Using The Corn Harvest to Share the Gospel–Taste and See Sunday

indian corn

This morning I had the opportunity to share a short message in our church’s main service as part of what we like to call “Harvest of Praise Sunday.” The service is centered around our praise and thanks to God for all He has done in our church through the year. My portion of the service centered around giving God thanks for the baptisms and decisions that took place. Having the double advantage of coming from a farming area and having a harvest theme service, I tied in the “wordless” book idea to corn.

It started with, what else? Yellow corn.

yellow corn

Yellow corn represented heaven, and the home Jesus is preparing for us there. (John 14:3)

black corn

Black Corn represented the problem–sin, and how our sin, if not dealt with, can keep us from heaven. (Romans 6:23)

red corn

Red corn represented the blood of Jesus which was shed for the forgiveness of our sins. (Hebrews 9:22)

blue-corn

Blue corn stood for the waters of baptism that wash us clean. (Acts 2:38)

White Corn

White corn reminds us that when we accept God’s offer of salvation, we are washed clean and pure. (Isaiah 1:18)

green corn

Green corn represented the growth that needs to come after we have been saved.  (2 Peter 3:18)

indian corn

We finished up with a picture of mixed corns to remind us that we need to go into all the world and make disciples, baptizing them and teaching them to obey all God has commanded. (Matthew 28:19-20)

It was just a short, simple message,and I’m sure that in one form or another had been heard before by many. Then tonight, at our 6th grade discipleship group as we began our New Testament study, we got hung up on a question about sin. The kids were struggling to come up with answer to what we called the “problem,” because they weren’t sure what the problem was. When I uttered the words, “Black corn,” immediately they responded, “Sin!”

We were all pretty excited to realize they remembered practically every word of the morning’s talk, (I was really excited!) What I thought was so simple had stuck in their hearts and minds.

Why do I so often forget that the message doesn’t have to be complicated or flashy or entertaining? The message, quite simply, just needs to be the message. The message combined with the power of God, is all we need for a great harvest.

Corn? Who knew?

God did.  .  . Taste and See. . .the Lord is good.

 

And Sow It Goes–Taste and See Sunday

sower_1
Popcorn. It’s a pretty incredible food. I mean this little hard kernel becomes a big fluffy snack. It’s totally incredible how big it gets, and so fast, too. So are some of the thoughts and thinkings of one of the elementary classes at church anyway.

Today we used popcorn to help us understand a parable. Parables, we shared are “earthly stories with heavenly meanings.” Our parable today was about the sower from Matthew 13. The popcorn was a great addition to the lesson. After all, few things liven up a class of elementary students like a microwave full of corn popping!!

Thanks to the folks at 252basics, we took their original premise of comparing popcorn to the things that happened to the seed planted in different types of soil. We helped kids make the connection to their own lives, ultimately recognizing that we need to take care that the “soil” of our hearts is ready for the word of God when it gets planted in us.

We want to grow like popcorn. We want to “pop” with the passion of God. Just like popcorn pops because of the water inside of it, we, too, are filled with the living water of Jesus. It’s this living water which changes us into something completely different than when we were at first.

sower1

As the kids spent time drawing out the different parts of the parable, we, of course, snacked on a bit of popcorn taking note of the fact that as we are changed and begin to grow, we need two share what we’ve been given just like we shared our popcorn.

And sow it goes. . . .We sow God’s truth into the lives of the children He brings our way, praying for good soil in their hearts and He grows them into believers who in turn sow the truth into someone else’s life.

There is work to be done, and seed to be sown. So c’mon, let’s get poppin!

popcorn

Taste and See. . . .The Lord is good!

What a Leech!–Freaky Fridays

leech

Who doesn’t love a little freakiness? Ok, well some people don’t, but I do. I have to admit, I can be one of those people who doesn’t want to look, but can’t seem to stop. I thnk one reason for that is as the mom of two sons, we have experienced our fair share of snakes, lizards, injuries, etc. together and in so doing my tolerance level for all things freaky has definately increased. But another reason is the Word of God. God’s Word is filled with some freaky stuff. When the boys were growing up, I loved to use some of those freaky things with them, but even more I LOVE to share some of God’s sense of freaky in my ministry to kids, well, because as Sy Robertson says, “It’s a fact, Jack!” Kids like freaky!!

So Fridays on the blog have now become Freaky Fridays. Just a quick stop at some freakiness that you might be able to incorporate into your next attempt at family devotions, small group time or kidmin teaching. And so for today. . . . drumroll please. . . ..

Leeches.
I really don’t like leeches. At all. We used to have a pond at our camp that years ago, they tell me, campers actually swam in, and it was filled with leeches. It’s nothing personal against God’s great creation, but I don’t want anything attaching itself to me for the purpose of removing my blood. Leeches are well, leeches. Greedy, little guys who want a piece of me, and they are in the Bible.

Proverbs 30:15 (yeah, leeches come right before the virutous woman chapter) says,

“The leech has two daughters, “Give! Give! They cry.”

End of leech verse. But this little verse lends itself to a lot of application especially in the areas of greed, generosity, relationship boundaries and even how we are raising our children. Maybe the saying shouldn’t be, “The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree,” but more like, “The leeches are just like their mommas.” Ouch!

Anyway, tucked inside of the most amazing book ever written are some pretty cool verses just waiting to be served up to a kid near you. Maybe you can use one this week, as you enjoy a little freakiness in your next Bible study!

Vitamin D-ilemma


This morning at church one of our elders, who happens to be a doctor, gave us a little free medical advice. We need to be getting our Vitamin D. The point of our free medical advice was this: if you aren’t getting your sunshine, then you need to be taking yourself a supplement, because we need this Sunshine Vitamin to grow strong and be healthy. I take one of those little pills, every day. No sunshine? No worries–take a pill. It’s the remedy to our deficiency. Now, there may have been more on this, but I missed it when we dismissed for our Junior Worship session and I was busy lowering a cardboard cutout of my son down from the roof in order to teach HiSKidZ that friends work together to bring other friends to Jesus. Anyway. . . .

The application on this one is pretty easy. We need the SON! Not only are there problems in the U.S. because we aren’t getting enough sun, we are also facing some pretty big issues because of our lack of exposure to the SON. Even though the sun is still shining every day, there are things (like sunscreen, work or too much time spent indoors) that block our exposure to it. The same is true with Christ. He is still shining every day. But “things” block our exposure to Him. And it’s causing some pretty big problems. Individuals, families, and truth are being compromised. Fear is on the rise, and hope is in a downward spiral, and people are spiritually dying. We need to get back into the SON because there is no pill that is going to take the place of Jesus. He is the remedy to our deficiency. So if you are finding yourself suffering some of the effects of a lack of SON SHINE, today is the perfect day to spend sometime soaking Him in.

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” John 14:6

And that’s my free advice for you for today!

The Lesson of the Broken Glass Jello

I am on this journey back through all the things I’ve learned in children’s ministry and today while making jello for our Thanksgiving mini feast, I was reminded of one of THE BEST THINGS God has ever taught me. Now this is not just a kidmin thing. This is a life thing. Here’s it is, or as we say in children’s church, “Open your hand and get ready cuz I’m going to give you something you need to hold on to!”

God is simply in everything. Yeah. That’s it. Hope you aren’t too underwhelmed. But that is a powerfully simple truth. God’s presence, His evidence, His Spirit is at work all around us reminding us of who He is and all He has called us to. So in your ministry or in your parenting or in your teaching or in your day to day life, be looking for God in everything, and then share it. A couple of weeks ago it was body parts in a jar. This week it’s jello.

Yeah, jello:

But not just any ordinary jellow. This is Broken Glass Jello. It’s a fun and simple recipe where you take multiple colors of jello, cut them into squares and then mix them together in a pan and cover them with some more plain jello mixed with sweetened condensed milk. Throw it in the fridge, let it do it’s jello-y thing and when it comes out it is BE-YU-TI-FUL! It looks like pieces of broken colored glass! And the thing is, there’s a BE-YU-TI-FUL lesson in there as well. Each one of us is a bit broken, yet beautiful, in our own way. But when put together in the body of Christ, held together by the bond of His Spirit, well then we become something really beautiful. Kids will eat it up–the jello and the object lesson.

Sometimes in teaching you just need to chuck the curriculum for a few minutes, days, weeks, or years–yeah I said that. And let God be your curriculum. (When I start marketing curriculum someday I may deny I said this!) We serve a super creative God who has promised to remind us of everything we have been taught. So never forget to just open your eyes and take a good look around you to “taste and see that the Lord is good.” Rely on God more than a book. Don’t be afraid to step out of the box. Don’t forget to remember the joy in discovering and sharing the awesomeness of God found in your own day to day adventures with him.

And yes, you can have the recipe. I found it from “The Food Librarian.” You can check it out here. http://www.foodlibrarian.com/2009/03/broken-glass-jello

What’s In A Game?

I love a good game. In fact, as I sit typing out this post the Raiders and the Chargers have just begun to battle it out, but I’m not talking about that kind of game. I’m talking about the kinds of games we play with our kids—at home, at church or at school.

And the thing I love about being a Christian and teaching and playing games is that it is so cool to play a game and help kids to see God in it. Sometimes it’s a bit of a stretch, but when I see their faces grasp and then remember the truth of God through the game we play, it takes my enthusiasm level to well, to a whole new level.

Yesterday was one of those immensely great, uncommonly simple days at church. Ha! Okay, it was crazy, but we did some really simple things and it made for a great day. One of those things was to play Limbo! Yes, Limbo! How low can you go?

And, no, we weren’t just playing Limbo because our guest speaker went over (he didn’t, not at all, not even one minute). We did it because we were learning about RESPECT. The game of Limbo helped to reinforce the truth that God is to be respected and He is higher than all of us. We need to be sure that we don’t make ourselves higher than Him. We can show respect when we make ourselves smaller and keep God is in His right place over us. In the game of Limbo if you hit the stick you are out. But in life, God’s grace is like another round of the game. The God of 2nd chances is always willing to let us back in the game.How cool is that? Well, when you are 8–it’s waaayyyyyy cool!

We’ve played some doozies through the years—all simple things that teach us about God’s character or our response to Him–all things that are some of our HiSKidZ favorites.
For example:

The “Stare Wars” Game—Kids pair up and have stare down contests to remind us to focus on Jesus and not to get distracted.

Thumb Wars—We may just battle with our thumbs, but Joshua and the Israelites battled it out in the Promised Land.

The Jumping Game—This variation of the running long jump reminds us that our sin separates us from God and that we can try to get back to Him, but without Jesus help we can’t make it across the big divide.

The Color Game–We take this game from the old roller rink game. At church we have kids run from color to color while the music plays. When the music stops, we choose a color. If you are on that color, you are out. Using the colors of the wordless book allows us to teach an evangelism tool or salvation message into your game. Putting something created on each of the days from the creation account in Genesis at each color allows us to review what we have taught about God’s awesomeness in creation.

Oh! And there are so many more. . . . but. . .

There’s just not enough room here to write them all out, but I will try to add more in the coming days to the KidZMenu page. As I think about some of our favorites, I’m reminded again of how awesome God is. I love how He continues to make Himself known to us in the most basic of ways. What’s in a game? Sometimes it’s God, Himself.

Got any games you play with your kids that reveal the character of God? I’d love to hear what they are. Feel free to post them below. Your favorite game might just be my new game next Sunday. In fact, you’re favorite game might just help a kid see God in a new way for the very first time!

Cornelius and the Sweet Smell of Acts

Axe Body Spray. ‘Nuff said. It’s the stuff allergy attacks were made of. I think we would all agree the stuff smells better after a shower than as a shower, and we can only hope that the knowledge of the truth of the saying, “a little bit goes a long way,” will come someday to the boys with the over active spray bottle trigger fingers. At that time they will see that smelling sweet, and smelling sweat are not the same thing.

Transition here . . . . Today as I was reading in the book of Acts, (which is a pretty sweet book, btw) I came across Cornelius. My brain immediately began singing the Apologetix song Cornelius (check it out here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zBIdmUs2tew) when I started thinking that smelling sweet is not such a new concept after all. Cornelius had just the “acts” God was looking for to keep him, and us, smelling sweet. Let me explain:

Acts Chapter 10, verses 1-4 tells us simply that Cornelius was a centurion, and that he was:
1)devout
2)God fearing
3)gave generously to those in need and
4)prayed to God regularly.

One day around 3pm, he had a vision and an angel came to him and said, “Cornelius!”

And Cornelius answered, “What is it, Lord?” Dontcha just love that? I sure do. I don’t know if he was answering as a centurion, almost a, “Yes, sir?” or if he was just so used to talking to God that it was simply a natural response. I like it either way.

Then the angel answers Cornelius by saying,

“Your prayers and gifts to the poor have come up as a memorial offering before God.”

Well, needless to say, I didn’t get any farther than that today. Cornelius’s ACTS were pleasing to God. They were an offering. They were a pleasant aroma before the Lord. Leviticus 2:2 talks about offerings making a “pleasing aroma to the LORD.” And Hebrews 15:15-16 tell us,

“. . . Let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise,–the fruit of lips that confess His good name. And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices, God is pleased.”

And at the bottom of my journal page today, I wrote, “It’s really this simple.” Commitment. Respect. Generosity. Relationship. With God. For God.

Simple truths. Pleasing aromas. And although a little Axe can make a guy smell sweet, the Acts of God’s people, coming from the heart as they live for Him are truly sweet smelling, indeed.

ON THE KIDS MENU:
Teaching this truth to your kids? Get together several items, or body sprays, with different smells–some good, some not so good. Don’t forget the Axe. With older kids you can even talk about how they sometimes do a smell check!! Let the kids talk about which smell good and which don’t. Then share the story of Cornelius helping kids to see that everything we do is an offering before God challenging them to do a quick check to see how they are smelling spiritually.

My Repent Button

I learned something new this week. It had to do with the repent button in my car. Well, at least that’s what I always called it. You know that button or knob in your vehicle that has a picture of a car with a little arrow making a 180? Apparently it isn’t actually called a repent button; it’s more like a refresh button, yet those two things are a little more alike that you might realize.

Recent weather in our area is, how would you say it?. . . Super hot. . . Record breaking hot. . . “I want to be sure I’m right with Jesus, hot.” As a result, even with the air on, I’ve actually been a little warm in my car—which is saying a lot, since I normally wear a hoodie indoors when the air is on during the summer and have even been known to bring a blanket to staff meetings at the church where I work.

On this day, my husband and I were traveling together when I mentioned this to him, and he said something like, “Well, hit the refresh button.”

I replied, “What button is that?”

He calmly pressed the little button shown in the picture above.

And I said with all sincerity, “You mean the repent button? What’s it going to do?”

“What??” He began to laugh. “What did you call it?”

“The repent button. Y’know, it has the little repent sign on it.”

Now what Tim didn’t realize is that I often teach a lesson on repentance where my repent symbol looks pretty much like that button. The students I teach know that symbol means you do a 180 with your life and turn from sin and turn to God. So whenever I see that symbol in a car, I always think repentance rather than cool air. Makes sense to me.

But, I can tell you it’s a shame I never knew what that button really did, or never felt the need to try it out or never took the time to look up what it was used for, because I have been missing out. You see that day when Tim pushed that little button–KAPOW! –wonderful, cool refreshing air came pouring out of my vents, and I breathed it into my soul. Woohoo! It was glorious, and I found I wanted more. In fact, as I now seek relief from each blistering hot day, I am finding it in this simplest of things–my repent button!!!

And lately when I press that wonderful little gift from God, I can’t stop thinking about God’s gift through repentance, and how it is actually a little bit like that button in my car. Don’t believe me? Check out Acts 3:19

Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord.

When I 180 myself away from my sin and turn to God, He wipes out my sin and I find myself refreshed and renewed. When I tap into His power, the heat of my sin is taken away and I am changed—completely—no sweat.

So now I find myself thinking that a lot of people live with their sin like I have with my air. . . with the answer to their problem right at their fingertips; they just don’t know it. They continue on, not even knowing relief is possible. But if someone who cares tells them about the repent button, well, then there is hope.

Wanna really do something cool? Tell someone about the refreshing that has come from repentance in your life.

Falling Rock

Today, our youngest son and I took a drive from the Spokane Valley in Washington State over the rockies, through Idaho ending up in Missoula, Montana, where we had an outdoor lunch at one of our favorite BBQ chains, Famous Daves–YUM! It just so happnes I have stolen away for a few days to visit said youngest son where he is doing an internship in children and family ministry at Valley Real Life church. The folks I have met so far have been fabulous to us. They have been loving, kind, generous, encouraging and tons of fun to get to know. There are some great things going on in that place and in the community, and I have been blessed to get just a peek at some of the stuff God is doing here.

Several people suggested to us that we should take the drive that we took today. Actually, more than several. So we decided to “follow the Wild Goose” as Batterson calls it, and off we went on our God adventure. And of course, God did not disappoint. The fact that I got to spend a full 7 hours with my 21 year old son chatting and catching up was awesome enough. But when we took “the road less traveled” and found what we think is a bear footprint (and thankfully no bear) that was even better. Along the route we passed through several places where we saw these warning signs along the road with a picture of a car getting pummelted with rocks (how creative is that–see picture above), and we both chuckled a bit. Sort of a “Really? Is that how you warn someone?” And then we got back to chatting it up, not too concerned about getting pummelted with rocks ourselves.

Then as we returned to our home base for the night, I asked God, “So, what should I have seen today that I may have missed?” Immediately my mind went to those signs. Those signs that I completely ignored. Those signs I kind of chuckled at. The slightly dramatic ones, that seemed a bit too obvious. Those signs that are like God’s signs to us. There are so many things He gives us warnings about. Things like kindness, generosity, purity, greed, sacrifice, and commitment. He warns us about what is coming ahead and how to respond when difficulties arise. He lets us know that we need to be alert and on the watch so that we aren’t caught off guard when a dangerous situation comes our way. Recently HiSKidZ at our church memorized John 16:33 which says,

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

God is warning us that we are going to have trouble. There are going to be figurative times in our lives of falling rocks zones. Yet, because of His great love for us, God prepares us and warns us. But we, like my son and I did on our trip, look at the warnings with a chuckle and continue on our way. We don’t give heed to what lies ahead, those who have gone before us, or the One who is the ultimate authority working to protect us and keep us safe as we travel our route until we arrive home.

I think God wanted me to see that I need to have my eyes open not only to His warnings and signs, but also to my response to them, and ultimately to Him–the One who places them in my path for my good and His glory.

LeBron, God and Me

Call me crazy (which someone did alot last week), but LeBron James just keeps giving me THE BEST examples for teaching Bible lessons. For example, back when he left Cleveland, and his Cavalier Fathead went on sale for the amazingly low price of $12, both my husband and my son bought one. Why???? I have no idea why they both thought they needed one, but when I was asked to teach to a group of 5th-6th graders at our local church camp I was sure glad they did. I decided to invite the infamous fat-headed Mr James (no offense, LeBron, that could be said of all of us sometimes, I suppose) to make an appearance at camp with me. Rolling out our spare, we talked about how LeBron could, in fact, be a great example to us. . .kind of. . . .Victorious living was his goal, he left the land of his family, headed towards the promised land, didn’t look back and didn’t care if people thought he was crazy. Now for sure, the whole announcement show on ESPN wasn’t exactly the greatest example of humility or grace ever exhibited, but the case can still be made that if we would be willing to leave everything in our world to follow Christ, no matter what anyone else said, we would be experiencing some stuff otherwise out of our grasp.

Then I put LeBron back into his mailing carton, where he has been sitting until now. The time has come to get him out of the garage and dust him off, because he has done it again. LeBron has, without even knowing it, given me not one, but two object lessons to be used in a lesson somewhere, someday soon. (Maybe today!)

Last week while the NBA championships were going on I was at church camp with another great group of kids, so I missed it all–every game. And I have to admit being a midwestern girl, I was pretty much going for Oklahoma! This morning, before church was the first time I’d had the chance to see any of the post game interviews. And in those couple of minutes, God spoke to me. You see LeBron talked about last year’s loss, and how in leaving for the promised land (my words, not his), things didn’t work out quite like he had planned and how losing didn’t seem at all like any kind of promised greatness. But he said that the trial made him better. It humbled him, it made him less selfish and helped to learn to be a better team mate, it gave him focus, helped him see who he really was, and it matured him. Much like the book of James, chapter 1 which says,

“Consider it pure joy when you face trials of many kinds, for the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”

God speaks. . . a lesson in itself.

But then it was his shirt that really got me. “Earned Not Given.” I completely understand the shirt for LeBron and the Heat. They did earn their championship; they earned their ring, and it wasn’t always easy. There were critics and doubters and haters in droves. But this morning, as I was getting ready and I saw that shirt, I could’t help but say to my husband, “Man, I want my shirt to say just the opposite. ‘Given not earned.’” Because that’s how it is with Jesus. There is nothing I could do to earn what He has given to me.

Ephesians 2:8-9

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith —and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.

I want the crown on my shirt. Keep the ring on there, too. I have a share in those things which rightfully belong to the King of Kings. I get them, not because I’ve earned them, but because He has given them to me as a part of His Kingdom. Let’s just switch up the letters and give the glory to the One who deserves it. Then let’s live like the champions we are, and let’s start sharing what we’ve been given. What a major praisallujah that we can claim the victory, when he fought the battle. . . against haters and doubters and critics and death.

Some people will say that LeBron isn’t the best example to use to teach Biblical truth. Maybe they’re right. I honestly have no idea where his spiritual allegiances lie. But I do know that if we are willing to open our eyes and SEE, God can reveal Himself in some of the most unlikely places. . . .maybe that’s in the life choices of a basketball giant, or the simple choices of an ordinary small town housewife turned kidmin leader. Either way, I hope we take every opportunity to see Jesus in all that is around us.

How are you seeing Jesus speaking in your life these days?