Favorite Tweets for March

Happy Easter! Nothing better than to reflect on the grace that God the Father has shown us.
"But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us."  (Romans 5:8)

As is my usual end-of-the-month fashion, I like to reflect on some great thoughts from the past month. Here are some of my top Tweets, from others and from myself.

From Others:

@TMPOKC"If our God is Father to the fatherless, how can we, who are called to be imitators of Him, be any less?"

@Pastor TullianJesus says: "Neither do I condemn you, go and sin no more." Too often we reverse it: "Go and sin no more, then we won't condemn you."

@PaulTrippGod's anger with sin is necessary for our salvation, but his goodness leads us to repentance.

@JoshElsomIf your church were to no longer exist, would your city notice that you were gone? Would they care?

@MikeGlennThe standard of New Testament giving is the cross, not ten per cent.

@iwontwatch“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” ― Nelson Mandela

@LeadersServe“Experience is not the best teacher; EVALUATED experience is.” Howard Hendricks 

@SarahDiggins5:  : Every rose has its thorn. ” Long live 80s power ballads. 

@GraceChurchCE:  Color coded map for the upcoming Spring Break trip with !

@coach_jeffscott “If you do the common things in life in an uncommon way, you will command the attention of the world” George Washington Carver 

From Myself:

Know anyone who is despairing & lost hope (Exodus 6:9)? Speak life to them, words of God's love & grace.

My 6-year-old's latest goal is to gain so much weight, that he can dress up as Santa Claus for Halloween.

Glad to have 10 students from serving in .

"Courage is when you're scared to death, but you saddle up anyway." John Wayne

"Any man who has played the blame card, he has immediately torn up his manhood card." Robert Lewis

About a month ago, got a Redbox. And this week, I won 5 free Redbox movie rentals in a give-away.

**image courtesy of isaj via sxc.hu

One Small Thing: 5000 Pushups

My goal for March was to do 5000 push-ups (as I wrote here). I want to be like Hans and Franz. Or the guy in this video (minus the accent):

Now, one of my so-called friends subtly suggested this video might be more applicable to my physical condition:

Ahem. Moving on . . .

To achieve this goal, all I had to do was 162 pushups per day. Being internally-competitive as I am, I did at least 185 pushups over half the days this month (including doing 305 pushups on Day 2).

I still have a few more days in the month, but I have already done 5000 pushups in the first 27 days. My wife said she would stop now; again, being internally-competitive, I look forward to exceeding my goal. Also, I did the first 20 types of pushups demonstrated in the first video. I feel really good about this goal.

I mean, I feel good in my mind. My chest has been sore continuously since Day 3.

April Small Thing: Lego Creations

Next month, I will move to a more creative goal. My plan is to make one thing out of Lego bricks each day. I've already bought my own Lego set, since my kids were reluctant to share "theirs."

How about you? How are your goals coming along? What do you have planned for next month?

REVIEW (and a Give-Away): The Action Bible

Buy The Action Bible. I cannot be any more clear about this.

This advice is coming from a guy who typically does not like storybook Bibles. And I've already recommended this one here and here. If you don't have one, or if you know a child who needs one, buy a copy.

Boys will be enamored with the graphic novel format and (as the title implies) the fast-paced action. And most girls will enjoy it as well, for the sake of the stories themselves.

I love it because of it's maturity, compared to most storybook Bibles. Editor Doug Mauss included a breadth of topics (over 200 accounts from God's word) and illustrator Sergio Cariello should be praised for his life-like drawings (I detest when mid-Eastern characters look more like Anglo-Saxons).

More Resources

Publisher David C. Cook has now released three new books as companions to The Action Bible. I was sent a copy of each to review. (And one to give away, but more on that below.)

The Action Bible New Testament contains 67 stories from the New Testament. However, these are not new stories; the same ones are found in the original. It's like the "Gideon's Bible" of The Action Bible. For the little bit extra of a cost, just by The Action Bible, not this NT-only version.

If there is anything I'm more leery of than a Bible storybook it is a devotional Bible. I've used devotionals, and have enjoyed them to an extent, but I find that most of them to lean on the side of "moralism" -- leading the reader to think that Christianity is about doing some good deeds. The Action Bible Devotional is no exception. It's not a bad tool, as long as you are diligent to teach your child that following Jesus and knowing Him is not about good deeds and spiritual disciplines.

The Action Bible Handbook is an interesting book. It is a "dictionary of people, places, and things." I like resources like this (I used to read encyclopedias as a kid), and use Bible handbooks when I have done inductive Bible study. I'm not sure how interested most children will be in this book, but it could be a handy tool to begin to teach children how to study the Bible in depth. However, some of the commentary is dubious; for example, Passover is called the "most important feast," and that section explains that death (instead of the angel of death) passed over the homes.

One for You. And you?

I bought our family's copy of The Action Bible over two years ago, and the only thing I regret is not purchasing one earlier. But there is good new for you.

The publishing company will give away a copy of The Action Bible to one of the readers of this blog. And I have double good news. Since I already have one, I will also give away the copy they just sent me. We will have 2 winners!

Here's the deal:
  • I will give away one copy of The Action Bible to someone in the Allendale (SC) area, and another copy will be mailed to a winner who lives somewhere else.
  • To have a chance to win, all you have to do is leave a comment on this blog. Be sure that I have your name / contact info. (You can let me know through any method on my Contact page.) And if you are having trouble leaving a comment (oh, Blogger), contact me.
  • You can earn a bonus chance to win if you share this post on social media (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc). After you shared it, just leave another comment telling me how you shared it.

The contest ends at noon (EST) on Wednesday, March 27.

The Connection of Passover and Easter

Palm Sunday is on March 24, Easter on the 31st, and Passover begins on the evening of March 25th. But did you know that these three holidays are connected?

As a Jew, I grew up celebrating Passover most years, and since I have become a Christ-follower, I celebrate Easter. (Side note: I am still Jewish, of course, even though I am also a Christian. Believing that Jesus of Nazareth is the Messiah does not stop me from being Jewish).

A couple of years after I became a follower of Jesus, while I was still in college, I started studying the Passover from a Christian perspective. My mind was blown! It suddenly seemed so obvious that Jesus was the fulfillment of this ancient holy feast.

To help you learn this, and to help you teach your kids, here are four days worth of scripture readings. For each day, you will see the context of the Old Testament Passover and the fulfillment in the New Testament. I hope you can use this over the next week, to help you draw near to God and know Him even more intimately.

Day 1: The Perfect Lamb Is Chosen
  • In Exodus 12, Israel was commanded to choose a lamb on the 10th day of the first month (v. 3). This lamb needed to be unblemished (v. 5).
  • In Matthew 21, Jesus entered Jerusalem on the this day, which we now call Palm Sunday. Note that instead of a lamb being picked, Jesus chose Himself to be our sacrifice. And He is without blemish or defect (I Peter 1:19), particularly since He never sinned.

Day 2:  Death and Judgment
  •  The Passover lamb (in the Old Testament) was killed on the evening of the fourteenth day of the month. And the blood of the lamb was spread on the doorposts of the house. In Exodus 12:6-13, judgment came to those did not obey these instructions in faith. 
  • Jesus the Lamb was crucified on what we call Good Friday. Our sins deserve death (Romans 6:23). We need to "apply" Jesus's blood to our lives, by having faith in His life, death, and resurrection. 

Day 3: God's Purpose and Redemption
  • God didn't just want a judgment for the Egyptians that enslaved the Hebrews. His ultimate purpose was to rescue and redeem His people, so that they would know God and dwell intimately with Him (Exodus 6:2-8).
  • Jesus didn't come to live and die for nothing. He didn't do it to set a good example or be a good moral teacher. Jesus died because we need to be saved from the penalty of our sins. Through faith, we are saved from our sins and can have eternal life (John 3:16).

Day 4:  Remembrance  
  • Passover was intended not as a one-time event, but as a memorial throughout all generations (Exodus 12:14-20). Parents needed to keep telling their children the story of God's great redemption.
  • Likewise, Jesus gave a new meaning to the Passover, a meaning that we are to continually remember. Jesus took the unleavened bread and wine and said, "Do this in remembrance of me." (Luke 22).When we celebrate Communion (or, the Lord's Supper), that is what we are doing -- remembering His body that was broken and His blood that was spilled.

Did you know that what many call "The Last Supper" was actually a Passover celebration? It was no coincidence that Jesus made this meal his last one with the disciples before His death. Jesus was declaring to the disciples (and to us), "I am the Passover Lamb."

And it's also no coincidence that in the book of Revalation, Jesus is called "The Lamb" more than any other name (including Lord, King, etc). Truly,
“Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!”  (Revelation 5:12)

Related Links:
**image courtesy of kckellner via sxc.hu

Made In Your Image

This post is an updated version of one that I wrote in July 2010, on our church's (old) parenting blog. I hope you enjoy!

If you want a wake up call, tell your child to imitate you. This works especially well for a child who is particularly observant, dramatic, or just completely out-going.

Recently, we did this with our 3-year-old son Sender at the dinner table. As he imitated me, he made a bunch of silly faces; I'm not really sure how I feel about that, but it was better than Joanna got. When it was time for him to imitate her, he got a serious look on his face and very sternly said, "What?!" Joanna and I both tried to remember when she actually says that, but we laughed and shrugged and let it go. 

Two days later, Joanna and the kids were with some other families for a "play group" at someone's house. A handful of moms were inside, and about 15 kids were outside playing. Sender began repeatedly knocking on the door, and eventually Joanna (understandably not wanting to leave the adult conversation) went to the door and sternly started to say, "Wh--?!" She caught herself. What an eye opener!

Our kids follow our lead, sometimes in negative ways. Negative as in mimicking the tone of voice that they hear us use (and doesn't it sound so much worse when we hear it in others?). Negative as in strongly preferring being inside reading, watching TV, or playing video games, instead of outside playing and working up a sweat (our son Elijah gets this from me). Negative as in having a bad attitude when life doesn't go our way.

Of course, imitations can be positive, too. I remember when Elijah was a baby, and Joanna was constantly caring for and feeding him. Hannah (age 2 at the time) copied her mother, and seemed to always have a baby doll under her shirt, "feeding" it as best she could do.

What started as merely a cute imitation has now morphed into something more, as Hannah has an wonderful motherly side to her. She regularly asks to read to Sender and put him to bed at night or naptime. When he wore diapers, she often changed him, even without us telling her to. She loves serving at church with younger children.

The Apostle Paul called young believers to follow his example. "And you should imitate me, just as I imitate Christ."  (I Corinthians 11:1). Similarly, we are the primary models for our children, to demonstrate what a life in Christ looks like. Consider how you are doing this.

The best way to be an example for your child is for you to passionately pursue and imitate Christ.

How has your child imitated you, for better or for worse?

Related Links:
**image courtesy of kikko77 via sxc.hu

Book Review: Connecting Church and Home

If you visited 10 churches in your community, you will find 10 different philosophies and methodologies for doing children's ministry and youth ministry. Is there a right or wrong way? Should children and teens be a part of the adult (or main) worship service, or should they have their own separate programs?

In Connection Church & Home, Dr. Tim Kimmel says that the main issue is not whether a church has one or separate worship settings. After all, if a church has children worship with parents, that is that church's form of "children's ministry."

The key point is not about the form or method of church, but about the heart motivation of why that method is preferred -- both by the church and by any parent.

Dr. Kimmel cautions parents about "outsourcing" the spiritual development of their children. He correctly notes that this is already being done, for decades. On the other hand, though parents should be the primary spiritual influencer in their child's life, there is nothing innately wrong about other adults being spiritual influences in the lives their children.

Christians tend to prefer their own style of ministry, and look down on others that do differently. Moving away from this battleground, Dr. Kimmel outlines basic principles for "how churches and parents can work together in a grace-based partnership to make each other's efforts more impactful."

Does this book give solid principles and good suggestions? Yes. Does it try to give a single, perfect solution for every situation? Thankfully, no. After all, when it comes to the soul's of adults, teens, and children, we know that ministry is often messy and usually complicated. That's where grace comes in.

There were a few things that I didn't care for in this book, but maybe that's because I can be picky about details and about the importance of context.

First, Dr. Kimmel starts out with definitions of family (= "the domestic church") and church (= "a gathering of domestic churches"). However, he never explains how those definitions are derived. I wish he would have made a Biblical case for those definitions.

Second, he also made an attempt to trace a history for how parents began to outsource and subcontract (to the church) their spiritual responsibility. But I think he overstates how dramatic this change has been recently. For example, he says that only relatively recently did parents focus on "the child's outward behavior, sin-management, and spiritual-image-control." I think those issues have been going on a lot longer than a few decades.

Overall, I think this is a good book, and can be useful to parents and church leaders. Just be careful to see it as it is -- a tool that outlines an general framework, not a "bible" for parenting or ministry.

Interested in your own copy? You can order Connection Church & Home from Amazon.

Edit:  Read more about this book on Heart Connection, Moralism, and Grace.  

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How I Was Mean to My Daughter

She sat on her bed and cried, “Daddy, you’re being mean!”

No words could have cut me deeper. I wanted to defend myself, and I wanted to lash back at her. And I’m sure I did not immediately respond in a loving and nurturing way.

But the Holy Spirit caught me. He showed me that she was right, but not in the way that she (and I) thought initially.

Let me explain. . . .

Be sure to read the rest of the post on Epic Parent, The Day I Was Mean to My Daughter.

2 Dozen Pieces of Advice for Parenting Young Children

From Steve McCoy:

There's a lot of parenting advice out there. Some is great. Much of it is lacking. Some is downright harmful. . . .
We've gotten advice from books, other parents, pastors, and our own parents. We've taken courses on parenting and had one pastor/wife and family that we learned much from and watched closely as they did so much right (radically different than most parents we'd ever seen).
I wanted to share some advice for things I feel we have learned and that not enough folks are talking about. At its core, this list is a quick mind-dump of the practical advice I want to give parents with young kids after years of doing it. By no means do we do all of this perfectly. I assume you know that already.

McCoy rightly cautions that his list is not exhaustive, unordered, simple, practical, and not dealing with the important issue of rules versus grace.

I agree with most of his list (though I've fallen short of most of his principles). Here are five that I most needed to be reminded of:
  • Believe Kids Are a Blessing
  • Teach "First Time Obedience"
  • Pre-Event Preparation
  • Kiss Your Spouse in Front of Them
  • Play with Your Kids

For a brief explanation on each point, and to read the entire list, read the full article.

Related Links:

The Many Kinds of Dessert

Do your kids like dessert?

Let me tally up your responses:
  • 94.7% of you said, "Of course!" 
  • 4.9% asked, "Where are you going with this?"
  • The remaining 0.4% of you don't exist. Sorry.

Cookies, ice cream, and chocolate bars are some of my kids' favorites. We like dessert so much that we've come up with other ways to eat dessert.
  • Pre-sert = when you eat dessert before your meal
  • Re-sert = when you have two desserts
  • Bre-sert = when you have dessert after breakfast
  • Me-sert = when you eat dessert whenever you feel like it
  • Tree-sert = a healthy dessert
  • See-sert = when you are on a diet and you can only watch others eat their desserts
  • Bee-sert = anything with honey
  • We-sert = when you are on a date and you share a piece of cheesecake or key lime pie with your spouse
  • Free-sert = when someone else pays for your dessert
  • Pee-sert = ummm . . . my boys made this up; I hope I don't have to say any more

Help us out. Can you add any more kinds of desserts to this list?