What God is Saying:

"Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." Matthew 28:19-20

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Children's Easter Devotion: A Glimpse of Heaven (Day 37)


After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands.
And they cried out in a loud voice: "Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb."
All the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures. They fell down on their faces before the throne and worshiped God,
saying: "Amen! Praise and glory and wisdom and thanks and honor and power and strength be to our God for ever and ever. Amen!"
Then one of the elders asked me, "These in white robes--who are they, and where did they come from?"
I answered, "Sir, you know." And he said, "These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.
Therefore, "they are before the throne of God and serve him day and night in his temple; and he who sits on the throne will spread his tent over them.
Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst. The sun will not beat upon them, nor any scorching heat.
For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; he will lead them to springs of living water. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes." Revelation 7:9-17


Questions:
- What is the book of Revelation about? (a vision John sees about the events going on in Heaven and on earth - some in the present, some in the future); these events seem to be taking place right now, pointing to the ongoing worship of Jesus Christ that occurs in Heaven
- How do you think John must have felt to see this worship of Christ after he had seen His crucifixion years earlier?
- How is the multitude described? Who are they?
- Who is the Lamb?
- Describe some of the things that John and we can learn about Heaven from these verses.
- What does it mean that the Lamb is their Shepherd?

Thoughts
Here, in Revelation, we can catch a small glimpse of what Heaven is like right now and what we can expect to see and do when we get there. It is centered on the worship of the Trinity (God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit) as we celebrate the Lamb. This will be beyond any wonderful experience we have ever had on earth because each of us was created specifically to worship God. In Heaven, we will be able to fully and completely carry out all that we were created to be. And Jesus will be at the center of it all. This is why we should do our best today, on earth, to make Jesus the center of our life. To ask Him to sit on the throne of our heart and to worship Him daily. This will bring both joy to us and to the Lord and prepare us for eternity in Heaven. Is He sitting on the throne of your life today?

Prayer
Lord Jesus, we so look forward to one day being in Heaven with You, worshipping You around the throne and entering ultimate joy and peace. Thank You for making a way for us. While we are here on earth, may we worship You with our lives. Show us how to do this Lord. We love You so much!

Song: Salvation Belongs to our God

Salvation belongs to our God
Who sits upon the throne
And unto the Lamb
Praise and glory, wisdom and thanks
Honor and power and strength

Be to our God forever and ever
Be to our God forever and ever
Be to our God forever and ever, Amen

And we, the redeemed shall be strong
In purpose and unity
Declaring aloud
Praise and glory, wisdom and thanks
Honor and power and strength

Here is a link with the music: Salvation belongs to our God

Monday, April 14, 2014

Children's Easter Devotion: Free in Jesus (Day 36)




Bible: read 2 Corinthians 5:21 and 8:9 first and then go to the questions

God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.  2 Corinthians 5:21

For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.  2 Corinthians 8:9

You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.
Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die.
But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God's wrath through him!
For if, when we were God's enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!
Not only is this so, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.  Romans 5:6-11

For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin--because anyone who has died has been freed from sin.
Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.
For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him.
The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God.
In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.  Romans 6:6-11


Questions:
- What did God make Jesus become for us? What do you think that means?
- What is righteousness? (right living, living a life that is pleasing to God)
- What does it mean that we will become the righteousness of God? (we can't earn righteousness, it is a gift of God through Christ)
- Read Romans 5:6-11
- What were we when Christ died for us? So did we do anything to earn His forgiveness?
- Will Jesus forgive everything we do if we ask Him?
- Read Romans 6:6-11
- What are we no longer slaves to? What does that mean?
- Will Jesus ever have to die again for our sins?
- What does it mean to be dead to sin but alive to God?

Thoughts
Our sin was destroyed on the cross. All the wrong things we have done or will do in the future have been destroyed. Instead of being clothed in our sin, we are clothed in Jesus' white robes of righteousness. That means that when God looks at us, He no longer sees our sin. Instead, He see Jesus' goodness. We cannot do anything to earn it. This has already been done for us. All we have to do is receive God's perfect gift.

Prayer
Lord Jesus, I praise You and thank You for what You did on the cross. You became my sin. All the times I have been mean, or hateful, or cruel, or unloving, the times I've lied or disobeyed, You took all that sin away. Now I don't have to live under its weight but I am free to live in righteousness through You. I love You Jesus.

Song: Crucified with Christ

As I look back on what I thought was living
I'm amazed at the price I choose to pay
And to think I ignored what really mattered
Cause I thought the sacrifice would be too great
But when I finally reached the point of giving in
I found the cross was calling even then
And even though it took dying to survive
I've never felt so much alive.

Chorus
For I am crucified with Christ and yet I live
Not I but Christ that lives within me
His Cross will never ask for more than I can give
For it's not my strength but His
There's no greater sacrifice
For I am crucified with Christ and yet I live

As I hear the Savior call for daily dying
I will bow beneath the weight of Calvary
Let my hands surrender to His piercing purpose
That holds me to the cross but sets me free
I will glory in the power of the cross
The things I thought were gain I count as loss
And with His suffering I identify
And by His resurrection power I am alive

Chorus

Bridge
And I will offer all I have
So that His cross is not in vain
For I found to live is Christ
And to die is truly gain



Here is a link with the music and words: Crucified with Christ

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Children's Easter Devotion: We Are Pardoned, He Was Condemned (Day 35)


Pilate called together the chief priests, the rulers and the people, and said to them, "You brought me this man as one who was inciting the people to rebellion. I have examined him in your presence and have found no basis for your charges against him.
Neither has Herod, for he sent him back to us; as you can see, he has done nothing to deserve death.
Therefore, I will punish him and then release him."
With one voice they cried out, "Away with this man! Release Barabbas to us!"
(Barabbas had been thrown into prison for an insurrection in the city, and for murder.)
Wanting to release Jesus, Pilate appealed to them again.
But they kept shouting, "Crucify him! Crucify him!"
For the third time he spoke to them: "Why? What crime has this man committed? I have found in him no grounds for the death penalty. Therefore I will have him punished and then release him."
But with loud shouts they insistently demanded that he be crucified, and their shouts prevailed.
So Pilate decided to grant their demand.
He released the man who had been thrown into prison for insurrection and murder, the one they asked for, and surrendered Jesus to their will.  Luke 23:13-25


But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.
We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.  Isaiah 53:5-6


Questions:
- Who deserved to be punished? What had he done?
- Who was punished instead? What had Jesus done wrong?
- How was Jesus a substitute for Barabbas?
- How do you think Barabbas felt when he realized that he was free and someone else would die in his place.
- What can we learn from this? (read Isaiah 53:5-6)


Thoughts
We are all like Barabbas. We have all committed sin that has condemned us to an eternity of punishment. "All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one." Romans 3:12  We can't earn a pardon/salvation anymore than Barabbas could do anything himself to be released. All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away. Isaiah 64:6 Yet, just as with Barabbas, Jesus stepped in and took our punishment. We are pardoned and He was condemned.


Prayer
Lord Jesus, how can we thank You enough for what You did for us? You took our punishment, our sins, and got rid of them on the cross. We love You and want You to be our Lord and Savior. Praise You Jesus.


Song: Amazing Love

I'm forgiven because you were forsaken
I'm accepted, You were condemned
I'm alive and well
Your spirit is within me
Because you died and rose again

Amazing love, how can it be?
That you, my king. would die for me
Amazing love, I know it's true
And it's my joy to honor you
Amazing love how can it be?
That my king would die for me
Amazing love I know it's true
And it's my joy to honor you
In all I do
I honor you

You are my king
You are my king
Jesus, You are my king
Jesus, You are my king

Here is a link to the song with words: Amazing Love

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Children's Easter Devotion: Happy Palm Sunday


The next day the great crowd that had come for the Feast heard that Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem.
They took palm branches and went out to meet him, shouting, 
"Hosanna!" "Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!" 
"Blessed is the King of Israel!"
Jesus found a young donkey and sat upon it, as it is written,
"Do not be afraid, O Daughter of Zion; see, your king is coming, seated on a donkey's colt." 
At first his disciples did not understand all this. Only after Jesus was glorified did they realize that these things had been written about him and that they had done these things to him.  John 12:12-16

Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion! Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.  
Zechariah 9:9

After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. 
They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands.
And they cried out in a loud voice: 
"Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb."
All the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures. They fell down on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying: 
"Amen! Praise and glory and wisdom and thanks and honor and power and strength be to our God forever and ever. Amen!"  Revelation 7:9-12

Questions:
- Why was there a great crowd in Jerusalem? (they were celebrating the Feast of the Passover)
- What is Passover? (Passover is about how God had the Israelites put the blood of a lamb on their doorposts so that the Angel of Death would pass by them and not kill them)
- What part of Passover did Jesus represent?
- What part of the Old Testament did Jesus fulfill when He came riding into Jerusalem on a donkey? (read Zechariah 9:9)
- What is this special day called by the Christian Church today? (Palm Sunday) Why?
- Read Revelation 7:9-12...What similarities do you see between when Jesus came riding into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday and when we, some day in Heaven, will gather around Jesus and worship Him?
(great crowd/multitude, carrying palm branches, praising Jesus)
- How is the crowd different? (in Jerusalem - mostly Jews; in Heaven - people of every nation, tribe, people and language)

Thoughts:
As we celebrate Palm Sunday today, we should not only look back into the past, when Jesus rode into Jerusalem; but we should look forward to a day, in the future, when all those who have believed in Jesus as their Savior, throughout all of history, will stand around His throne and worship Him. But this time, there will be no Gethsemane or trials before Pilate or whippings or a cross waiting for Jesus. Instead, there will be year after year, century after century of enjoying life with our Lord and God. And praise God that there will be people in Heaven from every nation, tribe, language and people! What a joyous day that will be. May it come quickly!

Prayer:
We love you Jesus. Today, in our hearts, may we lift up palm branches and say to You:
"Hosanna!"
"Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!"
"Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb." Praise and glory and wisdom and thanks and honor and power and strength be to our God for ever and ever. Amen!"

Song: Salvation Belongs to our God

Salvation belongs to our God
Who sits upon the throne
And unto the Lamb
Praise and glory, wisdom and thanks
Honor and power and strength

Be to our God forever and ever
Be to our God forever and ever
Be to our God forever and ever, Amen

And we, the redeemed shall be strong
In purpose and unity
Declaring aloud
Praise and glory, wisdom and thanks
Honor and power and strength



Here is a link with the music: Salvation Belongs to our God

Friday, April 11, 2014

Children's Easter Devotion: Would they have died for a lie? (Day 34)

The next day, the one after Preparation Day, the chief priests and the Pharisees went to Pilate. “Sir,” they said, “we remember that while he was still alive that deceiver said, ‘After three days I will rise again.’ So give the order for the tomb to be made secure until the third day. Otherwise, his disciples may come and steal the body and tell the people that he has been raised from the dead. This last deception will be worse than the first.”
“Take a guard,” Pilate answered. “Go, make the tomb as secure as you know how.” So they went and made the tomb secure by putting a seal on the stone and posting the guard.  
Matthew 27:62-66

Questions:
- Who was worried about Jesus' body being stolen? Why?
- What did they ask Pilate to do and how did he respond?
- How would a report that Jesus was raised from the dead be worse for the Jewish leaders than the things Jesus said and did before His crucifixion?
- Where were the disciples at this point? (They had all run away terrified and were hiding in an upper room somewhere in Jerusalem)
- Do you think they had the courage to steal Jesus' body and then claim He had risen from the dead?
- If they had stolen His body, somehow making it past a Roman guard and a sealed tomb, would they haven been willing to die for a lie that they had spread? (Every single disciple, except John, died a horrible death because they continued to preach Jesus' resurrection)

Thoughts:
Even these fearful actions taken by Jesus' enemies were part of God's wonderful plan. The sealed tomb and the Roman guard are evidence that when the tomb was found empty, it was not because the disciples stole the body. We learn in the next chapter that the guards saw the angel who rolled away the stone. The guards fainted, then later reported to the chief priests and accepted a bribe from them to keep quiet about it. Obviously that didn't happen since we know about this today.

Prayer:
Dear Lord, how wonderful You are. Even the evil of men works out for Your good purposes. As we look at a sinful world around us, help us to remember that You are always in charge.

Children's Easter Devotion: Boldness in Action (Day 33)

Following Jesus' crucifixion:
Now there was a man named Joseph, a member of the Council, a good and upright man, who had not consented to their decision and action. He came from the Judean town of Arimathea, and he himself was waiting for the kingdom of God. Going to Pilate, he asked for Jesus’ body. Then he took it down, wrapped it in linen cloth and placed it in a tomb cut in the rock, one in which no one had yet been laid.  It was Preparation Day, and the Sabbath was about to begin.
The women who had come with Jesus from Galilee followed Joseph and saw the tomb and how his body was laid in it. Then they went home and prepared spices and perfumes. But they rested on the Sabbath in obedience to the commandment. Luke 23:50-56

He was assigned a grave with the wicked,
    and with the rich in his death,
though he had done no violence,
    nor was any deceit in his mouth.  Isaiah 53:9

Questions:
- (This Joseph was not the same as Jesus' adoptive father. His adoptive father died at some point before Jesus' public ministry.) What do we learn about this Joseph?
- What did Joseph ask of Pilate?
- How do you think the Jewish council would view Joseph's request and action?
- What did he do to Jesus' body? (If he had not done this, Jesus' body would have been thrown into a pit with the other common criminals and it would not have been possible for the disciples and others to witness the empty tomb)
- What did the women do? Why?
- What prophecy did Jesus' burial fulfill?

Thoughts:
We find in Joseph a man of moral courage. Mark 14:53 says: Joseph of Arimathea, a prominent member of the Council, who was himself waiting for the kingdom of God, went boldly to Pilate and asked for Jesus’ body, and Matthew 27:57 tells us: there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who had himself become a disciple of Jesus.  He believed in Jesus despite what those around him were saying. He was most likely not present at the secret trial the night before. When he found out about Jesus' murder, he must have been stricken with grief. Doing the only thing he could think of, he bravely approached Pilate for Jesus' body in order to show his love for and belief in Jesus.  Pilate, after a centurion confirmed the death, allowed Joseph's request. Joseph immediately purchased fine linen (Mark 15:46) and proceeded to Golgotha to take the body of Jesus down from the cross. There, according to John 19:39, Joseph and Nicodemus took the body, wrapped it in the fine linen, and applied the myrrh and aloes Nicodemus had brought. The disciples then placed Jesus' body in Joseph's own tomb, a man-made cave hewn from rock in the garden of his house nearby.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, Your love gives us courage. Courage to go against what others may say, courage to follow You and show our love for You. Help us to be bold for You. We love You Jesus.

For Further Study: 
There are many children throughout the world who are very bold in their faith in Christ, especially in nations where it is hard to be a Christian. Sharing their stories can encourage a bolder faith in your children. A wonderful resource is Kids of Courage


* Some of the content of this blog is based on the book Family Celebrations at Easter by Ann Hibbard.* 

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Children's Easter Devotion: Easter Symbols and Their Meanings (Day 32)




In today's and the last two days' devotions, we are looking at the symbols of Easter and their meanings.

Date of Easter:
Unlike Christmas, Easter is not celebrated on the same day every year. Like Christmas, which many agree is not celebrated on the actual birth of Jesus, Easter is not celebrated on the exact date of Jesus’ death or resurrection. It is, however, celebrated at the same time of year that Jesus Christ died, the time of the Jewish Passover. The Bible states that Christ celebrated Passover with his disciples. After they ate the Passover feast they went to the Garden of Gethsemane where Jesus was arrested. He was tried, condemned, and executed that same day. Three days later He rose from the dead.
Early Christians commemorated this event. The earliest recorded date of the celebration of Easter appears in the second century, but we can assume they were celebrating Easter in the church earlier than that. But even then Easter was celebrated on two different days. Jewish Christians kept Passover with a new meaning because Christ died and rose again during the Passover period. Gentile Christians, however, celebrated Easter on the Sunday after Passover because Christ rose from the dead on the first day of the week.
As time went on the confusion surrounding the date to celebrate Easter grew. In A.D. 325 a group of church leaders met in Nicea. The group, called the Council of Nicea, discussed many things including the creation of the Nicene Creed and the date to celebrate Easter. That’s why Easter is now celebrated on the Sunday following the first full moon on or after the Vernal Equinox. Because of this Easter falls between the dates of March 22 and April 25.

Palm Sunday:

On Palm Sunday, one week before Easter, Christians celebrate what is known as Christ’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem. Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey surrounded by his disciples and crowds of people who covered the road with articles of clothing and palm branches and waved palm branches while singing and praising God.
Christians traditionally go to church on Palm Sunday where palm branches are given out during the service, remembering the palm branches that were waved when Jesus entered Jerusalem.
In some parts of the world Palm Sunday is known by other names. In parts of Wales Palm Sunday is called Flowering Sunday. On this day flowers are strewn on graves and churchyards. Also in parts of England, Palm Sunday is called Spanish Sunday. This name probably comes from a sweet drink made by children consisting of Spanish licorice shaken up in a bottle of water. Another name for Palm Sunday is Fig Sunday. Those who celebrate Fig Sunday eat figs or fig pudding in remembrance of Christ’s cursing of the fig tree, an event that occurred during Passion Week.




Maundy Thursday:
Maundy Thursday is the Thursday of Holy Week. It represents the day that the Jewish Passover was celebrated.
On that day, Jesus had his last meal with his friends and followers before he was killed. This meal is now know as 'The Last Supper'. At the meal, Jesus and his friends would have followed the Jewish Passover custom of eating roast lamb and bread and drinking red wine. However, Jesus gave the bread and wine a special meaning. When they got to the part of the meal when the bread was eaten and the wine drunk, Jesus said that these would be a symbol of his body and blood to his followers to help them remember that through his death, our sins are forgiven.
Maundy comes from Latin and is the word for 'Command', this is because Jesus commanded his followers to think of him when they ate bread and drank wine. This is very important to Christians and is now remembered in the Christian service known as Communion, Mass or Eucharist. It is practiced on Maundy Thursday.


Good Friday
Good Friday is the day thought by many to be the day that Jesus Christ died on the cross for the sins of the world.
This death of this innocent man, the Son of God, is considered so horrendous that many superstitions have arisen over the years concerning things done on Good Friday. On Good Friday miners would refuse to work fearing that a disaster would occur during the following year. Blacksmiths would not work with nails because of the nails that pierced Christ’s hands and feet. Fishermen considered it an ill-omen to put out to sea on Good Friday. Clothes would not be washed on Good Friday lest they be stained with blood and lest misfortune come upon the wearers. Not all Good Friday superstitions were bad, however. Gardeners would plant their crops on Good Friday to ensure a good harvest. They believed that the soil is redeemed from Satan’s power on Good Friday only so anything planted on that day is blessed.
At one time, in Portugal and in parts of England and Europe as well, people created a straw or wooden effigy of Judas Iscariot, the man who betrayed Jesus, and paraded it through town kicking it, cursing it, and deriding it. They would finally burn the effigy to show their contempt for the man who sent the Son of God to his death.
In Spain people participate in Semana Santa processions. These nightly processions begin on Palm Sunday and end on Good Friday. Representations of Christ, Mary, and the saints are paraded through the streets accompanied by barefooted penitents called Nazarenos wearing pointed black or white hoods with eye holes cut out of them. The procession ends with saetas, mournful songs, lamenting the death of Christ and the grief of His mother.


Attending Church


Because Easter is a celebration of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, Christians all over the world attend church on Easter Sunday. For Catholics, many attend an after-midnight Mass on Easter Sunday. Other Christians will attend an Easter Sunrise service as the Bible states "Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance," John 20:1 Still others attend church later in the morning.

New Clothes:
Wearing new clothes for Easter is a custom common among many Christians. It may have originated from the old practice of having newly baptized Christians wear new white clothes for the Easter celebration. Like many other Easter symbols, the new clothes represent the new life offered through the death and Resurrection of Jesus.
Easter promenades of people in new clothes are a tradition in many European towns and villages. A person holding a cross or an Easter candle leads some of these promenades. In New York City, thousands of people stroll in the Easter Parade down Fifth Avenue to show off their new clothes following Easter services.

Feasting:
Easter Sunday is a feast day. Many Christians in Eastern Europe and those of eastern European ancestry in North America have their Easter feast blessed by a priest. The priest may go to the home, or families may take their food to church for the blessing.



Eggs and Rabbits:
Eggs and rabbits are the only familiar symbols unrelated to the Easter story.
Bunnies, Rabbits and Lambs are often associated with Easter because most babies of the animals are born in Spring around Easter time.

In Pagan times, like Eggs, Rabbits and Hares were signs of Good Luck and New Life. The Early Christians took over the meaning of New Life because it helped them remember Jesus being raised from the dead and having New Life.


Easter Bunny:
No one knows for sure what the origin of the Easter Bunny is. Some think the Easter bunny has its roots in European folklore as the sacred beast of the spring-goddess Eostre. This view, however, is not supported by the earliest known references. The Easter bunny, originally known as the Easter hare, was first mentioned in a German book written in the late 16th century. Another German book written in the 17th century further described the Easter hare as the shy, egg-laying creature we know today

The tradition of the Easter hare was brought to the United States by European immigrants where it was eventually changed to the Easter rabbit or Easter bunny. The legend of the Easter bunny has grown, and it continues to grow thanks to the Easter television specials produced by Rankin/Bass. In 1971 Here Comes Peter Cottontail, narrated by Danny Kaye, was produced based on the novel by Priscilla and Otto Friedrich entitled The Easter Bunny That Overslept. This was followed in 1977 by The Easter Bunny Is Coming To Town. In this holiday special, Fred Astaire, reprising his role of Special Delivery (S. D. for short) Kluger, tells the story of the origins of the Easter Bunny.

Much of the above information came from Customs of Easter