Here are some ideas we’ve picked up for taking advantage of common holiday activities to make a spiritual impression on our younger kids.
Involve the kids in baking something like Christmas cookies. Once they’re baking and the smell starts to fill the kitchen, sit them down on the floor in front of the oven. Talk about waiting for something you want. We can’t wait for those cookies! For hundreds of years the people of Israel waited for the Savior they were promised was coming. FINALLY, he came when Jesus was born! Read Luke 2:25-38 when Simeon and Anna meet baby Jesus in the temple and talk about how excited they were to finally see their Savior. Now we are waiting for Jesus to come again. If you really want to go full on, talk about the great feast we’ll have with Jesus when he comes again while you’re eating what you baked. Maybe even take guesses what might be on THAT menu!
Another way to impart this idea of eager expectation is to promise the kids that at some point you are going to do something special as a family. Don’t tell them what or when, but regularly remind them of your promise. Then on the day you deliver, make sure it’s good! And teach them about how Jesus had been promised and was eagerly anticipated. He’s promised to come again.
On the promise that Jesus is coming again, you could make hot chocolate, bundle up in coats and hats with blankets or sleeping bags, and sit outside looking up at the sky at night. Read Acts 1:11 and talk about the promise that Jesus will come again through the clouds. Or talk about the night angels came to the shepherds in the pitch black of night.
The point in all this is to wrap truth in images and memories that will stick. You can probably come up with ideas that suit your family traditions and experiences. Jesus is the light of the world. How could you make an impression about this when putting up your Christmas decorations or going to see lights around your neighborhood? If you travel during the holidays, could you somehow make an impression about Joseph and Mary’s travel to Bethlehem and how even as a man Jesus was driven out of his own home town? Jesus didn’t come to live a life of comfort and ease. He lived his life “on the road” teaching and serving others. You get the idea.
This shouldn’t be stressful. It should be fun. And when you think it bombs or your pre-teen thinks it’s cheesy, don’t underestimate the impact that moment could have. Our prayer is that you’ll pause and enjoy reflecting on Christ with your family this season.
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December 8 2015 at 7:00 pm 0 Comments
Part two of a three-part series on celebrating Advent from Kevin and Jami Rogers. (Part one here)
For family Advent devotions and activities, we have two main goals. First, help our children understand that Jesus is the focus of this season by making reading and talking and singing about him a regular part of our Christmas traditions. Second, by using the traditions and experiences and images that are already apart of our celebrations to teach spiritual truth.
You might notice that our goals and expectations do not include our children immediately bursting out in worship at the wonder of the Incarnation. We hope that happens someday, and there are occasional glimmers of it now. But most of our devotions, even the most creative and active ones, often include deep questions like, “Can I go play with my Legos now?” Our goal isn’t that our dinner table become a place of peaceful meditation. It would be nice if when Dad opened the Advent devotional, our kids silently looked on with angelic faces eagerly waiting to meditate on Christ … but that rarely happens. Occasionally our dinner table is festive and fun and full of great Advent connections. But it’s usually a flurry of elbows and food and commentary about recess.
As parents, we’ve learned to embrace this (I think). Here’s why we have hope that what we’re doing is worth it: We know that even the smallest moments and traditions in this season make an inordinate imprint on their little memories. The most trivial and random pieces of decoration or tradition can become of utmost importance to the kids when it’s a regular part of what we do. That ornament they made in first grade or the ragged gingerbread doll become essential. We know they might not “get it” all right now. But years from now, we want their memories and expectations for Christmas to be inescapably full of reflections on who Jesus is.
The resource that has probably been the most helpful to us for this is the Advent guide produced by The Village Church in Dallas, TX. They produce a new one annually and make it available for free online. This year’s is available here, but you could use any of the previous year’s as well.
For the tech oriented, we’ve appreciated always having material available on our phones and tablet with the app by The Gospel Project (soon to be our Discovery Land curriculum). It’s called “The Expected One.” You can read about it and download it here. Both of these have readings, discussion questions, and ideas for activities that can be tailored to suit families with kids of all ages. Be intentional, but have fun and enjoy it. And more than likely your kids will too.
Tomorrow, we’ll share some ideas for helping Advent truths stick, especially for younger kids.
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December 7 2015 at 5:15 pm 0 Comments
Part one of a three-part series on celebrating Advent from Kevin and Jami Rogers. (Part two here)
As our family has grown, we’ve enjoyed using Advent, the four weeks leading up to Christmas, as an opportunity to reflect on the profound truth that Christ has come. A Savior has entered our broken world bringing peace, hope, joy and love into our darkness. And we eagerly await the day He comes again to completely eradicate the sin and death that still plagues us.
Almost none of our ideas on how to do this are original. We’ve gathered resources, read and learned from other families. After 12 years and 5 kids (ages 2 through 9), we are starting to find a rhythm that works for our family. So we thought we’d take a moment to share some of the resources that have been helpful for us in the hopes that it might encourage you to pause often this Advent season and enjoy reflecting on the many facets and implications of the reality that Christ has come, both personally and with your family.
Typically, we read something in our own private devotions and also have something to help guide our times together as a family. For private reading, this year Kevin is using John Piper’s daily Advent devotions, Good News of Great Joy, brief Scripture readings and reflections available in print or for free online or via the Solid Joys app. Jami is going through Born is The King published by She Reads Truth with the ladies in our small group. It’s available in print, online, and via an app as well. Check out all the options at shereadstruth.com. Other’s we’ve enjoyed are…
- On the Incarnation by Athanasius
We often take the doctrine of the Incarnation for granted. In the 4th century, Athanasius gave much of his life to articulating and defending it. This is not a particularly easy read. But it more than rewards the effort. All other Advent books owe their existence to this one. In this version, the introduction by C.S. Lewis alone is worth the price of the book.
- Magnify the Lord by Martyn Lloyd-Jones
Explores how we respond to the Incarnation through the lens of Mary’s song in Luke 1
- Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus
A collection of Advent readings ancient and modern, edited by Nancy Guthrie
- Peace: Classic Readings for Christmas by Stephen Nichols
- Gospel Centered Discipleship’s Advent Devotions
This year’s starts here.
Tomorrow, we’ll post with more thoughts on family devotions and activities.
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December 7 2015 at 9:51 am 0 Comments
An Important Day for Covenant Life Church
As Mark Mitchell shared this past Sunday, December 13 is a very important day in the life and history of our church. That is the day we, as a church family, get to express whether or not we believe God has provided P.J. Smyth to be our next Lead Pastor.
Just to recap the process: The Search Team had their first meeting in late April, and the lead pastor job description was posted online in late June. By late September, the Search Team and the elders were in strong agreement to put P.J. forward not only as their single recommendation but a gifted, experienced and proven pastor and visionary leader who is well aligned with our theology and values.
To be at this place just eight months after we began is a remarkable expression of God’s goodness and particular love for Covenant Life. We have a lot to give God thanks for!
Now, we’re responsible to determine if indeed we believe P.J. Smyth is God’s provision for our church. So, we are asking all adult members of Covenant Life Church to make every effort to be present next week and to participate in this vote of affirmation. We’d like to see member participation as close to 100% as possible.
- Who is a member? Members are those who have completed our Starting Point course, met with a pastor, and have been welcomed into membership.
- How will voting take place? We will ask members to stay very briefly after the conclusion of the service to vote via paper ballot. The ballot reads, “I affirm calling P.J. Smyth to be the Lead Pastor of Covenant Life Church.” Your response will be a simple “yes” or “no”.
- Who will see the votes? Only two individuals, our Database Administrator and our Controller, will see individual votes. No elders will see or be aware of individual votes.
- Finally, what about those who won’t be present next Sunday? We will provide online voting for those who won’t be able to attend the Sunday service. Online voting will be open from Dec. 13 through Dec. 17.
Jesus taught us to pray, “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” And as Paul exhorted the Roman Christians, “May the God of endurance and encouragement grant [us] to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together [we] may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
The Elders encourage every member to pray for God’s will to be done. And we’re asking every member to participate in voting so that God’s name is glorified and our vote next week reflects the harmony and accord that is ours together in Christ. Thank you, everyone!
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November 3 2015 at 1:44 pm 0 Comments
I was born and raised in in a small town in west Texas. For most of my adolescence, I was the typical farmer’s son; going to church since birth and being raised to follow a strict moral code. It wasn’t until I was 13 that I actually heard that my sin was keeping me from communion with God when my church brought in a traveling evangelist for a revival weekend. I never really considered my situation as it was easy to do living in an environment in which everyone was a Christian and no one talked about sin or hell. I remember the clear call of the Lord on my heart to believe that Christ died for me, took on my sin on the cross, and that I would be saved from separation from my creator. From that point onward, I really connected with the youth ministry and began living a life dedicated to Christ.
It wasn’t until my sophomore year at Texas Tech University that the Lord impressed on me to dedicate my life to the ministry in a local church. It was a clear answer to prayer and my friends and pastor affirmed my calling. Upon graduating from Texas Tech, I realized the next step in my life was to attend a Seminary. The next five years of my life would be a priceless pursuit in knowing Christ more by attending the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY. Through the dedication of each professor to adhere closely to the word of God as it related to theology, Christian history, and doctrine forever deepened my understanding of God and his church.
Although Seminary was a wonderful experience, it wasn’t the best gift that God gave me during that season of my life. Louisville is also where I met my exquisite southern bride. I’ll let Alyssa share a bit more.
I was born and raised in Louisville Kentucky and grew up with my mom, dad and older sister. I realized my need for forgiveness from sin and the holiness of God at the early age of 5, God used my church, parents and grandparents to point me to Christ. I went on to attend Boyce College, which is the undergraduate school at Southern Seminary. It was in my freshman year that I met my handsome husband. We met through mutual friends and my good friend was dating his roommate so she would quite easily "drag" me along to hang out. Will pursued me and two years later we were married.
Our family has grown to include our first son Liam, who is five, and daughter Penelope, who now is three. And the newest addition to our family is due in June.
These past 7 years have been filled with external challenges. One of our children was born premature, we had a major house fire, and other various challenges. But God’s faithfulness through our marriage has been such a gift! God has really taught us the goal is not an easy life, the goal is to know Jesus more!
After I graduated from Southern, we moved to a small Florida town where I served as a youth pastor. I then did an internship at Sojourn Community Church in Louisville. My connection to Covenant Life came through Dave Brewer reaching out to me after some interest in my application. After interviewing at Covenant Life, both Alyssa and I knew this was the right church God was calling us to invest in. I stopped the hiring process with two other churches and decided to step out in faith that Covenant Life was where the Lord would make a path for us to serve the Middle School.
Needless to say, watching the Lord bring us through our house fire in Louisville, allow us to sell it, and then bring us here in a way that worked with both our timeline and Covenant Life’s was nothing more than His wonderful work. Standing up here today, I can honestly say that He did this and we are honored to be among you. We are looking forward to growing together with you in community and serving with you in the days ahead.
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September 28 2015 at 2:38 pm 0 Comments
Below is the text of Mark Mitchell's update from Sunday morning, September 27. Church members: For the meeting schedule over the next two weeks and to submit comments or questions, see covlife.org/lpsearch.
Good morning, everyone.
This past Thursday through Saturday the elders met together on our fall retreat to consider the Search Team's recommendations and written report on the Lead Pastor search process and to discuss next steps.
Many of you were praying for us. Many of you were even fasting on our behalf. And there's just no way that we can thank you enough. We believe God heard and answered your prayers. Our conversations, our times of seeking the Lord, were marked by faith, unity, a fruitful discussion together, and a wonderful sense of God's peace—and we know that is in no small part due to your prayers. So on behalf of all the elders we want to say, thank you.
Here's the update: the 11 person Search Team made up of eight members and three elders met from April through September, and after many, many hours given to prayer, gathering input from the congregation, viewing resumes, conducting interviews and listening to sermons, the search team has recommended P.J. Smyth to the Board of Elders for the role of Lead Pastor.
[Applause] Very appropriate. P.J. would be blessed by your enthusiastic reponse.
After much discussion and prayerful consideration, the Board of Elders enthuiastically believes that P.J. should be our next Lead Pastor. We believe that God has been directing our path over these last few months and has provided this man as a gift to our church. As we've gotten to know P.J., we believe his godly character, his pronounced humility, his leadership gifting, and proven fruitfulness in ministry make him an excellent choice as Lead Pastor to serve our congregation, Covenant Life Church, for the foreseeable future.
He's aligned with our doctrine and values, committed to team and accountability, he is eager to grow and learn from us, and he passionately loves Jesus, His church and His mission—and as the Board of Elders we heartily commend him to you, the congregation.
So where do we go from here?
The process is not over. There are additional steps that need to take place involving the Smyths, congregational affirmation, and further opportunities for your participation as members.
First, the Smyths: The Elders had a brief conversation with P.J. and Ashley yesterday, via FaceTime, where we formally invited P.J. to consider being our Lead Pastor. And it was moving to see how P.J. and Ashley received that invitation. They were humbled and excited and really filled with anticipation for the next step. They plan to formally repond to us by next Sunday, so please be in prayer for the Smyth family in what will no doubt be a very emotional week for them as they process this with their elders and with their congregation.
Second, if the Smyths accept our invitation, a congregational vote of affirmation is necessary in order for this decision to be finalized. Due to issues relating to immigration, the earliest that this can take place is still months away. And the earliest the Smyths could arrive would be somewhere between January and April of next year.
Finally, we recognize that you will need time as a congregation to hear more from the Search Team and the elders and to engage more with P.J. as our Lead Pastor candidate. We're excited about walking through these next steps with you. So we've got a few meetings planned, and I want to fill you in on those at this time:
- Next Sunday, October 4 [during the morning service], you'll hear from Pat Ennis, the Chairman of the Search Team, and he will explain more about the process the Search Team followed leading up to their recommendation. And I'll follow that with a brief report on the elders' perspective on P.J. and his candidacy, including his role in the Advance network of churches.
- Then on Sunday, October 11, in the evening [6 p.m.], we'll have a Members Meeting where Search Team members and elders will share more detailed information and address your questions. We'll provide a mechanism for you to submit questions prior to that meeting. [The page with the meeting schedule and form for submitting comments and questions is found at covlife.org/lpsearch]
- Finally, P.J. informed us on our retreat that he is available to come and be with us Tuesday evening, October 13 [7:30 p.m.]; so we've extended an invitation for him to come. We thought this would be a great opportunity for you to get to know him better and hear more directly from him regarding many issues I'm sure you have on your mind. We've got this information here on the screen; we'll also get it out to you via the Quick Read this upcoming week. I'll probably communicate it again in the Friday Update, so if you don't have a moment to jot these things down, that's ok; you'll hear more later on.
This has been just a brief update, so I understand if many of you still have questions. We want to invite you to seek out the elders. We are eager to have conversation with you if that would serve you to any degree. But we especially hope that you'll participate in these upcoming meetings that have been planned, because there's much more information to be shared there, that we think you'll find it to be very helpful.
Here's my final thought: some of you, as we've just experienced, are very, very excited about this news. But we also understand that there are some who still have many questions, perhaps about the process, about a variety of different things, and so you're maybe a bit more cautious and guarded. We're a local church made up of diverse people, so a variety of perspectives is understandable and to be expected.
I want to exort all of us, no matter where we are, to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus Christ, the Author and Perfector of our faith, and the Sovereign Head of His church. And let's look to Him with eyes of faith and continue to pray as He taught us to pray: "Hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done." We want to maintain that heart, that posture over next several weeks and months as we move towards finalizing this decision.
I want to leave you with these encouraging words from Psalm 33:
"The counsel of the LORD stands forever, the plans of his heart to all generations. Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD, the people whom he has chosen as his heritage! Behold, the eye of the LORD is on those who fear him, on those who hope in his steadfast love, Our soul waits for the LORD; he is our help and our shield. For our heart is glad in him, because we trust in his holy name. Let your steadfast love, O LORD, be upon us, even as we hope in you." (Psalm 33:11-22 ESV)
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