheles was a caricature of the devil in German folklore (which seemed appropriate at the time).  Naturally, I was scolded and the elf was renamed.

“Terwilliger” first appeared on Black Friday (no comment) riding atop one of our chicken figurines. On Saturday he showed up as an ornament on our freshly decorated Christmas tree. (Apparently the magic was working because I know I wasn’t doing anything with that cheeky little troll.)

Then came my “crisis of belief” moment.

Sunday afternoon a few neighborhood kids ran through our living room with some of my own kids. The conversation went something like this:

 

“Where was your elf this morning?”

“In the Christmas tree. Where was yours?”

“In the sink.”

“Ha! Mine was in the sink yesterday. I can’t wait to see where he’ll be tomorrow!”

“I love my elf on the shelf—he’s funny!”

 

I’m not sure why or how, but it stirred my inner elf.

The kids really do like the Elf on the Shelf. It’s fun. It’s silly. Do they think it reports back to Santa Claus about their behavior? I don’t know, but it’s fun and they love it. And they eagerly talk to their friends about it.

Suddenly I saw my elf problem as an opportunity to see God work.

I got more excited as I thought about the possibilities: The kids wake up and search for the elf. They find him, and rather than finding that he has been up to no good, he has written a note to them with an idea for how they can display kindness or goodness or peace or love to their family members. Tied to that, he might emphasize that because God is love we can show love to others.

Not only might the kids try to intentionally show kindness to one another, they might tell their friends about their elf’s notes of encouragement and, in so doing, share something about who God is to our neighborhood.

So my elf problem is now My Elf Experiment. Terwilliger and I are going to make it our mission to daily point our kids to who God is and why He matters, especially at this time of the year. We’ll still probably end up doing some funny things, and I’ll take photos and post them to Discover God 4Kids Facebook page (#elfontheshelf, #myelfexperiment) with updates sharing how it goes, and we’ll see what happens. Maybe this will be Terwilliger’s only year with us as a family. Or maybe—hopefully—he will be the starting point of some children’s conversations (maybe some adults’ too) that leave them longing to not just find the elf on the shelf, but to find a real, loving personal Savior.

 

Christmas child writing letter to Santa letter over abstract bac

Kids, Contentment and Christmas…

Black Friday is coming and the lists are being composed.  Now might be a good time to talk about finding contentment in Christmas… is that even possible?

It’s hard to make the birth of our Savior the focus when there are so many other attractions.

Don’t get me wrong.  I love almost everything about the traditional Christmas celebrations.  I love the presents (giving and receiving).  I love the tree and the lights.  I love the cookies and candy and the stories of Santa, Rudolf and Frosty.  I don’t like Fruitcake.  ANY Fruitcake.  I don’t like it when people try to make me like Fruitcake…but I digress…

If we’re going to make Christmas about Jesus, if we’re going to teach our kids to be content with whatever they find under the tree and crush the gift hungry materialistic animal that rears it’s head this time of year…we have to be brutally honest and face the facts.

The business community in America learned long time ago that Christmas was their pot of gold.  Our children are particularly vulnerable to their savvy marketing strategies.   It’s not their fault they’re lured in.  It’s our job to be intentional about helping our kids navigate the tsunami that bombards them from October to December… how are we doing with that?

Here are some ideas to help:

*Limit TV time—the ads draw them in.  Seriously, if you limit TV time you will be amazed at how many things they don’t know they should ask for!

*Focus on giving rather than receiving (volunteer as a family to help the needy in your community, give to needy children etc).

*Set a budget and let your kids know the limits.  We had our kids write their lists and prioritize what they wanted.  If they asked for a big-ticket item we would let them know that (if we could afford it) they may only have that gift under the tree.  When my daughter was little she loved lots of gifts.  She often opted for the inexpensive gifts so she could have more presents to open.  My son liked the bigger ticket items and was totally content with just a few gifts.

*Most important:  wrap every Christmas tradition in the anticipation of the birth of the Savior of the World.  We can give our kids tools to help cultivate contentment, but true contentment will forever elude them if they don’t find it in Jesus above all else.

Finally dear friends, pursue experiencing contentment this Christmas Season yourself.  Let the Lover of your soul fill your deepest needs and heartfelt longings.  If you find contentment in Jesus, your kids will follow your lead.

 

Contentment:  An internal satisfaction which does not demand changes in external circumstances—Holman Bible Dictionary.

…I have learned how to be content with whatever I have.  I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything.  I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty of little.  For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.      Philippians 4:11b-13 NLT

Free downloads tag

Tips for actually enjoying Thanksgiving…

Thanksgiving is next week.  How are you doing with that?

 

Dreading it?

Under the pile?

Can’t wait?

All of the above?

 

I’m all of the above:

 

My son is coming home from college—super excited!

My Mother-in-Love is coming for a couple days—happy but stressed about having a super clean house.

Speaking of the house… my kitchen is in the middle of a DYI remodel and doesn’t have a sink or a dishwasher (well technically it does… me… washing dishes… in the bathroom…) –thankful for the promise of a new kitchen but dreading Thanksgiving meal prep and clean up…

 

So I’ve decided to step up the effort to “give thanks in all things”.  It will be so easy to focus on all the things that don’t get done the way I want them done.  Our Thanksgiving won’t be the picture perfect Hallmark Thanksgiving, but maybe I’ll like it even better!

 

When I go to bed next Thursday night, what memory of the day will make me happy?

 

Seeing the one’s I love across the dinner table.

Lot’s of laughter and great conversation around the table.

Good food…

…Served on paper plates… 🙂

 

I’ll clean the house as best I can but I refuse to stress about it.  My daughter and I love to cook and I’m confident the food will be amazing no matter what it’s served on.  Everyone will pitch in to wash dishes and a memory will be made!

 

The story of Mary and Martha comes to mind.  I don’t want to miss the important stuff by focusing on the things that, in the long run, don’t matter.  I’m praying this for you too.

 

To help us both, Discover God 4Kids is providing free downloads for Table Name Cards, Food Cards and some really fun Table Talk questions to help jump start fun conversations around the table.  We have a tradition of sharing what we’re thankful for as we eat our meal.  I think these questions will spark some new ideas for sharing and lots of laughter!  Click on the link above and scroll down to the pic that says, “Free Downloads”.

 

Happy Thanksgiving dear friends.  May God richly bless your time with family and friends.

 

And give thanks for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.               Ephesians 5:20 NLT

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Pinky power…the secret to getting “unstuck”!

She couldn’t move. High above the forest floor, she clung to the swaying treetop, paralyzed with fear. The fragile trunk wouldn’t hold her and the rescue worker who tried in vain to reach her. She had to come down to him… but she couldn’t move.

She had climbed with practiced confidence, oblivious to anything but the next branch. The view from the top was breathtaking… until she looked down. Who knew she would be afraid of such a height? White knuckles gripped the slender trunk. The man below urged her to climb down. Her body refused to budge. She wasn’t going anywhere.

“Can you move your legs?” her would be rescuer asked.
“NO!” Panic swelled.
“Can you move your hands?”
“No!” It was hopeless.
“What can you move?”
She had to focus. Slowly she checked off every moving part. Nothing moved until…
“I can move my pinky!” She wiggled the small digit hoping he could see her victory.
“Good! Can you move the other pinky?”
“Yes!” A sliver of hope was born.
“Excellent! Now, slide each pinky down the tree as far as you can. Then the rest of your body will follow.”

One pinky length at a time, she made it to solid ground.

What do you do when you’re stuck? Fear, doubt, disappointment and weariness are only a few of the things that can paralyze us. One friend recently posted: Motivation, please, please come back! Been there, done that!

I heard author Gary Stanley tell the story of the girl in the tree 25 years ago and his “pinky theology” has come in handy whenever I feel “stuck”. Asking what can I do rather than focusing on what I can’t changes the entire conversation! My pinky step starts with simply talking to God, “I believe, Lord, please help my unbelief…”

I believe You’re in control, but I’m worried You don’t have control over ________. Please help my unbelief.

I believe You love me, but I don’t see why You would allow _______. Please help my unbelief.

I believe You are always with me, but I feel totally alone. Please help my unbelief.

I believe you are all-powerful, but I don’t see any path to victory over my _______. Please help my unbelief.

Pinky prayers are a big deal. They can break the cycle of lies and open our hearts to the power of the Almighty God! Whatever is paralyzing you or defeating you, whisper a pinky prayer to our All-Powerful, Faithful God and you will get to solid ground.

The father instantly cried out, “I do believe, but help my unbelief!” Mark 9:24 NLT

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Having a Terrible Horrible No Good Very Bad Day…God is Bigger!

My dad was in an accident a few weeks ago.  For my mom it was the “perfect” end to a terrible, horrible, no good very bad week.

 

Mom is a list maker.  When the week went from bad to terrible she did what most list makers do…she made another list—recording all that had gone wrong:  big things, small things, annoying things and life altering things.  It was an impressive list.

 

Mom is no pansy.  She’s endured a lot of curve balls over the years and her rock solid faith often hits them out of the park.  But this list had wrapped around her heart and was tempting her to cry foul!

 

She showed the list with my younger sister.  Shared pity parties are so much more satisfying, don’t you think?  Not if you want to commiserate with Paula Sue!  My sweet sister scanned the list, handed it back and told Mom to tear it up.

 

“Write a different list.”  She instructed (note to self—your daughter will probably give you advice someday, teach her well!).  “Write down all the blessings that have come as a result of each of the things on the first list and then start thanking God for what He’s doing.” (note to mom—you taught your daughter well!)

 

God always wins.  He uses every horrible, no good, very bad thing for good for all who love Him (Romans 8:28).  Whether you experience the power of that reality depends on your focus.

 

Make a list of all the things that have gone wrong recently.

 

Does the list depress you?  Take the wind out of your sails?  Tear it up.

 

Now record the blessings that are blossoming from each item on the first list.  If you don’t see them yet, ask God to open your eyes to His Handy work.  If you’re still having trouble finding the blessings ask a trustworthy, follower of Jesus to help you.  Seeing the blessings does NOT mean there won’t be pain, or loss or struggle, but you will find joy and peace that “exceeds anything we can understand” in the midst of any circumstance life throws at us.  He promises.

 

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything.  Tell God what you need, and thank Him for all He has done.  Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand.  His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.                   Philippians 4:6-7 NLT

 

P.S.  On the top of my moms’ second list she wrote:  Jay didn’t die in the accident.  A totaled car, a bruised body and a broken finger… but a husband that’s still next to her at night.  Blessing.

P.S.S.  Thanks Paula.  You’re a blessing to both of us!