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Teachable Moments

Pursuing Peace in a Stressed-Out World

Comparing research reported by the Pew Research Center (Jan. 3, 2019), Our World in Data website and other credible sources, figuring out the trends of stress, conflict and violence in our world and the much sought-after peace everyone wants becomes confusing.  However, it seems form my observations that the following are commonly held as true:

  • World War 2 took more lives than any other war in history since 1400.
  • After the mid-1990s, Europe has experienced a period of astounding peace
  • Death as a result of battles is declining quickly, and has done so for the last few decades
  • Wars and conflicts overall are becoming less-deadly
  • Statistics need to be understood in light of what kind of conflict we’re describing; example, the Korean war (2 countries in conflict) vs the Rwandan Genocide (2 people-groups within one country) puts numbers in perspective
  • Conflict between individuals are increasing as conflict between people groups decrease

What does this say about our world?  Do these trends indicate that we live in more peaceful times and as such, peace is something we are achieving but don’t realize?  This is the sticky part. The answer is nebulous as we can say both “yes” and “no” to what we learn from data.

Yes, we are becoming more peaceful to some extent.  Between States, Countries, Continents, wars are down; even between people groups, we are finding fewer, if not less deadly in numbers percentage-wise, conflicts.

No, violence is not decreasing significantly if analyzed as what individuals do to individuals (domestic violence) or small groups do to small groups (gangs).  One recent medical research report showed that in 1000 cases analyzed, almost ⅓ of all abuse done to children was done BY children. Domestic violence as reported in 2018 was reported by more than 10 million USA women and men, but there seems to exist a lack of awareness or response in the religious community.  Narcissism is a serious mental illness which has reached epidemic numbers in western countries and 1 out of 3 Evangelical pastors show disturbing signs of this destructive disorder. According to a 2018 report found on Comparitech, a total number of reports for cyberbullying has increased worldwide

What does all this have to do with us?  I’d suggest, the peace that we seek starts with us from an individual perspective.  If we truly do want the Miss America Pageant line, “I want world peace”, to come true for others and ourselves, taking a good look inside and taking responsibility for the resultant choices we make is a first step toward resolving this world of stress and conflict.  If I want to feel peace, know peace and have my children grow up in a world of peace, I need to look in a mirror and at myself first.

How do I go about it?  In over 30 years of counseling, teaching and being a wife/mom, I find 4 areas worthy of personal inventory that could help us strive toward being the peacemaker God calls us to be.  As Matthew 5:9 says, “Blessed are the Peacemakers, for they will be called the children of God”. (KJV, NIV)

These four areas are Awareness, Adversity, Acceptance and Action.  Coming this Monday, we here at Teachable Moments have created a 28-day, 5-minute-a-day personal challenge called, Pursuing Peace.  We cover in these 4 weeks our first two spheres of influence, Awareness and Adversity.  We have put countless hours and research into bringing together the key issues that impact how we can pursue peace in our stressed-out world, thinking through key concepts from a theological worldview, pulling from scripture, theologians, biographies, authors and other notable sources and all with a dash of fun.  All for you!

Dear Reader, I desire for you a life that embodies Philippians 4:7, “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus”. (NIV) I look forward to preparing my heart and mind to think about how my own self-awareness and my perspective and response to adversity can create in me the feeling of peace and stillness my soul desires as well as a deeper relationship with God who holds for me a peace that passes my common comprehension.  I hope you join me!

Blessings Abundant and always fondly yours, Elizabeth

Teachable Moments

An Unusual Easter

Today is Palm Sunday which marks the beginning of Holy Week around the world. Most often believers gather together to remember and celebrate Christ’s triumphant entry, but today the churches were empty. In most parts of the world, people are under some form of Social Distancing or Lockdown. The church is not currently meeting as a large body; rather, we are in our homes, meeting through Zoom or Facebook Live, thankful for the technology that keeps us together. 

This Easter will look very different than most we have experienced. There will be no gathering together for Good Friday, no Easter Sun-rise services as a church, no large family Easter dinners complete with an egg hunt. It is different and there is much we will miss.  We are going to learn to master the “both/and” life – we will both grieve what we have lost AND celebrate being found in Christ. While life has changed, Jesus has not. He is still the same Son of God who lived a perfect sacrificial life, voluntarily went to the cross for our sins, was buried, and three days later rose from the dead victorious. He is worthy of our praise.

As always, I want to encourage you to embrace every teachable moment in your life.  What is God teaching you through this time? What is He teaching your family, your children?

To help you along in your “TMs”, I have put together this list of Easter Activities for the whole family.  From the comfort of your own home, celebrate and remember all that God has done on your behalf. I hope it is a blessing to you, dear readers!

Easter Activities:

  • DIY Resurrection Eggs from Life Your Way. These eggs are a wonderful interactive way to talk with your kids about the Easter story. 
  • Resurrection Rolls from Eat at Allie’s. If your family likes to cook, these simple resurrection rolls are a tangible picture of the empty tomb. 
  • An Easter Activity Checklist from The Littles and Me. Maybe your family gets excited about having a checklist of activities. Here is a beautiful one that can become part of your Easter decor. 
  • Stained Glass Cross from Mom on Timeout. This one is especially for the younger ones. A fun craft that can be a great teachable moment. 
  • Easter Printables from Christian Preschool Printables. Here is a huge list of free printables for your preschool – lower elementary aged kids. 
  • Easter Stations from Children’s Ministry. While this resource is originally intended for a church ministry to put on for their families, I think it would be a wonderful interactive and engaging activity for your whole family to take part in helping the Easter Story come alive for all ages. 
  • Resurrection Stones from That Bald Chick. An alternative to the Resurrection Eggs, families with older children or very artistic kids may enjoy creating these together. 
  • Easter Garden from Cranial Hiccups. If you have extra dirt and gardening supplies around your house, this is a wonderful, hands on experience for your kids.
  • Christian Seder from the Christian Resource Institute. If you would like to have a new experience as a family, I would encourage you to have a Seder meal as a family. 
  • Passover from Chosen People Ministry. Another resource for a Seder Meal and Celebrating Passover as believer. 

I hope these resources are a help and encouragement to you this week. May you have a blessed Holy Week, celebrating our Risen Savior! 

He is Risen Indeed, 
Elizabeth

Teachable Moments

True Worship

A Sunday school teacher was leading her children to the ‘big church’ worship service.  To make sure they knew what they were about to do, she was going over the proper ways to act in the service.
“And why is it necessary to be quiet in church and keep your hands to yourself?”
One bright little girl replied,
“Because people are sleeping and we don’t want to wake them up.”

While this story always makes me smile, at the same time, I find it sadly typical in the way adults often converse with children about the church worship service.  Children are told how to behave externally, but they are often left wondering what should be taking place in their heart. And that’s backward. Worship is about our heart, not our hands.

Jesus had a similar situation with the Samaritan woman in John 4. She was asking about the pragmatics of worship and found out that it is not the where and when that’s important, but the who and the what.  After the woman asked Jesus about which mountain should worship take place on, Jesus said, “God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” (John 4:24).  He did not answer her question because it was not the right question.  If we want to worship rightly, we need to start by asking the right questions.

  1. What is the point of worship?
  2. What is our response to worship?
  3. What does worship require of us?

What is the point of worship?

The point of worship is to give back to God what He has already given to us.

  • God has revealed Himself to us – we respond by agreeing with Him. “Yes, oh God, that IS who you say you are”. We worship in Spirit and in truth.  (John 4:23,24)
  • God has revealed Himself to us – we respond by showing our affection as our emotional response to knowing Him “I love who you are”. (Deuteronomy 6:5)
  • God has revealed Himself to us – we respond by saying “Amen!”, I agree with your righteous, just, and sovereign will, knowing for certain that you will do what you say you will do.
    • “Amen” is found in both the Hebrew (OT) and Greek (NT) texts and is literally translated “so be it” or “truly”.  We find it most often in Deuteronomy when the people’s souls are convicted that God’s curses on His people as judgment are earned and appropriate.

What is our response to worship?

Worship is an experience of the heart seen obviously in a life of obedience.

  • The highest form of praise to God is our obedience to Him.  To say we worship God and yet turn from our corporate expressions of praise to live lives that are contrary to His word is legalism, formality, hypocrisy – it is living as the Pharisees did at the time of Christ and it is abhorrent to our God.
    • John 14:15 – “If you love me, you will obey me.”
    • John 14:23a – “All who love me will do what I say.”

What does worship require of us?

Worship is a sacrifice of praise; if true worship costs us nothing, it is not worship.

  • Worship is given to God whether we understand why He does what He does or not.  When we don’t understand His hand (acts), we trust His heart (character). 
    • Habakkuk 3:17, 18 – “Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen  and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior.”
  • God is always good and can always be trusted and when we choose to praise God in spite of our personal pain, God is worshiped and our faith grows.
    • Job 13:15, “Though he slay me, I will hope in him; surely will I defend my ways to His face.”

Dear Reader, we all want to teach the next generation how to worship God in spirit and in truth.  

  • To do this, we must make sure, we are diligent students, knowing Him more and more on a daily basis. 
  • To do this, we must obey His will as revealed in scripture.  
  • To do this, we must worship God at all times, no matter our life circumstances.

Reader challenge:  let us look at our lives!  Let us look in a mirror and see ourselves for who we are as worshipers – am I knowing and loving God, obeying God and worshiping Him no matter what?  This is true worship and this is what we want our children to imitate.

Blessings to each of you as you seek to worship God….truly!  Amen!  
Fondly yours, Elizabeth

Teachable Moments

Some Prayers are Worth Repeating

You’ve heard it said, don’t reinvent the wheel.  It’s good advice – some things are already done so well in their basic form, it is unnecessary and foolish to try and duplicate them.  I suggest that there are some prayers worth repeating because they are perfect – just perfect – as they are.

What are these prayers and who do they come from?  Let’s do a historical walk through a ‘Hall of Prayer’ to discover what is worth praying again.

PROPHET OF PRAYER – Samuel

Samuel is an example of prayer not because of the words he spoke, but because of his heart attitude toward prayer.  Samuel is known as the prophet of prayer; he receives this name justly for the many times we find him praying for others as he saves Israel more than once by interceding for them with the Father. 

POINT:  Do those you love need help? Pray!

As for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord by failing to pray for you. And I will teach you the way that is good and right.                1 Samuel 12:23

KING of ISRAEL – Solomon

The third King of Israel ruled well when he relied on the Lord’s wisdom.  When he sought direction elsewhere, he failed.

POINT:  Do you need wisdom?  Pray!

“You have shown great kindness to David my father and have made me king in his place. Now, Lord God, let your promise to my father David be confirmed, for you have made me king over a people who are as numerous as the dust of the earth. Give me wisdom and knowledge, that I may lead this people, for who is able to govern this great people of yours?”                             2 Chronicles 1:8-10

FIRST CHRISTIAN MARTYR – Stephen

Accused of blasphemy against the temple and the law, Stephen was stoned to death in 36AD.  What did he do with his dying breaths? He prayed, asking God for mercy against his enemies.

POINT: Do you need to forgive?  Pray!

And they stoned Stephen as he was calling on God and saying, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” 60 Then he knelt down and cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not charge them with this sin.” And when he had said this, he then died. Acts 7:59-60

CHURCH FATHER – St Clement of Alexandria, 150–215 AD

A Christian theologian and teacher in the Egyptian city, Alexandria, Titus Flavius Clemens was a convert, coming out of Paganism.  Having parents who were non-believers, Clement prayed for children and families, making much of the theology of the Trinity, especially God the Father and Jesus the Son.  

 POINT:  Do you desire for your children to know Christ?  Pray!

Be kind to Your little children, Lord; that is what we ask of You as their Tutor, You the Father, Israel’s guide; Son, yes, but Father as well. Grant that by doing what You told us to do, we may achieve a faithful likeness to the Image and, as far as is possible for us, may find in You a good God and a lenient Judge.

May we all live in the peace that comes from You. May we journey towards Your city, sailing through the waters of sin untouched by the waves, borne tranquilly along by the Holy Spirit, Your Wisdom beyond all telling. Night and day until the last day of all, may our praises give You thanks, our thanksgiving praise You: You who alone are both Father and Son, Son and Father, the Son who is our Tutor and our Teacher, together with the Holy Spirit.

MISSIONARY – Elisabeth Elliot (1926–2015)

A missionary in Ecuador to the Auca tribe, Elisabeth’s husband, Jim Elliot, was murdered in 1956 trying to make contact with this people group.  After his death, Elisabeth spent 2 years as a missionary reaching out and serving the very people that killed her husband.

        Point:  Do you want to live a life fully submitted to Christ?  Pray!

Loving Lord and heavenly Father, I offer up today all that I am, all that I have, all that I do, and all that I suffer, to be Yours today and Yours forever. Give me grace, Lord, to do all that I know of Your holy will. Purify my heart, sanctify my thinking, correct my desires. Teach me, in all of today’s work and trouble and joy, to respond with honest praise, simple trust, and instant obedience, that my life may be in truth a living sacrifice, by the power of Your Holy Spirit and in the name of Your Son Jesus Christ, my Master and my all. Amen.

Dear Reader, are you inspired by how others reach out and up to their God – how they depend upon Him and ask Him to work?  Read these prayers and make them your own or use them as an encouragement to write your own. However you engage with these faithful followers of Christ and their prayers, may you never grow weary or complacent about the amazing grace we receive when we take time to pray.

Blessings to you from the God we seek!  Elizabeth