Putting on the Living Nativity takes a herculean effort from volunteers and staff alike, requiring countless hours of blood, sweat, and yes, sometimes even tears. So why do we go through all the trouble every year?
My 5 year old just had a birthday, but he already has a Christmas wish list that's about a mile long. We were recently in Target and found ourselves in the Paw Patrol aisle. After lingering and looking for a couple minutes, and my wife and I asking which one he really liked, he spread his arms and legs wide and said "I want all of it!". (And to be fair, I say similar things if I ever wander into an Apple store).
Now, I'm going to cut him, and my wife and I a little slack when I say that little outbursts of unchecked greed are really hard to avoid in such a consumeristic society. We, and I'm sure many other parents out there, are left with trying to figure out how to avoid "stuff-itis" this Christmas season (and just in life in general). Rather than the typical focus on stuff and getting what we want, we're looking for ways to make giving, generosity, compassion and serving the essential core of the holiday celebrations, and to have those things point us and our children toward the deeper truths of the gift which we have already been given. And while some of these things are talked about in main stream culture, almost every company out there is steering the conversation back to stuff. So what can we do?
Right now my wife and I are helping lead through The Legacy Journey, a Dave Ramsey class that focuses on what and how we are to pass things on to our family. And this goes well beyond money to include family values and spiritual principles. One of the great quotes Dave shares is that as parents, "More is caught than taught". The idea being, it is probably more important to do what you want them to do than to say what you want them to do. You can tell a child to be generous all you want, but it is far more effective to illustrate what generosity is by actually giving of your money and resources in daily life, for your kids to see that truth lived out. And yes, it is easier said than done, but it is so worth it.
So let's get practical, what is one specific thing you can do today? Each year the family in focus ministry and the missions team sponsor Operation Christmas Child. It's a ministry that packs Christmas gifts in shoeboxes and sends them around the world to children living in poverty. And with each gift there is a gospel story at the child's level and in their language, explaining the Good News. There are a lot of different ways families and even young children can get involved, and it is a very practical way to take the season's focus off stuff, and replace it with a mission of spreading hope and the joy of giving.
A couple months ago, Fellowship released a Rightnow Media subscription as a gift to the whole church. If you need a quick refresher on what Rightnow Media is, or haven't heard the announcements we've made, the easiest description is that it's a "christian Netflix". Create a free account and get access to more than 14,000 video titles from some of the most well known names in the church today.
You can access all these streaming videos on the web, through your Roku, Apple tv, and some smart TVS, as well as through the Apple and Android app on your mobile devices. All this to say, you can stream these videos from just about anywhere you are. Head to our website for specific instructions on how to hook up your device.
And now to tell you a little more about what kind of videos there are. First, there are lots of Bible studies, focusing on specific books or topics. These range from one or two videos to more lengthy series. There are also many book studies, many times produced by the author or publisher to be used along side the book. RNM gives you the option to buy the book or download the study guide right from the video page. But here's a tip, most of the videos I've looked at so far, don't actually require a book to be very beneficial. So, if you don't have the resources to be buying every book that looks interesting, these corresponding video series are a great way to get an in-depth view of what the book holds before buying (and there's always the library). There are also lots of conference sessions from the top speakers in the country on a wide range of topics, from marriage and parenting to youth issues and growing in your personal walk.
Finally, there is entire library of kids content, and that is where my quick review will focus today. Let's face it, kids love their shows (for my 4 year old, Paw Patrol, Curious George and Fireman Sam are the current favorites). So the RNM Kids section is a great resource that pairs entertainment with real truth. They've got show for a wide range of ages and tastes (even some throwbacks for you McGee and Me or Adventures in Odyssey fans), and it seems like an area of their product they are rapidly adding to.
My 4 year old has discovered a couple shows that are really entertaining to him but pack in some real Biblical lessons. The first we'll look at is Owlegories.
I'd give this show a big thumbs up on two counts. First, it is actually very entertaining and has a much better "Saturday morning cartoon" feel than a lot of the older attempts at Christian cartoons. I'd say its is probably aimed at the 5-9 age range, but with a steady dose of wordplay jokes, slapstick humor, silly villains and quests, it can appeal to an even broader range. The main characters are classic cartoon stereotypes (in owl form), but they're classics for a reason.
My second reason for liking it is the Biblical content and theme. In their own words:
Owlegories is a Christ-centered, animated series and interactive storybook app that teaches kids about God through the wonderful allegories, metaphors, and analogies found in nature and revealed in God's word, the Bible. In Episode #2, we look at three ways we grow in our relationship with God: 1) Prayer, 2) Reading God's Word, and 3) Fellowship with other believers.
I think it's a great practice to learn about God not only from the Bible (though that is stressed throughout the show) but from observing the world around us. Every show asks the main characters to find 3 ways is ____________ like God? Then they go on a quest of sorts to find the answer and in the process also thwart the villain in some comedic fashion. The storylines are very simple and direct, and special attention is paid to make sure that the final allegories are very clearly communicated to the viewers multiple times.
In all, I'd say Owlegories has earned its place among our fairly short list of occasional TV shows to watch, and one that will reinforce some quality lessons about who God is.
Romans 8:31-39What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written:
“For your sake we face death all day long;
we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
This song revolves around a question that has been central to Pastor Mark's preaching... who is on the throne of your heart?
I've been hearing this song on the radio quite a bit recently, maybe you have too. The message is simple; it's easy to get beat up in this world, feeling as though we're in an everlasting valley or maybe even going off course completely. But that is not where we are meant to live or where we need to stay. So how do we break free of that all-too-natural place? Remember. Remember the truth of who I am and what Christ has done. Simply, remember the empty grave.
In the spirit of Mother's day, and specifically thinking about my wife, I thought this song was appropriate. I especially like the commentary of the artist and his thoughts at the beginning of this video.
And if you'd like a verse to think about on these lines, Proverbs 31:9-1 is a good one.
We've done this song at the Collingswood campus a few times. It can get added to the list of songs that are so simple and pure in message that it is tough not to like. I especially like the words of verse 1 and 2.
Christ is my reward
And all of my devotion
Now there's nothing in this world
That could ever satisfy
Christ my all in all
The joy of my salvation
And this hope will never fail
Heaven is our home
Then it turns into the bridge with lyrics from a classic church song:
I have decided to follow Jesus
This one requires no explanation. For me the song really picks up at the bridge, so those are the word's I'll share with you today:
I am surrounded
By the arms of the father
I am surrounded
By songs of deliverance
We've been liberated
From our bondage
We're the sons and the daughters
Let us sing our freedom
You split the sea
So I could walk right through it
My fears were drowned in perfect love
You rescued me
And I could stand and sing
I am a child of God...
Yes, I am a child of God
I am a child of God
I'm no longer a slave to fear
I am a child of God
I think it's fantastic that there are so many talented artists making music about Truth and the grand narrative of God. And of course, one of the best is King David. Alright, you might call these "vintage" or "throwback" lyrics, and at the very least, timeless classics, but there's something to be said for being included in the Spirit-directed Word of God. Many of our modern worship songs take phrases and thoughts from parts of the psalms, but I really appreciate these two versions from Jenny & Tyler which express an entire chapter. Not word for word interpretations, but very faithful to the original intent nonetheless.