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Advent Week 3: The Shepherds

December 9, 2016

 

Advent, which means “coming” or “arrival,” is a time when we get to look forward to Christmas. While advent can be viewed as an old church tradition, it is truly meaningful because it helps us take not just one night–Christmas Eve–to focus on Christ’s story, but a whole month! This may feel like yet another task that will take up time, but trust me: When you’re teaching kids, one month is definitely better than one day. That is why, this year, we are providing you with some ways to help make Christmas about more than just Santa and presents.

 

Now, I know our schedules are already full, which is why I have provided a few different ways you can go a little deeper with your kids this advent season. So take a look below and choose something that will fit your family.

 

Advent by Week

 

Sunday, December 11, marks the third week of advent. When you gather with your family this week, you will be lighting the pink candle: the “Shepherds” candle. If you didn’t make a wreath the first week, then just light a regular candle and read Luke 2:8-20 together. If you have access to an NIrV version, it is written at the third-grade reading level and is great for kids!

 

After reading, talk about the emotions the shepherds experienced during their encounter with the angels. See if your kids can name a few: surprise, fear, amazement, excitement, and so on! Being able to name our emotions is such an important skill for kids—and adults!—so use this as an opportunity to walk through the story and talk about the emotional rollercoaster the shepherds must have experienced. Ask your kids about times they have felt these emotions. Wrap up the conversation by looking at what the shepherds did at the end of the story; they wanted to tell everybody about Jesus. They wanted to rush off and meet Jesus right away because of what the angels said in verse 10: “I bring you good news. It will bring great joy for all people.” The shepherds knew that Jesus would bring great joy for everybody, and that’s why they went and told everybody about Him.

 

Take this a step further by giving your kids some markers and paper plates. Have them draw emojis for the different emotions and then read the story a second time while your kids hold up the different faces they made. At the end, ask you kids if there is someone they want to bring joy to this Christmas, just like the shepherds did with their message of Jesus’ birth. Take a look at the advent calendar in the “Advent by Day” section to get some ideas for how you can do so as a family!

 

 

 

Advent by Day

 

Is even looking at a blog hard for you? Click here and print out our advent calendar, or pick one up in the kids’ space on Sunday! Here, you will find short sentences that will slowly tell the Christmas story over the month. There are also suggestions for each day that will help you reinforce our monthly life application of joy: “finding a way to be happy even when things don’t go your way.” Jesus wasn’t born just so he could hang out on Earth for a while. He came so that we can have life in the fullest way possible (John 10:10)! You can teach your kids that a true, full life means sharing that joy with others by following the calendar’s suggestions for spreading joy. You can do what it says every day, or just pick your favorite and do one each week.

 

Still want more?!

 

If you are looking for more content regarding advent, visit http://www.clayporr.com/advent-reflections/ where you will find daily and weekly devotionals that better fit older students and adults.

 

Advent Week 2: Bethlehem

December 2, 2016

Advent Week 2: Bethlehem

 

Advent, which means “coming” or “arrival,” is a time when we get to look forward to Christmas. While advent can be viewed as an old church tradition, it is truly meaningful because it helps us take not just one night–Christmas Eve–to focus on Christ’s story, but a whole month! This may feel like yet another task that will take up time, but trust me: When you’re teaching kids, one month is definitely better than one day. That is why, this year, we are providing you with some ways to help make Christmas about more than just Santa and presents.

 

Now, I know our schedules are already full, which is why I have provided a few different ways you can go a little deeper with your kids this advent season. So take a look below and choose something that will fit your family.

 

Advent by Week

 

Sunday, December 4th, marks the second week of advent. When you gather with your family this week, you will be lighting one of the purple candles: the “Bethlehem” candle. If you didn’t make a wreath last week, then just light a regular candle and read Luke 2:1-7 together. If you have access to an NIrV version, it is written at the third-grade reading level and is great for kids!

 

After reading, ask your kids what preparations need to be made when a baby is going to be born. After some discussion about buying diapers, finding toys, and building a crib, ask them to imagine what it would have been like if, after doing all that, they had to leave their prepared house behind and go to a different state! Talk about how that’s what Mary and Joseph did because of the census, and while it may have seemed like a terrible thing at the time, it was clear that God had a bigger plan. He was fulfilling the prophecy (what we talked about last week) that His son would be born in Bethlehem.

 

Turn this into a challenge by giving your kids a pen and paper (or having a parent or guardian help with writing) and see who can come up with the longest list of baby preparations. Try to make the lists specific and long, including all the modern baby luxuries. After you go through the lists, ask them, out of all these items, what they think they would be able to bring with them if they had to leave on a donkey! End by talking about the idea that, even when we don’t get to bring or have everything we want, God always gives us what we need.

 

 

Advent by Day

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Is even looking at a blog hard for you? Click here and print out our advent calendar, or pick one up in the kids’ space on Sunday! Here, you will find short sentences that will slowly tell the Christmas story over the month. There are also suggestions for each day that will help you reinforce our monthly life application of joy: “finding a way to be happy even when things don’t go your way.” Jesus wasn’t born just so he could hang out on Earth for a while. He came so that we can have life in the fullest way possible (John 10:10)! You can teach your kids that a true, full life means sharing that joy with others by following the calendar’s suggestions for spreading joy. You can do what it says every day, or just pick your favorite and do one each week.

 

Still want more?!

 

If you are looking for more content regarding advent, visit http://www.clayporr.com/advent-reflections/ where you will find daily and weekly devotionals that better fit older students and adults.

 

 

Advent Week 1: God Is with Us

November 25, 2016

Advent Week 1: God Is with Us

 

Have you started listening to Christmas music yet? Do your kids have their lists made? I know the stores have definitely started with their decorations. As I type this, Thanksgiving isn’t even here, and yet the rush of the holiday season is already at risk of stealing the joy it’s meant to foster. Hosting a fun event for many friends, for example, can easily turn into an occasion for anxiety and stress—an “extra” task in a vast sea of tasks. This Christmas season, I encourage you to not allow what you have to do diminish the joy of what you get to do, like, for example, teach your children the true meaning of Christmas.

 

Advent, which means “coming” or “arrival,” is a time when we get to look forward to Christmas. While advent can be viewed as an old church tradition, it is truly meaningful because it helps us take not just one night–Christmas Eve–to focus on Christ’s story, but a whole month! This may feel like yet another task that will take up time, but trust me: When you’re teaching kids, one month is definitely better than one day. That is why, this year, we are providing you with some ways to help make Christmas about more than just Santa and presents.

 

This weekend, our pastor, Christian Andrews, will introduce us to the Christmas season by talking about who God is. The Bible tells us that Jesus is called Emmanuel, which means “God with us.” That means that, if we want to know who God is, we should look at the story of Jesus. As your kids grow, they will be trying to figure out who they are and, since they were created in God’s image, they will only be able to figure that out if they have a good picture of who God is. If I am created like God, then I have to know who God is before I can fully understand who I am. That is why teaching them about Jesus during this advent season is so important!

 

Now, I know our schedules are already full, which is why I have provided a few different ways you can go a little deeper with your kids this advent season. So take a look below and choose something that will fit your family.

 

Advent by Week

 

To celebrate advent each week with your family, create your own advent wreath. This can be a tradition you really delve into with your kids by taking a trip to the craft store and getting all the supplies, or you can simply take some candles from home and put them in a circle. If it stresses you out and makes you forget why you’re doing it, then just keep it simple. Either way, your kids will love gathering around and lighting those candles! If you want to go the traditional route, then you will want to buy five candles: three purple, one pink, and one white.

 

Sunday, November 27, marks the first week of advent. When you gather with your family this week, you will be lighting one of the purple candles: the “prophecy” candle. Talk about the word “prophecy” with your kids; they probably already have their own idea of what a prophecy is! Make sure that they understand that a prophecy is when God gives us a hint or a preview of the future. When Jesus was born, everyone knew He was God’s Son because God gave us many hints telling us what would happen.

 

To take this a step further, get out some craft supplies (or just a paper and crayons) and have everyone in your family make an ornament (or draw a picture) without anyone else seeing. When everyone’s done, ask each “creator” to give us a “prophecy,” or a “hint,” as to what the image might be. Then, have some fun while everyone else tries to guess! For example, if you draw a snowman, your “prophecy” might be that “It will be white” or “It will have a carrot for a nose.” Afterward, you can talk about how, when the creator (God) gives a prophecy, it is always true because He knows all things. After all, He created everything!

 

Advent by Day

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Is even looking at a blog hard for you? Click here and print out our advent calendar, or pick one up in the kids’ space on Sunday! Here, you will find short sentences that will slowly tell the Christmas story over the month. There are also suggestions for each day that will help you reinforce our monthly life application of joy: “finding a way to be happy even when things don’t go your way.” Jesus wasn’t born just so he could hang out on Earth for a while. He came so that we can have life in the fullest way possible (John 10:10)! You can teach your kids that a true, full life means sharing that joy with others by following the calendar’s suggestions for spreading joy. You can do what it says every day, or just pick your favorite and do one each week.

 

Still want more?!

 

If you are looking for more content regarding advent, visit http://www.clayporr.com/advent-reflections/ where you will find daily and weekly devotionals that better fit older students and adults.

 

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Depending on our backgrounds, it is easy for us all to develop very different ideas of the traditions of communion and baptism. Some of us view them as a means to atone for our sins—a ceremony required for access to Heaven. For others, they are traditions that have become so dry over the years that they have lost all meaning. Communion has become something we do because it’s what we’re supposed to do at church. But if we look closely at scripture, we might find a fuller picture of what Jesus intended.

 

When Jesus sat with his disciples at the Last Supper, He was celebrating the Passover meal. Why? Because he was Jewish! And why did Jewish people celebrate Passover? To remember that God freed them from slavery in Egypt. When they would have surely died otherwise, He chose to pass over them and grant them freedom.

 

At this particular Passover, however, Jesus tells the disciples that this meal means more than they think. In Luke, chapter 22, when Jesus breaks bread with them he tells them to continue breaking bread in His memory. They didn’t know it yet, but very shortly after this meal, Jesus would die so that they could live. So why do we take communion all these years later? Just as God wanted His people to never forget how He delivered them from slavery in Egypt, Jesus wants us never to forget that he delivered us from the slavery of sin. When we take communion, we are telling God, ourselves, and each other that we believe and remember what He did. We don’t need communion for Jesus to save us; He already did that! But when we celebrate communion with each other in church, when we never forget the sacrifice Christ made for us, it starts affecting what we do outside of church. And that’s what changes the world.

 

Many people ask me when it is okay for their children to start taking communion, and my answer is simple: when they understand what it means and believe that it’s true. Kids need to know that there’s nothing special about the bread or the wine. They are symbols to help remind us what Jesus did. And just as communion is a symbol of what Jesus did, baptism is a symbol of a decision we make. It is an outward expression of an inward change that has already happened.

 

To help explain it to kids in terms they understand, I like to say that baptism is like a wedding ring: It is a symbol of a commitment I already made. I don’t need to wear my wedding ring to be married, but I’m proud to wear it because I love my husband and want everyone to know it. If I had started wearing my ring before our wedding day, that wouldn’t have made me married because there’s nothing special about the ring. It’s the commitment that matters. Baptism is a symbol of the belief in the gospel and the commitment to allow the gospel to change my life. If you’re unsure of what I mean, the Gospel Project uses the following simple outline to help explain to kids what Christians call “the gospel,” or “good news”:

 

God Rules: The Bible tells us that God created everything, including you and me, and He is in charge of everything. Genesis 1:1; Revelation 4:11; Colossians 1:16-17

 

We Sinned: We all choose to disobey God. The Bible calls this sin. Sin separates us from God and deserves God’s punishment of death. Romans 3:23; 6:23.

 

God Provided: God sent Jesus, the perfect solution to our sin problem, to rescue us from the punishment we deserve. It’s something we, as sinners, could never earn on our own. Jesus alone saves us. John 3:16; Ephesians 2:8-9

 

Jesus Gives: He lived a perfect life, died on the cross for our sins, and rose again. Because Jesus gave up His life for us, we can be welcomed into God’s family for eternity. Romans 5:8, 2 Corinthians 5:21; 1 Peter 3:18; Ephesians 2:8-9

 

We Respond: Believe in your heart that Jesus alone saves you through what He’s already done on the cross. Repent, turning from self and sin to Jesus. Tell God and others that your faith is in Jesus. John 14:6; Romans 10:9-10, 13.

 

If you think your kids might be ready to be baptized, take them through this outline by asking prompting questions (click here for the free downloadable poster). Discern for yourself or ask a church staff member for help to see if they understand what it all means, and if they do, then celebrate! When we decide to believe that Jesus died for us, we become a part of His family right away. As you do this, keep in mind that, even if you are sure your child believes and understands, they still may not be ready to be baptized. That’s okay. You might see the change in them, but if they don’t see it and aren’t ready to declare it, then it may be a little too early.

Step Out: Peer Pressure

October 20, 2016

 

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You can do what you should do, even when others are afraid. This is the takeaway for this weekend—the bottom line that we want the kids to remember when they walk away. It is a statement that is important at every stage of life but especially for children and teens. As they grow, they will be surrounded by peers trying to influence them one way or another, and they need to grow up knowing that God’s is the only voice they should be listening to. As they read the story in Numbers 13-14 (click here to read it), they will learn about two men, Joshua and Caleb, who remained confident in the Lord despite the doubts of everyone around them. In the same way, this weekend you will hear about a man that had the courage to step out of the boat when everyone else probably thought he was crazy (click here to read it).

 

Spend some time this week talking to your kids about these stories. Ask them if they have ever felt pressured to do something they shouldn’t do, or maybe pressured to doubt God because none of their friends believe in Him. Maybe everyone else is making fun of someone in school and they feel pressured to laugh along. If you take the time to have an open dialogue with your kids when they are younger, when they get older, and the stakes are higher, they will know they can still come to you.

 

So take advantage of this week’s theme. Read the stories together and teach them that it doesn’t matter what other people do; they need to decide for themselves what they think God is calling them to do and have the courage to heed the call. And remember: We can have courage, not by our own strength, but because God is with us wherever we go (Joshua 1:9b). We can have trust because the power of the Holy Spirit gives us hope (Romans 15:13).

 

So that’s for your kids, but what about you? This weekend, when you learn that faith hears Jesus and steps out of the boat, we will challenge you to think about what God is calling you to do. He called Peter to step out onto the water in the middle of the storm. He was calling Joshua and Caleb to be brave and enter the Promised Land.

 

So where is He calling you? If you’re not sure, just ask Him.

Step Out: Choosing Hope

October 13, 2016

 

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A few weeks ago, we talked about choosing to trust in moments of adversity. The idea that trusting is a choice is fairly easy to grasp, but what we might not realize is that hope is similar. I’ve often perceived hope as something you either have or you don’t have. In those moments of adversity, when life is it’s hardest and I’m surrounded by enemies or obstacles, I tend to think that hope is either present or absent. But just as trusting is a choice, we can also choose to inject hope into seemingly hopeless situations.

 

This weekend, our elementary kids will continue their month of “courage” by following Moses’ story to the Red Sea (click here to read it). They will see God’s people immediately doubt their leader in the face of a hopeless situation. In the story, the Israelites are flanked on both sides by either Pharaoh’s men or the Red Sea, and escape seems impossible. So what’s their brilliant plan? They verbally thrash Moses and wish that they were still slaves!

 

Hopelessness can cause us to wish for ridiculous things, just so we can get out of our present situation. But God calls us to much more than settling for slavery. In hard times, he calls us to not wish for different circumstances, but mind His promises and His love. He calls us to choose to put our hope in Him when all else seems lost. In verse 14, Moses exhorts the Hebrews to make this choice when he tells them to remember that “the Lord, your God, will fight for you.”

 

Similarly, in Psalm 31, David writes about all the wrongs he has committed in his life before making a conscious choice: “But I trust in you oh Lord; I say that you are my God.” Jeremiah does the same in Lamentations when, once again, he speaks of his hopeless situation before calling to mind God’s goodness. He chooses hope: “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed…his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” These great people of God don’t deny their present suffering or convince themselves that they’re overreacting, but rather acknowledge both: their suffering and God’s greatness.

 

This weekend, the kids will walk away having learned that they can do what they should do, even when matters seem impossible. I challenge you to take that a step further with them: Remind them that they can have courage (and hope), not because of their own strength, but because of who God is. Each night this week, read a different verse with them before they go to bed. Choose verses that remind us of God’s unfailing love and show them how to either use the reference pages found in the back of most Bibles or look the verses up online. If you’re unsure of how to do either, then here are a few suggestions that go along with this month’s theme of “courage”:

 

“Be strong and brave. Don’t be afraid of them. Don’t be terrified because of them. The Lord your God will go with you. He will never leave you. He’ll never desert you.” Deuteronomy 31:6, NIrV

 

“Trust in the Lord forever. The Lord himself is the Rock. The Lord will keep us safe forever.” Isaiah 26:4, NIrV

 

“Others make us suffer. But God does not desert us. We are knocked down. But we are not knocked out.” 2 Corinthians 4:9, NIrV

 

“The Lord is my light, and he saves me. Why should I fear anyone?
The Lord is my place of safety. Why should I be afraid?” Psalm 27:1, NIrV

 

“The Lord is my shepherd. He gives me everything I need.” Psalm 23:1, NIrV

 

I remember when I first became a Christian at the age of 17 and marveled at people who could recite scripture off the top of their heads. I used to think that there was no way I would ever know enough of the Bible to internalize it. I was starting too late. Then, one day, I realized I had read the same verse so many times that I had memorized it: Philippians 4:13. Then, sometime down the road, it happened again, and suddenly I knew two verses. Before I knew it, more scripture had been written on my heart than I realized, simply because I chose to read and read again and read again. To help your kids choose hope, start by reading them the scripture that will allow them to do so. And if you’re learning alongside them, that’s great too! Just remember to take it one verse—and one choice—at a time.

Step Out: Nothing but faith

October 6, 2016

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If you are a planner like me, this week’s sermon is going to be a tough one. It’s about one of those steps of faith that I support in theory, but scares me half to death: putting faith not in oneself, but in God. I’m all about faith, but when the “heat” is on, I try to scramble together every possible provision of my own before “taking the leap.” So in the end, instead of stepping out into the unknown and trusting God to provide, I’m stepping out with a map, a cell phone, a GPS, a suitcase filled with clothes, and as many guide books as I can get my hands on. Now I’m not suggesting we all leap out of an airplane without a parachute, but there are, perhaps, steps of faiths in our own lives that are about as scary as parachute-less skydiving. For example, if you feel God calling you to donate next month’s rent to a family that just lost its house in a fire, any sensible person might call you crazy. How could you possibly give away something that you need that badly? Surely someone else with more money and more options will provide.

 

When we look at the Bible, time and time again, God calls people that are underqualified and lacking in the exact area in which they are expected to give. Follow this link to read about Moses, someone all the kids will learn about this weekend—someone that was called to big things but felt constantly ill-equipped. Moses would have referred to himself as a poor public speaker, yet God called him to be the spokesperson for the Hebrews! No matter how often Moses protested, God provided him with everything he needed to be successful.

 

This week, you will hear about a different true story of someone who also felt like she had nothing to give—a woman who came from a place no one valued, had no spiritual or religious background to speak of, and had one loaf a bread to her name. Despite all she lacked, God called her to give up what little food she did have with the promise that he would provide more. Now that requires faith.

 

When we are called to such moments, our faith is truly tested. Maybe it’s tested with our finances, or maybe our emotions. Maybe you’re being called to trust your broken heart to someone new. Maybe your kids are draining energy from you that you just don’t have. Maybe you are depleted. You can’t do anymore midnight feedings. No more temper tantrums. You’ve got nothing left. And yet, your kids are your kids, and they will continue to ask more from you that you don’t have. As a parent, you are called to give them everything.

How do we “step out” in moments like that? We remember God’s promises: “My God will fully satisfy every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” There’s a reason we have the kids learn memory verses every month, and it’s not so they can look smart. It’s so that, when they grow up and have challenging moments in their faith, these words will be written on their hearts and guide them to trust God and remember who He is: a God that provides.

Step Out: Be Brave

September 29, 2016

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“Be strong and be brave.”

 

This quote is part of Joshua 1:9, which is this month’s memory verse for our kindergarten through fifth grade students: “Be strong and be brave. Do not be afraid. Do not lose hope. I am the Lord your God. I will be with you wherever you go.”

 

“Be brave.” I grew up reciting that to myself, as I’m sure many of us have. We even raise our kids to say it to themselves now: “Be brave! Be strong! Don’t be afraid! Don’t lose hope!” We recite these mantras, and yet we leave out the second part of the verse: The Lord, your God, will be with you wherever you go. We don’t have to be brave, but we can be brave because God is with us. Our bravery has nothing to do with our own strength, but rather who God is: a being that never leaves us alone.

 

The verse for adults this week, Philippians 4:13, is similar. It starts off saying, “I can do all things….” If we stop there, we walk away with an inflated ego and a whole mess of burdens resting on our shoulders. But when we finish it—“…through Christ who strengthens me”—we gain supernatural strength. We gain the courage we could never muster from our own abilities.

 

As I remember it, Philippians 4:13 was actually one of the first Bible verses I ever heard. It was at my varsity soccer game, and we were in the first round of the state tournament. The score was tied, and we had just gone into shootouts. We had worked very hard to get to this point and it all came down to one shot. One shot that, if our goalie saved it, meant we were moving on. One shot that, if our goalie missed it, meant we were done for the season, which was a big deal for the seniors on our team.

 

I remember the moment so clearly because one of those senior girls was shouting, “Phil 4:13!” at the goal keeper. At the time, I had no idea what it meant. I remember thinking, “Who’s Phil?” And then thinking, “Who cares, as long as he helps her save this goal?” When I later learned what the verse was, I thought that there’s no way God would care about us winning our soccer game. He must have better things to do. But, looking back on that moment now, I think maybe she was saying it not as a reminder to God to give her strength, but as a reminder for her to have no fear because God is with her in all things. Even soccer games.

 

Looking back, it was such an insignificant moment, but for my team, at the time, it was everything. Being there, kneeling on the sidelines, holding the hands of the players next to me, praying to a God I didn’t even believe in yet, was the result of hours upon hours of training—years, even, for most on my team. We ran suicide sprints until we dropped. We worked harder than, at that point in my life, I had ever thought possible. Winning a state championship, for a high school soccer player, is as high as we know to reach at that point in our lives. I tell you this because the older we get, the more we forget. We forget what our kids are going through, how much these “insignificant” matters, well, matter to them. Sometimes we want to force courage onto children by telling them to get some perspective. We tell them it doesn’t matter.

 

But, to them, it does.

 

A soccer game seems very trivial to adults, but these are the types of moments that your kids care about. Making the team might be a matter of life and death. The choice of who to sit with at lunch can be truly treacherous. There is so much we can’t control, so many steps we don’t know the ending to, and this lack of knowledge and control can paralyze us with fear. And that is why it is so important that, this month, when your kids walk away learning about courage, which we define as “being brave enough to do what you should do, even when you’re afraid,” make sure they don’t forget the key part: …because God is with you. They don’t have to do it alone; God is with them! If they can learn this through all those minor moments, then they will already know it when life “gets real.”

 

This weekend, the adults will hear about a man named Caleb that lived a moment that is about as real as it gets. He was about to lead his people into the Promised Land. After a lifetime of slavery, this was the moment! He stood looking down on the land and saw the opposition that awaited him and he had a choice: Believe God is with me, have courage, and go fight for the land that is rightfully ours… or run.

 

Caleb chose to be brave when everyone else wanted to run. He had courage not because he was invincible or fearless, but because he knew God was with them and he had faith to take the step despite his fear. We hope your kids will grow up learning that being brave is not the absence of fear, but the courage to take a step of faith in the midst of fear. And that courage comes from not some buried earthly strength, but God’s presence in our lives.

 

That kind of faith overcomes impossible barriers. That kind of faith perseveres, even in the face of the unknown.

Step Out: Finding Purpose

September 23, 2016

 

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Carey Wallace of Time wrote an article back in November of 2015 in which she frequently referenced Michael F. Steger, director of the Laboratory for Meaning and Quality of Life at Colorado State University. According to Steger, “The sense that your personal life is meaningful to you is a cornerstone of psychological well-being… [it is] tightly tied to being happier, more positive, more confident, more caring, more helpful, more resilient, and more satisfied in your life, relationships, and work.” In other words, God created us to have a purpose in life and, as you will learn this weekend, faith can lead you to that purpose.

 

Throughout the Bible, we hear story after story of ordinary people called to do extraordinary things. It is very easy to be intimidated and think that there is no way God’s purpose for us could be that meaningful. Moses led the Israelites out of slavery, but that’s because he’s special. That’s what all those Bible characters are like. But, in that case, what about Martin Luther King, Jr.? Nelson Mandela? Mother Theresa? They are big names for us now, but, once upon a time, they were just ordinary people that probably felt ill-equipped to do what they were doing. And I will tell you this right now: If you are a parent, you have already been called to an extraordinary and meaningful purpose: to help your kids find their purpose.

 

Are you feeling ill-equipped to do that? Moses certainly felt that way; he even pleaded to God to find someone else. He gave all the reasons he shouldn’t be the one to lead. But, as you will learn from Christian Andrews this weekend, Moses was probably afraid because he thought it was all on his shoulders. Now, if that were true, he should have been afraid. But, fortunately for him, God comes and prepares the work for us so we can have faith that He’s got it under control.

 

This weekend, while you’re hearing about Moses, your kids will be wrapping up the story of Joseph by learning that, all the bad things that were meant to harm him, God intended for good. We see God raise Joseph to a place of authority and use him to not only save his brothers who once harmed him, but also save all of God’s people from starvation. I’m sure there were many times when Joseph wished God would work faster, but he chose to trust, and, in the end, he learned that he could trust God no matter what because, even with all the horrible things he went through, God had the most amazing purpose prepared for him. When you leave church this weekend with your kids, ask them about the life of Joseph. Discuss the purpose Joseph had despite the trials he went through, and then end by asking your kids about their own purposes.

 

For a few practical ways to expand the conversation about your child’s purpose, take a look at the following tips Wallace used in her article for the different age groups. Take Steger’s advice by starting with today: “We do not have to start with the biggest and most troubling questions about our lives…We can start with trying to figure out how, today, right now, we are going to do one thing that makes the story of our lives more positive, or makes a positive difference to someone else.”

 

With elementary age kids, Steger says, “at the most basic level, our best hopes for our children are that they feel their lives matter and that they make a difference.” To start conversations along those lines, says Steger, “You can ask questions about what they think their best qualities or strengths are, whether they have good relationships with other people, whether they care about others. You can ask them about times when they have made a difference, made someone feel better, felt appreciated for doing something, or helped someone out. All of these kinds of questions can start a conversation about your kid’s unique way of being in and contributing to the world.”

 

In middle school, says Steger, “kids are being exposed to ideas, behaviors, assumptions, and priorities that might be completely different from the ones they have always assumed were true.” So, for kids this age, parents can “start conversations focusing on how your children’s sense of who they are, how they relate to others and what life is” have been changing.

 

By high school, according to Steger, “we hope our children see how much their lives matter, see that they are at the beginning of a compelling and strengthening life story, and have some inklings about purpose.” But the question of “What do you want to do with your life?” is too big for a single conversation, says Steger. Instead, he encourages parents to have “frequent, smaller conversations with their kids about how they view themselves and their lives, and what kind of impact they would like to make.”

Step Out: Choosing to Trust

September 17, 2016

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“And we know that in all things, God works for the good of those who love him…” I’ve read this verse from Romans many times and I can’t help but think to myself, But do we know? Do we really? I would love to think that I am one hundred percent confident that everything God does is for my own good. But sometimes, when I say it, I feel like I’m lying to myself a bit—not because I doubt the Bible or believe that Paul isn’t speaking the truth, but because, when I look at my own actions, they don’t seem to reflect an unwavering confidence that everything not-so-pleasant in my life will eventually be made good by God. Ah. Even as I type this, I’ve realized where my own problem lies. Eventually

 

I know, with all my heart, that God works for the good of those who love Him because I can look back on all those moments that He has done so for me—moments I thought could contain no good, yet God made them beautiful. I don’t blindly trust God. I trust Him because He has shown time and time again that He does work for those who have been called according to his purpose. Those moments I’m confident about. It’s the “eventually”s that cause trouble—those bad moments in which the good isn’t apparent yet. That’s where the choice comes in. I know God is good because of who He is and I’ve seen it for myself in my own life, but, now, I need to take that knowledge, take a step of faith, and trust that the unanswered moments just haven’t been answered yet.

 

Each Sunday of September, we are walking the kids through the story of Joseph, found in Genesis, chapters 37 through 45. We have already learned that Joseph was cast out by his brothers, thrown in a well, sold into slavery, framed by his master’s wife, thrown in jail, and then forgotten by the man that said would help him. It certainly puts my problems into perspective, doesn’t it? If there was ever a man that was waiting on God to turn a situation around, it was Joseph. He knew God would eventually do it; he just didn’t know when.

 

In week one, we learned that, when we think we’re alone, we can trust that God is with us. Last week, we learned that, when life doesn’t make sense, we can trust God is with us. This week, we’ll learn that, even in moments of pressure and adversity, we can still trust that God is with us.

Have you noticed the intentional phrasing? By teaching “we can trust,” we acknowledge that there is another option: to not trust. God is always with us, but we have to decide that we believe, and what we believe will determine the steps we take. When we read Joseph’s story, we can see that God was with him. Joseph seemed to know it. But we can only be sure by looking at Joseph’s actions. Did Joseph pout when he was sold into slavery? No, he became the best servant there ever was. Did he get upset when he was framed and thrown in jail? His actions show us that he chose to be helpful around the prison, gaining him favor. We know Joseph believed that God was working for his good because everything he did radiated trust.

 

This month, I have challenged you to memorize Proverbs 3:5 with your family: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, do not depend on your own understanding.” Today, I want to take that challenge one step further. Don’t just teach your kids to trust God, teach them that trusting is a choice that we make with every step we take. As you continue to memorize the verse, talk to your kids about moments in their lives that they need to choose to trust God. Maybe it’s something you’re struggling with together as a family, or maybe it’s an individual struggle. When you open up these conversations with your kids while they are young, you are not only getting to know them now, but also laying a foundation for future years when they may be less inclined to share.

 

So “step out” with your family this week by making a decision to talk to your kids about their faith. This Sunday’s sermon illustration will come from the story of Joseph too, so, if there’s ever a week to talk to you kids, it’s this one!

Service Times:

Sunday Morning
8:15 | 9:45 | 11:15

REN KIDS at 9:45a & 11:15a. MIDDLE SCHOOL at 9:45a.
Nursery at all 3. HIGH SCHOOL at 5:30p

Address:

Summit Opera House
2 Kent Place Blvd
Summit, NJ 07901