Doorposts and Crossbeams

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I’ve heard a lot of versions of the gospel. Some are extremely burdensome, and others, well, could easily just leave Jesus out of it. When people try to put their own twist on the message, it gets really distorted. I wonder how many non believers are confused by the mixed messages. Actually, it’s those in the church who are probably more susceptible to becoming confused. The gospel, in it’s simplicity, is beautiful and easy to understand. Salvation is not a road with twists and turns meant to get us lost. It’s a straight path, narrow as it may be, that’s paved by One person, and guided by the One who made it. The gospel is meant to bring joy and hope to a desperate world.  Confusing and complicated things don’t do either of those things. One easy way to understand the message of the gospel is through doorposts and crossbeams.

The Passover is a beautiful illustration of the gospel. It’s a story of redemption. It’s a story of deliverance from bondage. It’s a story of faith in the grace of God. It’s a story of victory. Israel was in slavery in Egypt when God responded to their dyer need out of His own love for His children. After Aaron and Moses delivered God’s message to Pharaoh, nine nasty plagues reeked havoc on Egypt. The tenth, however, would be the worst of them all. The tenth plague would be God’s wrath on sin, idolatry, pride, false religion, cruelty, and so much more. The Destroying Angel would sweep through the land of the most powerful empire on earth and lay waste in one of the most heart-wrenching ways. The people would bear the weight of their rebellion against the God that loved them. But, as always, God made a way.

When the LORD goes through the land to strike down the Egyptians, he will see the blood on the top and sides of the door frame and will pass over that doorway, and he will not permit the destroyer to enter your houses and strike you down.

Exodus 12:23 (NIV)

The blood on the doorposts, was the blood of a lamb. That’s it. In faith, Israel would kill a spotless lamb and cover the doorposts of their homes with the blood. That blood would save them from the wrath of God that was about to be poured out. It wasn’t only the good Israelites that got to be covered with the blood. It wasn’t even just the Israelites who were covered. Anyone who could humble themselves enough and trust in the blood, could be covered. I’m convinced that even Pharaoh himself could have done this. But, as we can read from the Exodus story, Pharaoh was anything but humble. His faith was in himself.

The gospel is that straight forward. Love in all it’s simplicity. Jesus hung on crossbeams to bleed for all of us. His blood covers anyone who wants to put their faith in Him. You don’t have to be a good person to surrender to Jesus…you just have to surrender and let the blood do it’s work. We don’t have to be the spotless ones because Jesus was that on our behalf. Those rescued from Egypt were imperfect people, and so is the Church. But, we are rescued all the same. We are rescued from the wrath of God to come on this rebellious and self-worshiping world, only because of the blood of Jesus. When God looks at you, He sees His child. He sees someone covered by the most precious blood. But, just like those who God rescued from Egypt, we have to follow Him out of slavery. God didn’t deliver Israel so they could stay put in bondage. God covered them and bid them to come and follow. When He stepped out of heaven in the person of Jesus, He did the very same thing. The sacrifice of Jesus means we’re covered and invited. That invitation has always been to whoever will come. To whoever, will put their faith in God’s love. To whoever is covered by the blood.

For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.

John 3:16 (TLV)

Happy Passover brothers and sisters!

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Fun Ways to Teach Kids about God

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Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

Deuteronomy 6:4-9 (ESV)

Knowing the word of God is important. Teaching the next generation is equally important. But as any parent can testify, that can be challenging. When they are really young, their attention span is nonexistent. As they grow, rebellion can seek in a bit. But teaching our kids can be exciting and impactful. Nothing can replace the value of doing devotions and bible stories with our kids at bedtimes or after a breakfast meal. But sometimes we need to spice things up a bit. And that’s ok!

I’ve come up with a list of 12 activities that can help parents with children who are toddlers or teenagers. I’ve done them with kids of all ages and they are fun and they leave an imprint. You can make them as in depth and challenging as you’d like. Or you can keep them simple. Give them a try and have a blast! If you have other ideas, please comment on this post.

  1. Make a Fort
    • Build a fort out of anything safe around your house, whether inside or out.
    • Take time to share about how God protects them like forts were used to protect people
    • Bible verse: Psalm 18:2
  1. Balancing Act
    • Have your kids try to balance on several objects that are really difficult.
    • Then place your kids on something that is really easy to balance on.
    • Share about God’s word being a firm and steady foundation that we can stand on.
    • Bible verses: Matthew 7:24-27
  1. Trust Fall
    • Standing on an elevated platform or on the floor, have your child fall back into your arms. Repeat as long as they have fun.
    • Talk about how we can trust the Lord to catch us in uncertain times and especially when we’re afraid.
    • Bible verses: Psalm 84:12, 56:3, 31:14
  1. Being Blinded
    • Blindfold your kids and give them directions so they don’t run into things. Guide them around the house or outside.
    • Share about how the Lord leads us, especially when we don’t know what lies ahead of us in life.
    • Bible verses: Proverbs 3:5-6
  1. Water Act
    • You need to do this outside or in the bathtub. Fill a clear container with water. Then using food color, or a dark beverage like soda, pollute the water so that it’s no longer clear. Talk about how sin does that to our lives.
    • Then continue to fill the container with water again until the container is full of clear liquid. Talk about how Jesus, the living water, cleanses us from our sin and makes our lives clean again.
    • Bible verses: 1 John 1:7-9
  1. Tabernacle
    • Build a tabernacle in your yard similar to those that were constructed during the Feast of Tabernacles from Leviticus 23. You can make it out of anything really. A canopy works great. Dress it how with lights and more!
    • While sitting under the tabernacle, share about how Jesus walked among us and other ways that God wants to be with us (Holy Spirit, Temple, in the future, etc…).
    • Bible verses: John 1:1-14
  1. Treasure Hunt
    • Hide things all over the house or yard and have them look for them. They should be things that are valuable to them so they are even more motivated to find them.
    • After they’ve found everything, talk about how Jesus pursues us when we are lost and will never give up on us.
    • Bible verses: any of the stories from Luke 15
  1. Orchard
    • Go to a local orchard in season where you can find grape vines or fruit trees.
    • Use them as illustrations to talk about living a life that bears good fruit and how we depend on the vine (Jesus) to make that happen. If a branch gets cut off, it dies and doesn’t bear fruit.
    • Bible verses: John 15:4 and Galatians 5:22-23
  1. Dodge Ball
    • Have your kids try to get from one side of the house or yard, to the other, while you throw soft objects at them (parent therapyJ) and try not to get hit.
    • Then give them a shield of some kind and repeat the attempts. Talk about how much easier it is to defend yourself when you have a shield and how faith is that shield in life. Because to get from one end of life to the other, life will bombard us with a lot.
    • Bible verses: Ephesians 6:16 and 1 John 5:4
  1. Heavy Relay
    • Using a bucket or bag, have them race or just try to run. Each time, add another heavy object (books or rocks work well) until it becomes too heavy for them to run. Then empty the bag and have them run again.
    • Talk about how sin weighs us down in life but how Jesus wants to remove the weight from us.
    • Bible verses: Hebrews 12-1-2
  1. Dress Up
    • If you have girls, princess dress up works great. If boys, then it’d be a prince obviously. Same principle. After dress up, do a photoshoot.
    • The focus of this activity is to tell them about how they are princes or princesses of the King of Kings
    • Bible verses: 2 Corinthians 6:8 and 1 John 3:1
  1. Explore Nature
    • This can work anywhere from a back yard to hitting the trails. A camp trip works great too!
    • While in nature, point out all the amazing things that God has created for us to enjoy.
    • Bible verses: Creation story in Genesis 1, Psalm 95:4-5, Psalm 19:1, Romans 1:20

How do you swing the Sword?

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

Hebrews 4:12 (ESV)

The Bible is sometimes referred to as a sword. That’s because it’s the best weapon a person has against the lies of cultures that are pervasive in every society. The Bible cuts through our selfish motives, pride, deceit, carelessness, and so much more. It shows everyone of us just how much we need a Savior, then introduces us to Him. It shows us the remedy for the ills of life and the purpose for which we were all created. It’s the ultimate source of strength, encouragement, and hope. It is a lifeline for sinking men and women across the globe.

In Ephesians chapter six, the Bible is called the Sword of the Spirit. It is meant to be wielded to crush the enemy lines that seek to spread darkness and chaos throughout humanity. But that enemy is not in the flesh. It’s spiritual power that seeps into every facet of this world. But all too often, this sword is swung at those who need to experience its life changing qualities, not the sting of another’s insult. The Bible is a tool to fight evil, not to fight people. This sword is meant to build bridges not cut down people in its wake. This sword is meant to bring healing, not further injury to those who are already wounded. As followers of Christ, we use His sword to fight for those in our life, not against them.

With one fell swoop of His Sword, God could wipe out fallen humanity. In a moment of real honesty, we’d have to admit that we’d all deserve it. But He doesn’t. God uses His Sword to mold us into what we are actually supposed to be. God doesn’t destroy with this weapon, He creates new life in us. I wish more believers would want to do the same. I know many who do. But I also know of a lot who would just as soon run someone through with the sword than love them. I think it’s pretty obvious who’s been touched by God’s redeeming grace by how they use His Word. His Sword is an instrument of love. Handle with care.

Love IS: Forever

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Love is a complex idea. It isn’t something that can be tied down to a single expression, feeling, or relationship. Love goes beyond all our boundaries. It takes us to all new heights. And love makes life worth living. In this final post of the series, I want to talk about how love is meant to outlast everything. First, one more time through our verses:

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

1 Corinthians 13:4-7 (ESV)

So many relationships come to an end because people “fell out of love” with one another. But we can’t fall out of true love. That’s because true love outlast every hardship. True love does not despair. True love can carry any load.  According to verse seven, love bears, believes, hopes, and endures ALL things. The ultimate evidence of this is not how we’ve been loved by others, but how we’ve been loved by our Maker. Think about it…God’s love has endured a sinful and broken humanity for thousands of years. And you know what? His love has never diminished.

Praise the Lord! He is good. God’s love never fails

Psalm 136:1 (CEV)

Instead of looking at each of us to define love, we should really look at the one who invented the concept. I’ve loved imperfectly. You’ve loved imperfectly. But God is perfect love. Not only is God’s love never ending, but He continued to rescue humanity from their weaknesses and mistakes, purely out of His love. Eventually, He would show His love to the point where He would come to earth to die for those who had even despised His love. At our worst, God’s arms were stretched wide open.

…but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Romans 8:5 (ESV)

Look around. We aren’t worthy of His love. Not a single one of us. We all sin, whether in thought, words, or actions, every single day. We’ve all turned our backs on Him at some point. We’ve all tried to live life independent from Him at some point too. But He is the picture of what true love really looks like. God’s love isn’t extended to just those who deserve it, but to every single human ever created. God’s love has just been given to you and me when we were at our best (whatever that looks like). God’s love has endured all of our shortcomings. Out of His love He has bore our sins. Out of His love he patiently desires the salvation for every human being. Out of His great love, He carries the grief of our sinful deeds.

Because we are people of God, we should be people of love. Not a love of our own imagination, but a love as demonstrated by God himself. Those in your life, even your spouse, may not seem worthy of you love. But that isn’t what matters. A godly love is one that transcends worthiness. Don’t let people’s faults get in the way of your love for them, especially when it comes to your spouse. I’ll end with a quote from American author and theologian, Frederick Buechner, because I absolutely love it!

The love for equals is a human thing–of friend for friend, brother for brother. It is to love what is loving and lovely. The world smiles. The love for the less fortunate is a beautiful thing–the love for those who suffer, for those who are poor, the sick, the failures, the unlovely. This is compassion, and it touches the heart of the world. The love for the more fortunate is a rare thing–to love those who succeed where we fail, to rejoice without envy with those who rejoice, the love of the poor for the rich, of the black man for the white man. The world is always bewildered by its saints. And then there is the love for the enemy–love for the one who does not love you but mocks, threatens, and inflicts pain. The tortured’s love for the torturer. This is God’s love. It conquers the world.

Love others. Love your spouse. Love them deeply. Be patient to the very end, no matter how long, and always reach for kindness as your expression of love. Never seek to do what is wrong, or to see revenge or hurt in others, but shower your marriage and all other relationships with truth. Set God as your example and love those around you with an unending kind of love. May your marriages, and all your relationship blossom into beautiful expressions of heaven.