Shrimp & Ketchup

Written by Jonathan on . Posted in Blog, Dads, Faith Conversations, Family Devotions, Moms, Praying Together

Over lunch with a radio talk show host last week, I was enlightened.  I ordered fish tacos and he ordered fried shrimp.  When our meals arrived, he did something strange; he moved his little dish of cocktail sauce out of his plate and squirted some ketchup in its place!  Who does that?

I had to ask.

He said when he was a child, that’s the way him mom served shrimp.  Since that’s the way he was brought up, that’s the way he eats them now.

I laughed.

He looked at me with a question mark on his face.

I chuckled because, it was a great example of the influence of the home.  What we do at home will shape our children’s spiritual lives even as it shapes our taste buds.

We will not hide them from their descendants;
we will tell the next generation
the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord,
his power, and the wonders he has done.

He decreed statutes for Jacob
and established the law in Israel,
which he commanded our ancestors
to teach their children,

so the next generation would know them,
even the children yet to be born,
and they in turn would tell their children.

Then they would put their trust in God
and would not forget his deeds
but would keep his commands.
Psalm 78:4-7

I have to remind myself that what I’m doing now with our children is not only impacting them; it’s also impacting their children, too.   We are influencing our grandchildren; future generations.  Our children can pass the love and trust of the Lord onto their children and their children’s children.

Whatever we choose to dip our shrimp into doesn’t matter, but the way we spend our time connecting our children’s hearts towards God’s can have an eternal difference.  The habits we instill in our children while they are at home will carry on long after we are gone.

Pray together as a family.  Read the Word together and tell your children the “praiseworthy deeds of the Lord…Then they [will] put their trust in God and [will] not forget his deeds but [will] keep his commands.”

 

Discussion Questions for parents and small groups:

When do you share with your children the “praiseworthy deeds of the Lord?”

How are you developing spiritual habits in your home?

What is a habit you are going to start?

When is the best time to pray together as a family?

Find someone to share this with, so they can ask you about it.

 

The Greatest Gift {5 Minute Devo}

Written by Jonathan on . Posted in 5 Minute Devotions, Blog, Challenging, Christmas, Family Devotions

(Click here to download this devotional: EnglishFrench, and Spanish.)

 

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.” —Luke 2:8-11

 

Read Luke 2:8-11

 

Ask:

Can you imagine being the first to hear about the first Christmas morning?  How would you have responded to the Angel of the Lord?

 

Say: 

The shepherds were told about the true meaning of Christmas; plain and simple.  But there are a lot of things that distract people from the real meaning of Christmas.

 

Ask:

  • What distracts people from experiencing the true meaning of Christmas?
  • How do you think Jesus would want us to celebrate His birthday? (Staying focused on Him and doing what He would want us to do is the most important. Have you ever thought about singing Happy Birthday to Him? Giving Him a present?)
  • How have you already gotten distracted?
  • What will you do to help you stay focused on the true meaning of Christmas?

 

Pray: 

“God, Thank you so much for giving us the greatest Gift possible!  Help us to stay focused on You!  Help us to love others and just as you gave your Son Jesus for us, help us to give to others.”

God Sends Reminders {5 Minute Devo}

Written by Jonathan on . Posted in 5 Minute Devotions, Blog, Challenging, Christmas, Family Devotions

(Click here for the download of this devotional:  English, French, and Spanish)

 

God comes through for us, but we are often in need of reminders.

 

Read Matthew 2:9-11

 

Why do you think the timing was perfect for the wise men to visit Mary and Joseph? Do you remember what they had been through?

 

They probably needed confirmation of what God was calling them to.

 

• Mary became pregnant before she was married to Joseph.

• They fled the country in fear their son would be killed.

• They had to spend the night in a stable and gave birth to their Son, who was foretold to be the Savior of the world. His crib was a manger (the feeding trough for animals).

 

At this point, they must have needed a reminder of who this Baby was and that God was really watching over them! I don’t know about you, but I might have had my doubts that this really was the Son of God to be the Savior of the world, too!

 

Can you think of other people from the Bible who God reminded He was still in charge?

 

• Daniel in the lion’s den. (Daniel 6)

• The Israelites trapped at the edge of the Red Sea and God splits the water, so they can walk on dry ground. (Exodus 14)

• Jesus rose on the third day. (Luke 24)

• Healing the guard whose ear was cut off by Peter. (Luke 22:49-51)

 

Life isn’t always going to be easy, but God will come through! God’s plan is perfect. God’s timing is perfect. Our response has to be to trust him, just as Mary and Joseph did.

 

Questions for children:

• How do you think God reminds us He is here?

Through other people, especially your parents. The Bible. The Holy Spirit.

 

• Has there been a time that you know God reminded you? How?

 

• How will you respond to God the next time things are going your way? (Someone doesn’t treat you fairly or even lies about you?)

 

Questions for teens:

• Do you ever wonder about the things God does that you didn’t notice?

 

• When has God reminded you He is helping you?

 

• Do you expect God to come through for you?

 

• What is the worst that can happen to you?

Ultimately…Death.

 

• For the Christian, how is God victorious even in death?

Even in losing our own life, it means we will be with Him in heaven.

 

Since you are reading this, you aren’t dead. Look for God’s encouragement. Look for God working. Look for His reminders that He is still in charge. Mary and Joseph had no one else to turn to. They were completely dependent and desperate for God. This is usually when God shows up. When we know it can be no one else but Him who rescues us!

 

Prayer:

“God, help us see You at work. Help us to trust in You more. I believe You can help us, but help me really believe it! Help me to really trust You. Thanks for Your Word and how it shows us we can rely on You!”

 

The Parable of the Birds {5 Minute Devo}

Written by Jonathan on . Posted in 5 Minute Devotions, Blog, Family Devotions

(Click here to download this devotional: English, French, Spanish)

Read Matthew 1:2

 

Share this illustration:

 

The Parable of the Birds

 

This is a story about a man. He was a kind, decent, mostly good man, generous to his family and honest.  He just could not understand the Jesus story about God coming to earth as a man.  It did not make sense to him and he was too honest to pretend he believed it.

It was Christmas Eve and the family was getting ready for church. “I’m truly sorry to distress you,” he told his wife, “but I’m not going with you to church this evening.” He said that he would feel like a hypocrite.  Rather, he would stay home while they went.

Shortly after the rest of his family drove away, snow began to fall. He went to the window and watched the flurries getting heavier and heavier. It was one of those picture-postcard winter evenings. So he walked back to his comfortable fireside chair and began reading his newspaper.

Soon, though, he was startled by a loud “thud,” quickly followed by another. And then another. “What could that be?”

At first he thought someone must be throwing snowballs against his living room window. But when he went to investigate, he found a pitiful flock of birds huddled miserably in the snow. They had been caught in the storm, and in a desperate search for shelter they had tried to fly through his large picture window.

“I can’t let these poor creatures lie there and freeze,” he thought. He was, after all, a reasonably compassionate man. “But how could I possibly help them?”

Then he remembered the barn out back.  That would provide a warm shelter — if only he could direct the birds to it. He quickly put on his coat and boots and tramped through the deepening snow to the barn. He opened the doors wide and turned on the light to show the poor birds the way.

But the birds didn’t come in.

“Food will bring them in,” he thought. So he hurried back to the house and fetched bread crumbs, which he sprinkled on the snow to make a trail from near where the birds were into the safety of the barn.

But the birds ignored the bread crumbs and continued to flop around helplessly in the snow. He tried catching them. He tried shooing them into the barn by walking around and waving his arms. None of that worked. Instead they scattered in every direction — except into the protection of the warm, lighted barn.

He said to himself, “They find me a strange and terrifying creature. If only I could think of some way to let them know that they can trust me. If only I could convince them… If only I could show them that I’m not trying to hurt them, but to help them. But how?” Any move he made tended to frighten the birds and confuse them. They just would not follow. They would not be led or shooed because they feared him.

In frustration and with a growing sense of urgency as the storm worsened, an odd thought came to him: “If only I could be a bird myself for a few minutes, perhaps I could lead them to safety. If only I could speak their language, and tell them not to be afraid, and show them the way to the safe, warm barn. But I’d have to be one of them, so they could see and hear and understand and not be afraid.”

At that moment, he heard the sound of the church bells. He stood there, suddenly awestruck.  These were all Christmas carols he had heard since childhood: Joy to the World. Oh, Holy Night. Away in a Manger. But they had never before affected him in the way they now did.

Then, there in the snow, he sank to his knees, gazed heavenward and, choked with emotion, whispered, “God, now I understand. Now I see why You had to do it.”

“In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him… And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son as Savior of the world.” (1 John 4:9,14.)

 

Discussion Questions:

 

  • How would you have tried to get the birds in the barn?
  • What did the man not believe in the beginning of this story?
  • The man tries everything before realizing the only thing that would work is if he became a bird so he could communicate with them to tell them the good news of the barn.  How does this illustrate what God did by sending Jesus?
  • If you were God, how would you tell people about the good news of heaven?
  • Who do you know could use this story as an illustration of what God did for us?  You could email it to them or tell them yourself!

 

Prayer:

“God, Thank you so much for giving us the gift of your Son.  What an incredible gift!  Help me truly understand Your love for us and help me share it with others who don’t really know.”

 

A Christmas Devotion {5 Minute Devo}

Written by Jonathan on . Posted in 5 Minute Devotions, Blog, Christmas, Christmas, Family Devotions

{Click here for the download of this devotional: English, French, Russian, and Spanish}

 

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night.  An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.  But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.  Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; He is Christ the Lord.”  Luke 2:8-11

 

Can you imagine if you were there…if you were one of the shepherds? 

 

Have someone read this again while the rest of the family closes their eyes.    Picture yourself there, seeing and hearing these words.  Can you hear them yourself? 

 

What would you have thought if you had been a shepherd?

 

Possibly:

….A baby?  Why a baby? 

….What would you have thought after seeing that it was just a baby?

….Maybe you might have asked, “Is this how the Savior of the world comes…as a baby?  In a stable?” 

 

Isn’t it interesting that God never seems to do things the way we would?

If you were God, would you have sent your Son into the world, as the Savior, like this? 

               How might you have done it? 

 

What are other things Jesus says to do that just seems backwards from the way we would most probably do it?

  • Turn the other cheek
  • Serve without expecting anything in return
  • Forgive 7 times 77
  • Love your enemies

 

God gave us His Son.  I’m not sure I would have. God does things the best way.  Can you trust Him?

 

This Christmas, the best gift you can give back to God is listening for how He wants you to do things around here a lot differently than what we usually do.

 

Questions:

What is one thing you can do differently as a gift to God? 

How might this world be different if we all loved the way God loved?

How might our family be different if we treated each other the way God treated us?

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