Children of God – Keep Learning

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Sunday I talked about listening like a child, Monday was trusting like a child and Tuesday was seeking comfort like a child. Today I am going to talk about learning like a child. Have you ever witnessed a child learning something new, or watched them captivated by something they have never seen before? When I am working with the toddlers, there is always something that amazes them. They are amazed by the fake ice cream, that can really be scooped, and stays on the ice cream cone. (It’s a feat achieved through the use of magnets.) They are amazed by how well I can braid their hair. They love learning how to read their name, etc. They learn in earnest, they are open to instruction, they are in nearly constant wonderment by the things around us.

 

The passage in Matthew that talks about having faith like a child is this, Matthew 19:13-15 “Then people brought little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them and pray for them. But the disciples rebuked them. Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.’ When he had placed his hands on them, he went on from there.”

 

When I picture this passage, I think that the children must have been curious about Jesus, and they wanted to know him. Jesus sees that in these children and he welcomes them. This is a beautiful picture that I think we need to emulate in our own lives, no matter our age, when we are learning more about our God and his son Jesus. These children wanted so much to see Jesus, and they wanted to know, what was going on around them. They were aware, and they were open to what they were going to learn. There was no prejudice, or judgement, or reservations. They wanted to meet Jesus, begin a relationship, etc.

 

I have also spent time teaching children at church camp, and some of the most amazing things is watching how impressed, or surprised the children are with the littlest things. They are amazed that God created butterflies, they are in bewilderment that God created flowers, they are captivated by the stories about Jonah, and Noah, and many other important people in the Bible. Children consume these stories with a deep desire to know more, and develop an understanding, and I think when we grow up we sometimes lose this passion and fire for learning. We think we know it all, or we are scared of how little we know and become overwhelmed by the thought.

 

Now think about your own life, do you have a passion for learning more about God? Do you have a desire to learn as much as you can about almost anything and everything, especially in regards to God, and his plans for us? I know that I do not always feel like I want to learn, I do not always feel like taking the time to study, and practice and learn from people wiser than myself. However, we should always try to find this fire for God’s word, this passion and earnest for learning in general, just like the children in our lives who are learning and wanting to learn about almost everything. They are our example, in having a deep faith. They may not realize it, and you may not either, but children are an example, we should give this example more credit and pay attention on how to apply this idea to our own lives.

 

A song for today is “How Great is Our God” by Chris Tomlin.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KBD18rsVJHk

 

~Jana Swanson

 

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Children of God – Be Comforted by the Almighty

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So far this week we have covered listening like a child and trusting like a child. These are two of the components that make up having childlike faith. Today I plan to talk about where we should be looking for our comfort. Children need to be comforted; sometimes they get hurt and they need a hug, or they get scared and they need an embrace to feel safe. Sometimes they do not know what is wrong, they just know that something does not feel right, and they need to be held by someone that they love, or who is important to them. Children also need to have someone that they can talk to in these situations, and feel supported. My daycare kids are the same way; when they are home they run to their parents to address this need, however when in daycare they usually have a primary caregiver, a person that they connect with and need in situations like I mentioned. Guess what, even adults are like these children. Sometimes we rely on people to fulfill this need, even if we know it will not be good for us in the long run. Sometimes we are distracted by people, when we should be leaning on God.

 

Some verses for today: Psalm 118:5-9 “When hard pressed, I cried to the Lord…The Lord is with me; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me? The Lord is with me; he is my helper. I look in triumph on my enemies. It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in humans. It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in princes.

 

Psalm 18:1-2 “I love you, Lord, my strength. The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.

 

Deuteronomy 31:6 “Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you, or forsake you.”

 

God has always promised us that if we call on him, he will be there for us. He will not leave us or forsake us, because he loves us, protects us and takes care of us. Even though this is amazing, it can be really scary to rely on someone that you haven’t seen, or haven’t felt their embrace. However, God is the greatest shelter and the greatest comforter that we could ever hope to have. He will never leave you, he will never abandon you. God is our champion, always encouraging us to live in ways that will glorify him and take care of his people. God will always support us in following the plans that he has for our lives. It is our job to lean into him, and trust that what he says is true, and trust that he will protect us, care for us, and provide us with comfort when we need it.

 

A song for today is “Shout to the Lord” by Hillsong Worship https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5_aIauL2xKA

~Jana Swanson

 

Children of God – TRUST

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Today I am going to focus on trusting God. I have talked about this topic before, most likely because this is something that I personally struggle with. That being said, I am going to focus more on trying to have trust like a child, since this week I am focusing on having faith like a child, and each of the components that go along with that. In many different places in the Bible Christians are referred to as children of God, I believe that this is incredibly intentional (as is most things that can be found in the Bible), but even more so with this phrase. God could have said, that we are his people, which he does, but this is not what we are referred to as in every instance in the Bible. We are children of God, he loves us and cares for us, and calls us to have a child-like faith. Matthew 18:3 says, “ Truly, I tell you, unless you change and become like the little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”

In my classroom, I have about 8 kids every single day, and they rely on me to make sure that they get breakfast, lunch, and a snack. They rely on me to take them outside, or on a walk. Some of them are working on being potty-trained, so they rely on me to change their diapers. They rely on me to facilitate discussion between them and their friends about whose turn it is with the babydoll in the classroom. There is more than just this “reliance” though. These children simply trust that what I say is true, that what I am telling them is the right thing to do. They trust that the food I am giving to them is good for them and will fuel their bodies. They trust that I am going to braid their hair if they ask, give them hugs if they need them, or pick them up when they fall down. They trust that I am going to be excited about them trying something new, or climbing across the tires on the playground, but they also trust that when they fall and scrape their knee, I am going to comfort them and get them a bandaid. These children trust that I am going to meet their every need while they are at daycare with me. They do not expect that I am going to meet every want, but they do trust that I am going to take care of their every need.

Do we do that in our daily lives as Christians? Do you truly believe that God has your back and is going to provide for your every need? Do you trust that he hears your every want and every prayer? Because God tells us he hears us, and that he will make sure that our every need is met. He doesn’t promise us an easy life without any hiccups, but he does promise to meet our needs. We should be looking to the children in our lives that may rely on us, and trust us to take care of them, and see that example in them. That reliance and trust they have in us, is something that we need to try to emulate in our relationship with God.

Philippians 4:19 “And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.”

2 Peter 1:3 “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence”

Romans 8:32 “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?”

Matthew 6:28-34 “28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

Today, I am going to challenge you to trust God. Trust him like a child would. Lean on him, rely on him and truly work on believing that what he says and what his word says is true. God comes through for us on our promises, and he makes sure that we have what we absolutely need. It may not always seem like that to us, but Jesus’ words in Matthew, tell us that God even clothes the flowers and the grass, and they do no work. If we believe in him, have faith in him, and trust him (like a child) would he not care for us at least as much as the grass of the field, if not more?

A song that I have for you today actually comes from Aaron Winner. “You Make The Flowers Grow” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yE8xGez3AOY

~Jana Swanson

Listening Like a (Faithful) Child

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This week I am going to talk about what it means to have faith like a child. I am currently an assistant teacher in a YMCA child development center, for a toddler classroom. The children that I work with the most are around the ages of 2 and 3. Throughout my day as an assistant teacher, there are many different elements that go into the teaching and caring for my 2 and 3 year olds. They have to listen, share, trust, sometimes they need comfort and sometimes they cry just because they do not yet have the vocabulary to fully tell me what it is that they need.


Today’s topic is listening like a child, especially when we are listening for God. Some verses about listening are here:

Luke 11:28 “He replied, ‘Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it.’”

James 1:22 “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.”

Proverbs 16:20 “Whoever gives heed to instruction prospers, and blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord.”

Matthew 7:24 “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house upon the rock.”

Philippians 4:9 “Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me -put it into practice and the God of peace will be with you.”


All of these verses are about listening, but many of these verses include the two parts that listening is made up of: hearing and doing. When I am speaking with my toddlers there are some things they need to do; hear what I am saying and do what I ask, even if they do not see or understand the reason. For example, when we walk the hallways in our center, on the way to different activities we ask our toddlers to hold onto the railing. This is an extra measure that keeps them safe, however some of them do not understand how or why it could be dangerous to them if they let go of the railing. God is the same way- there are things he teaches us through his word that will be harmful to us; we may not understand but we should listen to him anyway. There will be times in our own lives when God is going to be telling us something, asking us to hear and do, and we may not always understand the reason behind it.


Daily I am amazed by my toddlers, because most of the time when I ask them to hold their railing, or move their milk cup closer to the center of the table, or to walk in the classroom, they hear me and do what I see, even if I do not give them a reason. This is because I have a relationship with them, and they trust that I am doing what I can to protect them, care for them, teach them, and make sure they are safe. This is one way that faith like a child is important for us to recognize and practice in our own lives. Do you hear what God says to you, and do it without question? If not, maybe we should consider that call to listen, that call to have child-like faith. Today, I challenge you to try to listen for God and do what he asks you, without question and see what happens in your life.


Tomorrow I am going to talk more in-depth about the trust of a child, since that will follow today’s topic nicely. I also saw that Andrew Cheatwood, who wrote for last week included a song that he was impacted by each day, and this is something I have done in the past and have enjoyed, so I would like to continue the trend this week. The song that I have chosen for today is “Trust in You” by Lauren Daigle https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n_aVFVveJNs


~Jana Swanson

Your Mouth

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We’ve heard it said that there are two things that demonstrate what a person really cares about: his checkbook and his calendar. This is definitely a very good point that resonates with most of us I would think. How much money did we spend this week on anything of spiritual value or eternal significance or even for anything other than ourselves? (And if we did give to some noble cause. . .did we do it humbly and privately or feel the need to “sound our trumpet” for the applause of men mentioned in Matthew 6:2?) How much time did we spend earning money, planning how to earn money in our future, talking or thinking about money? And okay, we could say the same for our calendars too. Clearly, as we can see from the general lack of church attendance in our society, a mentality that “church is a place you go to once or twice a week” versus a community of people in whom you are sharing life, and the increasing time demands of any secular activity, for the vast majority of us, our calendars are not going to indicate a priority of God or the church compared to work/school/hobbies/not to mention anything to do with electronic devices. In fact, we live in a world where people get repetitive strain conditions from too much screen time, we have conditions of workaholics, hoarders, internet search histories full of wasted time (or even worse), and the list goes on. Clearly, we often misuse or mindlessly use our checkbook and calendars.   And while this is an excellent lesson to prove the point that we need more decisions/thoughts/actions with God involved with our use of time and money. . . it does seem to overlook one area we have certainly found equally convicting. Our MOUTHS!

For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of. (Luke 6:45, NIV)

This verse reminds us that our words evidence what our hearts and minds are filled with. And if we are intentionally seeking to increase or develop our relationships which God graciously made possible through the gift of His son, Jesus, then we will find our words more filled with His spirit and grace and wisdom. But, not just speaking “kindly” and “politely” and those kinds of things. . .words indicating a care/knowledge/priority in thoughts of eternal significance. The older we get, the more we’ve noticed that there are some people who just stand out because their conversation topics and things they generally/casually talk about are centered around God in some capacity.  When we are at their house for dinner, we are asked about our faith, we hear different things about their church backgrounds and doctrinal thoughts, they tell us about some Creation Science information they ran across recently, and maybe even share books/DVDs with us of a spiritual value. We leave their house having learned something or having thought about something that matters without having heard a word of gossip or complaint. But, this really isn’t typical, is it?

Many of our conversations with Christians look and sound no different than if we were talking to anyone else. We hear/talk about the weather, sports, politics, school, camping, work, and Facebook threads (and whatever those other Social media things are for younger and cooler people than us). Sadly, we hear gossip, slander, anger, whining, and pride on a regular basis too. . .certainly even in church. And, the Christians who stand out as unique are the ones who make it clear that they actually think about God frequently. How sad. Aren’t we asked to meditate on Him daily (Psalm 1:1-3)? And, aren’t we awfully weak in this? We need to improve in this area individually, as families, and as a church. We need our hearts to be filled with God so our conversations naturally overflow with His spirit. We don’t need to have friends over and get out fifteen Bible study tools and sit and discuss Greek and Hebrew translations. We don’t need to talk about scripture itself all the time, and we certainly don’t need to eliminate friendly, relational talk of a variety of interests. But, we do desperately NEED to fill our hearts with more God and less of the world. When we do this, our church family will benefit, and our mouths will overflow with truth and love so that we are not just a “resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.” (1 Corinthians 13:1, NIV). After all, this isn’t a new idea:

“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.  Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.”  (Deuteronomy 6:4-7, NIV)

 

–Brian and Jennifer Hall

 

United in Hope

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I remember learning in a college psychology class that the two emotions most commonly selected by people meeting the criteria for clinical depression are guilt and shame. I saw the list that was given out in the assessment, and it included lots of others that I thought might have topped the list. Ones like grief, anger, fear, sadness, despondence, loneliness, rejection, etc. But, the two that were the most common consistently were guilt and shame. At the time I was a little surprised by that just because there were so many choices and they all seemed so “depressing”, but as the years go by, I am more surprised that I was surprised.

That is because guilt and shame are crippling and powerful negative emotions that we all experience. In definition, guilt and shame are a bit separated in the sense that guilt refers to the feeling associated with our behavior while shame is associated with a negative feeling of ourselves. Sin causes both. Because we all sin, we all experience the devastation of both emotions. And in a world where we find ourselves with divisions of race, socioeconomic class, culture, language,  and background. . . let it be known. . .we all experience guilt and shame because we are all guilty and shameful. If there is one thing uniting us all, it is that we are all intrinsically unworthy desperately in need of a savior. There aren’t those who are “really guilty” and those who are a “little guilty”. And even if that were the case, I think I’d want to be the former because in human reasoning, that is where the “man after God’s own heart” falls, and I believe those who recognize their unworthiness also recognize their need for God more. The human race is made up of innately sinful people completely unrighteous and unworthy constantly falling short of our perfect sovereign God.

“As it is written: “There is no one righteous, not even one” (Romans 3:10, NIV)

“The LORD looks down from heaven on all mankind to see if there are any who understand, any who seek God. All have turned away, all have become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one. (Psalm 14:2-3)

But, long before our existence God knew this and had an eternal plan. A plan to send a savior, His begotten son, Jesus.  So, while we experience that guilt and shame, we are also able to experience mercy, forgiveness, and hope. His desire is not to condemn us because of our guilt, but to save us from it. We feel shame because we don’t deserve that love and favor, but despite how we feel about it, it is there for the taking. Always. Again and again.

“For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved”  (John 3:17, NIV)

“For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:21, NIV)

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (I John 1:9, NIV)

Just as we are united in the sense that we all sin and experience guilt and shame, we are also able to share forgiveness and hope together. We all have the opportunity to be forgiven by God, but not so we can “feel better”. . . so we can glorify Him. One of the most beautiful ways to do that is to forgive others. Who doesn’t love the story of the Prodigal Son? So, may we seek to live with the mercy of the father and not with the bitterness and pride of the brother. The inheritance that matters is our shared one. And part of loving our giver is sharing the gift with others.  It is worth returning for. It is worth staying for. It is worth learning about. And it alone is the lasting source of hope.

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.” (Revelation 21: 1-4, NASV)

 

–Jennifer Hall

Church

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We hear all the time that church attendance is down. It is. We could share the statistics, but we don’t need to. If you haven’t heard that, look around you. Church buildings, once central to communities, now stand empty or are used for other purposes. Restaurants, stores, and even more annoyingly, community and kids’ events are now regularly open/held on Sunday mornings without thought. But, why shouldn’t they be if attendance or business doesn’t decrease? And if you aren’t sure from observation alone, there are plenty of statistics out there to satisfy the most analytical of researcher. Home churches have increased in recent years, but even this increase doesn’t begin to make up for the decrease in overall church attendance. This certainly brings several questions such as “Why don’t people attend church?” or “Why have people left the church?”. . .but also. . . “What is the church?”

In our English language and contemporary society, the word “church” generally conjures up ideas of a building. Maybe a white building with a steeple and an organ. Maybe a cathedral, centuries-old with beautiful stained glass. Maybe a megachurch with full band, coffee shop, and million-dollar electronic equipment. Whatever the picture in our minds. . .it is generally far different from the meaning of the Biblical “church” and its references to the church family.

 “Remember those who led you, who spoke the word of God to you; and considering the result of their conduct, imitate their faith.” (Hebrews 13:7)

Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.” (Acts 20:28)

Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God. (Colossians 3:16)

“For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst.” Matthew 18:20)

“. . .let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, 25 not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.” (Hebrews 10:24-25)

“These all with one mind were continually devoting themselves to prayer. . .” (Acts 1:14)

“They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship. . .All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.” (Acts 2:42-47)

In scripture, the Greek word “ecclesia” refers to the group of believers. . .and clearly the content of scripture indicates that it doesn’t matter where that group meets, but who that group is. We are God’s children united in one church, one body.  We may “attend” a wedding or funeral, but we ARE the church. If we separate from the church, the body is injured. And if we think that church is something we “do” or somewhere we “go”, then we injure the body and minimize its potential. Our church family is our most important family and within it is the way we are called to seek the kingdom and spread the gospel.  If we wonder why people don’t attend church, or don’t do more than show up for a “service” and leave, perhaps we need to look at ourselves and encourage one another to amp it up a bit with a few of these things. Actions can speak louder than words sometimes, and it doesn’t help anyone to simply bemoan the state of society and the lack of church attendance and tell someone they should “come to church”. Instead, let us share it by remembering those who led us and imitate, be on guard, be thankful, teach, admonish, forgive, share, stimulate, encourage, persevere, and prioritize. We love our church, and we love even more the hope of one day being in the kingdom in a perfect, Christ-led body together. That day is ever-approaching. Let us not give it up now.

–Brian and Jennifer Hall