Being Confident of This

Grace for the work-in-progress woman

Happy New Year ~ #TheLoft

Faithful readers and Loft friends, I completely forgot to share this post with you containing instructions for our first Loft gathering of 2015! ¬†It’s been unusually chaotic here lately with back-to-back viruses for the whole family, an unusual Christmas, and further health issues for me.

We would all appreciate your prayers as we are all weary of Mom being ill, especially poor Dad who has to care for everyone in the meantime! ūüôā

Nevertheless, I’m excited about our first topic for #theLoft and hope to read along with you all next week. If you’re not already a “Lofter,” won’t you consider joining us? ¬†Read how below.

 

Merry Christmas from The Loft

 

¬†Our next link up will be Tuesday, January 6th. We look forward to hearing about your “one word” or verse for 2015!

January 6th Topic: “One Word/Verse for 2015” (We are eager to hear what the Lord has laid on your heart for the upcoming year!)

 

About #TheLoft

 

The Loft is the place for conversation, community, networking, and Christian growth.

Each week we provide a topic to start the conversation.

 

While there are many link and leave blog hops out there, we are different in that we ask that your link stick to the weekly topic. This fosters community and conversation. It also helps us practice “topic” writing as bloggers. Please mention The Loft in your post so we can find each other. Thank you so much!


Monday night, at 9pm Eastern, the linky goes live and all week you can link up your post on that week’s topic.

We’ll have fun topics, serious topics, practical, soul-ful, holiday, and so, so much more…we can’t wait to get started! This is not only a great way to connect with others, it’s also a fun and easy way to establish a writing habit. If you aren’t a blogger, you are welcome to join in by leaving your comments in the comment section.

So grab your coffee mug and come on up! Hang out for a bit. We betcha you’ll be glad you did.

 

To Participate:

 

1. Be creative. Feel free to use words, photos, video, audio, your family pet, whatever, to communicate on the weekly topic. But please stick to the weekly topic ūüôā

2. Listen twice as much as you talk. If you leave one link, visit two. Trust us on this one~wink.

3. Be a community. Include #TheLoft graphic and/or link back in your post so we can find and share with each other. Also, share the great stuff you find when you visit around…we’ll be doing the same.

 

The Loft Link Up

 

When you link up at The Loft, your link will appear on 4 blogs! We’d love for you to visit The Loft co-hosts and know who we are: Jen, Rebekah, Leah, Arabah

 

 

 

 

 

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The Pumpkin Gospel

pumpkin gospel, pumpkin parable

A few days ago, I shared about how our views on Halloween have changed over the years from complete avoidance to an attempt at redemption. ¬†So, for today’s Mama Monday, I thought I would share a fun fall activity for redeeming a traditional Halloween object. ¬†You can teach a bible lesson, a science lesson, and be a purposeful parent at the same time! ūüôā

Two years ago during the harvest season, I was searching for a good object lesson for our group of AWANA kids.  I wanted something fall-themed and something that they could remember year after year.  I found a lot of  great Thanksgiving craft ideas and even Halloween ideas, but nothing that really struck me, until I ran across the Pumpkin Gospel, also known as the Pumpkin Parable.

I realize that carving pumpkins is traditionally a Halloween activity, one some Christ-followers might not deem very “Christian.” And it’s okay with me if we agree to disagree on that. ūüôā But as I read the story of the pumpkin gospel, I knew the parable made sense and would really stick with children. ¬†And I’m learning that even pagan holidays like Halloween can be redeemed!

Kids love holidays.  They love pumpkins and carving pumpkins.  They also love stories.  Additionally, they need to be exposed to ideas over and over again for information to take root.  The Pumpkin Gospel was a perfect fit!

Preparations:  

You will need a table to stand at and a medium to large sized, prepared pumpkin.  To prepare the pumpkin:

  • cut out a hole in the top and clean out the majority of the goo, but save it.
  • ¬†Next, cut out a face with eyes, nose and a smiling mouth, but save the pieces you remove.
  • Then, put the removed pieces back into place so that the pumpkin looks uncut.
  • Set aside a few of the cleaner seeds to use at the beginning.
  • Then, put the rest of the gooey seeds and pulp back in the middle of the pumpkin and replace the top.

The idea is to have the majority of the work done ahead of time so that you don’t have long pauses in your story/object lesson. ¬†You will also need a cookie sheet or tablecloth to contain the pumpkin mess during your story, and a candle and matches.

Story:

Once there was a Gardener who planted seeds in His garden (show pumpkin seeds). ¬†Each day the Gardener cared for the seeds. ¬†He watered them, pulled weeds from around them, and sheltered them from the heat of the sun. ¬†The seeds grew into seedlings, which developed into plants, until one day, they produced fruit – pumpkins! ¬†The pleased Gardener looked out at His garden and said, “It is good!”

pumpkins1

One day, the Gardener went out into his field and picked a special pumpkin (place pumpkin on the table Рon top of a cookie sheet or tablecloth, etc. with the uncarved side facing the audience).  It was a bit dirty from laying in the garden, so he brought it inside and gently wiped it off (wipe off exterior of pumpkin).  Now the pumpkin looked clean on the outside, but what about the inside?

The Gardener took a knife and cut open the top of the pumpkin (pretend to cut open the top again and take it off).  And what did He find?  A bunch of slimy, yucky goo! (show kids the goop Рmaybe even let them touch it if you have a small enough group).  The Gardener wanted His special pumpkin to be beautiful, so He carefully scraped out all of the goo inside until the pumpkin was as clean inside as it was on the outside! (Remove goo and throw away. Show children the clean interior)

But the Gardener still wasn’t satisfied with the pumpkin. ¬†He decided it needed a face! ¬†So, He carefully cut out two eyes, a nose, and a big smiling mouth (Turn the carved side of the pumpkin to face the audience. Poke out the eyes, nose and mouth you carved out previously). ¬†Now the Gardener’s special pumpkin looked clean AND happy.

But the Gardener still wasn’t satisfied with the pumpkin. ¬†So, He put a light inside of it (insert candle and light it). ¬†The pumpkin glowed so beautifully! ¬†The Gardener’s special project was complete.

When friends and neighbors saw the Gardeners special pumpkin, they marveled at how He took something ordinary from His garden, cleaned it inside and out, put His light inside, and made it something extraordinary!

Explanation:

We are like pumpkins and God is ¬†the Gardener. ¬†God creates us and cares for us. He “chooses” us from all of the other pumpkins, but inside we all have the yucky goo – sin. (Read Rom. 3:23 and Rom. 6:23)

Just like the Gardener cleaned out his pumpkin’s goo, God wants to clean out all our sin, too. So, He sent his Son Jesus to die for our sins, to take the punishment we deserved. (Read Rom. 5:8, John 3:16, and 1 John 1:9)

Just like the Gardener gave the pumpkin a new face, God makes us a new creation! (Read 2 Cor. 5:17)

Just like the Gardener put His light into the pumpkin to make it shine, so God gives us His light to shine through us!  (Read 2 Cor. 4:6 and Mt. 5:16)

So, when we let God clean out  our sin, by believing that Jesus died to pay the punishment that we deserve, He turns us into new creations that can shine for Him!  And when others see our light, then they might want to learn how to have a light of their own, too!

Pumpkin Gospel object lesson

In an alternate version, you can also demonstrate the difference between being saved by grace and trying to “earn” salvation through works. ¬†All you will need is a second pumpkin with a face that is painted on (rather than cut out). ¬†The story about this pumpkin is along the lines of wanting to be “chosen” but not allowing the Gardener to clean out the inside.

So, the pumpkin wears a painted face (tries to make itself acceptable on the outside), but inside, it’s still full of yucky goo. ¬†Without removing the goo, there’s no room for the Gardener’s light, so the pumpkin cannot shine.

Many people try to make themselves acceptable to God in their own way ( just like Adam and Eve in the Garden).  They might go to church and act like Christians, and they might even believe in God.  But unless they trust that Jesus paid the price for their sins, then the sin remains on the inside.  They cannot become new creatures without allowing Christ to remove their sin.  So, the light of Christ cannot be in them.   (Read Eph. 2:8-10) This lesson would work especially well with older children, perhaps even youth age.

Note: I have recently learned that there are a variety of books available to help with this object lesson.  Just look up the pumpkin gospel or pumpkin parable on amazon.  If you want a more detailed script for the object lesson, you might consider purchasing one of these books to use year after year.

So, if you’re looking for a fall family activity or even an object lesson for your church or homeschool group, consider redeeming a little bit of Halloween and using the Pumpkin Gospel. ¬†Year after year when children see pumpkins lit up, they can remember the story of Who put the light inside of them!

If you have other ideas or stories for redeeming Halloween, I’d love to hear them in the comments!

Jen ūüôā

You may find this post linked up at any of these lovely blogs.

Also sharing this post with: The Mommy Club at Crystal and Co.

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Halloween Redemption?

Halloween and Christians

I’ve seen it in the gentle coloring of the trees outside of our home, that yearly reminder that Fall is here. ¬†Right along with Fall comes the harvest season: cornstalks and hay bales and apples and pumpkins… and the “holiday” of Halloween, possibly one of the most controversial holidays for those who are in Christ.

I’m not sure about you, but the Halloween issue is something I’ve always struggled with as a Christ-follower (it’s right up there with what to do with Santa, the Easter Bunny, etc.). ¬†What to do with Halloween is one of those be-in-the-world-but-not-of-the-world gray areas that seems to so often divide Christians. ¬†Believe me, I’ve researched both the pagan roots for the holiday and it’s Catholic counterpart, All Saint’s Day.¬†And I’ve read a few articles lately about what Christians should or should not do in regards to this day. ¬†I’m just not sure I agree anymore.

When I was growing up, my family did not dress-up or trick-or-treat, but we did hand out candy from our house during the years that we were not in missionary training (before we went overseas). However, my husband (who also grew up in a Bible believing home) and his siblings donned costumes and went door-to-door up through their teenage years! ūüôā

So, when our firstborn came along, we weren’t sure which path to choose. ¬†We had the desire to please the Lord in our parenting choices, but we honestly weren’t really sure where to draw the line between freedom in Christ and being “set apart” in this area.

At first, we decided to participate only in our church’s fall festival, a Halloween alternative which was held on the same evening as Halloween, without costumes, but with games and candy. ¬†It was so much fun for the whole family!

However, ¬†my philosophical brain rejected the idea that it would be somehow “acceptable” to participate in a candy-oriented event on the same night as Halloween as long as we called it by another name and held it at a church yet ¬†“unacceptable” to dress in a costume and go trick-or-treating. ¬†Weren’t we still celebrating the holiday, just in a different way?

And what about our other “Christian” holidays, like Christmas and Easter. ¬†Weren’t those dates ¬†and even ¬†traditions borrowed from pagan holidays as well? (I know I was shocked when I researched the origins of Christmas in particular.) ¬†Over the centuries, we’ve managed to bring Christ into the center of those holidays.

Furthermore, what exactly does the Bible have to say about such celebrations? ¬†In the Old Testament we find many yearly festivals celebrated that always served as reminders to God’s chosen people, such as Passover, etc. ¬†But after Christ, the only command to repeat any such “celebration” for the purpose of remembering was that of what we now call communion – “do this in remembrance of me.”

In Galatians 5, Paul advises:

¬†“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.

Stand firm,¬†then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.”

He’s talking to the Galatians specifically about circumcision and how futile it is now that Christ has come. ¬†In fact, in verse 2 he warns that if they allow themselves to be circumcised, then Christ will not be “of value” to them. ¬†Why? ¬†Because they are trusting in the Law rather than a Savior. ¬†Then, in verse 6, he offers this truth:

“For in Christ Jesus¬†neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value.

The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.”

The outward acts that made up so much of the OT Law no longer matter!  What matters is that faith relationship we have because of Jesus.  When we read even further on in this chapter, we find once again that the only thing that matters is love:

13 You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free.

 But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love.

14¬†For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: ‚ÄúLove your neighbor as yourself.‚ÄĚ

15 If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.

It seems to me that in gray areas that the Bible doesn’t specifically address, there is grace. ¬†Because of Christ, we have freedom from human regulation. ¬†The most important thing is not what we “do” in that regards, but in how we love, through faith – each other, as well as the lost.

Since the Bible does not take a clear stance on the celebrating of specific holidays such as Halloween, Christmas, Easter, and so forth we finally decided to err on the side of grace in this gray area.

So, for a few years, we allowed our children to trick-or-treat at select locations, usually church events around town (for safety reasons). ¬† We took the opportunity to discuss why Halloween can be an evil day, depending on how it is celebrated. ¬†We talked a lot about good vs. evil and how the spiritual realm is real and present, but that we need not fear it because “God is bigger than the boogeyman” (to steal a line from the Veggietales tune).

Then, two years ago, my husband decided to return to full-time ministry as the pastor of a small, country church.

And one of the things we decided to do as an outreach event in our new-to-us, small-town community was to host a trunk-r-treat event. If you haven’t heard of trunk-r-treats, people line up their opened car trunks, decorated in various themes, in a parking lot or downtown, and ¬†hand out candy from their trunks instead of from their homes. ¬†For our small church, it was a big deal!

The big night arrived, cold and wet.  We drove to the downtown parking lot we had chosen for the event, spirits high in spite of the bad weather.  The sprinkling slowed a bit to a slight mist and trunks began to open as we set up our decorations.  We had Star Wars themed trunks, farm trunks, and even one trunk that looked like a giant mouth with razor-sharp teeth!

Trunk-or-treat, Christians and Halloween

Then the costumed families began to arrive, and for an hour and a half, we had a steady stream of trick-or-treaters. ¬†We smiled at them. ¬†We gave them candy. ¬†We served hot drinks in the unseasonably cold weather. ¬†We told parents about our children’s program and youth group. ¬†We laughed at inventive costumes. We invited them to fellowship with us. ¬†We handed out gospel literature. And eventually, we actually ran out of candy!

In the weeks that followed, we saw very little tangible results from our first trunk-r-treat. ¬†No new families stopped by our church to visit. ¬†Some might even call it a failed outreach event. ¬†But that event marked the beginning of a slow change in our people, a willingness to start thinking outside of the “church” box. ¬†They began to see, with fresh eyes, the lost in our community. ¬†They realized that even small churches can serve in big ways!

This year will be our second attempt at the trunk-r-treat event. ¬†I hope we will reach even more of our community. We plan to utilize the Pumpkin Gospel object lesson to demonstrate the gospel in visual form (kids love stories!). ¬†Whether or not it’s the best way to deal with a historically evil holiday, I know the Lord sees past the exterior to the desires and the motives of our hearts. ¬†I hope what our children take away from this in the future is that Halloween is a day to remember that we live in a fallen world. ¬†Evil is real, but so is God. ¬†We have a light to shine in the darkness!

So, maybe, just maybe, making the right choice for Halloween is not so much about the details of¬†how¬†we “celebrate” but the¬†why¬†behind it. ¬†And¬†any day with Jesus as the focus is a good day, in my opinion.

I just have to wonder what satan thinks about a bunch of Christ-loving people hijacking his evil day in an attempt to demonstrate the gospel to an entire community?

If sinners can be redeemed, and Christmas can be redeemed, and Easter can be redeemed…..

then maybe Halloween can, too??

And if the best way for you to overcome evil is to follow convictions about abstaining, then by all means, follow your own convictions! ¬†It’s okay for the Body of Christ to disagree on how to best glorify the Lord on this one day, really it is. ūüôā

Perhaps the best way to be a light in the darkness is to quit biting and devouring one another and focus on loving each other instead.

Romans 12:21

“Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

Jen ūüôā

You might find me linking up with any of these lovely blogs.

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Spirit-propelled Life

Good morning, friends! ūüôā ¬†Today I’m honored to be guest posting over at Encourage 24/7, a website all about encouraging Christians in their walks with the Lord.

 

Do you ever feel like you push and pull your way through a long day?  Are you sometimes overwhelmed and ready to give up by 10 am?  Do you ever long for something more, something better?

If so, this post is for you! ¬†Come on over and join us at Encourage 24/7 to find out what I learned from my Kirby vacuum. ¬†ūüôā ¬†Be sure to check out the Testimony Posts tab, too, for more encouragement from other bloggers. ¬†Just click on the link below to find the post.

Lessons from a Kirby

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