Good Gifts from a Good, Good Father (Good Gifts 1:1)

A Good, Good Father…It’s who He is.

Chris Tomlin wasn’t joking around when he identified that we have a good, good father, but he also wasn’t the first to identify it.

The Psalmist cries out in Psalm 136:1:

Give thanks to the LORD, for He is good, for His steadfast love endures forever.

Moses asked for God’s glory and what did he get? God showed Moses all His goodness instead, and it’s goodness overload. Goodness so good that Moses couldn’t be allowed to see the frontside of it, or else it would literally kill him with goodness and God loved Him too much for that. You can read the full account of this in Exodus 33:13-23. I’ll highlight verses 19 and 20 here:

And he said, “I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you my name ‘The Lord.’ And I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy.20 But,” he said, “you cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live.”

Jesus, in great humility, without revealing his position as God-in-human-flesh, clarifies that goodness can only come in and through God the Father, in Mark 10:17-18:

17 And as he was setting out on his journey, a man ran up and knelt before him and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 18 And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone.

Aka – “…you won’t find goodness elsewhere, kind sir. What exactly is it, you’re really looking for?”

What are we really looking for when we look for good?

Do we want stuff that’s good?

Do we want to feel good?

Do we want a good reputation or good job, good health, a good future?

All these things are nice, but they aren’t necessarily good, because good only comes from the Good, Good Father. We know this because we have the gift of the book of James, which will be our course of study over the next six weeks.

Let’s dig in to James chapter 1. If you have your Bible out, read the whole chapter. It’s a gem and we’ll be resting there all week long, so you can get a bookmark for it and get cozy. Here I will focus in on James 1:16-17 for today’s study:

Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. 17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.

James connects some dots for us. God’s not just Good, he’s a Father to us, and He’s not just a Father to us, He’s a Good one. God’s goodness is wrapped in Fatherly affection and His Fatherly affection is all kinds of goodness.

The devil wants to deceive us on two accounts.

First, God is Who He says He is.

The devil would have us believe that because of our earthly experience, God can not be good and He surely can not be a good father. This is particularly hard for anyone with an extremely imperfect or even terrible father. God, is perfect in every way, including in His role as our Heavenly Father. There are many things in life that feel less than good. It’s easy to piece those things together and make-up in our head a God that isn’t for our good- disease, shootings, poverty, bankruptcy, family turmoil, and life turmoil all demand accounting for.

We can rest in the Truth of Scripture that tells us over and over, in the midst of chaos, in the seasons we are pummeled by storms, that He is Good. He is the Father of lights, not the Father of darkness.

“…do not be deceived, beloved brothers.” Trust in His Good Word.

Second, He is steadfast.

The devil is the shifty one, not our Good Father. God is unchanging in nature. This is attached to his goodness in the book of James. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8). He isn’t a shifting shadow of darkness. The devil aims to deceive us into believing that God is unsure, unsafe, because it’s more damaging that way- it pulls and stretches us to our limits, it leaves us feeling doubtful and questioning, but God is in the questions too.

“…with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth…”

He is steadfast, no variation. The Greek root word for variation in James 1:17 is parallage, which can mean a change, variation, or mutation. God does not mutate. The devil may make himself into a snake to fool us, but God does not try to trick us. James tells us that it’s not in His nature. God has His own will and He is subject to no one. He lays His Will out for us in the Word, particularly in the saving work of Jesus Christ. In Christ, all goodness is ours – redemption, forgiveness, life, and eternity.

As we study James, this will be our foundation:

A Good, Good Father, steadfast and true, with many-a gift for us to discover as we spend time with Him and in His Good, Good Word.

Good Gifts Study Scripture Engagement Tool, designed by Victoria Weaver

 

Discussion –

What do you think people want, when they want good?

How does God offer us good and then something more?

How have you seen the Good, Good Father work in your life, or when has it been hard to see Him working good in your life?

Easter Scavenger Hunt


Easter egg hunts were one of my favorite church memories as a child. Plastic eggs filled with chocolate and other treasures dotted the church lawn like they came down with the rain overnight. Hard boiled eggs were dyed by someone’s loving hands and then hid near bushes and trees. Let’s be honest, though, these were the slightly less desirable bounty, left by the big kids for wide eyed preschoolers and toddlers slowed down by wonderment.

Easter egg hunts meant our parents didn’t have to drag us out of bed bleary eyed for Sunrise service. All they had to say was “Happy Easter!” followed by that blessed phrase, “He is Risen!”

We knew what that meant- grace, joy, Easter Breakfast, and you’ve got it- the Egg Hunt.

Stuff like this matters for kids at church.

While the message may not be as overt as the Sunday School lesson or the Children’s Sermon, it does share grace with them in a way that I don’t think our adult brains can comprehend. Eggs-schmeggs, sure, but to a child’s heart this speaks something different –

“I matter in this place.”

“I am seen in the Body of Christ.”

“My presence is not just tolerated, but welcomed and invited here.”

“These people speak my language, and I want to be a part of it.”

This layer of care for our church kids guides hearts to be open. Those little ears (and big ears) hear the message of Christ from your lips and then see the love of the Savior in action. They connect the dots between real life, real truth, real action, real faith and His real Word.

Once I was involved in children’s ministry, as an adult, and then bringing my own kids to church on Easter morning, I found the Great Egg Hunt fun, but lacking. It was special, great for photos and joy-filled church memories, but not quite what I was going for as a teaching moment. There had to be, not a better way, but something different to help direct the kids to the Word in a fun way, with treats, because, you know, Easter. 😉

So, I googled and pinterested the topic to death. I found lots of great ideas and alternatives. Praises to the Lord for creating many ideas, minds, and a zealous Spirit!

I would reference blog posts and idea makers here, but I really scanned about 47 different ideas and decided to create my own.For my own children’s ministry I decided to write my own Easter Scavenger Hunt. I do encourage you to look through Pinterest and search engines for similar blogs and ideas, however, since the origin of the idea for an Easter Scavenger Hunt isn’t mine.

This is an easy and fun alternative to help kids and families connect the treats they receive from your church or family gathering on Easter morning to the Word of Life. Each item in the Hunt is chosen for a specific reason that is linked to a Bible verse, for instance…

Betrayed with a kiss – Hershey kisses
Judas’s payment- silver coins
Romans 5:8 – chocolate cross

And more!

You hide the items for the Hunt around the church or lawn, your house, a park, anywhere, and give families the list of verses to read with the corresponding items.

 

I have attached the PDF of my own Easter Scavenger Hunt to make it easy for you- just print and duplicate!

Easter Scavenger Hunt PDF

If parents are still eating Easter breakfast, ask for volunteers or members of your youth group to help little hands find their treats. I wouldn’t necessarily disclude the youth from this hunt, though. I guarantee those bigger hands are going to want to get in on these treats, and they are an often forgotten age group who like fun and creative ways to learn the Scriptures as well. You could make them work harder to figure out the items by only giving them the verse list. This is especially fun if you’re feeling ornery. You could also give the kids an extra bag of the goodies and tell them to give it to a friend who didn’t get to go to church on Easter morning. You can trim your own hunt to make it smaller, or you could add to it.

Now I want to show up at all your churches and family events to see how you all used the hunt! Please share pictures or stories in the comments section so we can all share in the fun!

Easter joy to you all!

It is by His grace-filled death and resurrection that we are Saved, Redeemed, Set Free, Restored, and Made New. Let’s go share that message with big and little ones everywhere!

Mental Health and Pizza

Let me tell you the story of pizza that saves lives.

Well, friends save lives, Jesus saves lives, but pizza is sometimes the simple tool that God uses to make a difference.

We were in the middle of a mental health crisis. No one really likes to talk mental health. We have some level of basic communication on the topic, some good, some unhelpful, general phrases, like

“You should go see a counselor.”

“God brings good out of everything.”

“You’ve got to keep on top of that, make good choices.”

If there was ever a disease we were afraid of catching it’s mental health. There are no Puffs commercials for depression, no home health ads for schizophrenia. Even anxiety is seen as a personal problem – pray more, worry less! Be grateful!

But let me tell you that mental health comes in your back door like an old high school acquaintance you thought you lost touch with, whom you had no idea was still connected to your life, except for in vague terms, like genetics or a strange uncle who talks funny.

Mental health is, however, whether we care to admit it or not, shockingly universal. Everyone’s stories are different, the diagnoses are different, but we all have the basic gene pool to create a mental health struggle. No one is exempt, or “better made.” Sin effects our lives and world around us in frustrating ways. How many of you have family members touched by

addiction

dementia

anxiety

depression

learning disabilities

sensory processing

autism

trauma and distress?

Still people often back up and back away when mental health enters the scene.

They don’t want to “catch” the mental health cooties (not a thing, fyi). And our culture, while throwing around sexual innuendo and intimate family dynamics on tv and movie screens daily, does not like to be confronted by someone else’s drama when it lives next door.

What if instead, we brought pizza.

In the middle of our struggles, two of my friends walked in the door, straight through my mess, toting a large pizza, an order of breadsticks, and a two liter of pop to share. They visited. They sat around my table and made me laugh. They asked questions and didn’t offer easy answers. They may have offered some help, but what I really remember is that they offered normalcy. They didn’t look at me like I was scary and had two heads. They were ok with being part of it, even if whatever it was looked kind of messy.

Mental health isn’t discriminating. Most of us will be touched by it somewhere along the road. And we have the ability to change the tide. We don’t have to be therapists or medical doctors, or even super close amazing friends. All we have to do is bear a pizza and say,

“Hi.”

“This stinks.”

“I love you.”

“I still think you matter.”

People ministered and care for us in many ways, I don’t want to dismiss that. I’m very thankful that so many people jumped right over awkward, weird, and scary and offered affection and care. But sometimes, I think we just need to keep it simple.

Sometimes we need to know that it starts with a single pizza.