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?

More Lettuce, Please

There’s been quite a bit a talk around my way about my last post and the “lettuces” in the Bible. So I decided to go back and find a few of my other favorites as a reminder of all the healthy goodness found planted in God’s garden. So this morning I’m leafing through some more tasty morsels to see what’s there. . . Like. . . .

Romans 13:12  Let us put away the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of ight.

Romans 14:13  Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in the way of a brother or sister.

Romans 14:19 Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification.

2 Corinthians 7:1  Therefore, since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God.

Galations 5:25  Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.

Galations 5:26 Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.

Galations 6:9 Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.

Galations 6:10  Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.

I Thessalonians 5:6  So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be awake and sober.

I Thessalonians 5:8  But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet.

I John 3:18  Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.

I John 4:7  Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.

Revelation 19:7 Let us rejoice and be glad  and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come,  and his bride has made herself ready.

As I looked a the end, I had to go back to the beginning:

Genesis 1:26 Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals,  and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”

And I see once again that from the very start God made us with His plan in mind that we would live as His, with Him and for Him and for the glory and good of His Name and His Kingdom. The bridegroom IS coming again, and we need to be ready. We have a great hope and a great anticipation. As we wait for the day to appear, let us not just read about what He would have us to be doing, but “lettuce” grow in love and faith and works and deeds as we share the good news with those around us.

Do you have a favorite “let us?” Feel free to share it here. . . .I feel like it may be time for me to go shopping for some tasty leaves in the pages of the Old Testament  to see what might “turn up” there!!!

I Can Only Imagine

The St. Louis City Museum is simply a rare treasure of a place, and I think it becomes even more so when you are blessed enough to spend the day there with some of your favorite 6th graders in the world. Just last week, my husband and I took some of our Cross Country students (cross country as in Jesus and the cross, not as in running long distances, something I am not prone to do) on a trip from our home church in Iowa to St Louis. It was a toss up between the zoo and the museum to be determined by the Lord’s determination of the day’s weather. We didn’t know until that day exactly what the weather would be, and so we waited with anticipation for what was to come. And when the Lord determined to bring rain, we determined to hit the museum.

It turned out to be a great choice since none of our kids had been there before, but even more so because at the heart of the St. Louis City Museum is the fact that everything in it once resided somewhere else. Most of it in St. Louis (hence the name). Everything had been recycled, reworked, retooled, repainted, etc. and the old became new again. It really is a work to see how they’ve intertwined all this stuff into something incredible, and somehow fitting it together in a glorious harmony–the slides, the caves, the crawling places, the sculpture, the bank vault, the . . .well you get the picture.

I usually like to do a little something “spiritual” on our trips, y’know a devotion, or a talk or something. But this trip, our last one before the kids moved up to jr high student ministry, was just a trip. Nothing spiritual planned, just a day to enjoy ourselves together–or so I thought. Because as we headed home, I couldn’t help but hear the Holy Spirit saying to me,

“You are just like the stuff in the museum. You had an old way of life, an old way of living, but the Father has taken you and restored you. He’s cleaned you up, polished your heart, and set you in place together with others who have surrendered themselves to His workmanship. He’s put you together for a greater purpose, individual yet intertwined and complete again when together with others who have been renewed.”

And I couldn’t help but smile. Because He was right. (Well, of course He was, He’s the Holy Spirit.) But He made it so simple to see. Each piece of the museum if left in its rusted, broken down original condition would have been worth little, but at the touch of the master’s hand, value was restored and something amazing created. And we are just like that, and for that I am thankful.Then I thought about “my” 6th graders. As He takes their lives into His hands, I can’t wait to see what He will do with them–how He will rework them, retool them, and carefully place them within His grand scheme for His glory to do the good works He has planned for them. I can only imagine. . . and wait with anticipation for the things that are to come.

And so it was a spiritual trip after all. Thank you, Jesus!

2 Corinthians 5:17 therefore if anyone is in Christ. He is a new creation. The old has gone. The new has come.

Mouthguards for Kids

So what’s a girl to do when someone asks her to make a blog post kid sized? Well, make it kid sized, what else? This morning I wrote about how my mouth sometimes needs a little “changing of the guard.” (see previous blog post) Now I wanted to find another way I could make this all important truth kid sized? And sure, I know I could use the changing of the guard thing, but I kind of had another idea. So . . .

Let’s go with a mouthguard object lesson? Something like this maybe?

Start with your basic soccer mouthguard. If you don’t have one, or don’t want to go buy one, you probably have a kid or twenty in your church who will have one you could borrow. (Sanitize first, please!) I would probably get my own so I could put it in my mouth and talk all jibberishy with it in my mouth. Then say something like this. . .

“Hey, who knows why we wear mouthguards? Y’know, like what are those things for, anyway?”

They will probably say things like, “to keep your teeth from breaking,” or “to protect your mouth when you play sports,” or “my orthodontist and my mom say I have to!”

So you say, “Exactly. Mouthguards protect you. Wearing one will help keep you safe. Smart people know this.

And, King David knew how smart that was, too. In the book of Psalms, chapter 141 verse 3, he even asked God to put a guard over his whole mouth. And even though we might wear a mouthguard to keep something from going in our mouth, David wanted to be sure that his mouth was protected from anything that might come out of it. He didn’t want unkind words, bad language, or lies to come through his flower garden. Flower garden? What flower garden? Who said anything about a flower garden? . . . .Well he had two lips, didn’t he?” Bahahahahaha!!! (Sorry, couldn’t help myself!)

After the kids regain control from their fits of laugher, you can finish up with, “And what’s really cool about wearing a spiritual mouthguard is that it doesn’t just protect us, it’s protects others. When we guard what we say, we are helping, not hurting others. We are building them up and encouraging them, just like God wants us to. So what about you? Will you take the mouthguard challenge? Let’s agree today to put on our spiritual mouthguard before we go out and get in “God’s game” every day, whether that’s at school, home, church–wherever we go, let’s ask God to put a guard over our mouth like King David did.”

And then pray it out. . . . .

And that’s my kid sized blog post for today:)