Reflections on Sunday School Songs: Deep and Wide

I base this series on the principle that God still has something to teach us in everything we encounter, even the simple Sunday morning songs of our childhood. I must confess, however, that this particular song is difficult for me.

You see, when I was a child, we sang subsequent verses in which we substituted “mmm” for “deep” (verse 2), then for “deep” and “wide” (verse 3). Anyway, “mmm and mmm” quickly became “m&ms” so that our imaginary fountains flowed with m&m candies! With so little context in the song, we had nothing to bring us back to reality. So just try not to think about that as we reflect on the deeper…or maybe the wider (sorry—couldn’t help it)…meaning of this song.

Deep and wide,
Deep and wide,
There’s a fountain flowing deep and wide.

A fountain of what? A fountain of God’s love.

I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ. – Ephesians 3:17b-18

Deep and Wide
Indian Ocean sunrise  (c) Carole Sparks

Try praying this very specifically for each of your children. Substitute that child’s name for “you” and substitute “our family” for “the Lord’s holy people.” Then pause with each adjective to reflect on the extent of it. If you’re with your child, ask him or her, otherwise think about the width of an ocean, the length of train tracks across the country, the height of the redwoods in California, the depth of the Mariana Trench…and we haven’t even escaped the atmosphere!

Remember that sweet, simple children’s book, Guess How Much I Love You? In the end, the parent and young child “discover that love is not an easy thing to measure.” That’s why Paul couldn’t really quantify Jesus’ love for us.

Paul wasn’t alone.

For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him. – Psalm 103:11 (emphasis added)

Can you fathom the mysteries of God? Can you probe the limits of the Almighty? They are higher than the heavens above—what can you do? They are deeper than the depths below—what can you know? Their measure is longer than the earth and wider than the sea. –Job 11:7-9 (emphasis added)

Deep and wide,
Deep and wide,
There’s a fountain flowing deep and wide.

And it’s a fountain! Just after the Psalmist says, “Your love, Lord, reaches to the heavens” (Psalm 36:5) and “How priceless is your unfailing love, O God!” (Psalm 36:7), he continues, “For with you is the fountain of life” (36:9). This fountain of love gives us life!

Deep and Wide: This fountain of love gives us life! (click to tweet)

When I imagine a fountain, its source is hidden but never-failing. I don’t know where the water comes from or where it goes. And although my logical mind knows you can turn off a fountain, they somehow feel eternal. It’s more like a geyser, really…like Old Faithful: reliable yet mysterious, abundant yet veiled, drenching us in blessings.

The New Testament image of a spring fits our song’s “fountain.” In fact, different versions of the Bible interchange these words.

Jesus said, “Whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” –John 4:14

He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life.” –Revelation 21:6

So if or when you sing this song with your kids, think about the enormity and constancy of God’s love for each of us, and try not to start craving m&ms.

 

Attribution: According to about fifteen minutes of internet research in which I found *this* and *this*, Deep and Wide was written by Sydney Cox in the first half of the 1900s. I found no copyright claims/issues.

 

Previously in this series:

This Little Light of Mine

The B-I-B-L-E

Still to come:

Zacchaeus

Jesus Loves the Little Children

I’ve Got the Joy, Joy…

Father Abraham

The Wise Man and the Foolish Man

 

Forget Where You Live? (guest post)

Don't you just stand in awe when your children remind you of an eternal Truth? Not
only is it spiritually beautiful, but it's also a great affirmation of your parenting.
That's what happened to my writer-friend, Cherrilynn Bisbano. Read her sweet story
(chocked full of Scripture!), then learn more about her at the end of the post.
Cherrilynn - meme
(c) Cherrilynn Bisbano

“I am so tired of moving,” I said to my son as we walked to the gym.

“I know mom; can we stay in this house forever?”

We took a few more steps; I smiled as I remembered. “Michael, this is not our forever home, our citizenship is in heaven.”

“That’s right mommy, I forgot!”

Do you forget where you ultimately live?

I find it so easy to get caught up in my earthly address, consumed with mundane daily tasks.

But our citizenship is in Heaven. and we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ. -Philippians 3:20 (All Scripture quotations in this post are ESV.)

I am blessed to have a beautiful temporary home in Rhode Island. Although the winters can be harsh, I thank God this house has so much sunlight provided by skylights. Even on the dreariest day there is a glimmer of light.

But oh the glorious light we will see in our forever home!

And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever. -Revelation 22:5

My earthly home has my cats, Peach and Simone. I share this earthly dwelling with my husband, son and sister. Sometimes there is strife, misunderstanding and chaos. We all love each other and Jesus. In Heaven we will all be together…no tears, anger or infirmity.

He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away. -Revelation 21:4

I think of my friends in Togo, Africa, who live in straw huts with dirt floors. How much sweeter heaven will be to them! Now they walk on dirt. In Heaven they will stroll on streets of gold.

…and the street of the city was pure gold, like transparent glass. -Revelation 21:21

I could go on and on comparing this earthly world to Heaven, but I digress. Until I reach my ultimate destiny, I will strive to be content here on earth and fulfill all that my Master has for me to do.

As my son and I continued our walk to the gym, we thanked God for our temporary home and praised Him for allowing us to be here to help further the Kingdom.

We still long for heaven where our bodies no longer need exercise, food or healing. Worries will be exchanged for worship. We will be face to face with God, consumed by His love and light.

“Mommy, one thing I really look forward to in Heaven is sitting in Jesus’ lap. I want to look into His eyes, give him a huge hug, and thank Him for dying on the cross for me.”

My heart filled with joy and my eyes filled with tears. I responded, “Me too, Michael, Me too. Heaven is home.”

Did you forget where you live?

No worries, fellow Christian. Our passport is stamped HEAVEN. Jesus is waiting to show us the mansion He prepared just for us.

In my Father’s house are many mansions: If it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. -John 14:2

Will you join me is rejoicing that our ultimate home is with the lover of our souls?

Did you forget where you live? Heaven is our home! (click to tweet)

Cherrilynn - w sonCherrilynn Bisbano (pictured here with her son, Michael) is a speaker, teacher, and writer. Her passion for helping people is evident. She encourages and equips women to divide rightly the Scriptures and to be strong in the Lord.

Cherrilynn is Associate Editor at Almost an Author, an online community for aspiring writers. She is a two-time winner of Flash Fiction Weekly. You can find her work published in Amramp, More to Life (MTL), Christian Rep, Refresh and other online magazines. Cherrilynn is also a regular contributor to The Good News Newspaper. Her first book, True Star Quality: Learn to Shine, will be out by summer.

Cherrilynn proudly served in the Navy and Air National Guard, earning the John Levitow Military Leadership Award. She lives with her fourteen-year-old autistic son, Michael, Jr., and husband of 17 years, Michael, Sr.

Carole here. Give Cherrilynn some thanks by commenting below. Tell her how this story
impacted you!

 

Reflections on Sunday School Songs: The B-I-B-L-E

Back when I was a little kid, all the pre-school children sang together at the beginning of the Sunday School hour. We sang the same songs so often that they lost any meaning; we didn’t even think about the words. As a teenager, I took over the musical portion of preschool Sunday School for a while, so I reacquainted myself with those same songs. I realized that some of them were keyed way out of my alto range, but I still didn’t pay any attention to the words.

Things about church childcare changed between my own childhood and that of my children. They don’t sing in Sunday School anymore. Heck, they don’t even call it Sunday School nowadays! Feeling nostalgic one day, I got to thinking about what my kids were missing because they didn’t learn those songs. Realistically, from a theological perspective, they aren’t missing much; I’d rather they sing “10,000 Reasons” than “I’ve Got the Joy, Joy, Joy, Joy Down in my Heart.”

Nevertheless, I made a casual attempt to introduce those simple, old songs. In my attempt, our Heavenly Father revealed some surprising truths…and challenges for parents…buried in there with all the silliness.

I wrote about “This Little Light of Mine” last year. For the next few months, I will share a monthly parenting reflection from these children’s songs. This series will replace the Content & Context series that we finished last month.

The B-I-B-L-E

I’m fairly sure I learned how to spell Bible before I could read even the simplest Bible story book. Why did the lyricist spell it? Probably because it’s so easy to rhyme things with E.

Yes that’s the book for me!

My “Go-To” Parenting Book

There are thousands of books about parenting out there. Most of them offer contradictory advice. I’ve found a couple of good ones but these few are good because they are so solidly rooted in Scripture. When it comes to parenting, what’s the book for you? What book will you choose above all others?

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. -2 Timothy 3:16-17

Feeling a little intimated by the Bible as a whole? (It is big and sometimes random.) Do a search for “parent” or “child” on www.biblegateway.com or another website/app. Prayerfully read those verses and the surrounding context to discover God’s heart for your relationship with your child(ren). It won’t usually give you specifics for the exact situation at hand, but it will point you in the right direction, after which the Holy Spirit can guide you more exactly.

Pointing Our Children to the Word

Not only do we parents seek guidance in the Word, but we also teach our children to use the Bible for their own guidance. Look what Paul wrote to Timothy just before the verses above.

But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. -2 Timothy 3:14-15

Why was Timothy so strong in his faith? Because he had been learning about the Scriptures and from the Scriptures since he was a baby! Our children are never too young to understand God’s love and desire for their good. Timothy was wise beyond his years because of this training.

The Bible in Our Own Lives

Let’s talk about this for a second. I don’t know how Eunice (his Mom) and Lois (his grandmother) taught Timothy, but they probably didn’t sit down for an hour every day and have family Bible study…although I’m sure they did that sometimes, and probably regularly. I think more often they followed the pattern of Deuteronomy 6:7, where God told the people of Israel to Impress [the Scriptures] on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. In order to talk about the Bible in this manner, you have to know it for yourself.

And thus, we circle back to our song. Is the Bible the book for you? Are you intentionally making space in your life to:

  • learn more than you already know
  • study beyond what is comfortable
  • reflect on what you read
  • obey in a timely fashion?

The Bible will never become the book for your children until it’s the book for you.

I stand upon the Word of God

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. –Psalm 40:2

To stand on the Word of God means to have confidence in it, to rely on it. Remember Gandalf in the Mines of Moria when he confronted the Balrog? Balanced on a narrow outcropping of rock, he declared, “You shall not pass!” He took a stand. (The music in the header photo is from Lord of the Rings, by the way.)

Sometimes in the desire to protect my home from the onslaught of sinful culture, I feel a little like Gandalf, telling destructive habits and attitudes that they “shall not pass” the threshold of my home. I’m standing on that thin outcropping of rock, like he was. Gandalf eventually feel into an abyss. But God is our Rock (Psalm 18:2), and His Word is unmovable. This is where we all have to stand, fellow parents. Our firm place to stand is on His Word!

Our “firm place to stand” is on His Word! (click to tweet)

Struggling with a possible compromise? Feel like giving in to the constant barrage of pressure from the world? The Bible is our standard against which all of life is measured. Go back to His Word. Stand there. Then let everything else wash around you.

The B-I-B-L-E.

When we finished singing this last line in preschool, we would all throw our hands in the air and shout, “Bible!” Oh, the excitement of preschoolers convicts me here. I want to approach the Word of God with joyful abandonment, with hands thrown in the air just because I get to be in His Presence without distraction for a few minutes.

Out of the mouths of babes

As I said, I tried rather half-heartedly to teach these songs to our children when they were preschoolers themselves. I remember the first time our firstborn sang it like this:

The B-I-B-L-E
Yes, that’s the book for me.

I read and pray, and then obey
The B-I-B-L-E!

“Where’d you hear that?” I asked, “Those aren’t the actual words.”

She replied, “I didn’t hear them anywhere. I made them up.”

In our family, we sing it that way most of the time now. Isn’t it just right? This is how we use the Bible: read, pray, obey. It’s that simple.

 

Author’s Note: I tried to find copyright information or some history for this song, but I could find nothing—not even at Wikipedia. www.childbiblesongs.com says it’s free to use. So I’m going with “public domain” for the song lyrics.

Up-Coming in this series:

  • Zacchaeus
  • Jesus Loves the Little Children
  • I’ve Got the Joy, Joy…
  • Father Abraham
  • The Wise Man and the Foolish Man

How have you been affected by these simple children’s songs? What other songs would you like me to consider? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below!

Content and Context (part 10) – General Letters and Revelation

This is it! The end of the series. For me, it has been a labor of love. Just the other day, I realized that I was applying something from this series in a conversation with my husband. What is more, I read and/or skimmed the entire Bible in the last five months! That’s invaluable.

Sometimes I think about Athanasius, when he compiled that list of God-inspired books which eventually became our New Testament. It seems like he got through Paul’s letters, and he knew Revelation should be last, but he had some leftover letters that didn’t fit into any other category. So we have this ‘Miscellaneous’ group of books—all epistles (a.k.a. letters)—by various authors to various groups before we conclude with the Revelation of John, which is also a letter, by the way (Revelation 1:4).

GENERAL LETTERS

Hebrews

  • About: supremacy of Christ, encouraging Christians
  • Everything that God established before Jesus points to Jesus as the Final Answer.
  • Big stories: Jesus as High Priest, Hall of Fame of Faith, cloud of witnesses
  • Author: unknown (a man, not Paul and not anyone who knew Jesus directly)
  • Time: before the destruction of the Temple in 70AD
  • “The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.” Hebrews 1:3

James

  • About: practical applications of faith in Christ
  • God designed our faith to be lived out in community and in the world.
  • Big stories: perseverance in trials, taming the tongue, faith v/s deeds
  • Author: James (probably the brother of Jesus)
  • Time: before 50AD or in the early 60s
  • “You see that a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone.” James 2:24

1 Peter

  • About: perseverance under persecution from outside the church
  • God calls us to continue in holy living regardless of our circumstances.
  • Big stories: royal priesthood, Jesus as cornerstone, women’s beauty, suffering for faith, devil is a lion
  • Author: Peter, the Apostle
  • Time: 60-64AD
  • “And the God of all grace, who called you to this eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm, and steadfast. To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen.” 1 Peter 5:10-11

2 Peter

  • About: standing up to false teachers and other problems within the church
  • God purifies his church, making it ready for Jesus’ return.
  • Big stories: destruction of false teachers, God’s patience with humanity
  • Author: Peter, the Apostle
  • Time: 65-68AD, toward the end of Peter’s life
  • “Dear friends, since you have been forewarned, be on your guard so that you may not be carried away by the error of the lawless and fall from your secure position. But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” 2 Peter 3:17-18a

1 John

  • About: identifying false teachers, assuring salvation, God’s love
  • God’s love is active and distinguishes believers from the world.
  • Big stories: light & dark, sinfulness in the believer’s life, God is love
  • Author: John, the Apostle
  • Time: 85-95AD
  • “If anyone obeys his word, love for God is truly made complete in them. This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did.” 1 John 2:5-6

2 John

  • About: loving others, rejecting false teachers
  • God shows us how to love and how to discern truth from deception.
  • Big stories: “walk in love,” don’t assist false teachers
  • Author: John, the Apostle
  • Time: 85-95AD
  • “And this is love: that we walk in obedience to his commands. As you have heard from the beginning, his command is that you walk in love.” 2 John 6

3 John

  • About: hospitality for God’s messengers
  • God’s children must take care of each other.
  • Big stories: John’s condemnation of a harsh church leader and commendation of another leader
  • Author: John, the Apostle
  • Time: 85-95AD
  • “Dear friend, do not imitate what is evil but what is good. Anyone who does what is good is from God. Anyone who does what is evil has not seen God.” 3 John 11

Jude

  • About: counteracting false teachers
  • God always knows the true believers from the false.
  • Big stories: ungodly people punished (lots of nice imagery)
  • Author: Jude/Judas (probably the brother of Jesus)
  • Time: 65-80AD
  • “But you, dear friends, by building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life.” Jude 20-21

Revelation

  • About: faithfulness through persecution, Christ’s ultimate victory
  • God’s victory is sure, and all believers will join Him in it.
  • Big stories: letters to 7 churches, visions of Heaven, fall of Babylon & rise of New Jerusalem, final judgment
  • Author: John, the Apostle
  • Time: 95AD
  • “To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father—to Him be glory and power for ever and ever! Amen.” Revelation 1:5b-6

Content and Context (part 9) – Paul’s Letters cont.

With these last two letters to churches and then his letters to individuals, I feel like we’ve taken a peek into Paul’s personal journal. Here’s Paul the mentor, the father-figure, the wizened patriarch of the Church universal. Here’s Paul the very human man, near the beginning of his ministry and then looking at the end of his earthly life. For our children, we find so much wisdom about what church is supposed to be and how we are supposed to live in this world. Take your time through these books, and let it all sink in.

As usual, I welcome your comments and observations. What do you think the theme verse for each of these books should be? How would you summarize any of them in one sentence (that starts with ‘God’)?

PAUL’S LETTERS (part 2)

1 Thessalonians

  • About: Jesus’ second coming, encouragement through persecution
  • God has expectations for our lives on earth and a plan for the end times.
  • Big stories: Paul’s conduct in Thessalonica & desire to return, a life that pleases God
  • Author: Paul
  • Time: ad51, possibly the earliest of Paul’s letters (see Galatians)
  • “We speak as those approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel. We are not trying to please people but God, who tests our hearts.” 1 Thessalonians 2:4

2 Thessalonians

  • About: Jesus’ second coming, Godly living (same as 1 Thes.)
  • God calls us to fully live in the present even as we anticipate the end times.
  • Big stories: end times prophecies, don’t be idle
  • Author: Paul
  • Time: ad51-52, shortly after 1 Thessalonians
  • “May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word.” 2 Thessalonians 2:16-17

1 Timothy

  • About: encouraging and advising Timothy regarding church leadership
  • God has ordained a proper way for the Church to act and interact.
  • Big stories: false teachers, behavior in worship, leader qualifications
  • Author: Paul (Timothy is in Ephesus)
  • Time: ad63-65
  • “For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, because it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer.” 1 Timothy 4:4-5

2 Timothy

Map of coastal ports of Smyrna, Ephesus and Cnidus plus Loadicia and Colosse inland. – Slide 17

Courtesy freeBibleimages.com

  • About: Paul’s relationship with Timothy, guidance on leadership (like 1 Tim.)
  • God calls church leaders to faithfulness, perseverance, and discernment.
  • Big stories: guidance for church leaders, false teachers, relevance of Scripture
  • Author: Paul (Timothy is in Ephesus)
  • Time: ad67-68
  • “Everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted… But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it.” 2 Timothy 3:12-14

Titus

  • About: leading well despite opposition, doing good inside and outside the church
  • God intends for us to live so that our actions set us apart from the culture.
  • Big stories: qualifications for elders, directions for age groups (older/younger)
  • Author: Paul (Titus is on Crete)
  • Time: ad63-65 (same as 1 Timothy)
  • “For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say ‘No’ to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in his present age, while we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ.” Titus 2:11-13

Philemon

  • About: the slave Onesimus’ return to Philemon, his master
  • God receives us as family and servants when Jesus advocates for us.
  • Big stories: Paul’s appeal to Philemon regarding Onesimus
  • Author: Paul (Philemon is in Colossae)
  • Time: ad60 (see Ephesians and Colossians)
  • “Perhaps the reason he was separated from you for a little while was that you might have him back forever—no longer as a slave, but better than a slave, as a dear brother.” Philemon 15-16a

 

Praying Scripture for Your Children: 4 Areas

We all want to pray for our children more. For me, the topic has come up repeatedly in  discussions, blog posts, and other places recently. (Maybe God is trying to tell me something!)  One of the most effective ways to pray is to quote Scripture back to God or use Scripture as the framework for our prayers. That principle stands when we pray for our children as well. So here, I offer you 4 areas in which you can pray Scripture for your children, all based on Luke 2:52.

We have so little documentation of Jesus’ childhood, and all we know of Mary’s prayers are that she spent time thinking about her memories (Luke 2:19, 51). I’m not even sure that’s a prayer. At any rate, it’s not much guidance for us in the 21st century. Ah, but there is something… Recently, someone drew my attention to Luke 2:52, noting that this verse covers every major aspect of Jesus’ life.

And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.

Wisdom is intellectual: knowledge, understanding, and application of learning.

Stature is physical: height and strength.

Favor with God is spiritual.

Favor with man is social/emotional.

We can take these areas of growth and apply verses from other parts of the Bible as we pray for our own children under these same headings! I’ll just give you a couple of examples on each. I’m also including a suggested prayer with each verse. If you’re not accustomed to praying Scripture, let this be your introduction.

Wisdom

My son, if you accept my words and store up my commands within you, turning your ear to wisdom…then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God.  Proverbs 2:1-5 (1-11 is better!)

Heavenly Father, please give my child a tender heart to receive correction and direction from me (and show me how to frame my words to be more effectively received). Show her heart what real wisdom looks like so she can recognize it…and the many counterfeits out there. Reveal yourself to her in both Your awesomeness and your gentleness.

But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen.  2 Peter 3:18

Lord, help my child retain what he learns about you: the facts of your time on earth, yes, but more importantly, help him understand your grace as we know it from the Bible and from experience. I pray that, as his knowledge increases in all areas, he will draw closer to you and celebrate you rather than rejecting you, as some do.

Stature

Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies. 1 Corinthians 6:19-20

O God, please show my child that her body is borrowed, that it belongs to you. Help her treat it like something precious and save it for Your glory: sexually, yes, but also regarding exercise, food, substances, sleep, behavior, and everything else.

Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength…  Isaiah 40:30-31

Father, please strengthen my child’s confidence in you. Don’t let him depend on his youth or his physical strength but rather let him place his hope in You because You alone can sustain him through the physical trials he will face.

Favor with God

Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord. Colossians 3:20

Heavenly Father, please help my child learn how to be obedient—not for my convenience but for Your glory. Let her experience Your pleasure as she obeys the many authority figures in her life.

Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord. Ephesians 5:8b-10

Lord, I pray that my child is always interested in pleasing You. I ask that he will live in Your light, loving everything good, righteous, and true.

Favor with people

But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. 1 Peter 3:15-16

Father, I pray that my child always acts and reacts with gentleness and respect, especially when she’s sharing about Jesus. I pray that her words and behavior will be so excellent that her enemies cannot find anything to criticize.

Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.  Matthew 5:16

Lord Jesus, you know that I want a well-behaved child. We all do. I pray, however, that I will not expect or seek good behavior for my own glory. I pray that my child’s behavior reflects well on You. I further pray that he and I both learn to be quick to give You credit.

 

If the Lord leads you to a great verse in any of these four areas, please let everyone else know by leaving a comment! I’m going to keep an on-going list to use as a resource.

 

Content and Context (part 8) – Paul’s letters

This week we tackle the thickest, most chocked-full book of the Bible: Romans. There is no way to adequately present the content and context of this book with six bullet points (although I gave it a try). In it, we find the foundations of our theology, an understanding of Israel’s place in the New Covenant, and connections to much of the Old Testament. I don’t necessarily like reading Romans because there are very few stories, but when I study it, I find so much to “chew” on and so many areas in which to grow spiritually.

After Romans, the Corinthians and that set of four small books (You know, the ones we learned using acronyms such as ‘Go Eat PopCorn’ or ‘General Electric Power Company’) feel comforting and simple. If you want to dig into Paul’s writings with your children, I suggest you start with Ephesians or Philippians. They are straightforward, and Paul employs some word pictures that help us all understand our faith. What is more, it’s not too hard to memorize big chunks of verses here such as The Armor of God (Ephesians 6:10-20) or the Christ hymn (Philippians 2:5-11).

Did I leave out something important? What changes or additions would you suggest? Let me know in the comments section below.

PAUL’S LETTERS (part 1)

Romans

  • About: system of salvation, God’s big plan
  • God is knowable and He has a clear plan for our salvation.
  • Big stories: God judges everyone, Romans Road, victory for believers
  • Author: Paul
  • Time: about mid-way through Paul’s ministry; prob. ad57
  • “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile. For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed—a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: ‘The righteous will live by faith.’” Romans 1:16-17

1 Corinthians

  • About: cultural influences in church, Christian/church behavior
  • God intends for his church to represent His purity, mercy, and love.
  • Big stories: church practices, spiritual gifts, “Love is…”
  • Author: Paul
  • Time: shortly before Romans; prob. ad55
  • “For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.” 1 Corinthians 1:25

2 Corinthians

  • About: the challenges and joys of Christian ministry, God’s high standards
  • God’s calling involves both blessings and difficulties.
  • Big stories: jars of clay, ministry of reconciliation, Paul’s “pedigree”
  • Author: Paul
  • Time: shortly before Romans but after 1 Corinthians; prob. ad55
  • “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” 2 Corinthians 3:17-18

Galatians

  • About: justification by faith, freedom in Christ
  • God provides salvation to all people, separate from the law.
  • Big stories: Paul’s calling and apostleship, faith v/s works, fruit of the Spirit
  • Author: Paul
  • Time: possibly the earliest Pauline letter we have; ad48/49 or 53
  • “So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Galatians 3:26-28

Ephesians

  • About: the purpose and goals for the church
  • God wants His followers to know and follow through with His plans.
  • Big stories: unity of all believers, husbands & wives, armor of God
  • Author: Paul
  • Time: while imprisoned in Rome; ad60
  • “I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” Ephesians 3:17b-19

Philippians

  • About: perseverance, joy, humility
  • God’s presence and blessing are unaffected by human circumstances.
  • Big stories: suffering for the Gospel, Christ’s humility, everything a loss in comparison to Jesus
  • Author: Paul
  • Time: while imprisoned in Rome; ad61
  • “I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” Philippians 1:20-21

Colossians

  • About: refuting false teaching
  • God’s provision of Christ is completely sufficient for our salvation.
  • Big stories: supremacy of Christ, freedom in Christ, life in Christ
  • Author: Paul
  • Time: while imprisoned in Rome; ad60 (same as Ephesians)
  • “For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and in Christ you have been brought to fullness. He is the head over every power and authority.” Colossians 2:9-10

 

Content and Context (part 7) – Gospels and Acts

We return to our Content and Context Series today (see the beginning *here*)—just in time for the Advent season. It’s the perfect opportunity to focus on Jesus’ life and purpose on earth. Simply pick a gospel and start reading; you can’t go wrong! Then, when it’s time for New Year’s resolutions, turn to Acts. The early church models the called-out life in a way that remains relevant today. Ask the Holy Spirit to show you where you need to make a change.

Of course, all the Gospels are specifically and intentionally about Jesus. All tell about the miracles He did and the parables He told, all provide details about His crucifixion and His resurrection, but each has a specific audience or purpose and each is told from a clear point-of-view. That’s why it’s so great to have four of them. We have a much fuller picture of Jesus’ life, ministry, death, and resurrection. For this outline, I have tried to differentiate the four so you (and your children) can see God’s purpose in each. As we approach Christmas, I pray that a fresh understanding of Jesus blesses your holiday season.

THE GOSPELS AND ACTS

Matthew

  • About: Jesus as the expected Messiah
  • Through Jesus, God fulfilled the Old Testament Messianic prophecies and provided a Savior for His chosen people.
  • Big stories: Jesus’ birth, Sermon on the Mount, Great Commission
  • Author: Matthew/Levi (a disciple)
  • Time: when Jesus was on earth
  • “All of this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: ‘The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel’ (which means ‘God with us’).”  Matthew 1:22-23

Mark

  • About: Jesus as teacher and miracle-worker
  • Through Jesus, God gave us wisdom about life on earth and modeled suffering.
  • Big stories: John the Baptist, Greatest Commandment, Passion Week (1/3 of the chapters)
  • Author: John Mark (based on Peter’s preaching)
  • Time: when Jesus was on earth
  • “Going a little farther, he fell to the ground and prayed that if possible the hour might pass from him. ‘Abba, Father,’ he said, ‘everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.’” Mark 14:35-36

Luke

  • About: Jesus as world-wide Savior
  • Through Jesus, God made a way for every person (regardless of gender, politics, social status, etc.) to be saved.
  • Big stories: Jesus’ birth & childhood, Jesus’ focus on women/social
    IMG_6563.JPG
    the author’s childhood Bible     (c) Carole Sparks

    outcasts/Gentiles, parables (more than any other Gospel), Emmaus Road & Ascension

  • Author: Luke (a doctor who traveled with Paul)
  • Time: when Jesus was on earth
  • “Jesus answered them, ‘It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.’” Luke 5:31-32

John

  • About: Jesus as Son of God and Son of Man
  • Through Jesus, God demonstrates His love toward us and we are connected back to Him.
  • Big stories: Nicodemus, “I am” statements, Lazarus raised, upper room discourse, Peter’s restoration
  • Author: John (a disciple)
  • Time: when Jesus was on earth
  • “But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” John 20:31

Acts

  • About: the early church, the life of Paul
  • God uses believers to spread the gospel across continents.
  • Big stories: Pentecost, Stephen’s stoning, Peter’s dream, Paul’s conversion/missionary journeys/trial
  • Author: Luke (a doctor who traveled with Paul)
  • Time: the 30 years following Jesus’ ascension
  • “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Acts 1:8

 

Content and Context (part 6) – Minor Prophets

Our last survey for the Old Testament. These guys are fascinating, and so much of what they said reverberates into our century. If it’s been awhile, just read through Amos or Habakkuk and see what God says to them…and to you.

After today, we’ll take a break from the Content and Context series. While it is good and helpful (I’ve learned many things in writing it!), we need some real how-to-parent-with-intentionality postings. I’ll intersperse the New Testament charts over the months ahead.

MINOR PROPHETS

Hosea

  • About: God’s covenant, Israel’s idolatry
  • God loves His people and wants them to have a faithful relationship with Him.
  • Big stories: Hosea loves his unfaithful wife, Israel worships other gods
  • Author: Hosea
  • Time: just before the fall of Israel/Northern Kingdom in 722bc (Isaiah, Amos)
  • “Who is wise? Let them realize these things. Who is discerning? Let them understand. The ways of the Lord are right; the righteous walk in them, but the rebellious stumble in them.” Hosea 14:9

Joel

  • About: locusts, Day of the Lord
  • God uses a natural disaster to remind the people of coming judgment followed by restoration.
  • Big stories: invasion of locusts, promises for the day of judgment
  • Author: Joel
  • Time: unclear, but probably before the fall of Jerusalem
  • “The Lord will roar from Zion and thunder from Jerusalem; the earth and the heavens will tremble. But the Lord will be a refuge for his people, a stronghold for the people of Israel.” Joel 3:16

Amos

  • About: social justice, honest worship
  • God wants His people to live with integrity, experiencing authentic worship.
  • Big stories: Amos’ calling, fat cows of Bashan, call to repentance
  • Author: Amos
  • Time: about 30 years before Israel went into captivity (Isaiah, Hosea, Jonah)
  • “But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream!” Amos 5:24

Obadiah

  • About: Edom (shortest book in the Old Testament)
  • God will punish Edom for participating in Israel’s devastation.
  • Big stories: Edom’s failure to help Israel
  • Author: Obadiah
  • Time: probably just before the fall of Judah (Jeremiah)
  • “The pride of your heart has deceived you…you who say to yourself, ‘Who can bring me down to the ground?’ Though you soar like the eagle and make your nest among the stars, from there I will bring you down,” declares the Lord. Obadiah 3-4

Jonah

The sailors took hold of Jonah and threw his overboard. Immediately the storm stopped. – Slide 23
(c) freebibleimages.org
  • About: disobedience, ethnocentrism (belief that your culture is superior)
  • God cares about other people groups as well as His chosen people.
  • Big stories: Jonah swallowed by a fish, Jonah preaching to Nineveh
  • Author: maybe Jonah or maybe someone who knew him
  • Time: after Amos & Hosea but before the fall of Israel/Northern Kingdom
  • “Then the word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time: ‘Go to the great city of Nineveh and proclaim to it the message I give you.’ Jonah obeyed the word of the Lord and went to Nineveh.” Jonah 3:1-3a

Micah

  • About: divine judgment and deliverance
  • God’s judgment is certain, but so is his restoration through the coming Messiah.
  • Big stories: prophecy about Bethlehem, call for social justice
  • Author: Micah
  • Time: before & after the fall of Israel/Northern Kingdom (Isaiah, Hosea)
  • “He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” Micah 6:8

Nahum

  • About: fall of Nineveh
  • God’s people can be sure He will judge their oppressors.
  • Big stories: descriptions of Nineveh’s future destruction
  • Author: Nahum
  • Time: between the fall of Israel and of Judah (Zephaniah)
  • “The Lord is good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in him, but with an overwhelming flood he will make an end of Nineveh; he will pursue his foes into the realm of darkness.” Nahum 1:7-8

Habakkuk

  • About: complaints and questions to God
  • God’s timing is always perfect.
  • Big stories: God answers complaints, Habakkuk’s confidence in God
  • Author: Habakkuk
  • Time: before the fall of Jerusalem (Jeremiah)
  • “Lord, I have heard of your fame; I stand in awe of your deeds, Lord. Repeat them in our day, in our time make them known; in wrath remember mercy.” Habakkuk 3:2

Zephaniah

  • About: the Day of the Lord, judgment
  • God’s justice will prevail not only among His people but around the world.
  • Big stories: warnings for Judah and other nations
  • Author: Zephaniah
  • Time: between the fall of Israel and of Judah (King Josiah, Jeremiah, Nahum)
  • “Be silent before the Sovereign Lord, for the day of the Lord is near. The Lord has prepared a sacrifice; he has consecrated those he has invited.” Zephaniah 1:7

Haggai

  • About: priorities, the temple’s glory
  • God calls for His people to be faithful, then they will be blessed.
  • Big stories: rebuilding the temple, blessings for faithfulness
  • Author: Haggai
  • Time: 520bc, when exiles returned to rebuild the temple (Ezra/Nehemiah, Zechariah)
  • “’I will shake all nations, and what is desired by all nations will come, and I will fill this house with glory,’ says the Lord Almighty.” Haggai 2:7

Zechariah

  • About: encouragement, Messianic prophecies
  • God is sovereign and keeps His promises.
  • Big stories: vision dreams, social justice over fasting, the coming Messiah
  • Author: Zechariah
  • Time: after exiles returned to rebuild the temple (Ezra/Nehemiah, Haggai)
  • “This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: ‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the Lord Almighty.” Zechariah 4:6

Malachi

  • About: breaking the covenant, the coming King
  • While God will preserve a remnant, His judgment is surely coming.
  • Big stories: list of covenant violations, blessing for tithing, scroll of remembrance
  • Author: Malachi
  • Time: post-exilic (Nehemiah). Probably the latest of the OT prophets.
  • “But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its rays. And you will go out and frolic like well-fed calves.” Malachi 4:2

A friend of mine just posted a poem about prophets. Since we’re in the Minor Prophets, it seems appropriate to share it *here*.

Content and Context (part 5) – Major Prophets

It’s really all about God, isn’t it? When I started this content and context listing, I wanted to write the summary sentence for each book so that the focus was on God. That hasn’t been hard. Here in the Major Prophets, with their intense and personal connections to Him, it has been even easier. If you want to see what I’m talking about, go back and look at those summary sentences (the second bullet point under each book title) in previous posts; you can clearly see God’s active presence in each time period and situation. This is why history is actually His Story. Beautiful!

If you are new to this blog, find the original post that started the series *here*.

MAJOR PROPHETS

Isaiah

  • About: judgment, promises
  • God uses Isaiah to voice His promises for the restoration of His people.
  • Big stories: Isaiah before God, promise of Immanuel, prophecies about Jesus
  • Author: Isaiah
  • Time: fall of Israel (Amos, Hosea, Micah)
  • “It is too small a thing for you to be my servant to restore the tribes of Jacob and bring back those of Israel I have kept. I will also make you a light for the Gentiles, that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.” Isaiah 49:6

Jeremiah

  • About: Judah’s approaching exile (Did you know this is the longest book in the Bible?)
  • Through Jeremiah, God forewarns and demonstrates how Judah will be judged.
  • Big stories: Jeremiah’s calling, visiting a pottery studio, a king burns Jeremiah’s scroll of prophecies, fall of Jerusalem
  • Author: Jeremiah
  • Time: before fall of Judah (King Josiah, Daniel, Habakkuk)
  • “’For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.’” Jeremiah 29:11-12

Lamentations

  • About: mourning, loss (It’s a collection of laments, after all.)
  • God’s people mourn their punishment but remember that God is faithful.
  • Big stories: the people feel deserted
  • Author: maybe Jeremiah
  • Time: immediately after the fall of Jerusalem
  • “Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” Lamentations 3:21-23

Ezekiel

Ezekiel spoke as God had commanded. There was a sudden rattling as the bones came together, bone by bone, to form skeletons. – Slide 5

The valley of dry bones (c) freebibleimages.org

  • About: God’s sovereignty and omnipresence
  • With Ezekiel as His spokesman, God removes the tangible centerpieces of Israel’s religious life.
  • Big stories: Ezekiel’s call, the valley of dry bones and restoration of the temple
  • Author: Ezekiel
  • Time: fall of Jerusalem and Babylonian exile
  • “Therefore say to the Israelites, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: It is not for your sake, people of Israel, that I am going to do these things, but for the sake of my holy name…Then the nations will know that I am the Lord, declares the Sovereign Lord, when I am proved holy through you before their eyes.’” Ezekiel 36:22-23

Daniel

‘I see four. And they are loose and walking around. The fourth man looks like the Son of God.’ – Slide 40
In the fiery furnace (c) freebibleimages.org
  • About: Daniel and his friends, long-range prophecy
  • God uses a few faithful men to make His glory known in a foreign nation.
  • Big stories: fiery furnace, lions’ den, interpreting kings’ dreams
  • Author: Daniel
  • Time: late in Babylonian exile
  • “The king said to Daniel, ‘Surely your God is the God of gods and the Lord of kings and a revealer of mysteries, for you were able to reveal this mystery.” Daniel 2:47