When it comes to shopping for Christmas gifts for little boys, there usually isn’t a lot of guesswork involved. Most boys have no problem with being straightforward with what they want. Action figures, video games, legos… they know exactly what they want and will give you a detailed description and where to find it upon being asked what they want for Christmas. Yes, we must enjoy this time while it lasts because before we know it they are teenagers and NOT as easy to shop for…
But what about when it comes to a gift that will connect them to Jesus? A gift that will deepen their relationship with their Savior and the Father? Well, there it gets tricky… But I’m here to help! As a mom of 5, 3 of them boys, these are a few gifts that I have given my sons over the years that they actually enjoyed and didn’t get tossed aside.
(I admit that I am piggybacking on Emily’s posts, 5 Christmas Gifts For Girls That Will Connect Them To Jesus Part 1 and Part 2… Feel free to check them out by clicking on the links in the sentence above or on the photos below:)
Music weaves its way into everything in our home naturally. Rather than having my little guys listen to just anything, I try to make sure that 99% of what they listen to lifts up the King of Kings and draws them closer to Him. Sure, we still listen to fun silly songs and what not, but most of the time I try to turn on Christian music that the kids will enjoy and help them grow spiritually. Some favorite singers/bands amongst the boys in our home are The Newsboys, Family Force 5, TobyMac, Hillsong Young & Free, Hawk Nelson, Capital Kings… and quite a few others.
Our family actually has an Amazon Music subscription, making it quite a bit easier for us to access all the albums we love. If your family is constantly buying new albums, this may be a great option as a family gift for you!
Another gift idea that ties in here: Concert tickets! My 9-year-old still says 2 of the greatest events in his life were the 2 separate times he got to see The Newsboys in concert, with the time he got to meet them as his all-time favorite. This was actually a Birthday gift, but it was a gift, nonetheless. While it was a lot of fun for me, I did hang my head in embarrassment when his idea of complimenting Michael Tait was telling him that his arm muscles looked like “tiny bubbles”.
To most kids, a standard Bible might seem a bit dull. Thankfully these days, there are many options when it comes to time for devotion and study. Even for kids! A few of the favorites in our home are The Adventure Bible, the Boys Bible (which includes Grossology… lol), and The Brick Bible.
My kids LOVE to read! I know not all do, but maybe the right book could change that. Books by Becky Fischer and Answers In Genesis have been big hits in our house lately. This Christmas, some gifts will be Indescribable by Louis Giglio, The Ology: Ancient Truths, Ever New by Marty Machowski, The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis, Hinds’ Feet On High Places by Hannah Hurnard, The Pilgrims Progress by John Bunyan, and quite a few others.
Look for a film that either has a biblical message or tell an actual Bible story. You know your child best, so pick a theme that would strike a chord with them. When my kids were younger they adored VeggieTales and Larry Boy. Now that they are a bit older, they watch the Dreamworks movies, Joseph King of Dreams and Prince of Egypt, almost repeatedly. Not surprising given the love of Newsboys in our home, they also love to watch the God’s Not Dead series. War Room is another favorite!
Boys love to work with their hands, that’s no secret. Each child also has their own creative talent and/or interest. Find things that line up with those but can draw them closer to God. Have a child interested in playing an instrument? Teach them about King David and purchase some Christian sheet music. Does your boy love imaginative play? Try an Armor of God playset and explain the purpose of each piece to him. Almost all boys love Legos! Proverbial Homemaker has a few different Brick Challenge sets for sale (and a few free!) that are biblically themed. You can’t go wrong there!
Do you have any other ideas or gifts that you have given in the past that were a hit? I’d love to hear about them in the comments!
5 Christmas Gifts for Girls that will Connect Them to Jesus: Part 2
For more gift ideas, be sure to see my original post here.
When it comes to Christmas shopping, I’ve noticed quite a bit of women in a frenzy trying to secure the latest craze for their loved ones. Gifts have become overrated, over the top, and beyond my price range! It’s all about the latest technology, the newest toys/gadgets, and expensive clothes that will go out of style by next year.
I’ve never been one to understand going into debt over things that are too quickly cast aside- especially since we’ve seemed to have forgotten the greatest gift of all time…..the one that didn’t come wrapped in sparkly paper with a giant glittery bow, but in swaddling clothes…..the one that is the true purpose for the Christmas season- Jesus!
Presence over Presents
Presents are no longer meaningful. And along with everything else in the world these days, they can distract us from our relationship with God. So instead of buying electronics and apps that will consume their time or toys that won’t last, let’s get our daughters gifts that will guide them to a closer walk with the Lord. Instead of swiping your credit card for whatever gifts are all the rage, look for items that will help your daughter seek His presence.
Whether your daughter (daughter/niece/cousin/best friend/student/etc.) is a youngster, a preteen, or heading off to college, these inexpensive gifts are the perfect options to point them to a personal relationship with the star of Christmas Himself and will even last well beyond December!
1. Uplifting Music: Part 2
If the girls in your life are anything like the girls in my life, they LOVE to sing and listen to music. And if you are anything like me, then you understand how important it is that what they are singing and listening to is encouraging and uplifting their spirits.
The following suggestions are albums that have not only had major positive impacts on my young daughters, but also on me as an adult:
Lauren Daigle – How Can it Be
Natalie Grant- Be One and Hurricane
Bethel- You Make Me Brave
Francesca Battistelli- My Paper Heart
Bethel Kids- Come Alive
Any of these, along with the ones listed in the original post (Francesca Battistelli- He Knows My Name and Barlow Girl- Never Alone), would make great gifts for the music-loving girl on your gift list.
2. Cool Coloring Books
Coloring books are all the rage these days and there are tons to choose from with inspirational quotes and scriptures. You can find them almost anywhere (Walmart, Christian Bookstores, Dollar General, etc). Pick one up along with colored pencils or gel pens and you’re good to go!
3. Busy Books Sermon Notes
Last year for Christmas we bought our daughters Busy Books Sermon Notes for kids 8-12 by Madison and Darlene Shacht. This gift option encourages younger ones to take their own notes each Sunday and helps them pay attention to the sermon. My girls have enjoyed having theirs!
For the older girls on your list, try the Busy Books Sermon Notes for Young Ladies, ages teen to adult. Both books are available on Amazon.
4. Bible Study
This world around us lately seems to have lost it’s mind. One thing I know for sure is I would certainly follow suit if not for the Word of God. A Bible study is the perfect option for any girl that will help them to remain grounded in what the Lord has to say about navigating this thing called life in a world as crazy as ours. There is a variety of choices when it comes to the many Bible studies available, so I would suggest basing your pick on the age and personality of the recipient.
Prayer Works by Stephen and Alex Kendrick is a great choice for younger kids that will keep their attention while strengthening their prayer lives.
Quieting Your Heart 30- Day Prayer Journal: Virtue Edition by Darlene Schact is full of adorable illustrations for the teens and young adults on your list.
Maybe more than something physical, there’s someone on your list that could benefit from a Girl’s Day where you can pour into her spirit. Whether you’re chatting over a bite to eat or a pedicure, make sure she knows she has your full attention. Does she need a listening ear followed by Godly wisdom? Does she need encouragement? Does she need prayer? Ask God to guide you as you gather the specific details for this gift and know that it will be appreciated just as much as a physical gift, if not even greater.
We’d love to hear your ideas! What awesome gift ideas do you have that will bring girls closer to Christ? Be sure to leave a comment and let us know!
This blog post is the fourth installment of a series on church camp. You can find the first post about Kids Camp by clicking this link here, the second post about Junior High Camp by clicking on this link, and the third post about Senior camp can be found by clicking this link.
I should have stated this from the beginning… No one asked me to write this series. I actually had no intention of blogging about church camp at all. Last Thursday, I was working on homeschool planning for this upcoming school year and praying over our family’s direction when I felt that I needed to write this all out. It hit me out of nowhere, I walked in to my laptop, started typing, and what you see is the result. Hopefully I have not upset anyone with my doing this… But what you see is honest and from my heart. Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s move on… shall we?
Alright, so you’ve heard all about what goes on at each camp. Now let me respond to some concerns you may be having… You know that it is very involved to pack everything necessary for one camper to be prepared while on the campground. The cost seems like just one more expense… And what about the fundraising? School is about to start back up when camp is going on and there are other things that you could be doing with your child’s time. So why bother with church camp?
Well, yeah, it is time consuming to pack for camp. You aren’t just packing a suitcase as though you are going to stay in a hotel. Other than food, you need to pack almost as though you are going full blown camping. But would you do it without complaint to send your child to another camp? Scouts camp, sports camp, science camp…
The cost, well, this depends… What campground are you going to? There are some really big camps out there, all frills and they still offer a spiritual experience for you kids and teens. SoCal Youth church camp is pretty basic in the way of amenities, bringing the costs down to be much lower than most others. Nothing fancy, but still nice. Do the campers complain? Not a peep!
Not everyone can afford to send their kids to camp… Fundraising, if done properly, does not have to be as daunting. My personal opinion? It should begin the week that camp ends for the following year. There are many creative ways to go about this and they don’t have to be boring. One idea would be a monthly sponsorship… If you have an idea of how much it will cost to send a kid or teen to camp you can break that down in to monthly increments that if a church member felt lead, they could contribute to. Need more ideas? A quick search on Pinterest will bring more than enough options.
One idea that we used at our church this last year was a Bible Read-A Thon. Just like a regular read-a-thon, but with the Bible. (Hmm, maybe I’ll post the forms I made up for this soon…) Another was that our kids had a “concert”. The music from this service was put on a CD with other recorded music of our kids singing and sold for a donation. We had bake sales, sold candy and soda, had penny marches… And we just barely made it. Of course, we didn’t start getting serious with fundraising until April. Imagine if we had started sooner!
I know. I’m busy too. This is where you have to decide if it is a time investment that is as important to your child’s development as soccer, a trip to an amusement park, or a few days at home playing video games. Which brings us to the big question…
You probably knew by now that this was going to be my answer… Right?
There is something about getting this many kids together from different churches… (big emphasis on that last part, not just the kids from one church, but many…) Giving them a safe place to have fun, make new friends, and experience the outdoors… And then standing back and watching God bless them in a life changing way that will impact the rest of their lives. With no where to be the next day and no responsibilities to go home to each night, kids let all their worship out in chapel. Yes. Church camp is definitely worth it.
How can that be? How can I have suggestions to make it better and still say it is worth it?
Well, sit down and take a deep breath before you read this… My opinions of what would make it better have a whole lot more to do with those of us sending our kids up there, not those running the camp.
I know. Ouch. It is our fault that our kids are not getting more out of camp…
I know, you’re sick of hearing what I have to say by now… But hear me out. Please.
Imagine my excitement when it worked out that Sherry, along with her Mom, daughter, and friend, would be visiting Southern California… I rarely get to see her and she is one of my rocks. I mentioned in the first post that Sherry and I have a history at camp. That her parents were our District Children’s Leaders for most of my childhood… That our Grandparents worked together as pastors in the same district for many years, forging a close friendship, and working hard to build up our campground and attend camp with their churches.
So imagine how much more excited I was when I told Sherry that I wouldn’t be home to see her because I would be at Junior High Camp and she basically said, “Even better! We’ll come up there!” And they did! At the time I didn’t think of the timing being more perfect other than the memories we all shared there. (And believe me, hugging Sherry’s neck in the quad, worshiping with her in morning chapel, and visiting over a Bethel Burger was all fabulous.)
But God had a plan… Their visit wasn’t a fluke. It probably sounds to you as though it worked out almost like a cheesy movie, but in reality it packed a punch! Sherry’s Mom, Debbie, poured in to some of us while there. She reminded me of some of the original vision for the camp and told me some things I did not know. For example: Did you know that 80% of missionaries receive their calling to the mission field while at church camps? That’s a HUGE number!
Many of us adults that were in attendance at camp then got to talking… Those of us that had attended camps had received part or all of our calling while at camp!
Some of us that had backslid later in our teens or as adults recalled times while away from God that we were in a dire place and remembered a moment from camp. Whether it was time in the altar, a conversation with a counselor, a song sung in chapel, or a sermon, those memories started flooding back and we began to reach out to God and make our way back to Him.
When I was a camper we had a phrase, “Take the mountain home with you.” Take it to school. Take it with you wherever you go. Don’t ever let it go. Never lose what God gave you on the mountain. I promise you, the kids that go to church camp take that mountain home with them.
Between Sis. Debbie and a few other “camp veterans” in attendance, I realized how important return volunteers are. Many of these workers were people that had been working at camp when I was a camper. Sis. Ross had been there when I was a little girl. I remembered her praying with me in chapel and doing bed checks at lights out. This year, she was still there working hard along with others, showing us “newbies” the ropes. I gleaned so much from their knowledge and experience!
Some people are called to work at church camp every year. Are you one of them? You don’t know until you pray about it and try it one year. You may be hooked! I will say this, I get why my Grandpa loved it so much now. Whenever the Lord allows, I will be at camp working in one way or another.
This blog post is the third installment of a series on church camp. You can find the first post about Kids Camp by clicking this link here, and the second post about Junior High Camp by clicking on this link.
I think you know me well enough by now to know that I’m just going to lay it out for you right here: We called it Senior Camp when I was growing up. By the way, I wasn’t the only one that couldn’t ditch the “old names”. So I’m not going to stress over it.
Senior Camp was for 9th-12th grades and teens that had graduated from High School but still attended Youth Group. Camp began on Sunday afternoon and ran through Friday morning with chapel, again, in morning and evenings. Though camp did not end until Friday morning, due to a conflict in schedule, I returned on Thursday night and brought our kids home at about the time of lights out. Since the “last day” of camp is actually just waking up, eating breakfast, packing up, cleaning your dorm/cabin, and leaving… I thought leaving 9 hours early wouldn’t hurt.
Our church only sent 2 kids to Senior Camp, my son Jeffrey (15) and another girl from our church the same age. This camp had the largest attendance of all, with 200+ kids!
Unfortunately, I began getting sick the last few days of Junior High Camp after a bad allergy attack. Only a few hours in to Senior Camp and I was laying in my bunk, curled up in a fetal position, and shivering. While everyone was at their first chapel service, I reluctantly went home with the intention to come back. However, my Doctor insisted that I not… something about early bronchitis, double ear and sinus infections, and my being crazy. I decided I should listen, for once.
So instead of giving you a full run down, I will tell you what I have gathered from my son, the girl from my church, posts on Facebook, things I heard when I returned to gather our kids (I did attend the last service), and so forth.
Many of the activities were the same or similar. Jeffrey says that the afternoons were mostly free time. There were more options of things to do. Basketball, throwing around a football, pool, ping pong, horseshoes, baseball, volleyball, etc.
Again, this is Jeffrey giving me the information… my 15 year old son… Chances are if it didn’t catch his eye, then he didn’t take note of it. It is entirely possible that there was much more.
Before the evening services there was a Lip Sync Battle. I caught the last night and it was hilarious!
The majority of what I heard about from the kids was about chapel. I feel that speaks volumes!
Mark McGaffin, Youth Pastor at Higher Vision Church in Valencia, CA, was once again the speaker at this church camp. Sermons had themes such as “You are more than a #hashtag”, “Let It Out” in reference to worship, “Sin is like cheating on God”, and more… But these were the sermons that stuck out most to Jeffrey.
As it always has for as long as I can remember, Senior Camp involves quite a bit of horsing around. Similar to things that go on with kids at school, mostly done in good fun, one cabin pranks another and then that cabin tries to figure out who did it so they can retaliate, and so forth. More than a little annoying, but it seemed that the leaders did their best to keep it under control and have plans to reinforce rules and keep the pranking to a minimum in the future.
Really, if you get this many people together… there is going to be “schtuff”. Not everything is going to flow as smoothly as the smaller camps with the younger kids.
Considering everything, while it would have been nice for the kids and workers that did not want to be a part of it to be picked on, when looking at the big picture… We have to remember this: The enemy is angry and we need to not let him win… both by not acting like teenagers should be expected to act like angels and dwelling on what happened, and by taking measures to lower the incidences of drama next year. After all, not every person that attends church camp is a Christian. Can we expect those that are not saved to behave as we would? For the most part, everything went smoothly and a good majority behaved Christ like.
Our District Youth Directors from SoCal Youth went above and beyond this last week of church camp. Nancy had her baby the second morning of camp. Everyone seemed to step forward and do what they could to help Roque out as needed. Once again, youth pastors were taking part in the services.
When I returned the last night to pick up the kids, I was able to attend the last service. A memory that I will NEVER forget is that of Roque pacing as he prayed on the platform in front of all the kids. He seemed to be warring in the Spirit so that the full Glory of the Lord could fall upon each camper, declaring victory before it happened, and praising God for the victory when it did.
Who wouldn’t want a leader like that for their kids and teens?!
This blog post is the second installment of a series on church camp. You can find the first post about Kids Camp by clicking this link here.
And again, I have to just get it out and call it Junior High Camp. No, not middle school camp. Junior High Camp. With the proper letters capitalized and all. I’m just weird, I know. I know!
For this camp, we had an even smaller attendance from our church. My daughter Becca (13), another girl from our church, and myself. I was very excited to spend time with these 2 girls as one is my daughter and I love the other one dearly. This camp we had about 80 kids in attendance, again a big drop from the old days. But more on that in another post… Teen Camp A (JUNIOR HIGH CAMP, heh…) was for those in 6th-9th grades.
(Okay, I’m just going to refer to it as Junior High Camp for the remainder of this post. I’m sorry, I can’t help myself. I don’t mind the other name at all. But it just
rolls off the tongue, er, flows on to the keyboard/reads easier. So follow: Junior High Camp (the old skool name) = Teen Camp A (the new official name). Both mean church camp for tweens and teens. Now moving right along… and pretending I didn’t just get all neurotic so early in a blog post…)
Camp ran from Wednesday afternoon until Sunday morning, with chapel in the morning and evening.
Morning chapel began in the with a “warm up” song… They were the same songs to get the wiggles out at Kids Camp, but it was still fun. Not that there wasn’t enough exercise walking up and down the mountain from dorm to chapel and back… But we could all use a little more, right? 😉 Especially with all the delicious food! It was also a great way to transition from being loud all morning to being on task in service.
Chapel still had games, but the focus changed from kids competing somewhat randomly to dorms competing against each other in “Dorm Wars”, which also carried over in to the rest of the day/night activities. Musical pies, who could drink the grossest concoction, guess the movie title by the emojis, stuff like that. We would then have worship, which was some of the same songs from Kids Camp minus the motions, (though some of us just couldn’t help ourselves and let motions pop out now and then) and a few more songs added in. Next would be the big reveal of who won/lost dorm inspections… which involved losers cleaning bathrooms and winners being the first in line for lunch. We would then be dismissed to go back to our dorms to have devotions and discuss our reflections from the sermon the night before.
Evening chapel began and flowed similarly. Worship lasted a little longer than morning service. With each service, the kids became more involved and hungrier for the presence of God. Towards the end of the worship portion, one of our SoCal Youth Directors, Roque or Nancy (who was still pregnant and still putting us all to shame), would give a statement to encourage the kids to draw closer or dig deeper. A few different nights, instead of one of the District Youth Directors, a Youth Pastor in attendance as a counselor would make the statement instead. Every time it was right on point and definitely God inspired, resonating with the kids.
It was refreshing to not only have Directors and a speaker that were obedient to give the message given to them by the Holy Spirit in the tone that it should be delivered, but also obedient as to WHO should give the message… and then that these Youth Pastors were obedient to deliver the message they received in the way it was intended. Whether that be excitable, serious, emotional… because how it is delivered makes a huge impact on how it is received. Then the person hearing the message is much more likely to be obedient as well. It is a chain that just keeps going down, I know. But when you have seen ministries that are not always obedient, it was exactly as I said, refreshing.
For Junior High Camp, Mark McGaffin’s series was titled “Flip The Switch”. He actually built a giant make-shift switch and presented it in a way to really grab the kids attention on the very first night, having the sound/lights people do techy things to make it seem as if it was really plugged in and could function part of the time. (He’s still working on this invention after all.) I thought it was cute when the first night one kid I didn’t know turned around and said to me, “I can’t tell if it’s real or not.” Hey, maybe it is!
Bro. Mark’s sermons were mostly based on stories of Peter with titles such as “Flip The Switch: From Doubt to Faith”, “From Guilt To Grace”, “From Fear To Courage”, and I know there was one more but here is where my old age comes in… I can’t remember what it was right now. While the messages were geared towards tweens and young teens, they still challenged some of us adults and inspired us.
The altar calls at Junior High Camp were REALLY good. Kids came down and gave their lives to Jesus. Tweens and teens were filled with the Holy Spirit. People were revived and renewed. There were different calls for prayer each night, for those with certain problems to come down and receive prayer. Calls were also made for if those that just needed prayer for something else. These altar calls usually began with Mark after his message and would also include another call after a few minutes from our leader, Roque, or another youth pastor in attendance that had made a statement at the end of worship. These kids were getting closer to Jesus and experiencing Father God and the Holy Spirit in ways they hadn’t before. Some of them, one being my daughter, matured a lot spiritually for having only been at camp 4 days.
Similar to kids camp in that there was good food, friends made, lizards caught/released (Though less than kids camp… what is it with kids and lizards? Not just boys, girls too!), and dirt sticking to everyone, tweens and teens church camp was a lot of fun.
Lunch took a little longer since for Junior High Camp lunch was not provided by the dining hall (breakfast and dinner were still provided) and was bought by each camper from the Snack Shack… the camps well known grill and snack bar… where they could choose what they want and wait for it to be prepared. This is like a rite of passage for some of these kids. Same at Kids Camp, but there they are mostly buying candy, sno cones, and sometimes a small meal after evening service. For some it is the first time that they are on their own somewhere, without their parents, with money that they can choose how to spend. Money that they can order what they want to eat with no judgements from grown ups. They loved it! So while lunch didn’t take forever, it did dig in to a bit more of the afternoon time, which was fine because there was a LOT of time.
Afternoons consisted of optional activities from softball, basketball, volleyball… (some other kind of ball I’m sure… Do I look athletic? 😉 There was sports. How’s that? Ha!) to making tie dye shirts, paint classes, and other options. Some of the activities required a small fee, but it was never more than a few dollars and always worth it.
I quickly regretted not making a tie dye shirt… So when another day they offered the paint class, I was glad that Becca, the other girl from our church, and a friend that they made while there all wanted to do it so I wouldn’t look ridiculous painting by myself a picture that looks like it was painted by a 3 or 4 year old instead of a 34 year old. I learned a lot about my daughter and the other girls I was sitting with just by painting a picture together. Funny how that works, huh? How we say stuff without actually saying it when we’re being creative? Another blog post for another day…
Afternoons also meant… DORM WARS! Now, dorm wars outside of chapel isn’t “Oh, let’s stand around and play a game where we guess/yell stuff or get messy and gross”. No. Dorm wars means actual war… Like, not guns and death, but war on old people’s bodies as the kids run so fast ahead of you that you begin singing that old song, “See the bright light shine! It’s just about home time! I can see my Father standin’ at the doooooor”! Basically, it is a group scavenger style race. Each dorm carries their flag and begins with a card stating what station to go to. You RUN to that station, do the required activity (usually something physical, but sometimes eating something gross or a puzzle kind of thing), get a card saying where to go next, repeat. For like 3 years… or maybe it was around 30 minutes. I’ve blocked some of the trauma out. What I have not blocked out is where every hidden bathroom is located because I was drinking a TON of water and running made it… well, you get it.
Now, this is where I have to give a shout out to another counselor in our dorm, Mallorie, because she showed up and showed out. See, each dorm is required to have at least 1 counselor participate… She did it almost every time and rocked it. She also drank the gross stuff in chapel and showed us all how to take a pie to the face without really taking it. Now, me having left my brain at the Carl’s Jr we stopped at to use the bathroom on the way to camp, forgot until I rolled my ankles that I’m not supposed to be doing things like running. Did that stop me? No. I kept trying. Until I finally realized I had lost my mind, I am not young anymore (sad face), and parked myself on a bench.
Did I say afternoons meant dorm wars? Oh, that’s not right. Afternoons and nights after chapel also meant dorm wars. Even more fun in the dark and better because less people see you fall or spit dripping out of your mouth as you run! In all seriousness, it was fun. I wish I was in better shape. The kids loved it. Even though our dorm (GO PIIIIIIINK!!!!) lost, probably my fault, it was still worth it… now that I can’t remember the pain.
With adolescence comes… crushes. I was shocked to see how my daughter acts when she likes a boy, which wasn’t bad, just something new and I’m not sure I’m ready for her to be a teenager yet. Can we go back to Kids Camp? No? Anyways, the kids at this church camp did differ in one major way from the way it was at my Junior High Camp. Less boy craziness. Don’t get me wrong, it was there and more so in some girls than others, but most of these girls all seemed to have more confidence in themselves and less need for the attention of a boy.
“And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word. And the angel departed from her.”
– Luke 1:38
“And blessed is she that believed: for there shall be a performance of those things which were told her from the Lord.”
– Luke 1:45
A few days ago I was praying and thanking God for sending His son as the greatest gift we could ever fathom. After all, this is the reason Christmas exists.
As I was praying, Mary’s sacrifice is what really hit me. I am amazed at Mary’s willingness to carry the Son of God. She said yes to an impossible task and went on to carry, deliver, and raise the Son of God…and then she went on to watch Jesus die.
I imagine her thoughts went something like this, “But He’s supposed to be Emanuel—God with us! Why are You taking Him away from me, God? I raised Him! You chose Him for the ultimate sacrifice. YOU chose that for Him. Not me!”
Then again, I realize she knew from Day 1 that there was a very specific plan and purpose for this Messiah…her son that she shared with the Almighty. I believe she had a sort of feeling in her heart of hearts, and yet she still said yes. She was still willing to walk in obedience to God’s plan for her life—no matter what—for the glory of the Lord.
Again, I’m amazed, because I don’t think I’d ever have been that brave. I can only pray and strive for the kind of courage to respond to God’s call on my life, regardless of situations and circumstances, with “Be it unto me according to thy word.”
One day last week a thought came to mind about how so many say they want Christ in their life, but they are just not ready. I was sitting at my sewing machine thinking about this and I remembered how Jesus asked God that if it was His will, to keep Him from having to be tortured and crucified. Two days later I made a graphic and posted it to a few of our social media pages.
In my dream, a group of us were sitting in a front yard and I felt that we were at home. That we all lived there. I was surrounded by family, friends, and people I don’t know. But in my dream, we were all family.
The yard had a fence and a gate. A few of us looked out and noticed other friends and family that we knew wandering around the neighborhood. They were dazed and lost, almost like they were sleep walking. Eventually all of us in the yard started calling each of them by name and shouting:
“Come home! Come home! You’ll be safe!”
Many heard us, woke up, and came running in the gate for a happy reunion while some continued wandering.
I woke up excited, but concerned.
Remember being a kid and playing outside? When it began to get dark, the porch light would turn on and everyone knew it was time to go home. I still remember the sound of my Grandma’s voice when she would call out my name. “Angela! It’s time to come home! Come on, it’s getting dark out!”
The times are getting dark, we all know that. The “porch light” is going to light up any minute, and it will be time to go to our Heavenly home. (I CAN’T WAIT!)
How many of our loved ones are too busy to realize that it is getting dark and almost time to go home? We need to start getting their attention!
Why aren’t we trying harder? Are we too busy to care about the souls that need Christ?
I want to challenge every Christian to call or message someone they know that needs Jesus. Reach out to them. Ask them how they are doing, if they have given any thought to God lately. Remind them just how much He loves them. See if they want to meet up to talk or come to church with you. Don’t make a laundry list of their sins and tell them how wrong they are. Love the lost more than the enemy hates them. Just shine the light of Jesus in to their life.
Some people just need that little reminder and will come running right back in. Others may not be as eager to listen. Keep praying for them and being a friend to them, don’t just shut them out.
With everything going on in the world, it is too easy to just give up and say that no one wants to listen. We need to keep fighting the good fight and bring in the lost! Wake them up and ask them to come home!
“And Jesus said unto the centurion, Go thy way; and as thou hast believed, so be it done unto thee. And his servant was healed in the selfsame hour.”- Matthew 8:13
In Matthew 8:5-13, we read about the centurion who approached Jesus on behalf of his sick servant. At the end of their conversation, Jesus tells the centurion, “As thou hast believed, so be it done unto thee.”
What a statement! I read that line and immediately thought, what if that was God’s answer for all of us? We know how the centurion believed…he had great faith and believed Jesus was a healer. How do we know? Because the last line of the passage says, “And his servant was healed the selfsame hour.” Wow.
We know how the centurion believed. Now consider this, how do WE believe? If Jesus was to make the same statement to us and the answer is hinging on how we believe, would our loved ones be healed? Would the lost be saved? Would the addict be delivered? Would the bound be set free?
I believe the answer to those questions for the centurion would have been a resounding yes. He was so full of faith that in verse 10 Jesus said He hadn’t found so great faith in all of Israel. What would those answers be based on MY faith and believing? Ouch! On January 11th of this year, during Sunday morning worship, God spoke to me that we are to start praying and expecting Him to do the impossible (in us/through us/in general). Why? Because He can!
The centurion’s faith was so great that the Bible says Jesus marveled. Is our faith anywhere close to that level? Would God marvel at the faith we have in Him or at our surety that He can do the impossible? I want badly for my answer to those questions to be yes. If God says to me, “As thou hast believed, so be it done unto thee,” then I want to see miracles. I want to see the impossible. I want to have the kind of faith that makes God marvel. All I know is, it’s up to me!
Believe and expect the impossible!
“As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love. If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. “These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full. This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends. You are My friends if you do whatever I command you. John 15:9-14 NKJV
While praying about my one word, song, and verse for the year, I asked God to take me on a journey. I figured it would be something I didn’t expect, because that’s what He does. But I had no idea it would be this. I had no clue as to what I would learn about Him, myself, and others. It has been painful, but necessary… and I still don’t have a word, song, or scripture. Instead He gave me a phrase, a playlist, and sent me flipping through my Bible looking up all kinds of scriptures (not claiming to be an expert or anything like that. I’m definitely a student here.) I feel led to share part of this journey for some reason, even though it is very personal to me. So I’m following the Holy Spirit on this. Please know that I do not mean to offend anyone, act like a know-it-all, boast pridefully, or anything else negative. I’m simply stating what I have learned recently, because maybe just 1 person out there needs to read it… and when God says write, I write. You may not like me after reading this, and that’s okay. Feel free to stop following and reading, etc. because I don’t care about numbers, that is not why I blog. I don’t make money doing this so you’re not hurting me by quietly slipping away… though I hope you don’t and instead see the honesty of my heart in what I am going to share. This journey is far from over… but here is where I have traveled and where I am now… (It was originally going to be a simple post with a few graphics, music videos, and barely any words. Next thing you know, it’s a really long post. Bear with me on this, please and thank you.)
For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. John 3:16 NKJV
1 John 4:11 it says Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. - Raising Sticky Hands To Heaven" width="500" height="500" srcset="http://raisingstickyhands.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/LOVE-the-lost-MORE-than-the-enemy-HATES-them-1-John-411-scripture-reference-Raising-Sticky-Hands-To-Heaven.jpg 500w, http://raisingstickyhands.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/LOVE-the-lost-MORE-than-the-enemy-HATES-them-1-John-411-scripture-reference-Raising-Sticky-Hands-To-Heaven-150x150.jpg 150w, http://raisingstickyhands.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/LOVE-the-lost-MORE-than-the-enemy-HATES-them-1-John-411-scripture-reference-Raising-Sticky-Hands-To-Heaven-300x300.jpg 300w" sizes="(max-width: 500px) 100vw, 500px" />
Imagine for a moment that there is a woman who has only two options of places to live. Both potential roommates offer for her to live in their homes for free.
The first one says that he loves her and will take care of her every need, but actually hates her and is extremely jealous of everything about her. While he is very abusive, he has others in the home show her ways to dull the pain, lie to her, and cause her to feel an artificial love so that she is content and does not always feel the strain of the abuse. His intent is to strip her of everything with one hand while he pretends to care for her with the other. While the smiles are false, her roommate (slave driver would be more appropriate) steals everything he is jealous of and she is constantly watching her back. The words in her ears sound positive and her body momentarily feels good.
The second one offers to care for her with nothing asked in return but love… which comes easily the more she gets to know Him. He has many gifts for her, some of which she will attain over time, and while He is honest about the fact that there will be difficult times He makes sure that she knows that He will always be there for her. He asks the others in the home to help her get settled in, but instead some of them berate her, tell her that she is not good enough for Him, and become angry at her for not already knowing the rules of the house upon arrival. While the Homeowner is grieved and tries to let her know that He does not feel this way and that the others are wrong, she is so hurt and confused that she considers returning to the home of the one who had no love at all… If the others in the home feel that way and tell her that she is not good enough for Him, she assumes that He must feel that way as well.
Okay, I didn’t promise the best writing or illustrations here. HA! It may read out pretty lame, but you probably already get where I’m going with this… because you’re smart and saw the title and the story was obvious… but anyway, this is a big part of what has been going through my heart lately. It seems that we as Christians are so often misunderstood, and to be honest, sometimes we are just flat-out harsh when we should try a different approach. We are quick to judge, defend too fast, and try to dictate instead of love. To someone who didn’t grow up in a Christian home to know and understand what some of what we are conveying to them means, it comes out kind of hateful. How would you feel if you walked into a new friend’s house and their daughter started critiquing every bit of who you were? Not so good. But that’s how we come across sometimes to people who have been lied to their entire life by an enemy that hates them more than we love them.
Oh, he hates them alright. He hates all of us. 1 Peter 5:8 in the NKJV states “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.” Satan is jealous of us because we are made in God’s image, we serve God, and we are loved by God. When someone is living in sin, satan is happy because if he can deceive the person enough their hearts will become hard and cold towards God. It’s the only way that satan can hurt God, by stealing those that Christ loves and dragging them into eternal punishment with him instead of them spending eternity with our Father.
“If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. John 15:18-19 NKJV
Am I saying to not call sin what it is and help others see the way? Certainly not. What I am saying is that we need patience and compassion. We also need to realize that most people who are lost have never read a Bible and many that are lost are not likely reading one currently, so we are the only Bible that they are “reading.” Ouch, hurts, doesn’t it? We are so wrapped up in our doctrine and appearance of holiness that we have forgotten the great commission of going out into the world and preaching the gospel… and that none of it means anything without love. (See below.) We are not of the world, but we are in it. We should be going out and sharing the Word of God, not judging, condemning, and nitpicking. Although our intentions are well and we know where our hearts are, we don’t take the time to listen to ourselves and hear how we are coming across. While some are brought in with tough love, it does not work for all. Especially for those who have grown up in a world that has treated them brutally. We have to speak the truth, yes, but we have to consider how we are delivering it.
And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will follow those who believe: In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.” Mark 16:15-18 NKJV
Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing. Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails. 1 Corinthians 13:1-8
I’m also going to include 1 Corinthians 13:1-8 (I suggest reading the entire chapter, it’s not long.) translated in the Amplified version, because of the depth that it explains these scriptures:
IF I [can] speak in the tongues of men and [even] of angels, but have not love (that reasoning, intentional, spiritual devotion such as is inspired by God’s love for and in us), I am only a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers (the gift of interpreting the divine will and purpose), and understand all the secret truths and mysteries and possess all knowledge, and if I have [sufficient] faith so that I can remove mountains, but have not love (God’s love in me) I am nothing (a useless nobody). Even if I dole out all that I have [to the poor in providing] food, and if I surrender my body to be burned or in order that I may glory, but have not love (God’s love in me), I gain nothing. Love endures long and is patient and kind; love never is envious nor boils over with jealousy, is not boastful or vainglorious, does not display itself haughtily. It is not conceited (arrogant and inflated with pride); it is not rude (unmannerly) and does not act unbecomingly. Love (God’s love in us) does not insist on its own rights or its own way, for it is not self-seeking; it is not touchy or fretful or resentful; it takes no account of the evil done to it [it pays no attention to a suffered wrong]. It does not rejoice at injustice and unrighteousness, but rejoices when right and truth prevail. Love bears up under anything and everything that comes, is ever ready to believe the best of every person, its hopes are fadeless under all circumstances, and it endures everything [without weakening]. Love never fails [never fades out or becomes obsolete or comes to an end]. 1 Corinthians 13:1-8 Amplified Bible
(Both translations, and many others, can be found at Bible.com and BibleGateway.com.)
We have all heard the phrase “you can catch more flies with honey than you can with vinegar.” Why do we forget this simple metaphor when it comes to winning the lost? We need to be honest and let the Holy Spirit lead us so that He may bring the conviction on their heart to turn from the sin they are living in. You see, it was in my own life, recently, where I realized that I was putting out more vinegar than honey when it came to witnessing to a particular soul that I care a great deal about. Funny (actually, not so much) thing is, that is not how I was won back to Christ when I recommitted my life to Him about 8 years ago. Many had tried that approach, because they knew that I knew the truth, but they had also made me feel shunned and unworthy. It was actually Karen and Emily’s Mom and Step Dad, Momma Ann and Poppa C, that told me that they loved me, even in my sin, and that Jesus still loved me too. They didn’t judge, condemn, or preach. But they did tell me often how much Jesus loved me. Oh how I hated hearing that at first, but eventually it got through my tough skin and caused my heart to yearn for Jesus again. It wasn’t protesters or loved ones rolling their eyes at me. Not being told that I was becoming nothing and going to hell. It was love, and hearing that Jesus still loved me after all that I had done against Him. That was what drew me back in. So why would I think that the negative approach that I hated so much should be practiced by me? Ugh. Hypocritical, much?
Ephesians 6:12 states “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.” Yet here I was, fighting my loved one instead of the evil and wicked that is trying to steal their life. I kept reminding them of everything wrong they were doing and how disgusting it was in the eyes of God instead of declaring the love that God has for them when they are so hated by an enemy that wants to see them dead… And THAT is how this new favorite phrase of mine was born.
Not only those that I know and love deeply on a personal level, but anyone who is living without Jesus. Just because they don’t realize that satan is there, or maybe they do not even acknowledge him, it does not mean that he is not lurking, tempting, perched and posed, ready to devour them. The fact that God loves them with more love than anyone can ever comprehend is not changed by their blindness or denial of it.
How can we make them want this love that we have? How can we fight the enemy? With fierce unbridled love!
Getting angry at a sinner for being a sinner is 1: hypocritical (Not one of us is without sin, only Jesus.) 2: like getting mad at an apple for being an apple (They need a transformation, which can only be done through Christ.) 3: getting nowhere (Stating the obvious doesn’t fix a problem.)
Love overcomes all. Love, with faith, can move mountains and transform the world. Who wants to become like the angry person? No one. It is the kind and compassionate that cause others to say, “what has that person so happy? I want to be like that…” When you show the love of Jesus fiercely, unconditionally, and abundantly… THAT is when you will see the lost running to the cross, the world transformed, and hearts softened. Not with flashy shows, angry finger-pointing, and weak theology. Too many are running lost. It is time that we sound the alarm and flood the darkness in this hate filled world with the LOVE of JESUS!
This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. John 15:12 NKJV
By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. 1 John 3:16 NKJV
(For those that may be curious, here are just a few of the songs on my long playlist for 2015… I’m tellin’ ya, it’s a LONG playlist!)
But while he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.”
Can you even imagine what was going through Joseph’s mind and heart when he found out that Mary was expecting? What about when he realized that the baby she was carrying in her womb was the Son of God?
He had to be terrified, and that is confirmed by the angel coming to him to say “do not be afraid”.
Often, when God calls us to do something, we can become afraid as well. While what we are doing may never compare to marrying a woman who others believe to have done something she did not do and raising The Savior of the world from an infant into a man, it can still leave us feeling overwhelmed and scared. We forget what we know to be true: that God has it all under control. We stress over things like logistics, money, what others may think, and more.
But what we need to remember is what Joseph is proof of: If it is the will of God, and we stay on His course, everything will work out.
Matthew 1:20-21 -- Raising Sticky Hands To Heaven" width="250" height="341" srcset="http://raisingstickyhands.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/Matthew-120-21-Raising-Sticky-Hands-To-Heaven.jpg 250w, http://raisingstickyhands.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/Matthew-120-21-Raising-Sticky-Hands-To-Heaven-219x300.jpg 219w" sizes="(max-width: 250px) 100vw, 250px" />
The second that we let our flesh try to detour His plans, by negotiating our ideas in, that is the very moment that things start to go wrong. What if Joseph had said, “I will marry her, but we will not keep the child.” I doubt that any of our lives would be where they are today.
It is because Joseph did as he was instructed without fear that Jesus was able to thrive, grow, and eventually save the world. He trusted God and stuck to the plan. When God calls you, remember Joseph and do not be afraid.