A Lesson When Life’s Not Fair

 

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Every child must learn that life isn’t always fair. Someone wins the award while another doesn’t. Some are born with remarkable natural gifts. Others, like me, not so much. Some of these things are out of our control.

But we can control our attitude and response when life doesn’t seem fair. A great example for us and our children is John the Baptist. For a while, he had a very successful ministry calling people to turn to God in preparation for the arrival of Jesus. Then, when Jesus arrived and began his work, all the people began shifting their focus from John’s ministry to Jesus. When John’s own followers alerted him to this he could have said, “That’s just not fair. I’ve worked so hard and have done all the right things.” But instead, John told his friends: “A person cannot receive even one thing unless it is given him from heaven.”

John not only trusted God when things were going well for him, but when they seemed to be going much better for someone else. That’s because he knew that God’s love and best for him are always found in Jesus and not from the recognition or success in this world.

That’s a lesson every child of God can learn from.

Why We Need Our Full Share of Grace

 

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“See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no ‘root of bitterness’ springs up and causes trouble…” (Hebrews 12:15)

I love to receive grace and forgiveness. I need it. In the past year, I’ve been pulled over twice by police officers for speeding (both when driving Sue’s little red Mazda, which I rarely drive!). Both times, I found myself hoping for grace AND forgiveness from the officer. Thankfully, both officers gave me just a warning to slow down and be safe. Grace and forgiveness received! Yet, I sometimes find myself secretly hoping for a police speed gun around the corner when someone zooms past me.

I always want my share of grace, but I’m not always ready for others to have it.

Grace and forgiveness are like inseparable twins. The more I comprehend how much of them I need and have been given, the more love I show to others, especially my family.

“Her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.” – Luke 7:47

Though God’s grace and forgiveness are freely offered through faith in Christ, we can fail to truly obtain or accept it. That’s a problem because our capacity to love is regulated by the grace and forgiveness we have obtained. So, if we find ourselves loving little we need to examine if we’re missing out on the full reality of God’s grace and forgiveness for us.

Lord, help me not to miss your grace and forgiveness. Let me fully obtain and embrace your grace so freely offered in Christ, that my love for you and others might be great.

Four Values for a Healthy Family

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God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. – Genesis 1:27

A recent Barna poll found that people find their identity in family more than their faith, nationality, race or profession. God intentionally created family as the basic and essential unit of society. In our ministry to children, we constantly remind ourselves that the home has the greatest potential to develop faith, values and character.

The same poll shows that while 70 percent of parents have a specific set of values for their families, only 30 percent have written them out. Establishing and continually reinforcing your family’s core values and beliefs will help guide you and your children in a world of shifting and confusing values.

At Cottonwood Creek Kids we consider ourselves God’s family, loving and serving one another. That is who we are. We highlight four core values that guide what we do and how we serve. These values will also benefit every family in the home.

Love: This is the Christian’s greatest value (Matthew 22:36-40) because it sums up the entire law. And Jesus is our great example (John 13:34-35). With love, we treat (serve) each other as we would want to be treated (Luke 6:31).

Relationships: Love requires investment in one another. Strong relationships make strong families and an opportunity to reach people with the good news about Jesus.

Unity: A house divided against itself is doomed (Mark 3:25). This doesn’t mean everyone always agrees. It means that we know who we are and that we share the same purpose, goal and values. Just like the church’s unity elevates Jesus to the world (John 17:22-23), unity within the home elevates God’s purpose for the family.

Leadership: Everyone has a leadership role in life. We all have the capacity to influence others, for good or bad. Among other things, this means we’re responsible for our actions and must consider how our actions impact others. We understand that God has shaped each of us with specific gifts and we must use them to serve one another (1 Peter 4:10).

What are your family’s core values? Have you identified them and discussed them together? It’s good to revisit them regularly in good and tough times.

Blessings,

Dave

 

Simplest Family To-Do Checklist

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Most parents feel like they have too many things to do. Family things, work things, school things, church things, relationship things, recreation things, financial things, medical things, and many more things.

Things can overwhelm us without a good priority checklist (another thing!). Thankfully, God gives us this simple priority to-do list for all the things of life:

1. Things that last forever

2. Things that don’t

“Our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever.” – 2 Corinthians 4:17-18

Adhering to this priority checklist requires us to put temporary things (we can see) and eternal things (we cannot see) in proper perspective. That perspective is what God calls faith:

“Faith is confidence in what [things] we hope for and assurance about what [things] we do not see.” – Hebrews 11:1

It’s not easy to put first things first when all the other things are breathing down our necks. That’s why we need to regularly remind ourselves what truly will last and what will not. So by faith, keep knocking out that to-do list!

 

Why it’s Worth it to Search for Just One

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“See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven. What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray? And if he finds it, truly, I say to you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray. So it is not the will of my Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish.” – Matthew 18:10-14

I can’t count the times I’ve gone astray and could have been despised. I’ve failed, made mistakes, and wronged God and others. Yet, no matter how far or how long I’ve strayed God has never despised or rejected me. Rather, he goes searching for me.

Since God never despises his own, he expects me not to look down on them either. It’s hard not to neglect people who have failed me, fallen to the side, or are “damaged” in a way that doesn’t fit my agenda. And when time and resources are stretched, despising others is easier.

God used a new friend to remind me of this recently. During a stressful and hectic time, I could have easily let this person fade away after a disagreement with another person left him set aside. On this occasion, I was prompted to make the extra effort to circle back for him (leaving the 99). I’m glad I did because it mattered a lot to him and even more to God.

God always circles back for us—his little ones—even if he must leave the 99. I can’t return for everyone, every time. I’m limited. But as I heard Andy Stanley say once, I can always “do for one what I can’t do for everyone.” It will always matter to that one and to God.

Teach your children that God is always willing to search for the one.

What Wine Has To Do With Children’s VBS

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Jesus’ mother said to him, “They have no more wine.” – John 2:3

Our children’s team has been working hard to prepare for Cottonwood Creek’s Vacation Bible School, our biggest event of the year. We plan to host 1,300 children and over 400 leaders for four days. God has given Cottonwood a heart to invest in an awesome VBS every year to reach children and families with the good news about Jesus.

The final days prior to VBS can be an anxious time for our team: planning and preparing the lessons and activities, registering children, recruiting and training leaders, assigning and decorating classrooms, and assembling supplies. The event has been set and the children are coming. There’s no plan B.

The prospect of not having enough leaders, supplies and space when 1,300 children arrive can be a bit unnerving. No, this doesn’t call for some wine.

But wine was called for at a big wedding that Jesus attended. And disaster struck. The hosts ran out of wine! That may be hard to relate to a children’s VBS at a Baptist church in Texas. Yet, for that time and culture, it was a colossal embarrassment. A planning and preparation nightmare. When his mom brought the problem to Jesus, his reply was basically, It’s not time for me yet.”  Now if I were her at that moment, I might have replied, “It sure seems time to me!”

Instead, his mom simply told the servants (perhaps while biting her fingernails), “Do whatever he says.” When the time was right, Jesus told the servants what to do. They listened, did what Jesus said, and he provided the wine. In fact, Jesus’ provision was far superior to the wine the host had provided.

In the anxious moments leading up to VBS, our team tries to follow that model. We bring the problem to Jesus, we listen, and do everything we believe God would have us do. And when the time is just right, he provides our needs, always in a form that is far superior to what we could provide on our own.

We can’t wait to see you at VBS!

Why are the Righteous Generous?

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“The righteous give generously.” – Psalm 37:21

Why? Because it’s who they are…it’s who we are. It’s been passed down from our Heavenly Father. He started it when he “lavished” his great love on us:

 “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!– 1 John 3:1

By faith in Christ, we’re made righteous children of God (2 Corinthians 5:21). Generosity doesn’t make us righteous. It’s the righteousness that makes us generous. Our Father not only lavishes love on us but he is rich in mercy and grace (Ephesians 2:4-7). We are generous because our Father is rich and generous.

That is what we are. We can afford to be generous! Our Master owns everything. And he entrusts us with his riches so that we can be openhanded with others. Here are some words he has given us to remind us of his heart for generosity:

“Do not be hardhearted or tightfisted toward [the poor]. Rather, be openhanded and freely lend them whatever they need. Give generously to them and do so without a grudging heart; then because of this the Lord your God will bless you in all your work and in everything you put your hand to.” – Deuteronomy 15:7-8, 10

“But who am I, and who are my people, that we should be able to give as generously as this? Everything comes from you, and we have given you only what comes from your hand.” – 1 Chronicles 29:14

Forgive others, and you will be forgiven. Give, and you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full—pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, running over, and poured into your lap. The amount you give will determine the amount you get back.” – Luke 6:37-38

Who has ever given to God, that God should repay them? For from him and through him and for him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen.” – Romans 11:35-36

 “Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” – 2 Corinthians 9:6-7

“A generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed. – Proverbs 11:25

Father, let me be generous and openhanded, just like you.