Ready, Set, Go…

countryside-2360038_1920When we feel God calling us to new places , we may not want to go. Fear of the unknown is common to the human experience.  When given the choice between safe passage to a destination we choose and a path that is unknown and leads somewhere we know nothing about, most people would not choose the latter.  In our daily lives we make choices designed to meet our needs and wants.  Self-preservation is part of our survival instinct.  We navigate situations with our reliable five senses and our ability to rationalize based on the information at hand.  God gave us these gifts to protect us.  Why then does He ask us to ignore them at times, and virtually leap into the abyss of the unknown?  

I, for one, have a tendency to cling to the edge of the cliff for as long as possible until the strength of my hands gives out.  Clinging when God says “let go” only delays the inevitable.  God does not send us plunging into nothingness.  There is a ledge waiting, just beneath the point of letting go that stops our fall and leaves us wondering what we were afraid of in the first place!  God promises us a safe landing if we will trust in Him…

Alone on the Ledge

Change leads us away from our routines and into potential chaos. When we leave the familiar ground we are accustomed to, we also leave the people and places that made up our comfort zone.  The faces and routines that we have come to count on are not there to reassure or guide us.   The good news is that when God closes a door and opens another one, you can be sure He has a purpose.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.”

Jeremiah 29:11

New Ground

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Leaving behind the familiar is like being lost, wandering through a barren land. Recently, my family and I moved away from our home of thirteen years.  You can bet we were very comfortable there!  We had close friends and family, jobs we had held for many years, and events that had become family traditions.  We knew every inch of our town, had been to every store, restaurant, and park.  We had a church family and ministry we were close to.  Then God said, “time to go”.  It started as a feeling my husband and I began to have, and then little by little, through prayer and circumstances, we began to trust that God was indeed closing doors in our comfort zone and opening doors into a big unknown future. He was leading us to a new place with new people and new challenges.  Letting go was hard. Like leaving Egypt for the Promised Land. 

Far and Away

When God led His people out of Egypt and into the dessert, they had no idea what was in store for them.  It was in this place that God would prepare them for their future as His chosen people.  They would wander for 40 years and in that time would grow weary, lose faith, and disobey God.  But God was faithful; when the time came for the people to cross over the Jordan river into unknown territory, full of enemies, Moses spoke to them; he instructed the people to be brave because God was with them:

“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”   

Deuteronomy 31:6

The View and the Vision

Egypt-Desert-Trek-1We don’t see what God sees.  He is Emmanuel, God with us.  We blindly walk through life with limited vision and it is only when we take hold of His guiding hand that we begin to move toward our Promised Land.  The Israelite’s journey, geographically, should have taken eleven days, instead it took forty years because of their constant rebellion. When they left Egypt, the Lord pointed His people in the direction they should go but they continued to turn from it.

When we are going through a time of change we need to ask ourselves, “what is God pointing me toward in this season?”

“And He brought us out from there, that He might bring us in and give us the land that He swore to give to our fathers.”

Deuteronomy 6:23

When God brings us out of a place it is always to bring us into something better.  He positions us for increase.  We may struggle and suffer in the process but if we are seeking the Lord, the fruits of the spirit will be evident in our lives as we grow closer to Him. (Galatians 5:22-23) We take comfort in the knowledge that He is with us.

A Firm Foundation

home-sweet-home-1458160407CDu.jpgWhen we left our home for a new place, I wanted desperately to plan ahead.  I wanted to find jobs and a house and a church, a new foundation.  All these things represented security to me.  When the things we have been relying on for stability are removed, it gives us the opportunity to remember where our security should come from and who our Promised Land really is.

“Anyone who listens to my teaching and follows it is wise, like a person who builds a house on solid rock. Though the rain comes in torrents and the floodwaters rise and the winds beat against that house, it won’t collapse because it is built on bedrock.  But anyone who hears my teaching and doesn’t obey it is foolish, like a person who builds a house on sand.  When the rains and floods come and the winds beat against that house, it will collapse with a mighty crash.”

Matthew 7:24-27

A New Land

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God’s word is a road map for leading us where we need to go. During this time of change, my family and I made plans but remained open to God’s leading in our lives.  What unfolded over our first six months was a chain of seemingly unrelated changes and challenges that God worked together for our good.  We moved from one city to another, struggled to find work, faced health issues and more major changes than we were prepared for.  We had to lean on God for needs we could not meet in our own strength. Through it all, God miraculously did a work in each member of my family that would not have been possible if we had stayed where we were.  

“Never will I leave you;  never will I forsake you.” So we say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid…”

Hebrews 13:5

Where We Should Live

The changes in our lives are not always physical moves.  Anything that brings us out of something we are comfortable in and into something we are not used to, is either a place God leads us to for a purpose, or a place He can use for His good purpose.  Sometimes we choose those places, sometimes they choose us. We can search the Bible and find story after story of the men and women of God who were used by Him in places they never planned to go and in ways they never imagined.

 

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Gideon and His 300

Moses was chosen by God, Jonah tried to runaway but God turned Him around, Gideon resisted and Mary surrendered.  All of them left what they had known for the call God placed on their lives. They were not equipped for the task before them.  They each faced an enormous “cliff”, but as they trusted in God, He supplied their need. Regardless of where God finds us, or the condition of our hearts, He will get us to where we need to go, if we will just follow Him…

 

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As they were walking along, someone said to Jesus, “I will follow you wherever you go.” But Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens to live in, and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place even to lay his head.”

He said to another person, “Come, follow me.” The man agreed, but he said, “Lord, first let me return home and bury my father.” But Jesus told him, “Let the spiritually dead bury their own dead! Your duty is to go and preach about the Kingdom of God.”

Another said, “Yes, Lord, I will follow you, but first let me say goodbye to my family.”But Jesus told him, “Anyone who puts a hand to the plow and then looks back is not fit for the Kingdom of God.”

Luke 9:57-62

Jesus is our Promise Land.  Even when following Him means leaving what we love, we can be sure He is leading us where we need to go.  He is El Roi, the God who sees.  Take His hand and trust the journey you are on is good.love-1340263_960_720

Dear Jesus, thank you for taking us to new places.  Thank you for the chance to see things in a new way.  Help us to trust and obey, help us to remember you are our firm foundation and our safe place.  Comfort us in times of isolation, fear and worry.  May we take our thoughts captive and put our minds on our Heavenly purpose, for we know you have created us for good works which you have prepared in advance for us to do (Eph. 2:10).  We praise you for the gifts you give and receive with open hearts your plan for our lives.  May we go in your name Jesus, Amen.

 

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I Am

the-star

The steps that I take

The things that I make

The places I go

The good things I know

The task I complete

The people I meet

The town where I live

The good things I give

The job well done

The games I’ve won

The stories I tell

The things I do well

The road to success

The way that I dress

The money I earn

The new things I learn

The list that goes on

All right and no wrong

No sin to be seen

My life is a dream

fallenballerina

Until it is not

And then I am caught

My pants falling down

A stumbling clown

My pride’s left the gate

And now it’s too late

To stop the mad race

To hide my disgrace

The smile that I fake

The good things I take

The things I don’t show

The stuff I don’t know

The task left undone

The people who run

The place I don’t live

The things I don’t give

The job I can’t do

The lines that aren’t true

The times that I fell

The things I can’t tell

The road to nowhere

The days I don’t care

The money I burn

The things I don’t learn

The list that goes on

No right and all wrong

The sin that you see

The girl who’s not me

crown-of-thorns-mia-tavonatti

The day that I chase

God’s saving grace

A heart finally free

His child I will be

The things that He’s done

The victory He’s won

The life that He gave

To conquer the grave

The peace from above

A God who is love

A life lived for thee

Is not about me…


Love, God

butterfly-888503_1920This month I prayed for a word from God, a word that conveys His theme or message for my walk with Him this year.  I’ve been doing this for about eight years now. Prior to this, the thought of asking God for “a word” seemed strange and a little radical. Apparently, following God is a radical thing to do as He takes you to places you never thought you’d go! The journey is where God’s love story unfolds…

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. (John 1:1)

These days, I eagerly look forward to the time each new season when I Pray and ask God for a new word for me.  What would you say if I told you that God has a word for you too, in fact, not just a word, but an entire poem, stanza after stanza of personal expressions of His deep, unfailing love?  As you read my story, I pray that you would consider how God has spoken to you or may be speaking to you right now.  I pray that the lines of your love poem would begin to take shape as God speaks them into your heart and mind in His perfect timing.

It is easy to forget how much God loves us, especially in seasons when we are feeling unloved, overlooked, or forgotten.  People may reject us, ignore us, or leave us, but God never will.  He never does.  Of course, we can reject Him, ignore Him, and walk away from Him.  Sadly, we often do.  I believe if we truly understood how much He cares for us, we would not reject, ignore, or leave our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, we would run to him!

The first time God gave me a word, I didn’t ask for it.  It was in a season of great trial and tribulation.  I was in a place of oppression and bondage and desperately desired to be free from my circumstance.  I prayed this prayer often in fact during that time and one day, I heard the Holy Spirit speak into my mind, “be bold”.

pexels-photo-551588Everything changed that day.  I was in a deep pit, trapped in a cycle of abuse, a cycle that began when I was child.   I felt worthless, weak, lost.  When God spoke those words, I felt anything but bold.  I wanted to cry.  I didn’t know how to stand up for myself or be bold in a way that wouldn’t result in pain and rejection and the potential loss of the only security I knew.  This was ironic because I lived in fear, fear of many things, not physical harm, but deep unrelenting emotional and mental pain.  The sad truth about abuse is that it becomes the place we are most comfortable.  Our prisons become our homes.

Well on that day, with two small words, God gave me my eviction notice.  “It’s time to move forward”, He said.  It was time to stand up and face what was breaking me.  We tend to think that it’s other people that are our problem.  That if they would not do this or if they would start doing that, we would be better.  But the truth is, in every case, we are the ones who need to change.  

“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye?  You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”  (Bible, NIV. Matthew 7:3-5)

Ouch!  Hypocrite! Not me?!  In truth, we are all sinners, we all fall short.  The moment we are able to humble ourselves enough to even consider that we may be “hypocrites”, no matter what someone else has done, we are positioned to see the truth; “and then you will see clearly…” This is what our loving Father needs us to see, that if we focus on our relationship with Him, admit our own weakness, and in doing so acknowledge our need for a Savior, then we will see clearly. The lies we have been believing will be revealed, the darkness can begin to fall away as God replaces it with light.  The light of His word and His love.

Humility is a difficult place to get to sometimes. Pride provides a sturdy shelter, nothing gets in or out.  But shelters built on pride are nothing more than places we hide.  Better to stand in the open air of humility and prepare to weather the storm, because God is the only shelter that protects and provides.

imagesI wasn’t there yet when God spoke to me.  I was still in the “what plank? I don’t have a plank…” stage.  But His voice resonated and repeated in my mind…  “Be bold”.  Clearly the message here was that I was not being bold.  So what was I being?  I had to really think about what I was doing that would make God speak these words into my life.  I began to prayerfully ask God to show me what these words meant for me, in this time, at this place. How could I be bold?

Here’s the picture that began to emerge in the days that followed as I prayed, read the Bible, and sought the counsel of believers wiser than me:  I was stuck.  I was not acting like a person who knew that God loved her and would never leave her (the plank).  That was the  truth that I needed to embrace to begin to end my suffering and the suffering of those around me who were caught in the trial with me. To be bold, I had to trade my old identity for the new one I had been given many years before I’d lost my way.  I had accepted Christ, asked Him into my life, then slowly over time ignored Him and turned away. I needed to remember who God was, who He said I was. His words gave me the courage I needed to step out in faith.

What then shall we say in response to these things?  If God is for us then who could ever stand against us? (Romans 8:13)

Speaking these words out loud, claiming them, planting them in my heart, I stepped forward in the boldness of the Lord, letting go of all that had held me captive and choosing instead to let the love of Jesus set me free! I was afraid, but I acted bold as the Lord continued to lead me one step at a time.

cross-2713356_1920It’s true what the Word of God says, there is no love that compares to the love of God, it is beautiful and pure and beyond our comprehension.  In letting go of my safety, my dependence, my pain, I lost nothing and gained everything.  I left my toxic relationships and God restored them.  I left my loss and pain and found joy and peace.  I left the comfort of old habits and found new freedom.  God is love, and He is good!

For I know the plans I have for you declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not calamity, plans to give you a future and a hope. (Jeremiah 29:11)

rainbow_over_ocean_wallpaper“Be bold” was the beginning of a beautiful love poem God gave me over the next eight years. He is composing new lines in my heart and in my life to this day, words that guide and heal, that bring joy and revelation, each one leading me closer to Jesus.

What word has the Lord given you?  Can you remember His simple messages to you over the years?  If you take the time to write them down, you will begin to see the personal, perfect, passionate poem He has authored just for you.  God truly LOVES you my friend, rejoice and remain in Him!

…in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:37-39)

 

Shannon,

Be bold

Trust in me

Love your neighbor

Surrender your will

Pray for my people

Give glory to me

Rest

Abide

Awaken

                       Love, God

New Creation

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You calmed the sea

and the heart in me

No striving or strain

No worry or pain

 

You showed me the way

In your name I pray

No fury or rage

No war left to wage

 

Your love is a light

In you I’m made right

No guilt, greed or shame

No hatred or blame

 

You are the I am,

in you all began

No ego or pride

No falsehood or lies

 

The giver of life,

the shepherd who loves

The father, the friend,

The savior of men

 

Come Alive

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Do not contain it

Do not hold it in

Do not hold it back

Do not restrain it

 

What is in you now

Is more than you know

The more you let go

The more it will grow

 

You are filled by Him

You are fed by Him

You are blessed by Him

You were made by Him

 

He calls you by name

He ordained your days

He lived life for you

Then He died for you

 

Redeemed He forgave

All that is behind

All that is to come

Set free for freedom

 

Child of God stand up

Daughter of the King

Live loved by the Lord

You were made for more

 

 

Siren’s Song

Venus-godnessMemory a song that plays

Whispers love through time and space

Like a dream that never ends

The mind forgets, she pretends

Words like whispers, hard to hear

Echo waves of roaring fear

 

A dance that will not forget

Tangled pieces of regret

Her will has not been her own,

Moved by destiny alone

She leaves behind what was lost,

She’ll not stop to count the cost

 

Melody drowns out the day,

On the wind, carried away

Shifting rythmes change her view

She listens to something new

Composition from the deep,

Wake the dreamer from her sleep

 

Distant drumming in her head

Moves her closer to the edge

One more step and she will fly

Far away from earth and sky

Into something new and bold,

Story she has never told

 

Listen to her sirens song,

She was singing all along

Her voice breaks the silent night,

Leads the lost into the light

Promise that she never claimed,

Remnant of her hidden shame

 

A new day like breaking dawn,

Making right what once was wrong

Growing with a steady beat

Victory replace defeat

She is morning shining bright

She is hope and endless light

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Crucified

 

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This, the place I dare not go

This,  the face I dare not show

Here in the dark I’m torn apart

Here at the end my broken heart

This, the place I called my home

This, the place I first was known

Here is pain  and nothing more

Help me God to close this door

Give me strength to turn and leave

Give me strength to finally grieve

Hate must not be my final act

Keep me God from looking back

Lead me forward by your grace

Lead me to a better place

I give to you what I held dear

I turn to You and turn from fear

Jehova Rapha, God who heals

Lies and shame the Truth reveals

Death it steals the things we love

But help will come from God above

I am yours I love you still

Life obeys your sovereign will

Here is where I learn to trust

Here I see God good and just

I put to rest my former life

I surrender grief and strife

For You are love, good and true

You redeem the things we do

You make right was seems so wrong

When I am weak You are strong

This, the place I will begin

At the Cross new life in Him.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In God We Can Trust…

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Can you really trust God?  Can you trust that He is good?  That He loves you and cares for you?  Can you trust Him to provide for you?  Can you trust that He has a plan for your life?  Does He really hear your prayers?

People are imperfect and we let eachother down.  Relationships can teach us that trusting others is dangerous, risky, painful. Over time, we may hesitate to trust others and begin to guard our hearts not just against people but against God too.  We may perceive that God is letting us down when bad things happen but that is a lie from the enemy. 

The Word of God is the truth. If we believe that God is who He says He is, then we are called to put our trust in Him completely, holding nothing back, no area of our lives hidden or withheld from Him.

Can I trust God?  

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3:5-6

Can I trust that He is good?

God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. 1 John 1:5

Does God love me unconditionally?

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him” 1 John 3:16-17

Can I trust Him to provide for me?

Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” Matthew 4:4

Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Matthew 6:26

Can I trust that He has a plan for me?

For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. Ephesians 2:10

Does He really hear my prayers?

When we pray our hearts must be right before God letting go of unforgiveness, confessing our sins, grateful to Him for all things.

And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. Matthew 6:12

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. Phillipians 4:6

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus… 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

You can trust that God is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow.  He knows our pain and our hurts.  He knows how hard it can be for us to trust in Him, to act on faith alone.  But miracles happen when we step out on the water.  Jesus calls to us…

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“Come,” he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”  Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?” Matthew 14:29-31

“You whom I have taken from the ends of the earth, and called from its farthest regions, and said to you, You are my servant, I have chosen you, and have not cast you away. Fear not for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, Yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:9-10

Dear God, thank you that we can trust you!  We love you Lord and know you love us.   Forgive us our sins and trespasses. Help us to let go any areas of our lives that we are holding back our trust in you; help us to bring our relationships, our plans, our jobs, our finances, our struggles, our hopes and dreams to you Lord.  Give us peace and courage as we lay them all at your feet.  In Jesus’ name, amen!

 

Practical Help for Provision:

http://www.lifeway.com/Article/Learning-to-trust-in-God’s-provision

Salvation

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I died a thousand deaths

In pieces I fell down

Torn apart and broken

A king without a crown

 

The treasures buried deep

Once rained upon my head

But all that I did seek

Is buried now and dead

 

The past a bitter pill

Swallowed like regret

Shame that haunts the night

Guilt that won’t forget

 

The battle never won

the fight that rages still

a peace that hides away

the victim of my will

 

A violent rain that fell

I turned my face away

The memory repeats

The words I could not say.

 

Lord When will I be free

Once and for all be done

To lay it down at last

This race I should not run

 

 You are the light of dawn

The whisper on the wind

You are the waters edge

The beginning and the end

 

 I lived a beggar’s life

Turned away from grace

Now I will reach for you

And seek your holy face

 

Where I go you stand

A shepherd on the hill

My life is in your hands

I surrender to your will.

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The Bunny vs. Jesus

What is a bunny compared to the greatest miracle man has ever witnessed?  I know, “but that bunny is so cute…and the colored eggs and treats…” What child can resist the bright colors and sweet surprises that the Easter Bunny promises?

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How can we, as parents, bring our children into the Gospel story in a way that does it justice and helps them relate to the true meaning of Easter?  What can we do to show them that the promises of God are far greater, than the ones the Easter bunny delivers?

Before we can lead our children we need to take an honest look at where we are with our faith.  Ask yourself these important questions:

  • Am I reflecting Christ inside our family home? 
  • Does my daily routine show my children that God is my top priority?

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 If not, Easter is the perfect time to re-dedicate ourselves to the Lord and ask Him to take back the throne of our lives.  

“No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other…” Matthew 6:24 [Full Chapter]


Our children need to know we know them and love them for who God created them to be.  The only way to accomplish this is by spending quality time with them just as we need to spend quality time with the God.

images-3“To be loved but not known is comforting but superficial. To be known and not loved is our greatest fear. But to be fully known and truly loved is, well, a lot like being loved by God. It is what we need more than anything. It liberates us from pretense, humbles us out of our self-righteousness, and fortifies us for any difficulty life can throw at us.” Timothy Keller

By spending quality time with them we will begin to  “train up a child in the way he should go…” Proverbs 22:6

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Here are 5 practical things you can do with your children to make Jesus the focal point of Easter:

  1. Find a great kid’s Easter devotional to do together as a family: http://www.lifeway.com/kidsministry/2016/03/11/free-easter-devotional-guide-for-families/
  2. Bake resurrection crescent rolls, sharing the symbolism and Easter story as your kids learn to make this tasty treat:  http://www.food.com/recipe/empty-tomb-crescent-rolls-293915
  3. Take art into nature and make a cross out of items you collect together. crossYou may collect seashells, stones, flowers, or other objects together. Take pictures to share with friends and family digitally. Say a simple prayer of thanksgiving, when you finish your creations, for Jesus dying on the cross for our salvation.
  4. Share your story with your children.  In simple terms, tell them why you believe in the resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Pray about how much of your story God wants you to share with them in advance.  They are not always ready to hear our complete testimony, focus on the key elements of your faith.
  5. Do make attending church the center of your Easter Day celebration.  When it is prioritized as the best part of your Easter celebration, you are pointing your children’s hearts toward God.  If you are not able to physically go to church, find an online sermon that you can watch as a family. Here are some suggestions:

Hillsong Church: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCSYGkbzVd5-EzAMEpf3EaGg

Bayside Church:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MdFz8W4dgHo


These 5 practical things will not only open the door for conversations about God with your children, they have the potential to bring you all closer to God and closer to each other.

The Easter bunny may make an appearance this Easter, but your children will know the true meaning of why we rejoice on Easter Sunday.

Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. He told them, “This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations,beginning at Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.”  Luke 24: 45-48

Unknown-1May you and your families be blessed this Easter with renewed faith, dedication, and love for our Risen Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ!

Happy Easter!