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Christmas Gift Ideas for Kids: Billy Graham’s God’s Good News

I received this book (no money) for my honest review and that’s what you always get!

Billy Graham remains one of the foremost pastors in America’s history, and parents, grandparents, pastors, teachers, and more will want this lovely edition of God‘s GoodNews for the children in their life to show them the way to the cross and to help them begin a lifetime of following Christ. God‘s Good News is a collection of more than 60 favorite Bible stories told in actual Bible text from the New King James Version, including Noah, Joseph, Moses, David, Jesus, and the disciples, and each story is equipped with a takeaway devotion from Rev. Graham. The takeaways will help children focus on God’s Word, apply it to their lives, and begin walking with God and sharing the good news from an early age. The striking artwork from Scott Wakefield will help children connect with the timeless Bible stories and messages from Rev. Graham.

Christianity is good news. . . . When we open up the Bible, it is good news from cover to cover. It’s the good news that God loves us.

—Billy Graham

This book is yet another part of the amazing legacy that Reverend Billy Graham leaves behind – him ministering, through book, to the next generation.

Graham starts this capturing Book by talking about what he always talks about – God’s love and how “it passes knowledge.” Graham was big on talking about how much God loves us and that tone is set from the very beginning in this book.

Separated – just as the Bible is – between Old and New Testaments, this story and devotion book prepares the youngest for independently reading the Bible.

Meanwhile, Scott Wakefield’s illustrations are making every story come alive in your child’s mind! His artistic interpretation, while beautiful, is realistic enough that the illustrations do not deviate from the Word while still being child-friendly.

Throughout this story and devotion book, your children will hear words directly from Billy Graham’s writings as well.

I highly recommend this book. I know that shouldn’t surprise most of you as it is the works of Reverend Billy Graham. His legacy and history, though, do not just give him an automatic seal of approval by me. Going through this book, I am very impressed with the stories that were included.

So many children’s devotionals include stories such as Adam and Eve, Noah, Esau, Jonah, and others. Many, however, do not include the Tower of Babel, Jacob’s ladder, Rahab, Gideon, Samson, Ruth, King Solomon, Josiah, Zacharias, the sermon on the mount, Zacchaeus, the prodigal son, the widow’s coins, Stephen, and many, many, more. This story and devotion book has more than 60 of them in it!

If you want to know what a child’s honest first thoughts are of this book, before you buy it, watch this short video:

https://youtu.be/pNTE6KfRFZM

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Book Review & Giveaway: Young Whit & the Traitor’s Treasure

* I was given this book, no money was exchanged, for my honest opinion of which you always will receive from me.

Young Whit & the Traitor’s Treasure is an Adventures in Odyssey book by Phil Lollar and Dave Arnold. It’s the first in the Young Whit series!

“This Odyssey book series explores the history of the much-loved character John Avery Whittaker. The series introduces newcomers to the larger world of Odyssey. For readers who are already Odyssey-philes, the novels provide the history of the franchise’s most important character.

Whit and his family (father, Harold; stepmother, Fiona; half-sister, Charlie) have just moved to Provenance, NC, in the middle of the Great Depression. Harold will be teaching at nearby Duke University. Not-quite-10-year-old Johnny soon makes a friend in Emmy, who lives across the street and joins him in his adventures. At his new school, he encounters a bully who makes his life miserable, and he makes a new friend in Huck, the custodian. Both of them play key roles in the mysteries and action.

The central mystery in book 1 involves Confederate gold missing since the end of the Civil War and the question of whether Johnny’s ancestor was the coward and thief who stole it, as everyone believes.”

My six (soon to be seven)-year-old immediately loved this book. The preface saddened him. The first chapter grabbed hold of his total attention. By chapter four, he was reading himself just to get more read!

While I would say this book is more targeted at 10 years and older, don’t discount younger ones if my son is any evidence. Every night he wants the next chapter.

The thing that I think I like the most about this book is that I have seen it touch the heart of my son. At such a young age, most boys are emotionally immature. I have seen signs of his heart growing and his sensitivity coming to awareness while reading this book. It’s been a beautiful process to watch.

I love that people such as Focus on the Family appreciate celebrating boys being boys (and girls being girls) all while encouraging them to be their best in Christ Jesus.

So, if you’re young adventurer needs or wants a new book to add to their library – that you know you can trust to be safe for their hearts and their minds – I greatly recommend this book. I plan on buying the entire series book by book.

Bible

Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything.

No. I’m not going to talk about Nike, nor am I going to talk about Colin Kaeperinck. Though, I will admit, as a childhood athlete, a football fan, and a former military dependent I could say plenty. I’m going to do what I wish many would do – NOT make this about me.

Believe in something.

My first problem is with “something.” So…just any ol’ thing? Can I believe in unicorns? Leprechauns? What if we get serious here… Can I believe in racial supremacy? A one-world government? I mean “something” is a very general term when you’re talking about a message that is going around the entire planet!

Something, by definition, means “a thing that is unspecified or unknown.” If this world needs anything right now it’s certainly to know what, or WHO, they should believe in.

We live in a world where people are believing in themselves, politicians, governments, celebrities, and more to literally solve all of their problems.

You cannot solve all of life’s problems.

Your president can not solve all of life’s problems.

Your government causes more problems than it solves.

Celebrities don’t know or even understand most things you would consider a problem!

Now, you want to believe in equality? That’s great! You want to believe in peace? Awesome idea. You want to believe in others’ beliefs not being forced upon you? Me, too! You want to stand up for taking care of your fellow man? Most of us would probably agree.

Guess what? All of those things Christ would agree with too!

“What?! No! Jesus hates different people! He wants to make me into something I’m not and unhappy!” you may say.

You couldn’t be more wrong. Jesus talked to a woman at a well that would normally be treated like a dog. Not only did he partake of water from her paws…hands but He went on to offer her a solution to her life’s problems that included self-respect and love.

Peace? When Christ was about to be dragged away and punished for crimes He had not committed, His friend cut off the ear of one of the oppressors and Christ said, “Yeah! We can take’em!” No. Christ replaced the soldier’s ear, healed him, and chastened his friend.

“But…He wants to shove Christianity down my throat!” No. Actually He doesn’t.

See? His idea was to just keep going until you find someone receptive.

“Well, I’m more about worrying about others rather than myself.” Well, settle down Sanctimonious Sally because so was Jesus. Don’t believe me?

John 13:34

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.

1 John 4:19-21

We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.

Philippians 2:3-4

Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.

1 John 4:7-21

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. …

1 John 4:11

Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.

Matthew 5:43-48

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? …

I think you see where I’m going with this. The whole Bible is about love because God IS love!

Remember…

So, now that I’ve strategically shot down all of that, let’s talk about the rest.

Even if it means sacrificing everything.

Really?

I can’t.🤦🏻‍♀️ No, wait. I can. I actually, really, can.

Sacrificing everything?!

Sacrificing friends is part of life. It’s sad but true. As you change, many will fall by the wayside.

Sacrificing endorsements? How about never able to get anyone in earthly power to endorse you.

Sacrificing your career? How about sacrificing YOUR LIFE?!

How far have we fallen when we really think that a guy who makes millions and then millions more in endorsements is “sacrificing” ANYTHING?!

Jesus Christ was and is sinless yet He heaped upon Himself the sins of the entire world, was persecuted and made fun of, sneered at by His own hometown, and still He healed and delivered those that would crucify Him. He didn’t stop there, though! He took the ultimate punishment doled out. He had His flesh shredded, thorns shoved into the crown of His head. He was spat on, kicked. He was bruised, beaten, and had a spear shoved in his side. He had nails hammered into his wrists and feet.

He had His clothes ripped from Him and a mocking sign put above a His head. He died with no dignity whatsoever though He died for us!

How dare we think we know anything about sacrifice?!

So…

If you want to believe…believe in the One who has always believed in you – Jesus.

Even if it means sacrificing everything, because it very well could.

…and the list goes on.

I don’t care about shoes. I don’t care about headbands, shirts, basketball shorts, or Jordans. I believe in Jesus. Even if it means sacrificing everything.

http://youtu.be/wWl27j3V-rA

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Review & Giveaway: iPhone Cases from Prone to Wander

I was given three cases by Prone to Wander for my honest opinion and, as always, honesty is what you’ll get.

In a day and time when everyone’s cell phone looks the same, we all don’t just like but need to personalize our phone so that we know it’s ours. That’s a given. What a lot of us like to do, though, is to project a little bit of our personality or our beliefs, wherever we can, to show the people around us a little bit of our own soul.

Photo Credit: Prone to Wander

With Prone To Wander, that just got easier and more fun! Not only do they have some of the cutest designs – that please both mom and daughter – but you can even customize your own! Got a special Bible verse that expresses who you are? Visit their customizing page and make your cell phone case come alive.

Oldest came home from a college class pleasantly surprised!

I found these cases to be current, relevant, sturdy, and easy to get on and off. The phone case designs, themselves, are relevant in their colors, font, and imaging. I would say that they easily fit nearly any female I know – whether they prefer bling or consider themselves more hipster.

Above all of this though, I love how you have a self-affirming, uplifting, word right in the palm of your hand to remind you that you’re a child of God. ❤️

NOTE: If you want to use their customizing page, you may be able to find one more masculine. I say this because while this website does tend to focus more towards females, my husband truly loved his wooden case that he once had for his cell phone. So you may consider getting your special guy a masculine Bible verse personalized on a wooden case as a gift.

Photo Credit: Prone to Wander

They have silicon like cases that are see-through. They have metallic-like cases that are for the girl that likes the bling. They have wooden cases that seem to have been etched for the more nature-loving girl.

⭐️These cases would make an AWESOME Easter 🐣 basket filler!⭐️

Interested in winning a set of THREE for free? Click below to enter to win!

Tip: Keep an eye out because April is my birthday month and I may just give another away, myself, I like these so much!❤️

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Review & Giveaway: Worship with Higher Vision

Week after week, Higher Vision Church is packed with nearly 3,000 adrenalized God followers. The 12-year-old multigenerational congregation just outside of Los Angeles is quite diverse, and that diversity takes center stage on Higher Vision Worship’s debut album, For Your Kingdom.

“When we design worship experiences at Higher Vision, with every light that moves and every video, our focus is on Christ,” explains Higher Vision’s Sean Loche (formerly of the groundbreaking group Worth Dying For) who produced the album. “And we’re always asking, ‘How are people engaging? How do we help people feel safe and loved in the power and presence of God?’ We try be a place for people to ‘jump in the pool.’ Sometimes they want to jump full-on in — and sometimes they just want to get their toes wet.”

That same vision for Higher Vision the church was applied to the songs on Higher Vision Worship’s For Your Kingdom. “The album feels like a miracle,” says worship pastor April Ashburn. “It feels like there’s something for almost everyone. Different styles and yet a well-rounded whole.”

There are songs on For Your Kingdom that tug at the heart, and then there are others like “Broken the Chains” that squeeze and don’t let go. “I just thought how crazy is it that God created everything,” explains lead pastor Jared Ming, who wrote the song while thinking and praying about a struggling friend. “Yet there’s still a song in heaven that angels cannot sing. The angels worship, but we worship differently…. We’ve been redeemed and forgiven. Angels can’t sing, ‘I’ve been redeemed.’”

The 13-track album rebounds from those lighter moments with energetic worship such as the high-energy title track, the electronica-flavored “Trust in You,” dance-tinged tunes like “Freedom of Your Love” and “Hands Held High,” and then dives back in with heartfelt ballads such as “He Is Here” – which paints a sound picture of God’s presence and our response to it.

“We can get stuck in a cycle of grasping for God’s presence only to realize that God is here all around us,” says Ashburn, who penned the song. “Sometimes we just need to become aware of his presence — and then our response isworship.”

Higher Vision not only wants For Your Kingdom to be an experience the congregation can carry with them wherever they go, but also they want it to speak to those who may not yet have Christ in their lives.

“There’s just so much darkness going on in the world,” says Loche. “Every day you read the worst, most horrific news you can imagine. We want to just be a blip of good, a blip of light in a dark world, to atheists and to Christians.”

For more information, visit www.highervisionworship.com

My Take…

I was given this CD for my honest opinion and that – as always – is what you’ll get.

If you’re a fan of music from such ministries as Elevation Worship and Passion City Church, you’ll be a fan of Higher Version’s For Your Kingdom. With a mix of EDM-like (Electronic Dance Music) and live music, Higher Vision Worship helps to usher you in to the presence of God in your home or car.

I especially liked track 10 – Hands Held High. The songs are a good balance of tempo, praise, and worship.

Being a praise & worship leader (not pastor), and coming from a family of gospel singers, I have my own views of what “praise” and “worship” mean. Very simply put “praise” is when you express approval or admiration of someone or something. “Worship” is deeper though. It’s when you show reverence and adoration. Some would say “The quick songs are praise. The slow songs are worship.” I don’t like to put songs in a box that way. I believe even a fast song can be worship. You may find that to be true, yourself, with the For Your Kingdom CD.

Want to win For Your Kingdom?

Check them out for yourself:

https://youtu.be/FTUIh01ZP2s

Want it now? I can’t blame you.

Your Kingdom Pre-Order Link:

https://sc.lnk.to/HghrVsn

(2 songs are available for immediate download)

Bible, Life, Ministry, Uncategorized

Understanding the Bible

Understanding the Bible can be challenging at best and discouraging at the worst. It’s frustrating when you want to know more about God, be a better person, have a better life, and yet you can’t understand the manual. If you feel that way – or know someone that may feel that way – this post is for you!

First off, don’t feel like a freak. Everyone – at some point in their journey – has read the Word and gone, “Huh?”

Most people simply don’t announce that but it’s common place. Even myself, even the elders that I know, sometimes spend days or weeks on one passage trying to understand it by delving through concordances and Hebrew translations.

Reading the Bible is truly a journey. You’ll read a passage and it will mean one thing to you. Many years later, it will be more complex and mean something even deeper to you. That’s one of the most amazing things about the Word of God to me – that the Word never changes yet somehow it always adapts and becomes what you need in your very personal season because it’s alive.

Secondly, God wants you to understand and know Him so He wouldn’t give you a book that you couldn’t understand. He loves you and He want you to succeed.

So, here’s a sort of game plan for you…

1️⃣ Call on God

Don’t just open up the Word and expect it to make perfect sense to you. Don’t open up the Word and expect it to pertain to your moment. Instead of expecting the word of God to apply to what you think you need, go to God and ask him to open your heart and open your mind to what he would have that passage teach you no matter what’s going on in your life right now.

2️⃣Never give up

Often times, when something is difficult, we just want to give up. Reading the Bible is one of those things that, once you get going, you can’t seem to put it down. Unfortunately common too often, it’s that “once you get going” part that’s the challenge. As crazy as this may sound, the devil doesn’t want you to read the Bible. If you believe in God, you must believe in the devil. He knows that if you read the word of God you will become stronger and you will be armed for battle. So, you will find that distractions will occur, confusion will happen, exhaustion will come against you,… and it’s your job to stick to it and not give up.

3️⃣Trust God

You may feel like, “What does this have anything to do with?” when you are reading the Bible. That’s OK. Just trust God. Usually you will find that the information that you’re receiving, that your etching upon your heart, will be there when you need it though that time may not be right now.

4️⃣Not sure? Test it!

Don’t know if that passage was for you? Test it!

Ask your elders that are more wise than you, those that God has placed in your life!

5️⃣You were meant to understand His Word

As insulting as this may sound to some of you, the Word was written even for the most simplest of minds. Christ spoke in parables so that anyone and everyone could understand. We do not teach children in Sunday School for no reason. If they are capable of understanding the word of God so is any adult that so desires!

6️⃣Understand that you may understand His words, but may not understand all

Sometimes God reveals His words to us just when we need to understand them the most. Sometimes we hide a word in our hearts and at just the right moment the Holy Spirit reminds us of that word and it all suddenly makes sense. Then there are other things such as the idea that God is God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit… How can one God be three entities yet one God? If we could all answer these questions, we would have no need for God. All of these things will be understood once we’re with Him. Until then, we have to come to terms with the fact that on this plane we will not understand it all.

7️⃣ Taste and see…

Challenge yourself. Give yourself a deadline. Test Him. Say to yourself, “I’m going to try this Bible reading thing for one year.” In my life, and all the people that I’ve met from around the world, I have yet to meet a person that has told me that the Bible returned void.

8️⃣ Testify

When you see that the Word is good and that it has changed your life for the better, remember where you were before the Word touched your life. Don’t just bury that. Go out and share your testimony so that someone else can have their life changed.

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Yes, you NEED the Holy Spirit

….but you don’t have to have Him. You don’t have to have or do anything. God’s funny that way. He’s a gentleman, never forcing Himself on anyone.

I believe we all need the anointing of the Holy Spirit. When Christ left this earth and ascended into Heaven He said that He was leaving us a comforter. If Christ left me something, or someone as it were, I’m going to follow that – since my whole life is based on following Him and being as much like Him as humanly possible – by receiving whomever or whatever that thing may be! We know that whom Christ left us was the Holy Spirit (John 14:16-17).

In 1 Corinthians 12 Paul writes, no matter what our diversity of gifts in the Spirit are, it is the same God who works within all of them. He goes on to say, in addition, “but the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all: for to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, to another the word of knowledge through the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healings by the same Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another discerning of spirits, to another different kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues.”

Now, I should be clear that what you’re about to read – my thoughts, God’s word, here is not referring to some willy-nilly unorganized chaos of emotion that so many Christians nowadays call “an outpouring” and that you may have been witness to in person, on television, or the internet. There are certain things that must line up for an outpouring and often times (more often than not, I’m afraid) these things simply do not line up; but, rather people are overcome by their own emotions. That is not always the case though. We must be vigilant to not have the audacity to put God in a box while still cross referencing occurrence with His Word.

I only have a few things to say about this (I’m sure I’d have more but I’ve forced myself to only say three): 1) If your church is having such an “outpouring” that you haven’t heard a message delivered in weeks… you may want to really seek the Lord and ask Him for some discernment in regard to that. The outpouring of the Holy Spirit will be like throwing pearls before swine if the church hasn’t even been fed.

2) You don’t live like the world Monday through Friday and then speak in tongues on Sunday. The anointing of the Holy Spirit is only possible through having a relationship with God and then making it an intimate one. Think of the most intimate earthly relationship you have. Now, compare that sort of communication, love, understanding, forgiveness, etc. to your relationship with God. It’s incomparable; yet, we almost never even attain that level of intimacy with our Father.

My husband is not going to feel as if we have such an intimate relationship that he wants to share unimaginable gifts and truths with me if I’m dancing with another man just two nights before. We should not expect God to be any different.

3) I do believe that you have days of outpourings but God is organized, orderly. He is, in most all things, a gentleman.

His word says, “For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks the door will be opened.”

He also lays it out in Deuteronomy by telling us that one way leads to blessings and one ways leads to death; and, then He says, “…choose life that you and your descendants may live.”

See, God has given us the authority to make our own decisions in life.

He will honor those decisions without interfering. He does not force Himself upon us. If a number of individuals within a church are actively living under the anointing of an intimate relationship with God, and then they collectively come together within a church (or any gathering place) and find themselves unified – of one mind, there God will be. Now, He’s been made welcome. Now, if He sees fit to share with us knowledge, prophesy, etc. He will speak to us.

On the flip side, if you are content simply believing that structuring your life around the Word of God – rather than doing that along with believing God moves, heals, and speaks to His children in real-time – that’s your choice. There’s no judgment here. I would be remiss, however, if I did not share with others what they may be missing out on simply because they can’t conceive of God doing and moving miraculously right before their eyes.

So let me share my thoughts by starting with Romans 8:26, since I feel so strongly about it, where we are told that “we do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.” I cannot imagine knowing of the hell that I have been through in my life and knowing that there is an interceder for me (Jesus) and not going to him.

Further, I cannot fathom knowing that there is a sort of conduit, for far lack of a better term, in the Holy Spirit that He would actually pray for what I truly need rather than what I think I need so that I could find true happiness and success… and me not doing everything I can to access Him.

If you have been praying, and it seems as if nothing is getting through to Him – it’s as if you’re praying to the walls and the words are just bouncing off of the sheetrock – I encourage you to look at Romans 8:26 as if it were the first step in God’s list of instructions on “How to Pray.” It is my thought that we, as a whole, simply do not know how to pray to God. I say this based on two things, specifically, that the Bible has told me: 1) In Luke, when John asks Jesus how they should pray, Jesus doesn’t respond, “Oh, you guys do just fine. Just keep talking and He’ll hear ya.” Rather, He gave them specific words to say to God. These words were sort of a catch-all. “The Lord’s Prayer,” as it has been dubbed, covers everything from worship to provision to sin!

I believe He gave us this prayer in order to supplement our prayer lives until we each have come to the place that we have attained that divine entity that would pray for us (Romans 8:26-27). I should add here that of course I’m not in any way inferring that when you talk to God He’s not hearing you. I know that God hears every word you utter. I’m simply trying to draw attention to what is available to all of us.

I’m trying to open your mind – just as the disciples asked Jesus – to ask God, “How should I pray? I know what I want to pray for; but, what would You have me pray?”

As for praying in tongues…. I recognize that a lot of my followers are not as they would describe “Pentecostal.” I pray that you would read this with the understanding that my focus is on your obtaining the power of the Holy Spirit within you that God wants you to have, more so than any outward display.

Paul says to us, in 1 Corinthians 14, “Pursue love, and desire spiritual gifts, but especially that you may prophesy. For he who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God, for no one understands him; however, in the spirit he speaks mysteries. But he who prophesies speaks edification and exhortation and comfort to men. He who speaks in a tongue edifies himself, but he who prophesies edifies the church. I wish you all spoke with tongues, but even more that you prophesied; for he who prophesies is greater than he who speaks with tongues, unless indeed he interprets, that the church may receive edification.”

Wow, that’s a lot to digest for anyone. The fact is clear, though, that Paul wants us all to speak in tongues. Further, Paul wishes that we would desire, and attain, the ability – through the Holy Spirit – to prophesy because it edifies (instructs or improves (someone) morally or intellectually) the church, rather than simply edifying ourselves.

However! Don’t miss this:

While Paul wishes the new Church all spoke in tongues, He wishes even more greatly that we would prophesy because that is edifying for the entire Church!

After all, this would go hand-in-hand with each and every Christian’s first and most important calling – to share the gospel. What could be better for this world than the gospel than God’s current, spoken, word? A rhema Word as it were…

I must admit that to be in the presence of God, under the anointing of the Holy Spirit is powerful and … awing. If the presence of the Holy Spirit is nothing else, it is that – awing.

Through my teenage years, for mostly medical reasons, my relationship with God became a struggle for me. Thankfully, by the time I was 18 and had a brand new baby girl, I was able to focus on what everything else in my life hinged upon – my relationship with God.

Over the years that followed God showed me how He could be everything to me – husband, father to my child, father to me, best friend, provider, healer, teacher, etc. I had no idea that a person could have that kind of a relationship with someone. It was literally as if He were my husband. Communication now goes both ways between me and God. Through that progress in our relationship the Holy Spirit – within me – was growing all the while; and, I can honestly say that the Holy Spirit has used me in some powerful ways since then.

And, yes, during this relationships of ours (God and mine), I have watched Him heal each of my children. I have heard His voice delivering me from any thought of suicide. He has woken me in the middle of the night to address a spiritual attack from Satan on my husband. That is what having the presence of the Holy Spirit in my life means to me.

So, what am I saying? I’m saying THIS is what the anointing of the Holy Spirit means to me. I’m saying this is available to you. Answered prayers are attainable. Knowing, without a shadow of a doubt, that God is hearing you is possible. Praying over a perfect stranger and God meeting their need is totally possible. And, this world is going to hell in a hand basket all around us. What does it say about us if we’re not trying to change the world?

If you want to change the world, then you must be greater than it. The only way to be greater than the world is to have God (the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit) residing within and acting through you.

That’s it. That’s all I’m saying. You can be a cog or you can be a spectator.

If you want to know more about the Holy Spirit and the gifts of the Holy Spirit – but would prefer to hear it from someone more unbiased (as I grew up in a Pentecostal Church), I encourage you to read the book They Spoke with Other Tongues.

This book, from a sceptic’s point of view, shares with you historical and biblical accounts of who the Holy Spirit is and how He can and has operated. I so want someone’s life to be changed that I’m giving away a copy of this book. I am not giving this book away as a promotion. I am not even going to promote this on social media other than to share this blog post as I do all of my posts. I just ask that you comment below that you would be interested in winning a copy of this book because you are interested in what it has to say. I will then take all of those peoples names and let Rafflecopter choose a name.

Please, if you have any questions drop them below. I love all of you and want us to get our job done – changing people’s lives through God – the Father, The Son, and the Holy Spirit.

Bible

The Good Samaritan Challenge

Luke 10:30-37 The Good Samaritan
This poor guy was left on the side of the road beaten, half dead. How many times have you felt half-dead? Physically, spiritually, emotionally, mentally? 


This priest sees him. The priest looked the other way because he can’t get caught up in that. He can’t get dirty. He’s got a sermon to prepare. He ain’t got time for drama. That’s what other people are for: police, counselors, associate pastors. 

Then a Levite comes by, a neighbor. He even takes time to look at the carnage on the side of the road but then “keeps driving” so to speak. He hopes the guy is okay, maybe, but he’s got some place to be. He’s got his own problems. 


Then…a Samaritan comes by, someone seen as lesser than the man beaten, an outsider, possibly even an interloper. 


This Samaritan doesn’t just see the beaten down guy. He actually bandaged his wounds. He didn’t call someone and say, “Hey, could you…uh. Could you take care of this?” He poured oil and wine on his wounds. He even gave him a ride on his own ride. He then took him to an hotel. It doesn’t end there, though. He went in and took care of him. Then, when the Samaritan left…he paid the hotel manager and said, “Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I come again, I will repay you.”

So, today…I challenge you: be a Good Samaritan. Stop right now and think: Who hasn’t been around? Who do I know is going through something? Who might be hurting?

Then…


1. Go to them: Don’t just call or text. You can do those first but then physically GO TO THEM. 

2. Attend their wounds: This may mean literally. This may mean saying, “Lets look in the Bible together, right now.” This may mean bringing them food, talking with them, and praying with them. 

3. Then “come again”: That means follow up. Go back and check and see if they’re healing.

4. Challenge someone else to do this. Can you imagine if a Good Samaritan Challenge went viral?! How insanely awesome would that be?!

But it starts with you.


You could change someone’s life. You could SAVE someone’s life

This isn’t merely a suggestion nor a trite challenge made by yours truly. This was a tactfully directed commandment made by the Son of God.
“Then Jesus answered and said: “A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, who stripped him of his clothing, wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a certain priest came down that road. And when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. Likewise a Levite, when he arrived at the place, came and looked, and passed by on the other side. But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was. And when he saw him, he had compassion. So he went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; and he set him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. On the next day, when he departed, he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said to him, ‘Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I come again, I will repay you.’ So which of these three do you think was neighbor to him who fell among the thieves?” And he said, “He who showed mercy on him.” Then Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.””

‭‭Luke‬ ‭10:30-37‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

Bible, Children, Church, family, Kid's Fun, Ministry, Parenting, Uncategorized

When Church Goes Wrong: who’s fault is it?

Start this 6 part series HERE or refresh yourself on the last article.


When I taught children a lot more than I do now, I used to often say, “God sends them to us perfect. It’s our job not to screw them up.”

So, when parents tell me things such as…

“My kiddo was just asked to not come back to church next Sunday as punishment for behavior…this is the third church we’ve been to. We’ll try again the next Sunday, but this momma is afraid we might be three strikes and we’re out.”

“I was dismayed today to have it reported that a nursery volunteer told a child ’you’re a bad boy’ in response to something he did. The church has such a profound influence on a child’s identity formation- we need to take care to reach children that they are beloved bearers of Christ’s image.”

it breaks my heart.


When I asked if I should write on this topic, parents said…

“Yes! I honestly can’t even take my children to church at times because they are trauma kids and need help. But they have been told they were bad, they’ve been put in time out, and I’ve been told that I’m not a good mom and don’t have control over my kids… I know they are tough. I live with them. I don’t need them to be hurt at church.”

Also…

“Definitely! I have that kid, and now when I serve in children’s ministry, I seek out ’that kid’ and their mom, and try to encourage them and love them both!! I also found that the teacher who I initially felt was tough on my kid turned out to be EXACTLY what he needed.”

I want to be clear about something though: all throughout the responses and emails I’ve received, the parents have been understanding! They’ve been understanding about a lack of volunteers, a lack of training, and more. No parent came across angry or unforgiving. Rather they came across to me as simply wanting a solution, and to be a part of it at that! Occasionally, they were clearly hurting, frustrated, confused, or fearful.


So…how do we fix this?

Well, first – as with any problem , a great part of the solution lies in communication. Just because it’s church, doesn’t mean you just hand off your child as you would with maybe their grandparents. Just as if you were interviewing a babysitter or checking out schools for your little one you need to know the situation they are walking into. It’s OK to ask questions. It’s OK to sit in the back of the classroom and see the way they facilitate their class. It can be frustrating to experience the way a ministry may facilitate discipline, celebration, worship,… any list of things if you are not first aware of how they will be doing that, if you’re not already prepared.

As an example:

If you know that your little Johnny gets out of hand when excited then you need to be his advocate and be proactive. Don’t set him up for failure. If you know that your children’s ministry has exciting worship before their lesson, then maybe you go to children’s church during praise and worship and sit by him simply to teach him how to control himself and then wind down for the lesson…and then you leave. Alternatively, maybe you keep him with you wherever you are until the lesson starts and then you escort him to children’s church.

Another example:

If you know that your children’s minister calls people out by name and sends them to timeout but your child has experienced a past trauma that would be revisited or exacerbated by this, then speak privately with your minister and come up with a plan beforehand. Hit it off at the pass!

These were just some of the responses that I received from ministers when I asked them “What does your department consider a ‘problem’ that must be addressed immediately with parents?”

“Anything that a child brings up about their home life that could be harmful. That would be first and foremost. If a child is injured I would bring that up immediately with a parent. If a child wants to be baptized and has questions about Jesus or God, I would always pull the parent to the side and have a conversation with them. I never addressed behavior [with a parent] unless they harmed another child.”

“A ‘problem’ would be anything that is keeping the department or class from running smoothly. If a child were to hit, kick,bite, cause distraction, harm Church property or others, defy leadership. Any of these things happen, parents are notified.”

“One of the few times I had problems with behavior was if after many times of trying to redirect a child who was unruly (fighting, yelling out, being sexually inappropriate, cussing) I would send for their parents or if it was one of my inner city kids, I would get the superintendent. One instance I was able to turn around was a child who I suspected was dyslexic. The kids were teasing him. So I just rewrote everything on the chalk board for the class. No one could read it but the said child. Victory for him! Understanding and empathy for the other children [goes a long way].”

Do you see how very different all three of those answers were? Different churches, different ministries, different ministers will respond and direct differently! You need to know who and what you’re dealing with so you can be proactive.

“The human body has many parts, but the many parts make up one whole body. So it is with the body of Christ. Some of us are Jews, some are Gentiles, some are slaves, and some are free. But we have all been baptized into one body by one Spirit, and we all share the same Spirit. Yes, the body has many different parts, not just one part…But our bodies have many parts, and God has put each part just where he wants it…Yes, there are many parts, but only one body….while the more honorable parts do not require this special care. So God has put the body together such that extra honor and care are given to those parts that have less dignity. This makes for harmony among the members, so that all the members care for each other. If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it, and if one part is honored, all the parts are glad.” ‭‭1 Corinthians‬ ‭12:12-14, 18, 20, 24-26‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Second, you have to be understanding of your church’s limitations just as you are their positive aspects. Some churches are blessed with an over-abundance of volunteers in every department of ministry. Others are not. Did you know that children’s ministry needs the most volunteers yet typically is the very ministry that has the very least people that volunteer for it? Further, with things being the way that they are in the world now, churches find themselves having to go to the extra expense of paying for background checks. That cost alone can limit them to the amount of volunteers they can afford. Your simple offer to pay for your own background check could nullify that. Also, while there are many that love children and may be parents themselves, they may have not been given any training in regard to the teaching or caring of others’ children outside of or within a church setting…for whatever reason. If there has been no training offered, you should know that before your child has joined children’s church. If you have a problem with that, then you have some options: 1) you can volunteer yourself; 2) you can spearhead getting training brought to your church’s children’s ministry; or 3) you can take your chances knowing that or keep your child out.

When I asked ministers “Are all of your volunteers trained? Some? If so, how?” these were just some of the responses I received:

“[Our] churches do not have a lot of money for training and materials. We offer them the best training possible which is to tell them what we expect in each class/service. If something were to happen, we are to be alerted as the leaders of the department, and then we talk to the Parents.”

“All volunteers are trained before being placed in a classroom. Training takes place monthly for new team members and is required for all team members because it is held monthly in a team rally situation.”

“We took classes taught by church for training. I had an advantage in that I had my AA degree in child education and additional classes in special needs children.” Not all ministries have the luxury of having formally trained teachers, obviously.

Lastly, you must be an active participant. You can’t treat children’s ministry as if it’s a babysitting service and then be disappointed, upset, or angry when you don’t get the results you’re hoping for (e.g., your child knowing the Bible, knowing Christ, understanding repentance, your child ultimately accepting Christ). Babysitters don’t do anything other than assure that your child is safe while you’re away. If you treat it all as babysitting, then you should expect to get called out of church. After all, you wouldn’t expect your babysitter to discipline your child would you? If you treat them as a babysitting service, you would be shocked and astounded if you came to pick up your child and your child suddenly knew how to read a book.


You know…you may feel like they want to get your kids and to get rid of you at the door. If you feel that way, that’s probably not what’s going on. Teachers and ministers get in a zone just like the players of a game do. Seriously! They get totally focused on their “game plan” and are anxious to initiate it. So, don’t be afraid to ask, “How can I get involved?” Because just as you’re getting different responses here, you may get a very different response from your children’s minister!


When I asked “What do you think parents can do to be most beneficial overall and for their children specifically, in regard to their relationship with your children’s ministry?” These were some responses I received…

“The most important thing a parent can do is serve in kids ministry. Especially if they have a child in kids ministry. It helps them [that] you sweat and it’s not a babysitting service and opens up communication about their children’s faith. Children’s ministry is one of the most important ministries in a church and will help promote church growth if done correctly and parents are a big part of this.”

“Talking positively about the teachers. Calling them Ms. or Mr., not their first names. Speaking with parents separate from the classroom. No one needs to hear [about situations] but those involved. Not calling out or speaking about the issue in front of [a] child and [the] whole class. Talk about [the] problem, not [the] child, and without naming names!”

“In our department, we had parents who used us as babysitters. If they would see us as much more than that. We are pouring into the souls of their children for the sake of the Kingdom. If parents could put our classes and services on the top of their priority list, ensure their students are in class on time and as often as classes or an event are held, it only helps. If parents could remind students of how they should behave that would be great. If parents would communicate with leadership and let them know about any special needs the student has, that would be great! As volunteers freely give up their time to serve in the ministry, it is our hope that children and students will have a great time so parents can focus on their own class/service.”

No. You need to treat them and respect them for what they are – educators. They are educating your children on the very most important thing they’ll ever need to know in life – God and His will. Do you recall at the beginning of this series where I lined out how “kids” in the Bible learned?

In Christ’s time, a Jewish child was sent to school within the fifth or sixth year of his life. Until they were ten, the Bible was their one text book. From the ages of ten to fifteen, traditional law was their main subject. After the age of fifteen, they studied theology as it was taught in the Talmud. The Talmud is the record of rabbinic teachings that spans a period of about six hundred years… The rabbinic teachings of the Talmud explain in great detail how the commandments of the Torah are to be carried out.


If with school you get progress reports, you meet with the teacher, you assure that they are behaving properly, you ask them what they learned that day…why would you not do that and more for their lessons on God, His Son, and the Holy Spirit? We are talking about their entire life on this planet and eternity!

Somewhere along the line we all get our priorities messed up, out of alignment, out of order. Sometimes our churches do. After all, they’re ran by us – deficient humans. Sometimes Churches get distracted by trying to entertain the children, trying to hem up the children, trying to grow the ministry. So too, though, do we parents get messed up and begin to treat children’s ministry as if it’s somehow less important than school, a reprieve from parenting for a couple of hours, not our responsibility.


So, today take responsibility for yours! If you feel like your children are being entertained rather than ministered, speak up. Do so with respect and patience; because these folks are working hard for your children.

You’d be surprised what you can accomplish when you are directed by the Holy Spirit and speak as Christ would. After all, complaints are usually filed away and put in one of two boxes in our minds: 1) “I can’t let it bother me”; or 2) the box of insecurities. When spoken to with suggestions and concerns, offers of assistance and encouragement, those words are often put into boxes like: 1) “That’s someone who’s on my side. I can work with them.” 2) “Maybe that’s who God is sending me to help me.” 3) “I see there’s an area I need to work on; and, I’m okay with that.”

Lastly, I would challenge you to pray for your children’s ministers and teachers. Are you praying for our president? Your governor? Your boss? Your pastor? You better be! And, if you are, then shouldn’t you be praying for all of those same people that influence your children’s lives?


Thank you for staying with me throughout this series. I pray that God has brought hope and forgiveness to parents. I pray that God has brought insight to teachers and ministers. Above all, I pray that this series is able to change the outcome of even just one of His children and the path that they take for His kingdom.


Do you want to do more with your children? You might start here: Focus on the Family’s Summer Adventure Kit! It’s completely free (but you can always donate) and is a great way for you to take an active part in the Biblical education of your children in a very fun way.

Do you need some more encouragement on a very real and specific thing you and your child(ren) are going through? I encourage you to check out Focus on the Family’s parenting website. They cover a variety of topics from newborn on up. To learn more about them CLICK HERE.

“Focus on the Family is a global Christian ministry dedicated to helping families thrive. We provide help and resources for couples to build healthy marriages that reflect God’s design, and for parents to raise their children according to morals and values grounded in biblical principles.”

STAY TUNED: We’re on vacation this week but because so many of you have responded so well to this series, when I return home, I’m going to be doing a giveaway! Follow my blog, Facebook page, Twitter account, and on Instagram and you’ll never miss a giveaway!

Bible, Children, Church, family, Kid's Fun, Ministry, Parenting, Uncategorized

When Children’s Church Goes Wrong: who’s fault is it? (5 of 6)

Begin this six-part series HERE or refresh yourself on the last part.

Then we encountered something God knew we needed – a group of people that just wanted to love my son. Even though my husband still did his leadership gig at “the big church” – and still does – we began attending at a church a ways out from our house. We knew, at the very least, that it was where our son needed to be to heal and we saw this very quickly. His first few Sundays he didn’t trust his teachers for obvious reasons. And…you know what? They thought outside of the box… without even knowing what had happened to him. I found out that Mr. Zach, the youth pastor, was taking him out to the inflated moon bounce every Sunday morning… just the two of them while class was going on. Then, after my son would burn off some energy and see that he was loved and accepted, Mr. Zach would take him back to class.


After a while, I only got random messages (about once every few months) from an usher asking me to check on him. My son would often get excited during music and not be able to calm himself down afterward. I’d sit in class and remind him of his expected behavior. These events only happened on days when there was only one teacher and she couldn’t do it all. It was completely understandable to me. It was a wonderful season for my son that allowed him to see that there was a healthy environment for him to learn about the Lord, away from Mommy’s house, where he could trust the teachers and others to love him and expect good behavior as well.


Thankfully, his preschool school year helped to solidify this as well. God showed us a great school for our son and placed him with the most perfect teachers ever. His preschool teacher was an amazing balance of firmness and love. She saw all that he had inside him: leadership skills, intelligence, zeal, etc. but didn’t allow her love for him to cause her to neglect to be firm and not reward him for poor behavior. No matter how many times he got put in time out or didn’t get “a bug in his jar,” my son never – not once – felt unloved. I told her many times, “This is your calling. Don’t underestimate that for a moment.”


I was beginning to gain perspective that these were all the growing pains of dealing with many other people very unlike myself. These were the growing pains of being made aware of a growing dichotomy between how the church once did things and now do things. After all my children are 15 years apart.


Then my son visited that same church as his preschool, of where he was so successful, for its Vacation Bible School (his preschool was not at the same church of which we attend). On the very first day of pick-up (a day of which included excitement because it was the first day, meeting new friends, bouncie houses, dancing, etc.) the teacher welcomes me by saying, “He was disruptive during music, bumping people next to him while dancing, so I had to pull him out of music.” I didn’t even get a “Hello,” y’all. I swear I am not making that up. Can I just tell you that it was one of those days and I barely made it to the car before I began hiccup crying in front of my five-year-old? That was never my intention. I don’t like to argue in front of my kids. I certainly don’t like to cry in front of them. I’m not saying those things are bad I’m just saying they’re not who I am or, try to be, in front of my kids. Was it an overreaction? Yes – to this one incident. But my reaction was one of a working mom doing her best and getting a “bad report” yet again.

And…it ruined my day. It disappointed my son. It was Vacation. Bible. School. Why was there even in a behavior chart? It’s four days of bible, songs, and games. We didn’t even have a behavior chart at church camp where we stayed overnight, let alone any VBS I ever went to or taught! Is someone going to tell me they do that at camp now, too?!


The following morning I had gotten it together. I told the teacher calmly and even pleasantly (because I had allowed God to adjust my attitude), “Please remind him to stay in his personal bubble during music time and he won’t accidentally bump into his friends. If you have any problems, though, call me and I’ll come get him.” I think that she read from my body language that if that were the case, he wouldn’t be back. Her entire demeanor changed so I believed the very best.


I was pleased when I picked him up to find out that just as I had adjusted my attitude, the teacher had adjusted hers. She shared with me how all of the kids had learned about their personal bubbles and they all stayed in their own. She shared with me her appreciation for me teaching her about the whole “personal bubble” method. God is good!


I had to remind myself that Matthew 22:14 says that “many are called but few are chosen.” I think that every parent has to remind themselves of that when they place their children in others’ hands. I also did something that some may think a little odd but I put my son in a shirt that I bought him last year. I wanted his teacher to remember something about him just as God was reminding me (Matthew 22:14) about volunteers and teachers. His shirt said, “I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” Our children are. You know? Whether they’re perfect angels or being selfish. Whether you’re teaching a child that knows every single answer or you’re trying to teach that one kid that just acts as if he’s full of vinegar, God made them and He doesn’t make junk.



Come back tomorrow for the last installment of When Children’s Church Goes Wrong: who’s fault is it? I think it’s the most interesting and informative of them all! And…I have a surprise for you for staying with it through this whole series!