Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Best of 2010

Here's a list of some of the most popular posts for this past year, according to general categories:

The number one way that people are referred to this blog is through Facebook.  So, when you read an article your like, be sure to share it!  Other blogs that are top referrers (thanks for your support!):

For a look back, see the post Favorites of 2009.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Preschool Curriculum: God is Compassionate

"Be kind and compassionate to one another."
Ephesians 4:32

As we continue in our regular programming in 2011, we will be teaching preschoolers about God's kindness and compassion.  We just finished our Christmas series, where we see the wonder of God's love manifested in His Son coming as a baby.  Now, we will use the story of Ruth (along with Naomi and Boaz) to show what it looks like to be kind, no matter what situation we are in, merely because God has been kind to us.  Read an excerpt from the Leader Preparation material:

Kindness is no little thing.  It often calls us out of our comfort zone to places we could never imagine.  It may cost us something.  And it always asks us to rely on our faith and hope in God.  That is why the apostle Paul wrote, "Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you." (Ephesians 4:32)  We can never be truly kind until we recognize the amazing kindness that God has already poured out on us.  Our kindness is simply an overflow of God's mercy.  

See more of our upcoming curriculum topics on our website.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

"May It Be to Me As You Have Said"

image courtesy of ColinBroug via
Itʼs dark outside at dinner time these days. The leaves are finally all down now at our house and the air has taken on a constant chill. The sounds of children in the backyard have moved into the playroom, and the world seems to be quieting itself for another winter. As Christmas draws near, I am beginning to feel that familiar anticipation I often experience during this time.

Itʼs a strange blend of emotions. Feelings of excitement and hope mixed with a heaviness of heart that comes with everything our world has tainted. I love Christmas, and I love to celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savior over and over again each year. But what if another year passes and all Iʼve really done is worried about buying the right gifts and spending money we donʼt have on things we donʼt need? I love the privilege of celebrating with an abundance of food and lots of time relaxing with my family. But I am more aware than ever of how few people on our planet get to experience such joy and such an overflow of blessing. God knows our hearts and He delights to draw us to Himself, whatever it takes. Thatʼs what I want this Christmas to be about for my family, and thatʼs what I want every day to be about for our families at Grace Church.  God drawing us away from ourselves and into a deeper, more intimate relationship with Him. 

Mary, Jesusʼ mom, said something of profound importance as she prepared to experience the first Christmas ever. “I am the Lordʼs servant. May it be to me as you have said.” Mary, like me, must have had a plan for her life that seemed like it should work just fine. Her plan, as we read it, included marriage to Joseph, and she was in the middle of planning a wedding and preparing for her new life with him when the angel Gabriel stopped in for a visit. In one moment, news came that would shatter her dreams, bring untold pain and confusion into her heart, and change the entire course of her life...not to mention the entire course of human history. 

We are told in Luke 1:29 that Mary was “greatly troubled” by these words. You think? Any other immediate reaction would be implausible to me. But her second response is the one that gives me hope this year. In the face of life taking an unexpected, unbelievable, and unprecedented turn, Mary humbles herself before the Lord and says, “May it be to me as you have said.” Essentially, she says to know whatʼs best for me and my life, so I will trust you. This is really all we can say when our lives are altered from their intended course. Any other response leaves us hopeless, terrified, and in deep despair. As followers of Jesus Christ, we have a hope that transcends all that life can throw at us. We can experience a “peace that passes understanding” and an “inexpressible and glorious joy” in the midst of our questions or suffering. Mary understood this, accepted Godʼs Lordship over her life, and made the choice to move forward trusting in His ultimate goodness.

I want to be like Mary. I want to look around me and say that God is good, regardless of what I see. I want to say, like Job in the midst of his suffering, that “God might kill me but I have no other hope” (Job 13:15 NLT). As you anticipate his coming again this year, I pray that, regardless of what circumstances you find yourself in today, you will choose to fall at His feet and say, “May it be to me as you have said.”

-- Ed Sweeny

Monday, December 20, 2010

Non-Negotiables: Your Children

Wayne Stocks wrote a series called "The Non-Negotiables," which can be read on Kidmin1124.  As volunteers, parents, spouses, workers, ministers, etc, we all face the battle for time.  (As Andy Stanley points out in Choosing to Cheat, we need to make courageous decisions about how we use our time, since whatever choice we make will ultimately cheat someone else who wants that time.)  The tendency for those of us who do ministry (whether paid or unpaid) is "to let our ministry become the main thing in our lives.  After all, we are doing the work of God, right?"  But Stocks reminds us that our priorities need to be in this order:
  1. God (not doing His work, but growing and trusting in Him)
  2. Marriage (if applicable)
  3. Children (again, if applicable)
  4. Community (such as church)
  5. Ministry

In the 5th post in this series, about children, the author points out that our children don't just need quality time; they need quantity time as well.  He then gives more specific direction for Dads:
  1. With regards to their sons, Dads need to model godliness, love, protect, and teach.
  2. With regards to their daughters, Dads need to love, show respect, lead, affirm, and be humble.

Read the full article here.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

New Children's Ministry Staff

There have been a number of changes in the staff in Grace Children's Ministry in 2010, and you probably don't know all of them.  Some of the changes have been due to growth and the need for leadership and support (especially with the launch of Children's Ministry programming at our Downtown campus), and some have been to other staff transitioning out of their roles.  

Here's an overview of the staff that has joined in the past year (the links are for any blog posts they have written):

  • In January, Nicole Snyder joined us part-time to cover some administrative tasks, and then increased her responsibilities with Downtown and other Children's Ministry needs.
  • Laura Moore also joined in January, as the Hospitality Coordinator, and is responsible for Nursery, Welcome Team, and Communication.
  • Ivy White and Betsy Zimmerman came on staff this summer and fall, respectively, and together they lead our Preschool programming.
  • Will Bouton leads as our Children's Ministry Director on our Downtown campus.  His campus-specific responsibilities include connecting with families, recruiting and developing volunteers, and long-term planning.
  • Ed Sweeny joined the staff last month as the Pastor to Families.

You can read more about each of our staff, along with their contact info, on our staff webpage.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Lord's Prayer

This past weekend, our elementary "campers" learned about prayer, from Matthew 6:5-15.  To learn more about this topic, see this article from The Resurgence Blog.  The author highlights these topics:
  1. Position
  2. Praise
  3. Purpose
  4. Pardon
  5. Protection
  6. Power

Monday, December 13, 2010

Shameless Plug

What's your blog or website?  Go ahead and tell us what it's about in the comment section.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Are You Santa's Helper?

Here's an article from Jay Younts, writing on the Shepherd Press Blog:

Are You Santa's Helper?

Little children are dependent upon their parents for everything. This includes more than food, clothing and shelter. Children are dependent upon you, parent, for how they view the world around them. The way you live in front of them is the most powerful teaching tool that God gives you. This is teaching in the milieu. God designed families to demonstrate what it means to have a relationship with Him. If you love God, if you sincerely attempt to live your life by His Word, if you recognize that every moment is given to you so that you will glorify and honor God, then you will teach your children these same truths without even thinking about it. Your children observe you, everything about you. They see when you are sleeping, they know when you have been good or bad, they know when you pout and when you shout. In the midst of the turmoil of life your children know whom you delight in. Your kids know this without your ever having to say a word. When you stumble and ask God for help -- they learn. When you stumble and snap or make excuses -- they learn from that, too. If you value your relationship with God above all else, your children will know this, even when you fall short of your calling as a Christian parent.

Santa_parentWhat does this have to do with being Santa's helper? Just this: in Psalm 72:18 we read that "God alone does marvelous things." However, at Christmas time, for little children someone else is portrayed as doing the most marvelous things. Santa brings the toys! Not just any toys, but toys that come in brightly wrapped boxes under a colorful, sparkling tree. These toys have been longed for, prayed for, craved for, hoped for and wished for. This longing has gone on for months if not years. The goodness of Santa is confirmed by the tag on the present: From Santa. Amid the pile of wrappings, bows and empty boxes, happy children know they have been adorned. When I was a child we always left milk and cookies for Santa each Christmas Eve before we went to bed. And sure enough, when my brothers and I bolted out of bed to head for the tree, the milk and cookies were gone. But in their place were presents and full stockings. Santa was for real! 
So there is no question that children who experience this visit from Santa feel adorned. Yet this adornment is clearly of the material sort. The children don't really know "Santa." But they may actually know his helpers, as I did as a child. His helpers? Why Mom and Dad of course! When Mom and Dad help Santa, good things happen. Toys pour down from the chimney and appear under the tree. 
However, if Mom and Dad are Christians, they often may say they are somebody else's helper. That's right, parents are also God's helpers. This brings a question: whom would your children rather you help? Do your children feel the same sense of adornment when you are God's helper as they do when you are Santa's helper? Proverbs 1:8-9 implies that children should be adorned (and feel adorned) everyday. Even discipline and correction should feel like adornment to your children. Sadly, most children are anything but adorned by their parents' discipline and instruction. 
Proverbs teaches that these opportunities for discipline and teaching are to be times of "adorning your children" as with the finest jewelry, just like Christmas time. God is often appealed to as the reason for the spanking or scolding. So, being God's helper can mean spanking, harsh words, cold, silent treatment, banishment to rooms, broken relationships. On the other hand, Santa's helper brings longed for treasures. The contrast is not lost on a young child. Don't misunderstand; I am not saying, "Don't discipline." But the Bible teaches that you can discipline in such a way as to adorn your children. Try the special combination of Proverbs - the rod and pleasant words mixed together (Pro. 16:20-24). This is a powerful combination. Verse 24 says pleasant words promote instruction. This is not easy, but with Christ's Word and the power of the Holy Spirit you can be a different parent -- one who adorns at times other than Christmas.
Teach your children that One more wonderful than Santa loves them and has given them parents to teach them about Christ and true riches. Don't confuse your children by helping a mythical visitor. Tell them that you love them because Christ has loved you. Tell them that your God has given you a rich blessing - your children. Let them know that the gifts they receive are expressions of your love to them. Adorn your children at Christmas. Adorn your children on August 3rd as well, and every other day. Let them know that you are God's helper to bring them into relationship with Him. Let your children know that you are Christ's helper. Tell your children what true riches are. In addition to the gifts that you wrap, adorn your children with gifts that are more valuable than silver and gold. Show them the excellence of being Christ's helper.
This Christmas, whose helper will you be -- Santa's or Christ's? Blessings to you this Christmas Season!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Adopt-A-Child Reminder

So far, in our goal of raising $1200 for our Adopt-a-Child initiative, we have raised $741.91.  This coming weekend will be our last weekend to collect money.  If your Camp Grace (1st - 4th grade) child has not yet brought in $2 to contribute, and your preschooler (2's to Kindergarten) has not brought in $1, please make sure to have them bring it.  Remember, if we all do a little, we can have a big impact.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Tips for Dads at Christmas

Here's a great blog from last year, giving encouragement and suggestions for Dads to lead their families this year during the Christmas season. We need to "intentionally plan out the upcoming holiday season" so we don't "miss the sacred moments God opens up for us to connect with and bless our families."

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Why is X Used to Replace Christ in Christmas?

To many, "XMas" is quicker to write than "Christmas."   RC Sproul gives a more full answer on how this abbreviation came about, and even adds an explanation of how "ichthus" (fish) came to be a symbol for Jesus Christ.

When do you write "XMas," and when do you write "Christmas"?

Friday, December 3, 2010

Hope Network

A few months ago, Hope Network asked us to write an article summarizing our special needs ministry.  What a honor to be able to share what God has been doing in our body, and what He's been teaching us as leaders.  You can read what we wrote in the Fall 2010 Ministries Newsletter.  Go to this page, and scroll down under the heading "Pastoral Services Publications." 

Thanks to the Hope Network for letting us be a part of this, and thanks for all the folks at Grace Church (staff and volunteers) who contributed to this ministry and this writing!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Camp Grace Review Day: Answer Key

We had a Review Day this past weekend in Camp Grace.  We asked the campers questions from what they've been learning over the past few months.  Then, we sent them home with a sample of the questions, so that they could quiz their parents.  If you missed it, here is a list of the questions.  Try your best, and then scroll down on this post for the answers (in red).


1. What was the first thing Nehemiah did when he learned Jerusalem’s wall and gates were destroyed?
A.  He prayed to God, praising Him, humbling himself and asking God for help.
B.  He immediately went to Jerusalem to see how he could help.
C.  He sent people to rebuild the wall and gates.
D.  He did nothing.

2. Who did God allow Satan to test to see if this person would continue to believe and trust in God no matter what happened?
A.  David
B.  Nehemiah
C. Adam
D.  Job

3. What happened to Daniel after he was thrown in the lion’s den?
A.  God did not take him out of the lion’s den, but God protected Daniel while he was in it.
B.  Daniel was eaten by the lion’s, but God was glorified for Daniel’s faithfulness to Him.
C.  God gave Daniel superhuman strength to fight and kill the lion’s so he would not be eaten.
D.  Daniel escaped from the lion’s den and saved himself.

4. When Jesus was just a baby, Joseph and Mary took him to the temple in obedience to the Old Testament law.  Who was it that recognized Jesus at the temple, and worshiped Him?
A.  Simeon
B.  King Herod
C.  Anna and Simeon
D.  The Magi and King Herod

5. When Jesus was in Capernaum teaching at the house where He was staying, four men brought a friend to be healed by Jesus. What was wrong with their friend, and how did they get him to Jesus?
A.  Their friend had a broken leg, and they carried him through the front door to Jesus.
B.  Their friend was paralyzed and they led him into the house to Jesus.
C.  Their friend was blind and they lowered him through the roof of the house to Jesus.
D.  Their friend was paralyzed and they dug a hole in the roof to lower him down to Jesus.

6. John the Baptist was not like many of the religious leaders of his time, but God still chose to use him to prepare the way for Jesus.  What are some characteristics of John the Baptist?
A.  He ate ants and syrup, dressed in horse hair, and frolicked in fields.
B.  He ate snails and honey, dressed in cat hair, and hiked in the mountains.
C.  He ate snakes and vinegar, dressed in donkey hair, and swam in the ocean.
D.  He ate locusts and honey, dressed in camel hair, and lived in the wilderness.

7. Jesus fasted in the wilderness for 40 days and 40 nights while being tempted by Satan. There were three things Satan told Jesus to do in Matthew 4. What was NOT one of the things Satan told Jesus to do?
A.  Jump off the highest point of the Temple and let the angels protect Him.
B.  Turn stones into loaves of bread so He could eat
C.  Change sand into water so He could drink
D.  Kneel down and worship Satan to gain the world and its glory

How did you do?  Leave a comment and let us know how many you got right.