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The Salvation Story and Christmas

A Salvation presentation at Christmas? Isn’t that a bit heavy to share with your children in church during this season? Christmas is a merry, joyful and happy time; a season of excitement and anticipation. Should we really be talking about the death of Jesus at a time like this?

One word: YES!

Christmas first and foremost is the celebration of the start of the Salvation Story. We all know that Jesus came to this earth to live as a Man while remaining fully GOD, He lived a perfect life. As GOD and Man, He took the punishment for our sins, so that we wouldn’t be required to take the penalty ourselves. Then, on the third day, He rose again and gave us the glorious hope that we too will rise again and be with Him in Heaven for all eternity. When we accept Him as our Savior, His gift of righteousness is placed upon us, and our sins are covered in His blood that was shed on the cross. Therefore, when GOD the Father sees us, He sees only the righteousness of Jesus, allowing us to now have a relationship with Him.

This righteousness that Jesus gives us is a gift that is, and will forever be, the greatest gift we could ever receive. This gift opens up the door to living the life that GOD has for us. A life of fulfillment. A life of selflessly giving ourselves for others in the name of Jesus. A life where GOD promises to do great things through us and ends with us joining Him in Heaven and spending all eternity in a place that is so wonderful even our wildest dreams are but a shadow of its glory. However, in order for the children in your ministry to receive this gift, you must first present it to them. Just telling the story of Jesus being born as a baby doesn’t adequately communicate the point of the gift He is to all of us, a gift that culminated with His sacrifice for us on the cross and resurrection on the third day.

This is why the salvation story should be presented at Christmas. Children look forward to opening presents on Christmas morning. They enjoy the anticipation and the excitement of imagining the fun they will have while playing with those gifts and the happiness the gifts will bring. But those earthly gifts are temporary and fleeting. Children must also be thinking about the greatest gift that was given to them on Christmas morning. They should enjoy the anticipation of the life He promises to provide them. They should also experience the giddiness of looking forward to the beautiful life they will have in Heaven; a place where they will have happiness and joy, unlike any they will ever experience here on earth. 

Jesus is the greatest gift to humanity, and it all started on Christmas morning. Give your children the greatest gift you could ever present to them and allow them to open the gift of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. Give them the chance to experience the joy of becoming His child and all the wonderful things that entails. After all, with as many kids who come only twice a year, this may be your only chance to share Jesus’ gift with them. Take advantage of this opportunity to give them the glorious hope they can only find within GOD’S plan for their life.  So once again yes, share the hope of Jesus during this time of year and help every child to see that Salvation is what Christmas is all about!

That’s A Wrap! Christmas series includes the salvation message in lesson 2. Go to iseeitproductions/christmas to learn more.

Behind the Scenes Children’s Ministry Leadership Ministry Production Uncategorized Volunteers

How do you know when it’s time to go?

For 25 years I was the Children’s Pastor at Fellowship Church. When I started, I knew beyond the shadow of a doubt that GOD had called me there and my plan was to ultimately retire there. But sometimes GOD’S plans are not our plans, which I discovered anew as He began to challenge my heart to move onto His next adventure for me.

So, this begs the question. What do you do when you think GOD is leading you toward a new future that you never dreamed of? How do you know that it is truly GOD calling you into that future? When you begin anything in life, how do you know that GOD is truly leading you? These are questions that have far-reaching ramifications and if you don’t know the answer to them you will lead a very wandering, unfulfilled life. Recently I addressed these questions with my good friend Tom Bump in his podcast Kid’s Ministry Collective. If you listen to it at 1.5 speed you can be done in 30 minutes or so. My prayer is that by living out these biblical principles you can know beyond a shadow of a doubt that GOD’S plan is your plan. Click here to listen

Behind the Scenes Children’s Ministry Eternal Thinking Leadership

Servant Leadership Basics

For those of us in leadership positions of any kind, this is a great statement on Servant Leadership…

“Yet when we are in charge of people, we are called to be their servant. We must treat others with respect, care for their human needs and seek what is best for them, even as we seek the best for the organization in which we are a leader.” Theologyofwork.org

Seek the best for those we lead as we also seek the best for the organization we represent. A challenging, but worthy goal.

Children’s Ministry Leadership Parenting Volunteers

Standing Up – A Beatitude Devotional

We grow up wanting to be like our heroes. We admire them for standing up against any opposition to do the right thing, and riding into town to save everyone. But when it is time for us to saddle up and ride, it suddenly doesn’t feel exciting anymore. When heroes ride in to face the bullets of the bad guys we feel like joining them, but when standing up for what is right means we might face some cross words from co-workers or friends, we feel like backing down. How is it that facing the disapproval of others can sometimes stop us in our tracks as effectively as a hail of bullets?

In moments like that, we need to remember that there is only one opinion that matters and one person’s approval that we must seek – God’s. If we are truly following God, then going against opposition will not be unusual. Jesus told His followers that they would be dragged before courts and rulers and would face opposition and trouble. He also told them that He would be with them and that He would give them the words to say in those situations.

When we face opposition, we need to remember that we are not the Lone Ranger. We don’t have to ride in by ourselves. God is with us. That doesn’t mean that we won’t suffer. But it does mean that we will be blessed and, in the end, we can’t lose.

“For the LORD God is our sun and our shield. He gives us grace and glory. The LORD will withhold no good thing from those who do what is right.” Psalm 84:11 (NLT)

“So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up.” Galatians 6:9 (NLT)

“God blesses those who are persecuted for doing right, for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs.” Matthew 5:10 (NLT)

READ: Peter and John Stand Up to the Council – Acts 4:1-22.

This is the teacher devotional from the Elevate series Altitude Kids. To learn how you can teach these beatitudes lessons to the kids in your ministry, check out ElevateKidsNow.com.

Children’s Ministry Leadership Parenting Volunteers

Work For Peace – A Beatitude Devotional

When I was growing up, if there was a fight at school, our natural instinct was not to stop it, but to gather around and watch. When the teachers would come to break up the fight and restore peace, they would have to fight through our circle to get to the kids who were fighting. It takes a very brave person to be willing to risk getting between those who are fighting, but if we work for peace as Jesus taught about, we won’t let conflicts get to that point.

When conflict arises between two people, as an outsider, the first instinct is to avoid getting involved. The attitude of “not my problem” is popular because it is easy. It’s tempting to think that we won’t be touched by other peoples’ conflict. However, unresolved conflict can destroy relationships, families, companies, and even churches. It doesn’t take long for a conflict across our border to turn into a regional conflict that we can be dragged into even if it isn’t “our problem.” Instead of looking the other way, we should take steps to intervene.

1. Pray that God will give you the right words and that He will help you find a solution.
2. Find out what the problem or the disagreement is.
3. Get everyone to talk calmly and to try and see each other’s point of view.
4. Encourage people to work toward a solution and find a compromise.

These steps will help us to help others resolve conflicts before they turn into fights. Working for peace is hard work, but working for peace identifies us as “children of God”. That should always be our goal.

“And those who are peacemakers will plant seeds of peace and reap a harvest of righteousness.” James 3:18 (NLT)

“Turn away from evil and do good. Search for peace, and work to maintain it.” Psalm 34:14 (NLT)

“God blesses those who work for peace, for they will be called the children of God.” Matthew 5:9 (NLT)

READ: Paul Intercedes for Onesimus – The book of Philemon.

This is the teacher devotional from the Elevate series Altitude Kids. To learn how you can teach these beatitudes lessons to the kids in your ministry, check out ElevateKidsNow.com.

Children’s Ministry Leadership Parenting Volunteers

Refining – A Beatitude Devotional

The process of refining, or purifying, gold is long, difficult, technologically challenging, and hard work. The purest gold in the world was refined at the Perth Mint in Australia in 1957-58 and had a millesimal fineness rating of 999.999. Today a one ounce gold bar from the Perth Mint is worth over $1,700. But gold is not the only product that banks on it’s purity. If you believe the advertisements, there are an awful lot of “pure” products out there. You can buy pure juice, pure Colombian coffee, pure soap, pure diamonds, pure cotton, pure baby food, pure silk, and yes, even pure manure. Then there are products that promise to purify what you have. You can purify your water, your skin, your carpet, your floors, your air, your
hair, and even your digestive tract. Our world is obsessed with purity of every kind, except moral. And we want purity to come easily in a pill form or a plug-in appliance. But just like the process of refining gold, moral purity, the most important kind of purity, takes time, takes maturity, takes work, and takes making hard choices. Pure gold has hardly anything
else in it, because all the impurities have been extracted. If our lives are to be pure, then we need to extract all the impurities.

What is an impurity in your life? Anything that competes with doing what God wants. Anything that competes with going to church, reading your Bible, spending time in prayer, or telling others about Him is something to remove from
your life. Purity is, many times, about saying “no” to some things so that you can say a bigger “yes” to bigger things. Jesus says that the pure in heart will “see God.” When you are saying “no” to things for the sake of purity, remember that seeing God is far more interesting than anything we might miss.

“How can a young person stay pure? By obeying your word.” Psalm 119:9 (NLT)

“And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.” Philippians 4:8 (NLT)

“God blesses those whose hearts are pure, for they will see God.” Matthew 5:8 (NLT)

READ: Jesus Teaches About Purity – Matthew 15:1-20.

This is the teacher devotional from the Elevate series Altitude Kids. To learn how you can teach these beatitudes lessons to the kids in your ministry, check out ElevateKidsNow.com.

Children’s Ministry Leadership Parenting Volunteers

Show Mercy – A Beatitude Devotional

There are at least two reasons we find it hard to show mercy. One is that our first instinct is to strike back. Imagine getting a poisonous snake bite. Striking back at the snake or chasing after it is foolish. You will only get upset, raise your heart rate, and spread the poison further. Not to mention that you could be bitten again! What you should do in that situation is to let the snake go, seek first aid, get the poison out, and slow the poison’s spread by controlling your emotions, and slowing your breathing and heart rate. Striking back at those who hurt us in life is like poisoning ourselves. Instead, we should control our emotions and let the pain go, by showing mercy.

Another reason we find it hard to show mercy is that we don’t think that people deserve mercy. But that is extraordinarily foolish! When you think “he doesn’t deserve mercy” you have just identified someone who is eligible for mercy. That’s what makes it mercy – it is undeserved. No one, including us, deserves mercy. Mercy is giving someone another chance when he or she does not deserve it, just like Jesus did for us and for the woman in the Bible Lesson today.
Jesus showed mercy to the woman caught in adultery despite what she deserved. The law she had broken was His. The heart she had broken was His. He knew far more intimately than her accusers what she had done. He, more than anyone else present, would be justified in striking back at her and giving her the punishment she earned. But he showed her mercy. Jesus treats us with undeserved mercy and if we are following His example we must resist the urge to strike back, and remember that we can only show mercy to people who don’t deserve it.

“This is what the LORD of Heaven’s Armies says: Judge fairly, and show mercy and kindness to one another.” Zechariah 7:9 (NLT)

“There will be no mercy for those who have not shown mercy to others. But if you have been merciful, God will be merciful when he judges you.” James 2:13 (NLT)

“God blesses those who are merciful, for they will be shown mercy.” Matthew 5:7 (NLT)

READ: Jesus Forgives an Adulterous Woman – John 8:1-11.

This is the teacher devotional from the Elevate series Altitude Kids. To learn how you can teach these beatitudes lessons to the kids in your ministry, check out ElevateKidsNow.com.

Children’s Ministry Leadership Parenting Volunteers

Love and Justice – A Beatitude Devotional

beatitude

There are two images of Jesus that people many times have a hard time reconciling. What does Jesus lovingly sitting with the children (Mark 10:16) have in common with the Jesus that we find wielding a whip to drive out people and animals from the Temple? Those two images might seem contradictory, but really they are about the same thing: access to God. Before Jesus lovingly held the children, He angrily rebuked His disciples for standing in their way. And the system that was allowed to grow up in the Temple courts was standing in the way of God’s people being able to pray and worship Him. After Jesus drove out those who were abusing their position, the outcasts, the blind, and the lame were able to come in and worship.

Jesus cleared the room of bullies and made room for the outcasts. Jesus cared for the outcasts. He loved them. Love doesn’t just mean hugs and snuggles. It means protection. We can’t show love to others and not be willing to stand up and protect them in unfair situations. The actions we take might be less dramatic than making a whip and chasing people with it, but they can definitely make a difference. A kind word to someone who has been hurt, a firm rebuke to someone using cruel language, a vote cast to protect the innocent, or a hug around someone who has been excluded are all actions that show others God’s love. As followers of Christ, we have to show God’s love to victims of injustice and teach our children to do the same.

“Learn to do good. Seek justice. Help the oppressed. Defend the cause of orphans. Fight for the rights of widows.” Isaiah 1:17 (NLT)

“You stand up to judge those who do evil, O God, and to rescue the oppressed of the earth.” Psalm 76:9 (NLT)

“Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.” 1 Corinthians 13:7 (NLT)

“God blesses those who hunger and thirst for justice, for they will be satisfied.” Matthew 5:6 (NLT)

READ: Jesus Cleanses the Temple – Matthew 21:12-17 and Mark 11:15-19.

This is the teacher devotional from the Elevate series Altitude Kids. To learn how you can teach these beatitudes lessons to the kids in your ministry, check out ElevateKidsNow.com.

Children’s Ministry Leadership Parenting Volunteers

Selfless Humility – A Beatitude Devotional

humility beatitude

A lack of humility tells you a lot about people. It tells you that they don’t understand that they are a part of something bigger. It tells you that they don’t recognize the contributions and value of others. It tells you they overestimate their own importance. And most of all it tells you that they aren’t looking any further than their own benefit. The opposite of humility may be pride, but often the cause of not being humble is selfishness.

Jesus calls us to a radical kind of selfless humility; the same kind of humility that He demonstrated. Just as He set aside the privilege and power of His position and became one of us, we need to be willing to set aside privilege and power, remembering that we are not better than those around us. Just as He took the lowest place, of a servant, washing His disciples’ feet, we should take lowly jobs with joy, knowing that we are never more like Jesus than when we are serving others. And just as Jesus put our needs above His own desires by dying for us on the cross, we should be willing to give up our desires in order that others’ needs may be fulfilled.

John the Baptist knew how to do just that. He knew that his purpose was to set up Jesus to succeed. What John’s disciples saw as a failure, he recognized as success. He knew that if people were repenting and coming closer to God, then his purpose was being fulfilled even if it wasn’t directly through him. John didn’t want the spotlight. He wanted the message to be heard. We have a choice. We can be like John’s disciples, selfishly wanting our own way and our own reward, or we can choose to be like John, concerned not with whether our position is advancing, but whether the message of Jesus is advancing.
“Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too. You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross.” Philippians 2:3-8 (NLT)

“God blesses those who are humble, for they will inherit the whole earth.” Matthew 5:5 (NLT)

READ: John the Baptist Shows Humility – Mark 1:7, John 3:22-31, Matthew 11:11.

This is the teacher devotional from the Elevate series Altitude Kids. To learn how you can teach these beatitudes lessons to the kids in your ministry, check out ElevateKidsNow.com.

Children’s Ministry Leadership Parenting Volunteers

The Source of Comfort – A Beatitude Devotional

beatitude

It’s funny that some of the most ordinary things can bring us comfort. Our own bed, when we have been away from it for a while, can seem like a full body hug of comfort. Food can bring comfort too, like that special dish that our mom or dad makes that only comes out right when he or she makes it. Sometimes all it takes for the whole world to seem better is a favorite pair of jeans or a favorite old t-shirt. Perhaps getting comfort from these people and things is one reason that we sometimes forget or fail to seek comfort from the most extraordinary person in our lives: Jesus. When we go through something that shakes us, that causes us pain, we need to remember that Jesus is available to us right where we are if we will just turn to Him. Jesus came to Mary and Martha after Lazarus had already died.

Martha went to meet Jesus, and He comforted her. Then she went to Mary and encouraged her to go to Jesus, and He comforted her. Jesus felt and shared their pain and He joined them in sorrow, weeping with them. Why did He weep if He knew what was about to happen? Was He acting? Playing for the crowd? No. He was comforting them by joining them in their grief and He will do the same for us. We often only think of Jesus when we want a miracle. Martha and Mary both say to Jesus, “If only you had been here, my brother would not have died.” But before the extraordinary and miraculous, Jesus’ actions are humble, simple, and loving. He reminds Martha of the promises of God through scripture.

He joins them in weeping. He goes with them to the grave. Then He raises Lazarus. But Jesus didn’t raise Lazarus to comfort Mary and Martha. He didn’t even do it for Lazarus. He did it, “…for the sake of all those standing here, so that they will believe you sent me.” (John 11:43) Go to Him for comfort before you go for a miracle. Seek comfort in prayer, by reading God’s Word, and by simply reminding yourself that you aren’t alone. Jesus comforted Martha and Mary and He will comfort you as well.

“‘Comfort, comfort my people,’ says your God.” Isaiah 40:1 (NLT)

“Your promise revives me; it comforts me in all my troubles.” Psalm 119:50 (NLT)

“He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.” 2 Corinthians 1:4 (NLT)

“God blesses those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” Matthew 5:4 (NLT)

READ: Jesus Comforts Martha and Mary – John 11.

 

This is the teacher devotional from the Elevate series Altitude Kids. To learn how you can teach these beatitudes lessons to the kids in your ministry, check out ElevateKidsNow.com.