What A Vision

The call of Isaiah was a very unique story of how Isaiah volunteered to go deliver God’s message.

This was a difficult time for the people of Judah. The kingdom of Israel was split into two kingdoms: Northern Kingdom of Israel and Southern Kingdom of Judah. The king of Assyria was bound to take over the world.

The kings of these places were relied on heavily to protect the people from the Assyrian invasion. The king of Judah was Uzziah and he died. Isaiah found himself in the temple the same year that Uzziah died.

While he was in the temple, Isaiah had a vision. He saw God sitting on the throne. God’s robe was so long, the edges filled the entire temple. Then, seraphim (types of angels) came and spoke to Isaiah.

When they spoke, the foundations of the doorways shook. They said, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord; His glory fills the whole earth.” Isaiah knew his sin because he was in the presence of God. One of the seraphim touched a burning coal to Isaiah’s lips and told him that his sin was wiped away.

God then spoke, “Who should I send? Who will go for us?” Isaiah said, “Here I am. Send me.”

God had an important message to the people: “You will listen, but you will not understand. You will look, but you will not really see. If your eyes and ears and minds worked, you would turn from your sin and be healed.”

Isaiah asked, “How long should I preach to people who won’t listen?”

God said, “Preach until the cities are destroyed and no one lives in them. I am going to send the people far away.” Then God explained that He would bring some of the people back to Judah. These people were part of Abraham’s family. God was going to keep His promise to Abraham through them. He would send the Messiah through their family to be a blessing to all the nations.

I pray these Conversation Starters would bless you and your kids:

  • Have you ever volunteered for something but you didn’t know what you were doing? (Parent: explain a time when you have.)
  • Who is the main character of this story?
  • Where was Isaiah when he had a vision? (Temple)
  • How would you act if you were in the presence of God like Isaiah was? (Parents: you answer as well.)
  • Do you think that God knew that Isaiah would volunteer to go? (Yes)
  • Isaiah was told to deliver a message to people who basically wouldn’t listen. How would you feel if you were going to talk to someone who wouldn’t listen?
  • God promised to keep his promise with Abraham. Can you remember what that promise was?
  • Who is the Messiah?

As always, adjust where needed! God bless.

Simple Instructions

After Elijah ran from Jezebel, he went up to the mountain top to hear God speak to him in a soft whisper. God gave Elijah instructions on what he was to do next. He was going to anoint three people to key positions.

One of these key positions is Elijah’s job as prophet over Israel. A man named Elisha would take over this position.  As the prophet over Israel, the land of Aram attacked Israel and took people to be their servants.

A commander in this army from Aram was Naaman. He was good, but he also had leprosy. One of the Israelite girls who worked for Naaman’s wife told her about a man in Israel who could help him.

The king of Aram sent Naaman with a letter to the king of Israel. The letter said that Naaman was sent so that they could heal him. The king of Israel became upset because he was not God and had no power to heal this man!

Elisha heard about this, and he called Naaman to his house. Elisha told him to dip in the Jordan River seven times. Those were the instructions! Never before was a man healed from leprosy by dipping in the river!

Naaman was upset and began to leave. Elisha’s servants persuaded Naaman to do as he said. Naaman finally did what Elisha had said. Naaman’s skin was healed!

Naaman came back to Elisha and told him that he knew God was the one true God.

Here are the Conversation Starters for the kiddos:

  • Who was the prophet who replaced Elijah?
  • What disease did Naaman have?
  • Have you ever had chicken pox? Or a sunburn?
  • Do you know what leprosy is? (Explain that it is a skin disease that is very bad and eats away your skin. People with leprosy would be called unclean and shunned from society)
  • Was Elisha the one who healed Naaman? (No.)
  • Was the Jordan River the one that healed Naaman? (No.)
  • Who was the one who healed Naaman? (God.)
  • Has God ever healed you from something? (Parent: Talk about a time where God healed you.)

 

As always, adjust where needed! God bless.

When God Preaches to Me…While I’m Preaching

Sunday in the second service something remarkable happened. I’ve studied Romans 7 for years. God used this passage to rock my world many years ago and I have referred to it for years while counseling others. But God showed me something Sunday that I had never seen. It may be so obvious to you–but came to me near the end of Sunday’s sermon. The part in bold is what I’ve never before realized quite as powerfully as Sunday. (If you missed Sunday, you can hear the sermon here:http://graceforall.org/media.php?pageID=6)

So, as strange as this, I’m gonna quote from my own sermon:

Unless you realize that there is a victor who lives within you now, because you belong to Christ, who is also outside of you–the victor is both within and without–you will never win the battle over sin. When did he become victorious?  Jesus came, sinless one, and died on the cross. On the cross he didn’t have just one of your sins attached to himself, he had all of your sins attached to himself. He didn’t just have what you’ve done and plays through your mind like a broken record that you can’t get rid of, but for every human being who’s ever walked on the planet–imagine the multiplied guilt–put it on Christ on the cross and on the cross he died for those sins–every single one of them–once and for all.

But listen to this. As awesome as that is, if it ended there Paul said, “we are of all people most to be pitied.” That would be horrible–that the weight of our sin crushed him and that was it.

Friday followed by Saturday. The disciples fled. Mary cried. Joseph and Nicodemus buried his body. Judas is dead. Peter denied. Hope seems lost until early Sunday morning. Because early Sunday morning your sin was not powerful enough to keep him in the tomb! It wasn’t! And if your sin was not powerful enough to keep him in the tomb then, is your sin powerful enough to keep him down in your life today? NO!

This is why Paul writes in Romans 8:11:

If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.

So what is tripping you up? Wrecking your life? Derailing you? Jeremy Camp has put this brilliantly. Take a few minutes to listen:

A Loud Whisper

This week’s Conversation Starters focus in on the story of Elijah and how he ran from Jezebel. This story comes in 1 Kings 19. Last week we read in the previous chapter how Elijah was on Mt. Carmel with the prophets of Baal.

After God showed who the One True God was, He told Elijah to kill the prophets. King Ahab told his wife Jezebel what Elijah had done, and she was not happy. She sent word to Elijah that in one day, she would have him killed.

Obviously, Elijah was scared. He fled into the wilderness where Jezebel could not find him. He was so scared that he asked God to take his life! After he prayed this, he took a nap. It is crazy to think how Elijah went from one extreme to the other. He went from sheer panic and desperation to complete rest. Only God could provide such peace.

An angel came and spoke to Elijah and gave him food. Then, he went back to sleep. The angel awoke him once again to give him more food that would sustain him for 40 days.

He traveled to Mt. Horeb where he hid in a cave. God asked him why he was there and then told him to go stand out on the mountain. When he was on the mountain, a great wind came. It was so great it tore rocks off of the mountain. But God was not in the wind.

Then, there was an earthquake, but God was not in the earthquake. Then, there was a fire, but God was not in the fire. All of a sudden, Elijah heard a whisper. It was a soft voice. As God began to speak to him, he asked Elijah again what he was doing there. Elijah answered, “I have done my best to obey you. But these people are trying to kill me.”

God gave Elijah instructions on what to do next and Elijah was not killed by Jezebel.

Here are the Conversation Starters to have with your kiddos:

  • Elijah was scared of Jezebel. Have you ever been scared? (Parents: Tell of a time when you were scared.)
  • Did God protect Elijah? How?
  • Do you believe God protects you? If so, how? From what?
  • Elijah went 40 days without food. Do you think you can go 40 days without food?
  • How was Elijah able to do that? (God sustained him.)
  • So, there was a wind, an earthquake, and a fire. However, God was not in any of them was he? How did God speak to Elijah?
  • Why did God speak to God through a whisper? (Maybe because he was scared, and a whisper is what would calm him down.)
  • Elijah was a prophet who was hated by his enemies. Jesus was also hated by his enemies. What are some other similarities between Jesus and Elijah?
  • What are some differences?

As always, adjust where you need! God bless.

From a Byword to a Blessing

And as you have been a byword of cursing among the nations, O house of Judah and house of Israel, so will I save you, and you shall be a blessing. Zechariah 8:13

Dictionary.com defines “byword” as an object of general reproach, derision or scorn. Babylon succeeded in making sure Israel became that. Storming in the from the east, they ransacked the temple, destroyed the palace and pillaged cities and villages. Jerusalem, that city on a hill, became nothing more than a pile of rubbish. The walls broken down, the temple torn apart, this once great nation became a byword. The last thing burned into Judah’s mind was their king, Zedekiah, marched before the firing squad of his day, where he saw all of his sons executed, and then his own eyes gouged out so that his last visual memory would be the death of his own sons. Judah was a byword.

70 years later they returned. They sat among the rubble of the temple, unprotected by their broken city walls. Everywhere they looked they saw reminders of their sinful past…and the devastating consequences.

Somehow God looked amidst the rubble and saw restoration. Buried beneath layers of the past, God saw a future. He describes it in 8:4:

Old men and old women shall again sit in the streets of Jerusalem, each with staff in hand because of great age. And the streets of the city shall be full of boys and girls playing in its streets.

I must confess this completely caught me off guard. I thought surely God would picture a military power, a burgeoning economic giant, an international powerhouse. No! Here, God’s idea of greatness is not power, but peace.

His words to them:

Fear not, but let your hands be strong.

Fear not. Though your last national memory was the execution of your king’s sons. Fear not. Though your grand temple lies in ruins. Fear not. Though your once grand palace is inhabited by rodents. Fear not. Though your city walls no longer protect you.

 

How can they not fear? God speaks.

As I purposed to bring disaster to you when your fathers provoked me to wrath, and I did not relent, so again have I purposed in these days to bring good to Jerusalem and to the house of Judah.

Whatever your most recent memory in the rearview mirror of your life, God’s word to you today is fear not. When panic strikes, fear not. When guilt assails, fear not. When bills mount, fear not. One final word from God–it’s the last verse of chapter 8.

Thus says the Lord of hosts: In those days ten men from the nations of every tongue shall take hold of the robe of a Jew, saying, ‘Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you.’ (8:23)

Though you were once a byword (and we all were…that’s the Gospel), you’ll be a blessing. Fear not. God is with you.

 

I Will Trust You. In Good Times and Bad.

If you were not at Carson’s Chapel yesterday, then you missed a sight to behold. We baptized 31 people! Praise God! Of those 31, 14 of them were children!

God is faithful! The Gospel moves within the hearts of people of all ages. I’m so thankful to be a part of a church that encourages and supports life change!

My prayer for all of those baptized yesterday is that in the good times and in the bad times, they always trust that God loves them and truly has a plan for them. Sometimes it will feel like the plan isn’t what it should be, but God won’t leave you. He can’t leave you.

We can look to Scripture and find a man, Job, who went through trials of many kinds, but he kept his faith in our Almighty God! Job lost his livelihood and his children on the same day. His wife told him to curse God and die. His friends told him that he was being punished because of his sin.

However, Elihu reminded him that God was sovereign. For the Conversation Starter with your kids, please walk through this story with them. You can follow the story by asking these questions:

  • Has something bad ever happened to you? (Parent: tell of a time when something happened to you.)
  • How did you feel when this happened? (Sad, Mad, etc.) (Parent: tell them how you felt.)
  • Do you believe that God is always in charge?
  • Do you believe that God loves you?
  • Do you believe that God is powerful?
  • Well, if God is so loving and so powerful, why do these things happen?
  • Are we supposed to trust God even when bad things happen?
  • Read Job 19:25.
  • To “redeem” means to “buy back.” So, a “Redeemer” is someone who “buys back.” Who is Job’s Redeemer?
  • Who is our Redeemer? (Jesus)
  • Jesus bought us back with his death on the cross. God is so powerful and so loving that he sent Jesus to take the penalty for our sin.

As always, adjust where needed! God bless.

I Can’t Get Over This…and Don’t Want To

For years I’ve sung songs like “there is a fountain filled with blood drawn from Immanuel’s veins. And sinners plunged beneath that flood lose all their guilty stains.” I’ve meditated on this verse: “The dying thief rejoiced to see that fountain in his day. And there may I, though vile as he, wash all my sins away.”

Sunday we heard these words:

I’m no longer a slave to fear
I am a child of God.
From my mother’s womb
You have chosen me
Love has called my name.
I’ve been born again
Into your family
Your blood flows through my veins.

I have believed this for years. However, I’ve discovered that it’s one thing to believe this theologically, it’s another to believe it experientially–to actually incorporate this into my daily thinking.

Last night, at family devotions, we watched this video. I seldom share videos but it’s worth ten minutes. If you belong to Christ, this is your life in Christ. (I’m crying as I type this).

Watch. Be grateful. Share your thoughts on Facebook or on the blog. Encourage one another. Revel in his grace today.

 

All Good Things Come To An End?

Beautiful-Beach-Wallpapers-HD-Pictures

Ocean breeze, beautiful water, and not a care in the world is where I found myself last week. As Bethany and I were on vacation, I felt like I never wanted to leave. However, as a wise person once said, “All good things must come to an end.”

Do they? Do ALL good things come to an end? Yesterday in Kids Worship we discussed Solomon’s thoughts on life that he wrote in the book of Ecclesiastes.

Solomon wrote how apart from God, everything is meaningless. I didn’t feel this way while I was at the beach. However, when Saturday morning came, I felt it.

The money we earn will one day be gone, generations come and go, and our nature is to never be satisfied with the things of the world are a few things that Solomon discusses in this book.

There is one good thing that will not come to an end: God. He is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. Take these questions, and help your kids understand how everything is temporary and meaningless apart from God. With God, we have a purpose.

Here are the Conversation Starters:

  • Do you believe that God gave us talents?
  • Why did he give us talents?
  • So, if we use these talents without him, what good are they?
  • Do you have a game system? (Xbox, Nintendo Wii, etc.)
  • If you have games with no system, what would the use of the game be? (Worthless)
  • Read Ecclesiastes 1:8. (This means we are never satisfied.)
  • Will food satisfy us? (No, because in two hours you are hungry again.)
  • What is the only thing that will satisfy us? (Jesus)
  • Read John 4:13-14. (This means that earthly things will not satisfy. Only Jesus can.)

Adjust where needed! God bless.

Do Not Despise the Day of Small Things

For whoever has despised the day of small things shall rejoice, and shall see the plumb line in the hand of Zerubbabel. “These seven are the eyes of the LORD, which range through the whole earth.” (Zechariah 4:10 ESV)

Zerubbabel was Israel’s civic leader with a formidable task: rebuilding the temple. The temple lay in ruins, destroyed by the Assyrians. Twenty years had passed and no rebuilding had been done. No doubt there were naysayers, negative Nancys, pouting Pollys, barking Bobs. Before they could rebuild, they had to remove the rubble. And there’s no glory in rubble removal–it’s one tedious chunk after another.

However, days of small things are followed by moments of glory. We forget that, without the days of small things, there won’t be moments of glory. Noah spent up to 120 years building the ark–and a year riding in it to safety. Moses was on the backside of the desert 40 years, and spent one day crossing the Red Sea. Israel marched around Jericho for 7 straight days, and watched it fall in a few hours. Days of small things: moments of glory.

What is your day of small things? A fussy one-year old? A dirty diaper? Helping your aged mother into the shower? 10 hours on a Wednesday at work? One more semester in college? Correcting your teenager again…for the same thing you pointed out to her yesterday? Another day in singleness?

We love the miraculous, endure the mundane. We relish the glory, despise the groan. We celebrate the extraordinary, trudge through the ordinary.

When you’re sifting through the rubble remember there will be a day of rejoicing. Though Zerubbabel’s hands now held broken scraps of temple stone, one day they would hold the plumb line. One day he would measure corners, lay stones, build walls, erect altars, sew curtains, lead the people in celebration. Until then…the day of small things.

Jesus lived 33 years in relative obscurity, held neglected children, fed hungry commoners, angered religious elites. He endured six agonizing hours on a cross, three days in a tomb, and rose from the dead in a moment of glory.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:1-2 ESV)

Jesus endured the day of small things “for the joy set before him.” For whoever has despised the day of small things shall rejoice.

 

 

Proverbial Wisdom

Have you ever gone through a time in your life where you truly needed wisdom? I’m sure most of you have. The past two weeks in Kids Worship we have been discussing Solomon and his wisdom.

Solomon was so wise! He was so wise that he needed to share his wisdom, so he wrote the book of Proverbs.

Yesterday in Kids Worship, we walked through some of the verses that give us wisdom. These verses can spark awesome conversation with your kids. They also give you an opportunity to pour your own personal wisdom on them.

Here are the Conversation Starters for this week:

  • Solomon was the wisest king, should we listen to him?
  • Read Proverbs 1:7
  • What does fear the Lord mean? Does it mean to run away scared like when you see a spider??
  • What does this verse say about people who do not listen to wisdom? (They are fools)
  • So, when you parent or teacher gives you advice, should you listen?
  • Read Proverbs 3:5-6
  • Are you supposed to trust in the Lord with half of your heart?
  • What does it mean that he will make your paths straight?
  • Read Proverbs 4:14
  • What does this mean? (Don’t be friends with troublemakers)
  • Have you ever gotten in trouble because the person next to you was talking?
  • If you hang out with people who get in trouble, you eventually will. Should you listen to your parents about who you hang out with? (Yes)
  • Pray.

Adjust where you need to! God bless.