Lent 2018

If you’re looking for my annual Lent family devotions, they are in book form this year! I was coming up with a way to make the family devotional more user-friendly. Scrolling through an entire week of blog posts is a bit messy. It is free, but it is messy. Then, I had this idea to add a personal devotional for moms to the front. In pitching the idea to The Pastor, we kind of thought, “Why just moms?” So, I enlisted his help in getting both a full 40-day devotional for all people and a 40-day family devotional written. We then put it on Kindle for ease-of-use. (It is also available in paperback if you’re not a digital person.)

The entire thing is really cohesive: The personal devotions and family devotions tie into each other, so you’ll all be walking the same spiritual path together. And as usual, the family devotional includes activities to do! Fun!

The theme of this year’s Lenten devotional is Refocus. Lent is a great time to look over everything and evaluate if you’re living the way you think you should be living. “Does my life reflect Christ?” It’ll challenge you to reevaluate where you put your time and money. It will ask you to reevaluate your priorities and commitments. Basically, it is going to step all over your toes and probably make you uncomfortable and you might even hate me for it. Or… you might refocus your life on the cross and do big Jesus-work this coming year. I think it’s worth the risk.

If you want a free devotional, all my previous years of Lent family devotions are still available here on the blog. Since Lent is always 40 days, always starting on Ash Wednesday and always ending on Easter, any of these can be used any year.

Lent Family Devotional 2017 – This family devotional looks into the life and ministry of Jesus.

40 Holy People – This is a Lenten devotional looking at the lives of those who have followed Christ with great courage and wisdom.

Fruit of the Spirit Family Devotional – This is not a Lenten devotional, but you can use it during Lent if you’d like. It is 9 weeks, so it is a little longer than Lent.

Click here to buy this year’s Lent devotional on Amazon.  My hope and prayer is for families to come together around a table and talk about Jesus. So, whatever you chose to do this Lent, be it using Refocus, using one of the free devotions on my blog, using another devotional book, or just reading through a book of the Bible together after dinner— make sure that you don’t miss Jesus during this season. Let the season bring you closer to Him and closer to your family.

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Word Before World

I’m scrolling through Instagram when I wake up this morning and come across a hashtag that gets my mind rolling. #wordbeforeworld . Now, this isn’t the first time I had seen the hashtag. I have seen @wellwateredwomen posting it for several days now. But it was the first time I stopped and took note.

What is the first thing I do when I wake up? Usually grumble about the kids already being awake and lament how late I stayed up the night before. But the first thing I usually choose to do after pulling myself out of bed and getting ready for the day is grab my iPad and start checking social media. I choose to plunge into the world first. Always. The Word part normally comes when I’ve done everything else I need to do for the day. Sure, we get into the Word every morning during Morning Basket time, so I guess I could count that. But before I even do morning basket, I’m checking my social media accounts.

Of course, my mind went to Deuteronomy chapter 6. The people of God are being told not to forget who they are and what God has done for them. They are to teach their children, talk of them in their house, talk of God’s commands walking around going about their day. They are to write them on the doorposts of their houses. And they are to think of them when they lie down and when they rise up.

It got me thinking of the giving of the first fruits, something we remind ourselves when we tithe. We give God the first of what he has given to us. So, what is more valuable than our time? The days, hours, and minutes we have? Why wouldn’t we give the first of our time each day, too?

Essentially, when I choose social media before getting into the Word of God, I’m stating my priorities for the day. Connection, news, self-image- all those things we tie up in social media- I’m saying those are the most important for me. I’m saying that my FOMO (fear of missing out) on the world is more important than my FOMO on God.

I’m not saying there is anything wrong with social media. I think we, as Christians, need to remain engaged in social media as a way to influence our culture. But as all our youth pastor’s warned us, we need to be careful of how we let it shape us. So, I’m not saying we should all pull away from social media. I think a host of evangelism can be done through a screen in our culture.

I am saying that I found myself guilty this morning. I realized I’ve not been putting first things first. I’ve been putting them last. When there is time. At the bottom of the to-do list. And those priorities will never stand. The Word will never shape me because I’m not letting it take the rightful place in my life. That is not anyone’s fault but mine.

I had thought of New Year’s Resolutions in abstract terms. I knew I needed more discipline in my spiritual life and my physical life, so I was just going to abstractly focus on discipline. I now realize an abstract one word focus isn’t going to get me where I need to be. Sure, it will help me think of where I need to be. But I need action steps. I need firm commitments to being disciplined.

So, with discipline as my word of the year, my first practical step is going to be Word before World. That is my first firm commitment to the process of being disciplined. Word before World. I will seek Him first.

What the Pastor Wants to Say, but Doesn’t

This list is really meant to give some insight and be lighthearted. The Pastor helped me out with this list. And yes, they are all true to life, but specific to our life. (And trying to take a picture with The Pastor was beyond ridiculous!)


(1) I really just need you there.

We honestly get that things come up, stuff happens, but we really do need people we can rely on.

(2) We had a late night, too. Or a baby who wouldn’t sleep. Or a kid who woke us up 27 times. And I also currently have a headache. And we still made it here, early.

(3) Yes, this is personal.

When you reject the church that we pour ourselves into, we do take that personally.

(4) This is what I do. Ministry is completely different than running a business. While I appreciate your input and ideas, you have to know that this is what I do.

(5) Yes, in fact, it must be the very best; it is, after all, for Jesus.

In times where people want to cut costs by cutting the quality of things like tea, coffee, paper, sound equipment, etc.

(6) We realize we live in a glass house and we are okay with that. There is no need to snoop, just ask us outright, we’ll answer.

(7) No, I can’t tell you about so-and-so. We may not have secrets of our own, but we do keep other people’s business in confidence. If you want to know the “deal with them” you’ll have to ask them.

(8) It isn’t always about you.

Sometimes, we do things you don’t like. And you have to realize that it isn’t always about you or your needs or your taste.

(9) You’re curious about where they’ve been? Have you called them?

(10) We sacrifice a lot for this. This isn’t just a job or hobby. This is a calling we see as vitally important.

(11) I’m absolutely available to answer your questions, provided you are actually looking for answers.

(12) No, I won’t call your friend at work and tell them why their pastor is wrong. If you would like to defend your faith, I can give you the resources to do so.

(13) Actually, we do practice what we preach.

(14) Pastoring is more than just preaching. What you see on Sunday morning is only a small part of what we do.

(15) We always expect that we’ll have to do it ourselves. It isn’t that we don’t trust you, but we’ve been let down so many times, we’re always prepared to do it all.

(16) We really do want the very best for you and your family.

(17) I really need people to do the work of the ministry, not just come up with ideas. Ideas are great, but we need people to follow through on them.

(18) I have my own vision and my own calling. Don’t expect me to drop everything I am doing for your great idea of a ministry I could do.

(19) No, I cannot do counseling with your [spouse/child/parent/friend/cousin] to tell them you are right and they are wrong.

(20) 3 am is not the time to discuss Ezekiel. Call me at 3 am if it is an emergency. But calling me at 3 am to discuss Old Testament prophets is never a good idea.

(21) We are not all millionaires like televangelists. Most pastors work for far less than their equivalent degrees would earn them elsewhere. We aren’t in this for the money, but for the ministry.

(22) No, my kid can’t do the activity that has Sunday responsibilities.

(23) No, we can’t come to the family reunion on Sunday or a big church holiday like Christmas Eve or Easter.

(24) I really wish you’d stop reading books written by heretics. Need a good book recommendation? Ask me, I have more than a few to recommend.

(25) Ministry requires volunteers. We know you want a children’s program, but you have to have people to run that. We can only do so much with limited volunteers.

(26) I know this isn’t how it was done at your church growing up, or your sister’s church, or by the pastor who was here before us. Do you like being compared to your mother-in-law?

(27) We go through hard times too. We often forget to mention our own troubles or prayer requests, but we have tough times, as well.

(28) It hurts when we invest our lives in people and they turn away from us. We understand that, but we keep investing and giving anyway.

(29) We wish you would see our success as more than just numbers. Personal growth of disciples isn’t always quantifiable but is success nonetheless.

(30) I wish you wouldn’t apologize every time you cuss around me. Jesus takes us where we are. I’m really not judging you. I’m just happy you’re comfortable being yourself around me. Don’t ruin that feeling by making it awkward and apologizing. If you’re working on changing your vocabulary, let me know so I can encourage you as you make steps of improvement.

(31) We have many of the same struggles you have. We have limited finances, student loan payments, bills to pay, work and family to balance. We really do understand.

(32) We are in this as a family. I know you only see one name on the sign or with a title, but this is an entire family ministry.

(33) We make a lot of sacrifices to do this, so it is very upsetting when people put us down for not working normal hours. Often this means taking a second job, only having one car, not being able to buy a home, having no health insurance, giving up saving for retirement. We sacrifice. We don’t want to tell you about this, because we don’t want to complain about what the Lord is providing through His people. But this is more than a 40-hour/week job. This is an all-the-time, always-on, immersed-in-your-work way to live. It is far from cushy.

(34) Sunday mornings are not a good time to complain. If you need to complain about something, I understand. Sunday morning or Saturday night are the worst times to do so. Shoot me an email or text Sunday afternoon or Monday morning. Let me focus on what God is speaking through me on Sunday morning.

(35) I am not looking for a “better” opportunity. We are serving where we are called to be. I don’t need you to send me information on churches looking for a pastor. This isn’t a typical job where you look to climb some sort of ladder. I’m where I need to be for now.

(36) We will drop everything for you, even when we know you are using us. It isn’t that we don’t know, we know. We just love you enough to do it anyway.

(37) It is hard for us to balance the work we do for the church with the work of the church. We honestly cannot do it all. We are always aware that without volunteers, the church will be lacking in one area or another. We just can’t be the whole body.

(38) We know we’re always pushing for more. It isn’t that we aren’t satisfied. We just know there is always further up and further in. And the work is just never done.

(39) Seriously, I don’t just want your money. Yes, ministry takes money. But we are really in this FOR you. (In fact, I pray God will give YOU more money than you know what to do with.)

(40) I know you did a quick Google search, but I do have a Masters of Divinity degree. You aren’t an expert on anything in 20 minutes compared with my 90 hour graduate program that was after my bachelor’s degree.

Loneliness In Our Journey

I read an article the other day about the loneliness modern stay at home mothers have. They had statistics and fancy numbers, but alas, I cannot find the article. However, that is likely a good thing. As the article in question suggested some very, well, in my opinion, terrible advice. But this is something that has been on my mind lately.

mom and boys

Stay at home moms often have very little adult interaction. Our Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat feeds might give that away. But little people, while adorable and awesome, aren’t always the best kind of company. They are always demanding and give very little back. This along with the fact that our work is never done, often very underappreciated, and usually overlooked- well, it can quickly lead to feeling like less than a person. Then when you take into account our inability to shower, constantly fluctuating bodies, and not a lot of time for trivial things like nail polish and facials, well, it becomes easy to see how we get depressed. The perpetual joke of the wife who “let herself go” isn’t so funny to us because we understand and feel the weight of that. It isn’t what we wanted. But life is like that, isn’t it?

lj with glasses big

 

In our current culture, many of us find ourselves living far from family. We’re far from the free help of family babysitters who just want the joy of hanging out with our kids. Date nights become costly as we factor in childcare and pizza for the kids into the expense it takes. It very quickly feels not worth it. No support. No help. Just us organizing all of this alone.

hiking kids

As Christians, we aren’t likely to move to a commune or give polyamory a try. (Which is what was suggested in the initial article.) So where does that leave us? Just treading water until the kids go to college? I don’t think so. I think we can do better than simple survival.

beach boys

First, whether you chose to be a stay at home parent or it simply happened, it is for a purpose. Whether it is temporary or permanent, there is a reason. Knowing that you have a purpose and there is reason for your labor can make the work itself seem easier. Dishes washed get dirty quickly. But dishes provide the canvas where you nourish those in your care. There is meaning in what we do. Making our house happy for those in it provides deep benefits to those living with us. It means something, even if the work is never done.

cooking

Next, we have to build community. It is okay to reach out through virtual means. Staying connected on social media is absolutely okay. (Especially when you are keeping in contact with people you really know in real life.) Just don’t forget that what you see isn’t always the truth. I can photoshop my life to look any way I want it to look. That isn’t the real day to day in my home. That is just a peak. Just the highlight reel. Just remember that. And if the comparison trap entangles you often, it is okay to say no to social media.

pip tangeled

You also have to build your real community. Real people you can talk to and count on. The easiest way to do that is through your church. Join a small group. Reach out. Know that there are other people like you that need someone. You can be their someone. And they can be yours.

race day

Practice hospitality. I know, having people over for dinner seems like the last thing you need. More work. But inviting people into your home is inviting them into your life. These are the people you know you can call when you need emergency childcare at 2 am. These are going to be the people at your door with dinner when you need them. It is a little extra work, but it is well worth it.

peace love pip

Don’t let trivial junk drive your friends away. I know you think you wouldn’t do that, but we do it all the time. We distance ourselves from those who make different choices. Homeschool moms flock to homeschool moms. Public school moms flock to public school moms. The diapers on our kid’s butts somehow tell other moms if we are worthy of their friendship. Don’t be like that. Don’t let literal crap matter that much. Friends are people who are there for you. Choose wisely, because friends can make our lives worse. But know what matters and what doesn’t. Don’t let the small stuff keep you from getting close to people.

friends

Be the friend you want to have. I wrote a whole post on this that I decided not to post. But I think the point still needs to be made. You want someone who will bring your chicken soup when you are sick? Then take a friend chicken soup when they are sick? Want someone to babysit your kid free of charge so you can have a much needed date night? Babysit someone’s kid(s) free of charge so they can have a much needed date night. You have to create the community you want to be a part of.

zoo friends

Don’t push your spouse away. It can get so easy for us to get resentful of their adult interaction and their time not spent scrubbing bathroom walls. But this isn’t an us versus them scenario. We are all working together to make this family thing work. Don’t push away your partner in this endeavor.

ag+lj

Don’t push away from God. I know you’re busy. I know you have things to do. I know the idea of “quiet time” is laughable. But you can still find ways to seek God. You can turn on music while cleaning and praise His name. You can read devotions with your kids that will feed all of you. You can pray while doing any task. Seek Him. He is our Friend.

books

You are not alone. You are doing a great job. Whether this is for a season or forever, the time you give to your family is not wasted. Now, I think someone out there is praying for a friend like you.  

Fundraising, Charity, and The Church

funraising, and the church

I’m writing this blog post for the Church. Not just my church, but the Church. This isn’t for those outside the Church. Just the Church. I’m also writing this as a Protestant. And I’m writing this as someone knows the inner working of churches. That makes it a little more awkward. And I’ll tell you, most of the pastors I know, including the one I am married to, have a hard time talking to you, the people, about this. First, it directly affects them. Their livelihood comes from the Church. Second, some pastors, and we won’t name any names, give giving a bad name. They are self-centered and have no vision for the Kingdom, only their wallets. But the majority of pastors I know aren’t like that. The majority of the ones I know live on small salaries, sometimes working more than one job to provide for their own family, all while trying to do the thing God has called them to do. They often don’t know if they’ll have income by the end of the year. They often don’t know if they’ll have income next month. So, drop your preconceived notion about pastor millionaires flying around on personal jets. Now, on to the money talk.

I’ve been listening to quite a few podcasts lately. It is just something I do while washing dishes, folding laundry, or cooking dinner. While folding laundry and listening to an old Freakonomics Podcast (called How To Raise Money Without Killing A Kitten) about charity giving and the economics and research behind Americans giving, it just really hit me that (1) Christians aren’t the super charitable people they like to think they are and (2) the Church often tries to pull a lot of the same “tricks” other organizations do to compete for the Christian’s dollar.

Now, there are a couple of issues going on here. And I don’t call myself an expert, and really this is more of a rant to raise awareness than anything.

The average American gives 2% of their income to charity. Now, a Gallup poll in 2008 said 77% of Americans identify as Christians. (Who do they poll? I’ve never been polled. Anyway, moving on.) I think that is a very high estimate. Huffpo in 2013 said 20% of Americans no longer identify with any religion. (This source says 83% identify as Christian.  This source says 70.6%.  This source says there are 247 million Christians in the US.) My point is, something is wrong. The majority of the country is Christian, yet they obviously aren’t tithing.

Dun. Dun. Dun. I said the big bad word in today’s evangelical circles. Tithing. It is a Biblical concept you’re all aware of. Give God 10%. Now, we can debate gross or net. You can even try to debate that tithing is an Old Testament concept not relevant for a New Testament Church. And if you want to go there, fine. Pattern your life after the New Testament Church in Acts 2 when they sold everything they had and gave the profits to the poor and lived sharing everything with one another. That’s cool. I was just asking for 10%. But I guess everything works, too.

So, disconnect number one is that 2% of income from Americans is going to charity (all of them, not just the Church). Shouldn’t that number be higher since the majority of America is “Christian”? (I use the quotes because I am not sure we have that many followers of Christ; I think more of them are cultural Christians.) So, clearly, some of you (again, talking to the Church, here) aren’t giving as you should. (I should also note here that neither I nor the Pastor has now or ever known how much any individual or family in any church we’ve been in have given. We’ve made it a point to not know those things. I don’t want you thinking I cooked you dinner when you were having a tough time because you gave the church money. We’ve also made it a point not to touch the money. So, I have never seen a single check in the offering plate or a single name on the PayPal summary. I really have no clue.) And you can justify that decision until you are blue in the face, but the facts will not change. You need to be giving 10% to YOUR CHURCH. I don’t care who you are. I don’t care where you attend. You need to be tithing to your church. If you don’t trust them with your money, why are you trusting them with your spiritual health and the spiritual health of your family? You can dislike this if you want, but you need to be giving 10% to your church. You don’t need to be earmarking it for what you want it to be used on. You need to let go and give it to God. Period. No strings attached. No splitting the amount between all the good things you want to give to. 10% to your church. Then give to the other things. (And don’t forget to give of your time and talents as well.)

Back to the podcast, they listed six reasons people give to charities: (1) altruism– you really want to help the person or cause; (2) “warm glow” altruism or as I called it, selfish altruism– you want to feel good about giving, you want bragging rights, you want the warm fuzzies knowing you are a good person or knowing other think you are a good person; (3) guilt– you feel bad not giving, you don’t want to look bad by not giving; (4) herd giving– you give because others around you are giving or someone you look up to gives; (5) private good– you give to get or keep (not loose) something you want; (6) public good– you want the thing to exist, not just for yourself, but for your community or others. Now, often your reasons are a mix of things. And often churches use these same things to get you to give. (I don’t necessarily think it is intentional for the most part, just something that happens when we do things because it is the way things are done. Think about passing the offering plate for a minute. You play on herd giving: everyone else is doing it, possibly even someone I look up to. You play on guilt: I don’t want to look bad not giving. You play on public and private good: I need to give for the church to continue and I really like this or that program; plus, I want this place to exist for my community. “Warm glow” altruism: you feel good by giving; some churches will even tell you the blessings of God are directly tied to your giving. Altruism: you really do want to support the Church and the cause of Christ. Now, clearly all those are not bad things. There are a few negatives, but some positives. We don’t pass a plate at our church because of the negatives. I don’t think passing a plate is wrong. We just don’t do it.) But isn’t there another BIG reason to give to your church? Yes, I hope there is altruism in your gift. But isn’t there something else? Obedience. It is a dirty word in our culture. Obedience. But that is how we grow. That is how we grow as children. That is how we grow as Christians. I don’t know how to put others before myself until I practice it. I don’t know how to become less self-centric until I practice it. I don’t know how to be obedient until I practice it. Tithing is bare-minimum obedience practice. It is the absolute easiest form of obedience. God asks us first for the small things. When that becomes easier, it becomes easier to give the big things. To give up our lives for full-time ministry. To give up our children for full-time ministry. To give up our time for someone in need. To give up our comfort for someone else. To give up ourselves for the cross. 10% of your money is the starting point.

So why is it so hard? Why are churches closing the doors because they don’t have the funds to carry on? Why are pastors working two or three jobs just to be able to bring God’s word to God’s people? Why are churches not being planted? 70% giving 10%– we shouldn’t have problems funding any aspect of Christian work. The widows should easily be taken care of. The orphans should be well loved and cared for. The missionaries shouldn’t have to come home to beg, but come home to share the fire in their bellies for the people. Why is 10% so hard for us to let go of? And is 10% in your pocket really worth limiting the Church?

So what do donors or givers like to get? Well, according to the podcast, they like getting something in return. An inflated ego, for sure. They want to win something. They want to gain something. They want control. Sadly, how much does this all sound like Christians? (Ahem. Especially that control part. Ahem.)

But what do we actually get by tithing? What is in it for you? Well, the fact that we ask that question highlights the problem. If you’re more concerned about yourself than others then you clearly haven’t quite gotten the message of Christ.

Now, I could go through the list of what your pastor does, what your church does. I could add copies of the budget and account for hours spent and what they were spent doing. But really, the bottom-line is obedience. And your church shouldn’t have to use gimmicks and tactics to get your support. You should support them because you love God and you love the Church. You should give because you are invested in the Gospel of Christ. We should give because God tells us we should. The Christian life is a life lived for others– from our pocket books to the hours in our days. Giving isn’t to make you feel good. It isn’t to make you feel bad. It isn’t to purchase your mansion in glory. Giving is about obedience to God and love for others.

Now, I know my editor is going to give me grief about this post. All I have to say to him is that I was led to say something and that I did it out of love, not self. I think it is a message worth sharing.

40 Holy People: Week Seven

40 holy people

Day 35: Frances Ridley Havergal: All For Thee

frances_ridley_havergal

Frances was born in 1836 in England. She was the youngest of six children. Her father was a minister, so Frances grew up in the Church. Her mother died when she was 14 and she went to live and study at a boarding school.

Frances wrote poetry. Being a musician, she also put her poems to music. She prayed that God would guide and anoint her writing. And He did.

Frances told God that she would do anything He asked. She was always ready to share the story of Jesus with anyone she met, even if it meant stopping what she was doing to talk to them. She even gave all her jewelry to help fund missions work.

On her deathbed, Frances praised God to be meeting Him so soon. She tried to sing one last hymn to the Lord as she took her final breaths.

Watch this video and see if you recognize Frances’ most popular hymn.

Day 36: John Hyde: The Language of The Heart

HydeJohn

John Nelson Hyde was one of six children. His father was a minister in Carthage, Illinois. His father prayed that God would send laborers to the field (meaning people to go into the world and share Jesus). Three of the Hyde children were called into the ministry of God.

John heard God’s call on his life to go to the mission field. He talked about missions, prayed about missions, and encouraged other classmates to go to the mission field, as well. 26 of 46 of his graduating class ended up going to the mission field.

John felt God calling him to India. He served as a village missionary, traveling from village to village on foot or in a horse-drawn cart to share Jesus with the people. He spent much of that time living in a tent. He spent most of his time in India living in that tent.

john was very close to being deaf, so his sending group thought it might be best if he was not on the field. John agree to come home and turned in his resignation. The people in the villages heard that John was being pulled from the field and protested. Saying, “If he never speaks the language of our lips, he speaks the language of our hearts.”

For the first thirteen years he was in India, John saw very little results. He was robbed and threatened with violence by some. John continued to pray for India to know Christ and he continued to tell the people about Christ. He was known to pray for hours for the people he ministered to. His response to all difficulties and all problems was prayer. Though he saw little results for his prayers, He knew He would eventually see God’s harvest. He encouraged friends and family to pray for India. People all over the world starting praying with John that God would do something big in India.

In 1905, after more than a decade of work and prayer, John finally saw the answer to prayers he’d been looking for. Revival had broken out in India! (Revival is what we call it when many people turn to Jesus at once and the Holy Spirit moves people toward Christ.) For the next five years, John traveled all over India and people came to Jesus.

Two years later, John died. His dying words were, “Shout victory to Jesus!” (Only he said them in Punjab, a language used in India.)

Can you imagine God calling you to a foreign land and not even having a home to sleep in when you got there?

Could you pray for 12 years for something without seeing any answers to your prayer? Do you think that was difficult for John to do?

Coloring Page.

Day 37: William Taylor: Reaching The World

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William Taylor was born to Methodist Ministers in Virginia in 1821. He was the oldest of eleven children. He followed in his father’s steps and became a circuit preacher at the age of 21.

In 1849, William felt called to California. The Gold Rush was just beginning, and William felt God leading him to the opposite coast of his birth. He built a chapel once he arrived in California and then built a house to live in. He became the pastor to unchurched multitudes from sailors to miners, most living very sinful lives. He saw many of these people come to find salvation in Jesus. Those people, then took Jesus to those around them.

After ministering in California for about 10 years, William traveled across the country preaching to people in Philadelphia and then Indiana. Then, William went to Canada to preach the Gospel. In Canada, he heard that Australia was in need of Jesus. So, on William went to Australia. After three years of ministering in Australia, William went to South Africa. He traveled up the coast of Africa by ship, preached as they went along. In 7 months, he saw 8,000 people come to know Jesus as their Savior. From Africa, William traveled to England, preaching the Word of God to the people there. He then went to Barbados, then British Guiana, then Scotland, then to the West Indies. He preached in St. Kitts, St. Vincent, Nevis, Trinidad, Tobago, St. Thomas, and Jamaica. He then went back to Australia, then to Tasmania and Ceylon. In 1870, when he was almost 50, William went to India to preach about Jesus there and found churches. After starting revivals across India, William then went to South America, to take Jesus to the people there. At 63 years old, William went back to South Africa, which was the last place he took the word of God before his death. He set revivals ablaze in hearts on almost every continent of the world in his lifetime.

If one man could reach people in that many countries, how many people do you think could be reached by the whole Church?

Can you mark all the countries that William Taylor ministered in? (Map.)

Day 38: Peter: The Rock

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Peter was an interesting guy. He seemed to always be the first to jump out there. Sometimes, this was good for him. Other times, well, Peter must have gotten used to the rebuking. But even through his mistakes, Peter was still the guy Jesus chose to carry on the Church when He was gone.

Matthew 16:13-20 (CEB) says:

Now when Jesus came to the area of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Human One is?”

They replied, “Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the other prophets.”

He said, “And what about you? Who do you say that I am?”

Simon Peter said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

Then Jesus replied, “Happy are you, Simon son of Jonah, because no human has shown this to you. Rather my Father who is in heaven has shown you. I tell you that you are Peter. And I’ll build my church on this rock. The gates of the underworld won’t be able to stand against it. I’ll give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven. Anything you fasten on earth will be fastened in heaven. Anything you loosen on earth will be loosened in heaven.” Then he ordered the disciples not to tell anybody that he was the Christ.

Peter tells Jesus that he knows Jesus is the Son of God. Way to go, Peter! Jesus tells Peter he’s going to be the leader of the Church from there. And then what happens?

Matthew 16: 21-23 (CEB) says:

From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he had to go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders, chief priests, and legal experts, and that he had to be killed and raised on the third day. Then Peter took hold of Jesus and, scolding him, began to correct him: “God forbid, Lord! This won’t happen to you.” But he turned to Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan. You are a stone that could make me stumble, for you are not thinking God’s thoughts but human thoughts.”

Whoa! We go from, “Dude, I’m choosing you to be the rock of my Church.” to “Get behind me Satan!” That is quite the turn around. And to Peter’s benefit, wouldn’t we all wish nothing but happiness and no pain for our friends? But that wasn’t what Jesus was trying to do. Being safe wouldn’t accomplish what the world needed. So while Peter wanted his friend and Lord to just be safe, Jesus knew the plan was different.

After this night, you have Peter putting his foot in his mouth again on the mountain with Jesus. Then you have the disciples being unable to cast the demons out of a little boy, and Jesus has to do the work for them, because they lacked faith. After this, Jesus has Peter go fishing to pay their taxes. Then we see Jesus teaching his disciples lessons about lost sheep, falling into sin, and forgiveness. And so on that last week goes until we get to the night Jesus is arrested.

In Matthew 26, Jesus tells Peter that he will betray Him three times. Of course, Peter says that won’t happen. Then he cuts off a guy’s ear who is trying to arrest Jesus, so you’re thinking, maybe Peter really won’t betray Jesus. But then we read Matthew 26: 69- 75 (CEB):

Meanwhile, Peter was sitting outside in the courtyard. A servant woman came and said to him, “You were also with Jesus the Galilean.”

But he denied it in front of all of them, saying, “I don’t know what you are talking about.”

When he went over to the gate, another woman saw him and said to those who were there, “This man was with Jesus, the man from Nazareth.”

With a solemn pledge, he denied it again, saying, “I don’t know the man.”

A short time later those standing there came and said to Peter, “You must be one of them. The way you talk gives you away.”

Then he cursed and swore, “I don’t know the man!” At that very moment the rooster crowed. Peter remembered Jesus’ words, “Before the rooster crows you will deny me three times.” And Peter went out and cried uncontrollably.

And we see that Jesus was right. Peter denied him. We don’t see Peter again until after Jesus’s death, when he is at the tomb and walked in to find that Jesus’s body was gone. And then Peter is all in. No more denying. No more running. From the empty tomb until his own upside down crucifixion. From the empty tomb, Peter was bold for Christ. He became that rock that the Church was built on. He walked on water. Those moments of denial did not define the legacy of Peter. They could have if he had let them. But he didn’t. He knew Jesus. Jesus’s death was just as much for Peter as for anyone. And Peter worked for the Church Jesus loved to the end.

Do you ever feel like you’ve done something so bad that there is no hope of being good?

Do you want to confess those things to Jesus so He can forgive you and make you a holy person?

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Day 39: Jesus: Our Salvation

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Luke 22:39-46 (CEB)

Jesus left and made his way to the Mount of Olives, as was his custom, and the disciples followed him. When he arrived, he said to them, “Pray that you won’t give in to temptation.” He withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, knelt down, and prayed. He said, “Father, if it’s your will, take this cup of suffering away from me. However, not my will but your will must be done.” Then a heavenly angel appeared to him and strengthened him. He was in anguish and prayed even more earnestly. His sweat became like drops of blood falling on the ground. When he got up from praying, he went to the disciples. He found them asleep, overcome by grief. He said to them, “Why are you sleeping? Get up and pray so that you won’t give in to temptation.”

Luke 22:47-52 (CEB)

While Jesus was still speaking, a crowd appeared, and the one called Judas, one of the Twelve, was leading them. He approached Jesus to kiss him.

Jesus said to him, “Judas, would you betray the Human One with a kiss?”

When those around him recognized what was about to happen, they said, “Lord, should we fight with our swords?” One of them struck the high priest’s servant, cutting off his right ear.

Jesus responded, “Stop! No more of this!” He touched the slave’s ear and healed him.

Then Jesus said to the chief priests, the officers of the temple guard, and the elders who had come to get him, “Have you come with swords and clubs to arrest me, as though I were a thief? Day after day I was with you in the temple, but you didn’t arrest me. But this is your time, when darkness rules.”

Luke 22:63-71 (CEB)

The men who were holding Jesus in custody taunted him while they beat him. They blindfolded him and asked him repeatedly, “Prophesy! Who hit you?” Insulting him, they said many other horrible things against him.

As morning came, the elders of the people, both chief priests and legal experts, came together, and Jesus was brought before their council.

They said, “If you are the Christ, tell us!”

He answered, “If I tell you, you won’t believe. And if I ask you a question, you won’t answer. But from now on, the Human One will be seated on the right side of the power of God.”

They all said, “Are you God’s Son, then?”

He replied, “You say that I am.”

Then they said, “Why do we need further testimony? We’ve heard it from his own lips.”

Luke 23:1-49 (CEB)

The whole assembly got up and led Jesus to Pilate and began to accuse him. They said, “We have found this man misleading our people, opposing the payment of taxes to Caesar, and claiming that he is the Christ, a king.”

Pilate asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?”

Jesus replied, “That’s what you say.”

Then Pilate said to the chief priests and the crowds, “I find no legal basis for action against this man.”

But they objected strenuously, saying, “He agitates the people with his teaching throughout Judea—starting from Galilee all the way here.”

Hearing this, Pilate asked if the man was a Galilean. When he learned that Jesus was from Herod’s district, Pilate sent him to Herod, who was also in Jerusalem at that time. Herod was very glad to see Jesus, for he had heard about Jesus and had wanted to see him for quite some time. He was hoping to see Jesus perform some sign. Herod questioned Jesus at length, but Jesus didn’t respond to him. The chief priests and the legal experts were there, fiercely accusing Jesus. Herod and his soldiers treated Jesus with contempt. Herod mocked him by dressing Jesus in elegant clothes and sent him back to Pilate. Pilate and Herod became friends with each other that day. Before this, they had been enemies.

Then Pilate called together the chief priests, the rulers, and the people. He said to them, “You brought this man before me as one who was misleading the people. I have questioned him in your presence and found nothing in this man’s conduct that provides a legal basis for the charges you have brought against him. Neither did Herod, because Herod returned him to us. He’s done nothing that deserves death. Therefore, I’ll have him whipped, then let him go.”

But with one voice they shouted, “Away with this man! Release Barabbas to us.” (Barabbas had been thrown into prison because of a riot that had occurred in the city, and for murder.)

Pilate addressed them again because he wanted to release Jesus.

They kept shouting out, “Crucify him! Crucify him!”

For the third time, Pilate said to them, “Why? What wrong has he done? I’ve found no legal basis for the death penalty in his case. Therefore, I will have him whipped, then let him go.”

But they were adamant, shouting their demand that Jesus be crucified. Their voices won out. Pilate issued his decision to grant their request. He released the one they asked for, who had been thrown into prison because of a riot and murder. But he handed Jesus over to their will.

As they led Jesus away, they grabbed Simon, a man from Cyrene, who was coming in from the countryside. They put the cross on his back and made him carry it behind Jesus. A huge crowd of people followed Jesus, including women, who were mourning and wailing for him. Jesus turned to the women and said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, don’t cry for me. Rather, cry for yourselves and your children. The time will come when they will say, ‘Happy are those who are unable to become pregnant, the wombs that never gave birth, and the breasts that never nursed a child.’ Then they will say to the mountains, ‘Fall on us,’ and to the hills, ‘Cover us.’ If they do these things when the tree is green, what will happen when it is dry?”

They also led two other criminals to be executed with Jesus. When they arrived at the place called The Skull, they crucified him, along with the criminals, one on his right and the other on his left. Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they’re doing.” They drew lots as a way of dividing up his clothing.

The people were standing around watching, but the leaders sneered at him, saying, “He saved others. Let him save himself if he really is the Christ sent from God, the chosen one.”

The soldiers also mocked him. They came up to him, offering him sour wine and saying, “If you really are the king of the Jews, save yourself.” Above his head was a notice of the formal charge against him. It read “This is the king of the Jews.”

One of the criminals hanging next to Jesus insulted him: “Aren’t you the Christ? Save yourself and us!”

Responding, the other criminal spoke harshly to him, “Don’t you fear God, seeing that you’ve also been sentenced to die? We are rightly condemned, for we are receiving the appropriate sentence for what we did. But this man has done nothing wrong.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”

Jesus replied, “I assure you that today you will be with me in paradise.”

It was now about noon, and darkness covered the whole earth until about three o’clock, while the sun stopped shining. Then the curtain in the sanctuary tore down the middle. Crying out in a loud voice, Jesus said, “Father, into your hands I entrust my life.” After he said this, he breathed for the last time.

When the centurion saw what happened, he praised God, saying, “It’s really true: this man was righteous.” All the crowds who had come together to see this event returned to their homes beating their chests after seeing what had happened. And everyone who knew him, including the women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a distance observing these things.

Day 40: You: Your Life in Christ

all thumbs up

So who will you be? What will you do for God? Will you love your neighbor? Will you help the sick? Will you feed the hungry? Will your life point to the cross? Will people see you and want to know Jesus? All of these holy people made the choice to follow Jesus. (Even Jesus made the choice to do the will of the Father.) Every Saint did what they could one thing at a time. What will you do?

lewis quote

40 Holy People: Week Two

40 holy people

Day 5: Polycarp — And the Fire Will Not Touch Him

polycarp

Polycarp was a disciple of John, the disciple whom Jesus loved. He lived in the second century. So, Polycarp was among the first Christians. Polycarp was one of the three Apostolic Fathers. 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. During Polycarp’s life, there was much being said about Christ, but not all of it was true. Polycarp’s role was to keep the message of the Gospel true and not let others change it.

In his old age, it is said that Polycarp was burned at the stake for refusing to burn incense for the Roman Emperor. Polycarp said, “How then can I blaspheme my King and Saviour? Bring forth what thou wilt.” When the fire did not consume and kill Polycarp, he was stabbed. He is now regarded as a Saint in many Christian traditions. (A saint is a person who is recognized by the Church as someone who lived a very holy life. We also call those who die having faith in Jesus saints.) And we can thank Polycarp for keeping the story of the Gospel true and unchanged.

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Day 6: Athanasius — Defender of the Trinity

Athanasius

Athanasius was born around 296 AD. He was born into a Christian family in Egypt. As a child, Athanasius would baptize other children in the river outside of the church. When the Bishop of Alexandria saw, he declared that the baptisms done by Athanasius were genuine and invited the children to begin training for a clerical career.  In his young adulthood, he was a secretary for the Council of Nicaea, from which we get the Nicene Creed. (A creed is a basic statement of faith.) What we know today about the Trinity– that God is three Persons– well, you can thank Athanasius for defending that truth in the early Church. He wrote great truths and preached them, as well.

Nicene Creed

Athanasius was exiled five times, fleeing or being exiled by Emperors. After his fifth exile, he returned to Alexandria to resume writing and preaching, particularly about the Incarnation. (Incarnation is a big fancy word that means that Jesus was completely God and actually became a Man.) Quietly in his bed, Athanasius died in 373, surrounded by his clergy and faithful supporters. Athanasius is recognized by many Christian traditions as a saint, like Polycarp.

“Jesus, who I know as my Redeemer, cannot be less than God.”

-Athanasius at the Council of Nicaea (c. 325)

Map of Alexandria, Egypt

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Day 7: Jim Elliot — My Life for Yours

jimelliot

Jim Elliot was a Christian missionary to the Auca people in Ecuador. A missionary is someone who goes to another culture to spread the Gospel of Christ. As a child, Jim grew up in church and had a heart for people who died without ever hearing about Jesus. He knew from a young age that God was calling him to the mission field.

Jim first went to Shandia, Ecuador, to minister to the Quichas. After three years with the Quicha people, Jim felt God calling him to share Jesus with the Aucas, even though he knew the Aucas killed outsiders and had killed many Quichuas. To win the trust of the Aucas, Jim and fellow missionaries began dropping supplies to the Aucan people, using a bucket to lower the supplies down. After months of supply drops, the Aucas sent a gift back up in the bucket of the plane. Jim felt it was time to meet the people face to face.

Jim and four other missionaries were flown in and dropped off on the Auca beach. After waiting of four days on the beach, an Auca man and two women appeared on the beach. The missionaries tried to show them friendship and asked them to bring the others with them. For two days, the missionaries waited for the Aucas to return. On the sixth day, the Aucas returned but did not appear friendly. They came with spears raised. Though Jim carried a gun, he chose not to use it. He knew the Aucas did not know Jesus and did not want them to die without knowing Christ. Jim and his friends– Ed McCully, Roger Youderian, Nate Saint, and Pete Flemming– were all killed by the Aucas.

When the men did not call, a plane was sent out looking for them. Eventually, the bodies of the missionaries were found. Though this sounds very sad, the story is not over.

In less than two years, Jim’s wife and daughter, Elisabeth and Valeria, were able to move with Rachel Saint (Nate Saint’s sister) into the Auca village. Many of the Aucas became Christians and they are now a friendly tribe with missionaries, including Nate Saint’s son and family still living there. Though Jim and the other four missionaries died, the Aucas were still able to hear about Jesus because of them.

“He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.”

-Jim Elliot

Map of South America

Color and decorate this typography. Hang it somewhere to remind you of the boldness and heart that puts others before yourself.

Day 8: Anthony of Egypt — Running from Temptation

saintanthony3

Anthony of Egypt is known as the Father of All Monks. He was born around 251 AD. While not the first monk, he made it a habit of going out in the wilderness to be alone. Seeing the world full of snares and temptations, he ran to the wilderness to be closer to God. Most of what is known of Anthony was written in a biography by Athanasius. (Remember: we learned about him earlier this week.)

When Anthony was eighteen, his parents died. Shortly after this, Anthony decided to follow Jesus. He gave away and sold everything he had and donated the funds to help the poor. He followed the tradition of the hermit and went to live in the desert alone. (A hermit is a person who lives a simple life away from others for religious reasons.) The devil still fought to tempt Anthony through boredom, laziness, and phantoms of women, yet he overcame temptation through prayer. (There are many paintings depicting the temptation of Saint Anthony.)  It is said that, after this, Anthony went to live in a tomb, where local people would bring him food. In the tomb, the devil beat him till Anthony became unconscious, but his friends from the village found him and brought him to a local church.

Anthony then moved further into the desert, where again, Satan resumed his war on Anthony sending phantoms in the form of wild beasts, wolves, lions, snakes, and scorpions. As the beasts would attack Anthony, he would laugh at them and say, “If any of you have any authority over me, only one would have been sufficient to fight me.” And the phantoms would disappear like smoke.

the-temptation-of-st-anthony

In 311, Anthony traveled to Alexandria and visited those imprisoned for the sake of Christ and comforted them. The Governor told Anthony not to come back to the city, but Anthony did not listen and came anyway. When the Governor did not kill Anthony, he returned to the desert.

But this time, disciples followed him to the desert to be taught by him. A monastery developed around him deep in the desert and Anthony taught his disciples, now fellow monks, to pray and work. At his death, he was buried in an unmarked, secret grave.

Anthony of Egypt is recognized as a Saint in many Christian traditions.

Anthony ran to the desert to escape temptation (a strong urge or pressure to do wrong); how far would you go to escape temptation?

Anthony used prayer to overcome temptation; try praying for God to help you overcome temptations in your own life.

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Day 9: The Cappadocian Fathers — God in Three Persons

Cappadocian Fathers

First, where is Cappadocia? Well, it was just south of the Black Sea, near modern-day Turkey. (See the map.)

cappadocia map

The Cappadocian Fathers are three men. Basil the Great, Gregory of Nyssa, and Gregory of Nazianzus. They were all born sometime around 330 AD.  Basil and Gregory of Nyssa were brothers. Gregory of Nazianzus was their close friend. They helped finalize the 381 version of the Nicene Creed. (We read about the first version, from 325, when we talked about Athanasius.) They, too, were defenders of the Trinity– God in Three Persons.

In the early days after Jesus died and after all his disciples died, there were many wrong things being taught about the Gospel. People were trying to make Christ fit into the ideas they already had about religion and thought. They wanted to change Jesus to fit into what they already thought instead of letting Jesus change their minds. These early Church fathers were those who fought for the truth. We might think of them as people just sitting around thinking and writing, but they were actually working hard to preserve the truth of Jesus so that we could really know Him.

Back then, many people tried to say that Jesus was not God– that, sure, he was like God, but of course, he wasn’t really God. Some even said the Jesus wasn’t God at all– just a created man who God used. The Cappadocian Fathers insisted that people know the truth–that Jesus is fully God, that there is one God who is actually three Persons– Father, Son, and Spirit. They knew the truth, and they fought for it so that it would be passed down to you and me. Even now, their work actually helps us really know God.

Basil cared for the poor, and after his death, the poorhouse, hospital, and hospice of Ceasarea became the the lasting monuments of his life. Basil is considered a Saint by many Christian traditions.

Gregory of Nyssa is considered a Saint by many Christian traditions, though the year and cause of his death is unknown.

Gregory of Nazianzus is also considered a Saint. Gregory died of old age in Arianzum, six years after retiring from his work in the church.

Constanopolitan Creed

Day 10: Irenaeus — Standing for Truth

200px-Saint_Irenaeus

Iranaeus lived in the early 2nd century and is an early Church Father and Apologist. (An apologist is someone who defends or supports something that is criticized or attacked by other people. In this case, he defended the Gospel and the Church.) Irenaeus was a hearer (someone that listened) to Polycarp, about whom we read earlier this week.

Irenaeus’ main apologetic topic was against Gnosticism. ‘Gnosis’ means knowledge. Some people back then (and some people now) think the way to salvation is through intellectual knowledge (by learning more information than others). Irenaeus knew that the only way to salvation was through trusting what God did in and through His Son, Jesus. While the Gnostics say knowledge just comes to them through some secret teachings, Irenaeus used Scripture to defend his position– that salvation is available in Christ.

Just like many other Church Fathers, we remember and celebrate Irenaeus for his boldness to stand for truth. Thankfully, the truth of the Gospel was then passed down to you and me.

Nothing is known of Irenaeus’ death. Some say he was a martyr, that he died because of his faith in Christ. He was buried under the Church of Saint John in Lyons, which was renamed St. Irenaeus in his honor.

Standing for truth isn’t always easy. Sometimes it is hard to tell the truth or defend it. Have you ever found it tough to tell the truth? Have you ever had to defend the truth?

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