God Creates: 3 Life-Giving Reminders for Children

17 05 2016

When God speaks, great things happen. Nothing impure ever comes from his lips. The universe is astonishing and it came into existence with his voice. Life comes from God. Not only does he give life, but he also cares about lives. Toby Mac has a great song called Speak Life. Each day we have God’s creative potential to speak life into the world. What will you create this week with God’s power? How can you forge something new with children?

…See and experience the beauty of God through nature…”

-Ric Ergenbright, photographer

When I consider…the work of your fingers…what is man that you are mindful of him?”

-Psalm 8:3-4

Serving, teaching, raising and leading children using creation is a wonderful experience. Have you ever seen a young child react to new discoveries? The amazement on their face is contagious. Let’s consider how using creation with children can be a powerful reminder of God’s presence and activity in our lives. Let’s do a little life-giving CPR. Create, Pronounce, Recall.


Experience creation with your children. There’s always something to share even if it’s dirt.

  • Ask questions such as, “What do you see? No, really. What do you see?” Asking that question again promotes looking at what’s familiar from different angles to really perceive what your child is seeing. Good observation is an important life-skill.
  • Use grass, sticks, acorns, flowers, etc. Use everyday materials and make something with them.
  • Who needs play dough? (Although that’s an excellent creative tool). Take some dirt, add a bit of water and you have some wonderful mud to mold with.
  • You can quickly grab your device and pull up a picture or prepare ahead of time to print off some larger pictures of landscapes, waterways or strange animals.
  • Pictures can be used to set the scene of a Bible story or imagine a personal experience.

Pronounce proclaim

Let’s declare God’s greatness as we see all around us in his creation. Let’s talk about the life he gives all around us. Let’s speak life into the death we see. What I mean by this is that although God has created an astonishing universe, it is clearly marred by sin. This sin has brought death, suffering, sadness and pain. Kids feel it too. But we can be life-givers as we courageously speak hope into the world.

Do not despair. Whether you have a weekly small group on a Sunday morning or as you wake up with your tired littlest one at home, we have a unique opportunity to push aside the dirt to reveal a flower. We can pull back the curtains to show where there is light.

My front garden has beautiful yellow tulips in it. It’s almost as if they hide when it rains and when it gets dark. Are they afraid? Will they ever open again? Are they withdrawing from adversity? They close as a benefit to themselves. But then they open wide. It can be beneficial to close ourselves from difficulty to protect something valuable. But when we stay closed we miss what we are made for! Just like the tulip opens wide after the darkness or the rain, we don’t despair, but speak life and give life to those around us. Create something uplifting for someone else today.

Do you remember Gandalf riding Shadowfax toward the orc army? His staff raised with beams of light emanating from it? His light pushed back the darkness. That’s you. Your words speak life. Your words bring hope. Your delight is shared. Our God is still creating life today!


Now after you’ve drawn attention to creation, be intentional about what was seen and experienced. Use it to draw attention to the Creator. This highlights a huge difference between popular messages of naturalism and believe-in-youselfism. All power comes from God, not from “within”. All worship is directed towards God and not to ourselves.

I love to use creation when teaching about the Gospel. It’s a fast way to engage with children and you can do two things with it.

  1. First, explore the wonder of original paradise.
  2. Second, long for the restoration of original paradise.

The stories of the Bible can all draw us to this focus. There’s this massive gap that we live in between the two paradises. We see this often when discussing the wars, the fights or the hostility towards Jesus Christ. But we see glimpses throughout Scripture that God’s creative power is constantly at work and will one day cause our jaws to drop when we see the new heavens and the new earth.

Just like a little one who discovers something amazing and says, “Do it again!” we can choose to be continually amazed with God’s creative and life-giving power. Don’t let it get old!

Lord, show us your creative power again.

How have you used creation to remind children of the wonders of God?


God Speaks (A Story Better than Fuzzy Peaches)

10 05 2016

Foundational to our understanding of God is his direct communication with us. God spoke to Adam. He spoke to Abraham. He spoke to Moses. He spoke through the prophets. He loudly speaks through his Son, the Lord, Jesus Christ. He still speaks through his Spirit. Teaching this to children through these real-life stories reminds us that God is not far off, but near and transformational. You can tell kids this week that God created them and has important things to say to them!

[The Word] is the divine Actor, acting in creation and redemption…

-R.C. Sproul

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.

-John 1:14

How else could we know God if he did not show up? In real life. With real life experiences. In flesh and blood.

So how do we communicate this to children in our homes or in church community? Through story.

God shows himself to us in history-HIS STORY. When Abraham was twiddling his thumbs (aka: flying Terrence, the Red Bird, into those green pigs), God transplanted him to a new destiny and made him a blessing to the world. When Moses was content combing sheep hair (or, you know, brushing Rapunzel’s glowing, tangled locks), God lit a fire and swept him up in an amazing deliverance epic. When kingdoms abused the innocent, committed atrocities and accumulated gratuitous wealth (such as cutting in line, or not sharing those incredible fuzzy peaches), God sent messengers (the prophets) to warn them of pending disaster, but also to speak the promise of rescue.

Then, once upon a silent night, a light changed everything. Jesus, the Word, showed the world its great sin and made forgiveness and forever life available through his power shown to us in his life, death and resurrection.

Whoa! That’s worth some quality, story-telling time with our kids don’t you think? This God, who is Creator of the Universe, wants me to be involved in his story with his people to experience real, forever life? He wants to speak to me? He wants me to be like him?

Let’s share the life-transforming Word this week.

What life-giving story did you tell a child this week?

Lord, I want to hear your words of life.

Knowing God: 2 Steps and a Metaphor

26 04 2016

God takes the first step in making himself known. He creates. He relates. He reveals. He writes. He speaks. He reminds. He loves. We respond to him. We listen. We look. We speak. We receive. We love. Connect this truth to a child’s heart this week. The God of the universe wants to be known and we can know him. And if we truly desire to know him, we will spend time with him not unlike how we spend time with the people we love.

The man who would truly know God must give time to Him.

-A.W. Tozer

I will take you as my own people, and I will be your God. Then you will know that I am the Lord your God…

-Exodus 6:7

God Knows

My young daughter once asked, “Why do I have lungs?” Well of course there’s the obvious and scientific answer, “So you can breathe,” which is a whole lot of fun to explore. But in that question there is a world of supernatural discovery waiting to happen. There is no way we could have lungs unless God wanted us to have them and then made it so. We cannot breathe unless God gives us the power to breathe.

One “random” moment of relationship in our family time provided an impetus for a brief, but lively conversation about God’s presence. God created all things and gives humans an astounding ability to relate to himself. All that he has created provides us with a compelling reason to want to know him.

In addition, God shows himself through his Son, Jesus Christ. Jesus is the face of God.

If you really know me, you will know my Father as well.

Joh 14:7

God knows all about us and makes it possible for us to know him.

We Know

Of course, knowing that God created and that Jesus is the perfect image of God, doesn’t mean we really know God. When talking with children about knowing God, please, please, please don’t just relay stories and facts! Inspire them to relate to this God who is very active in their lives.

When the Bible speaks of knowing God it never has information alone in mind. It always includes experiential knowledge. Show children how they can really know God’s presence, and how they can experience a family friendship with him. Consider these parallels:


  • A child sits with his parents-we can simply acknowledge God’s presence
  • A child feels secure-we can rest and enjoy life as a gift from God
  • A child chimes in-we can feel comfortable approaching God anytime
  • A child chats-we can simply tell God what’s on our mind anytime, anywhere
  • A child listens-we can honour and respect God by listening to his Word and Holy Spirit
  • A child plays-we can know God more as we enjoy what he created for us
  • A child obeys-we know God has good plans for us and we follow those plans
  • A child explores-we investigate, examine, ask questions, touch, hold, taste, see
  • A child receives-we don’t have to earn God’s gifts! Bask in them.
  • A child wants and expects attention-spend uninterrupted time with your Creator

What further parallels do you notice about relating to God as a child would relate to a good parent?

Lord, I want to know you so children will too.

God Talk: Awakening Curiosity

19 04 2016

Dive into any topic far enough and you’ll get overwhelming feelings. Dive into technical discussions about God and your head will spin! Let’s keep this simple. GOD IS GOD and we are not. When talking about God in your family or with the family of God, don’t turn it into a competition of who knows more. Don’t feel inferior for knowing less. Just keep the conversation going. This week, when you’re around a child, ask them what they think God is like. Then, without correcting them or agreeing with them, simply say, “Hmmm.”

Theology is talk about God.

-Rolf A. Jacobson

“If…they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?” God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.”

-Exodus 3:13-14

When we come to conversations about God, we do well to maintain a humble posture. Especially with children. When talking about God with children, if we try to act knowledgeable, our words will sail over their heads and they’ll move on to something else. So speak simply. Remain in awe. Admit that you don’t fully understand. Tell them that you’re okay with it.


When talking about God becomes a competition, everyone loses. You lose when you dominate another person’s point of view. You lose when you back away because you think you don’t know enough. I’d rather view this as a quest over a competition.


Just talk. Enjoy the ride. Make statements, but also ask questions. Be an exceptional listener. The simple lead, “Tell me more about that,” invites further dialogue and opens up diverse perspectives. Now I’m not saying that you simply accept whatever opinion is shared. We can disagree, but let’s do it respectfully and with the desire to honour the relationship.


Be continuously curious. I think that’s how God created us to be and so we should be. Get out there and explore. Challenge ideas. Invite wonder. Say, “Hmmmm,” and just linger for a moment. With young children these conversations will be fleeting and quick, but the more you stoke a child’s innate sense of curiosity the better you propel them toward a lifetime of seeking God. Conversely, the more you shut down ideas with your own domineering convictions, the less likely children will grow up with a desire to express their own opinions.

Lord, I want to bask in the wonder of YOU.

Kid Talk: Four Ideas for Increased Connection

14 04 2016

Speaking with children is a bit of an art. As adults, we spend a lot of time thinking and speaking with our adult vocabulary. Children need simple words, shorter sentences, essential truth and vivid examples. This isn’t too difficult to accomplish, but takes some conscious thought and consistent effort. Just talk. Keep it simple. No need to baby-speak. Don’t muddy the waters with complicated ideas. Pass on what is most important. And, by the way, learning the habit of communicating simply will help you understand difficult concepts too.

Jesus used simple language.

-Rick Warren

For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance…

-Paul (1 Corinthians 3:3)

Simple Words

When you speak with children it doesn’t mean you treat them as less intelligent, but you will connect with them better when you use words that they are familiar with. Remember, they haven’t encountered nearly the amount of words you have as an adult. So turn phrases like, “eternal life” into “forever life.” It means the same thing when you elaborate on it in conversation, it’s more fun to say and it hits home. Try simply talking to children and not talking down to them or over their heads. Aaron Reynolds, a crazy good kid communicator, says it this way, “You’re just talking, just sharing something cool. Casual. Real. Personal. This tone draws them in rather than pushing them away.”

Shorter Sentences

The NIrV is a children’s translation of the Bible. It is a great example of how shorter sentences are easier to read. They are also helpful in comprehension. Shorter sentences help you take a breath between thoughts. Doing this increases your ability to process. Ephesians 1 contains a long and masterful sentence. But try reading that to a child. You couldn’t expect them to understand. Even adults will need to read that sentence very slowly and deliberately. Then to grasp it fully, adults would need to break it down into connected thoughts. Turn a big idea into a memorable and repeatable phrase such as, “God is super strong!”

Essential Truth

Stick to the most important things. Sometimes we just want to dump all of our knowledge into children’s brains, but brains don’t work that way, especially kids brains. So stick to the essential truth you want to communicate for the moment and repeat it in different ways. Paul received essential truth and passed it on. While much of his writing is complex, he nonetheless continues to return to what’s essential. Everything he writes about is expanding on the idea that 1. God wants us to belong to him and 2. He makes this possible through Jesus who died, was buried and came back to life. (Notice the simpler word choice of “came back to life,” instead of “rose again.”)

Vivid Examples

Remember that kids have difficulty thinking in abstract terms. So consistently bring in tangibles, visuals, everyday objects, common experiences. If you’re talking about water, go get some! If you want children to see what Jesus means when he talks about the vine. Show a picture or bring in a real one…with grapes to share! Jesus communicated simply even with adults. To talk about the Kingdom of God, an extremely abstract concept, he used seeds, sheep, trees, birds, dirt, pearls, and on and on.

Let’s just talk to kids this week and enjoy the simplicity that comes from that!

Lord, thank you for the simple truths of life.

Life: Longing for the Way it is Meant to Be

5 04 2016

Life is a wonderful gift. From birth to death, every unique individual is on a journey of discovery and a search for meaning and significance. Yet death is a stark reminder that life is all too short…unless…there is an alternate ending. This is the Gospel: Christ came to bring us life. Real life. Forever life. There is no need to shy away from the topic of death with children. They may not have firsthand knowledge of it, but they can grasp eternity better than you might think. Celebrate life with kids this week as they, and you, develop into all that God has planned for you.


Eternal life is…quality of life, life to the limit.

-John Eldredge

I have come so they may have life. I want them to have it in the fullest possible way.

-Jesus (John 10:10)

Over the past few months, I have written about lifespan development. My starting point for writing about development largely came from the book Development Through the Lifespan, by Laura E. Berk as well as the work of Erik Erikson and his observations on life stages.

From birth to death, individuals are changing and shifting from season to season, milestone to milestone and phase to phase. There are key markers to each phase, which we will do well to understand and acknowledge. Development theory is still a theory and so the markers may not be empirical fact, but there are significant observations to be made. Summarizing each phase is a difficult task, but the benefits include ‘aha!’ moments, establishing goals, recognizing challenges, preparing for what’s to come, influencing the next generation well, etc.

For parents or children’s ministry volunteers, especially, being able to identify that the most important target for an infant is developing trust, we can pool our efforts into that one area more effectively. Or in your family, understanding and appreciating what your parents may be feeling or working through may increase your ability to strike up meaningful conversations.

Perhaps a child wasn’t from a home where skills could be learned without shaming or she never had a safe place to struggle with her identity. Knowing this can increase your empathy, the ability to understand or share the feelings of another. Recognizing this in yourself can be a humbling first step to receiving the help you need and making the next appropriate step in your personal growth.

The bottom line is this: God values every life greatly. He created real life and has set eternity in our hearts (Ecclesiastes 3:11). We are all changing, shifting, developing. Yet, to know God’s design for life we must wait, for our best life is yet to come. Let us live and develop and mature as God meant us to and as much as we are able. Let us wait and long for the full realization of what God has planned.

Here are the links to all of my posts on development:

Lord, help me celebrate your gift of life today.

Late Adulthood: Fulfilling Reflection

22 03 2016

Late adults (65+) are those who’ve been blessed to live a full life. They’ve entered a time of harvest from all they’ve experienced. They are to be highly honoured and not forgotten. They have much wisdom to offer. But here, despair can set in if regret overwhelms. Before you enter this stage, ask yourself, “Will I have lived a meaningful life?” While you live out this phase, ask yourself, “What are the best parts of my life that I can share?” The next generation greatly benefits from the wisdom of its ancestors.


Life ought not be wasted.

-John Piper

Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.

-Psalm 90:12

Life in this phase, as hard as it is, can be lived with fulfilling reflection. 

Whatever has happened in your life to this point, there is something positive to reflect on. If you’ve lived with many regrets, set those regrets aside and search, as for treasure, for what you can be grateful for. If you’ve lived well, finish well also. There is much from your life that you can share.

In your biological family and church family, honour your elders. Spend time with them. Interview them for their life experience and wisdom. Value them.

Let these final years (or decades?) be your best years. Stare death in the face with hopeful joy. Connect with those closest to you. Mend broken fences. Teach, encourage and strengthen others. As Paul wrote to his protégé Timothy towards the end of his life, you can also say,

I have fought the good fight. I have finished the race. I have kept the faith.

2 Timothy 4:7

Here are some suggestions for finishing your race well:

  • Journal to aid your reflection
  • Beware of cynicism or arrogance taking away your joy
  • You are nearing death so face it with dignity and integrity
  • As your body continues to decline, treat it well with regular exercise and beneficial eating habits
  • Tell your life story
  • Spend time with children and youth for their sake and yours
  • Exercise your brain. Examples:
    • learn an instrument
    • read with a pen in hand
    • take up an art such as drawing, painting or crafting
    • solve puzzles and problems (the game kind and the real life kind)
  • Your habits may seem to be set in stone, but continuing to learn new skills and try new things will add to your enjoyment of life
  • List 100 things you’re especially grateful for and make them visible
  • If you’ve stayed married to this point, congratulations! Satisfaction in this relationship will likely increase so pour out your best energy for the other.
  • Don’t let retirement be an excuse to give up!
  • Volunteer often
  • Seek leadership opportunities and roles in your community
  • Find creative ways to benefit your children, grandchildren or other close family members or church family members:
    • write a letter
    • babysit
    • offer advice, but be careful of meddling
    • create something as a gift
    • put together a family tree or, even better, learn about genograms
  • Continue to find ways to connect with a local church
  • Remember that life is greater than you and reflect on God who transcends our understanding

What suggestions would you offer for maximizing the joy in this phase of life?

Lord, thank you for the heritage of our elders.

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