Find a Treasure

Looking for an excuse to get out of the house and walk off some of that candy you scored last week? Well, consider going on a treasure hunt. Who doesn’t love a good puzzle and treasure hunt? I can guarantee your kids do for sure. So use this as an excuse to get out there and do a geocache with your family. If you’ve never done a geocache, it’s a great way to open up some God conversation with your kids.

All over the country, people have hidden containers filled with little trinkets. They post the GPS coordinates and some clues, then hikers using a GPS unit go on a treasure hunt to find what’s hidden.

You’ll discover things like erasers, pens, key chains and other trinkets in weather proof containers hidden along trails all over the country. When you find the cache, you put a treasure in, and take one out, then sign the “I found it” log and read what others have written. We’ve cached all over the country, from Mt Rushmore to an island off the Florida keys. It’s always fun. Here is a picture of Uncle Gene and Grandma finding a cache in North Carolina.

Here are a few websites if you need some help getting started

https://www.geocaching.com/guide/
https://www.rei.com/learn/expert-advice/gps-geocaching.html

I encourage you to try it out with your kids and use some of these questions to start conversation along the way:

  • Was finding the cache easy or difficult? – Did you feel like giving up? – Why/When?
  • Did you notice there weren’t a lot of people out here looking for the treasure? – It’s like that with God too. Why do you think not many people look for him?
  • Do you know other Christians at school?
  • Do others know you are a Christian?- Why or why not?

Here are some verses to think about too:

Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.

Matthew 7:7

I sought the Lord, and he answered me;
he delivered me from all my fears.
Those who look to him are radiant;
their faces are never covered with shame.

Psalm 34:4-5

And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.

Hebrews 11:6

Get out there, find a treasure!  The real treasure is connecting with your kid and opening real conversation about the God who is so easy to find.

Don’t Overlook this Weed

If you have ever taken a hike in a park, or just wandered through the woods, you have likely passed one of my favorite flowers. It’s not flashy, you never see them in a bouquet, but these happy little orange slipper-shaped flowers are a quiet unassuming messenger from the creator who loves you.

It’s called Jewel Weed, or Impatiens Cenesis. They grow about waist high where the shadowy woods gives way to the light of an open area. When you ask the experts why it’s called Jewel Weed you get a variety of answers.

First if you take a leaf and immerse it in water, you’ll find it turns a silver color.  A second reason it may be called Jewel Weed is that when water from rain or dew sits on the leaves the water beads up and looks like thousand shining diamonds in the sun.  But my personal favorite reason it may be called Jewel Weed is found in the best part of the plant, the way it re-seeds itself.

Jewel Weed develops long pods that contain tiny seeds, and in the fall months the seeds ripen and turn brown. When that happens, the pods become highly sensitive, and a light brushing against a ripe pod will cause it to explode and throw seeds far and wide. This is why it is sometimes called a “Touch-Me-Not”.  As a kid (and I admit still as an adult) I loved touching the pods and watching them scatter their seeds.  When your out next time, give it a try, just find a pod like you see here and put your fingers on the top and bottom.  If its ripe enough you won’t even have to squeeze!

Jewelweed flowers, ripe seed pod, exploded seed pod, ripe seed and peeled ripe seeds

Now, to the jewel.  The ripe seeds are very small and brown, but if you carefully peel back that top layer and look beneath it, you find a lovely turquois nut at the center. I’m told this is the only place the color turquois occurs in any plant.

God has packed many lessons in this little flower if we pause and take the time to think about it.

The leaves turning silver when immersed.

When we allow ourselves to be immersed in Christ, completely saturated with His Spirit, we are transformed into something priceless. God no longer sees the way we’ve messed up, or our faults, he sees Jesus. Paul says it like this

For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ

Galatians 3:27

Raindrops

You may have heard it said that in every life a little rain must fall. Trying times can be a difficult thing in life, but when we follow Jesus those difficulties don’t beat us down, or make us lose heart.  Instead they can sit on our lives like the beads of water on a leaf, and when the light hits our momentary troubles, they can shine like diamonds for the glory of God. Because we know that life doesn’t end here. We rest in the confidence of something better waiting for us.

 We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair;  persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.

2 Corinthians 4:8-10

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters whenever you face trials of many kinds,  because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.  Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

James 1:2-4

Why?

Many of us feel like we don’t have much to offer. We view our lives like the Jewel Weed’s seeds… small….brown…. unremarkable. But God knows differently. He knows that hidden just below the surface is a beauty that doesn’t exist anywhere else but inside YOU! And he wants you to brush up against the lives of others around you:

  • so they can see how  you are as valuable as silver when you are immersed in Jesus
  • so they can learn how troubles don’t defeat you but shine like diamonds in your life

And when you do engage with others around you, you will scatter the seeds of God’s Good News to a world that needs it desperately.  You will say like David:

Come and hear, all you who fear God; let me tell you what he has done for me.

Psalm 66:16

The next time you go past this happy little flower…. pause….. make one of the seed pods explode and let your heart remember who you are.

A Rock In Your Pocket

I don’t know about you, but in my life with Christ, I have to be taught some things over and over. My heart is slow to learn and life has taught me that when something seems too good to be true, then it usually is too good to be true.

One of my favorite hiking lessons fits into this category. Something I have to be taught over and over. Ever since I shared this lesson to a group of kids at wilderness camp one year, I repeat the exercise periodically. Maybe someday I’ll finally believe the news that’s “too good to be true”.

Try this exercise with your kids or your friends, and let your heart hear what the scripture says.

Hit the trail. Make sure you wear something with pockets or take a day pack. Tell your kids that periodically you’re going to call out “ROCK” and when you do, they’re to stop and pick up a rock that reminds them of one of one of their sins. They’ll put it into their pack or pocket, and keep it as they continue to hike along.

When making your rock selection, choose one that reminds you of a sin in your life. It might be dark in color, because your sin is dark, or perhaps it is a big rock, like your sin.

Repeat this, every 10 minutes or so. Eventually you’ll have quite a collection, and if it’s getting heavy, then that will be a better lesson in the end. After a while, find a nice place to take a break. Drink some water, have a snack and talk. Have a real conversation about what a big burden it is when we hold on to our sin and how heavy guilt can be. Use some of these suggestions to help your conversation along.

Pull out one of your rocks and share how it reminds you of your sin (no need to share every detail). You short change your kids if you try to keep up a front of perfection. They already know you’re not perfect, so if you don’t help them understand how the forgiveness of Christ sets you free from guilt, your kids only see someone who wears a false mask of purity. So share real things, and how God has helped you overcome you sin and the shame that goes with it.

Let them take a turn and share observations about how their rocks reminds them of their own sins. Conversations like this will help to teach your children the benefit of speaking the truth. They learn grace and the unconditional love that is found in Christ.

Make this point: when Christ paid the price for our sin on the cross, he took all our rocks, and his sacrifice lets us throw away the guilt. – now take those rocks and if you are somewhere that will allow, throw them as far away as possible.

Next, a lesson for you. The saddest part of the “good news” about forgiveness is how often many of us now go out, pick our rocks back up, and then go back to our life full of guilt. But hear what the heart of God says to you in His word:

 It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.

Galatians 5:1:

The news that is too good to be true is that when Jesus throws away my sin… his arm is so much better than mine….

as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us

Psalm 103:12

So take a hike, throw a rock, lay down your guilt, and believe what is too good to be true.

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.™

Take a Hike

IMG_0647

This time of year in Ohio is spectacular. The air starts to cool down, the trees start to put on their colorful clothes, and I feel the pull to get out of the house and onto the trails. I love to hit the parks, fields and other places to just get away and connect with God.

The God we serve is a very interactive God. He put his fingerprints all over creation, and calls to us to come and find Him. Everything in nature tells us about who He is, and what He's like. God knows we need the opportunity to search for him, and he promises that when we search, we will find him.

It reminds me of how kids play hide and seek. You know what I mean, they sit in the middle of the room, giggling away under a blanket. When we go looking for God, there He is in the middle of everything, plainly visible to anyone looking. That's exactly how he designed it. He wants us to see him and talk about him, especially with our kids.

I'd love for you to go with me on a couple walks, metaphorically of course. So pack up your water bottle, and grab your kids. Let's take a hike and explore what we can learn about God. Because you see, we are called to talk about Him, to discuss his principles while we do life. Deuteronomy 11:18-91 says it like this:

 Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads.  Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.

So come with me as we walk along life's road and talk about the God who loves us so much.

Over the next couple weeks we'll explore simple lessons you can learn along the trail. Things that can teach lessons to your kids and maybe you will gain some insight too.

Defining Blessing

This journey we’ve taken together to explore some of the important words we use in our relationship with God has been a thoroughly satisfying adventure for me. We’ve looked at “sin” and “saint”, “repentance” and “redemption”. But I saved this word for the last…”bless, blessing, or blessed”.

When a word in scripture puzzles me I wrestle with it, thinking I must be missing some key idea in the meaning. Many times I find an idea or thought which brings life to a passage and “Blessing” is a perfect example. Here is a word that on the surface is defined as “Happy”. Seems simple, right? Well, I struggle for a couple reasons….

First if it really means “happy” why not translate it that way? If you do, Matthew 5 would have phrases like “happy are those that mourn…” and “happy are you when men insult and persecute you…” When we are saying a blessing for our meals, are we saying a “happy”?…When fathers speak a blessing over the life of their sons, are they saying a “happy”? It doesn’t make sense. I’m missing something in the idea, so let’s search to better understand the concept of blessing.

There are a couple words translated blessing in the New Testament. One is “Eulogeo” this is a compound word “Eu” – which means good and “Logeo” which means speak. So literally it means to “speak well of”. The idea is to give approval, or congratulations. It’s like a thumbs up or 5-star rating. Often approval from God shows up in good things, like gifts.

How differently some passages look with this word! When fathers are blessing their sons, they are speaking approval over their lives, saying “Congratulations! I’m proud of you, and here is why”. Or when we say the “blessing” over or meal, what we are really saying is “Lord, thank you for this food, and we ask that you approve of what we are eating”. (Maybe I’ll think twice about of french-fries and milk shakes!)

The second word translated blessing in the New Testament is “makarios” we find this word in the famous Sermon on the Mount in Matthew chapter 5. The literal translation is to “make large”, and the idea behind it is to be envied because God is pleased and extends His benefits.

Foundational to both of these Greek words is the idea of God’s approval. This adds an entirely different dimension to the phrases in the Sermon on the Mount.. They could look like this:

The poor in spirit have God’s approval,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

God approves of those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.

God approves of the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.

Thumbs up to those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.

God approves of the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.

Envied are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.

Congratulations to the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.

God approves of those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

You have God’s approval when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven…

So where does “happy” come in? -Well,  I can think of no greater joy, than knowing my God is pleased with me. The result of His approval is my pleasure, joy, it’s a gift of happiness…blessing!


See all of the definitions we explored during this series by clicking HERE

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.™

Phipps Philms is a trade mark http://www.facebook.com/PhippsPhilms

From <https://www.youtube.com/user/PhippsPhilms/about>

Defining Righteousness

In Washington DC, is the National Institute of Standards and Technology. It is responsible for storing the perfect samples for weights and measures. There you will find the prototypes used to define feet, and measure pounds, liters and meters. Measurement is so precise that they use a bar of Platinum with exactly 10% iridium, cooled to 0 degrees Celsius at sea level in the 45 degree of latitude, to calculate the length of a meter. This is the standard.

The root of the word righteousness is to be straight – or to act like the standard – live up to the standard.

What is the standard? –

 “For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son…”Romans 8:29

Our standard is Jesus. To be like Him is our goal.

So the measure of your righteousness, is how close you mirror the Savior. If you are like me, that is not very close at all. Still, there is hope because

“God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” 2 Corinthians 5:21

The Chinese character for “righteousness” is fascinating. It’s composed of two separate characters one that by itself means” a lamb”, the other for “me”. When “lamb” is placed directly above “me,” a new character “righteousness” is formed. So when the Lamb covers me…I become righteous.


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.™

Define Repentance

Want to know what repentance is? – stand up, turn to the right, keep going…a little farther. Now stop at 180 degrees, facing opposite direction from where you started. Repentance is to turn around, if you’re in the military, it’s “about face”. To go the other way. To change the direction of your life and your heart.

Repentance begins with a sorrow or regret that happens when we become aware of having offended or hurt someone, and is completed with a commitment to live differently.

Scripture talks about it a lot.

I am happy, not because you were made sorry, but because your sorrow led you to repentance. For you became sorrowful as God intended… Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret… (I Corinthians 7:9-10)

Over and over in the words of Scripture repentance is linked with forgiveness:

  • God exalted him to his own right hand as Prince and Savior that he might bring Israel to repentance and forgive their sins (acts 5:31)
  • And He told them, “This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and in His name repentance and forgiveness of sins will be proclaimed to all nations (Luke 24:47)
  • Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. (Acts 2:38)

Repentance is an emotional reaction to the realization that we have fallen short, and don’t deserve the favor of a perfect, holy God. That Godly sorrow is then paired with a commitment to change direction.

In the Kingdom of God, we find that as soon as we turn and take a first step toward Him, God comes running to us. Like the father of the prodigal son, our Heavenly Father sees us while we are “far off” and meets us on our way home.

So, don’t wait. Don’t put off making the turn. Start now!

Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord (Acts 3:19)


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.™

Defining Atonement

The Hebrew word for Atonement is Kaphar (Kaw-Far), it literally means to “cover over”, or to appease. The idea is to pacify an authority for a wrong that has been done, to give a gift that may cause the judge to look past the offense.

From the third chapter of the Bible, we learn the lesson, “If you sin, then you will die.” Romans 6:23 repeats this message:

“for the wages of sin is death…”

This causes our Loving God a big problem because we all have sinned, and deserve the punishment for our sins, eternal death. Yet his great desire is for a relationship with us. He needed something that will cover over our sin.

In 1987 there was a movie titled “The Last Emperor” this movie told the story of Pu Yi the last Emperor of China, crowned when just a child. In one scene his brother asked him, what happens when you do something wrong? Yi reply’s, someone else is punished. To demonstrate, Yi breaks a jar, and one of his many servants is brought in and beaten for the transgression.

That was the answer for us. Someone else would be punished for our transgressions. The only one qualified to put back together what sin has torn apart is Jesus Christ, the perfect Son of God. The sacrifice of his life on the cross covers over our sin.

“My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.” (1 John 2:2)

Even though the Hebrew word for atonement means to “cover over”, I like our English word at-one-ment. Atonement puts our relationship with God back together. Jesus’ sacrifice makes everything right with the law of God, gives us a clean slate, and makes us “at one” with God.

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.™

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.™