Defining Redemption

In my opinion, the word that captures my relationship with God better than any other I know is “redemption”. I love the words to that old camp song:

I’ve been redeemed – I’ve been redeemed
By the blood of the lamb -By the blood of the lamb
I’ve been redeemed- I’ve been redeemed
By the blood of the lamb-By the blood of the lamb
I’ve been redeemed by the blood of the lamb, filled with the Holy Spirit I am
All my sins are washed away, I’ve been redeemed

But, what exactly does it mean to be redeemed?

The Greek word “lutroo” is commonly translated redemption, and means gaining release by the paying of a ransom. In ancient Greece, during war-time, men of importance held hostage as slaves until a bounty was raised, and paid to the victor to redeem them from bondage.

That is exactly a picture of our lives, right? We are held hostage by our poor choices and the sin in our lives. Then Jesus steps in and pays the ransom for our freedom. Peter says it like this:

“For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. ” I Peter 1:18-19

Here is a little exercise you can try with your kids or grandkids to help them better understand redemption. I suggest you use it with older children. Choose something of great value to the child in your life, perhaps their favorite stuffed animal, or maybe a video game, or even (gasp) their phone. Take it and hold it hostage. Set the redemption price high. Make it money, or chores, whatever is appropriate for your child. Don’t return the item until the ransom is paid, then have a discussion using some of these questions:

  • How did you feel when your important item was taken away?
  • How do you think God feels when sin takes you away from Him?
  • How high of a price would you be willing to pay?
  • Read I Peter 1:18-19 together.
  • What does that tell us about the value God puts on YOU?

Watch this little video “Twice Owned” it brings a picture of redemption in an old story to life.


Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New International version®. Copyright© 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.com The “NIV” and “New International Version” are trademarks registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by Biblica, Inc.™

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Defining Sin

From our earliest days watching cartoons we’ve known that sin is bad. Watching that little devil, dressed in red, with horns and a pitchfork talking the innocent hero into doing wrong, we knew in our hearts, that sin is bad.

Now you’re a bit older. Maybe you have a little “cartoon watcher” of your own, and you realize your view of sin could use to grow up some too.

Take a moment and do this little exercise. Find a few pieces of paper. Now wad them up into balls. Go set your trash can across the room. Next throw your paper balls into the target. Did you make it? Great! But if you fell short, then you just demonstrated the word we translate “sin”.

Hamartia is the Greek word for “sin”. It means to miss the mark. It was an archery term. The very center of the target is called the “Mark”, today we call it a bullseye. Any arrow that did not hit the “mark”, or the Bullseye, anything that fell short, or flew too far, or missed even a fraction of an inch, was Hamartia…sin.

So, if sin is to “miss the mark”, then what is the mark for my life? What is the target or the standard? The Bible gives us some insight into God’s standard for our lives:

I Peter 1:16

“Be Holy because I am Holy”

Ephesians 4:22-23

 You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; 23 to be made new in the attitude of your minds; 24 and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.

Sin in our lives extracts a terrible price. There can be physical consequences like anger, addiction, violence, broken relationships. There are always spiritual consequences, Paul says in Romans 6:23 “The wages of sin is death” – Sin separates. Like death separates us from those we love, sin separates us from others and from God himself.

You see, God by his Holy nature cannot have anything to do with sin. It is like light and dark. When you turn on the light in a dark room, where does the dark go? – I’s just gone. This is how God and sin operate. Sin cannot exist in the presence of the Holy God. And if sin is there…God is not.

Well then. If God won’t be where sin is, what hope is there then for my life? I certainly don’t live up to the standard Jesus set. I do things I don’t want to do, and I don’t do what I know I should. Both of these “miss the mark”. So why even try?

Because at the heart of the Good News , we learn that Jesus paid the price of our sin. One perfect gift for us all.

2Cor 5:21

We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

I know when we look at sin and then at our own lives, it’s so easy to become discouraged. But DON’T STOP READING our definitions. Trust me, as you look at more of those mystery words we use in church, you will find a freedom and joy you never imagined possible.

Hang in there, we’re on this journey together.


Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New International version®. Copyright© 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.com The “NIV” and “New International Version” are trademarks registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by Biblica, Inc.™

Saint

Summer is a wonderful time of the year! I especially love the picnics where everyone shows off their very best recipes. I bring my Mother-in-law’s famous strawberry pie. Well, I bring it if I can keep it unmolested until it’s time to eat. I can’t count the number of times I’ve found a little hole in the perfect red surface, evidence that someone has plucked a strawberry from its nest of yummy goodness. Luckily some well-placed whipped cream has covered a few sins now and then.

Over the years I’ve gotten smarter and now I make two pies. One is for our immediate enjoyment, and the other is set aside, with a note that says Hands off! Reserved for the picnic!

I tell this little story because it paints a good picture of a word we use in church, and over the years have lost sight of it’s true meaning… Saint.

Most of the time we use the term Saint to talk about someone who is perfect in their behavior, a character who might be “holier than thou”, but the term actually comes from the Greek word Hagiazo, which means to “set apart for a specific purpose”. Hagiazo shows up in scripture in a variety of forms:

  •  As an Adjective – we translate it Holy
  • As a noun – we translate it Saint or Holy People – that’s YOU!
  • As a verb– we translate it sanctify, make holy, or consecrate

So you see, being a Saint is not about what you DO, it is about who you belong to.

What does all this mean? YOU are God’s strawberry pie! Set aside for a sweet relationship with Him, with a sign for the evil one that says “Hands Off! This one is mine!”

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy (hagion) nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. I Pet 2:9

 

Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New International version®. Copyright© 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.com The “NIV” and “New International Version” are trademarks registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by Biblica, Inc.™

Words: Making “Churchy” Words Simple

God has this thing about the spoken word. When you get right down to it, words are what God uses to actually create things.

Go back to Genesis, and we learn:

”In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth…now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep and the Spirit God was hovering over the waters. And God SAID “let there be light” (Genesis 1:1)

What did God use to create? – Words. Over and over the phrase “God Said” is repeated.

What God wanted, expressed out loud with words, brought all of creation into being.

If we fast forward to the Gospel of John, and read the first part of the first chapter.

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the word was God. He was with God in the beginning.  Through him all things were made.” (John 1:1-3)

What God wanted… expressed out loud, in the person of Jesus, brought all of history into relationship with Him.

You see, God has a thing about words. And if God thinks words are important, then we should too.

I understand, it’s hard enough trying to figure what’s going on today when you’re ‘earjacking’ your ‘hipster’ ‘boomerang child’ making a ‘duckface’ wearing her new ‘kicks’ while she’s ‘chillin’ with her ‘bestie’.  And yet, we expect ourselves to fully understand what a middle eastern, nomad who lived over 3,000 years ago, meant when he wrote part of the Bible!  Don’t be so hard on yourself! It takes work, and time, and often a friend to walk alongside you.

So let’s go on a journey together.

Over the next few weeks we’ll feature common “religious” vocabulary words and take a deeper dive into what they mean.  We’ll look at how they are used in scripture and sometimes even outside of scripture.  We’ll try to look at things in simple terms and stories, so whether you have been in church your whole life, or are just starting out in your God walk, you’ll find something to help you.

Hey, drop us a line if there is a word you want us to explore. We want to hear from you. After all, we’re on this journey together!

Go to the GPS page, and see the “Words: Making Churchy Words Simple” article to follow our study.


Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New International version®. Copyright© 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.com The “NIV” and “New International Version” are trademarks registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by Biblica, Inc.™

 

This New Year:
Pray, Pray, Pray

This poem was written by dad (Ralph Snyder) on December 31, 2008 as he looked toward our family gathering the next day to celebrate New Year’s Day. At that time he looked back over the past year and saw the path that he and his family had traveled. 2008 had seen many challenges in our family. However, he also made sure to look forward. His focus was putting Christ first. His desire for himself, my mom, his children, and his grandchildren was for each of us to focus on God no matter what paths our life journey took us on. Through the highs and the lows, he wanted to make sure we prayed. What better way to keep our eyes focused on God than to pray to God, seeking Him first and foremost in our lives.

What better way to face a new and unknown year than to pray to the One Who is the author of that year. He is our Creator and the One Who knows what is going to happen. Why not give all of everything over to Him and give Him control

Make sure this year to take time to pray, pray, pray.

 

If you need to kick start your prayer life this year, check out Project Prayer or the Project Prayer Resources.

Moving Forward


Looking back makes it impossible to effectively move forward.

As our young sons enthusiastically ran out the front door to meet their grandparents, grandpa said, “I’m going to get you!” and took off running toward them. Michael quickly changed directions to run away. When he looked back to see how close grandpa was, he ran smack into a rather large tree. He hit the tree so hard that he fell backwards onto the ground and (I’m told) lost consciousness. Looking back made it impossible for Michael to safely move forward.

Another time, as we were hiking in the woods, our oldest son Steven turned around to tell us something as he continued to walk backward. As he went to turn back around, he hit the side of his head on a tree at the side of the path. Looking back had made it impossible for him to see the path ahead.

Jesus told his disciples: “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:62)

In order to ensure his plow would make a straight line, a farmer would fix his eyes on a point in the distance and aim for it. If he took his eyes off that point, his plow would begin to veer off course. A distracted farmer would have a field full of crooked rows. If he wanted the job done right, he kept his eyes pointed straight ahead and aimed for that fixed point.

In order for us to be effective workers in God’s kingdom, we must keep our eyes focused on Jesus. He is our fixed reference point. If we look back (or around) at our problems, our lives and work will veer off course. We might even run into a few trees!

As we begin to think about making New Year’s Resolutions, we need to look to Jesus for direction. While it is okay to look around (and, yes, even back) in order to evaluate the last year and make plans for the next. Once we’ve done that, we need to fix our eyes on Jesus, begin moving forward, and not look back.

As you walk through this next year, may you keep your eyes fixed on Jesus. Remember that looking back will make it impossible for you to effectively and safely move forward. May God bless your journey this coming year!

 

The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®) Copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. All rights reserved. ESV Text Edition: 2016 The Holy Bible, English Standard Version (ESV) is adapted from the Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the U.S.A. All rights reserved.

The ONE Thing God Wants for Christmas

“What’s the ONE thing you would like for Christmas?”  Every year I ask at least one person that question kids, my spouse, sometimes friends… I wonder how God would answer?

I imagine God would say, in his big God voice, “There is one thing…  One thing I want for Christmas more than anything else…”

3……God our Savior, 4 who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. 5 For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus, 6 who gave himself as a ransom for all people. This has now been witnessed to at the proper time.

If you have a family, or are part of a family, God has given you a very important task.  He told us what he wants, to ensure that the next generation “knows the truth” about God.  He wants all our children to know a God of extravagant grace,  a God overflowing with generosity.

Then He gave us the perfect tool to use to teach those truths…Christmas.

Everything about Christmas tells wondrous stories of God:

  • The way we make our homes beautiful is a picture of how the grace of God takes ordinary lives and makes them beautiful.
  • We wake in the morning to find a room normally empty, miraculously filled with gifts.  It’s a picture of lives once empty, suddenly filled with blessings too numerous to count.
    People all around us, treating one another with kindness, and courtesy, living in peace is a picture of what life is supposed to be like.
  • From the lights, to the decorations, the world filled with music and united in celebration,  everything about Christmas points to God  calling to His creation.

And the ONE most important picture…a child sleeping in a manger reminds us He doesn’t want heaven without us.

YOU are God’s ONE thing…. This Christmas make sure He is your family’s ONE thing too.

 

Check out the rest of our Countdown to Christmas posts here.

 

Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New International version®. Copyright© 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.com The “NIV” and “New International Version” are trademarks registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by Biblica, Inc.™

4 Games for Your Gift Exchange

 

Does your family gift exchange need a little excitement? Try one of these 4 ideas to inject some extra holiday fun.

1. Dice Game

Everyone brings 2-3 wrapped gifts (can be white elephant or something nice). the more gifts, the more fun.

All the gifts are piled on the floor in the center of the room.  Guests sit around the gifts in a circle (so they can easily reach the person next to them).  You need a pair of dice for every 4 guests.  Pass out a pair of dice on a small plate for rolling spaced out as evenly as possible.

The game is played in 2 rounds.

ROUND 1: At the same time, those with dice, give them a roll and then pass the plate with the dice to the left.  If you roll doubles you pass the plate to the person on your left and go and grab a gift from the pile.  Place the gift on the floor in front of you but DO NOT OPEN IT!!  The play continues until all gifts are distributed.

ROUND 2: Set a timer for 5 minutes and start rolling again.  This time, however, each time you roll a double you get up and steal a gift from someone else.  When the timer goes off, the game is over and each person gets to keep the gifts in front of him.  There may be a bit of re-distributing to do, so that everyone gets one or two gifts. Use this as a teaching time about giving and generosity.

Go around the room one person at a time and open the gifts.

 

2. Left- Right Nativity Story

Use a nativity story to make gift giving fun and exciting.  Everyone stands in a circle holding their own gift.  Read the story provided and any time you say “left” – players pass their give to the left, and if you say “right” they pass the gift to the right. Use this story of the nativity (click HERE and print out the story), or find your own Christmas story to read.

 

3. Trading card game – best for groups of 10 or less

Sit in a circle (or around a table). Each person has his/her own gift. Place a deck of cards in the center. Ensure the cards are at least twice the number of players. Take turns drawing a card from the top of the deck and following the rule aligned with the card drawn. Print out the instruction sheet so players will know what to do.

Click HERE for a printable instruction sheet.

 

4. Musical Gifts – best for groups of 20 or less

You will need your phone or other player, loaded with your favorite Christmas music.  Everyone starts in a circle, and you pass one of your gifts round the circle while the music is playing.  Stop the music at a random time and the person with the gift opens it and then leaves the circle. Repeat till the final gifts are won.

 

Check out the rest of our Countdown to Christmas posts here.

 

7 Ways to Serve the Lord with Gladness This Christmas

“Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth!
Serve the Lord with gladness!
Come into His presence with singing!
Know that the Lord, He is God!
It is He who made us, and we are His;
we are His people, and the sheep of His pasture.
Enter His gates with thanksgiving,
and His courts with praise!
Give thanks to Him; bless His name!
For the Lord is good;
His steadfast love endures forever,
and His faithfulness to all generations.”
(Psalm 100 ESV)

Many times throughout scripture we are told to “serve the Lord.” How fitting it is that at this very special time of year we think about serving God. There are many ways, large and small, that we can serve the Lord. We are going to look at just 7 of these as our countdown to Christmas continues.

1. Offer to babysit free of charge.
Many young couples need time. They may need to finish shopping, have a date night, spend some time decompressing from all the busyness of the season. Offer to take their little ones for a few hours as your gift to them. What a great way to show God’s love. You can take time with the kids to do something special (like making cookies) to make memories for them also.

2. Offer rides to the elderly or those who can’t get out themselves.
There are always those who can’t drive but yet would like to go get those last minute gifts or even just go for a ride to see the lights in the neighborhood. This would be a great time to get to know these folks a little better as you fellowship in the car. If you are taking them shopping, give them time to shop. Many don’t have this time to leisurely shop. They always feel like they need to hurry because someone is waiting for them. Give them the gift of time.

3. Hold a door open for someone who is struggling.
Give someone a gift of kindness. We’ve all seen those with walkers or canes trying to get a door open and get through it with their walking aid. Holding a door for them may take you all of 30 seconds to a minute, but it could make a huge difference in their life knowing that someone would take time to help them.

4. Make cookie trays for your neighbors.
This is a great outreach for your neighborhood. Choose 5 or 6 homes around yours to take cookie (or goodies) trays to. As you walk around handing them out, you will have an opportunity to wish them a Merry Christmas and give them the gift of yourself. Don’t forget to wear that smile.

5. Visit a nursing home and/or retirement home.
Many folks in nursing and retirement homes feel very alone this time of year. They just need someone to talk to. Take an afternoon or evening to spend a couple hours visiting and listening. Let them tell you their favorite Christmas memory or story. Give them the gift of friendship.

6. Invite extra people for Christmas dinner.
There are many people that are alone on Christmas. There may be any number of reasons why they are alone. This is a very difficult time of year for them. They struggle and are lonely. Look for one or two that may need that extra gift of belonging. Be sure to include them in the family fun time. They may enjoy playing games with you or in watching a Christmas movie. If you open gifts while they are there be sure to have a little something for them also. It will make a world of difference in their life.

7. Help serve at a Rescue Mission or some other “soup kitchen” type of place.
There are many homeless people on the streets. During the winter it is especially difficult and they are looking for some place warm to get a bite to eat. Offer to help serve food. It will help those serving get a new perspective. We hear so much about “what we want” for Christmas. This will help us focus on what we can give. We have been given so much. Let’s share God’s love and give the gift of warmth.

These are just a few ways that we can share God’s love with others as we serve God this Christmas. We would love to hear some of your ideas also.

May God bless each of you with a very joyous and blessed Christmas season.

Check out the rest of our Countdown to Christmas posts here.