Friday, December 25, 2015

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Daily Jesus - A Family Devotional

Use the Blog Archive 
2016 (Jan - Apr) 
on the sidebar 
for past devotions 

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There is no better way to begin the day than reflecting on the life and love of Jesus. Because I'm planning on spending a few quiet minutes each day with my family looking at the life of Jesus in 2016, I decided to write and post the Daily Jesus Devotional on my blog.

It is my hope that Daily Jesus will lead you closer to Jesus because of the time spent exploring His life each morning, and closer to your family because you've been reading these devotions together.

After a brief scripture reading, Each devotion will begin and end with an open discussion question. There are no right or wrong answers to these questions. Allow your children to explore their own imagination, beliefs and journey by answering these questions in their own way.

Between the questions, there will be a short reading designed to bring some aspect of Jesus - His life, death, passion, mission, attitude, habits, etc - into view and then to challenge or affirm the reader/listener with how Jesus' example can give strength in the day ahead.

Following the reading and the reflection question, there is a prayer time. Use this time to find the daily needs of your family and pray through them together. Prayer at the beginning of the day is a wonderful habit worth sharing.

At the end of some entries, there is a further reading section. 

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Sabbath School reStoried

From the Sabbath School Section of this blog

Every successful community is unique and impossible to replicate. And yet something fairly simple is clear about the creation and continuation of each. Community is created by relationships which thrive on shared story and stories shared.

Community happens anywhere lives are shared:
A shady area outside a primary school where parents meet to wait for their children
A parking lot where smokers come together during a work break
A year 12 room where students prepare for exams
A church where believers gather to share stories of life and faith

The story you share combined with the stories you share create community.

Shared Story:
The parents have children
The smokers have a pressing need
The year 12 students have studies
The believers have faith

Stories Shared:
The parents tell stories of what their kids are doing
The smokers talk about work, friends and family
The year 12 students talk about love, life and learning
The believers talk about faiths centrality to life


It’s that simple.

So why do many churches seem to be falling apart? I believe it is because we aren’t building community in natural ways. We make the mistake of believing programs and doctrine will build a healthy church community. We try to program it. We try to force community to happen. Sometimes we succeed. And sometimes we fail. And afterward when we pull apart the programs, meals, events, etc; we ask questions about what we did right and wrong. And we ignore the fact that nobody leaves a church because of programs or doctrine. They leave because of failed relationships. Someone said something judgmental. Someone was a bully. Someone believed their program or doctrine was so important that it justified offending the heart and soul of a fellow sibling in Christ. And they left.

So, that’s what makes them leave. What makes them stay? What builds Christlike community that lasts through thick and thin? I’d like to suggest that Christ Centred Community is built on four levels of shared story and stories shared. These shared stories, shared often strengthen our ties and bind our community together in eternity.

Personal Story: What is the story you share with your church? It may be the founding story. It may be a younger story. It may be a story of joining or a story of remaining. It may be a new story or an ancient one. When were you a baby in your church? When did you grow up? When did you become a mentor? Your personal shared story may be so old that you’ve forgotten it, or forgotten how to tell it. Reclaim it and start retelling it.

Local Story: What is the story your church shares with its community? What need did your church first come into being to satisfy? How did your fledgling church answer the question “What would Jesus do if He walked into this place?” How is your maturing church answering this question now? If your church is not still telling this story, start.

Corporate Story: What is the story your church shares with other churches in your denomination? It’s more than just doctrine. It may be the Gospel story from the Cannon or it may be the Gospel story from a more recent enactment of God with Us. Your corporate story is one that says, “We add this to our denomination. People needing this come here.” What is that story? How does it complete and compete with the wider story of your corporate church? Tell this story with confidence and consistency.

Global Story: What is the story your church shares with the world? How is your church reaching beyond the borders of your nation? Where is your church ‘going into all the world’ with its money and mission? Living and telling this story embeds your church in the Kingdom of God by fulfilling the final reach of the Great Commission.

Creating Christian Community through Consistency
Nothing great ever happened on accident. It took planning. It took preparation. And it took persistence of purpose. This is where Sabbath School comes in. Because Sabbath School happens every week it is a sure-fire way to create great community. Sabbath School has four distinct purposes that each work together to build and reinforce long-term community. Each revolves around telling our story.

Bible Story – We study the Bible together. This story is our connection to God by looking backward into the story of His interactions with His people in days of old and forward into the promises scripture reveals about God plan for our future.

Our Story – We care for each other. We listen to the story of the week from each members perspective each Sabbath, usually through a simple question like, “How was your week?” or “What was one high and one low from your week?” This tells the story of how God is interacting with His people today.

Community Story – We care for the world outside our walls. The local projects we participate in create the story of how God is interacting with the world through his people in our community today. Not only is it important to have local projects, it is important to talk about them during Sabbath School so we know who we are and who God is through us!

Global Story – We care for the least of these. As our tithe dollars return to the General Conference, our global church is able to create substantial change for good and for God in the poorest and most remote parts of the world. Many local churches also have their own overseas mission where they pour their heart and soul and return to tell the story of lives saved and hearts changed. These stories also must be told to release their power.

Conclusion and Challenge
An untold story is a dead hero. Samson without his strength. Moses without his staff. Elijah without his cloak. Peter without his pals. Paul without his pen. Every story requires you to hold it, to savour it, to shape it and then to share it with purpose and passion.

Sabbath School should be a storytelling symphony. As all the stories; Bible, personal, local, corporate, global, human and Divine combine we will experience community beyond our wildest imaginings – community where Christ is concealed in every story and His heart is revealed in every telling because He is central to each of our storied lives, once we start looking, listening, telling and retelling the epic narrative of our past, present and future.

Storytelling is the purpose of Sabbath School because this is the purpose of community. We were created for a story greater than our moment in time and are only fully alive when we take our place in the story of the ages as both character and narrator. His story is your story is my story is our story is salvation’s story for the world.


Learn more about running a healthy and thriving church through small groups on the Sabbath School Section of this blog or by emailing me to plan a Sabbath School workshop for your church.

Monday, December 21, 2015

The Naughty List

I was chatting with a grade one boy in the last week before the Christmas holiday.

"How are you today?" I asked.

"Not good," he said.

"Why not?"

"I'm on the naughty list!" He crossed his arms and dropped his eyes to the floor.

"The naughty list? What does that mean?" I asked.

His little head jerked up and he looked at me like I was the most ill-informed person on the planet. "It means I don't get any presents!"

I threw my hands up in the air, “What? That’s not good!” Leaning forward I asked, "Can you change it?"

His eyes came to life, "YES! I'm being really good, NOW!"

I nodded, wisely. "What are you doing different?"

"Not hitting my brother and not yelling at Mum."

I nodded again. "That sounds like a good start. Are you doing good stuff, too?"

Now he nodded. "Yup. I help Mum with stuff and clean up my mess."

I put my hand over my heart and leaned back in my chair. "I can tell you something really exciting!"

"What?" he asked, his eyes fixed on mine.

"You're getting off the naughty list!" I smiled.

"I know." He said, resolved. “But it’s hard.”

“Doing the right thing often is,” I said, “but it’s worth it, right?”

“Yeah,” he smiled. “I can’t wait to get my presents!”

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For more parenting pondering, 
see the "Parently" section of this blog.

Monday, December 07, 2015

An Imagination Rich Holiday

A healthy mind is an actively creative one. The ability to create something new takes a wide collection of experiences. Whether we are creating a new dish in the kitchen, writing a new story, building a tree fort, creating a presentation, or telling a joke – we are only as creative as the combined total of our previous experiences and learning.

Our brain takes everything we have done, heard, read, learned and experienced and creates new things from the montage of our past. So, the best thing to do with your holiday time, for the mental, social and spiritual development of your children, is to engage in a wide spectrum of activities. Go to new places, old favourites, visit friends, meet new people, participate in traditions, gather with family, spend time learning about new things – reading, watching, listening – and then talk about it!

Talking about our experiences locks them into our memory. Ask your kids to ‘tell the story of your day’ each night as you tuck them into bed. Ask questions to help them go into detail. As they tell the story, they reframe it in a way that gives it meaning to them. At the end of the week, ask them to tell the story of their week. You’ll be surprised at the editing that has taken place, making it more meaningful. Don’t correct their story. Just listen and ask more questions. At the end of the school holidays, ask to hear ‘the story of your holiday’. It will help them make meaning of it all by choosing favourites, exploring difficulties and making sense of the various events.

A creative person is a successful person. Creativity comes from an active imagination. Each time we tell our story, we create something new by connecting new material with old memories. The human brain remembers by reconstructing, which means that each time we ‘remember’ something we are rebuilding it from what we knew and what we know now. The creative retellings of the past that come from our children (and ourselves!) prove that the imaginative parts of our brain are working.

While it is important to tell the truth, it is also very important, for our emotional wellbeing, to be able to reframe things that happen to us. This skill, learned by ‘telling your story’ in childhood will benefit your children for a lifetime.

Have a wonderful holiday, rich in experience, imagination and storytelling.

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For more parenting pondering, 
see the "Parently" section of this blog.

Friday, December 04, 2015

“Dear Exiles…”

Startwarmer Questions:
1. Please share a story of something (a song, smell, etc) that reminded you of your past. (go around circle)
2. Have you received a letter while you were away (from family, friends) that reminded you of more than what was written? (the place, the people, the stories, the weather, etc)

Read Jeremiah 29:5-14
Jeremiah 29:5-14 is a beautiful letter from home. There is much in the words of this short letter, but much more in the layers beneath the letter. Like a radio-antenna on top of a sky scraper, this little letter sends a powerful message to a people in exile not only because it is worded perfectly but because it is built on decades of history, culture, prophecies and writings and reaches down beyond the ground floor and into the deep history of the people of Israel – even to the moment of creation.

Have you ever been an exile? What does that feel like?
What would it be like to receive a letter from home while feeling displaced?
How likely is it for such a letter to have assumed back story/history?
Imagine you received a letter, while in exile, that had subtle reminders of the blessings and joy in your past. How would that make you feel?
Imagine there were some not-so-subtle allusions to the mistakes and poor judgement in your past. How would that make you feel?

In this letter from Jerusalem, Jeremiah gives them both good and bad news.
Bad news: The Exile in Babylon will be a full 70 years. It will not be shortened.
Good news: God has a plan. Restoration will come!

How did God’s message to his people differ before and during exile?
Looking at the promises in this letter, would you say they are more spiritual or physical?
Why was God so mean before the exile and so merciful during the exile?
How were the people different before than during?

Before exile, the message from God (negative) was acted out by the prophets.
During exile, the message from God (positive) was to be acted out by the people.
What does this tell us about God? His prophets? His people? Which would you rather be?

Small Group Discussions (15 mins) Split the class into three small groups
Ask them to explore the passages and questions given to them and to prepare a short review

Group 1: Living in Exile

Read Deuteronomy 20:5-9
What reasons were there for not personally going to war?
Whose job was it to give this message to the army?

Read Jeremiah 29:4-7
What tasks of living peacefully were they given?
Who did this message come from? What impact would that have had?
How was this “Dear Exiles” letter relying on the knowledge of the priests, prophets and people of Israel who were in captivity?
Do you think they understood the “Don’t Go to War” message?
How do you think they applied it?
What kinds of thoughts/prayers were they to have for their captors? Why?
What reaction do you think they had to this call to pray for their enemies?

Read Jeremiah 10:1-16
What is the main message in this passage?
How does this passage set-up a clear challenge for the people living in exile?

Group 2: Doorway to the Detestable

Read Jeremiah 29:8-9
In captivity there were prophets like Jeremiah and Ezekiel who were honestly speaking the words of God and there were deceivers, diviners and dream-interpreters who lied for a living but called themselves God’s prophets. What do you think these liars were declaring?
How was the worship of God by His people in exile being impacted by these false prophets?
Does it matter? Why?

Read Ezekiel 8:5-18
What does the ‘hole in the wall’ suggest to you?
Why ‘dig’ at the hole in the wall? (reveals more truth)
What does the act of digging do for the prophet? (turns him into a participant)
Where does the hole take Ezekiel? What is wrong with the worship inside the hole?

“Go in and See: Wicked and Detestable things”
Find the four questions of “Have you seen?” or “Do you see?” in this passage.
What is happening in these scenes? Who is involved? (1. Temple, 2. Elders, 3. Women, 4. Men)
What impact is this activity having on the people?
What impact is it having on God?
How would Jeremiah’s “Dear Exiles” letter impact people living ‘in the hole’?

Group 3: A Long Story

Read Jeremiah 29:10-14
Verse 10 literally reads, “Only when 70 years…” – defying the false prophets who said it would end sooner.
Why 70 years? (have a look at Psalm 90:10) What would be different 70 years after Jerusalem fell?
Verse 12 and Verse 7 are the only two places in the book of Jeremiah where the people are the subject of ‘pray’. What two ‘fortunes’ are they to ‘pray’ for?
As exiles, what impact would it have had to see these two positive invitations to pray (and be answered positively!) within this short “Dear Exiles” letter? (Compare 7:16, 11:14, 14:11)

Read Deuteronomy 4:25-31
How was this “Dear Exiles” letter relying on the knowledge of the priests, prophets and people of Israel who were in captivity?
What was Jeremiah 29:13 meant to remind the exiles?
How far back does this promise go? Who are these people, really? 
How far back does their story go?

Conclusion: God’s Plan

What is the Big Idea of this “Dear Exiles” letter? What is the main point? (God has a plan)
“You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.” For the exiles in Babylon who knew their scriptures and the story of their people, the promise of this passage was even greater than a connection to Canaan.

Read Deuteronomy 4:15-20
Here we have reminder of their beginnings and of their importance to God.
15 – God, without form, spoke the law from the fires of Horeb (Creating their law)
16-19 – In reverse Creation order, objects often made into idols are shown to be created by God, not gods themselves or even representations of gods.
20 – You: selected in the furnace and taken out to be His.

Then, a few verses later, the promise “You will search for the LORD your God, and you will find Him when you seek Him with all your heart and all your soul” (Deuteronomy 4:29). In this amazing passage of scripture, clearly alluded to by Jeremiah 29:13, the exiles are reminded that they were spoken to, selected by and indeed created by God, in His image, as the only creature, object or created thing that is intended to represent God.

The Big Idea of this “Dear Exiles” letter?

Created in Gods image, You are
His living breath
His revealed glory
His chosen creation
He has not forgotten you
Indeed He cannot
For you are His

Thursday, December 03, 2015

The Christmas Story

Christmas has been around for a long time. There are a thousand ways of telling the Christmas story, each slightly different because it came from a slightly different time, place and culture.

The oldest stories we can find go back thousands of years, to celebrations of early Europeans who celebrated light and birth during the darkest and coldest times of the year—winter solstice, hoping to bring about the next season when light, growth and warmth would return.

This celebration changed into a time of feasting in Scandinavia when the Norse celebrated Yule starting on December 21. They would light huge logs and feast until the logs burnt out. The best logs could last up to 12 days! 

Sometime later, as Christianity was spreading through the world, it brought with it new reasons to celebrate. The celebration of the birth of Jesus didn’t have a fixed day until Christian leaders decided to match dates with the ancient holiday happening during winter and call it Christmas. As this new holiday, a time of gift giving and family togetherness, spread around the world, Santa Clause was born. This jolly man, with his bag of toys, quickly became the story many people told their children about Christmas.

Today, the story and meaning of Christmas is a little different in each part of the world. Here in Australia, our story is quite unique. Christmas is during the middle of summer. We can hardly build snowmen and we try to avoid lighting fires. Families meet together for outdoor cricket, BBQ’s, beach trips, Carols by Candlelight and late night drives to look at houses covered in lights. 

No matter where you are in the world, one thing remains the same on Christmas. It is a time of giving. Gifts are given by parents to children. Families pass plates of delicious food. People participate in donating gifts to their community. Churches provide free meals for struggling families and individuals. At Christmas, everyone should feel joy and love.

May you have a wonderful Christmas
   as you share your gifts with others.
May your family be blessed and joyful
   as you share conversation and food.
May you experience peace and love
   as you consider the Christmas story.
And may the Christmas story you tell  
   bring new life, meaning and purpose to all.

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For more parenting pondering, 
see the "Parently" section of this blog.

Dave Edgren ~ Story: Teller, Author, Trainer ~

BOOK DAVE NOW! Dave Edgren is passionate about creating a values-based storytelling culture. In his engaging and often hilarious way,...