Have you ever sung the song “Jesus Loves the Little Children,” back in your childhood years? For many Christians, it often brought images to mind of Scripture that told the stories of Jesus with children. Jesus loved little children. They held a special place in His heart.
Here’s a quick reminder about the lyrics for the song (along with the chord chart, for the musicians who are reading this):
G Jesus loves the little children D All the children of the world
G Red and yellow, black and white C G They are precious in His sight D G Jesus loves the little children of the world
Lyrics by: Clare Herbert Woolston
Tune by: George Frederick Root
Over time, the song has been extended as well. For example, here is a version by Cedarmount Kids:
Jesus loves the little children
All the children of the world
Red, brown, yellow, black and white
They are precious in His sight
Jesus loves the little children of the world
Jesus died for all the children
All the children of the world
Red, brown, yellow, black and white
They are precious in His sight
Jesus died for all the children of the world.
Jesus loves the little children
All the children of the world
Red, brown, yellow, black and white
They are precious in His sight
Jesus loves the little children of the world
Red, brown, yellow, black and white
They are precious in His sight
Jesus loves the little children of the world
Many songs about Jesus and children from our childhood are songs worth remembering, but “Jesus Loves the Little Children” is a classic song that is very special, because many people love to teach this song to their children or teach it to kids at church.
Did you know that the song “Jesus Loves the Little Children” actually originated as a civil war ballad? It went like this:
Tramp! Tramp! Tramp! The boys are marching
Cheer up, comrades, they will come
All beneath the starry flag
We shall breathe the air again
Of the free land in our own beloved home
The song “Tramp! Tramp! Tramp!” was written by George Frederick Root. It was written during the Civil War in the USA from 1861-1865. George Root’s goal in writing the song was to raise the morale of the prisoners during the war. At a later time, Clare Herbert Woolston, a lyricist, writer and preacher, wrote the lyrics of “Jesus Loves the Little Children” to the tune of “Tramp! Tramp! Tramp!”
The song “Jesus Loves the Little Children” was likely inspired by this Bible verse:
But Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 19:14 English Standard Version (ESV)
The context for this verse tells us that when people brought children to Jesus, seeking prayer and blessing for them, they were rebuked by Jesus’ disciples. Unfortunately, the disciples thought that the children were not worth Jesus’ time. They thought the best thing to do would be to send the children away. But Jesus disagreed. He was upset with His disciples and brought the children to him. He even used them as an example to explain that it only takes a simple faith, like that of a child, to enter into the kingdom of God.
What can we learn from this story in Matthew 19:14 and from the song, “Jesus Loves the Little Children”?
Children Matter: Jesus cares deeply about children. They matter to Him!
A Simple Faith: Jesus made it clear that it only takes a simple faith in order to enter into the kingdom of heaven. It doesn’t require you to work your way into heaven. Just a simple faith like that of a child allows you to believe in Jesus, repent of your sin, and begin following Him.
Love Children: As Christians, we should love children. They are a blessing from the Lord (Psalm 127:3). As we love them, we are also called to raise children in the ways of the Lord (Deuteronomy 4:4-9, Ephesians 6:4).
Lead Children to Jesus: Children need to hear about Jesus, just like all of us do! The #1 time that people begin following Christ is during their childhood, especially before their teenage years.
If you’re interested in learning more or would like to learn how to use this song in your home or in your church, then take a look at the resource by Let the Little Children Come on Jesus Loves the Little Children. Included there are:
Videos of the song
Song lyrics and chords
Several medley recordings of this song, along with other songs, including: “Jesus Loves Me,” “Jesus Loves Even Me,” and “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands”
“For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him.” 1 Thessalonians 4:14
Easter is certainly a joyous occasion. We celebrate the resurrection of our Lord and Savior, Jesus. We celebrate the fact that through Jesus, we have this amazing hope of a wonderful eternity, where “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).
As Easter draws near, let us consider Christ’s completed work on the cross. Let us also think about how we can pass on the truth of Jesus’s death and resurrection to our children.
One fantastic way to share the Easter story with younger ones is with Resurrection Eggs. Resurrection Eggs are plastic Easter eggs that each contain an item related to Easter.
Although these can be purchased ready-made, you can easily put a set of resurrection eggs together yourself. This can be a very meaningful project you do with your children.
Here’s how you can make your own set of resurrection eggs using items that are readily available. Alternatively, you can use these printable Resurrection Eggs Cards from Bible Games Central which feature images of these items.
Jesus went to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover. He rode into Jerusalem on a young donkey.
A large crowd spread their coats and palm branches on the road. The people shouted,
“Hosanna to the Son of David!”
“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”
“Hosanna in the highest heaven!”
Matthew 21:7-9; Mark 11:7-10; Luke 19:35-38; John 12:12-13
Resurrection Egg #2 – 30 Pieces of Silver
Judas Iscariot, one of the 12 disciples of Jesus, went to the chief priests to betray Jesus to them. They gave him 30 pieces of silver.
Matthew 26:14-15; Mark 14:10-11; Luke 22:3-5
Resurrection Egg #3 – Towel
During the Passover meal, Jesus got up, took off his outer clothes, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a large bowl and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.
Resurrection Egg #4 – Bread and Wine
Jesus was eating the Passover meal with his 12 disciples. He took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way, Jesus took the cup and said, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” They all ate the bread and drank from the cup.
Matthew 26:26-28; Mark 14:22-24; Luke 22:19-20
Resurrection Egg #5 – Garden
After the Passover meal, Jesus went with his disciples to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray.
Matthew 26:36-46; Mark 14:32-42; Luke 22:39-46
Resurrection Egg #6 – Rope
When Jesus had finished praying in the garden, Judas came to the garden with some soldiers and officials. The chief priests and the Pharisees had sent them. They carried torches, lanterns and weapons. They arrested Jesus and tied him up.
Matthew 26:47,50; Mark 14:43,46; Luke 22:47-48; John 18:3,12
Resurrection Egg #7 – Crown of Thorns
The soldiers took off Jesus’ clothes and put a purple robe on him. They twisted thorns together to make a crown and placed it on his head. Then they spit on him, hit him repeatedly on his head, and pretended to worship him as the king of the Jews.
Matthew 27:27-31; Mark 15:16-20; John 19:1-3
Resurrection Egg #8 – Cross
After they had finished mocking Jesus, the soldiers took Jesus to the place called Golgotha and nailed him to a cross.
Matthew 27:31; Mark 15:22-24; Luke 23:33; John 19:17-18
Resurrection Egg #9 – Spear
After Jesus’ crucifixion, one of the soldiers pierced Jesus’ side with a spear before his body was taken down from the cross.
Resurrection Egg #10 – Strips of Linen
A man named Joseph approached Pilate to ask for the body of Jesus. Joseph wrapped the body in spices and strips of linen, then placed it in a new tomb cut out of the rock.
Matthew 27:57-60; Mark 15:42-46; Luke 23:50-53; John 19:38-42
Resurrection Egg #11 – Stone
Joseph placed Jesus in a tomb, rolled a large stone in front of the entrance and went away. Later, the chief priests and the Pharisees put a seal on the stone and posted some guards there.
Resurrection Egg #12 – Empty
On the third day after Jesus’ crucifixion, the women brought spices to the tomb to anoint Jesus’ body. But they saw that the stone in front of Jesus’ tomb had been rolled away and the body of Jesus was not there. An angel told them, “Jesus is not here; he has risen from the dead!”
Matthew 28:1,5-7; Mark 16:1-6; Luke 24:1-6; John 20:1-2
Another resource to consider is the Lost Easter Egg Pop-up Tract from Let The Little Children Come. This Easter Tract features clever pop-ups and tells the story of 3 children in search of a lost Easter egg. The 3 friends really, really want to find the lost Easter egg, just as God really, really wants to be with each one of us.
About our guest blogger, Alvin Gan:
Alvin Gan is the father of three noisy (but lovely) teenagers and founder of two websites that provide creative evangelism and discipleship resources.
LetTheLittleChildrenCome.com specializes in unique child evangelism tools and resources to help convey the plan of salvation for kids effectively.
One of the most impactful things I ever did one Lenten season (in preparation for Easter) was give up holding grudges against my husband. For context: Usually, for Lent, Protestant Christians don’t bother much with giving things up. I had, for many years, not seen the point and chucked the idea altogether. I did, that is, until a good friend challenged me to use the 40 days of Lent as a time to come closer to God less through a sense of obligation and more about willingness and desire for life-change.
A Lenten practice might look like adding something—like praying for someone more regularly or choosing a place to serve those less fortunate. It might also look like relinquishing an attitude or behavior. I had the sense that God wanted me to give up stewing, to give up feeding my frustrations or my resentments, specifically those that were related to my marriage and my husband’s inability to read my mind . Incidentally, he was not doing anything heinous—it was just garden-variety relationship friction that I chose to continue to hang onto and keep to myself.
I also knew that I would need to replace what I was relinquishing with something healthier—a healthier attitude, better choices, etc. So, I chose to increase my focus on God as my provider…my guide…my strengthener…my help. I decided that every time I was tempted to ruminate over a grudge, I would “take that thought captive” to Christ and stop and pray for my husband instead.
It supposedly takes 30 days to break a habit. Lent gave me 40 days, not including Sundays. This one intentional season, over 20 years ago, truly broke me of that bad habit, replaced it with a better one and helped strengthen my marriage. Not that I never consider stewing anymore, but God reminds me to turn that over to Him sooner and more thoroughly so that it’s no longer my default mode.
I have also noticed the helpfulness of this practice in my coaching and mentoring. New Year’s Resolutions seem so heavy and burdensome—stretching 365 days into the horizon with the potential for failure or discouragement at every turn. The 40 (or 46) days of Lent, however, seems doable in a different sort of way. Shorter. In partnership with God in a very intentional sense. A heightened awareness in a winter season.
Lent and Sacrifices
If Lent is about coming closer to God through some sort of self-sacrifice, then it’s probably more about attitudes than about actions.
Some things to consider “giving up” for Lent:
harboring anger or resentment toward someone
complaining about one’s boss
complaining about one’s roommates
talking with others about a problem instead of talking with the person with whom you have that problem
complaining about your family
television/Netflix/HBO/Hulu—or certain shows/movies—or binge-watching
problem-solving when someone is sharing their heart with you
Replace the thing you are giving up with something healthier:
a new habit
take every thought captive
pray the Psalms
Scripture—memorize and remember
books; books on Audible
Post-It Note reminders in key places
Lent small group
listening to Scripture
time in nature
And, pick just ONE thing. Don’t overwhelm yourself with a list of “resolutions.” Consider this a “fast” for your soul—a way to invite God in to do some much-needed renovation and restoration. It helps to find a Scripture to meditate on during your Lenten practice. Several suggestions follow:
Verses for Reflection:
2 Cor. 10:3-5 Indeed, we live as human beings, but we do not wage war according to human standards; for the weapons of our warfare are not merely human, but they have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every proud obstacle raised up against the knowledge of God, and we take every thought captive to obey Christ.
Phil 4:8 Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.
2 Tim. 3:14-17 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it, and how from childhood you have known the sacred writings that are able to instruct you for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work.
Matthew 4:2-4 He fasted forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was famished. The tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” But he answered, “It is written, ‘One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.'”
1 Thess. 5:11 Therefore encourage one another and build up each other, as indeed you are doing.
Prayerfully begin now to reflect on what God would have you do . . . and who He would have you “be” . . . for your Lenten sacrifice to Him this season.
[Lent this year begins on Ash Wednesday, February 26, 2020 and ends with Easter Sunday on April 12, 2020.]
Shirley Giles Davis is a coach, consultant, and facilitator specializing in resilience, communication, conflict, transitions/change, leadership, strategic planning, personal style, resource-management, purpose, performance management, sabbath, caregiving, gifts/passion, and Enneagram debriefing.
When I was 13 years old, I was involved in an accident that left me with some structural issues and chronic pain.
Several years later a doctor told me if I could work on strengthening the muscles around my back, core, and joints, it would provide some relief from the pain I was experiencing. In an attempt to do so, I actually ended up making things worse. I didn’t understand my limitations and in fear of making things even worse, I just stopped trying altogether.
God recently opened a door for me to try again, but this time I’m working with experienced and knowledgeable coaches who are giving advice specific to me, my body, and my goals.
This reminded me of how often I hear of my friends and colleagues who are coaches talk about the importance of having their own coach. Not only does it help you stay focused and intentional in your own life, but if you are a coach, then it’s helping you experience coaching skills that you can incorporate into your own coaching! One friend said, “When I started my first business I didn’t have anyone mentoring me. Now that I’m starting my 12th business, I have two coaches!”
She went on to share that when you look at people who are professionals and masters in their field, you will often learn of a mentor, coach, or trainer who has been supporting or guiding them along the way. They understand that to be successful, they need to receive the wisdom of others—not just general wisdom, but wisdom that uncovers where they are now and where they want to go and and guides them on how to bridge the gap for their specific situation.
When Moses’ father-in-law saw all that Moses was doing for the people, he asked, ‘What are you really accomplishing here? Why are you trying to do all this alone while everyone stands around you from morning till evening?”
Who is speaking into your specific situation? What areas are you trying to go it alone? If you don’t have an answer, it might be time to get a coach!
Note: Original article was written for CCNI’s President Message at ChristianCoaches.com . Visit their website to learn how to find a coach . . . or how to become a coach.
About Guest Blogger, Jenny Karr
Jenny Karr has been at Tailored Fundraising since 2013 and is now the Coaching Manager and Executive Coach. With a passion to train, equip, and support people in ministry, she has worked with hundreds of Christian missionaries and leaders on healthy and effective ways of building a partnership team.
Outside of Tailored, she is the 2019 President of Christian Coaches Network International, providing education, resources, and community to Christians seeking to grow or strengthen their coaching skills.
In Jenny’s personal life you’ll find her spending quality time with her husband and teenage daughter in and around their home in Nashville, Tennessee.
Why did God invent the church? Scholars have advanced various ideas. My own thinking goes back to the very beginning, and it builds on the way Jesus most often referred to God: as Father.
I have sometimes considered developing what I call a “theology of fun,” based on the idea that God created the universe just for the fun of it. Certainly nobody could force God to create! But I think there must be more to it.
Let’s start at the beginning. Not Genesis 1:1, In the beginning God created. . . .I want to get behind that, to why God created. To do that we have to look at God himself.
How many ways can you think of that God is described in the Bible? God is great, God is just, God is holy, God is good, God is merciful. God is our refuge and strength and salvation. God is a spirit and a consuming fire. All these are descriptions of God. But one verse is not a description, it’s an equation. 1 John 4:8 says, God is love.Love is God’s essence. It’s who God is.
What is the greatest characteristic of love? Love wants to share. It’s a relationship. Love must be shared, or it isn’t love.
Since eternity, God has shared love in the Trinity. One of the most basic understandings of Christianity is that there is only one God, but this one God exists in three persons: God the Father, God the Son (who came to earth as Jesus), and God the Holy Spirit. Without this community of divine persons to share love, God could not be love.
God, who is love, has been sharing love since eternity. But God’s love is not only eternal, it’s infinite. It’s overflowing. God’s love wanted to overflow the Trinity.
What provides the greatest opportunity for an ongoing expression of love? A family – different personalities living together, adapting to each other, adjusting to each other, caring for each other, putting each other first. A family creates infinite possibilities for love. So God decided to create a family to share his love, with God and with each other.
God could have created us so that we had no choice but to love him, but that wouldn’t be real love. God could force us to act like we love him, but that wouldn’t be real love. Love is only real if it is freely given. God wanted to share real love. So God gave us free will.
Unfortunately, our free will doesn’t just give us the opportunity to freely love God. It gives us the opportunity to cause a lot of trouble as well. We see this in the very first human beings God created.
Adam and Eve shared love with God for a time. Genesis 3 implies that God used to enjoy walking with them in the Garden of Eden. But one day they exercised their free will to disobey God, and that time of innocent family fellowship was broken.
When the cool evening breezes were blowing, the man and his wife heard the LORD God walking about in the garden. So they hid from the LORD God among the trees. Then the LORD God called to the man, “Where are you?” – Genesis 3:8-9
God experienced the heartbreak of a father whose children turn against him and get lost in the world. Adam and Eve’s disobedience broke up God’s family. The whole rest of the Bible records God’s plan throughout history to bring his children back.
For a while God tried to relate to the whole growing human race, but they turned from God and became so wicked that God had to destroy them all in Noah’s flood (Genesis 6-8). He tried again with Noah’s descendants, but instead of trusting God, they built a tower and put their trust in it. They were unified, but not in God. To keep it from happening again, God confused their language, and the human race scattered across the earth (Genesis 11).
So God changed strategies. He decided to relate in a special way to one group of people, who would get to know and love him. Then they could invite the rest of the world into God’s family. God chose the children of Abraham, the nation-family known as the Hebrews, Israel, or the Jews.
King Solomon understood. He prayed at the dedication of the Temple in Jerusalem that all the people of the earth will come to know and fear you, just as your own people Israel do (2 Chronicles 6:33).
God’s desire has always been to live among his people. When Israel wandered in the wilderness, God told Moses, Have the people of Israel build me a holy sanctuary so I can live among them (Exodus 25:8).
When the Hebrews conquered the Promised Land and started living in houses, God approved David’s plan to build a house where God could live. It was called the Temple, and God filled it with his presence (2 Chronicles 6:1). For the next thousand years, a series of temples in Jerusalem were the focus of God living among his people.
Unfortunately, somewhere between Solomon and Jesus the Hebrews lost their understanding of what it meant to be God’s chosen people. They forgot God chose them as messengers to invite the whole world into his family. Instead, they began to believe God chose them to be the only members of his family. Instead of welcoming other nations, they scorned them.
So God started again, with Jesus. But this time membership in the family wasn’t by genes but by choice. The Bible says, Abraham’s physical descendants are not necessarily children of God. Only the children of the promise are considered to be Abraham’s children (Romans 9:8). “The children of the promise” are the church.
The church – all people, of Jewish or non-Jewish descent, who put their faith in Jesus – is now the family of God. And our loving Father has commanded us to bring as many people into the family as will accept the invitation. When we do that, we become the fulfillment of God’s desire to live among his people. Don’t you realize that all of you together are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God lives in you? (1 Corinthians 3:16). Where two or three gather together as my followers, I am there among them (Matthew 18:20).
God so longs to live among his people that when we die, God takes us to live with him until the end of time. And at the end of time, when everything is put the way God wants it, where will God live? With his people.
I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, “Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them.” – Revelation 21:3
God is not looking for a place to live in. He has that in heaven. God is longing for a group of people to live with. God’s plan in creating human beings was that we would be his family. Fulfilling that plan is what the church is all about.
Like any father, God desires a home where he can rest and be himself. Like any father, God desires to raise up children who will be like him. And because God is the ultimate and infinite Father, God desires for his children to bring other people to become part of God’s family – ideally, every other person in the world!
These three desires of God show us the three purposes of the church.
First, the church exists to create a loving family home where God can rest and be himself. Arise, O Lord God, and enter your resting place (2 Chronicles 6:41). The way we do this is traditionally called worship.
Second, the church exists to raise God’s children to be like their heavenly father. Imitate God, therefore, in everything you do, because you are his dear children (Ephesians 5:1). The way we do this is traditionally called discipleship.
Third, the church exists to equip God’s children to bring other people into God’s family. Go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:19). The way we do this is traditionally called evangelism.
Everything we do as a local church – in fact, everything we do as Christians – should contribute to fulfilling one or more of these three purposes. How does your church stack up? Top of Form
The above is taken from the first chapter of Pastoring: The Nuts and Bolts, by David Wentz. A comprehensive, theologically and culturally neutral compendium of practical options and best practices for being a pastor and leading a church, Pastoring is being used in pastor training courses in Africa and Asia as well as the US. It is available in print or e-book at www.books2read.com/pastoring. Scripture verses are from the New Living Translation.
About guest blogger David Wentz:
Serving as a pastor since 1981 has honed David’s passion for helping people connect with God and make a difference.
Add a varied church background, a first career in engineering, and graduate degrees from three very different seminaries (charismatic, mainstream and Wesleyan-evangelical) and you can see why he expresses God’s truth in ways everyone can appreciate.
Raised in the Episcopal church, David has also been part of Nazarene, Pentecostal Holiness, and non-denominational congregations. As a United Methodist pastor he has served small, large, and multi-cultural churches in rural, small town, suburban and urban settings. David served as a regional church consultant in the Maryland – D.C. area and has led workshops for pastors in Turkey. In 2015 he retired to the rural Ozarks, where he writes, works in God’s great outdoors, and continues to pastor part-time.
David earned a B.S. in Systems Engineering from the University of Virginia; two Masters of Divinity, one from Melodyland School of Theology and one from Wesley Theological Seminary; and a Doctor of Ministry in Christian Leadership from Asbury Theological Seminary.
In his spare time David enjoys playing sax and flute in jazz and blues jams (though those are hard to come by in bluegrass country), and writing worship music with his guitar.
His heroes are John Wesley, Abraham Lincoln, and Martin Luther King, Jr. (And for you old baseball fans, Brooks Robinson.)
As believers, we make a choice to follow God whole-heartedly . . . or a little. This is not a judgment but a sad reality. Some choose to believe and then live according to God’s way, while others also choose to believe but then live their own way. This breaks the heart of God.
“I, the LORD, am your God who brought you up from the land of Egypt, Open your mouth wide and I will fill it. But My people did not listen to My voice; And Israel did not obey Me. So I gave them over to the stubbornness of their heart. To walk in their own devices. Oh that My people would listen to Me, that Israel would walk in My ways. I would quickly subdue their enemies and turn My hand against their adversaries. . . . But I would feed you with the finest of the wheat; and with honey from the rock I would satisfy you.”
Ps 81:10-14, 16 NKJV
Like Israel, some will not listen or obey God but choose their own way. Yes, they believe and have accepted Christ as Savior, but they have not made Him LORD of their life; instead, they choose to live as they wish. How much He wants to lead them, bless and deliver them, fight their battles and give them victory. He desires to give them His finest and satisfy their souls with amazing ways. YET to those who rebel by choosing their own way, He gives them over to their own devices. He says in essence, “You want your way? Fine, that’s what you will have” and stays the hand of God on their behalf.
God will not force anyone; we have a free will and can choose to rebel and disobey, to live as we please. But how we miss God’s BEST, God’s BLESSINGS, His DELIVERANCE and His VICTORIES (see Psalm 81:12).
WHAT IS OUR END WHEN WE GO OUR OWN WAY AND REJECT GOD’S? (See 1 Cor 3:10-15) Our faith gets us into heaven (fire insurance), yet where is the life lived in victory? Where is the reward of pleasing God and one day hearing “well done, thou good and faithful servant” (Matt 25:21)? Where are the rewards given for right living? “Our works will be judged by fire” if they were “wood, hay and stubble” (worthless) . . . nothing will be left (1 Cor 3:12). “If any man’s work is burned up, he shall suffer loss; but he himself shall be saved” (1 Cor 3:15).
Hear the tender heart of God and “let there be no strange god among you”; don’t choose anything else, like pleasures and distractions of this world, as your god. Return to Him. Stop living as the world does and begin to live God’s way. Distinguish yourself as different, as His.
About guest blogger Doris Homan
Doris has a passion for discipleship. She is a Bible teacher, speaker, blogger and author of The Christian Journey, Parts I & II. Doris’ mission is to help Christians know the Word and apply it so they are better able to navigate both the calm waters and the storms of life. She is on the leadership team of Reasons for Hope*Jesus and Greater Impact Ministries, in the capacity of ecourse mentoring, content development, editing, and distribution. A graduate of the University of Cincinnati, she and her husband John now reside in Florida. Myjoyandcrown.com and facebook.com/theChristianJourney2017
The psalmist shows us a life-giving secret to ministry. Overflow. He writes in Psalms 23:5, “You anoint my head with oil; my cup runs over.”
Overflow comes as we receive and respond to the Lord in our lives. As our hearts are filled with his promises, we are prepared for what a day will bring. Just as an eight-ounce glass spills over when more in poured into it, when we are filled to overflowing with God’s love, it “spills over” on others.
Often we measure out what we think we need for ourselves when God wants to pour out in abundance. As we delight in the Lord, our ministry to the Lord ministers to people. In worship we honor him with thanksgiving. Our hearts get full. He anoints our head with fresh oil (Psalm 92:10) and it overflows to others. If we change the order of this equation, we run the risk of giving people the best of ourselves and our solutions but not God’s best. Overflow of God’s presence creates more than problem solvers—it is life-giving.
In the kingdom of God, we are called first “unto” Christ before being called “out” in ministry. Christ’s life is what produces real-life and transformation. In this place of communion, faith is born. A personal encounter with God develops a personal ministry to others.
God’s will is for us to enjoy a love relationship with him first; then the overflow of that relationship will feed our call to action. Notice this in Lamentations 3:24-26: “I say to myself, The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him, The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him; it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.”
Live for the audience of One—this will have an eternal impact.
Passionate about reaching people from all walks of life, Jason Moore has been involved in worldwide mission work and discipleship since the age of sixteen. While living in Ukraine, he completed his internship in church planting, resulting in three new churches that continue to thrive today.
As a graduate of Maryland Bible College and Seminary with a Bachelor’s in Biblical Studies, he leads the Pastoral Care team of Greater Grace Church in Baltimore, MD. He serves as a guest speaker in churches throughout the United States and overseas. With his wife, Leah, and son, Carson, he is dedicated to guiding people in discovering the riches of God’s grace.
I meet with a group of pastors every Thursday for prayer. This is not just any prayer meeting. About six years ago, at a time when I deeply needed a group of people I could trust and be transparent with, God directed me to these pastors. And I’ve been with my band of brothers and sisters since. To me, the meeting is a life-line.
Last Thursday, I facilitated the meeting. Wanting to gather us around a subject to pray, I shared the following story.
“Yesterday, I got this email from one of the underground church leaders in the Middle East telling me about this amazing house church that has become well known for her good works and tenacity. The members are true believers, whom in the midst of all kinds of hardship and persecution, are trying very hard to please God and stick to their Christian faith. If you knew their story, you’d see how much they have suffered for Christ and yet, they’ve not given up being faithful to their Lord and savior.
Perhaps above all, they’re not only solid followers of Christ, they’re doctrinally sound. The teaching you hear out of that church puts most of us to shame. Throughout the years, this church has stood up to many bad teachers, but they have proven all of them to be wrong and have kicked them out of the church. What I mean is that their teaching is very biblical.
Now, let’s be honest. How many of us wouldn’t desire to have a church like that? Is there one church in America that wouldn’t do everything she can to be known by these qualities? Yet, with all her fine virtues, this church has a major problem. Let me read you the email…”
“To the angel of the church in Ephesus write:
These are the words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand and walks among the seven golden lampstands. I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked people, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false. You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary.
Well, I tricked everyone. The church wasn’t in the Middle East, but Ephesus. There was no email. I was simply reading what the Lord told John about this church in the book of Revelation. What is troubling about this wonderful church is what Jesus says next,
Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first. Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place. (Rev. 2:1-5) NIV
Apparently, according to the Cornerstone of the Church, Jesus, having all those wonderful qualities means nothing if you don’t have that first love. Without that love, the congregation in Ephesus is doomed/will cease to exist.
But what is the first love?
In all my years of being a follower of Christ, I don’t remember having heard too many messages on this subject. The ones I have heard always referred to the first love as witnessing for Jesus like you used to, reading your Bible like you used to, going to church like you used to, and so on. They completely overlooked the fact that according to Jesus, the Ephesians did not “used to” do all that, but were doing it at the moment, and yet they were in danger of being put out. In fact, one commentator says, “They had yielded to the temptation, ever present to Christians, to put all their emphasis on sound teaching. In the process they lost love…”
So, what is this first love?
To me it all goes back to the Greatest Commandment in the Bible.
Jesus said, “The first in importance is, ‘Listen, Israel: The Lord your God is one; so love the Lord God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence and energy.’ And here is the second: ‘Love others as well as you love yourself.’ There is no other commandment that ranks with these.” (Mk 12:29-31) The Message
The love that God requires of us, that first love, is an all-consuming love. It’s a type of love that demands of you everything that makes you, you. It requests not just your actions, but your zeal, passion, and yes, YOUR EMOTIONS and FEELINGS. In this love, the Beloved is the life-giving center of the lover’s life to the point that without him, life for the lover is meaningless.
If in loving us, God gave us of his own very essence, his only Son, then it’s only fair that in return, He requires the same from us, our very essence. This love demands that the lover becomes one with his/her Beloved. And in doing so, to wholly lose him/herself in him. His heart, his will, his thoughts, his strength, his feelings and emotions become yours and vice versa.
Molana Rumi, the great Persian mystic poet of the 13th century, describes such a love with the following story.
There came one and knocked at the door of the Beloved.
And a voice answered and said, ‘Who is there?’
The lover replied, “It is I.”
“Go away,” returned the voice;
“there is no room within for YOU and me.”
Then came the lover a second time and knocked and again the voice demanded,
“Who is there?”
He answered, “It is you” “Only you are at the door”
The voice said, “Now, since you are me, O me, come in,
since there’s no room for two ‘me’s’ in the house.
And Paul, the Apostle puts it this way,
I identified myself completely with him. Indeed, I have been crucified with Christ. My ego is no longer central. It is no longer important that I appear righteous before you or have your good opinion, and I am no longer driven to impress God. Christ lives in me. The life you see me living is not “mine,” but it is lived by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I am not going to go back on that. (Gal. 2:20) The Message
As the author of The Cloud of Unknowing says,
Love is ‘ecstatic’ in that it takes us out of ourselves to live in the thing we love. If we love money, we live in money; if we love friends, we live in them, if we love them in God, we live in God. That means in love there is a real death.
I’ve never claimed to be a theologian, but I’m convinced that what Paul is referring to is NOT some theological hypothesis, but an existential reality, which he has and is experiencing—a continued disappearing of Paul into Jesus. He realizes that to follow Jesus, it requires an actual dead to self/ego, a replacing of one identity with another, so that, as Rumi says, there are no longer “two me’s,” but only one “I AM.”
I believe the first love is the very river that guides every follower of Christ to strive to please him. Because when we learn to love with that intensity, we have no desire to do anything, but to please our Beloved.
But how does one learn to love with that intensity? Be assured that it isn’t something you just conjure up by yourself.
It first starts with God. He’s the one who initiates the relationship and comes after us. He’s the one who relentlessly pursues us until we are found in him. And as the Scripture says, He’s the one who first lavishes us with his unconditional love and makes us fall in love with him.
Have you ever been in love? When you fall in love, your lover is the total objective of your living. Every moment that you’re awake you think about him/her. Every breath you take, you take in his/her memory. You eat and drink dreaming of being with your lover. More than anything else, you desire to be in your lover’s presence even if he/she doesn’t utter a word. There’s nothing you will not do to be with him/her. As the song says,
Ain’t no mountain high enough
Ain’t no valley low enough
Ain’t no river wide enough
To keep you from getting to your lover
I love what Origen, one of the early Church Fathers, says about this love affair. “Without ceasing,” writes Origen, “the soul searches after the bridegroom, the Word, and when it finds him, it looks for him again, like an addict, in other things as well.” That kind of love is an addictive love. All one can do is to cry out for more of it and like a deer that pants after water pants after the Beloved — the only one who can satisfy that thirst.
Unfortunately, today, within much of western theology, this type of love is frowned upon because it is experiential and smacks of emotionalism. One of my Old Testament seminary professors used to say something like, “Through the influence of Hellenistic philosophy, we took a happy and emotion-filled religion (Judaism) and turned it into emotionless western Christianity.” And I can personally testify to that.
For most of my Christian life, my mentors taught me that my experiences and feelings are of little or no value because they can’t be trusted. Yet, as I read the Bible, I noticed that it is a book of human’s experiences with their Creator. Without those experiences, there wouldn’t have been a Bible. And if God wants me to love him with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength, then my feelings got to fit in there somewhere. Is it possible that in our own western thinking we have created a type of love that requires no emotions or feelings? In his book, Surprised by the Presence of God, Jack Deer gives the following illustration:
Suppose a husband comes home after work and walks up to his wife, who is cooking in the kitchen and says, “Honey, I want you to know that I’ll always be faithful to our marriage vows. I will never leave you nor forsake you. I will be your provider and protector for as long as I live. I’ll be a good father to our children. You will always have a roof over your head and food on the table. However, there’s one small issue that I hope you understand. I HAVE NO MORE FEELINGS FOR YOU!” How do you think the wife would react? One marriage counselor told me that he often hears wives complain that, “My husband is a good dad and provider, but he’s lost his passion for the marriage relationship.”
Is it possible that the church in Ephesus was being rebuked by our Lord for being guilty of the same thing? Like the above husband, she could be a perfect church, but without any passion and feelings, much like a robot? Are we guilty of the same thing in our relationship with our Savior? What if you had the exact conversation with Jesus, our Bridegroom? How do you think He would feel when you tell him, “But I have no more feelings for you?”
I often ask people why they attend church on Sundays. They often give me sound theological answers:
“I went to church because it is scriptural.”
“I went to worship.”
“I went to fellowship.”
“I went to hear a message and get fed.”
“I went to find a mate.”
And finally, “I went to get away from my mate.”
But I have hardly ever heard anyone say, “I went to meet with God.” Because as far as they’re concerned, their hard work, their refusal to quit, not stomaching evil, weeding out apostolic pretenders, their persistence, their courage in God’s cause, and not wearing out must be enough in serving Christ.
Can we be honest here? Have you lost that first love?
Once again, many thanks to Shah Afshar for this guest post. Please visit his website.
Shahkrokh “Shah” Afshar is an original. He founded and pastored the first Iranian Christian organization in the United States. Shah has been instrumental in reaching the Muslim world with the gospel. His work as a professor and as a Muslim world mission coordinator for Foursquare Missions International expanded his influence worldwide. As a former Muslim and seminary-trained leader, Shah shares unique insights with humor and wit. His passion is to communicate the relevance of Christ’s message to a skeptical generation. Shah is available to speak at conventions, churches, schools and for TV/radio interviews.
The Pew Research Forum projects that the population of Muslims in the U.S. will more than double in the next three decades. Muslims from around the globe are moving into our neighborhoods, working in the same companies and studying alongside us in schools. This is an amazing act of God as he is bringing precious Muslims into our sphere of influence.
In order to be prepared to engage this unprecedented opportunity, Christians in North America need training. That’s why we developed Journey to Jesus: Building Christ-centered Friendships with Muslims.
There are many resources currently on the market which offer training and equipping for reaching Muslims living among us. What makes this particular training tool unique is that it is centered on three true-to-life dramas, each of which demonstrates how Christians can invite Muslims into their relationships with Jesus. Each of the three Muslims depicted represent three types of Muslims Americans may encounter here in North America. The three dramas are:
Kate and Saalima: mommies who meet at a local park. Saalima is a recent immigrant from Egypt.
Larry and Azim: men who work for the same tech company and enjoy conversations over lunch. Azim is a liberal Muslim from India.
Brian and Abdul: fellow students who meet on campus at an American university. Abdul is a conservative Muslim who likes debating apologetics.
These scenarios are accompanied by teaching curriculum in the form of narrated power points. The teaching sessions explore Christian attitudes towards people of other faiths, the importance of extending Christ-centered hospitality, an introduction to Muslim beliefs and culture, as well as how to deal with barriers that Muslims have in trusting Christ as Lord and Savior. Each teaching session also provides questions and significant small group discussion time so that participants can process what they are learning together.
Journey to Jesus is designed for group leaders to have minimal preparation time. Each session has a leader’s guide outlining the flow for that particular week. Printable student handouts are provided for each session. Leading a group through this curriculum is really as simple as reading over the leader’s guide, printing the relevant student handouts, inserting the disc and hitting play on a DVD player.
It is our prayer that this highly accessible and quality resource will encourage many Christians to step out in faith and build Christ-centered relationships with Muslims, so that they too can know the joy of following Christ! Begin your journey today by getting this resource here.
“The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29 ESV)
These days, if you watch the news and read about many main line churches, or what’s going on in many college campuses, the great passion of today is not what John, the Baptist, is saying here.
There is an overwhelming pressure for social justice, diversity, full acceptance of many minority identity groups, and the idea that “you are not a Christian church or a good person if you don’t love, promote, celebrate, and endorse just about every lifestyle and identity plea that is thrown at you.” Inclusion! Inclusion! Inclusion!
The Apostle Paul emphatically states in 1 Corinthians 14:1 to “pursue love” (ESV). Another version says, “Make love thy great quest.” The KJV renders it, “Follow after charity.” Paul, earlier in 1 Corinthians 13:3 says, “. . . but have not love, I gain nothing” (ESV).
God is love and God is for love. We dare not forget that!
But He is also the God of eternal, unchanging, inerrant truth. I believe John the Baptist knew about this never-to-be-separated duo of love and truth.
Proverbs 3:3 states this essential connection: “Let not mercy and truth forsake thee: bind them about thy neck; write them upon the tablet of thine heart” (KJV Bold added).
These two, mercy and truth, are never to be found separate. Yes, Jesus was, is, and always will be about love. But as John declared here, may we never forget the eternally important truth that Jesus came to save sinners from being damned and lost forever!
I guess in these days of the watered down or forgotten Gospel, I’d like to see us all return to a more healthy balance of mercy and truth. Concepts like conviction, repentance from sin, and a holy reverence for the Word of God are desperately needed in our churches, our campuses, and our culture. Please join me in praying for this if you are led.
Many thanks to Jim Grunseth for contributing this guest post. Jim and his wife, Barbara, are the authors of numerous materials on marriage, marriage preparation, family, dealing with past emotional wounds, and discipleship. People from over 93 countries have visited their website, www.marriageanchors.com . Couples and churches from over 50 nations have downloaded their free ebooks. They have sent free of charge their materials to 186 local pastors, missionaries, seminaries students, and orphanages their materials to strengthen families, build up local churches, and advance the Gospel. They have 7 children and 11 grandchildren and live in Elkhorn, Wisconsin.
Jim has been on staff with Campus Crusade for 37 years. He is a graduate of The United States Military Academy at West Point and also has a Masters in Counseling – Psychology from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School.
Barbara is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee and taught 13 years at Faith Christian School in Williams Bay. She has been on full time staff with Campus Crusade for 18 years.