“Death has been swallowed up in victory!
Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death is your sting?
The sting of death is sin
and the power of sin is the law.
But thanks be to God!
He gives us victory
through our Lord Jesus Christ!”
1 Corinthians 15:54b-57
Today we celebrate! We celebrate because we can give thanks to God that Jesus holds the victory over death and the victory over sin. I love this passage because of the imagery. I think about a worker bee who is trying so hard to create something that at times seems so sweet. The honey that sin offers can be enticing at times. But going after the honeycomb means that you are likely going to get stung. For some, being stung by an actual bee can mean death. For all being stung by sin meant certain death. Until….
Until DEATH WAS SWALLOWED UP IN VICTORY. Jesus drank the honey—he swallowed it up so its deadly work has NO POWER in our lives. Today as we celebrate His resurrection, we should remember that he took our sin and nailed it to the cross with his own body. The death he died for us carries the power to free us from the sting we were destined to feel.
Paul continues on in verse 58 to encourage Christians to “Stand firm, letting nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord.” His death frees us from sin. His resurrection gives us hope. Stand firm. He will return for you!
Ready or Not…
A new school year brings with it many new beginnings and challenges. It seems that every parent I have talked with this week has commented on how they were ready for the school year to begin but not ready in other ways. It seems as if this is a common theme in many areas of life. When we were preparing for Miriam to be born, we were ready and not ready. Whenever I leave for a trip, I am ready to go but there are things I am leaving behind undone.
I think the challenge is when we feel this way in our spiritual lives. Sometimes I feel like my relationship with God is going great. I am praying daily. I am in his word like I need to be. I am seeking his guidance in my life in many ways. At the same time, I feel that there is so much more I need to be doing to further my walk with him. As I am trying to walk the straight and narrow path, even though I am mostly staying between the lines, every now and then there are areas where I could do better. I am ready for the challenges that God has in store and I feel I can serve but there are still ways I could use just a little more refining.
How do we deal with this tension of being on fire for him and feeling like we could be the basis for the next super Christian action figure and feeling like we will never measure up and that Mattel would not want a spiritual weakling for an action figure? I think the problem in all of this does not have to do with a supernatural scale that God is using to determine if we are ready or not. We are not being weighed against the ideal Christian we ought to be.
When we commit our lives to service of the King, the work on us is only just beginning. 1 John 4:4 says, “Greater is he that is in you that the one that is in the world.” Whether we feel we are ready or not, God is at work in our lives making us ready. He makes us capable of dealing with the things for which we think we need more preparation. When we know that the one at work inside us is more powerful than the challenges we face in our day, we can say with assurance that, “ready or not, here I come.” Greater is He that is in you!
Taking It Home
Ask your children if they felt ready for school this week. Ask them what they wish they could have done to feel more prepared as they started school.
After they have told you about things they wished would have been different, discuss with them about how God makes us ready for our challenges.
Challenge them to partner with God in being prepared for each day.
Academic or Spiritual
Each year children are sent back to school with such excitement about new beginnings and being one year closer to graduation. With all the preparations made in August, parents hope that their children are ready for the school year to begin. So much concern and effort is put toward their academics that it is hard to imagine that anything could be more important than school. It’s hard to imagine that anything could be more important than their education which will impact their future careers and success. It’s hard to imagine that with all the emphasis placed on academic achievement, there could be anything we might want to prioritize above ABC’s and 123’s. Could there possibly be anything more important?
If we were able to step out of our brand new school shoes to look at our lives, would we be able to see that there is often more emphasis on intellectual development than spiritual development? Please do not hear me saying that we should yank kids out of school and only educate them in the Bible. What I am suggesting, albeit suggesting strongly, is that the spiritual development emphasis should be tipping the scale. But how are you as a parent supposed to ensure this with all the homework, piano lessons and football practice, especially when you already attend church three times a week?
Is it really possible to raise spiritual champions in a world that makes it so much easier to raise spiritual weaklings? Excelling in school is so much easier because there are so many more resources available to ensure that children do well academically. So how is a parent wanting to raise their child up to make righteous decisions supposed to compete? Every way possible. Mark 8:36 asks, “What good is it for you to gain the whole world, yet to forfeit your soul?” I do believe that it is possible for our children to excel in school and be spiritual champions. To accomplish this, I believe that parents are going to have to use every resource available to them to compete against all the tools the world uses to create spiritual weaklings. Parents, you can do it. God does not call you to raise spiritual champions without giving you to equipment you need to cross train. Jesus says, “Take heart, for I have overcome the world.” You can compete. You can cross train. You can raise spiritual champions. Do not be afraid to prioritize spiritual health over intellectual health.
Taking It Home
Pray each morning with your kids this week before they head off to school. Pray that God will teach them more than their teachers. Pray that they will learn about His love and His compassion.
“Mom, have you ever done anything bad?”
I remember when I first asked that question of my parents. They got squirmy real fast and tried to change the subject to something else. As an eight year old I was able to catch on to what they were doing and their uncomfortability at my question. So I did what any eight year old would do…kept asking. What came out of that question was an atmosphere of honesty and openness between me and my dad that I would not trade for anything. There are certainly appropriate times for parents to disclose certain things about their past, and there may even be things that child will not need to ever hear about. As with any experience, our stories are full of teachable moments. When we see choices our kids make and are reminded of a poor decision we once made, what an excellent opportunity for children to see that parents do make mistakes and that it is ok to talk about them with their kids. Children tend to think that since the parents set the rules, the parents obey the rules. If having a conversation with your child about a time you broke the rules frightens you, think about the benefits to your relationship when they feel that the communication lines are open regarding mistakes they make. Children may understand that there will still be consequences but they will be more willing to accept them knowing that you as a parent can relate. Below are some tips for opening the communication doors to your past. I hope you will strive to use your stories and experiences as teachable moments for your children.
Taking It Home
Share a time with your child when you:
1. Were surprised by God as a child
2. Failed a friend
3. Saw your parent’s faith in action
4. Learned from a mistake
5. Learned from someone else’s mistake.
Do you ever bake bread? Do you ever eat bread fresh out of the oven? For a while, I was in the habit of making fresh bread with our bread machine. When the timer beeps indicating that the bread is done, I would rush into the kitchen and take the bread out and while it was still warm cut off a slice and eat it immediately. There is a feel good feeling associated with eating warm bread. It seems to fill your insides with warmth as well and gives you a sensation that you have been nourished in a way not possible with cold, or even stale bread.
I wonder how often when we are partaking of the bread of life, we are eating cold – or even stale – bread. When we let our relationship with God become stagnant, we are not eating warm bread. When we feel like we can stop reading His word, because we have read it before, we are eating stale bread. If God’s word is living and active then it will be fresh on our minds and hearts. The Spirit’s work in our lives will fill our insides with warmth and give us a sensation that we have been nourished in a way not possible with cold, or stale bread.
Jesus said “I Am the Bread of Life.” When we go to Him for fresh warm bread, he says we will never go hungry and we will never be thirsty. How disappointing it is to go to the bread box, hungry, wanting to be filled only to find moldy bread. Jesus is the Bread of Life, He will fill us with warm bread that won’t leave us hungry.
Taking It Home
1. Purposefully leave a piece of bread out on the counter for a few hours. Then ask your kids to pick it up and see if they would enjoy eating a peanut butter sandwich made with that bread.
2. Make a comparison to how sometimes God’s word is neglected and our relationship with Jesus suffers.
3. Read the passage from John 6 and ask your children to think about ways the Bread of Life can be “warmed.”