I had the privilege of running the sound booth last week for our Vacation Bible School, and it was a blast! It was such a joy to watch the kids as they listened to the Bible story, played games outside, and worked on their crafts together. But, the best part? Listening to them worship! They sang at the top of their lungs, danced along, and wanted to be as close to the stage as possible. Such a beautiful thing to witness.
I've led worship in some capacity for the past twelve years, and it always fills my heart to hear the kids worship whether it be at kids' events or during the regular worship service. No shame. No fear. I love it!
I think the most beautiful thing about hearing the kids worship is when we let them sing worship songs without watering down the Gospel or discounting how much they really know. Sure, the songs they sang last week were upbeat, had crazy hand motions, and train whistles throughout, but the kids were singing about how "the same power that rose Jesus from the grave lives in them." The kids didn't just learn some fun songs, they learned some biblical truths.
A few years ago, I heard of someone who said, "Kids need to learn the Sunday School songs from the past!" (i.e. The Books of the Bible, Father Abraham, I'm in the Lord's Army). Wait, what? So, you're saying that kids need to learn memorization tools and songs that can barely be traced to Scripture over modern worship songs? (Yeah, yeah, I know I stepped on some toes with that answer, but seriously...)
Parents and grandparents, my challenge to you is let your kids worship! Turn on the Christian radio, teach them hymns, let them be in the Sanctuary worshipping with the rest of the family, and evaluate what kind of worship you are pushing them towards. Sure, they can learn the kiddie songs too, but are they learning songs that teach them about the heart of God and teach them truths about Him? They are not the generation of the future, they are the generation of now! Let the children worship!
"Then they sat on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights. No one said a word to him, because they saw how great his suffering was." Job 2:13 NIV
Have you ever had those moments in life where it seems like everything is going wrong? This thing breaks, and then this other thing breaks, and then the tenth thing breaks, and you're like, "I need a break!"
I think life in general can often seem like a nonstop paddling through different trials and situations. My husband and I experienced this a lot in our previous home. So many things kept breaking or going wrong, and always at the most in-opportune time; usually before or after a vacation. Our entire A/C unit broke over the 4th of July one year, which happened to be the hottest week of the summer. While we were visiting family over Christmas one year, some mice snuck in and got into our pantry and we had to throw away most of our food. And, when we arrived home from a wonderful vacation, we discovered that we had no running water. It turns out our well was completely dry.
I have so many more stories, but these just give you a little window into some of our trials that happened in a timespan of three years. Looking back, I can see how we survived and persevered through whatever came our way, but they were not enjoyable experiences at the time! I am so thankful for those who encouraged us, were patient with us no matter how sleep deprived we were, and who even opened up their home to us. They helped us so much!
But, you know what wasn't helpful? The people who told us to try and figure out what God was trying to teach us, and then rattled off a handful of Bible verses. I remember the exact moment reading my social media thinking, "We have NO running water...and, it's going to cost thousands of dollars to fix the problem. Don't give me Bible verses when what I need is a shower!"
The book of Job has so many lessons jam-packed into it. In Chapter 1, one thing after the other after the other is taken away from Job. He is so heartbroken and downtrodden, yet he does not sin (1:22). Several chapters in the book of Job give all of the lengthy advice that his friends try to give him, but as readers, we know that they are not making the situation any better.
But, what was the BEST help to Job? The moment his friends came to see him. They saw him from afar, were heartbroken and wept, and then just sat with him for SEVEN days and nights. They didn't try to give him advice. They didn't make him try to figure out what he did wrong. They just sat with him and let him mourn for awhile.
Do you know someone going through a difficult time right now? I encourage you to visit them, give them a call, or write them a note, but don't preach to them. If they want to talk, let them talk, but maybe the best thing you can do is just be there.
Checkout the My Job Prayer Journal on Amazon if you're interested in reading and journaling through the book of Job!
"Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow." Isaiah 1:18
Words cannot describe the beautiful perfection of the white snow gently falling against the black dresses and black suits as our family huddled together to say our final goodbyes. It looked like a scene from a movie. Quiet. Calm. Surreal.
Last year on this date, some of us gathered for a small private family funeral for my grandfather. It had been a long four years of suffering, worrying, caring, and countless doctor visits. We know that others would have loved to join us, but I think we all needed a chance to let our guard down and grieve together. My mom and her sisters had spent hours and hours selflessly doing whatever they could to help him and they honestly just needed a break.
While we were inside the funeral chapel worshipping, remembering, and crying together, a small blizzard had rolled in. When we opened the doors to head out to the gravesite, we were met with snowflakes falling as the white sky blended in with the white ground. The words of Amazing Grace gently cut through the quiet as God's presence sprinkled down on our family.
I am so grateful for the snow falling that day. It's beauty and peace will forever be in my heart, and every time it snows, I am reminded of God's presence and forgiveness. Just as the snow falls to cover the ground, Jesus' blood covers our sins so they can't be seen anymore.
My grandpa wasn't perfect, but who is? He didn't have the easiest life, but he persevered. He never gave up. I don't know if he always had Jesus by his side, but I know that at the end he did, and that's what matters. The amazing thing about Jesus is that you can come to him at anytime, and he forgives you and invites you to spend eternity with him. He washes you as white as snow.
Whatever you're going through right now whether it be anxiety, frustration, worry, or loss, know that God is with you. I pray that the beauty of the falling snow is a reminder of God's presence and that knowledge will bring you peace that passes all understanding.
"Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor, for we are all members of one body." Ephesians 4:25 NIV
Have you heard of a fidget spinner? It looks like a toy that spins and is supposed to direct all of the fidgety energy so a person can focus. Well, from a former teacher's perspective: Worst. Invention. Ever.
Maybe they work for some people, but I remember when these first came out, my fairly good hearing could pick up a tiny squeaking/scraping noise, and I would ask the class what was going on. Of course, someone would confess that they had a fidget spinner. The spinning may have been calming to them, but annoying to everyone else.
Have you ever had a conversation with someone trying to justify their sin? They are kind of like a human fidget spinner. They direct all of their energy to the "because" "but" "if" reasons to comfort themselves, but they're not fooling anyone around them. They're just sending out a wave of awkward red flags. Anyone listening can hear the "squeaking" of their justification.
In the book of Ephesians, Chapter 4:17-32, Paul is pretty clear about instructions for Christian living. He says over and over that as Christians, we are to be like Christ and put off the old way of life. Others live in sin, but we know better.
First of all, I think it's important to examine our own lives and make sure we're not spinning anything to continue in sin. Do you find yourself having a little personal discussion telling yourself it's okay to do something? Maybe watching certain movies, sharing crude jokes, drinking a little too much, gossiping, starting arguments on social media? Spend a little time in confession and asking God for help with these things.
Next, what do you do when you know someone is spinning a story to you? I know it's difficult and awkward, but here are a couple basic responses.:
Some words of caution when talking to someone who is spinning their sin is that you must be patient and hold your temper. From my observations and experience, people can get very defensive when justifying their sin. The smallest question can trigger anger or a long rant on why they are right. Be calm, be kind, and show them the love of Christ. As Christians, we should encourage each other to make right decisions and be good examples. Sometimes, it's hard, but let God be your strength and courage!
Begin today's devotional by reading Philippians 1:1-11
I'm sure you've heard the phrase, "blood is thicker than water." This phrase means that when it comes down to having to choose loyalty or make a decision, family is chosen above anyone or anything else. Maybe you've felt it in your own life. I know I've had various situations where I wish I could be in two places at once, but honestly, the family choice is the only answer.
I also have some friends who may as well be family. We have been friends for so long, and will be for the rest of our lives. Even if we see each other once a year, we pick up right where we left off, know what each other is thinking or feeling, and are so close that other people assume we are cousins or related somehow.
I love this section of Philippians where Paul is so thankful for the church in Philippi that he says, "I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy." (vs. 3-4). Are there people in your life that make you feel the same way? Every time you think of them, you are thankful to God and filled with joy? I hope so! If not, I encourage you to pray that God would surround you with family and friends who love you with an inexplainable unending love.
In addition to family, and close friends who could be family, have you ever gone on a mission trip or traveled somewhere and met other Christ-followers? Did you have that instant connection or that feeling like you've known each other forever? I know it's happened to me throughout my life.
Several years ago, my husband and I went on a mission trip to Mexico. There were two host missionary families that we connected with and still stay in contact with today. When we met them, it seems like we skipped right to the "we're family now" feeling before the week of serving even started. And we aren't family, we're not blood-related...or are we? We are blood-related. And that blood is the blood of Christ!
The blood of Jesus has given us each grace and hope and true meaning in our lives. And God has given us countless brothers and sisters, blood-related family, that we should love and encourage with everything we have. It is unfortunate when petty issues divide us, and unforgiveness reigns. We need to rise above whatever differences are going on and realize that blood is thicker than water. Right now, is just a breath of time, we have all eternity to spend together so let's start the healing process.
Spend some time thanking God today for those He has put in your life. If there is anyone you need to forgive, ask God to help you. If there's anyone who you need to ask for forgiveness, ask God to help you.
I encourage you to pray the last verses of this passage over each of them.
"And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God." (vs. 9-11)