This is the fourth week of our Lent Devotional for Families. We’re learning about holy people and opening our hearts to how God might make us holy, too. You can join from here, or you can go back to the beginning.
Lent Day 17: Ignatius of Antioch: Bearing God
Ignatius was born around 35 AD (that is a very, very long time ago!). He was a student of John the beloved disciple. Ignatius is also known as an Apostolic Father. The Apostolic Fathers lived during the New Testament times and were the bridge between the Apostles, who wrote the New Testament, and those who came after. (Polycarp, who we talked about previously, was also an Apostolic Father.)
Igantius referred to himself as Theophorus, which means, “God Bearer”. It is said that Ignatius was one of the children that Jesus took into his arms and blessed. (You remember the story in Matthew 19:13-15. Children were brought before Jesus, that he would bless them. The disciples got angry and told the people to go away, thinking Jesus was too busy and important for something so trivial. But Jesus welcomed the children into his arms and told those listening to let the children come and not hinder them, for the kingdom of Heaven belonged to them.)
Like Paul, Ignatius traveled and spread the good news of the Gospel. He wrote letters to churches, like Paul, too. Even though it was illegal and dangerous, Ignatius taught people about Christ in every city he traveled through. This led to his arrest and execution in 110AD. After being sentenced to be fed to lions for telling people about Jesus, Ignatius wrote, “I am writing to all the Churches and I enjoin all, that I am dying willingly for God’s sake, if only you do not prevent it. I beg you, do not do me an untimely kindness. Allow me to be eaten by the beasts, which are my way of reaching to God. I am God’s wheat, and I am to be ground by the teeth of wild beasts, so that I may become the pure bread of Christ.”
Ignatius is regarded as a Saint by many Christian traditions.
Why do you think Ignatius was willing to be eaten by lions to tell people the Gospel?
Do you think it was easy for Ignatius to bear God?
Lent Day 18: Paul the Apostle: Making Things Right
Paul’s name wasn’t always Paul, it was Saul. We read about his name change in the book of Acts, chapter 9.
Saul is actively persecuting (punishing them for their belief) Christians. While he was on his was to Damascus to capture more Christians, he is visiting by Jesus. (Who was dead and risen at this point in time.) Jesus came to Saul and asked why he was persecuting him. Saul asked who he was. Jesus said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.”
Jesus tells Saul to do exactly as he says. He sends Saul into the city to wait to be told what to do. The men traveling with Saul heard the voice, but didn’t see Jesus. Saul, who had fallen to the ground, as most people would when visited by a dead man, rose from the ground and found that he couldn’t see. He was blind. The men with him led him to Damascus. For three days, blind Saul didn’t eat or drink anything.
While all of this was going on, God gave a vision to a man in Damascus named Ananias. He told Ananias, who was a Christian, to go look for Saul. Once he found him, Ananias was to lay hands on Saul and pray for him that he might regain his sight. But Ananias knew who Saul was, that he was doing evil against Christians, and didn’t really want to go. But God told Ananias that He had chosen Saul to carry His name. So Ananias went.
He found Saul, told him God sent Him, and he laid his hand on Saul and prayed that Saul’s sight would return and that he would be filled with the Holy Spirit. Immediately, scales fell from Saul’s eyes and he could see again. He was immediately baptized.
Saul began proclaiming Jesus as the Son of God right away. But the people were pretty confused, since they knew Saul to be the one who hated Christians and sought to kill them. The Jews plotted to kill Saul, because he was telling people Jesus was the Son of God. Saul escaped with the help of Christians. Everywhere Saul went, he told people that Jesus was the Son of God. And everywhere he went, people were very confused because Saul had been killing Christians days before.
Saul becomes one of the first missionaries, sent out into the world to tell people about Jesus. Somewhere along the way, Saul becomes known as Paul, and he continues to tell people about Jesus. Eventually Paul is killed because of his faith in Jesus. (This is called martyrdom.)
Do you think you could have listened to God, like Ananias, and gone to pray for someone you knew hated you?
What would have happened if Ananias refused to do what God told him? (Ananias teaches us how important we are to one another. We have the power to change people’s lives for the better, if we just listen to God.)
Do you think it was hard for Saul to realize he was wrong and change his ways?
Why do you think Jesus called Saul? Why not pick someone nicer?
Lent Day 19: Francis Asbury: Taking Jesus to The People
Francis Asbury was born in England in 1745. His mother wanted him to become an Archbishop of Canterbury, so she read him the Bible, sang him hymns, and prayed over him.
At the age of 18, Francis became a preacher for Methodist meetings. When he was 22, John Wesley appointed him as a traveling preacher. (You remember reading about Wesley last week.) In 1771, Francis traveled to America to preach the Gospel.
In 1776, the American War of Independence broke out, and Francis was the only Methodist minister to remain in America. He traveled the country on horseback or in a carriage, preaching Jesus to every settlement he came to. Like Wesley, Asbury preached everywhere, not just in a church on Sunday mornings. He parched in fields, town squares, tobacco houses, courthouses, anywhere people were.
The Methodist Church in American grew from 1,200 to 214,000 members with 700 ordained ministers. Francis Asbury ordained the first African American man in the United States, Richard Allen of Philadelphia. He died in 1816.
In those days, communication was much more difficult, so Francis Asbury traveled on horseback to tell people about Jesus. How can we communicate today to tell people about Jesus?
Lent Day 20: Macrina: Encouraging Others
Macrina was the sister of Basil and Gregory, The Cappadocian Fathers we learned about 2 weeks ago. Macrina did not go the school and get the education her brother did. Basil went to great schools and learned many things, but wasn’t planning to use his education for God. Macrina told him that he had become vain (showing a very high opinion of himself) and should follow Christ. At first, Basil ignored her, thinking she was simply uneducated. But after the death of his brother, Naucratius, he went to Macrina and asked her to teach him the ways of a religious life.
Macrina was the religious guide and strength for her family after their father died. She became known as “the Teacher”, despite not having formal education. She also encouraged her brother Gregory, to follow Christ and do something for God. Though she didn’t do much in terms of church history or worldwide significance herself, her encouragement of her brothers to follow Christ and stay the course paved the way for early Christianity. Macrina did create a monastic community for women, where they focused on serving others.
How can you encourage others to do something for God?
How can you encourage your brothers or sisters to keep faith in God?
Game Time: There is a little activity we like to do in our house. It is especially helpful on days that are full of bickering and arguing. We sit around the table and we say one nice thing about each person. So, we pick a person to go first, say Emery. Then we each go around the table and say something we really like about Emery. (Emery is a good leader. Emery always lets others have a turn. Emery is the best tree climber in the family. Etc.) Each person gets a turn having the others say something nice about them. Try it. It is very encouraging. Mom and Dad always think you’re the bee’s knees, but it is extra special hearing that your siblings really like you, too. Make sure you include Mom and Dad! It’ll warm (or tickle) your heart to hear what your kids see in you.
Lent Day 21: Quintus Septimus Florens Tertullianus: Presenting God in My Language
Known as Tertullian, born in 160 AD, he was a Christian author from Carthage. (Carthage is now Tunisia, which is in the northern part of Africa. At the time of Tertullian, it was under Roman rule.) He was the first Christian to write Christian literature in Latin. He was also an early Christian apologist (someone who writes or speaks to defend Christianity) and tried to stop heresy (heresy is thinking and spreading wrong teachings). Tertullian was also a defender of the Trinity, God is three person, one God. He is one of the early church fathers, paving the way for future Christians.
Why would it have been important that Tertullian wrote in Latin? Well, before that, the world was largely Greek speaking, but Latin use was rising, and continued to rise. (Many of our languages today are based largely on Latin.) Writing in Latin, meant more people could read and understand the teachings of Jesus and His Church.
Imagine if we didn’t have Christian writings in English today. You wouldn’t be sitting here listening to this being read and you wouldn’t understand as well as you do in your native language. Tertullian defended the Trinity and defended Christianity, which we have talked about how important those things are to use today.
Do you ever feel like you need to defend Jesus?
How do we know what is true about Jesus?
**Note- Print both of these coloring pages. The first is in Latin, the second is in English. This will help press the point that ideas are easily expressed in our own language, but more difficult in another language.**
Lent Day 22: Samuel: Listening To God
In 1 Samuel 3, we learn of God calling the boy Samuel, who was about 12 years old.
“Now the boy Samuel was serving the Lord under Eli. The Lord’s word was rare at that time, and visions weren’t widely known. One day Eli, whose eyes had grown so weak he was unable to see, was lying down in his room. God’s lamp hadn’t gone out yet, and Samuel was lying down in the Lord’s temple, where God’s chest was.
The Lord called to Samuel. “I’m here,” he said.
Samuel hurried to Eli and said, “I’m here. You called me?”
“I didn’t call you,” Eli replied. “Go lie down.” So he did.
Again the Lord called Samuel, so Samuel got up, went to Eli, and said, “I’m here. You called me?”
“I didn’t call, my son,” Eli replied. “Go and lie down.”
( Now Samuel didn’t yet know the Lord, and the Lord’s word hadn’t yet been revealed to him.)
A third time the Lord called Samuel. He got up, went to Eli, and said, “I’m here. You called me?”
Then Eli realized that it was the Lord who was calling the boy. So Eli said to Samuel, “Go and lie down. If he calls you, say, ‘Speak, Lord. Your servant is listening.’” So Samuel went and lay down where he’d been.
Then the Lord came and stood there, calling just as before, “Samuel, Samuel!”
Samuel said, “Speak. Your servant is listening.”
The Lord said to Samuel, “I am about to do something in Israel that will make the ears of all who hear it tingle! On that day, I will bring to pass against Eli everything I said about his household—every last bit of it! I told him that I would punish his family forever because of the wrongdoing he knew about—how his sons were cursing God, but he wouldn’t stop them. Because of that I swore about Eli’s household that his family’s wrongdoing will never be reconciled by sacrifice or by offering.”
Samuel lay there until morning, then opened the doors of the Lord’s house. Samuel was afraid to tell the vision to Eli. But Eli called Samuel, saying: “Samuel, my son!”
“I’m here,” Samuel said.
“What did he say to you?” Eli asked. “Don’t hide anything from me. May God deal harshly with you and worse still if you hide from me a single word from everything he said to you.” So Samuel told him everything and hid nothing from him.
“He is the Lord, ” Eli said. “He will do as he pleases.”
So Samuel grew up, and the Lord was with him, not allowing any of his words to fail. All Israel from Dan to Beer-sheba knew that Samuel was trustworthy as the Lord’s prophet. The Lord continued to appear at Shiloh because the Lord revealed himself to Samuel at Shiloh through the Lord’s own word.”
The Lord spoke to Samuel, who was just a kid, and told him He was going to do something big in the nation of Israel. This revealing on God’s part made Samuel a prophet. A prophet is someone God used to tell the people messages from God. God continued to use Samuel to send messages to His people. Israel needed Samuel. They needed him to listen to God so they would know what the Lord was saying.
Do you ever hear God call your name? I’m not necessarily talking about in an audible way, but in your heart.
Do you stop and listen when you feel God calling you? Do you stop and listen to see if God is calling you?
Game: Practice Listening! Everyone closes their eyes. One person is chosen to speak (or make a sound). The person then whispers or makes their noise. Everyone has to repeat what they think they heard. If you want to make it more difficult, turn on the TV and see if anyone can hear over the noise. Have the kids do jumping jacks while they close their eyes and see if they can hear over their movement. Listening works best when we can get rid of all distractions and just listen.
Click to see main 40 Holy People: A Lent Devotional for Families page.