People look for significance in what they do instead of who they are. God made something amazing when He made you. Don’t ever doubt that you matter to Him even when this world might try to drag you down. You are loved.
Henri Nouwen was a widely successful writer, theologian, and professor. One would think that significance was found in presenting theologically deep lectures or in writing books and yet after twenty years of collegiate work he left that world and began to work with the developmentally disabled individuals at the L’Arche Daybreak community in Canada.
Henri Nouwen once wrote: “This is what life is about. It is being sent on a trip by a loving God, who is waiting at home for our return and is eager to watch the slides we took and hear about the friends we made. When we travel with the eyes and ears of the God who sent us, we will see wonderful sights, hear wonderful sounds, meet wonderful people … and be happy to return home.” (The return of the Prodigal Son, 1992).
I often wonder what it will be like when we finally rest in the presence of God. What will He say of the choices we have made in our lives? What will He say of our faith…or the lack there of? I can recall many moments of unfaithfulness to God in my life. I am not proud of these moments. In those dark chapters, I found myself clawing at circumstances and troubles with my own strength and knowledge until my soul was raw and empty. Perhaps this was what it was like when David wrote Psalm 13:
How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I take counsel in my soul and have sorrow in my heart all the day? How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?
Sometimes, in our search for significance, we come to the realization that God has not followed us to this ego-driven destination. Sometimes we are left wanting for more because the things that we were searching for are found and still they did not fill us because they could never replace the all-consuming presence of God. We try to fill that God-shaped hole in our souls with titles, trophies, monuments to our names, and legacies that people will remember. We spend so much time caring about what others think of us and the reputations or personas that we have built around ourselves – only to feel as empty as when we first started out. It was all for nothing. Why? Because none of it could replace what we left behind – The Father. Our Creator. Our Author. The One who has known us before we even had breath in our lungs (read Psalm 139).
“Without God, life has no purpose, and without purpose, life has no meaning. Without meaning, life has no significance or hope.” (Rick Warren, The Purpose Driven Life.)
So here it is:
All of the ladder climbing, elbow-rubbing, name-dropping, butt-kissing motivations will never fill that void we feel in search of meaningless significance in this life.
I am not saying don’t work hard, or find fulfilling missions and work to belong to. We should work hard and love what we do. However, if all that we do is work at being known by the world, and in our ego-driven, self-promoting ways, find some semblance of recognition – it will never be enough. There will always be another hill of success we will look longingly upon and regret not having what we could not reach.
Yet, God comes to us. At our level, lowly as it is, and says to us, “You are loved by me. You matter to me. I made you, I am proud of you – that is enough.” Think of it: The God of the Universe says that our primary significance is found in our identity as a son and daughter of the Most-High. We can find true and holy fulfillment in His presence and not in all of the attention-seeking practices of our world. How simple and how profound!
“God created us for love, for union, for forgiveness and compassion and, yet, that has not been our storyline. That has not been our history.” -Richard Rohr.
May we finally begin to recognize our true self-worth that is only found abiding in the very presence of the Holy One. May His reflection be present in us before it is seen, and may our search for significance be realized in the simplicity and sanctity of Holiness which is fellowshipping with the Holy Spirit.
“Going to church doesn’t make you a Christian any more than going to a garage makes you an automobile.” -Billy Sunday
Being a member of a church is not enough. Carrying a bible and wearing “church clothes” isn’t enough either. Saying all of the right prayers and calling out a timely “amen” isn’t enough either.
We can look the part. We can act the part. But if there is no difference in your heart. Then it all that you have been doing is acting – not being.
We can often times get the “doing” before the “being“. Do you know what I mean?
What I mean by that is this: We can do church. We can even do Christianese. We can do all of the right things for all of the wrong reasons, and still not BE holy as God has called us to be holy. (1 Peter 1:15).
Doing requires works and action (Which in the right context are good, but AS the context can be bad). Being requires deep, lasting change. Being requires identity, the true source of context and provides us with the true foundation – God Himself. We are made in the image of God. We are His. Being His requires surrender, sacrifice, dying of our old self and taking on this new image.
“You learned Christ! My assumption is that you have paid careful attention to him, been well instructed in the truth precisely as we have it in Jesus. Since, then, we do not have the excuse of ignorance, everything—and I do mean everything—connected with that old way of life has to go. It’s rotten through and through. Get rid of it! And then take on an entirely new way of life—a God-fashioned life, a life renewed from the inside and working itself into your conduct as God accurately reproduces his character in you.” -Ephesians 4:22-24 (The Message Version)
If we simply “do Church” we are attempting to “faith-hack” our relationship with Christ and with those He called us to minister to.
If our entire faith journey is all about how Church is blessing ME then we have corrupted our faith and have deleted the great commission from our ideology. We might rationalize it like this: “Sure, reaching people is good as long as they come to our church and as long as they fit the mold of what I think Christians should look and sound like.”
I fear that our Western ideology has polluted our perspective of what being a Christ-follower looks like. The Christ-following ecclesia (as found in the Acts 2 early Church) was about the Body (the group of believers) being unified, sharing everything while adding to their numbers by reaching out into the world and preaching, teaching and making disciples. The love (Agape love) was evident and was like a sweet aroma to the world around them.
Have we lost that lovin’ feeling? In our attempts to grow our churches, have we lost sight of reaching out and loving others?
Jesus didn’t call us into the safety of a church building to being silos, develop our own church culture and making it hard for the “outsider” to relate let alone earn their membership cards to our exclusive club. We as humans can sometimes make Jesus almost inaccessible to the sinner when we ourselves are sinners save by grace.
Jesus didn’t call us to become comfortable and complacent in our faith. He did not want us to leave people out or write them off either. If we are hiding behind Church, or dare I say, if Church has replaced God as our faith in religious practices, rituals and observances, then we MUST rebuild our faith.
How About You? Church is not four walls of a building where we practice piety. Church is not about rituals and the styles of our expressions in worship. Church is not about having an exclusive club membership.
Church is you and me, human beings, living out our faith expression first of all for the glory of God (and not because we prefer this style of worship music or style of service). Secondly, we express this living and active faith so that others might see the image of Christ through us. When we do this, we are helping others discover that faith journey too for the purpose of a Jesus relationship.
Burn the walls of division. Burn the halls of exclusivity Tear down the rituals that have hidden Christ instead of revealed Him to others. Break the traditions that do not glorify but only serve to prevent new membership and fellowship.
YOU are the Church. YOU are the prophet that God has called to minister to others (that only you can minister to). YOU are called and equipped. YOU must check your foundation and if it is in need of repair – begin the restoration process today!
As with any pandemic or sickness people have been affected, and some have died. I in no way wish to cheapen that and I believe we have lived through a very challenging time. At the same time the scripture verse that keeps coming back to me over and over again is, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28)
I believe that what was meant for evil will be used for good. That is not to say that many have suffered through this pandemic. That is not to say either that there is no longer other evils in this world. But rather, I believe God is mobilizing the church in this strange and uncertain time. I should also say that God has always intended His people to be mobile, outside of a four-walled structure. God has always desired for His people to serve those in need everywhere and not just those who happen upon their individual church.
What does this mobilization mean? Perhaps we have grown too comfortable in our buildings and sanctuary. Perhaps we have become a little too lazy with our witness. Perhaps we as a body of Christ are being prodded to take the good news out into all the world again.
I will openly admit (if you will) that I have at times grown complacent with my testimony of who Jesus is to me. I don’t say that to imply that we ought to stand on the street corner with a bullhorn and guilt people into church, but I do imply that I fear we are becoming the church of Laodicea (Revelation 3:14-22). We are in danger of being a lukewarm, tepid Church that does nothing more than sing songs on Sunday and hear heartwarming messages that gives us tingles but we don’t change nor do we feel compelled to help others find Christ.
I believe God is mobilizing His people during this pandemic to become a Church on fire for Him once again. This is a wake up call…and I believe many are responding to that call. Many Christ-followers are hearing His prodding and are adapting, transforming and have found that urgency of evangelism once again. If there was a time that the world needed the Good News, it is now. And so the Church, post-pandemic has to wake up from its lazy slumber, shake the cobwebs off of its prayer life, take a hold of the armor of God so we can take our stand against the devil’s schemes (Ephesians 6:11) and mobilize out in all the world not just gathering in the safety of the walls of a church building. We aren’t called to be pew dwellers but soul winners with the power of the Holy Spirit flowing through us.
The Danger The danger of this pandemic and in life is complacency and a loss of faith. We may be tempted to abandon our faith altogether, and yet with His help we can overcome. Be aware of the dangers around you, dear warriors of Christ. Satan won’t directly attack you, but rather chip away at your resolve, your relationship with Christ and the faith of those around you. Do not become discouraged or lose heart. The Lion of Judah is with us and His truth will overcome this present darkness. We must stand firm and not waver in our faith. We cannot allow any fear or doubt to falter our commission that Christ has given us. The Church He has called us to goes far beyond any four walls and must have feet with its faith. Evidence of fruit, love, compassion and grace ought to be seen.
Questions: Is there evidence of fruit in your life today? Have you faltered in your faith? Have you become lazy in your relationship to Christ? What steps can you take to avoid the trappings of a lukewarm, lazy faith?
The post-pandemic Church must be more than denominational differences. We have to put aside our issues with one another. There is far too much at stake here. We cannot be bound by our comforts, our patterns of ritual and worship…we have to go beyond all of those things.
If these questions and line of thinking causes guilt in us, perhaps that is the prodding of the Holy Spirit in our hearts today. Perhaps He is calling us into a deeper relationship with Him and we must not settle for our current state but instead become more resourceful, resilient and persevere. I see a Church on the cusp of greater things if we but listen to His leading and we love beyond our walls and into the lives of neighbors, co-workers, strangers and even our enemies. If we do these things faithfully for Christ, please do not be surprised with amazing, even miraculous things happen. We must venture into the unknown places, and purposefully seek out the lost, the hopeless and the hurting.
Something more to ponder today, may God continue to not only richly bless you, but prod you out into deeper waters.
YouNot all of us pastors have the luxury of having a full worship band, pianist and an ear for music. Let’s face it, some of us reading this article right now can’t carry a tune in a bucket…and that’s okay. We don’t all have to have the gift of music. Scripture even points out the various gifts that we are all given and appointed with (Eph 4:11, 1 Peter 4:10-11), and just as the focus on speaking in tongues can become an issue, so too then use of music. Don’t get me wrong, music in worship can be most beneficial to the body of Christ, but it should be viewed as a conduit to deeper worship, not the desired end result.
Today, let us focus on this element of worship with the non-musical pastors in mind. If you fit this mold, then take note. My wife is very, very talented in other areas of ministry, but she will openly admit that music is not one of those talents.
There are many, many pastors in small churches or corps that do not have a musical bone in their bodies, and that’s okay. I want to help you find some tools to use within worship that will assist you and your congregation within and even around the conduit of music on Sunday.
1) YouTube Videos/YouTube Video Downloaders.
If you are not musical at all, you might utilize a plethora of Christian worship music on YouTube. There are even Youtube downloaders that you can use to have the videos accessible in places of worship where WiFi and the internet are sketchy or nonexistent. Using a video on YouTube could include modern top 40 Christian songs, a movie clip, or numerous other topics other than just music.
Don’t neglect the power of videos and or worship songs in your Sunday services. Feel free to be creative and intentional in the planning of your service theme too. Caution: This will take time, so don’t just throw everything together on Saturday night and expect amazing results…intentional planning takes time and hours. We are all busy people, but not taking the time to find the appropriate videos and/or music, is noticeable in our services (I’ve been guilty of this too).
2) iSing Worship (app)
This is a great app that does cost a little bit, but is a tremendous tool if you have a portable device like an iPad or iPhone. The app is free, but the songs will you about $3 a piece, which is only a dollar more than what you would pay for songs you currently buy on Google Music store or the apple iTunes Store. When you buy these songs, you then have the ability to include all of the elements of the song (i.e lead vocals, guitar, drums etc.). So, for instance, if you wanted to lead the song you could turn the vocals down and sing with the music like it was Christian Karaoke hour. Or iSing worship could become your worship band in a box by simply hitting play. Be sure, however that you plan the songs you are going to sing ahead of time and have the words either printed or displayed on the screen for the congregation to sing along.
“Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.” 1 Thessalonians 5:11
Let’s face it, we all encounter difficult days…some more difficult than others.
There are days that we can manage on our own, and then there are days when we are completely floored by the problems that come our way. The pressures may seem impossible to overcome, and sometimes that may be true…
I know what you’re thinking, “that doesn’t sound very encouraging to me”…let me finish:
The pressures may seem impossible to overcome, and sometimes that may be true…but we were never meant to handle it all on our own.
In the Apostle Paul’s day, the new believers in Thessalonica were encountering all kinds of trouble. Thessalonica was the largest city in Macedonia which boasted over 200,000 people. This city was known for being a military and commercial port city. So within this large city in Macedonia, these young Christians were encountering all sorts of trouble – even persecution and death because of their new-found declarations of faith. In the midst of their living testimonies, they longed for the day of Christ’s return. What does that mean? They lived in fear every single day, and couldn’t wait for Christ to come back. And so these young Christians lived expectant lives while encouraging each other onward.
The persecution in Thessalonica must have been fierce for the Apostle Paul to remind them that they needed one another and they ought to continue (“just as you are doing”) to encourage one another.
Let’s put this into perspective:
We might not be facing certain death for our faith, instead we might be struggling to pay rent, finding funds to feed our families, enduring a tough problem at work or at home…all of these situations are arduous and, at times they keep us up at night. The killer is silence.
What do I mean?
We think no other Christian is struggling, and if they are it must mean that their faith isn’t strong enough. This could not be further from the truth.
We have this idea that we shouldn’t let other Christians know how discouraged we really are, because we don’t want them to think less of us. Because we don’t want others to talk. Because we fear judgment of others. Because we believe in the perfect Christian life that really doesn’t exist…because we’ve bought the lie that to be a Christian means we don’t struggle with these things anymore.
And so, silence is a killer.
No one knows.
We don’t share.
And our hurts go unchecked, unnoticed, and unaddressed.
How can we encourage one another if we aren’t being honest with each other?
How can we carry each other’s burdens if we allow silence to slowly kill our souls?
We cannot continue to buy the lie that everything is fine when we face times of trial and we keep it private. (Some will laugh at this and say, but church is full of hypocrites and gossipers…then find REAL believers in whom you can confide!)
Healing can begin with out this kind of encouragement, but long is the process and deep the scars. When we have others who will journey beside us, and encourage us, we will find added strength, hope, abundance and encouragement.
So we did a weekend of Messy Church recently, that consisted of 2 hour segments on the topic of the “I Am’s” of Jesus. I would recommend along with leaders at the stations, you have a time keeper to keep the stations and children moving. These Messy Church plans can be adapted and adjusted to meet your church’s needs and the demographics of your congregation. I will also add that you invite your older members and adults to participate and perhaps even become a child in a way to help the children stay engaged. (This can be a challenge, but it is very effective when done correctly)
Theme: “I am the vine”
Scripture Verse – John 15:1-11
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 2 He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. 3 You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. 4 Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.
5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned.7 If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.
9 “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. 10 If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. 11 I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.
The Fruit of the Spirit Song 5 Minutes
Instruct Kids and Teachers
1) Bobbing for apples 20 minutes Items Needed: 1 Large basin or feeding trough
4-10 bags of apples depending on the size.
Lots of water
This station is pretty self-explanatory, tell the kids this is a timed activity.
Kids are to put their hands behind their backs and, using only their teeth, pick an apple out of the basin. Use your phone/stop watch to time the kids to determine who has the fastest time in retrieving an apple. Have the kids try this a few times (of course replace “used” or gross apples with new ones), make sure everyone gets a chance to try this activity.
After everyone has taken a turn ask these questions:
What was the object of this game?
Did you think bobbing for apples was hard or easy?
Who here likes apples?
What kind of apple is your favorite? (types of apples include: Granny Smiths, Gala, Fuji, Honey Crisp, McIntosh, Golden Delicious…just to name a few)
Say: Apples are an amazing fruit that grows on trees.
Each apple grows from a tiny seed that can be found inside of these apples.
Apple trees grow from these seeds and can take up to 3 years to grow and produce new apples.
Apple Trees needs pruning from time to time in order for better fruit to develop.
Ask: What would happen on an apple farm if an apple tree didn’t produce apples?
(answer: it would be cut down and a new tree would be planted in its place)
Matthew 15 verse 4 says, “. 4 Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.”
God wants us to love Him and always keep His word in our hearts. If we do this, we will be able to witness to others through the way that we live our lives. And this is what it means to bear fruit!
Ask: What are ways that we can show God’s love towards others?
-At this time send the kids to the next station-
2) Vine Bracelet Craft 20 Minutes
the trick is using something called a braiding disc, or braiding loom. It’s just a round piece of cardboard with some slots in it, but it makes bracelet-weaving a lot easier compared to the bracelet-making method described in most books .
Ready? First up, you’ll need to gather your materials.
Friendship Bracelet (The whole kits are available at Michaels and other craft stores)
All you need is:
7 strands of yarn, each 2 feet long
1 piece of cardboard, e.g. breakfast cereal box
pair of scissors
Step 2: Make the Starting Knot
Line up the ends of your 7 strands of yarn, then tie a simple overhand knot like this. Make it so that there’s about 1″ (2cm) of loose ends poking out of the knot.
Step 3: Put the Yarn on the Braiding Disc
Poke the knotted end of the yarn bundle through the hole in the center of the braiding disc, like this:
Then clip one piece of yarn into each slot, except the top slot. Your braiding disc should look like this:
Step 4: Braid Your Friendship Bracelet
Braiding your bracelet with the disc is really easy. There are just two steps to learn and repeat.
Hold the disc so that the empty slot is at the top. Un-clip whichever yarn is in the bottom-right slot and clip it in to the top slot, like this:
Now the bottom right slot will be empty. So, rotate the whole disc so that the empty slot is at the top again, like this:
Now, just keep repeating Step A, Step B, Step A, Step B etc, and your bracelet will grow. It seems a bit like magic the first time but it really works!
As you continue, you’ll see your bracelet growing down through the hole in the center of your braiding disc, like this:
Step 5: Un-clip from Braiding Disc
Once the bracelet is long enough to go around your wrist, in-clip it from the braiding disc. It should look something like this:
(I used a bit too much yarn on this one, so the loose ends are quite long.)
Step 6: Tie Finishing Knots
Tie an overhand knot (just like in step 2) right at the point where the braiding ends. Then tie another overhand knot about 2/3″ (1.5cm) away. Trim the loose ends. The end of your bracelet should now look like this:
After the craft, or during SAY:
What would happen if one of these threads were taken out?
What would happen if one of these threads wasn’t included in the braid?
Would you notice? (Of course you would!)
Each thread is just as important as the next, without each piece doing its part in this bracelet, it cannot become what we want it to be.
Think about how God sees us.
He loves each and every one of us.
We are all different, with many different gifts and abilities.
A part from one another, we are all unique and beautiful…but what happens when we put all of us together like these threads? What happens when we all agree, and we have this thing called “Unity”? Is that a good thing?
Say: Just like these threads, when put together, we are so much stronger than when we are a part. Today in our scripture verse, God tells us that He is the vine and we are the branches. This means that with God all things are possible, and when we are connected to Him, we are so much stronger! He wants for us to be connected to Him.
Ask: How can we stay connected with God?
(Praying, Reading the Bible, going to Church, hanging out with other Christians…)
So today, as a reminder of how we are to be connected with God, think about this every time you look at this bracelet or as you wear it. Remember that God loves you and has connect us together in an amazing way!
3) Vine Stomping Painting: 20 Minutes
Items Needed: Large Basin – enough for 1 or 2 kids to stand in.
Large Bottles of Paint – Purple, Green, Blue…etc
1 -2 large water basins for washing feet afterwards
Long roll of butcher block paper or construction sheet paper
Instructions: *this will get messy!**
One or two at a time (depending on the size of the basins of paint) have the kids take off their shoes and socks and place them to the side neat and tidy so they don’t lose them afterwards.
Roll out the butcher block paper ahead of time onto the floor – long enough so that every child can get their feet onto the long paper. Once the kids get into the paint basin, have them stomp down (but not so hard that they splatter paint out the basin, just enough for them to feel the paint between their toes). Once their feet are adequately covered in paint, have the kids carefully (CAREFULLY!!) Step out of the basin and right onto the Butcher block paper. Have them create grapes on the vine by only using their feet as the paint brush.
Ensure every child gets a chance to do this creative activity, once they have completed the painting, have each child wash their feet off in the other water basin and dry them with paper towels, perhaps have an extra adult help them in and out of the basins (both the paint and water basins)…to avoid anyone from slipping and falling.
Following the painting activity, have the kids sit down for just a few moments and ask these questions:
Ask: So what was your favorite part of this painting activity?
What was your least favorite part?
Who likes getting messy here?
Who can’t stand getting messy?
Say: So let me ask you about grapes, does anyone like to eat grapes or drink grape juice?
Did you know that a long time ago in order to make grape juice and wine people had to get into large basins like these and stomp the grapes with their feet until they made the grape juice? It must have been a sticky job, but in Jesus’ day grapes were used a lot.
The bible verse that we are learning about today is all about the vine and grapes…Jesus used this idea with those he spoke to in order for them to understand how important a life with God should be. Jesus said “I am the vine and you are the branches”
Ask: does that sound like they are connected?
How are the grapes connected to the vine?
(Branches from the vine connect the grapes, without these branches there will not be any fruit)
How do we stay connected to Jesus?
What do we do to stay close to Him?
4) Outdoor activity20 Minutes
Outdoor or Indoor. This game is a normal game of tag with an added twist. When “it” tags someone, the person becomes part of “it.” Then the two of them must run hand in hand and catch their next victim who will join them. Last one caught by the “Blob” is the winner! The purpose of this game is to get everyone connected. We are the branches and Jesus is the Vine. If we stay in Him, we’ll bear much fruit! Even though the winner is the last one standing, the intentions behind this game is to show that God wants us to be connected to His son always.
5) Devotional & Music 5-10 Minutes
(If time permits) Song: Fruit of the Spirit Video Item Needed: Lamp and extension cord
Ask: So what did you learn tonight?
Who is the Vine?
Who is the Branches?
What was your favorite Messy Church activity tonight?
I am sure that you all know the song, “This Little Light of Mine.” I want you to help me sing that song this evening. While we sing it, I’m going to hold this light up and let it shine all around. (Start to sing the song, but stop when you notice that the light isn’t shining.) I wonder what is wrong, my light isn’t shining. (Someone will probably notice that it isn’t plugged in.) Oh, here’s the problem, my light isn’t plugged in.
Now that we are plugged in, let’s try it again. (Sing) Oh, that was much better. The lamp was shining brightly, wasn’t it? It’s pretty hard for a light to shine when it isn’t connected to the power source, isn’t it? Well, actually, it isn’t just hard — it’s impossible!
In our Messy Church lesson today, Jesus told his disciples a story to teach them the importance of staying connected to him. Of course Jesus didn’t use a lamp to tell his story, because electricity hadn’t even been invented yet. Instead, Jesus used an example that his disciples would understand. He used the example of a vine. You know what a vine is, don’t you? It is a plant with a lot of branches growing out from it. The branches have fruit on them. If it is a grapevine, the branches should have grapes on them.
Have you ever seen a branch that has been broken off of a tree or a vine? What happens to it? That’s right, it withers up and dies. Can it ever have any fruit on it again? No, it isn’t any good for anything — except fire wood.
Jesus said, “I am the vine and you are the branches. If you remain in me, you will have much fruit, but apart from me, you can do nothing.” Jesus wants us to produce a lot of fruit. Good fruit like being kind, generous, and faithful. Most of all, he wants us to love others as he has loved us.
Can we do that on our own? No way. Just as the lamp must be plugged in before its light can shine, and just as the branches must be connected to the vine before they can produce fruit, you and I must stay connected to Jesus to produce the good fruit that God expects of us.
Close in Prayer
Theme: “I am the Good Shepherd”
Scripture Verse – John 10:7-11
7 Therefore Jesus said again, “Very truly I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. 8 All who have come before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep have not listened to them. 9 I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved.[a] They will come in and go out, and find pasture. 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. 11 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.
Introduction and Instruction:5minutes
Read the scripture with the children. Say: Today we are going to learn about Jesus the Good Shepherd and how we are to be His sheep who listen to Him and follow Him.
Dismiss to the first station together:
1) Sheep Collage craft20 minutes
Lead the kids through this simple of craft of creating sheep.
Help kids to cut out the sheep body outline, place cotton balls on the body, attach popsickle sticks to legs for support, and ensure all of the kids complete this project.
As you are creating the craft (or after)
Say: What kind of sound does a sheep make?
What kind of food do sheep eat?
Are sheep very smart animals? (The answer is no, they will often eat grass and wander around and often get lost if they aren’t watched closely).
What sort of things do sheep produce? (Wool – clothing, coats, socks…, and meat).
Say: Our scripture today tells us that the sheep hear Jesus’ voice and they will follow him, but they will not listen to the thief or the robber…why do you think that is?
Jesus can be trusted to lead us, because he loves us…just like the shepherd loves his sheep, to the point that he will lay down his life for them…Jesus did just that for us didn’t he? He died on the cross to save us from sin. As we go to the next station, I want you to think about Jesus who is the good shepherd who leads us.
2) Sheep cookies to frost & decorate20minutes Bring kids to the cookie table but encourage them not to eat or grab anything yet.
In this station we ended up using squares of graham crackers, cookie frosting, edible fondant eyes, and marshmallows to complete the ‘Sheep’ cookie creations. The other option is to make sugar cookies and create their designs with frosting, icing and other food decorating items.
Say: We just finished creating our own sheep by putting wool on it and you talked about Jesus being the good shepherd. What makes Jesus the good shepherd and not just the “okayist” shepherd? (He loves us, he died for us, He’s God’s one and only Son)…
Ask: What is your favorite flavored cookie? (Chocolate Chip, Sugar cookie, Gingerbread, shortbread, oatmeal raisin etc.)
What makes that cookie flavor your favorite?
Read:2 Corinthians 2:15 says; “For we are to God a sweet smell of Christ, in them that are saved, and in them that perish…”
This world needs more of the sweetness of Christ! Ask: Do you know who can share this sweetness of Christ with others? Answer: You can! We all can! Say: When we share our things with others – the sweetness of Christ. When we tell others about Jesus – it is the sweetness of Christ. When we love other people even if they don’t love us back – that is the sweetness of Christ.
So as a reminder of how we are to be this sweetness of Christ for other people, we are going to decorate these sheep cookies with frosting and sprinkles…let’s get messy and creative!
3) Pin the wool tail on the sheep game20Minutes
Directions: Just like pin the tail on the donkey, we are going to pin the wool on the sheep.
Say: We need help to put the wool on the sheep, but of course, we have to do it blindfolded.
This can be a tricky game to play, but let’s give it a shot. (make sure you blindfold the kids tight enough so they cannot see, then spin them around a few times before allowing them to seek out the sheep with the wool in hand.
4) Outdoor activity
Barbarian Capture the flag:25 Minutes
Teams of 4 are competing against each other to get the other teams’ gold and to capture other team’s’ players, and put them in your jail.
Using two ropes, or red surveyor’s tape, divide the field into 4 sections. Each section has one prison area, which is marked off with either ducttape or surveyor’s tape. Each section also has a “gold depot” which is marked using hula-hoops or tape. Each team has their own color, which is a flag strip tucked into the front of each player’s pants. Every team gets an equal amount of “gold” to start the game, which is white socks, gold socks, and 1 gray work sock.
Start of Game:
When whistle blows, teams begin the attack. Another team can only catch you if you are in their section; likewise, you can only catch others in your own section (if you are “green” and you run into the “red” section, then you run across to the “yellow section, red can no longer capture you, but yellow now can). When you capture another team member, take their flag and report to the middle of the field to the scorekeeper, then return flag to the person in your prison.
In addition to capturing opposing team players, you are also trying to get their “gold”, without getting caught. You can only take 1 gold piece at a time, and if you are caught inside an opposition section, you must return gold to that team (no throwing gold into your own section).
What Happens When Caught:
Having your flag removed by another team player inside their section gets you caught. When this happens, you report to their prison area and can only get out of prison if a teammate tags you out, without getting caught themselves. If your teammate gets caught trying to free you, they must join you in the jail area. Once you successfully get tagged out, you and your teammate get a free passage back to your section. NOTE (the game coordinator may call “jailbreak” and free everyone in jail in all the sections at any given time, usually when there is a lop-sided number of players in prison).
How the Game is Won:
The game is won by accumulating points for every prisoner your teammates catch, and for each piece of “gold” left at the end of the game. You can run out of gold during the course of the game, but still get points by capturing prisoners and trying to grab other gold from enemy sections. The team with the most accumulated total points at the end is the winner.
White Socks- 3000 points each
Gold Socks- 5000 points each
Gray Socks- 10,000 points each
Prisoners- 1000 each player
Large, open playing area
2 Ropes (100+ feet each is ideal)
4 different colored flags, one for each section
White, yellow, gray socks
Bean bag fill for each sock
Scorers pad and pen
Duct tape and/or hula-hoops
Red surveyors or caution tape
The purpose of this game is to reveal the intentions behind the thief’s motives – all he wants is to steal what belongs to God. This is a great way to show that. I think the youth will enjoy this a lot.
5) Build a sheep pen10 Minutes Minute to win it block game – build the tallest “sheep pen” as quickly as possible within the 60 second time constraint. The person with the fastest time and tallest sheep pen wins a prize.
6) Devotional / Music10-15 Minutes
Ask: So what did we learn today?
Who is the good shepherd?
Who are the sheep?
Why is it important to listen to Jesus and follow Him?
BIBLE VERSE: “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” John 10:11 NIV
Talk about shepherds and sheep. Explain to the children how sheep are not very bright, and they need a shepherd to take care of them, to bring them to green grass and pure water to drink. A good shepherd makes sure the sheep are happy and safe.
1. What will a good shepherd do for his or her sheep?
Jesus tells us that He is our Good Shepherd. What does this mean to you?
Today our Bible story is from the book of John. Jesus is talking about Heaven with the Pharisees and how He is the only way to get to Heaven. Jesus decided to use an example to help them understand. He compared Himself to a good shepherd and all of us to sheep. However, the Pharisees probably still didn’t understand. Let’s read the story, and find out what Jesus is saying to us.
Read John 10:11-15 (The Good Shepherd and His Sheep)
What does a shepherd take care of? (Sheep.)
Does a good shepherd lay down (or give) his life for the sheep? (Yes.)
What do you think this means? (The good shepherd would risk his or her own life to protect the sheep.)
What does a hired hand do when he or she sees the wolf coming? (Runs the other way leaving the sheep behind.)
What happens to a flock of sheep if there is no shepherd? (They may be attacked by a wolf and get scattered.)
In our Bible story, does the good shepherd know his sheep? (Yes.)
Do the sheep know the good shepherd? (Yes.)
How are we like sheep? (Allow for answers.)
Do we have a good shepherd? (Yes.) Who is our Good Shepherd? (Jesus.)Close in a song (optional) and a word of prayer.
If we end early, a video will be put on for the kids to enjoy, or we will play the above outdoor game again.
Saturday Evening PM
Theme: “I Am the Light of the world”
Scripture Verse – John 8:12 When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
Introduction & Instruction time: 5 Min
Reiterate the weekend theme again, ask what the children have learned by recapping the sessions.
Then introduce today’s theme and sing a song or two (optional).
1) Stained glass mosaic craft 20 Min
Using a card stock frame, kids are to layer the bright tissue paper across the middle of the frame using glue or tape in order to make the faux stained glass. Encourage the children to use as many colors as possible or if there are some really creative/artistic students, have them design a dove, cross or other symbol within their stained glass frame.
As the craft is taking place engage the students in this conversation piece: Ask: What is your favorite color in this stained glass craft and why?
Which would you rather experience, complete darkness or a sunny day?
Is anyone scared of the dark?
What scares you about the darkness?
Why does having a night light or flashlight help?
(See where you are going, safety at night…)
Say: When stained glass was first put into churches, it was during a time when most people couldn’t read and only rich people owned books because they were very expensive. So people would come to church and look up at these amazing stained glass windows, and it wasn’t only that they were beautiful to look at, but each window told a story. There were shapes and colors that made up the image of Jesus on the cross…and then next to it would be another window with Jesus standing at the open tomb…and all of these windows could be seen because the light was shining through them.
In our scripture verse today, Jesus tells the listeners, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
Jesus was telling the listener and even us today that the true light of Heaven comes only through Him…when we choose to follow Jesus, and when we choose to let His light shine in our lives, we have His eternal light in us that will never be extinguished. His light will guide us each step of the way. So as you look at your stained glass creation, may it remind you of the Light of Jesus, and may it help you to walk in His light!
2) Star creation craft 20 Min
Kids will glue/tape popsicle sticks together to make a star:
After securely gluing or taping the sticks into a star shape, kids will paint, bedazzle and design their stars. Glow in the dark tape will also be available, but use this sparingly. Ask the kids to name different stars and constellations.
(Star example: Northern Star, Sirius, Vega… Constellation Names: Milky Way, Andromeda, Aries, Aquarius…etc.)
Ask: Can somebody tell me how many stars are in the sky? Answer: In the Milky Way alone there are over 250 Billion Stars… Say: That’s like saying how many grains of sand is on a sandy beach or on the ocean floor. That is a really, really HUGE number!
It is amazing to think that God created the Heavens and the Earth and He created all of the stars including the 250 Billion Stars just in the Milky Way Galaxy!! And even with so many amazing things in our universe, God shines His light on us because we are extremely special to Him! Out in space there are places that are very, very dark, but we are in a place in the Universe that is just right for creation and for all kinds of life. We have a great big fire ball in the sky called what? (Answer: the Sun) that is out in the day time, and a moon at night.
Also the stars in the sky have been used for thousands of years to give travelers and explorers direction on this earth. Isn’t this an amazing thing that God has created? May this star that you just created remind you of the light of God and the fact that He guides us with His light. Also may we recognize just how big our universe is and how much God comes to our tiny corner of the world and shines for us. Because He loves us!
3) Game: The Light of the World 25 Min
Scripture : Matthew 5:14
YOU WILL NEED: A bag with slips of paper that tell something to do. Samples are on the last
Choose a volunteer—This volunteer will reach in the bag and pull out a slip of paper. The slip of
paper will instruct the student what to do. This student will be the “Light,” showing everyone else what to do. The “Light” may not speak (unless the instructions say so) but should lead everyone in accomplishing what is written. Once you, as the station leader, sees that the instructions have been followed, tell everyone to give him a hand, then point to someone else and say, “Be the Light.” They’ll come forward and thus the game continues. If a student doesn’t want to lead, don’t make them, but let everyone who wants to go have that opportunity.
After the game: Ask:
What was hard about being the Light?
What was fun about being the Light?
Did anyone feel embarrassed about being the Light?
Was anyone concerned about looking silly or foolish?
Read Matthew 5:14 – “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden.”
How does this verse remind you of our game? (Both of them talk about the light; everyone
can see a city on a mountain, and everyone could see us doing the instructions.)
What does Jesus mean when He says, “You are the light”? (That we should live in such a
way that our lives are like a light that guides other people to God; and shine, or show them, His
life and love.
When you’re at school, why is it sometimes hard to be a light? (I don’t always want to do the
right thing; some people think you’re weird if you’re a Christian; I might be embarrassed? I’m
afraid I would look silly; my friends want to do wrong things.)
SAY: It can be hard to be a light. But when we shine Jesus’ love to our friends, we’re doing the
best thing we can, which is showing someone about Jesus. By being a light Jesus isn’t asking
you to do silly things, like what we did in our game. Jesus wants you to bring hope, courage,
and joy to people. He wants you to follow God’s Word and tell everyone that Jesus saves us. SAY: It’s both easy and fun to tell other people about Jesus. It’s as simple as saying, “Jesus
loves you,” or “Jesus will take care of you.” You can shine Jesus’ light to anyone you know
by your words and by how you live.
How can you shine your light so others can see Jesus in you?
What do you think would be some things people do on a playground or in sports
that show they are following the light? What are things people might do when
they are living in darkness?
What would happen if you stood up for someone being picked on in the
playground? How would that person feel? How would the bully feel? How would
you feel? How would Jesus feel?
What would stop you from telling a friend, “Jesus will take care of you,” the next
time they are afraid or upset? How do you think they might respond?
When you see someone at school get hurt, do you ever think about praying for
them? When you hear someone at school say a cuss word, do you ever think
about asking them not to use that kind of language around you?
Is there anything in your life that you do that Jesus wouldn’t like? Does that feel
like darkness? Who can tell more about how it feels when you feel guilty for
something? How can Jesus’ light that guides you help?
5) Camp Fire and S’Mores time. 15 – 25 Min
6) Devotional/ Music 10 -15 Min
Around the camp fire have the kids sit around the pavilion tables. Ask: What was your favorite part of the tonight’s Messy Church?
Theme: Reflecting the light of Christ
Song: This little light of mine..
Object: A mirror and a flashlight
Read Scripture: There was a man who was sent from God; his name was John. He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all men might believe. He himself was not the light: he came only as a witness to the light. The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world. John 1: 6-9 (NIV)
Say: Have you ever sat outside on a bright sunny day and used a mirror to reflect the sun’s light? If one of you will take this flashlight and shine it on me I will show you what I mean. You see, as the light shines on me, I hold up my mirror and I can reflect the light to shine on you. I am not the light, I am just letting my mirror reflect the light to shine on you.
Say: If I am going to reflect the light on you, there are a couple of things that are very important: I must keep my mirror facing toward the light. If I turn away from the light, I cannot reflect the light. I must make sure that nothing comes between the light and me. If that happens, I cannot reflect the light. The Bible tells us that “There was a man who was sent from God; his name was John. He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all men might believe. He himself was not the light: he came only as a witness to the light. The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world.” Who do you think the true light is that the Bible said was coming into the world? That is right! It was Jesus. Jesus is the light of the world. In our focus verse today, Jesus even declared to the listeners “I am the Light of the world…”
So, if we accept Jesus as our light then you and I need to be like John. The Bible says that we are to let our light shine, but we need to remember that “Our Light” is Jesus. We are not the light, we are just mirrors that reflect His light. If we are going to reflect the light of Jesus, we must remember a couple of things:
We must keep our faces turned toward Jesus.
We must not let anything come between us and Jesus.
When we remember those two things, we will reflect His light to the entire world.
Pray: (something to this effect) Dear Jesus, we want to reflect your light in the world. Help us to keep our faces turned toward you and help us to keep anything from coming between us and you. Amen.
Theme: “I Am the way”
Scripture Verse – John 14:6
Intro to today’s Messy Church (DYS or Assigned Officers will lead this) 5 Min
Today we are going to begin our Messy Church with a scripture verse of John 14:6
“Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
Suggested Themed Music Videos you could play at the beginning: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ueMQV2Ax-MM
So in just a few minutes we are going to begin by heading to our first station, but first I want us to say our scripture verse together out loud, let’s read it together:
“Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
Are you ready for Messy Church today?
Let’s open with a word of prayer and then we will go off to our first station.
Pray and Dismiss
Pitcher of Water
Directions: Pour the water into the bowl.
Then rub the needle on the magnet about 10 -15 times
Place the small cork piece into the water, then place the needle on top of the floating cork.
As you do this, explain to the children that the needle, having picked up some of the magnetic attraction from the magnet is now starting to face magnetic north. So it spins until it points north and south. Tell the kids: Now, the Bible is a lot like this in our lives too. When we read about Jesus and what He did while on earth we begin to know more about God, and when we begin to know more about God, we begin to live for Him and we start to point others toward Him through our Godly examples.
Ask: What does it looks to live for God?
(get some of the kids to answer).
Why does it matter if we live for God or we don’t live for God?
Read: Then Jesus went to work on his disciples. “Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You’re not in the driver’s seat; I am. Don’t run from suffering; embrace it. Follow me and I’ll show you how. Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to finding yourself, your true self. What kind of deal is it to get everything you want but lose yourself? What could you ever trade your soul for? (Matthew 16:24-26 Message Version)
Jesus wants us to point others to God while we follow Him.
If we don’t listen and we don’t care about other people, they may not see God through our lives. So today, I pray that God will give you a love for others in your heart. Let God lead you, and may your words and your actions point others to God.
Let the kids take turns in re-trying this experiment while comparing it to the compass to make sure it is pointing to magnetic North.
2)outdoor game 25 Min
Blind fold obstacle course:
Create an obstacle course (a playground works GREAT) and get your students or leaders to go in pairs. One from each pair is blindfolded, and the other will lead him or her through the obstacle course by using only their voice.
The purpose of this game is to help the person who’s blindfolded navigate the course by only hearing the voice that’s directing them
We’ll need two large trash cans, two long tables, and four chairs at the field near Ramsdale
Circle up the kids and ask them about the game – Ask:
How did you feel when you were blindfolded?
Did you trust the person who was leading you through the obstacle course?
How many things did you run into?
Does it help to have someone there who is looking out for you and helping you?
How confident are you that you could have made it through the obstacle course on your own?
Sometimes life is a lot like this obstacle course.
We often do not know how things are going to go in the future, or even in the next hour. We have to trust that God knows what He is doing. Trusting God can seem like a scary thing at times, especially when we have some big decisions to make in life. But do you know what? God promises to never leave us or forsake us. So sometimes, during this obstacle course we may have doubted the person who was leading us, and maybe we even tripped or ran into something because they didn’t lead us very well…But God isn’t like that. He loves us very much and He will lead us through the good and the bad times. So as we think about Jesus being the way, truth and life today, remember the God leads us and wants what is best for our lives.
3) Devotional / Music (20 Minutes) 20 Min
What was your favorite station today?
Which station did you not like and why?
Can anyone tell me what our theme for today has been?
Recap Scripture Verse (or if time allows, have one or a few of the kids stand and read it for the group)
John 14:6 “Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
(Suggested Text or can be adapted)
A map and a portable GPS (Even a phone with a map app on the screen)
There was a time when a person going on a trip wouldn’t think of beginning their journey without a road map. (Hold up the map for the children to see.) The map was very helpful to the traveler in finding the way to where they were going. Today we seldom ever use a road map. Do you know why? Most of us who own a car also have a GPS in our car. (Hold up the GPS.) How does the GPS work? When you are ready to go somewhere, you type in the address where you want to go and the GPS connects to a satellite up above the earth and computes the path to your destination. As soon as you start driving, a map appears on the screen and a voice from the GPS gives you turn by turn directions. “Turn right on Main Street in one mile, turn right in one half mile, turn right in 150 feet, turn right.” What happens if you miss your turn? The GPS says, “Recalculating” and immediately computes a new route to get you back on the right path to your destination.
When we are trying to follow Jesus in our daily life, it would be nice to have a GPS to lead us in the right direction, wouldn’t it? It would be nice to have something to keep us on the right path and keep us from getting lost…something that would help us get back on the right track when we made a wrong decision.
That is the way Jesus’ disciples must have felt when Jesus told them that he was going to leave them. Jesus said to them, “I am going to prepare a place for you and when everything is ready, I will come and get you so that you will always be with me. You know the way to where I am going.”
One of the disciples whose name was Thomas answered Jesus, “No, we don’t, Lord. We don’t even know where you are going, so how can we know the way?”
Jesus answered him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.”
Another disciple named Philip joined in, “Lord, show us the Father and we will be satisfied.”
“Philip,” Jesus answered, “Have you been with me all this time and you still don’t know who I am? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father! So why are you asking me to show you the Father? Just believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me. Anyone who believes in me will do the same things I have done.”
That was all the disciples needed to know to get them on the right path to the Father.
So, how do you and I find our way to the place where Jesus has gone to be with the Father? We have not seen Jesus as Thomas and Philip had, but we can follow the teachings that he has given to us in the Bible — God’s Holy Word. That is our GPS and it will keep us on the right path!
Heavenly Father, we thank you for sending your Son to provide the way to eternal life. Thank you for your Holy Word which will keep us on the right path in our journey through life. In Jesus’ name we pray, amen.
Dear fellow Ponderers…
I have been dragging my feet in writing this for some time.
Not because I didn’t want to write this edition to Pastorsponderings, but rather because I want to be careful in how I broach this conversation. I do not wish to offend and upset you – the reader. Some will no doubt become offended anyway, and I have come to terms with the fact that I will not always make everyone happy – that’s a fool’s errand anyway.
Perhaps in light of this Holy Week that we are all entering into we might also reflect on the Passover feast that Jesus participated in with His disciples…what we now call “The Last Supper”.
Thus, I write this with the utmost sensitivity and respect.
Is Communion Considered Taboo in our Army?
Within The Salvation Army, even the conversation of the Lord’s Table/Supper/Communion has become a taboo topic. It is almost as if we are forbidden to talk about it, let alone partake in this ceremony. Some have postulated that despite not participating in this ceremony, we have created our own sacred ceremonies in place of it, thus making the argument that we are non-sacramental in practice null and void.
I fear that failure to discuss such topics within our Army can lead to a polarization of our theological perspective, and variants of our doctrine might splinter and break off (as in some locations, it already has).
Some within our Army would treat the topic of communion with deep disdain to the point that the practice of it is almost treated as an organizational sin. It is my estimation that too much focus on such a topic in this light is a waste of time and not conducive to unity within our Army. There should be more open dialogue on this topic as I believe there should be on the topic of baptism. -Someone will inevitably lambaste me for that, but that would just prove my point that we treat such innocent conversations on the topic as complete taboo and even sinful to even mention, which is ludicrous.
Is Communion Misunderstood In The Universal Church?
In Luke 22 it is recorded the celebration of Passover that Jesus and His disciples were partaking of. This has now been dubbed “the Last Supper”, where Jesus knew that the time had come for Him to fulfill the final act of Salvation in His false trial, torture, and death by crucifixion. Thus, Jesus reclines with His disciples and takes in these final private moments with those He is closest with:
14 When the hour came, Jesus and his apostles reclined at the table.15 And he said to them, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer.16 For I tell you, I will not eat it again until it finds fulfillment in the kingdom of God.”
17 After taking the cup, he gave thanks and said, “Take this and divide it among you.18 For I tell you I will not drink again from the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.”
19 And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.” (Luke 22:14-19)
Could it be that over the centuries the emphasis (or fixation) upon the bread and wine have been misplaced? Didn’t Jesus preach in parable and often teach as Rabbis of His day taught? With questions and metaphor? When Jesus spoke of doing “this” in remembrance of me, is it not possible that it wasn’t just the bread and wine He was talking about, but rather the entire dinner together, the fellowship and unity of disciples? Is it possible that instead of coming together just to contemplate the bread and the wine, the whole ceremony of remembrance is just as vital? Coupled with the remembrance, the unifying love of Christ that binds it all together is the common denominator. So much so, that when the disciples gathered in another upper room together in perfect unity, they encountered the second blessing an the day of Pentecost? (Acts 2:1-31)
Perhaps, it is in the very practice of gathering in unity and prayer that we find the proper practice of Communion to be viable and appropriate – even commanded by Christ Himself. After all, didn’t Jesus also pray for unity of the believers when we said, “that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.” (John 17:21)
Dear Salvation Army,
Let me ask you a question: When are our Soldiers unified with the love of Christ?
When is it that we remember Jesus as our Savior and source of resurrection power?
Would you suggest that it is when we gather in times of confession, of worship, of fellowship? When does the mission of Christ within our Army become the most galvanized and evident in the body of believers?
Is there a time for ceremony and formal recognition? Of course!
What do those intentionally consecrated moments look like?
Could it be that Communion has been vilified in our Army? (Perhaps that is too strong a word)…
Is it possible that what Communion truly is – is the coming together of His disciples in fellowship and unity instead of mere ceremony? Can we do this over a meal together?
Perhaps instead on the over emphasis of the elements we have lost sight of the One who broke the bread and poured the wine?
What do YOU think?
Post your comments below and let’s continue this pondering together.
*Disclaimer: The views expressed here are of the author’s views and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Salvation Army. Reader desecration is advised. *
I always have fond memories of the Easter season.
Growing up in the church, I don’t recall a time when I didn’t go to church. Many times I sat through that dreaded (at least in the eyes of a child) 3 hours of the cross Good Friday service. I also remember not being all that fond of early Sun-rise services either. Waking up at the crack of dawn, even before the rooster would even begin to crow…the lights would twinkle in windows down the street as some rustled about in the early dawn. Then we would hustle to a public outdoor service of some kind where the cold wind would always bite at my nose and send me to shivering later. But there was always the reward of the warm glow of the Sunrise when it crested the mountain at the Eastern horizon. Perhaps, in some way, that is why Easter sun-rise service has always been special to me. I would shiver in the cold morning air UNTIL the Sun began to shine and cast its warming rays upon us once more. It would remind me of the state I was in before knowing Christ – that cold and lonely place. It was a place devoid of the Son, filled with selfishness and hurt…but when Christ’s love broke into my life and I accepted His forgiveness and grace – I could feel the warmth of His love. It almost felt as I was wrapped in His warm embrace, and all was right with the world again.
Perhaps, as I reminisce of my many visits to those cold mornings of Easter Sunday, where we would sing “Up from the grave He arose“, I too find myself being resurrected again. I too identify with the empty tomb, for God’s glory has warmly shone into my life. And when the glow of the rising Sun appears again, I see the hope of eternity once more in its rising. No, not in the Sun itself, but in the Son-rise, a Messiah conquering death, a Savior delivering me once more from my sin-sick heart.
“Death cannot keep his prey— Jesus, my Savior! He tore the bars away— Jesus my Lord!
Up from the grave He arose, With a mighty triumph o’er His foes He arose a Victor from the dark domain, And He lives forever with His saints to reign. He arose! He arose! Hallelujah! Christ arose!
Something more to Ponder.
What are you Easter memories? Comment below and let the conversation continue!
The Theme is – How to be Strong, Prayer & Lenten/Easter
We all face temptations in life, but how and where do we find the inner strength to say ‘no’ to what is harmful and instead choose what is best? How do we decide what is dangerous, especially if something looks ‘right’?
Christians believe that God’s words in the Bible can help us know the right path to take and that God promises through Jesus to make us strong enough to choose the way. Jesus faced temptation about the best way to rescue the world during his 40 days in the desert. He also prayed in the garden of Gathsemane in a moment of true temptation and sorrow, just before he suffered an illegal trial, beating, humiliation and death on the cross – all for the purpose of our salvation. Jesus used God’s words from the Bible to help him know the right thing to do. Peter, at the same time faced the temptation of denying Jesus, just as Jesus had predicted. How would we fair when the pressure mounted?
Activities: Each Station should last 10 minutes. (Items Needed) Station 1 Items needed: Large Jenga Blocks (or small ones if you can’t find the larger versions) Station 2 Items needed: Construction paper, sand, glue, cotton balls, markers, sticks Station 3 Items needed: Pre-make cupcakes stacked and ready, get some colored frosting or add food dye to vanilla frosting for extra colors. Add sprinkles and other toppings. Station 4 Items needed: Large puzzle (with perhaps large sized pieces) Station 5 Items needed: strips of construction paper of the following colors –
Red = Sorry
Yellow = Thanks
Pink = Please
Blue = Other People
Green = Our Community
Purple = Our World
And a strip of paper for each participant with the scripture passage printed on it.
Tape, Markers, pencils, crayons.
Station 1 – Build a Tower (10 Minutes)
Use Giant Jenga Blocks, to construct the tallest tower that they can in 7 minutes or less (give time at the end to discuss the questions below). Scripture Verse: “Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down…” Matthew 4:5-6
Talk About: How do you decide what is risky to do and what is safe?
(Say) Jesus was tempted by Satan before His ministry began and one of the temptations, Satan took Jesus to Jerusalem and stood on the highest place (probably the top of a tower) and he told Jesus to throw himself off. What do you think Jesus did? Answer: He resisted the devil and told him “Do not put the Lord your God to the test”
It is important to know what is risky and what is safe in life, and it is also very important to resist temptations when they come. God will give you the strength if you ask Him for His help!
Station 2 – Sand Art:(10 Minutes)
Create a collage of a desert scene involving sand, glue, small cotton balls for stones and maybe some dead twigs if you can find enough for your groups. Scripture Verse: “The Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil. After fasting for forty days and forty nights, he was hungry” (Matthew 4:1,2)
Talk About: What gives you strength to survive hard times?
When is life like a dry desert? Is it always easy to pray? When is it hard to pray?
(Say) Even in the desert times of our lives, God promises to never leave us or forsake us. It might be hard to believe sometimes, but it’s true. When we call out to God, He hears us and He is very near. So where are some places that we can pray? Do we have to be on our knees to pray?
Station 3 – Cup Cake Decoration table: (10 Minutes) Decorate cup cakes with various colors of frosting and sprinkles (the more toppings the better) Leader Ask: “what temptations do you find hard to resist?” Say – just like these tasty looking cupcakes that we are lathering on frosting, temptations can often appeal to us. We might hear one of our parents tell us not to eat that cookie, but we feel the temptation and maybe sometimes we act on that temptation by taking the cookie we were told not to take.
Ask: Jesus was led into the desert where he was tempted by the devil, do you think Jesus gave into those temptations? (No).
How can we avoid the traps of temptation? Who do you think will give us the strength to resist temptation in our Life? (God) Scripture Verse:“Jesus said to him (the devil), “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’ Matthew 4:7
Station 4 – Puzzle Table: (10 Minutes) Have a large piece puzzle (something that might be accomplished in under 10 minutes) out for the group to put together. As the puzzle is being put together Ask: How do you know which puzzle pieces fit in the right place on this puzzle? What happens when they don’t fit? How would you go about rescuing the world from the mess it sometimes gets itself into? Jesus went to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray. He took His disciples with Him. He was about to put the world back together again. Because of sin, the world was broken like this puzzle, and no one else could save us except for Jesus. But he struggled with this life and death decision, because it would mean that He would have to ACTUALLY suffer and die. So all night long Jesus prayed to the Father to help Him with these important pieces of the puzzle of sin. Scripture Verse:“Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, “Sit here while I go over there and pray”…and He began to be sorrowful and troubled.” Matthew 26:36-37
Ask: Why did you think it was so hard for Jesus?
Do you think any other puzzle piece (besides Jesus) would have fit into this story of Salvation for the world? Say: John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the World that He gave His one and only Son (Jesus) that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (The puzzle is complete!!)
Station 5 – “Prayer Chains”: (10 Minutes) Create prayer chains with multi-colored strips of paper.
Red = Sorry
Yellow = Thanks
Pink = Please
Blue = Other People
Green = Our Community
Purple = Our World
Write or draw your prayers on the corresponding colored paper strips, then add them together using tape to make a prayer chain that each person will take home with them.
Leader: While the prayer chains are being created, ask – “Who do you want to ask God to give strength to at the moment? Are there times when you need that strength in your own life?
Say: Peter was very afraid when Jesus was arrested. People came up to him on that night and kept asking him if he was one of the disciples of Jesus…and because Peter was really afraid and lacked the courage, he denied even knowing Jesus.
Ask: Are there times when we are afraid to admit that we are followers of Jesus too? How does God giving strength help us through difficult moments in life? Do you believe that God hears our prayers? Are there special words that we are required to use in order to get God’s attention? (No!)
Say: God knows what we need before we ask Him, but He wants us to talk to Him. We can talk to Him about our troubles and fears as well as asking Him to help with the troubles and fears of other people we know, like our parents, grandparents, cousins, neighbors, school friends, teachers and so on. God hears us when we pray to Him!
Scripture Verse: “Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.” Philippians 4:6-7 (Message Version)
(Include this passage on a piece of paper for every person to attach to their prayer chain).
Devotions: (5-10 minutes)
Recap the Scripture passages and the theme of temptation and God’s strength helping us overcome the lures of temptation. Close with a chorus (we did “The Joy of the Lord is my strength”)
Success coaches make a big deal about the importance of having a personal mission statement. It’s a good thing to know (and write down) your purpose and the calling on your life.
However, there is another statement that is far more important — a statement that clears the air of self-deception and denial — an admission statement. So, what do we need to admit?
The season of Lent focuses on that. It is a time for humility, for self-examination, for acknowledging our sin (and sins), and for genuine repentance. Lent reminds us of an unpopular truth, that we human beings are all sinners before the perfect and holy God.
The mass of humanity (including Christians) objects to that fact. People say and believe things like: “I’m a good person,” or “I’m not a sinner.” But are those statements accurate about you and me and the rest of humanity? They aren’t according to the Bible.
Jesus said: “There is none good but the Father.” Romans states, “There is none righteous, no not one,” and “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.”
Numerous Bible characters agreed with God’s assessment of their sinful nature and evil thoughts, words, and actions; by making bold admission statements. The prophet Isaiah said this about himself; “Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips.” And Apostle Paul, wrote: “I am the chief of sinners,” and “I know that within me, that is within my flesh, dwells no good thing,” and “O wretched man that I am!”
The tax collector in the temple made a bold admission statement, “God, have mercy on me a sinner.” Meanwhile, the very religious Pharisee, trying very hard to be a good person, refused to make a sin admission statement. Instead the Pharisee prayed this self-congratulatory prayer; “God, I thank you that I am not like other people — robbers, evildoers, adulterers — or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.”
As long as we, like the Pharisee, believe that we are good people, we’ll never fully know the incredible depths of God’s grace toward us. Jesus put it this way, “Whoever has been forgiven little loves little.” If we think that we only needed a little bit of forgiveness, we will only have a little bit of love. However, when we realize that because of our personal sin, we need infinite forgiveness (that cost God the death of His Son), we’ll follow and obey the living God with glorious gratitude, passionate praise, and lavish love!
So how can we ever know the depths of our sin and the incredible cost to the Father to give us His grace? We can sincerely pray this prayer of King David. “Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts and see if there be any wicked way in me.” As we do we can allow God to show us our sin nature and the sins we have committed.
As we behold our wicked ways and see what an incredible degree of forgiveness that God lavishes on us, we will be undone like Isaiah. We will be overcome with thankfulness for Gods awesome mercy and forgiveness — grace greater than all our sin! Then, like the tax collector, we’ll began to make admission statements: “God, have mercy on me a sinner.”
Lent is a wonderful time to write your own, personal admission statement. 1 John 1:8-10 can help you with that. “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us.”
Steve Simms is a Soldier in The Salvation Army in Nashville TN, a Speaker and Author of the Book: