Dec 142015
 

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It’s hard to wait.

This is a truth we know all too well. Waiting for the weekend, waiting for the promotion, waiting for the wedding, waiting for dinner time, waiting for the test results, waiting for the next season, waiting for our kids to grow out of a hard stage, waiting for the baby to come, waiting in the checkout line, waiting in the waiting room, for our computer to power up, for life to slow down, for morning to come.

In all stages in life, it seems we are in a perpetual state of waiting. Whether life is flying by or the days pass slowly, we all know what it feels like to wait. The longing in our waiting hearts can feel exciting or feel more like a dull ache. This is because we live in an “almost, not yet, already” world. We are an in-between people. The waiting in every human heart reminds us we are hard wired to hope, to yearn, and to expect. More than anything, we long to be satisfied…satisfied in a deep, filled-up forever kind of way. We long, we wait, for Jesus.

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Dec 032015
 

At last night’s Family Christmas Celebration, we learned that Jesus is God’s greatest gift of generosity to sinners like you and me.  When sin entered the world, it broke our perfect relationship with God and others. Because of this, we need a rescuer/redeemer.  God sent Jesus to be this rescuer/redeemer. He is the greatest gift of all and the real reason we celebrate at Christmas time.  God generously gave us His Son, even while we were sinners.  Understanding God’s great generosity changes how we treat others. We can love, serve, and give to others during this season because God first loved, served, and gave to us.

One way that you can encourage your family to apply what we learned is to create a Generosity Jar.  If you attended the event, you should have left with a copy.  If you were unable to make it, we have extra copies available for pick up on Sunday morning near the Crossing Kids checkin area.  We’ve also included a copy of the instructions below.

 

Generosity Jar
Family Christmas Celebration 2015
Take Home

Introduction
Ask: Have you ever heard of the word “generosity?” What does it mean to be generous? Can you think of a time where someone did or gave something generous to you? Can you think of a time where you were generous to someone else?

Say: When we attended Family Christmas Celebration together, we learned a lot about the word generous. We learned that generosity is giving more of something than what is expected. We learned that Jesus is God’s greatest gift of generosity to sinners like you and me.  Do you remember the memory verse they shared with us? Let’s practice it together now.

For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given.
Isaiah 9:6

Generosity Discussion
Ask:  Why was it generous for God the Father to send Jesus to the world? (The world was broken and filled with sinners like you and me. Our relationship with God was broken because we sin, or disobey God with our thoughts, words, and actions. We can’t fix this brokenness on our own. We need God to do it for us.)

How has Jesus been generous to you and me? (He left his throne in heaven and came to our messy, broken world. He lived a perfect life in our place, died, and rose again so that we could have a relationship with him and spend forever in heaven with him if we trust in Him as our Savior. He gives us everything we need. All of the good gifts we have on earth come from him.)

Say: When we understand God’s great generosity to us, it changes how we treat others. We can love, serve, and give to others during this season because God first loved, served, and gave to us. Let’s read a few verses about generosity together now.

1 Chronicles 29:14—But who am I, and who are my people, that we should be able to give as generously as this? Everything comes from you, and we have given you only what comes from your hand.

What does this verse say about generosity? (Everything we have comes from God already. We can only give what he’s first given to us.)

Proverbs 11:25—A generous person will prosper whoever refreshes others will be refreshed.

What does this verse say about generosity? (Being generous doesn’t just bless the person we’re being generous to, it blesses us as well. Being generous takes our eyes off of ourselves/what we want and places it on other people.)

Matthew 6:21—Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and rust do not destroy and where thieves cannot break in and steal. For wherever your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

What does this verse say about generosity? (Our hearts are always connected to what we treasure. When we struggle to give/be generous, it’s likely because our hearts are holding onto something/valuing something too much. Giving generously reminds us that our true treasure is in heaven, not on earth.)

1 John 3:1a—See what great love the Father has lavished* on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are.

1 John 4:19—We love because God first loved us.

What do these verses say about generosity? (God has given so much to us! Because He made us His children/He first loved us, we can love and give generously to others.)

*Note that lavished just means to give generously.

Say: There are three main ways that we can give generously to other people—through our time, through our treasure, and through our talents.

Ask:

What do you think it means to give generously through our time? (Spending our time loving/serving other people.)

What do you think it means to give generously through our treasure? (Using our money or resources to buy or give something to someone else.)

What do you think it means to give generously through our talents? (Using the things we’re good at/gifted at to bless other people.)

Generosity Jar Activity Directions

Say: Tonight we’re going to create a Generosity Jar. In this jar, we will brainstorm ways that we can give generously to others using our time, our treasure, and our talents. We’ll write down these ideas on a slip of paper and place them into the jar. We’ll take some time throughout the month of December to pull these ideas out of the jar and use them as ways to give to others.

Step One: Decorate your jar.

Step Two: Brainstorm/record ideas of ways to give generously. Use the categories time, treasure, and talent, to help you.

Option for Older Kids: Give each child a few slips of paper and have them discuss and write down ideas they have.

Option for Younger Kids: Brainstorm ideas together as a family. Write down the ideas onto the paper for them.

Step Three: Pull slips of paper from the jar throughout the month of December and give generously to others. You can also use the jar to collect spare change to give away at the end of the month.

Pray
God thank you for giving your Son Jesus to us as the greatest, most generous gift of all. Please help us to understand your great generosity to us more and more so that we can love, serve, and give to others this season because you first loved, served, and gave to us. Amen.

*We’d love to see how your family uses your Generosity Jar. Take pictures and share them on our Facebook page this month. https://www.facebook.com/CrossingKids

Dec 012015
 

I’ve seen posts all day about how today is called “Giving Tuesday”. It’s a day set aside on the calendar after we’ve spent all weekend shopping on ourselves and loved ones to think of others and “give”. In some ways this struck me as a little backwards.

But I was already convicted on Monday as I read this devotional below with my two teenage boys. We’ve been reading this book every day as I drive them to school throughout 2015 and there have been so many times where I kept thinking of God’s word to me in it all day long. This one in particular lasted more than a day.

Below is what we read in One Year of Dinner Table Devotions by Nancie Guthrie. (Yes, we are using a dinner devotional for the drive time, but it’s short and sweet and perfect for the time we have. Plus my boys like it.)

Getting and Giving

This is the season our mailboxes are filled with stacks of mail-order catalogs. Through their colorful pictures and creative words, they seek to convince us that we don’t have enough stuff – that we need more, newer, better. They go beyond supplying our needs; they appeal to our greed – the desire to get and keep more than we really need.

We have a choice. We can give in to greed and keep collecting more stuff and spending more money on ourselves. Or we can break out of the cycle of believing the lie that more will satisfy us. How? By giving. The only way to do battle with the greed in our hearts is to give – to become outrageous givers. God can turn greedy, grasping, fearful hoarders into generous, honest, trustworthy givers.

To become givers, we have to decide not to listen to the voice inside us that asks, “If I let this go, who will take care of me? What will satisfy me?” We have to face our fear that God will not be able to take care of us, protect us, or at least make sure we maintain the lifestyle we think we need to make us happy. We tell ourselves the truth about God – that because he has been so generous in giving us Jesus, we can be confident that he will give us everything we need. We take him at his word that he can satisfy us and that he will bless us as we give to others. We test his promise that it is “more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35).

“Some people are always greedy for more, but the godly love to give!” Proverbs 21:26

“Beware! Guard against every kind of greed. Life is not measured by how much you own.” Luke 12;15

“You can be sure that no immoral, impure or greedy person will inherit the Kingdom of Christ and of God. For a greedy person is an idolater, worshiping the things of this world.” Ephesians 5:5

A few discussion starters:

What do you find yourself dreaming of getting? What do you find yourself dreaming of giving?

When have you experienced or observed someone else enjoying the happiness that comes from outrageous giving?

What does our green or generosity say about what we think of God?

So are you with me? Was your heart struck as mine was by how much I’ve been thinking about what to buy myself or my kids verses what can I give or who can I give to? The verses alone are enough to cut to the heart but then you add my answers to the questions and I’m done.

So what can we do to help our kids think more about giving than getting this Christmas?  One way you can fight this greed in your kids is to give them opportunities to give and learn about giving. Here are a few ideas but I’d love to hear any others you have.

Visit the tables in the foyer and help your kids pick out an organization and specific gift to give through Equipping the Saints.

Find a neighbor or friend who has a need and meet it.

Join us tomorrow night at our Family Christmas Celebration (December 2nd at 6:30 pm) we will be talking all about generosity as well as wrapping up a few gifts for others. We’ll also be sending you home with a Generosity Jar so your family can think more about how to “give” to others.

Ask your kids. I’m sure they have some ideas but just need help figuring out how to make it a reality.

For me personally, I just hear about a new book coming out soon called Raising Grateful Kids in an Entitled World by Kristen Welch. I plan to purchase, read and apply some of what I learn with my own kids. Click here for  a short write up about this book.

May God give us all a heart that wants to give more than we want to get. It is far more blessed to give than receive.

Dec 282014
 

Little Ones

Monthly Topic: “I” is for Immanuel

Big Idea: Jesus is called Immanuel, which means God with Us

Memory Verse:  “…He will be called Immanuel…” Matthew 1:23

Bible Story Focus: Jesus is Born

Lesson Overview:

In this lesson, children will hear the story of Jesus being born in Bethlehem.  They will hear that Jesus is God who came to live with His people.  They will learn that Jesus is called Immanuel because that means “God with us.”

Music:

“He is Born” from Jump for Joy

“Jump for Joy” from Jump for Joy

ck2

Preschool

Monthly Topic: “I” is for Immanuel

Big Idea: Jesus is called Immanuel, which means God with us!

Memory Verse: “…and they will call Him Immanuel, which means God with us.” – Matthew 1:23

Bible Story Focus: The Shepherd and the Magi – Luke 2:8; Matthew 2:1-12

Lesson Overview:

In this lesson, children will hear of the shepherds and the magi travelling a long ways to worship and bring gifts to Jesus. They will understand that Jesus is worthy of our worship and gifts because He is God.

Circle Time Discussion:

Tell what you think it would be like to be with God?

I Wonder Questions (snack time discussion):

What happened to the shepherds in the field? (They were watching over their sheep when angels came to tell them that Jesus had been born)

How did the Magi know to go look for Jesus? (They knew to look for Jesus when they saw His star in the sky).

What did the shepherds and the Magi do when they got to Jesus? (They bowed down to worship Him).

Activities

At 8:00 and 11:00 children will use a sand tray to draw clues about the Christmas story. Then they will make a star ornament to take home. Children at 9:30 will play a Christmas matching memory game and then make their own paper plate yarn star to take home.

Music: 

“Silent Night” from The Christmas Sessions by Mercy Me

“Born is the King” from Born is the King by Hillsong

sally

Kindergarten-5th Grade

Topic: We can believe and rejoice that God sent Jesus to be the Savior of the world. SCRIPTURE: Luke 2

Memory Verse: But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.” Luke 2:10

Lesson Summary: We will watch “What’s in the Bible: Christmas”. Afterwards, each classroom will have a birthday party for Jesus.

Music:

“Joy to the World (Unspeakable Joy)” from Glory in the Highest by Chris Tomlin

“O Come Let Us Adore Him” from Born is the King by Hillsong

“My Soul Magnifies the Lord” from Glory in the Highest by Chris Tomlin

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Dec 012014
 

I can think of many holiday seasons where the idea of baking cookies, watching snow fall, hanging lights, and listening to holiday music felt nothing but appropriate. I’ve also lived through holiday seasons and am currently experiencing one right now that doesn’t feel holly or jolly. The glitz and the glimmer at times feel like they are actively assaulting my soul, taunting me with triteness, reminding me of things I wish weren’t true of my life and circumstances. It’s true that grief doesn’t just surface in places like the doctor’s office or a cemetery. It can lay dormant waiting to pounce in the checkout isle of Target or during a seemingly benign conversation with a coworker. Christmas can trigger nostalgic joy and happy anticipation. It can also trigger a season of amplified loneliness and grief. It can remind us that our life doesn’t measure up to a Norman Rockwell Christmas card or even our own more realistic expectations.

My heart is heavy this holiday season. My days feel anything but merry and bright. I feel like decking my halls in sackcloth. Bearing the weight of deep sadness, disappointment, and fear my lips struggle to mouth the words of the songs my soul desperately needs on Sunday mornings. Sometimes it feels as though I expend more energy fighting tears than anything else right now.

In this season of giving thanks, I’m reminded that even in my pain there is much to be grateful for. Towards the top of my list is a season called Advent. Advent comes from a Latin word that means “coming.” It’s an opportunity to reflect on the humble birth of Christ and the anxious wait of His return in glory. It’s a reminder that we live in between the comings of Christ, the already, but the not yet. During this season, we are reminded that waiting, longing, and angst are very much a part of the Christian life. Just as God’s people and prophets groaned and ached for the Messiah hundreds of years ago, we too groan and ache for Christ to return and make everything sad come untrue.

In his book What Jesus Demands from the WorldJohn Piper writes,

When Jesus demands that we rejoice, he has not forgotten the kind of world we live in. It is filled with suffering…For Jesus the demand for joy is a way to live with suffering and to outlast suffering. Therefore, this joy is serious. It’s the kind you fight for by cutting off your hand (Matt. 5:30) and selling your possessions (Matt. 13:44) and carrying a cross with Jesus to Calvary (Matt. 10:38-39). It has scars. It sings happy songs with tears. It remembers the dark hours and knows that more are coming. The road to heaven is a hard road, but it is not joyless. 

Much of this quote reflects exactly what Advent means to me. Advent is about a deep, serious, abiding joy that doesn’t ignore the pain of life but doesn’t buckle underneath its weight either. It acknowledges the difficulty but continues to trust, hope, and rest in a faithful, loving God. Advent gives me permission to celebrate in the midst of all of my hurt this December. It reminds me that Christmas is at its core about a God who enters into our suffering and pain and keeps His promises. So I will light candles and hang lights and I will sing those happy songs with tears. Just like God’s people many years ago I will wait as they waited and I will long as they longed.

Come Lord Jesus, come redeem us, we will wait for You.

holly

Photo Credit

Nov 242014
 

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What story will most capture your child’s heart this holiday season?

Children begin to form their understanding of what Christmas is about from very early on. The only real question is who or what will have the most influence in shaping it.

The biblical story of Christmas can be confusing to kids who are bombarded with our culture’s holiday icons and values at every turn. You have an opportunity this December to spend time not only decorating, wrapping gifts, and going to parties…but, most importantly, focusing your family’s hearts on who it’s all for.

Start your Christmas season off with a night that focuses all your senses on Jesus at our Family Christmas Celebration on Wednesday, December 3 from 6:30-8:30 p.m. at The Crossing. Your family is invited to experience a night in Bethlehem during the time of Jesus’ birth. Visit various interactive shops, meet characters all over town, and watch the live story of the Nativity come to life.

One thing your family will make that night is a keepsake Nativity set from Caravan Shoppe like this one…

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And, as you leave, we’ll hand you a simple, hands-on Christmas devotional that you can do with your kids throughout the holiday season, too!

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This free event is geared for families with children ages 3 through 5th grade. It’s a great opportunity to invite others to hear about the Christmas story. Childcare is available for ages 2 and under by RSVP.

Sign up online HERE or in the foyer through November 30, if you plan to attend.

We hope to see you and your friends there!

Dec 122013
 

“Praise the LORD for the glory that belongs to Him. Worship the LORD because of His beauty and holiness.” – Psalm 29:2

Worship comes in many different forms. We often think of worship as singing, prayer, scripture reading, and even community building with fellow believers.  All of these are ways we can worship God. But what does it mean to worship? You can think of it as “worth-ship”. When we worship God, we are acknowledging that He is worthy to be praised. The Bible talks about worship throughout both Old and New Testaments. In fact, the word worship is used 556 times in the Bible!

While there are several different forms of worship to God, there is truly something so tender and heart-changing about singing to the Lord. Many people throughout the Bible respond to God in song after He has done something great. After the Israelites are freed from Egypt , Moses responds by singing to the Lord (Exodus 15).  Mary visited her cousin Elizabeth, pregnant with John the Baptist. Scripture tells us the baby leaped in Elizabeth’s womb at the sound of Mary’s voice and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. What did Mary do? She responded in song to God (Luke 1:46).  Worship is a response, a response to understanding who God is! He is our Wonderful Counselor, Prince of Peace, Everlasting Father (Isaiah 9:6).

This Christmas, your family has been given an advent devotional to prepare for this holiday season.  If you do not have one, you can pick one up at The Crossing Kids desk or download it here.  In this devotional, we are learning of the promise God made to send a Savior to the world and then see that promise fulfilled through the birth of Jesus. This holiday season, our prayer is that your family will come to understand who God is more fully and then respond to Him in worship, possibly singing praises to Him!

Below are some fun new versions of Christmas songs your family can sing together this Christmas as an act of worship and remembering who Jesus is! It is not a small thing that our Savior has been born and it is not a small thing that he came as a lowly baby, endured hardship throughout his life, and then died a horrible death so that we can receive the undeserved grace of God!

In the book Worship Matters by Bob Kauflin, he says “Anyone who seeks to encourage others to give praise and honor to God can be referred to broadly as a “worship leader””. So parents, lead your kids in worship this Christmas and every other day, encouraging them to recognize God the Father as the only One worthy of our praise! Spend some time listening to the words in these songs and singing along to the parts you know. May your words and raised voices bring Glory to Him!

Away in a Manger by Shane and Shane (Glory in the Highest Album)
Angels We Have Heard on High by Chris Tomlin (Glory in the Highest Album)
Hark! The Herald Angels Sing from the Jingle Jam CD
Go Tell it on the Mountain by Tenth Avenue North
Joy to the World by Francesca Battistelli
Silent Night by Mercy Me (Christmas Album)
My Soul Magnifies the Lord by Chris Tomlin (Glory in the Highest Album)
Here I am to Worship by Tim Hughes

 

 

 

 

 

Dec 112013
 

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Last Wednesday, Crossing kids and their families gathered to remember and celebrate the birth of Jesus, our King. It was crazy, it was loud, but we had a fun time!

The evening started in the foyer, as children visited various stations and characters, looking to find and collect different prophecies.

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All those dressed up represented a prophecy, or in this case, a message from God about the birth of Jesus. Their prophecies helped us understand the journey to Jesus, that began hundreds and thousands of years before he was born. I still find it amazing, and was thankful for being reminded.

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Together, we watched a video called ‘The Very First Noel’ about the Wise Men journeying to Jesus. The Wise Men understood that the baby they were visiting wasn’t just a normal human baby—He was their true King and Savior! And they responded to him by giving generous gifts and worshiping him. I think kids and adults alike enjoyed the short film – laughing and crying together!

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“Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” Matthew 2:2

Like the Wise Men, when we understand who Jesus is, our right response is worship.

One act of worshiping Jesus is to serve others. Families left to make homeless bags, filling them with socks, water bottles, toothbrushes and much more.

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We hope you picked up the devotional to take home and do as a family, exploring how we can respond to Jesus in worship. How is it going? We’d love to hear your thoughts as we begin the countdown for Christmas!

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Dec 102013
 

We are Christmas people,
not Advent.

Waiting feels
unnatural,
countercultural,
uncomfortable.

Yet waiting
is just as much a part
of our reality
as it was theirs.

We no longer wait
for his birth,
but His coming.

Eternity amnesia
blinds us to the reality
that this world isn’t all
there is.

Just like kids
tearing open presents
we ask,
“Is this it?”

Unrealistic expectations
that life
can’t deliver.
We ask too much
of other people.
We misplace priorities.
We misunderstand suffering.
Robbed of meaning
and purpose.

We are wired by God
for more.
Eternity set inside
of every human heart.

There is surely
a future hope
that will not be cut off.
A hope
on the other side
of the grave.
This world is
preparation,
not a destination.

A life of wisdom is dependent
on knowing this
isn’t all there is.
Don’t set your hope here
set your hope on the grace
to be brought to you.

We wait as they waited.
We long as they longed.
Come Lord Jesus, come redeem us
we will wait for You.

*A found poem from Keith Simon’s Sermon on November 27, 2011.

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