The Death of a Fallow Prayer Life…

But whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.” John 4:14

I was cleaning our kitchen yesterday.
With four children this is almost an everyday occurrence. If not, dishes tend to pile up and creates a chaotic leaning tower of Pisa sort of mess. Anyway, I digress…As I was washing off dishes and putting them into our dishwasher, I looked up at the windowsill and noticed our non-thriving plants. They were all dead. We might make excuses about these dead plants. Perhaps we might say that they are simply dormant in the winter. Or maybe they just needed to be pruned back for the season. A few more excuses come to mind, but in reality these plants are simply dead. They were once promising green, thriving plants in pots and sun lamps. Many on the cusp of producing some sort of fruit or vegetable. Yet, due to our travel schedule and our lack of green thumbs, they have shriveled up and were husks of their former living selves.

I am reminded that this is a living parable (pun intended)…for myself. I feel as if the Lord teaches us through the world around us – like my plant pots holding dead things in them. Caskets containing death instead of nourished soil of growth. I am drawn to this life lesson. It is something simplistic and yet stark in its reminder to me. For I am sometimes this casket containing death, when I should be a vessel containing life.

Image result for desert land


In my prayer life…
My un-uttered words.

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my parched lips and forgotten promises to God.
My prayer life can look like husks of its former self.
Dried up.
Dehydrated out of lack of spiritual water and nourishment.
Neglected and empty.

How many times have I forgotten to go back to the Living Water?

Image result for dying of thirst

How many times have I gotten so busy in the concerns, fears, transitions and schedules of life that I have simply left my conversations to God to go fallow life I harvested fields? And before I know it, the once rich, dark vibrant soil is now cracked and as dry as bones in a desert. From this neglect enters apathy, harsh words spoken out of frustration and shallow roots.

Have you stood on this fallow ground?
Is this you? I know that I have found my shamed identity here.
what are the conversations that you have neglected with God? He desires to nourish your life again.
He longs to shine on the soul-soil and help you grow once more.

For me?
I am convicted here.
I find myself licking my parched, cracked lips in longing for that Living Water once more. I feel the guilt and shame of leaving Him out of my life…and I must seek Him out again. I must return to His living water and replenish my mind, body, soul.

Prayer:
Dear Lord, create in me a clean heart once more.
Renew in my a right spirit again.
Re-hydrate my broken, crumble soil.
I long to find rest and rejuvenation in you anew.
Re-ignite your passion and compassion in me.
Take away the casket of death and flood my heart with life and love.
Here I am, spark in me the joy of your salvation once again.
Lord, bring your Living Waters once more.

Something more to ponder today.
Be Blessed and thrive not just survive!

Talk. (a poem)

There are days that I can’t be lone.
Alone with my own thoughts.
Thoughts that bind.
blind.
rewind my mind
until I find that I am helplessly
reliving regrets from my past.

Like a chain around my throat
the thoughts haunt me.
Thoughts that chill.
See to kill.
Fulfill all my darkest fears
of “i’m not good enough”
and
“I’ll never measure up.”

Talk.


It’s like I’m lost in the darkest cave
no lights to light my way.
I can feel it breathing deep
creeping.
Sleep is a lost cause
until I find rest
But, empty and cold
I am attempting to deafen
its voice.

My choice?
I can’t divorce this
escape this
I confess
I don’t want to be alone
with my thoughts.
So…
Come talk to me.

10 Ministry Tools for the Non-Musically Inclined Pastor.

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.
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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.

Just some of the songs I have purchased and used in my services.The nice thing about iSing Worship is that once you select the songs you want to present on Sunday, it comes up on the display in front of you with the Lyrics as you lead the song.I highly recommend this app if you are willing to invest a little bit of money for the songs.  It adds an element of intentionality into your worship, even if you’re not musically inclined.
3) Recruit & Delegate
One of the challenges for many pastors, regardless if they are musically inclined or not is the use of other people in worship services.   Do not be afraid to ask other people to help out, or lead elements of the service.   In fact, a shared worship experience with other people leads to a better all around worship service.  If you’re at all like me, perhaps you are a control freak and you want to ensure everything goes according to plan, perhaps we have to come to the conclusion that we must trust the Holy Spirit as well as other people.
When we share the worship experience with other people, we share ownership.  Be picky when you select, recruit and delegate people to these tasks, make sure you are selective and intentional.  Find people who have potential as future leaders or already established leaders.  It’s okay to fail or have rough worship experiences with these individuals, that’s a part of the learning & discipling challenge!
4) Utilize your Youth
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The apostle Paul told Timothy not to allow others to look down on him because he was young (1 Timothy 4:12)…the same can be said about young people in our churches and in the worship setting.  Use your young people, don’t discount their willingness and abilities to lead.  Teach them, disciple them as the future leaders by investing in them now within your worship services.  Have them help by reading a prayer, or scripture verse, a skit, or even by leading a song.  Some of your young people might be more musically gifted than you are – so cultivate that gift and use it in your worship service!Also, don’t let older people in your congregation overly criticize your young people.  We do not want to discourage their growth as future leaders, we want to encourage them.  Unfortunately most churches have the old grouches who grumble at anything new – even young people.  Don’t tolerate that behavior from any member of your congregation.  We need to disciple our youth, and this is a great way to begin to do that!5) Set the Stage (don’t neglect this!)


Regardless if you are musically inclined or not, we can become more creative in our church decor.  Don’t neglect the aesthetics of your worship space!  Take into account the seasons, the topics you are preaching on and use your worship space to reach all of the senses of the worshipper.  Use smells (plug ins, or spices, candles – but don’t let it become over-powering.  Use sites – place artwork up, or banners, build sets out of styrofoam and paint it…there are many links of Pinterest and other websites to explore and tap into our creative sides.
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Use worship songs at the beginning of the service through cd/mp3/computer…set the stage with song (even if you aren’t musical).
When we actually plan the scenes of worship within our worship spaces we introduce our congregations to a living and moving God.  The stages and worship places are concerts or performances, but there is something to be said about being intentional with the sights and sounds (and smells) or our spaces for the purpose of ushering our congregants into the very throne room of God.6) Worship Band in Hand (app) 80F2AEDA-13F8-4F91-9073-5EC1C971B0E4
This app also costs some money in terms of purchasing the songs that you want yo use, but it comes with a lot of features and abilities.  You get one free song included upon installation of the app, it gives you the opportunity to try in it out and see if you like it.7) Auto Pad(app) DB7C4580-E865-4E70-90EB-D6A043897404
This app will cost you $2.99, but there are many features that this ambient sound pad contains that could set your worship onto a new plain.  Perhaps you use this during your sermon and the use of tone and ambient sounds can deepen the worship experience.   Using such a tool might require you to include/recruit others to help you operate the app while you preach or read scripture.  Give this app a try and experiment with its use in your worship service!8) Lead a Messy Church instead!  messy church 2
Do you want to break up the monitany of the worship experience?  Do something different.  Some have begun to do dinner church, while others have started to incorporate Messy church into the worship experience.  Messy church can be a great way to reduce your music phobia by utilizing stations through this very practical, teachable methods.here is a link to a few that we have done over the years – https://pastorsponderings.org/category/messy-church/9) Conduct A Quaker Service7256EF73-FB9D-41F8-A2CB-50ABA8C4E724
A Quaker service generally is not focused on music, but instead the recitation of poetry, prayers, and the element of silence.   This type of service might be a stretch to many of your congregants, even more so than Messy Church because of the use of silence.  Despite the drawbacks, using this type of worship setting, but be just the thing your church or corps needs in order to have everyone dig a little more deeply into their hearts and minds.

Here is a link for more information on the Quaker service

10) Prayer Stations/Artistic Approach
20A21EF5-8630-4240-9045-86461F35EDE7Conduct a prayer service with stations.
If you want to get creative, you can go onto Pinterest and explore the many ideas expressed there when it comes to Prayer Stations.  This approach takes the focus off of the use of music and onto a hands-on prayer service.  You could quietly play worship music in the background through your sound system and encourage everyone to spend the next 45 minutes at the many prayer stations that you have intentionally set up in your sanctuary.  Here are some links to help guide you in this:
Prayer Loom
Thy Kingdom Come
Scrabble Pieces
More Pinterest Ideas

These are just 10 suggestions to help the non-musical and musical pastor a like, for the purpose of creating a deeper, more meaningful worship service.  These are not exclusively ‘it’ for worship ideas, but just a primer for more exploration and worship developement in your corps & churches.

Please tell us what you use in your churches that help to make your worship experiences more meaningful and helpful to you and your congregation?  Post your commends below, we want to hear from you.

Something more for all of us to Ponder today.
To God be the glory!

Faith Lessons From The Ocean – Lesson #1 “The Trench Of Fear”

“When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.” -Psalm 56:3

They say that you should never underestimate the power of the ocean.
It can be a dangerous place, and many a person has been lost beneath its currents and waves.

With that thought in mind, for the next few installments of Pastorsponderings.org, I want to explore what I want to call ‘Faith Lessons From The Ocean’, and how it might apply to our daily living:

Lesson #1 ‘The Trench of Fear’
I recall, on numerous occasions being a hapless victim of its tides.
I have never drowned, mind you, but I have faced some scary moments while within the ocean’s grasp. One such day occurred when I was a child. I remember it vividly. I was wading out into the surf, feeling the salty sting on my eyes and lips. I had not gone out very far when all of a sudden I found myself in deeper waters where I could not reach the bottom. The normal ocean floor shelf was further out, but I had stepped into a sand pit that was much deeper than the surrounding area. I momentarily panicked, I recall that my head went under the ebbing waves, and I choked on some of its spray.

For a brief moment, dread filled me and I was frozen in fear. This probably only lasted a few seconds, but it felt like an eternity had gone. I was a helpless victim and no matter how hard I tried, I was caught in the rip current of this small ocean trench.

When I came to my senses and pushed my panic down, I remembered the pull and push of the ebb and flow of the ocean waves and so on the next in coming wave, I stretched out my arms and paddled like I have never paddled before. I rode the wave out of my trench of fear…and I was finally free!

Our faith journey can be a lot like that trench of fear.
We will be cruising right along, enjoying life and riding the waves of success, then suddenly we find ourselves below the waves…and panic sets in.
In a sudden crisis, we might quickly forget God’s promises to us.
We might forget that He promised to never leave us or forsake us. (Hebrews 13:5)
We might forget that God always keeps His promises to us.

So we might be traveling in life, and all of a suddenly we come up against an obstacle that we feel has no bottom and we are drowning beneath its weight. Have you been there? Have you felt the powerful pull from the riptide? Have you lost your firm footing and have been forced to tread water? Perhaps you are at the point of sheer panic, because we do not know what will happen next when another large wave of life spills over you.
-Breathe.
You aren’t alone.
Don’t Panic.
This trench may seem to be your doom, but you will survive…you were made for more than this, and God is with you…trust Him!

Fear can be debilitating.
It can hold us captive and in chains.
Fear will lie to you, and reveal to you all of your weaknesses and insecurities. It will make you think that you can’t go on and that you are all alone in your struggles.
Fear is also tool of the Father of lies…and he loves it when we are held paralyzed in its awful grasp.

Fear is a Liar Music Video

Have you been to this place?
It’s a cold, desolate wasteland where hopelessness lives and is neighbor to unfulfilled dreams.

Don’t live there.
Don’t waste your time.
The trench of fear holds many souls captive…don’t let it hold you!

Where are the trenches located in your life?
What causes you dread and holds you captive?
Perhaps it is time to cry out to the Father.
He hears us, and He will not let your foot slip, even if you find yourself treading water from time to time amidst waves that seem determined to do you in. You will survive, and He will provide you the path by which you can thrive.

“When my anxieties multiply, your comforting calms me down.” -Psalm 94:19

Messy Church – Weekend VBS…”I Am’s of Jesus”

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)

 Friday:

7:30pm-9:00pm

Theme: “I am the vine”

Scripture Verse – John 15:1-11

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 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. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. 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.

“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. 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.If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.

“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
Welcome
Read Scripture
Instruct Kids and Teachers


Stations:

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

Instructions:
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:

Ask:
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, “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.

Materials Needed:
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.

Step A:

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:

Step B:

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!


Note: add some dish soap to tempera paint to make it washable…It’ll save you in the long run (we found out the hard 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
Paper towels
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 activity                                                                                                     20 Minutes
Blob Tag:

  1. 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? 

Say:
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



Saturday AM

10am- 12:15pm

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:


Stations:

1) Sheep Collage craft                            20 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 & decorate                                                                    20minutes
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 game                                                  20Minutes
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

 

  1. Overview:

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.

Set-up/Boundaries:

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.

Score Keeping:

White Socks- 3000 points each

Gold Socks- 5000 points each

Gray Socks- 10,000 points each

Prisoners- 1000 each player
Supplies Needed:

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

  1. 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 pen                                                                                      10 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 / Music                                                                      10-15 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?

  1. 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)

Discussion Questions:

  1. What does a shepherd take care of? (Sheep.)
  2. Does a good shepherd lay down (or give) his life for the sheep? (Yes.)
  3. What do you think this means? (The good shepherd would risk his or her own life to protect the sheep.)
  4. What does a hired hand do when he or she sees the wolf coming? (Runs the other way leaving the sheep behind.)
  5. What happens to a flock of sheep if there is no shepherd? (They may be attacked by a wolf and get scattered.)
  6. In our Bible story, does the good shepherd know his sheep? (Yes.)
  7. Do the sheep know the good shepherd? (Yes.)
  8. How are we like sheep? (Allow for answers.)
  9. 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

7:00pm-9pm

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).



Stations:

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.)

We purchased glow in the dark tape from Amazon for $7 and it was a HUGE hit with the kids, and reinforced the Messy Church theme

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

page.

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.

Other Questions

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.



Sunday

10:30am-12:00pm

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
Say:
Hey everybody!
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

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xbCkzx9jJaE

 

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

Stations:


1) Needle compass activity                                                                                       20 Min
Science experiment – https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=36&v=QiSp6pGe0w0

Items Needed:
Bowl
Needle
Magnet
Pitcher of Water
Cork
Actual Compass

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?

ReadThen 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: 

  1. 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.
  2. 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
  3. We’ll need two large trash cans, two long tables, and four chairs at the field near Ramsdale

Game Recap:
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?

Say:
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

Questions:
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)

Object: 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!

Prayer:
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.

 

rotations should be 20mins + each

4 Ways We Get Christianity Wrong

First of all let me set the record straight, if we aren’t following Christ and desiring to be like Him in every way, then we really shouldn’t call ourselves Christians.  That’s a bold statement, but it’s true.  We can’t understand who this Jesus guy is, unless we actually read and study His life.   What did He teach?  What did He do?  With whom did He associate with, and who did Jesus heal?  When we study who Jesus was and is, we begin to see the kind of life that we are also called to live – if we are to follow Him.

Today, I would like to focus on just 4 Ways We Get Christianity Wrong.
It should be noted that there are more ways to get this wrong, but for the sake of time, lets cover just four.

  1.   Emotionalism:  crying
    I used to despise altar calls.  (There, I’ve said it, phew what a weight off of my chest)
    Why did I despise altar calls?  It wasn’t because I was running away from the Holy Spirit, but rather I was running away from what I felt was manipulation.  That sounds rather bold, and perhaps you will disagree with me, but isn’t there an element of the rehearsed, “I’m going to pull on your heart strings” emotionalism that can sometimes be present in altar calls?  Some denominations have basically built their entire church on “feeling”.But let me ask you, what happens to those who just don’t “feel” it?  Are they just not in touch with the Holy Spirit?  I would add that some have walked away from the faith because of these kinds of emotionalism doctrines thinking to themselves, “I must not be good enough, or emotionally vulnerable enough, because I just don’t feel the way the rest of the church feels.”

    Don’t get me wrong, when the Holy Spirit falls upon His people (and He does) we know it, but it isn’t always tied up in our emotions and tear ducts.  Altar calls certainly have their place, but when it is not genuine, but rather stats driven…then it’s merely manipulation, and I don’t think that’s truly God-honoring.  Don’t manipulate people into coming to an altar when there isn’t even an altar in their hearts yet for Him.  That desire comes from knowing Him through the fellowship of other believers – also known as discipleship.

    I am also not discouraging the use of the altar, it can be a wonderful, glorious place to receive Christ and to rededicate ones life, but it has been mistreated, overused and used to manipulate others as well.  Use it wisely!

  2. me2It’s All About ME!
    The problem with an individualistic society is the loss of “others”.  No, we do not lose the sense of others around us, but rather the desire to help others, or to see the needs of others before our own.   Jesus indicated to His disciples that if they were to be great, they had to first serve others.  Our world teaches us through our own experiences, and we rely on these self-experiences to get us through life…but what if we’re missing the experience to serve others?  Couldn’t serving others actually teach us more about ourselves as well as how God sees all of us?The problem with modern Christianity and Church is the need to find a place to be “fed”, but we never seek to feed others.  If we find the first, but neglect the latter – we have missed the entire point of Christianity.  Too often we see out churches to entertain us, to meet our needs, and to watch our children…but isn’t there more to going to church?  Isn’t there more involved in being a Christian?

    We get Christianity wrong when we internalize God’s blessing, but never make the effort to externalize it for others.

  3. The Christian Fast-Food Menu Order plate
    Another component to the individualistic society that we live in is to use the Bible as a fast-food menu.  By that I mean we can sometimes pick and choose the statements and teachings in the Bible that matches our lifestyle choices so that we feel less guilt, when all along we know that the Holy Spirit is speaking to us…and at times convicting us.  We can all be guilty of this, and it can be easy to gloss over portions of scripture that don’t necessarily mesh with what we’ve chosen to put into our lives.Jesus consolidated the Ten Commandments into to very important truths:
    1. Love God (Heart, Mind, Soul, Body)
    2. And love Others.
    When we do those two things and actually practice them in our lives the truth of the rest of scripture becomes real in our lives.  By that I mean, we are more in tune with the Holy Spirit and more willing to listen to His calling.
  4. Commitment Is Vacant
    commitmentWe live in a very fast-paced world.
    We literally have the world in the palms of our hands with smart devices that are linked to almost every place in the world.  Isn’t it funny that we can spend 5-10 hours a day scrolling on our phones, but when it comes time to go to Bible Study or that group you said you would go to – we can’t seem to find the time.

    This isn’t a guilt trip – this is simply the truth.
    We might make excuses like, “Well, they really won’t miss me.”  or “It’s just not for me.” or even, “That study is BORING!”…but what we miss out when we don’t commit is human connection with other Christians brothers and sisters in Christ.  We are all imperfect and faulty…some ARE boring…some ARE not really geared for you…but the connection with other Christ-followers is vital!

    Yes, we all have families.
    Yes, we all have busy schedules – and time is a precious commodity, but if you can spend 5 hours + on Facebook, you can spend 5 minutes a day doing devotions or praying to the Lord.  For some of you who have that commitment, I applaud you – keep going!  Some of us need to get into some spiritual shape…and we need to actually commit.

These are just 4 Ways We Get Christianity Wrong…for what it’s worth.
Blessings on you!

If It’s Not Broke…Then Break It.

There is a problem with our self-reliance.
Independence is a great thing, but are we independent from God?
Do we only require God’s help when it gets tough and we use God like a panic button?
The problem with self-reliance isn’t about having too much control, it’s about the willful choice of not surrendering.

what?
But isn’t surrendering a sign of weakness?

Not when it comes to surrendering to God.
He desires it.
Longs for it.
Yet, so few of us ACTUALLY surrender ourselves completely to Him.

Did you know that only reason Christianity spread so far and wide in the Acts church is because they were shattered and scattered?   Act chapter 8 records the shattering of the church as Saul persecutes Christ-followers.  Before he becomes Paul, he plays this vital role of breaking… broken

Without the breaking we don’t have a gospel message that goes far and wide.
Still today, without the breaking, I fear our witness becomes far too comfortable and contained…so much so that Satan doesn’t have to worry about us anymore.

Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t long for the breaking…no one ever truly longs for such a time, but sometimes it is needed.

Could there be a need of breaking in your life right now?
Have you become comfortable in your faith or church or current state of life right now?
God desires our full surrender, and unfortunately, sometimes the only way for us to become fully committed and surrendered to Him is to be broken…to be shattered again.

What needs to be broken in your life in order for you to grow spiritually again?
What must you surrender to God in order to truly live for Him?
My fear in this time and era of the Church is that there are far too many Christians comfortably numb to the moving of the Holy Spirit.  I am afraid that many churches and Christians in the Western world are asleep and unaware of what God longs to do.

We have to WAKE UP.
We have to be shattered and broken again.
Without this, I am unsure if any of us will truly know the freedom of living by faith in God’s grace…because we haven’t invested or stepped beyond what we are comfortable with.  Did you catch that?

What WE are comfortable with.
There is no inclusion of His presence in that statement.
It’s all about what WE feel, and what WE want, and what WE can get from it…
broken2
God,
SHATTER me again.
Lord,
BREAK me.

May it be our desire to be fully surrendered.
Not in our own time and convenience.
Not because we have nothing better to do, or we “freed up” some time in our schedules.
BUT, because it’s what God desires from us.
FULL and COMPLETE Surrender.

Father,
Break us again.

AMEN.

Lenten Perspective Pondering – Featuring Cadet Bobby Key

“The sacrifice pleasing to God is a broken spirit. You will not despise a broken and humbled heart, God.”  -Psalm 51:17

I have never been much of a lent observer. You know, the part where people give up certain things for the entirety of Lent. I understand the meaning behind it, and why people do this, but it never appealed to me. As I get ready to graduate from seminary in a few months, God has been revealing His word to me in a new and exciting ways. So, this year, for the first time ever, I gave up sugar. Anyone who knows me knows how difficult this really is. The first day was awful. It is all I thought about all day. I thought about it in class, when I was at home with my family, and even in the middle of the night. All I wanted to do was give up.

As a young teenager, I often felt this way about Jesus. I felt that following Him was too difficult. I thought about all of the things that I would have to give up. I even felt like the Israelites at times. The forgiveness of sins required too much. I would never be able to live a holy life, and I was tired of disappointing God. Giving up on my faith seemed like the right thing to do.

Even though I had all of these feelings of failure and frustration, I pressed on. I did not give up. Just like I am doing in this season of lent. A little over a week into it, and it has gotten much easier. I still think about the things I am giving up, but it doesn’t seem like such a big deal anymore. There are cupcakes, and cookies, and ice cream that I miss, but these are the times when I turn to him in prayer. This is what lent is all about, isn’t it? What is the thing that I need to give up that will draw me closer to the heart of Jesus?

This verse from Psalms is the verse I have been claiming this past year. David has just been confronted by Nathan about his transgression with Bathsheba. David is in deep anguish. He is crying out to God for forgiveness. Even though David needs to sacrifice burnt offerings, he knows that what God really wants is our heart. What God really wants from is our broken heart. A broken heart because we have broken His. He wants us to come before Him with a contrite spirit, a spirit that is deeply remorseful and affected by our guilt. God wants us to bring this to his feet. Lent reminds me to draw close to Him. It reminds me of the sacrifice He made for me on the cross. All He wants is me. All of me. Rest in the promise today that “God will not despise the sacrifices of our broken heart and contrite spirit.”

 -Cadet Bobby Key is a second year Cadet in the Central Territory USA, soon to be commissioned.-

Walking at Midnight on the path of restlessness.

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13

I have another confession to make – I am restless…like pit of my stomach-aching restlessness.  Some days I can put my finger on it, while other days it is as elusive as an honest thief.  I am usually successful at pushing it back down, repacking that box that it lives in and stowing it away in that shadowy corner that I seldom travel to.  Still, I know it’s there…and it weighs on me as if an elephant had decided to perch its rotund bottom on my chest.

I wonder if you feel this way sometimes?
Do you have to push it back down as well?
Do you have to re-tape that worn-out box and pretend that dark corner doesn’t even exist?  Does it keep you up at night – blinking at the ceiling fan, counting the rotation of its blades as shadows dance off reflections of streetlights lit only for 3rd shift workers and insomniacs out for a stroll?  I repress the urge to join them, to open the front door and walk barefooted down the now cooled, uneven sidewalks as I imagine myself trying to avoid the spiny round pods that fall haphazardly from the large gum tree in our front yard.   I have stepped on these awful spiky seeds a time or two while walking barefoot down our path and even in the cool darkness of the night thoughts of the surprise pain causes me to recoil my feet from the lower spaces of my bed.

I wonder if David ever felt this way?  The pre-murder and adulterous David…the one that tended sheep and slew predators to the flock.  I wonder if he ever felt restless in his heart?  I am sure he did when, later he was being pursued by jealous King Saul and his men.  As David hid from cave to cave and village to village, I imagine him laying down on an uncomfortable uneven floor hoping to rest his weary head.  I can picture his deep sadness as he yearned for his best friend Jonathan.  Yet David trusted in God…but I would venture a guess that there were moments in which he was restless and he too had to push it back down and re-tape his box.

It is said that there is a season for everything…and yet Jesus told the people of his day not to worry about anything, yet I can’t help but find myself in the season of worry from time to time.  Doe that mean that I am not heeding His words?  That, despite my best efforts, I am not trusting in Him?  Perhaps you have thought this also> I worry, but Jesus said not to, and here I am still worrying.<  What do we do with these seasons?  How do we find the glimmers and glints of hope in the mess of our minds?  Sometimes we do believe the lie.  What lie you ask?  The lie that Jesus wasn’t really talking to us when He said those things, that it was just for the disciples and people around Him right then and there… The lie that we are broken people beyond fixing, and that the restlessness that we feel in the pits of our stomachs and the weight of our hearts is what we deserve for being fallen, sinful people.

Don’t live there.
Don’t wallow in that muck and believe that damning lie.
The son who turned his back on his father and spent his entire inheritance on partying, prostitutes and comfort found himself feeding muddy, fetid pigs.  Day in and day out he was covered in mud and pig excrement.  He definitely smelled as bad as they did.  He had lost everything – squandered a small fortune on foolish, regrettable things, and the stink of his life went much deeper than clothes and skin.  He lived there.  He wallowed there.  That pen of stench became his home for a period of time, until he came to senses.  As Jesus told this story of prodigal son, I imagine some who were listening felt that he was telling their story.  The prodigal son came to his senses, got up and devised a plan to return to his father.  He formulated a plan in his mind, he believed he would be unwelcome to return as a son, but maybe, just maybe his father would let him return as a servant.  Can you imagine that restless journey home; The endless loop of things he would finally say to his father in order to stave off the reprisals and chastisements?  As each dusty step led him closer and closer to the home he once knew, thoughts of doubt and fear must have crept in.  “Master, just let me work for you.” (For surely he would never be worthy to call him father after what he did).

And when this beaten-by-life man, who had squandered everything and had hit absolute rock-bottom crested that last hill, and his home was in view…he saw someone running towards him.  Perhaps it was a servant instructed to chase him off.  Perhaps it was a warning not to come any closer…he would have deserved such a welcome.  Instead, it wasn’t any of those things…it was his father that he had wished were dead, running to embrace the son he thought he had lost.

Don’t live in the home of restlessness.
Don’t believe the lie of shame and guilt.
Be forgiven, let your Father embrace you and welcome you home…and when you are finally hope, re-tape that box and then throw it away.

The prodigal son is me.
The prodigal son is you.
But once we have been embraced,
once we have witness our Father running to us,
Once we have been forgiven and returned to our home (where we belong)
don’t even entertain the lie or the box any longer.

But sometimes…we still walk at midnight, say hello, I’ll be waving.

Something more to ponder today.

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