The Reason of the Universe

The New Testament was originally written in Greek, so oftentimes looking up the Greek word provides helpful insight in understanding verses in the Bible. John 1:1 says “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God.” Word in Greek is Logos. The Greeks used logos as an impersonal reason of the universe, a sense of purpose, holding everything together. John goes on to explain that Jesus is the Word, or the Logos. Jesus is the personal, reason of the universe.

The whole first chapter of John is an introduction to the identity of Jesus Christ. John tells us that Jesus is God (v1), the Maker (v2), the true Light (v9), the Son of God (v14), God the One and only (v18), Lamb of God (v29), Chosen One (v34), Rabbi (v38), Messiah (v41), the One Moses wrote about (v45), the King of Israel (v49), and the Son of Man (v51).

How can Jesus be all these things? Because He is God. God became a man, so we can have a relationship with God.

In this first chapter of John, we see the beginning of Jesus’ disciples. Andrew had been following John the Baptist until he saw Jesus and declared “look the Lamb of God.” Andrew left John the Baptist and started following Jesus. The first thing he did was go and tell his brother Simon Peter about Jesus and bring his brother to meet Jesus. That’s exactly our mission too – tell others about Jesus, starting with your family. Simon comes to Jesus and Jesus changes his name to Peter, telling him that He has greater things planned for him.

Then Philip finds Jesus and follows him. Jesus calls Philip to discipleship: a surrendering of himself to follow Jesus. Philip tells his friend Nathanael, who is not so quick to believe. But Jesus knows Nathanael before He meets him. Hearing what Jesus already knows about Nathanael, he chooses to believe, declaring “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the king of Israel.”

Before He meets them, Jesus knows the disciples’ past and He knows their future. The same with us – He knows your past – the good and the bad. And He is calling you to a greater future. Don’t let your past hold you back from living the life Jesus has for you.

A Strange Introduction

I’m hosting a summer Bible study for women and children, complete with a babysitter to do games, crafts and Bible stories with the kids while the moms chat and study the Bible. But this first week I did the kids’ lesson. I thought you’d enjoy it too or want to share with your kids.

John 1:1

“The Word was in the beginning. The Word was with God. The Word was God.” (New Living Translation)

What does this even mean? Who is this about? It’s actually about Jesus! In fact this is an introduction. When you meet someone you might say, hi my name is Debbie. But what if they want to know more? What else would you say? You could add how old you are, where you are from, maybe your parents’ names.

That’s exactly what John is saying. He is introducing us to Jesus. If we replace “Word” with the name Jesus, it makes a little more sense to us: Jesus was in the beginning. Jesus was with God. Jesus was God.

Now we have a little science experiment. We’ll take this empty plastic bottle and fill it 1/3 full of hot water. Then I’ll take this ice cube and put it over the top opening of the bottle. Do you know what ice is made of? Water! We have water in the bottle, frozen water (ice) at the top, and in the middle what is forming? Fog – that’s another type of water. All three things are water, yet they are all different. That is exactly like God! God is one God but in three forms: the Father, the Holy Spirit, and the Son Jesus Christ.

Let’s read a few more verses: “He was with God in the beginning. He made all things. Nothing was made without Him making it. Life began by Him. His Life was the Light for men. The Light shines in the darkness. The darkness has never been able to put out the Light.” (John 1:2-5)

Now I have some glow stick bracelets for you. When you wear these, you can remember that Jesus is the light. When you feel “darkness” – like sad or scared or lonely – you can talk to Jesus and remember that He makes the darkness go away. Jesus is the Light!

*If you live in the area, send me a message and come to the next Summer Study (Tuesday mornings). Stay tuned: I’ll be posting some of the adult lessons too!

A Piece of Me

For 8 years, a piece of my heart has been missing. When my first son Caleb was born, 8 years ago today, he went straight to heaven. We held his tiny body. 10 fingers, 10 toes. Daddy’s nose. Eye lashes, finger nails. (Lord may I humbly suggest you work on the vital organs and lungs before nails and eyelashes.) Caleb was born prematurely and wouldn’t live on this earth.

The joy of being a new mom immediately replaced with the sorrow of losing a child. He never called me Mommy or told me he loved me. But the day he was born my heart grew so much. I loved Caleb more than I ever knew I could love anyone! Saying goodbye at his grave I buried a piece of my heart. A big piece.

In the years that followed, Jeff and I had two more sons Jack (6) and Parker (3). Some people say things like “sorry for Caleb’s loss BUT at least you have Jack and Parker.” I understand what they mean and their good intentions. But there is no BUT. I have sorrow and grief about Caleb’s death and no other child can replace him or fix the grief. At first I thought it would.

When Jack was born, I thought now I have my boy. But it was different. There should have been two boys. Then we had Parker and I had my two boys. But there should be three. Sometimes I’ll buy matching clothes for Jack and Parker and have this longing to buy a third set. There should be three.

Chasing Jack and Parker around certainly fills my time and brings me joy. But my heart will always be split. My heart and ability to love has grown exponentially with each child, more than I ever thought possible. But a piece of my heart will always be in heaven with Caleb until one day we are reunited.

Until then I rest in the knowledge that God is good, faithful, and trustworthy. He is near to the broken-hearted. He sees every tear I cry. He gives me peace that passes all understanding. Thank You Lord.

Happy 8th Birthday Caleb!

Jesus is a Love Expert (Part 3)

img_4182Read part 1 about Discovering your child’s love language and Part 2 about Discipline with love languages. Also check out the book The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman and Ross Campbell.

Ultimately our example is Jesus. The Bible says “the Lord disciplines those He loves.” So how did Jesus discipline? Two stories stood out to me.

Jesus and the Woman at the Well (found in John 4:1-26, 39-42)

Jesus is passing through Samaria and stops at a well in the middle of the day. A woman happens to be getting water at the same time and Jesus starts a conversation with her. First, we should notice some things: women usually got water in the morning to avoid the heat of midday, so this woman probably wanted to avoid the townspeople. She is surprised Jesus is talking to her because not only did men and women not talk to each other much, but Jews and Samaritans didn’t talk to each other.

Jesus asks for water, she’s surprised He’s talking to her and He says you should ask me for living water.  So she does. Jesus says go call your husband. I don’t have one, she says. Jesus says that’s true you’ve had 5 plus the man you live with now is not your husband. Probably feeling convicted or guilty, she tries to change the focus of the conversation by acknowledging Jesus must be a prophet, and asking him a controversial question about where people should worship. Jesus says a time is coming when the place you worship doesn’t matter, because we will worship in spirit and in truth. Finally she asks about the Messiah and Jesus says I am He.

The woman leaves her bucket and immediately runs into the town to tell the people about Jesus. Many of them become believers. They hear Jesus teach and they tell the woman, “We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Savior of the world.”

What Love Language did Jesus use? Quality Time. He spent time with this woman – probably something she was craving. We know she had been bouncing from relationship to relationship with six men. She avoided the townspeople because they probably gossiped about her. Jesus spent time with her and the result was that she believed, she told the town, and many others believed in Jesus.

Jesus and the Woman Caught in Adultery (found in John 8:1-11)

Jesus is teaching in the temple court and a crowd of people are gathered around Him. The religious leaders & Pharisees interrupt and bring in a woman caught in the act of adultery and ask Jesus “In the law, Moses says to stone such women. What do you say?” They were trying to trick Jesus so they could accuse him.

Jesus seemingly ignores them, bends down and starts writing in the dirt with his finger. These men keep badgering him “what do we do? She was caught in the act!” Finally, Jesus stands up and says “whoever has not sinned can cast the first stone.”

We don’t know what Jesus was writing. We can pretty much assume if this woman was “caught in the act” then she’s not wearing much clothing if any. So when Jesus bends down to write in the sand, where does everyone look? Do they look at the woman? No they’re looking at what Jesus is writing. They want to know what his answer is.

Was Jesus making a list of sins in the dirt? This woman did something wrong, but so did the men who caught her. Probably so did the town. Maybe Jesus is writing “Gossip. Lust. Jealousy. Anger. Malice. Hate.” Slowly one by one the crowd walks away.

Jesus asks the woman, “has no one condemned you?” No. “Then neither do I. Go and leave your life of sin.”

Jesus showed some love languages here: Acts of Service by protecting the woman from this angry crowd, Gifts of mercy and grace, Words of Affirmation. He showed her she wasn’t alone in sinning.

Then Jesus gives her a command. He doesn’t make a request, Would you please leave your sinful life? No, He makes a command and tells her “Go and leave your life of sin.” But because He has shown such love to her, she is more likely to listen, isn’t she?

Jesus was perfect and lived a sinless life. He could have condemned that woman. But He chose to give her grace. We are not perfect. I hate to break it to you friends, but you are not perfect. We are all sinners in need of a Savior. And our children are sinners in need of a Savior. God has entrusted dither to us so we can discipline them – train them in the way they should go. May we demand less perfection and show more grace.

I’m a Discipline Expert (part 2)

 

3deb

From my childhood. 4 years old.

Now maybe you think I’m speaking this week because I’m an expert at discipline and love languages. But actually there was just an opening in the schedule. This chapter was hard! I find myself thinking in a totally different way than before. Perhaps you grew up similar to me, where if you did something wrong you were spanked, sent to your room, or couldn’t go out with friends on the weekend. My parents actually don’t remember me ever doing anything wrong as a child, but unfortunately that obedience was not hereditary. Everyone makes mistakes, and this chapter gives some great insight.

[Did you read Part 1 about Discovering your child’s Love Language?]

We must keep the child’s love tank full, BEFORE we administer discipline.

Spanking, time-outs, etc, are actually considered punishment, which is a form of discipline but it is the most negative. Discipline actually means to train.

The main cause of misbehavior in our children is an empty emotional (love) tank. You can’t demand good behavior from a child who doesn’t feel loved. The second cause of misbehavior is a physical problem. The younger the child, the more true this is, right? For some of us, it is obvious when it’s nap time, or when the child hasn’t had a snack. Misbehavior still isn’t acceptable even if your son is hungry or tired, but the problem can be quickly relieved.

A question to ask yourself before disciplining your child: does my child feel sorry for what he has done? If there is genuine repentance, then there is no need to proceed further. He has learned and repented. At that point, punishment could be destructive.

That helps us understand why our kids misbehave, but we still want kids who are behaving well so the book lists 5 ways to control your child’s behavior:

  • Make requests: this shows you respect his feelings, you believe he is smart enough to form an opinion, your expect him to take responsibility.
  • Issuing Commands: more forceful than requests; this disregards a child’s opinion and feelings, not giving responsibility to them. The more you use authoritarian techniques such as commands, scolding, nagging, screaming, the LESS effective you become.
  • Gentle Physical Manipulation: move the 3 year old. When you are saying “time to come inside” and they are saying no, no no, just take their hand and move them gently.
  • Punishment: Make sure it fits the crime, be consistent, be appropriate. In order to do these things you need to plan ahead. 
  • Behavior Modification: Positive reinforcement – reward for appropriate behavior (piece of candy)
    • Negative reinforcement – take away a positive element from child’s environment (take away TV time)
    • Punishment – Place negative element in child’s environment (send to his room)
    • Don’t overuse or child won’t feel loved, he will think love is conditional

Don’t use a form of discipline directly related to your child’s primary love language.

If your child’s primary love language is Quality Time and you put your child in a Time Out by himself, you are sending a message of painful rejection. Instead consider a “time in” where you sit with him, talk about what went wrong and how to do things differently.

If your child’s love language is words of affirmation and you speak harshly, you are sending a message of rejection. And remember if they don’t feel loved the discipline isn’t effective.

Thanks for reading Part 1 and Part 2 of my talk, but my favorite part is coming up. How did Jesus discipline? Check back tomorrow for some examples of how Jesus showed love through these love languages.

I’m a Love Expert

Not really. Not at all. But I did recently speak about Love Languages at my moms group Bible study. We are reading The 5 Love Languages for Children (by Gary Chapman and Ross Campbell) and I had the privilege of speaking on chapters 7 and 8 – discovering your child’s love language and discipline with love languages. These were weighty chapters with lots of great information. First, if you aren’t familiar with the 5 Love Languages, these charts might help.

You might be wondering WHY? Why do we need to know what our child’s primary love language is? Well, we all need love expressed in each of these ways, but each of us has a primary “language” of how we feel emotional love. These Love Languages provide great insight into how our children think and behave. 

When your child feels loved, when her emotional tank is full, she will be more responsive to parental guidance in all areas of her life. She will listen without resentment. (P. 109)

Learn all five love languages, practice all five, but specialize in the one primary language for each of your children. However, know that it can change, especially in adolescence. Use the Primary Love Language when your child is discouraged or feeling distant, so you can show them emotional love.

  • 5 ways to Discover:
    • Observe how your child expresses love to you;
    • Observe how your child expresses love to others;
    • Listen to what your child requests most often.
      • Examples: If your child is saying: look what I’m doing, come play outside, sit & read a book, then they are asking for Quality Time.
      • If your child is asking what do you think of the paper I wrote, do you like my outfit, how did I do in the game, they are asking for Words of Affirmation.
    • Notice what your child most frequently complains about;
    • Give your child a choice between two options. Examples pages 116-117.

The authors also suggest you conduct a 15 week experiment where you focus on each love language for a couple weeks. If you’re doing that, then you must really love your child. Who has that kind of time?! Just kidding. Some of you have already started your 15 week experiment and that is awesome! Report back to us in March about how that went (ha!).

Next, how to Discipline your child in relation to their love language. But you’ll have to come back tomorrow.

Big Problems. Small Problems.

A friend of mine just underwent surgery for breast cancer. We talked on the phone a few days beforehand as she filled me in on what the procedure would be like and the details. Then asked me about what’s new in my life. “Nothing.” Seriously, with all she has on her mind, we don’t need to talk about me. “Please, I need a distraction. Tell me about your boys.” Well, ok…

I told stories and rambled on about things that certainly don’t seem important compared to upcoming cancer surgery. Funny how our lives, our complaints and worries, dim in comparison to another’s. It’s good to look around and realize our lives aren’t as hard as so-and-so. It could always be worse, right?

IMG_3044But here’s what really struck me the last few days: no problem is small to God. And no problem is big to God either. God cares about all the details of our lives. He cares about my friend with cancer while also caring about my child who complains about how his clothes fit [insert eye roll]. God cares about these things in our lives because He cares about us. He loves us more than we can imagine.

Some people think God has bigger things to deal with than their little prayers. But I think God loves us so much and He wants a relationship with us so much, than He would love to talk to us about anything. Pray for a parking spot. Pray for healing. Pray for your children to stop arguing. Pray for your loved ones to know Jesus. No problem too big or too small. No prayer too big or too small.

“With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.” Mark 10:27

“I pray that you may grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ.” Ephesians 3:17-20

Saying Goodbye

kathleen-2
Yesterday we went to the memorial service for my neighbor, Kathleen. She was a kind, cheerful woman, always smiling. We would chat over the fence about gardens and landscaping. She would hire Jack to pull weeds because he was trying to earn money for something, but then of course, she had to sit with him and teach him which things were weeds. Kathleen was a loving person, thinking of others even when she was facing trials of her own.

My neighbor is actually Renee, Kathleen’s mom. A few years ago Kathleen moved in with her mom in case the 80-something year old ever needed help or someone to care for her. But Renee had raised a dozen children, mostly on her own, so she rarely needs help from others. Kathleen was the oldest of the family. I asked her how she was doing living with her mom. She said “It’s wonderful! I’ve been waiting my whole life for one-on-one time with mom!” She always had a way of looking on the positive side of things.

But instead of daughter taking care of mom, it turned out that Kathleen got cancer and her mom was taking care of her. She battled for several months before being diagnosed as terminal. Still she remained joyful.

Psalm 139 says “Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. … For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be” (verses 7-16).

When things don’t go as we planned, we can take comfort from these verses. We can trust that first, God is faithful. He will never leave us. Even when we try to get away from Him, He is still there to hold us and guide us. Second, the Lord loves us. He created us. He wants to be with us. The Psalm goes on to say that His thoughts about us are precious. God LOVES us! Third, we can trust that God is good. We may not understand His plans, we may doubt there are plans at all. But His word says He planned all of our days before we were even born (Psalm 139:16). No one dies “too soon.” Surely they die sooner than we wanted. But God had all of these days planned. There’s nothing we could have done to lengthen their life.

img_4001When you find things not going as you expected – when not if, because I’m pretty sure a time will come – I hope you cling to these same truths. God is faithful. God loves you. God is good. May you find peace in knowing your Creator is with you. And like Kathleen, may you find joy no matter the circumstances.

Why Fundraising is Biblical (Part 2)

Here is a two part Biblical basis for why we fund raise. Make sure you read Part 1 of Why Fundraising is Biblical.

2 Corinthians 8-9 — Paul encourages generosity.

“In the midst of a very severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity” (8:2). Make sure you don’t “say no” for others. Don’t cross them off your list to ask just because you know of something in their life that you think would prohibit them from giving. In these chapters Paul describes the Macedonian Christians giving as much as they were able. In fact they pleaded with the disciples for the “privilege of sharing in this service to the Lord’s people” (8:4).

Are you inviting others to partner with you in accomplishing your mission? Are you allowing others the privilege to join you?

At the present time your plenty will supply what they need, so that in turn their plenty will supply what you need. The goal is equality” (8:14). You have something to offer your donors. It may not be financial, but it may be one of the services of your organization. Or it may be a benefit you discover through a personal relationship with your donors.

“We want to avoid any criticism of the way we administer this liberal gift. For we are taking pains to do what is right, not only in the eyes of the Lord but also in the eyes of man” (8:20-21). Be good stewards of the resources you are given.

Philippians 4:10-20 — Paul thanks the Philippians for their support.

“Yet it was good of you to share in my troubles” (v14). Giving to help Paul was a way for his friends and others to share in his troubles, to identify with his problems and to help him. They became partners with Paul.

“The gifts you sent are a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God” (v18). Even more than donations helping our organizations, these donations are a way to worship God. People can worship the Lord and honor Him, by giving of their resources.

1 Timothy 6 – Be rich in good deeds.

“For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it” (v6). Everything we have is God’s. He has given it to us, or provided for us, allowing us to be born where we were, given the privileges we have, the education we received, and the healthy body to work. Whether directly, or indirectly, the Lord has provided everything you have. We give back to Him out of gratitude for all He has done for us.

“Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment” (v17). God provides things for our enjoyment, so we can put ourselves in His hands. We can trust Him with all He has given us. Don’t trust in your wealth which can so easily be gone, but trust in God.

“Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share” (v 18). We are commanded to give. It benefits others, but it also benefits us as we “store up treasures in heaven” (v19).

Why Fundraising is Biblical

Did you know Jesus lived on financial support? He even sent His disciples out to raise support. Generously giving to others is encouraged throughout the Bible. So why do we shrink away from asking people to give? Why do we get nervous and afraid when it comes to exchanging money? Maybe it’s because we need a better understanding of the foundation of fundraising.

Psalm 50, 124 — God owns it all.

“I have no need of a bull from your stall or of goats from your pens, for every animal of the forest is mine, and the cattle on a thousand hills” (50:9-10). God is speaking to the people about the animals they sacrifice as offerings to Him. He doesn’t need them because He owns everything. All we have belongs to the Lord. What we give Him isn’t necessary for Him, its necessary for us because it helps us recognize His authority in our lives. Giving away of our resources helps us not be dependent on them, as well as trusting God to continue to provide for us.

“Our help is in the name of the Lord, maker of heaven and earth” (124:8). The Lord made everything. We can trust Him to provide for our non-profits as we ask others to give, and we can trust Him as individuals giving away our resources.

Luke 8:1-3 — Jesus lives on support.

“These women were helping to support them out of their own means” (v 3). These women were supporting Jesus and the disciples because their lives had been impacted by Jesus’s ministry. Who are the people impacted by your work? Have you told them about your financial needs? Do they know the impact they can make on your ministry if they donate. 

Luke 10:1-7 — Jesus sends out his disciples to live on support.

“Stay there eating and drinking whatever they give you, for a worker deserves his wages” (v 7). Jesus sends the disciples to every town where He is about to go. They are preparing the way for Jesus. But He gives them clear instruction not to bring a purse or bag or sandals. Not even to say hi along the way. Jesus wants the disciples to go directly to their destination and to be focused on their objective. The people in each town will provide for the disciples’ needs, because a worker deserves his wages.

1 Corinthians 9 — Paul defends the right of living on support.

“Who serves as a soldier at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard and does not eat its grapes? Who tends a flock and does not drink the milk? If we have sown spiritual seed among you, is it too much if we reap a material harvest from you?” (v 7,11). I think Paul could have done a mic drop after this. Amen! We should expect people who are impacted by our ministries, schools, non-profits to want to give back to the organizations that have helped them.

Read Part 2 of Why Fundraising is Biblical