Resources for Parents

This past Sunday Jerry preached an amazing sermon that dealt with theology and application of parenting. For someone who is not a parent, his sermon was extremely beneficial! If you have not listened to it yet, click here to listen.

We also sold copies of a few great books to help equip parents for raising children in their home! Here are the books:

  • Praying Circles Around Your Children by Mark Batterson
  • Don’t Miss It: Parent Every Week Like It Counts by Reggie Joiner
  • Parenting by Paul David Tripp
  • Family Worship by Donald S. Whitney

We sold out of almost every one of these books! That’s awesome! If you weren’t here last Sunday and you missed it, don’t worry because we ordered more!

There are two more resources that I want reach out to you guys with. One is a podcast and the other is a book. The podcast is called: The Parent Cue. This podcast sits down with leaders in the Children’s Ministry world and talk about parenting.

Every podcast I have listened to has been extremely practical and helpful! As a matter of fact, it is transforming my ministry! If you want to subscribe to the podcast, click here. This podcast led me to find this book:

  • The 5 Love Languages of Children by Gary Chapman

Most of you may know who Gary Chapman is. Most of us know how we are loving people and our children. This book begs the question, “Do my children feel loved?”

What is the difference? Your love language may be physical touch. Because of that, you know how to love that way. You love your children this way. What if your child’s love language is not physical touch? Believe it or not, your child may not feel loved even if you hug them 26 times a day.

The 5 Love Languages of Children helps us determine what our children’s love languages are and also how to apply it. We will also be selling this book on Sunday at the Next Steps Desk if anyone is interested. I cannot put this book down!

This is transformative to the way I am doing ministry with your children. Bethany and I drove to Knoxville this past weekend and almost the entire trip there talked about your children and figuring out their love languages. Knowing them will change how I approach your children on Sunday mornings, Kids Camp, CentriKid, etc.

This book will help lay a foundation for the day that I do become a father…

Fattening Vegetables

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This picture does nothing for me. For some of you, you can look at this picture and wish to eat every single bite. For me, I would ask where the ranch dressing is!

Speaking of vegetables, yesterday in Kids Worship the kids talked about Daniel and his three friends: Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. You probably know them as Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.

When the Northern and Southern Kingdoms were overtaken by Babylon, King Nebuchadnezzar took all of the young men who were strong and smart to serve in his palace.

These four boys were a part of that group. They served God. They loved God. Nebuchadnezzar did not.

He wanted the boys to eat the same food that he ate. However, God had specific laws on food. One of the big takeaways from this story of Daniel and his friends is that we must always obey and worship God.

There will be people who try to convince us not to or to follow another path. But God is bigger than all of them. We are to please God, not man.

The boys would not eat what Nebuchadnezzar wanted them to eat. Daniel asked a man if he could eat other food. The man they asked feared that the king would kill him if he allowed this.

Daniel told the man that they wanted to only eat vegetables and water. He said in 10 days we will be healthier (leaner) than we were when we started. So, the man allowed it.

God truly blessed Daniel and his friends for standing up for what God wanted. God made laws for his people. The laws apply no matter where they find themselves.

Here are the Conversation Starters for this week:

  • Why are we supposed to obey God?
  • Do you think that Daniel and his friends were scared?
  • What gave them strength?
  • Has someone ever tried to convince you that you should sin?
  • Has someone ever told you that you shouldn’t follow God?
  • What was your response?
  • Are you going to eat your vegetables now?
  • Was it really the vegetables that made them strong? (No)

As always, adjust where needed. God bless!

Wake Up!

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Raise your hand if you need this to get up and going in the morning? (I’m raising mine!) This picture looks so good! Most of us need coffee to wake us up in the morning. You might even say that we need coffee to give us life in the morning!

Yesterday in Kids Worship, we talked about one of the craziest miracles in Scripture.

Ezekiel 37 gives us a glimpse of the vision that God gave to Ezekiel. In this vision, Ezekiel is standing in a valley that is full of dead, dry bones.

God asks Ezekiel, “Can these bones come to life?” Ezekiel answers by telling God that only He could know. God, then, tells Ezekiel to speak to the dry bones. Ezekiel does what he is asked.

All of a sudden, the bones began to move. There was a rattling sound. Bones began to come together. Tendons began to form around the bones. Then, flesh appeared on the bones. Lastly, skin formed on the flesh. But there was one thing missing: breath.

God told Ezekiel to speak to the lifeless bodies and command breath to come into them. And it did. To witness breath coming into these lifeless soldiers would have been breathtaking (pun intended).

Thousands of deceased soldiers took their first breath for the second time. Aside from creation, this gives us a clear glimpse of the fact that God gives life.

This is truly something we can all testify to. I know I can. Before Christ I was like one of those lifeless bodies laying in the valley.

After coming to know Christ, I know what it is like to take the first breath for the second time. He has given me hope, a purpose, and life.

I am praying for you as you discuss this story with your kiddos!

Here are the Conversation Starters:

  • Have you ever made something or created something?
  • Were you able to give that thing life?
  • I want you to take something you made and try to breath on it. See if it comes alive! (This may seem silly, but it will prove a point.)
  • Were you able to give it life?
  • Scripture tells us that God gave life by breathing into something. How is this possible?
  • Why can’t we give life that way?
  • Is it weird to think that God breathed life into you?
  • Do you think his breath stinks?
  • Other than when we are born, when else does God breathe life into us? (Salvation)
  • Another time when God breathes life into us is when we accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior. Have you done this?

As always, adjust where needed. God bless!

When Keeping Promises Hurt

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“Alan-Michael, come here!” This is the sentence that described in full detail what was about to happen next. Every single time my mother said those words my stomach dropped.

All of you have sat on the couch just like this while your mom or dad gave you the business, right?

When we think of keeping promises, we usually think the positive side of things. Things like: “I promise I will be there on time,” or “I promise to do my homework.” What about the promises there aren’t labeled as promises?

When your mom tells you, “If you lie to me, you will get a spanking.” This is also a promise. The word “promise” doesn’t have to be in the sentence to make it a promise.

God makes similar promises to his people so many times in the Old Testament. These usually come in the forms of warnings. One of those warnings he spoke through Jeremiah. To boil it down, God told his people that they needed to turn away from their sin or the Day of the Lord would descend upon them. This day is when a great army would take them over.

Here is the thing: God always keeps his promises. Even when they hurt.

So, this great army did come through Judah and take them over. King Josiah’s sons were taken over by them. Jehoahaz was king and the king of Egypt took him away and made Jehoiakim king. Jehoiakim reigned, then Jehoiachin, and then Zedekiah. All of which were taken captive by King Nebuchadnezzar. Eventually, the Babylonians captured and destroyed Jerusalem.

God’s promises seem harsh. Why?

Why is a child punished? They are punished to show right from wrong. The people of Israel continually and annoyingly turned their back on God. In order to show them the error of their ways, the punishment had to be drastic. And, he warned them, too.

Here are the Conversation Starters for this week:

  • Were you punished this week?
  • If so, why were you punished? If not, when was the last time you were punished?
  • What did you learn from that punishment?
  • Was the punishment worse than what you thought? Was it not as bad as you thought?
  • Do you think it was right for God to punish his people?
  • Do you think it was right for God to punish his people that way?
  • What would you learn being one of his children who was punished?

As always, adjust where needed. God bless!

Reaction To Every Action

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Well, I don’t think he was expecting this. Then again, I don’t think we expect a lot of things.

Some of the things we don’t expect are consequences of our sin. But here is the simple truth: Sin Has Consequences.

When you begin to read any of the Old Testament, you will begin to come to this conclusion pretty quickly. If you think about your sin in your life, you will realize the consequences of these actions.

Look at this poor guy getting hit in the face with a dodgeball. Somebody threw this ball at him. The consequences are as follows: the victim will probably have a big red spot on his face, the wife of the victim will be upset, the wife of the thrower will probably be upset, the victim may feel like nobody likes him anymore, and the list goes on.

You see how one decision causes a chain reaction of events. The consequences not only affected the one who threw the ball, but it also affected the victim and potentially more people.

Our sin has consequences. Period.

Jeremiah told the people of Judah that their sin was affecting everyone. He was telling the parents that their sin was affecting their children!

But, God was going to make a new covenant.

“This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel after that time,” declares the Lord“I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.” (Jeremiah 31:33 NIV)

Here are the Conversation Starters for this week:

  • Have you sinned this week?
  • What was it, and what were the consequences of that sin?
  • Did your sin affect somebody else?
  • Did you want to take back what you did when you saw that it affected someone else?
  • Did you know that your sin directly affects God?
  • Have you asked for forgiveness this week?
  • Let’s take some time to pray.

As always, adjust where needed. God bless!

What Are Your Plans?

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Does looking at this kid reading a real map make you laugh? The more I look at it, the more I think his smile means that he has no idea what is going on with that huge piece of paper. Ok, enough with that…

Ever felt lost? As parents, you most likely have. It is scary not knowing where you are or where you are going. Thank goodness for GPS…

Have your plans ever been ruined? I am one of those people who’s temper gets tested when plans don’t go how I envisioned them.

Here is the truth: With God, you are never lost. He has a real plan for our us.

The prophet Jeremiah came to this realization early. God told him in Jeremiah 1 that before Jeremiah was born, God knew him. Not only that, he had already appointed him to be a prophet!

Before he was even born?? Yes! God knows us before we are even born. Why? Because he makes us who he wants us to be. Obviously he would know us if he is the one making us!

Jeremiah came up with the excuse that he was too young to be used by God as a prophet. God told him to not say that.

Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you, declares the Lord.

(Jeremiah 1:8 ESV)

How comforting is it to know that God is with us? Extremely!

I remember as a kid driving to Disney World with my parents. I was probably ten years old the first time I went. I remember not worrying about the destination. I knew that my dad was going to get us where we needed to be. The twelve hour drive was nothing because my dad knew where he was going.

The peace that I felt is how we need to think about God’s guidance of our life. God knows where we are going. Do you want to be a backseat driver or have peace knowing that God has the directions?

Here are the Conversation Starters:

  • Have you ever been in the car with your parents and worried about getting somewhere?
  • Did you ever think your parents’ didn’t know where they were going?
  • What was your reaction to them?
  • Have you ever been in the car with them and felt comforted that they knew where they were going?
  • God is the driver for your life. No matter what he will never get lost. Even when your parents do, he will not.
  • Read Jeremiah 1:5.
  • Is it weird that before you were born, God knew you?
  • How could it be that God knew you before you were born?
  • God has a plan for you, what was God’s plan for Jesus?
  • How does God’s plan for Jesus affect you?

As always, adjust where needed. God bless!

Don’t Look! It’s Hideous!

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No, not this kid. This kid is adorable! Who doesn’t think a toddler in an Elmo costume is the cutest thing on the planet??

Happy Halloween, y’all! Some things on Halloween are fun to look at, but there are some things that are difficult to look at. Some things you actually have to turn away from because they are so hard to look at.

Theological crossing point here: God can’t look at sin. God cannot be a part of the nastiness of sin in our lives.

God’s hatred of sin is exactly why he calls us to also turn away from sin. He cannot look at sin because of the destruction that it brings to our lives. And yet we continue, in many ways, to live in it.

In the book of Joel, God warned the people of Judah that if they didn’t turn from their sin, a drought would occur and locusts would come in swarms and eat their crops.

So, guess what happened? A drought came and swarms of locusts ate everything.

Joel’s job as the prophet was to tell the people of Judah to turn from their sin before the Day of the Lord came! On this day, a great army will come and destroy them all!

The people of Judah didn’t know when this day would come, so they had better repent fast!

Jesus is coming back one day, and we don’t know when that day will come. We need to turn away from our sin quickly just like the people of Judah!

Sin is nasty and gross!

Here are the Conversation Starters for this week:

  • What is your favorite part about Halloween?
  • Do some of the costumes or decorations gross you out?
  • Is it hard to look at them? Why?
  • God feels this way about sin. Why does God hate sin so much?
  • Why does sin feel good to us?
  • What should we do about our sin?
  • Read Joel 2:13.
  • Do you think God will forgive our sins?
  • Scripture tells us that Jesus is coming back. When do you think he is coming back?

As always, adjust where needed. God bless.

Lord, Have Mercy

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This picture may not truly depict the actual fish that swallowed up Jonah, but it sure does get my heart pumping!

If you love the ocean, this picture excites you! If you are fearful of the ocean, this picture doesn’t help…

Regardless of the size or look of the fish, the fact still remains that Jonah spent three days in the belly of one. As nasty as this seems, this was actually to keep him from drowning.

You see, Jonah was given a task to go Nineveh and give them a message. The thing is, Jonah was scared to go to Nineveh because the people weren’t very nice. So, he decided to go the other direction.

He found his way on a boat, and out on the ocean there was this great storm. The ship’s crew was worried about it so they cast lots to see who is causing this trouble. The lot fell on Jonah.

They couldn’t figure out what to do, so Jonah told them to throw him overboard. So, they did. When Jonah hit the water, the storm stopped. The ship’s crew began to worship God!

However, Jonah couldn’t swim well. So, God sent a fish to swallow him up. For three days and three nights Jonah sat in the belly of the fish praying to God.

But I, with shouts of grateful praise, will sacrifice to you. What I have vowed I will make good. I will say, “Salvation comes from the Lord.” (Jonah 2:9 NIV)

After the fish spit him onto dry land, he went to Nineveh. He gave them the message that God would destroy them in forty days if they did not repent! What a message to give to a hostile crowd!

Thankfully they did repent. What we take from this story is God’s mercy. Jonah wasn’t a fan of God’s mercy to the Ninevites. However, Jonah forgot God’s mercy that was given to him out in the ocean.

Mercy is showing compassion when you can give punishment. 

We discussed God’s mercy yesterday in Kids Worship. Here are the Conversation Starters:

  • How was Jonah shown mercy?
  • Do you think you would do well in a fish for three days?
  • How was Nineveh shown mercy?
  • Did Nineveh deserve to be destroyed?
  • Have you ever been shown mercy? (Parent: tell of a time?)
  • How did God show us mercy?
  • How can we show mercy around our house? Our school?

As always, adjust where needed! God bless.

Unconditional Love

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The story of Hosea is one that rings out as a story about love. Hosea married a woman, Gomer, who was unfaithful.

This is the same kind of unfaithfulness that Israel shows to God. No matter how much God loves his people, they continually turn their back on him.

Gomer often ran away. However, God told Hosea to go after Gomer. So he did. Not only did he go after her, but he bought her back. Yes. He bought her back.

Hosea loved her even though she was unfaithful. God gave Hosea a love that would never give up. God wanted the people of Israel to hear about Hosea and his wife and understand that Israel was no different than Gomer.

God loves with a love that will never give up. Hosea pleaded with the Israelites to turn back to God.

Return, Israel, to the Lord your God. Your sins have been your downfall! Take words with you and return to the LordSay to him: “Forgive all our sins and receive us graciously, that we may offer the fruit of our lips.” (Hosea 14:1-2 NIV)

Like Hosea, God purchased us back. His love doesn’t give up. As Hosea purchased back Gomer with currency, God purchased us back through the blood of his Son.

Here are the Conversation Starters for this week:

  • Have you ever done something to make your parents mad? (Parents: give an example.)
  • Do your parents still love you even though you did something wrong?
  • Do you think it was hard for them to love you?
  • Why do you think Hosea still chased after Gomer?
  • Why do you think God still chases after us?
  • When you sin against God, do you pray and ask for forgiveness?
  • Do you think he forgives you?
  • How did he show he forgave you?
  • Take some time as a family and confess sins from this week. (Yes. Parents, too.) Then pray for God’s forgiveness.

As always, adjust where needed. God bless!

Can You Hear Me Now? Good.

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Can you hear me now? Good.

Paul Marcarelli is the famous Verizon customer who used that iconic line. To me, those commercials are pretty nostalgic. I didn’t have a phone when they first came out, but now I realize that no matter what service you have, you are bound to have a call dropped…

I used to have Sprint, and it happened a lot. I now have Verizon, and it still happens on occasion…in my own home.

The good news is that no matter what cell phone service you have, there are no dropped calls with God. God hears you every time.

Yesterday in Kids Worship, we talked about Hezekiah. Hezekiah was the son of Ahaz and king of Judah. Ahaz was an evil king, but Hezekiah was not.

The Assyrians were a military powerhouse, and they had already attacked Israel. They were now knocking on the doorstep of Judah. Hezekiah was scared.

Hezekiah sent a message to the prophet Isaiah. He asked Isaiah to pray for God to protect them. Isaiah told them what God said. He told them to not be afraid.

Hezekiah eventually went to the temple himself and prayed. He prayed for God to show the Assyrians that he was the one true God. Isaiah came to Hezekiah and told him that God heard his prayer.

Even when you ask God, “Can you hear me now?” the call will never be dropped, he will never step away from the phone, he was and will forever be tuned in to what you have to say.

Here are the Conversation Starters with your kids:

  • Have you ever prayed to God?
  • Do you think he is listening?
  • Has he ever answered one of your prayers? (Parent: tell of a time when he answered yours.)
  • What happens when you don’t get what you prayed for? Does that mean he wasn’t listening? (No.)
  • Does God always have to say “yes” for him to have answered your prayer? (No.) God can answer our prayers by saying “yes,” “no,” “not yet,” etc.
  • Why would God answer your prayer by saying “no”? (Parent: tell of a time God answered your prayer by saying “no.”)
  • Spend some time in prayer as a family.

As always, adjust where needed! God bless.