Choosing A Bible Translation

We have a huge blessing available to us in modern Bible translations. Not only do we have the Bible translated into our language, but we have multiple translations that are great for various walks of life and situations. We are abundantly blessed. So, don’t get yourself worked into a tizzy over which translation is the right translation. They’re all translations. You may prefer one, but our preference does not equal rightness. You may find yourself in a spiritual drought at some point, needing the Word to be fresh for you. A different translation can be all it takes to make the Word come alive again. You may find yourself discipling a child and need something on their level, but not a Bible storybook level either. You may find yourself reading the minor prophets in a new translation that makes it sound so poetic and beautiful and you experience Scripture in beauty for the first time. You may be helping a new Christian and need something readable for someone with no personal Christian history. Read on and find the translation for you now.

Translations are made one of two ways. Well, that simplifies it a little too much, but for the sake of this conversation, we’ll go with it. If you’re looking at a foreign language and you’re going to translate it, you can either translate each individual word or you can translate the whole thought. Translating word for word can lead to some things that just don’t make a lot of sense, since we arrange our words in English very specifically. (Did you know we even have a specific order for arranging adjectives?) So, in translating word for word, you can see you’ll run into problems. However, when translating thought for thought, you may not accurately convey the right word or the right emphasis. You find people complaining about the exact accuracy of thought for thought translations. But all translations will fall somewhere between an exact word for word translation and a thought for thought translation.

Each translation also comes in at a different grade reading level. Lower grade levels are typically going to have a less expansive vocabulary used.

King James Version (KJV)

This translation is a word for word translation with a very high reading level. (12th grade) While many people that grew up in a conservative church find this to be the Bible translation they are most familiar with, new Christians typically struggle to make sense of this translation. It is more like reading Shakespeare. It is incredibly beautiful in its language, but can be difficult to understand or get to the point. This translation is often a good one for memorizing Scripture because the poetic language is easier for some people to memorize. The flow just lends itself to getting lodged in the brain. However, for new Christians, people feeling spiritual draught, and younger Christians, the reading level is just too high and they have trouble making sense of the Word. This translation was published in 1611. This is a very common choice for a family Bible because it feels and reads like an old classic.

I John 1:9 “ If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

Psalm 40:2 “He brought me up also out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings.”

New King James Version (NKJV)

This translation is still a word for word translation. Modernized a little and the reading level brought down to a much more readable 8th grade level. It still has a lot of the poetic feel of the King James, but makes a little more sense and is easier for most people to study. This is often the choice of pastors for their preaching Bible translation. Again, Scripture memorization may be easier with this version as it is more poetic and sticks in your head like a song. This translation was published in 1982. It is a classic, conservative feel that is understandable by more people. I use this translation as our homeschool Bible. This is the translation my kids learn their memory verses from and we do our group reading from.

1 John 1:9 “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

Psalm 40:2 “ He also brought me up out of a horrible pit, Out of the miry clay, And set my feet upon a rock, And established my steps.”

New International Version (NIV)

This is a mixture of word for word and thought for thought translation. A little of both has made this a pretty standard choice. It is just below an 8th grade reading level, so it is pretty well understood by most people. This was published in 1978 and is now the most read and the most trusted translation choice.

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

Psalm 40:2 “He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.”

New Living Translation (NLT)

Like the NIV, the New Living Translation is a balance between word for word and thought for thought translation. The reading level is just above a 6th grade level, so this is a very understandable translation for most people. This was not a translation of a translation, but a brand new translation undertaking by 90 Biblical scholars. This translation flows smoothly and makes a lot of sense. It is less poetic, but much more readable and understandable. This is an excellent translation for new Christians. Published in 1996.

1 John 1:9 “But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.”

Psalm 40:2 “He lifted me out of the pit of despair, out of the mud and the mire. He set my feet on solid ground and steadied me as I walked along.”

English Standard Version (ESV)

This is a word for word translation in a little above a 7th grade reading level. This is the most popular choice for Bible Journaling. It is very readable. It isn’t unnecessarily wordy and makes a great modern choice for Scripture memorization. Publish in 2001, it is an updated version of the Revised Standard Version. This makes an excellent family Bible. I use this translation in my Bible Journaling and we have a family Bible in this translation. This also makes a great gift Bible.

1 John 1:9 “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

Psalm 40:2 “He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure.”

New American Standard Bible (NASB)

This is a modern word for word translation at a higher reading level, 11th grade. It has a more formal feel than most of the other modern translations. Published in 1971, updated in 1995. This is very readable, but also more of a scholarly translation. This is a great choice for a preaching Bible or a Christian ready for deeper Bible study. Not always the best for Scripture memorization as it does get a little wordy. This also makes an excellent family Bible.

1 John 1:9 “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

Psalm 40:2 “He brought me up out of the pit of destruction, out of the miry clay, And He set my feet upon a rock making my footsteps firm.”

Christian Standard Bible (CSB)

This is more of a word for word translation. It has a 7th grade reading level. This version is clear and concise. It is excellent for Bible study. It can also be a great translation for New Christians. I think my primary recommendation is for Christians experience spiritual dryness in their life and need the Word to come alive again. This is the translation that you can read the stories you’ve heard your whole life and see something completely new and shocking in it that has always been there, but you are just seeing it. It is a good eye opening translation for personal study. I think it would make a great preaching Bible, as well, but I don’t know many pastors who actually use it for that. This is the Bible I use as my church Bible and for personal Bible Study.

1 John 1:9 “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

Psalm 40:2 “He brought me up from a desolate pit, out of the muddy clay, and set my feet on a rock, making my steps secure.”

International Children’s Bible (ICB)

This is a thought for thought translation in a third grade reading level. This is a translation meant for children. If you’re a children’s pastor, this would be a good preaching and teaching Bible for you. This is a good choice for a first Bible for a child. It is very easily understood. Published in 1982. This can be difficult for kids to follow along in service or Bible study if the leader isn’t using this version.

1 John 1:9 “But if we confess our sins, he will forgive our sins. We can trust God. He does what is right. He will make us clean from all the wrongs we have done.”

Psalm 40:2 “ He lifted me out of the pit of destruction, out of the sticky mud. He stood me on a rock. He made my feet steady.“

The Message (MSG)

This is a thought for thought, paraphrase version. A lot of hate out there for this version, but I think it definitely has its place. This translation is excellent for seekers who have no Christian back ground or experience. It was published in 2002, and can sometimes seem too flippant for many conservative Christians. But a teen who has never read the Bible will find this an invaluable source of God’s Word. And not just teens. The reading level varies with the passage, but it is about a middle school average. This can also be a good version for those experiencing spiritual aridity, but it doesn’t make for a very good study Bible. You will hear and notice things you didn’t before, but not in the same way you will with the CSB. This is a difficult version to follow along with in service or Bible study because of the paraphrasing.

1 John 1:9 “ On the other hand, if we admit our sins—make a clean breast of them—he won’t let us down; he’ll be true to himself. He’ll forgive our sins and purge us of all wrongdoing.“

Psalm 40:2 “ He lifted me out of the ditch, pulled me from deep mud. He stood me up on a solid rock to make sure I wouldn’t slip.“

New International Reader’s Version (NIrV)

This is a blend of word for word and thought for thought. This has the lowest reading level of any of the translations, just below 3rd grade. This is a translation for very young children. This was published in 1994 and updated in 1998. It is a beginner’s Bible. Excellent choice for a first Bible for brand new readers. This is a good resource for homeschooling parents to use to teach young kids to read or write using the Bible. This is the translation I usually buy my kids as they are learning to read.

1 John 1:9 “But God is faithful and fair. If we confess our sins, he will forgive our sins. He will forgive every wrong thing we have done. He will make us pure.”

Psalm 40:2 “I was sliding down into the pit of death, and he pulled me out. He brought me up out of the mud and dirt. He set my feet on a rock. He gave me a firm place to stand on.”

This isn’t all the Bible translations available to you. Check out biblegateway.com if you want to compare more translations. These are just a few that I hope might help you in choosing the Bible that is right for your situation.

Another note: I used to find myself feeling bad for owning multiple copies of the Bible. That was surely a luxury many in this world do not have. And that is correct. There are many who don’t have the luxury of owning one single full copy of God’s Word. So, it often felt very first world of me to own many copies. However, I have come to accept that a Bible used in my house by me or my children is to God’s glory. No matter how many Bibles we have- if we are using them, it is for His glory. Also, supporting Bible publishers is supporting Bible translators. These companies can do good around the world with my support. Supporting them is supporting the work of furthering the spread of the Gospel. Choosing to put my money in their pockets is better than what I would have spent it on elsewhere. Also, I am always willing to give my Bible away. Whatever copy I may have in my hand at the moment, if someone else has no copy- I’m always ready to give mine away. I am not hoarding Bibles, though it may seem that way.

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What Does A Pastor Do?

Last month was Pastor Appreciation Month. During that month, you’ll have a handful of people share on social media a little peek into the difficult life of being a pastor. But for the most part, most people sit around and wonder what a pastor actually does. You hear a statistic that pastor’s routinely work 60-70 hours a week, and most people wonder, “Doing what?” More than one person has responded to hearing my husband is a pastor with something along the lines of, “Must be nice to only work two hours a week.” They mean it as a joke, but the fact is, most people don’t have any idea what a pastor does all week. So, I figured I’d shed a little light on that. Not all pastors do all these things. Some pastors are bivocational, meaning they work more than one job, and cannot do all these things. Some churches have more staff than just the pastor to help with some of these things. But any given week, this is what pastors across your community are doing.

You see them preaching on Sunday morning. That sermon usually takes around 10 hours to write and get ready to deliver. That doesn’t include all the other prep for Sunday morning, like typing up and printing bulletins, getting ready to teach a Sunday School class, choosing music or approving music for the service, picking up the coffee and tea, and making sure all volunteers will actually be showing up on Sunday. Then after church, they are putting things away, cleaning up, and getting the list of thing they need to remember for the next week going. (Remember to go pick up more pens. Get more giving envelopes printed. The nursery is out of wet wipes, pick some up. Etc.) Sunday morning takes a team of people to pull off, but the pastor has the bulk of the work, usually spending 18 hours or more each week just making Sunday morning happen at all.

The pastor is also responsible for making small groups, midweek meetings, and/or Sunday School happen. Even when there are other people to help lead these group meetings, the responsibility to choose curriculum or books still falls on the pastor. Every study done in a small group is usually read by the pastor first, to make sure it fits with their congregation and isn’t heresy. (Pastors, if you don’t already do this, you should.) They are also responsible for teaching those that are teaching how to teach and lead. They are checking in with them, seeing how things are going, and keeping up to date on the group’s progress. Just because they may not be at every small group meeting does not mean they aren’t actively involved in every small group.

The Pastor is on call all the time. Not just for church members, but for anyone in the community. He is called in for counseling on a regular basis. Some of those, he’ll refer to a counseling professional after an initial meeting. Some, he’ll continue to meet with on a regular basis. He is always there when people need to talk, not just people who give or contribute to the church. It may simply be a phone call. Or he may have to leave before dinner and head out to pick someone up that needs a friend right now. Sometimes it is people just needed a place to vent. Life is stressful. Sometimes he may need to mediate a family conflict. Sometimes he may need to pick someone’s teenager up and try to be a voice of reason when they aren’t listening to much of anyone lately. Whatever it may be, it can take hours of his day or week, even in a small congregation. And he can’t just turn off his phone, ever. Because people need him.

The Pastor is often just the guy people call when they need someone. Emergency childcare, emergency transportation, house work, yard work, moving- he’s just the guy you call because he is dependable. When a single mother of four is evicted from her apartment, he’s the guy people call to help her figure out temporary and permanent housing. When she needs a sitter for a job interview, he’s the guy called to babysit. When someone locks their keys in their car, he’s the guy to call to drive them across town and back with the spare key. He’s just the reliable guy that will drop anything he can to help anyone he can.

The Pastor is visiting people often. This is something people in the church should be doing as well, but the pastor is making it a point to see the elderly, sick, and shut-ins in his care often. Taking them flowers to brighten their room. Delivering cards from the kids’ Sunday School class, so they know they are missed and still feel like part of the church. Taking them communion when they can’t make it to church because no one should have to miss the sacraments. He’s visiting strangers in the hospital, because someone called and said there is someone in a local hospital that needs someone to talk to. He’s also visiting with those in the church outside of a church setting. Getting together for coffee to catch up on life. Grabbing a quick lunch on someone’s lunch break with them just to be able to chat. He is staying connected constantly, which takes face to face time.

The Pastor is out there in the community doing the work of Jesus. Yes, he is coordinating volunteers to do this work as well. Yes, he is harassing and dragging those in the church along with him at times. But he knows from the example of Jesus to be a servant leader, to get out there and do the work himself, hoping you’ll follow his example. Often, he’s going at this alone, unable to convince anyone to join him. But he’s out there getting his hands dirty for Jesus, caring for the least of these.

The Pastor is constantly reading and trying to stay “in the know” on both or culture and the Christian culture. He’s reading through the top books at the Christian book store so he can know what you’re hearing. He’s staying up to date on current events so he can know where people are. He’s challenging himself by reading theology, counseling, and leadership books so he can be the best he can be for you. He’s also doing his own daily Bible study, and studying the Bible with his family. He’ll also, likely, be heading to conferences and meetings to stay “up on his trade”, like continuing education. And he’s likely listening to the sermons of other pastors throughout the week.

The Pastor also has to do work that just needs to be done. Keeping up the church website, making sure it stays current and relevant. He has to send out the same information in a half dozen different ways to make sure everyone is informed. He can’t just send an email about an upcoming event because half the church will say they don’t check their emails. He’ll have to put it on the website, knowing only 3 or 4 people even check that on a regular basis; make a Facebook event and personally invite every person in the church and share it on the church’s group page; share it on Twitter; send half the church a text about it, because that is the only mode of communication they use; and then call people every few days to make sure everyone knows what is going on. This is all in addition to the ad on Sunday morning and the reminder in the bulletin. He has to upload the sermon each Sunday and make sure he shares it on every available social media platform. It may look like he is always promoting himself, but really, he has to share things that many times to make sure everyone in the church even knows the thing exists. He’ll also have to type up and send prayer request emails through the week as people call or send those to him.

The Pastor may also have other ministries that he is involved in. Our pastor is on the board for our association, so any given week, he has several hours of work to help them out as a volunteer. They are also contacted by all manner of non-profit ministries and organizations to try to solicit the congregation on their behalf. They have to wade through each request and determine if the non-profit is in line with the values and mission of their church and what their involvement should be, if any.

There are also the services a pastor performs. Weddings and funerals both take considerable time and often, pastors aren’t paid for either. A wedding usually takes about 30 hours of work from the Pastor. (10 hours of counseling, 5 hours to write the service, 5 hours for the rehearsal, 10 hours the day of the wedding from pre and post wedding duties.) A funeral usually takes about 20 hours of work from the Pastor. (10 hours meeting with the family and writing the service. 6 hours of visitation. 4 hours for the actual service and after.) Keep in mind, in both scenarios, the Pastor is first there and usually last to leave. And a pastor isn’t guaranteed to make any money from either, even if travel and hotel expenses are involved.

There are also other speaking engagements a pastor may be asked to do. A youth camp, a retreat, a service at a Christian school. Those are often unpaid, as well.

The majority of a pastor’s work is secret, unseen, so it is easy to see where the misconception comes from that they don’t do that much. But when you are going through a crisis, you know who you can call. When you are in need of guidance, you know who you can call. We know they do things other than just preach on Sunday morning, but we often don’t think about just how much they are doing.

Bible Journaling 

 Bible Journaling can be a great way to get in God’s Word on a more regular basis and change the way you interact with it. Artistic skills or not, you can Bible Journal and you can get a lot out of it.
If you have a hard time remembering to read your Bible daily or if you are just in a rut with Bible reading, you may way to seriously consider using Bible Journaling to rekindle your love of The Word. 


 There are many different journaling Bibles on the market. I have found that CBD.com offers the biggest selection for the cheapest price. There are single column versions, double column versions. Some with space to write or doodle at the bottom of the page. Some have doodle space to the side margin. Some have every other page blank. You’ll find many different versions available. Which one is best for you depends on you. Do you have to have a Journaling Bible to Bible Journal? Well, no. Not at all. You can journal the Word in other ways. But a Journaling Bible is nice to have.


 You’ll find many examples of Bible Journaling pages on Instagram looking under the hashtags #illustratedfaith #biblejournaling #icolorinmybible. You will also find plenty of inspiration on Pinterest, searching for Bible Journaling. Some people draw, some letter, some do more of a scrapbook thing, some buy or download prints to trace or to paste into their Bible. Some people like to play around with multiple methods. You’ll find that some people are okay covering the Bible text, while others like to keep all the text readable. What you decide is really up to you. But make sure that whatever you choose, it is about you saturating yourself with the Word and not just about trying to make something cool.


 Not every journal entry I make turns out awesome. Sometimes my ink smudges. Sometimes I just don’t like the result all that much. But that is okay. The end results are what it is all about for me. The process is where it is at for me. Reading Scripture, finding a verse that speaks to me, taking that verse and carefully lettering it so it sinks in good and deep. That is what I am working toward. Interacting with God’s Word. The results are just pretty proof and a good reminder when I flip through my Bible.


 My journaling Bible is quite hefty. I chose the Crossway ESV Interleaved version. So every other page of my Bible is blank. That makes for a very thick book. For that reason, it pretty much stays at home. I have another Bible that I keep in my bag for church and reading while I am out. It sounds very first world to have multiple Bibles. And it took me a long time to allow myself permission for this little luxury. But I have now given myself permission, and I am glad that I did.


 I don’t necessarily journal every day. Right now, I am, because I am working through a #letteringhislove challenge on Instagram. These types of challenges help me shake things up. I do read the Bible daily, but I don’t always have the time to devote to making a journaling page. It is never quite when I do my Bible Journaling or my devotions, for that matter. Quite is not something I get in my house. I do get time to sit and work on it. I might be interrupted a few dozen times. Some people like to put on music. I grab a cup of coffee or a glass of tea and sit and enjoy God’s Word. Sometimes a kid will join me at the breakfast table and work on their own art. My tween likes to make pages to tape into her Bible. Music isn’t always possible because someone may be watching Teen Titans or Paw Patrol in the next room. That is okay for me.


 My favorite tool in Bible Journaling is my Tombow Calligraphy Pen. I find it does lettering so beautiful and deep black. I usually do a quick mock up on a piece of notebook paper, then use a pencil to lightly draw my basic lettering onto the page. I then go over the pencil with my Tombow Calligraphy pen. To keep my words straight, I put a sheet of lined notebook paper under my Bible page. It gives faint lines I can follow without me having to mark the page with lines that then have to be erased. It is also helpful when I am using things that might bleed through.



 I have tried the Tombow Dual Brush Pens. I thought I would love them. Turns out, I don’t. Maybe I would like some of the colors, but the black and gray that I have are just not all that impressive.


 Pigma Micron pens are also great for Bible Journaling. I find the thicker ones (05 and 08) are best for me. But the smaller ones are great for tiny details.


 Water brush pens and watercolors are also excellent art supplies to try. The water brush pens keep you from using a huge amount of water in your work, so it doesn’t wrinkle the page as much. I have also used regular brushes and watercolor, and have liked the experience despite the page wrinkle issues. Dr. Ph. Martin’s Bombay ink is my all time favorite art supply. Unfortunately, it isn’t really best with Bible Journaling, due to the thin pages. If you want to use something that isn’t great on thin paper, you can always use it on better art paper and then use double sided tape, washi tape, or even a glue stick to glue it in.


 I usually leave my Bible open to dry after I am done, but if I need to close it, I just stick another sheet of ruled paper on the top and close it. With very wet watercolors, this isn’t the best idea. But once everything is close to drying, or you used pens, it is fine.


 I also have a love for washi tape. I use it to decorate my Bible book headers. I also use it to add some accent to pages. I use stickers, as well. Decorative paper can also be fun to work with and add in. I like to tab my artwork pages. I have used a few different kinds of tabs, but the Recollections sticker tabs from Michael’s are my favorite tabs. They are a really good size and they stick well.



 Gel pens, colored pencils, acrylic paints, watercolor colored pencils, stamps, and stencils are all good tools to use for Bible journaling if you like them. You can also add decorative paper clips, bookmarks, really anything you like. I have seen some people Bible Journaling with just a pencil to sketch lovely drawings. Use the supplies you like. You can use the title page or table of contents page as a test page to see what your tools are going to actually do on the Bible style paper.


 If you’re not quite sure about going the Journaling Bible route, you can always just keep a notebook of your art. Bookmarks are another way to begin Bible Journaling without committing to writing or drawing directly in your Bible. Another method would be to use double sided tape to tape pages into your Bible. I did this for a few months before I decided to buy a Journaling Bible.



 If you are not really wanting to create the art yourself, you can buy a Coloring Bible or a Bible Coloring Book. There are also several people on Etsy that sell Bible Journaling templates you can use to trace or glue into your Journaling Bible. You can scrapbook your Bible, if that is more your thing. Really, anything that gets you into the word and interacting with it in new ways is going to be a good thing.


Here are some additional resources you may like:

The Joy of Lettering 

Creative Lettering and Beyond

Complete Guide To Bible Journaling 

 

 So, where do you start? Start with your favorite verse. Start with a Psalm or Proverb. Start with a Bible Story you can illustrate. Start wherever you are currently reading. Start with adding one entry to each book of the Bible. Just get started!


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Epiphany Family Devotion

We celebrate Christmas for 12 days and then comes this day we call Ephipany. Some people call it Three Kings Day. We tend to think of the kings, be they three or not, and think about the gifts they brought Jesus. They brought significant gifts, as we will read. But the gifts aren’t exactly what we are celebrating on this day.  

Read Matthew 2:1-12

We aren’t sure where the kings were from, simply that they were from the east. These were not Jewish men. They were Gentiles, simply meaning, they were from outside Israel. These wise men followed a star to Jesus. We don’t know exactly when they came. We don’t know their names. We just know they heard a prophesy, saw a star, and came to Jesus with gifts.

Now, the gifts themselves were significant. Not traditional baby gifts, by any means. What kind of gifts would you give a baby? (Pause for discussion.) The wise men brought gold, frankincense, and myrrh. What strange gifts. Gold for a king. Frankincense for a priest. Myrrh for a dead man. But the gifts aren’t what is important here. What they reveal about the giver is what we celebrate on Epiphany.

Epiphany is defined as being a moment of sudden revelation or insight. It is from a Greek word that means Reveal. At Epiphany, we see Jesus being revealed to people outside of Israel. Epiphany is about Jesus being revealed to the Gentiles, the world. He isn’t just going to be the king, priest, and savior of Israel. He is going to be king, priest,, and savior of all men. The gifts given reveal to us that the Kings, the Wise Men, knew who Jesus was and that He had come to save mankind, not just the nation of Israel.

So, today, we celebrate! Not only has Jesus been born, He has been revealed to the whole world. Not only did Jesus come to save His own people, the people of Israel, He came to save all mankind. He came as a King, Priest, and Savior for the whole world! Rejoice!

Expectation: Advent Week One Devotion

We begin Advent with Expectation. Christ entered the world as Israel’s long-awaited Messiah and the long-dreamed-of Redeemer of humanity. After the visit from the angel, Mary, “the maidservant of the Lord” (Luke 1:38), found herself expecting a son who she was to name Jesus (literally translated is “Yahweh saves”), for He would be the world’s Savior.

This week, we are lighting the first Advent candle. This first candle is the first. The time we’ve been waiting for is here! We light this candle with the expectation of what is to come. Advent is here! Jesus is coming! We can expect great things this season.

God has always shown Himself to be more than capable to meet the needs of man. Physical needs, spiritual needs, relational needs, financial needs- He is able to meet them all. What needs do you have right now? Can you remember a time when God met your needs? When we look back and remember the faithfulness He has shown in meeting our needs, it gives us the hope and expectation to look forward to Him meeting our current need.

Someone once said quite simply, “Faith is expecting God.” This Advent season, what are you expecting?

As we await Christ’s return, we do so expectantly. As we live our lives till then, however, we should expect to find Him in the middle of them. If we don’t, we should pray that He would walk into our days and help us to have eyes to see Him.

This week’s Scripture reading is as follows. Remember to look the verses up and read them aloud as a family. If you are personally journaling through this Advent, these are also the verses for you to read, write, and journal.

Isaiah 64:1-9

Psalm 80:1-7, 17-19

Mark 13:24-37

1 Corinthians 1:3-9

Optional Activities or Ways to celebrate the week of Expectation.

·        Give a small gift. I like to give my family a small gift at the beginning of Advent. Looking forward in the expectation of the Gift to come. But also, something to help them embrace the season. A child’s nativity playset, a book about Christmas, a Christmas movie, a new set of hot cocoa mugs for the family, a special Christmas doll, a Christmas sweater or socks. Just something to kick off this season with joy and expectation.

·        This is the week we break out all manner of Christmas things in our house. The Christmas music comes out. The Christmas movies reappear on the shelves. The Christmas books adorn the coffee table. The play nativity is set out. The Advent candles appear on the mantle. We don’t yet decorate, but we do break out the fun stuff. Just a taste of what is to come.

·        Make a list of what you expect this Advent. For kids, this can easily turn into a wish list. Try to steer them toward the more intangible aspects of the season. Time with family. Reading stories by the tree. Making cookies with Mom.

·        Have a discussion about Christ’s coming. I put this in the optional activities for two reasons. One being that smaller kids might not be able to really discuss. The other being that you yourself might not know what to say. We are not all well versed of prepared when it comes to eschatology. So, perhaps you want to wrap you head around it yourself this week. Or maybe you want to open the discussion with the whole family. My kids tend to surprise me when it comes to theological discussions. Sometimes they are heretics and need to be “smacked down” (that was a joke, I don’t actually smack them) when it comes to heresy. But they often bring up good points and questions. Look into it together. Don’t be afraid to say, “I don’t know.” Feel free to write your questions down and e-mail The Pastor or your pastor about questions you and your family might have. No one has all the answers. We don’t know all the ins and outs of the second coming. But that doesn’t mean we have to avoid discussing it. This week of Expectation is about expecting the coming baby in a manger and expecting that baby’s second coming on a cloud.

·        Write a story about your favorite Christmas memory. Share them with one another. You could do this on your own in a journal, or have everyone write about their favorite Christmas memory. I am always surprised with my kids’ responses to questions like this and they seem to enjoy hearing Mom and Dad sharing about their memories. You could also make a list of your top 10 or something if you’d rather not write every detail of one specific memory out.

·        Make a picture (draw, paint, color, cut out, art in some way) of you favorite part of Christmas. And I do this right along with my kids. We art together. The Pastor usually skips it, but I love it too much to let the kids have all the fun.

We Can Bless Others- Week Four

“Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; I was naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.’ Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink? And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You? When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.’” Matthew 25: 34-40 (NASB)

Think about a time when someone blessed you. I remember when I just had two little babies. I felt very overwhelmed much of the time. I’m not the most organized person, so I was rarely prepared. Well, one day, we were out and one of the babies had a huge blowout diaper. Of course, I had exactly one wet wipe on my person. I could have kicked myself. Then a complete stranger, another mom, noticed my predicament and “loaned” me her pack of wipes. That was an extremely simple gesture, but in that moment, it was such a blessing. It made that situation bearable for me. I am still grateful for those few wet wipes.

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Imagine if we all just gave a little of ourselves to one another. Imagine what a huge blessing we could be to each other.

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We often find ourselves saying, “But what can I do?” We think we do not HAVE enough to give. But think of it: You HAVE Jesus. You HAVE all that there is to give.

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We can find ways to give. We can find ways to bless others. Through acts, time, words, or things. We can be a blessing. You may not be able to feed all of the homeless people in your area, but you CAN feed one. You may not be able to clothe all of the poor, but you CAN donate your used clothing and clothe some.

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This week, let’s focus on ways we can bless others. Let’s write notes of encouragement. Let’s take food to the hungry. Let’s open our eyes and see how we can bless our world.

Discussion Questions:

  • In what ways are you a blessing to others?
  • Do you recall a time someone was an unexpected blessing to you?
  • What more could you do to bless others?

Activities:

  • Start a Family Food Drive! Decide on a budget, and go shopping for a local food pantry. You can also shop your own pantry. It doesn’t matter how MUCH you give, simply THAT you give.
  • Take on some Neighborhood Trash Duty. Take a family walk armed with a garbage bag. Pick up trash around your neighborhood. This is especially helpful on trash day ― when things might have gotten dropped on the ground. It may not seem important, but it is something you can do to show love for your neighbors.
  • Become a family of Secret Helpers. You can run this two ways. Way one: Each member of the family draws a name from a hat, and they secretly do things to try to bless that person this week. The alternative: Just let them play “Spy and Try” to secretly bless the family through the week. Either way works. They aren’t working for a Thank-You; they are trying to secretly be a blessing.

My Prayer for You:

Lord, open our eyes to the needs of those around us. Prick our hearts and let us be moved to action. Show us how we can be a blessing and give us the courage to do it. Let our hearts be burdened for others. Let us be moved to action and show others the love You so freely give. Let us be a blessing. Amen.

We Are Thankful – Week Three

“Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (NASB)

“Therefore I will give thanks to You, O Lord, among the nations, and I will sing praises to Your name.” 1 Samuel 22:50 (NASB)

“O give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; for His lovingkindness is everlasting. Then say, ‘Save us, O God of our salvation, and gather us and deliver us from the nations, to give thanks to Your holy name, and glory in Your praise.’” 1 Chronicles 16:34-35 (NASB)

“Through Him then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name.” Hebrews 13:15 (NASB)

Clearly this thankful-thing is Biblical. Last week, we listed all our blessings, and for these, we should give thanks.

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Expressing gratitude can be difficult for some of us. Sometimes it is because we are not grateful because we are not focused on being content and counting our blessings.

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Sometimes it is because we aren’t sure how to adequately express our gratitude. Other times, it may be because we try to suppress our emotions, thinking only intellectualism matters. (God made your emotions and uses emotional language to express Himself to us. Your emotions are God-given and can give glory to God. Don’t always suppress them.)

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Gratitude and expressing thanks is a matter of the heart. We have to see the blessing to be thankful for it. We sometimes have to practice this to get to where it is our natural response.

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This week, let’s focus on actually giving thanks. Let’s say, “Thank You,” to God. Let’s say,  “Thank you,” to one another. Let’s learn to express our gratitude.

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Discussion Questions:

  • Do you thank God for your blessings enough?
  • Do you thank others when they are a blessing to you?
  • Do you need to work on seeing things from a grateful point of view?

Activities:

  • Think of someone you have not/did not thank for something they have done in your life. It could be a teacher, pastor, friend, family member, librarian, crossing guard, etc. Write them a Thank-You note. Be specific about what you are grateful for. It doesn’t have to be long, but be specific in your thanks. For kids that are too young to write, Mom and Dad can help with the writing, and they can do the decorating!
  • Consider how a Thank-You feel, and share that feeling. Mom and Dad, tell each of your children something you are thankful to them for. (Some examples: Thank you for always being willing to help. Thank you for sweeping the porch today. Thank you for being kind to your siblings. Thank you for giving me lots of hugs and kisses.) After you tell each child, “Thank you,” discuss as a family how it feels to be told, “Thank you.”
  • Have a Thank-You Relay. You’ll need spoons and cotton balls. Give each kid a spoon. Pass the cotton ball from spoon to spoon without using hands. Remember to say, “Thank you,” when you receive the cotton ball! If you have enough people, you can split into teams. You can amp up the intricacy for older kids if you need to or keep it simple for little ones. To take things up a notch, make them spin around, jump, run, or not bend their elbows while they pass the cotton ball! Grab a spoon yourself! This is full-family fun!

My Prayer for You:

Lord, help us to give thanks, to speak from our lips what our heart fully feels. Give us the courage to give thanks out loud and often. May it be a blessing to the people around us. Amen.