Beauty

On December 22, 2019, we had a beautiful wedding in our family.

Matt and Eriko

The bride was beautiful – and her dress! The groom was handsome. The church was all decorated up for Christmas, and was the perfect beautiful setting for such an event.

Wedding music, glowing candles, fresh flowers, beaming faces, magnificent dresses, and happy tears. The indescribable joy fills everyone’s heart.

Yet, True beauty is even deeper; “…the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.” 1 Peter 3:4

Both of these young people are truly beautiful. They are considerate and thoughtful to their families as well as gracious, kindhearted and helpful to one another. Our entire family is bursting with pride for this young couple and we are excited to see where God will take them.

May God greatly bless you both in the coming year, and in the future as you reach out to teach and love those around you.

The Choice

What I’m commanding you today is not too hard for you. It isn’t beyond your reach. It isn’t up in heaven. So you don’t have to ask, “Who will go up into heaven to get it? Who will announce it to us so we can obey it?” And it isn’t beyond the ocean. So you don’t have to ask, “Who will go across the ocean to get it? Who will announce it to us so we can obey it?” No, the message isn’t far away at all. In fact, it’s really near you. It’s in your mouth and in your heart so that you can obey it.

Today I’m giving you a choice. You can have life and success. Or you can have death and harm. I’m commanding you today to love the Lord your God. I’m commanding you to live exactly as he wants you to live. You must obey his commands, rules and laws. Then you will live. There will be many of you. The Lord your God will bless you in the land you are entering to take as your own.

Don’t let your hearts turn away from the Lord. Instead, obey him. Don’t let yourselves be drawn away to other gods. And don’t bow down to them and worship them. If you do, I announce to you this day that you will certainly be destroyed. You are about to go across the Jordan River and take over the land. But you won’t live there very long.

I’m calling for the heavens and the earth to be witnesses against you this very day. I’m offering you the choice of life or death. You can choose either blessings or curses. But I want you to choose life. Then you and your children will live. And you will love the Lord your God. You will obey him. You will remain true to him. The Lord is your very life.

Deuteronomy 30:11-20 NIrV

The choice is not between a list of do this and don’t do that on one hand and freedom on the other hand. The unbelieving world often sees it that way. The truth is; it is a choice between choosing love (life) on one hand and separation from God (death) on the other hand. God is waiting to shower blessings on you and your family. He is waiting for you to make your choice. Talk to Him – He is listening. Listen to Him – He has much to tell you. The Lord is your very life.

Created for Relationship

When God created the world, He did so with Relationship at its core. Humanity was created in order to be in Relationship with God, and in Relationship with one another.

If either one of these Relationship Dynamics is off track, then our emotional, mental and spiritual health is out of balance. We begin to try to fill the holes with many other things: money, sex, material possessions, power over others … the list goes on.

If both of these Relationship Dynamics are in good working order, then we are able to grow into mature Christians, who are in turn able to give to others who are in need.

Those are the simply basics of how life works.

When God created Adam and Eve, there was perfect union with both God and with each other. The two people walked with God in the garden, talking with Him and being open and honest with each other. Genesis 2:25 says, “The man and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.” This is not only about no clothes. This is two people being completely intimate physically, but also emotionally. They were in harmony. They were vulnerable with each other, not hiding anything. They “knew” each other completely. There was no shame.

We were created to be in that kind of Relationship with both God and others. To be open and honest. To be intimate. To be accepted.

Someone once asked Jesus what the greatest commandment in the world is. Jesus answered, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.” Matt 22:37-39

Everything in life comes down to these two Relationships.

We must be reconciled to God. We must ask His forgiveness and we must cultivate a daily relationship with Him.

We must reconnect with others. We must care for each other, forgive each other, reach out in love and support for each other.

Photo courtesy of Fairfax.gov

So how do we do this? Jesus gives us this very important directive in living our lives. “You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.”  John 14:13   

James tells us, “You do not have, because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.”

We know what God wants for us and what we need – Intimate and Honest Relationship.

We know the first step in getting those Relationships. Prayer. Talk to God. Admit that you need Relationship and ask Him to help you restore them.

That is asking in Jesus’ Name and He will do it.

Is there a Relationship in your life that needs restoring? Start working on it today.

The Passion of Jesus Christ

The Passion of Jesus Christ by John Piper is an amazing book. The subtitle is: Fifty Reasons Why He Came to Die.

Reason #6 is To Show His Own Love for Us.

Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. Ephesians 5:2

Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her. Ephesians 5:25

[He] loved me and gave himself for me. Galatians 2:20

John Piper writes: The death of Christ is not only the demonstration of God’s love (John 3:16), it is also the supreme expression of Christ’s own love for all who receive it as their treasure. The early witnesses who suffered most for being Christians were captured by this fact: Christ “loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20). They took the self-giving act of Christ’s sacrifice very personally. They said, “He loved me. He gave himself for me.”

John continues: Surely this is the way we should understand the sufferings and death of Christ. They have to do with me. They are about Christ’s love for me personally.

This book has changed the way I view Christ’s death and his resurrection.

What does Christ’s death mean to you?

How do you see his resurrection?

Looking For Love In All The Wrong Places

I was reading a blog the other day that was very sad.

This person told about breaking up with their boyfriend, then going to a terrible party, getting drunk, then feeling miserable about her life. One bad incident triggered three miserable events.

I realize that this happens often, to both men and women.

But why?

There is an old country/western song that said,

 “Looking for love in all the wrong places, Looking for love in too many faces, Searchin’ their eyes and lookin’ for traces of what I’m dreamin’ of.”

Looking for love. That is the very essence of who we are.

Why? Because God created us that way.

God planted deep within our hearts a powerful yearning for authentic love. That yearning was intended to bring us closer to Him. It was also intended to bring us into families. Children desire love above all else. Women long for a deep relationship with one strong man. Men long for a deep relationship with one tender woman. We want to be special. We long for commitment and security in one intimate relationship.

When those longings are not fulfilled, our lives crash. After my own divorce, I hit rock bottom.

The song goes on to say, “Playin’ a fool’s game, hopin’ to win.” And “I did everything I could to get me through the night.”

It doesn’t have to be that way. God has longings too. He longs for us to turn toward Him so He can pour His love out on us. He longs to provide the relationships we desire.

God will hear.

It took me lots of time before I realized I just needed more of God. When I rededicated my life to Him, He filled my life to overflowing with Love!

But we have to ask. Try it. Start talking to Him today. The Name of Jesus is very powerful. Ask in Jesus’ name for what you need. God will hear.

You must be willing to set your pride down and admit where you have gone wrong. God will hear.

Have you experienced God’s love? Share your story here.

7 Keys to Teaching Children About God

Passing on our personal faith in Jesus Christ to children is one of the most important things we can ever do. A recent Barna study indicates that nearly half of all Americans who accept Jesus Christ as their savior do so before reaching the age of 13 (43%), and that two out of three born again Christians (64%) made that commitment to Christ before their 18th birthday. 

https://www.barna.com/research/evangelism-is-most-effective-among-kids/

Sometimes kids can be difficult to teach. They need to bounce. They need to talk about their pets. They interrupt. But put a few tools in your teaching tool belt and the problems will smooth right out.

  1. Teach the kids – not the curriculum. Many times, teachers enter the room with prepared curriculum and are insistent that the class get through the material. I have watched kids sit through lessons as words fly past them. Then the kids get up and go home with no idea of what it was all about. Speak to them, look into their eyes, let them ask questions. If you don’t finish all the material, bring it back for a second lesson. It’s better for the kids to go home with one firm thought, than for them to leave with everything over their head.
  2. Ask them if they have any questions. I often start my lessons this way: “What questions do you have about God?” I am amazed at the deep questions the kids have, that no one has taken the time to answer. “How can God be everywhere at once?” “How can Jesus be God if he is on earth and the Father is in heaven?” “Why is the Bible so hard to read?” “How did Jesus know what was going to happen to him?” These are all very important questions. If you don’t know the answer to something they ask, that’s okay. Just say, “I don’t know.” Then go find out and report back. Kids often feel shy about asking these kinds of questions, so I always let them know how important their questions are. The next time, they won’t be so hesitant.
  3. Give them hands on activities to connect with the ideas. Children are tactile. They need to see and touch – even taste. Let the kids act out Bible stories in mini-skits. They LOVE any kind of costumes. Keep the lines short and simple. Usually when we act out a Bible story, it only takes a minute or two, so we repeat it several times with different kids in different roles. Everyone is excited to try every role at least once! By the end of our time, they know the story very well. Paper cut outs, drawings, water paints, and clay molding all work very well too. Give them a theme and let them get to work. You will be astounded at some of the results.
  4. Respect their individual maturity levels. Some kids are full of deeply thought through questions while others just want to talk about their last soccer game. Don’t push kids. When they are ready, they will respond.
  5. Keep it short. Young elementary kids need a change of topic or activity every 10-15 minutes. Older elementary can maybe go 20-25 minutes, then change up the activity. Get them up and moving. Give them something to create. Watch for signs that they need a change. When the kids lose focus, they are not being disobedient, they are being the kids God created them to be.
  6. Really listen to them. What did they go through in the past few days or week that was hard for them? What excites them? Children often struggle with the death of a pet for far longer than we think they should. If they are still talking about something, it’s important to them.
  7. Teach in small groups. Five to eight students in a group is ideal. Any more than that and some kids will get lost in the crowd. Those are the ones who will most likely choose to stay home when their parents give them the choice or when they become teenagers. And they may never come back.

Children love hearing the stories of the Bible. And they love any adult who will sit with them and share their own stories of faith. I teach children because they pour their love right back to me.

What have you found helpful when teaching children? Let’s get a conversation going and reach those kids for Christ.

Why Are We Here?

We still wrestle with the same problems that preoccupied Plato and Aristotle centuries ago: Where did we come from? Why are we here? Where are we going? We search for answers, but the signs all seem to say “no exit.”

But the Cross boldly stands against the confusion of our world, a beacon of hope in the midst of darkness and doubt. In the Cross, Christ not only bridged the gap between God and us, but there we find the answers to life’s deepest questions. There we discover our true identity: forgiven sinners who now belong to God. There we discover our true destiny: a glorious eternity with God in Heaven. There we discover our true purpose: to love God and serve Him with all our might.

Celtic Cross in Ireland

Never underestimate what Christ did for us through the Cross. By it our salvation was won, and by it our lives—and our world—can be transformed. What difference does the Cross make in your life?

By Billy Graham in Hope for Each Day, Words of Wisdom and Faith