Easter

Making Jesus Come Alive (Behold the King of Glory Review and Giveaway)

Behold I received a copy of the book Behold the King of Glory from Family Christian in exchange for a review. However, the opinions in this post are entirely my own.

My husband picked up the book I was reading the other day and gave me a funny look. "Behold the King of Glory: A Narrative of the Life, Death, and Resurrection of Jesus Christ? Don't we already have that? Isn't it called the Bible?"

In a way, my husband is right. There's no better source for the facts of Jesus' life, death and resurrection than the Bible. The Bible stands on its own in presenting the saving story of Jesus.

However, I grew up in the church. I have 40 years of Easter, Christmas and Bible verses under my belt. And sometimes, I need to be reminded of how amazing the story of God's love truly is. I need a different perspective. I need something to bring my attention back to the miracle of the resurrection.

And that's what Behold the King of Glory: A Narrative of the Life, Death, and Resurrection of Jesus Christ does. It takes the biblical accounts of Jesus' life from his first miracle to his resurrection and puts them in a chronological, narrative form. It draws Jesus as the true-life person that He was.

Author Russ Ramsey bring Jesus to life in his writing by using all the gospel accounts and weaving them into one cohesive picture of Jesus, the man, and Jesus as God. His account of Jesus calling his disciples gave me goosebumps because I could see the picture of it in my head. Ramsey takes verses that I've been hearing and reading my whole life and offers a fresh perspective on them.

The book is broken down into 40 short chapters, which makes it perfect as a family devotional during the Lent season. Even if you don't celebrate Lent, I'd encourage you to check it out to read in the 40 days before Easter. It will bring Jesus to life for your family, especially if you have older kids who have grown up in the church.

Making Jesus come alive for our kids is one of the most important things we can do for them. It can be easy for our kids to just file the biblical accounts of Jesus' life away as one more thing they've heard all their lives. Anything we can do to bring Him to life for them, is something we should pursue. Sometimes just hearing the biblical accounts written in a more modern, more chronological way can do that for our kids.

If you have kids who are 10 or older and you're looking for a different kind of family devotional, be sure to check out Behold the King of Glory: A Narrative of the Life, Death, and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. To make that a little easier, Family Christian has given me a $10 certificate to give away. Check it out and enter to win below.

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When You Miss Easter

Mercies Easter kind of snuck up on me this year. My daughter's birthday was on Good Friday. I've been battling an infection for the past two weeks, and I've been swamped with work. I've burned the candle at both ends, and Easter just appeared as an afterthought.

We didn't dye Easter eggs. We didn't read the resurrection story together. We didn't even put Easter decorations out. My girls were lucky to find things in their Easter basket.

As I stood in church yesterday morning, I realized we had spent almost no time at all focused on this most important of holidays. There had been no teachable moments with my kids. There had been little reflection on the importance of the day. The day was simply here.

And I felt guilty. I felt as if this year I had failed as a follower of Christ and as parent. But as I stood there singing about Jesus' resurrection, I remembered the words of Lamentations 3:22-23: "Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness." The King James Version says God's mercies are new every morning.

You see, Jesus' resurrection isn't about a single day -- although it is important that we celebrate that day. His resurrection is about eternity. His resurrection is about bridging the gap between us and God every day. His mercies are new every morning. They are available to us every day -- not just on Easter.

So while the Easter holiday is nice, it's not enough to simply focus on the resurrection once a year. Jesus' resurrection is what makes His death important. He defeated death and made a way for us to draw near to God.  And that's something to celebrate year-round, not just one day a year.

If Easter snuck up on you like it did on me, if you missed those teachable moments with your kids, if you got to Easter morning and realized you had missed a multitude of opportunities to focus on the resurrection, remember this: God's mercies are new every morning, and the resurrection means as much today as it did yesterday.

Easter Reminders: The Cross and the Stone

cross I wrote this post a couple of years ago, but its message resonates today. Always remember that the cross and the stone must go together because one without the other means very little.

A cross and a stone. Those are the images of Easter. One represents death. The other life. Without one, there is no need for the other.

The cross

Over the years, the cross has lost it's gruesomeness. We've prettied it up. We wear the reminder around our necks, we hang it on our walls. When we look at it, we don't see what the Jews of Jesus day saw. We don't see a symbol of death and oppression. We see only a symbol of hope. We see a symbol of sacrifice.

Yet, for centuries, the cross was a tool of oppression. The Jewish people did not use crucifixion as a form of punishment. It was reserved for the Roman government. And you didn't have to commit a horrific crime to find yourself hanging from one. You could steal something or speak out against the government. The cross wasn't just a tool of execution. It was a public deterrent to dissent.

And that's where Jesus died -- on a human government's tool to suppress revolt. He died on a hill in full view of everyone, his crime posted on a sign above His head. At any time, Jesus could have climbed off the cross. He could have taken over, sent everyone fleeing in the face of His awesome power. But He didn't. He stayed on that cross and died, bearing the weight of the sin of the world. All so we could be free -- not from an oppressive government, but from the separation from God. And in that moment, the cross became a symbol not of death and oppression, but a symbol of love.

The stone

It was big. It was heavy. It was unmoveable by one person. The stone that covered the entrance to the tomb was an obstacle to the living. Yet, even the heavy stone could not keep Jesus in the grave.

When the women arrived at the tomb on Sunday morning, that stone, that keeper of death, was rolled away. The tomb was empty. And it would stay that way. This was no mistake. No one had taken Jesus' body. He had been dead for three days and then came back to life.

Without the stone, there is no redemptive power in the cross. Without the stone, Jesus would just be another man who claimed to be God. It is only because of the stone that the words of John 3:16 mean anything. "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." Only a living God can promise eternal life. Jesus' death means nothing without His resurrection.

The cross is useless without the stone.

Create reminders

As Easter approaches, as we take our kids to Good Friday and Easter services, we need to help them understand that the importance of Easter lies not just in the cross but in the stone as well. Create a reminder of the importance that the tomb was empty.

Sometime this weekend, give your kids a cross made of twigs and a rock from the yard. Explain that they are reminders of the two events that make Easter so important. Jesus died on the cross as a sacrifice for our sins. It represents the fact that Jesus loves us and wants us to have a relationship with Him. Jesus rose from the grave three days later. The stone represents the amazing power of a living God. It reminds us that Jesus is who He said He is, and He holds power even over death.

The cross and the stone. Two important reminders of what Easter means to us.

 

What Makes Good Friday Good?

It's Good Friday. I've always thought that was an interesting name for the day we remember the death of our Savior. To most people death means the end of something -- the end of a life, the end of a dream. Death and good usually aren't placed in the same sentence.

Yet, Good Friday is just that -- good. It's a day to reflect, a day to remember all that Jesus has done for us, starting with His death on a cross. Because when Jesus died, the curtain in the temple ripped in half -- from the top down. Jesus' death ripped away the barrier separating us from God. Forever. While His death brought sadness to those who knew Him, to those who didn't understand what would happen on Sunday, His death brought eternal joy for the rest of us.

Good Friday is good because it meant that nothing -- nothing -- would ever keep us separated from God again. Jesus took all of the sin that kept us from God upon Himself. And then He died. Not because He had done anything wrong, but because He loves us -- you and me. He chose to stay on that cross because He loves me, because the only way to defeat sin was to die. He chose to stay on that cross because He didn't want me to spend eternity separated from God. Good Friday is good because it's the biggest show of love from anyone ever.

Good Friday is good because it means nothing I do, nothing I say can ever undo the sacrifice that Jesus made. No matter how deep the pit I'm in, no matter how horrible the thing I've done, Jesus' sacrifice covers it all. He died so that I don't have to walk alone. God can be there with me because my sin is covered in Jesus' blood. "In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace" (Ephesians 1:7).

Good Friday might seem like a strange name for the day we remember Jesus' death, but it truly is a good day. Because despite the sadness that goes along with Jesus' death, joy is coming on Sunday. Jesus didn't stay dead. He rose again. He made a sacrifice, and then He conquered death. On Sunday, we'll celebrate because Jesus is alive.

But today, let's focus our hearts and minds on the goodness of this day. Let's help our kids understand what's good about this day. Let's reflect on just what it is that makes Good Friday so good.

5 Ways to Get Your Kids Talking About Easter

Last week, we went on our annual pilgrimage for Easter dresses. My older daughter picked out her first dress from the juniors department. My younger daughter got one that sparkles from head to toe. It's one of the few times of the year that I can get both of them in a dress.

We all have traditions that go with Easter -- from dress shopping to having ham for Easter dinner -- yet just like Christmas we can get caught up in the traditions and miss the importance of the day. We can assume our kids know the events of Easter and why they're important, so we skip over the important conversations.

We don't want our kids to miss Easter. We don't want them to go through this holy season without understanding how Easter sets Jesus apart from every other person who walked the earth. Check out these easy ways to get your kids talking about Easter.

1. Use Resurrection Eggs. My kids still love Resurrection Eggs. These plastic eggs each contain an item that tells the story of Easter. When my girls were little, I used to tell them the story. Now, they tell me about the events of Easter. It's a great way to retell the events of Easter in an engaging manner that gets your kids talking.

2.Read Resurrection iWitness. This is a great book along the lines of the Pirateology books. With interactive pages and engaging writing, this book dissects some of the "alternate theories" about the resurrection and explains why the resurrection is the best answer for the question "What happened to Jesus' body." It's apologetics for kids presented in a way that entertains and informs.

3. Make resurrection rolls. These rolls are hollow in the middle, so when you open them up it looks like an empty tomb. This is a great way to get conversation started around the Easter dinner table. You can find the recipe here.

4. Have a scripture egg hunt. Along with candy, put scripture verses that pertain to Easter in your plastic eggs. Hide the eggs and let your kids hunt them. At the end of the hunt, have everyone read their scripture verses and talk about what they mean.

5. Make a cross. Gather enough twigs for each person in your family to make a cross. Place two twigs in the shape of a cross. Wrap twine around the center of the two twigs to hold them together. Place or hang the crosses in each person's room so they have a daily reminder of the sacrifice Jesus made for them. While you're making the crosses, talk about the events of Easter.

Getting your kids talking about Easter can be as easy as asking them a thought-provoking question about how they would have felt going to the tomb or what they thought the angel looked like if the Roman soldiers were cowering in fear. It's not important how we get our kids talking about the events of that weekend long ago. It's simply important that we get them talking about it.

 

Did Jesus Really Rise From the Dead?

Although there's nearly a foot of snow on the ground here, it really is Easter week. Next Sunday, we'll celebrate the greatest miracle of all -- the resurrection of Jesus. Without the resurrection, there is no salvation. Without the resurrection, Jesus was just another guy who claimed to be God. Without the resurrection, we remain lost and separated from God.

Yet the resurrection is the most questioned piece of the redemption story. It is the one thing that doubters have tried to poke holes in throughout history. His disciples stole the body. It was a mass hallucination. The women went to the wrong tomb. When these theories are examined in the light of the historical record, though, they don't hold up.

One of the most common arguments against the resurrection is that Jesus' disciples stole his body so that it would appear He had risen again after three days. Yet, this feat would have been impossible to carry out. Jesus' tomb was covered with a huge boulder that would have been extremely difficult to move. On top of that, the tomb was guarded by Roman soldiers. Now, Roman soldiers weren't people you wanted to mess with. They were the most highly trained soldiers of their day. And the disciples were mostly fishermen. The thought that these untrained men could take out the Roman soldiers guarding the tomb is laughable.

The idea that Jesus' resurrection was a mass hallucination doesn't hold water either. Hallucinations aren't mass events. If you hallucinate, it's highly unlikely you're going to have the same hallucination as the person next to you. And Jesus appeared to hundreds of people over a period of 40 days. Hallucinations don't usually last that long.

The last idea that the women went to the wrong tomb doesn't hold water either. These women had given up a lot to follow Jesus. They were headed to the tomb to perform a final act of service to Him. Even in their grief, they would have known which tomb to go to. If you were going to the funeral of a loved one, wouldn't you get directions to the cemetery if you didn't know where it was?

The only logical explanation for what happened to Jesus' body after He died is the one given in the Bible: "He is not here; he has risen, just as he said." (Matthew 28:6) As we celebrate Jesus' resurrection this Sunday, be ready to answer your kids' questions about the event. Because it's not just a story; it's not just a myth. Jesus' resurrection is true, and it is the lynchpin of our salvation.

First Friday: The Broken Cross

Today is Good Friday. The day that we remember the sacrifice that Jesus made for us. And today, I get to introduce you to my friend Sara Cormany. Sara is a gifted writer whose writing touches my heart every time I read it. She has graciously agreed to fill this space on the first Friday of every month. I know you'll enjoy hearing from her as much as I do. Today, enjoy being reminded that because of the cross, Jesus can pick up our broken pieces.

Sleepily, I padded into the kitchen this morning.  Lifted the baby into her highchair.  And threw some dried cereal in her general direction, secretly hoping it would give me a moment to collect myself.

I would like to say that moment involved perusing something amusing on the internet.  Or intensely conversing on the phone with a dear friend.  In truth, I would like that moment to involve anything other than what it actually did involve:

Blank staring.  A dirty kitchen sink.  And one exhausted woman.

But in an effort to be completely authentic,  I will confirm that I was, indeed, emptily gawking at said sink when it happened.  An enormous crash.  Followed by a random object hitting me squarely in the back of the head.

I turned to see my son standing on a chair looking sheepish.  My daughter, in her high chair holding decorative berries in her hand.  And my resin cross that normally rested on our buffet, in pieces on the floor.

My reaction was less than gracious.  I most likely shouted “Noooooo!!!”  “Aaccckk!!!” or “What in the world?”  Something not terribly brilliant but definitely too dramatic for the demise of a $10  cross from Hobby Lobby.

As I huffed and puffed while looking for a lone candle that had also vanished, I caught something out of the corner of my eye:

It was my son.  Who had since climbed down from the chair.  And was now systematically gathering the pieces of the cross.

I stopped for a moment and just watched him. He lovingly picked them up.  Made a pile.  And began attempting to put the pieces back together.

I sat down beside him and said, “What are you doing, buddy?”

Focused on the task at hand, he kept working but managed to say quietly, “Jesus died on the cross for me.”

Suddenly, all the frustration over the mess melted away.  I took his sweet face in my hands.  And spoke words that were really meant for me. “You’re right, Drew.  And just like you, He takes all our broken pieces and puts them back together to make something beautiful.”

A few hours later, I took the time to painstakingly put the cross back together.  Piece by piece.  Super-gluing my thumb and forefinger together several times.

But I even didn’t mind that so much.

You see, my broken cross was more beautiful than it had ever been before. 

Now, when I look at it, I won’t just see a cheap resin cross from Hobby Lobby.  I will, in fact, see something far more precious.  Something that will keep me fixed on a simple truth that often I miss in my journey with Jesus.

That something echoes back to me in my son’s simple utterance, “Jesus died on the cross for me.”

Over and over again, I hear it.  It floods my mind with its simplicity.  And takes my breath away at its sufficiency.

But its power screams to me as I say the words out loud...

The cross really is enough.

In our humanness, we will try to obsess about brokenness just as I did the mess.  Or we will focus on fixing what is broken, as my son did with the cross.  We will attempt to do this with friends, with spouses, with children and even with ourselves.

But the cross is enough. 

Lay friends before its shadow.  Or spouses.  Or children.

Or even yourself.

It is as Isaiah reminds us, “He was beaten so we could be whole.”

And it is why on my buffet, you will find a broken cross.

Chipped.  Slightly crooked.  And beautifully missing a tiny piece in the center.

Couched by the offending decorative berries.  Near a picture of the little hands that tried so earnestly to put it back together.  And placed visibly for all to see.

Our daily reminder that Jesus picks up our broken pieces.  Puts them lovingly back together.   And makes us perfectly whole.

Sara Cormany is mommy to six-year-old Grace, four-year-old Drew and one-year-old Sophie.  When she is not wiping noses, changing diapers or chasing after runaway candles, she is a sometimes writer and a sometimes teacher to teenagers.  But her most cherished role is that of one who is perfectly held by Jesus. She loves watching Him take the broken, the messy and the seemingly mundane of her everyday and turn it into something beautiful. 

Linking up today with Beholding Glory.

Easter Reminders

A cross and a stone. Those are the images of Easter. One represents death. The other life. Without one, there is no need for the other.

The cross

Over the years, the cross has lost it's gruesomeness. We've prettied it up. We wear the reminder around our necks, we hang it on our walls. When we look at it, we don't see what the Jews of Jesus day saw. We don't see a symbol of death and oppression. We see only a symbol of hope. We see a symbol of sacrifice.

Yet, for centuries, the cross was a tool of oppression. The Jewish people did not use crucifixion as a form of punishment. It was reserved for the Roman government. And you didn't have to commit a horrific crime to find yourself hanging from one. You could steal something or speak out against the government. The cross wasn't just a tool of execution. It was a public deterrent to dissent.

And that's where Jesus died -- on a human government's tool to suppress revolt. He died on a hill in full view of everyone, his crime posted on a sign above His head. At any time, Jesus could have climbed off the cross. He could have taken over, sent everyone fleeing in the face of His awesome power. But He didn't. He stayed on that cross and died, bearing the weight of the sin of the world. All so we could be free -- not from an oppressive government, but from the separation from God. And in that moment, the cross became a symbol not of death and oppression, but a symbol of love.

The stone

It was big. It was heavy. It was unmoveable by one person. The stone that covered the entrance to the tomb was an obstacle to the living. Yet, even the heavy stone could not keep Jesus in the grave.

When the women arrived at the tomb on Sunday morning, that stone, that keeper of death, was rolled away. The tomb was empty. And it would stay that way. This was no mistake. No one had taken Jesus' body. He had been dead for three days and then came back to life.

Without the stone, there is no redemptive power in the cross. Without the stone, Jesus would just be another man who claimed to be God. It is only because of the stone that the words of John 3:16 mean anything. "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." Only a living God can promise eternal life. Jesus' death means nothing without His resurrection.

The cross is useless without the stone.

Create reminders

As Easter approaches, as we take our kids to Good Friday and Easter services, we nee to help them understand that the importance of Easter lies not just in the cross but in the stone as well. Create a reminder of the importance that the tomb was empty.

Sometime this weekend, give your kids a cross made of twigs and a rock from the yard. Explain that they are reminders of the two events that make Easter so important. Jesus died on the cross as a sacrifice for our sins. It represents the fact that Jesus loves us and wants us to have a relationship with Him. Jesus rose from the grave three days later. The stone represents the amazing power of a living God. It reminds us that Jesus is who He said He is, and He holds power even over death.

The cross and the stone. Two important reminders of what Easter means to us.

Linking up today with Raising Mighty Arrows.

The Truth of the Resurrection

The women rose at sunrise, gathered their supplies and walked solemnly toward the tomb. I like to imagine it was a gorgeous sunrise, but the women were most likely too miserable to notice. All of a sudden, there was an earthquake, and a fierce-looking angel appeared. Even the Roman soldiers guarding the tomb, the most capable warriors on the face of the earth at the time, trembled in fear.

The angel spoke to the women, saying "Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples: 'He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.'" (Matthew 28:5-7)

I bet the women were confused. I bet they were scared. I bet they weren't quite sure what to think. No one had ever been dead for three days and come back to life. Yet, the most amazing part was yet to come. On their way back to talk to the disciples, Jesus appeared to them. Standing in front of them was the man they had seen die on the cross, yet here He was in the flesh.

Can you imagine the joy? Can you imagine the confusion? I can only imagine that the women may have kept pinching themselves to make sure they were awake. The tomb was empty. Jesus was alive!

It's a pretty fantastic story, isn't it? And it's one that can seem fantastic to our kids. With the constant blurring between reality and fiction in our world today, it can be tough for our kids to discern truth. The resurrection account honestly sounds a lot like some comic book stories or fantasy novels that my kids have read. So, how do we get our kids to focus on the truth of Easter? How do we let them know that the biblical account of the resurrection is not just another story they've heard, but something that really happened?

  • Treat it like it's the truth. We've quit using the word "story" to refer to anything in the Bible. When we talk about "Bible stories" with our kids, we're lumping them together with fairy tales, fiction books and things our kids make up. When you're talking about something in the Bible refer to it as an "account" or ask your kids "What did you learn about in the Bible today?" instead of "What Bible story did you talk about?" This is a small change, but it's one that creates a subtle distinction between the Bible and fiction.
  • Don't be afraid to investigate it. The Bible claims to be the truth. If that's so, then it will stand up to scrutiny. Talk with your kids about how people have come up with other explanations for the resurrection. Talk about how realistic those other explanations are and whether those explanations account for the known facts. Teach your kids how to defend what they believe by investigating the Bible. It will always hold up.
  • Offer your kids proof of the Bible's trustworthiness. Over and over again, the Bible predicts things that will happen. And over and over again, those things have happened. The events of the Bible also didn't happen in a vacuum. They happened in the context of history, and historical evidence backs up many of them. Point this out to your kids. Find a few specific examples, including the fact that almost all New Testament scholars -- Christian and non-Christian -- believe that the tomb was empty.

Our kids need to know that the Bible is true. They need to know that the account of Jesus' death and resurrection isn't just another tale about a guy with superhero powers. They need to know that the tomb was empty, and its emptiness is the reason for our hope. Help your kids see that the Bible is true so that the resurrection becomes real to them.

Linking up today with Women Living Well , A Wise Woman Builds Her Home and Word Filled Wednesday.

A Costco Dinner and the Last Supper

We had supper at Costco last night. Nowhere else can I feed my entire family, including dessert for $11.17. But the cheap meal isn't the reason we ate at Costco last night. Our Costco meal came about because of my quest to protect our family dinner at all costs.

You see, on Monday nights, both girls have practice -- on opposite ends of town. I have to take one girl to my husband at work, so he can take her to practice then take the other girl to practice myself. There's no chance of us making it home for a nice family meal. What we do have time for, is a trip to Costco.

I've discovered that protecting that precious time at dinner is hard. Our schedules this spring make sitting down for a meal together really difficult. But I also find the effort is worth it.

I think Jesus knew the value of sitting down for a meal and fostering conversation. Think about it. Why did He tell Zaccheaus to come out of the tree? So He could go to His house for a meal. When 5,000 people were sitting in front of Him to hear His teaching, what did He do? He fed them. And on the last night of His life when He had important things to tell His disciples, what did He do? He sat down to a Passover meal with them.

Jesus used the time during the meal to let His disciples know what was coming. Matthew 26:26-29 says "While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, 'Take and eat; this is my body.' Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, 'Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you, I will not drink from this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.'"

We hear these words often in church when we take communion, but imagine if you had been hearing them for the first time. I'm sure the disciples were confused, wondering just what Jesus was talking about. They knew He was the Messiah, but they thought He was going to save them from their current circumstances of living under the oppression of the Roman Empire. But God had bigger plans in mind.

Just as Jesus used their dinner as a symbol of what was to come, we can use dinner to help our kids understand what that last meal meant. This week, consider having a traditional Seder supper, which is what the disciples and Jesus ate. Each piece of the meal has a symbolic meaning that reminds us of God's great plan for redemption.

Here's some simple directions for what to serve and what each food means.

Unleavened bread -- This was a reminder to the Jews that God had brought them out of Egypt. They didn't have time for the bread to rise when they were leaving, so this is what they carried. It's also a reminder to us that Jesus sacrificed His body on the cross.

Lamb -- The Passover lamb was killed and the blood spread across the doorposts so the angel of death would pass over those homes during the last plague in Egypt. Jesus is the sacrificial lamb for our sins.

Horseradish -- This bitter herb reminded the Jews of the bitterness they felt when they were enslaved in Egypt. Use it to remind your kids of the bitterness of sin.

Haroset -- Haroset is crushed apples, nuts and honey blended together. It represents hope. Jesus brought hope into the world.

Salt water and parsley -- Dip the parsley into the salt water as a reminder of the tears the Israelites shed in Egypt. The salt water also reminds us of the sorrow of Jesus' death, but parsley is the symbol of new life represented by Jesus' resurrection.

Grape juice -- Grape juice is the symbol of Jesus' blood, which washes away our sins.

Find a night this week to introduce your kids to the symbolism in the Passover meal. It will make the meal Jesus shared with His disciples more real to them, and it will generate lots of conversation about Easter. This isn't a hard meal to put together, and it will be an experience your kids will remember.

If you want to know more about Passover, check out Hebrew4Christians and this great post at Chrysalis.

Linking up today with Time-Warp Wife, Growing Home, and A Pause on the Path.

Memory Monday: Focusing on Easter

On the way home from church yesterday, I asked my kids what they talked about during their classroom time. "We talked about hope," they replied. Ok, not a bad thing to talk about the Sunday before Easter. "What was the Bible story about?" I asked. I got blank looks. "Did you talk about Jesus entering Jerusalem?"

Now, that might seem like an odd question to ask. A lot of kids probably came home from church yesterday with palms. Of course, they talked about Jesus' entry into Jerusalem. But our church sometimes does things a little bit differently. We stopped giving out palms years ago. While I miss the tradition, I also appreciate that buying palm leaves for hundreds of children is expensive and may not be the best way to steward our resources.

My kids did talk about Jesus' entry into Jerusalem and his crucifixion in their classroom time yesterday, but they did it in the context of hope. It was a new way of thinking about a very familiar biblical account for most of those kids. A lot of our kids have been in church, hearing the account of Jesus' death and resurrection for years, some for their whole lives. Every Easter, they hear the same thing. It's as familiar to them as their favorite bedtime story.

The challenge for us as parents is to make the Easter account new and inspiring for our kids. Think about it. The God of the universe came to earth as a man, died on a cross, then three days later rose again -- all so that we could have a relationship with Him. That's pretty amazing stuff, better than any superhero story.

The wonder of Easter is summed up in Luke 24:6-7 "He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee:  ‘The Son of Man must be delivered over to the hands of sinners, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.'" Jesus is the only person who has ever beaten death, the only one who rose again. That is the hope of Easter.

This week, we're going to focus on simple ways you can bring the awe of Easter to your kids' attention. Jesus' death and resurrection isn't a story, it really happened. Our kids need to know that and understand the hope that Easter brings us. Start your week off with these simple conversations:

  1. Ask your kids to tell you what they know about Easter. Talk with them about how the account of Easter is real. If you have older kids, check out the book Resurrection iWitness. We're reading through this together as our family devotional at dinner each night. It's a book that talks about the accepted scholarly facts around Jesus' death and resurrection, then uses those facts to show that the biblical account of the resurrection is the only possible explanation that meets all the facts. You can learn more about it here.
  2. Talk about Jesus' death on the cross. Ask your kids if they understand why Jesus died. For smaller kids, keep it simple. Talk about how we all do things that are wrong and that separates us from God. Jesus died and rose again so we could be close to God. Create a bridge out of blocks and explain that we're on one side and God is on the other. If Jesus hadn't died, then we would be forever separated from God. Jesus acts as a bridge. With older kids, talk about sin and how the Bible tells us that the consequences of sin is death. Without Jesus' death, there would be no way for us to have a relationship with God.
  3. Talk about the resurrection. Often, we focus so much on the crucifixion that our kids don't understand the significance of the resurrection. Without the resurrection, Jesus is just another guy who claimed to be God. In defeating death, He proved He is who He said He was. Don't let your kids miss the wonder of the empty tomb. Ask your kids if they know of anyone else who was dead for three days, who then came back to life. Explain the Jesus is the only one who ever did that.

Talking with your kids about Easter is a great way to start off this holy week. Make time to have conversations with your kids about Easter. Check out this month's dinner discussions, too. All month you'll be talking about spring and Easter. Keep the conversation going because our amazement at the events of Easter shouldn't stop on Sunday.

Linking up today with These Five of Mine Plus Two , Working Kansas Homemaker and The Better Mom.

Friday Introductions: Resurrection iWitness

Easter is coming, and I'm always looking for different ways to share the Easter story with my girls. My two daughters have been going to church nearly every Sunday since they were born. The resurrection account is one they have heard over and over and over again. I never want that account to get old for them. I want it to be fresh and new and even surprising. The story of Easter is awe-inspiring. Jesus died, was dead for three days, then rose again. The most amazing part of all that is that He died, not because of anything He did, but because of something I did. He took my sins on himself and died so that I might have eternal life. I want my girls to be awed by that every time they hear it. It should never grow old.

Unfortunately, in this world of video games and 10-second attention spans, we're all less surprised by the resurrection than we should be. The account of Jesus' death and resurrection become just another story that we've heard before. That's why I'm so excited about a new book about Easter. I know, you're thinking, "Another book? How is that going to keep my kid interested in the resurrection account?" But this isn't just any book. It's Resurrection iWitness and it looks like one of those "-ology" books.

My girl love those "-ology" books you can get at the library. Pirateology, Titanicology, we've read a bunch of them. The girls love them because they take a big subject and break it down into little, understandable chunks. There are flaps to open, notes to read and diagrams to study. These books make reading interactive and interesting.

Resurrection iWitness is an interactive experience that your kids will return to again and again. The book includes only those facts that are agreed upon by a majority of scholars. It uses those historical facts to make a convincing argument for the truth of the resurrection. This is a great tool to use with the Scriptures to help your kids see that the historical facts line up with the biblical account.

You can learn more about Resurrection iWitness clicking on the video at the top of this post or checking out the Apologia Facebook page. If your kids are more into the digital age, there's even an iPad app. Check out this video to learn more about the app.

The account of Jesus' death and resurrection, should never grow old -- for us or our kids. The most amazing thing ever happened at Easter -- Jesus died so we could have life. The message of Easter is found in John 3:16, "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." That's a message we should never get tired of hearing.

When the Easter Dresses Clash

 

"I don't want to go."

"How long is this going to take?"

"Why do we have to do this?"

No, I wasn't taking my girls to the doctor for a shot. These were the responses to the statement, "Let's go find Easter dresses." With the Daytona 500 rained out on Sunday, my mom and I thought it would be a good time to take my reluctant shoppers to get dresses for Easter.

As you've probably figured out by now, my girls really aren't the dresses and hair bows type. We had looked online at a few dresses, and I had tried to persuade the girls to get matching dresses. That suggestion was met with a look of pure disgust from my fifth grader.

So, off to the store we went, with one child keeping an eye on the clock and the other sitting in sullen silence. "Wow, this is going to be fun," I thought.

Once we hit the store, my oldest found one of the dresses she had looked at online, tried it on (after carefully scouring the store to make sure none of her friends were there to see her *gasp* put on a dress) and pronounced it perfect. She then ran off to look at the sportier clothing.

My youngest daughter had decided on a sailor dress, but when we got to the store, we found no sailor dresses in her size. This required my youngest to make a new choice. Not a good thing. She finally settled on one dress to try on, but when we got it back to the dressing room she decided it was "too poofy." Her response? "Mom, go pick out a couple of dresses and bring them back here so I can try them on."

Back I went to the racks to try to find a dress that wasn't too poofy, didn't feel scratchy and would fit the color desires of my 8-year-old. After trying on five dresses, she settled on a black and white dress with a lime green jacket and bow.

"Great," I thought. "Now we have dresses." I put them both in my hands and headed for the checkout. That's when my mom said, "You're going to have some great Easter pictures."

In dismay, I looked down at the dresses in my hand to discover that nothing was going to make them look good in a picture together. Lime green does not go with turquoise and cornflower blue, no matter how much you want it to.

Now, Easter is one of two times in the year that I insist everyone dress up for church. My husband even wears a jacket. We always take a family picture on Easter. Usually, I try really hard to get coordinating dresses for the girls. It's just my thing. I know everyone will look nice that morning, and we leave extra time before church to take the picture -- so no one will be wrinkled in the photo.

As I looked at the dresses in my hand and then at my girls, I was faced with a choice: Do I let my desire for perfection override my girls' choices or do I give up my expectations of perfection?

I'll be honest. I really wanted to put one of the dresses back on the rack. I really wanted my Easter picture to be perfect. But in that split second of standing there, thinking about the perfect Easter photo, I heard a voice say, "at what cost?"

And that's a question we need to ask ourselves when our desire for the perfect outing, the perfect project, even the perfect children begins to get in the way of letting our kids be themselves. When our desire for perfection becomes the most important thing, it shoves aside the need our kids have to express themselves -- to grow, to discover and to imagine.

When a clean house becomes more important than imaginative kids, we need to ask "at what cost?" When a perfect score on a math test becomes more important than a child trying his best, we need to ask "at what cost?" When a medal in a soccer tournament or a dance competition becomes more important than our kids having fun, we need to ask "at what cost?"

Our kids will learn what's important from us. If we put striving for perfection above everything else, then we are telling them that it doesn't matter the cost, the end result is what's important. But if we let them make their own choices -- even when those choices spoil the picture, make a mess or disappoint -- we teach them that making mistakes and being who they were designed to be is OK. We teach them that doing their best and being who God made them to be is more important than being like everyone else. We let them know that failing to reach perfection is OK because we all fall short. (Romans 3:23)

My girls now have clashing dresses hanging in their closets. They will wear them on Easter, and I will take my Easter picture. And years from now, I will look at it and remember the Easter we took the "perfect" picture.

Linking up today with Women Living Well.

A Joyful Celebration

Have you ever had someone that you know die? It's a sad time, knowing that you will never get to talk to them or see them again until you see them again in heaven. Usually when someone dies, we cry and we miss them.

That's what happened when Jesus died. His friends missed him. They gathered together and talked about Him and how they were going to go on without Him. They were sad, and they were scared.

Then, the women who had gone to the tomb showed up at the door and gave them great news. "Jesus is alive," they said. What do you think the disciples' reaction was? What do you think your reaction would have been?

The disciples didn't believe the women. Even though Jesus had repeatedly told the disciples that He would rise from the dead, they didn't believe Him. After all, no one had ever risen from the dead.

Matthew 16:21 tells us "From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life." Yet, even though Jesus had told them what would happen, his disciples were still surprised when Jesus actually rose again.

Check out their reaction in Luke 24:36-39. "While they were still talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, 'Peace be with you.' They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost. He said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds? Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have.”

Even though the disciples could see Jesus, they still had a hard time believing that He had risen from the dead. Can you imagine how their sadness turned to joy when they realized Jesus was actually standing there in front of them?

It's that joy that we celebrate at Easter. The joy of knowing that Jesus is alive. We don't worship a dead God. We don't worship a statue that was never alive. We worship a God who came to earth, sacrificed Himself for us and then beat death and rose again. That's a reason for joy.

It's that joy that makes being a Christ-follower different from any other religion in the world. If Jesus hadn't risen from the dead, being a Christ-follower would be no different from any other religion. Like we talked about yesterday, Jesus' death on the cross makes it possible for us to have a relationship with God. His sacrifice blots out our sins.

Yet, if Jesus had stayed dead, we would have nothing to celebrate. Jesus would not have been who He said He was. Jesus told His disciples over and over again that He would die but also that He would rise again. Because He rose again, because He defeated death, we can have confidence in God's promises that we, too, will have eternal (that means forever) life with God.

We celebrate Easter on the day that Jesus rose from the dead, not on the day that He died. His death is important, but without his resurrection Jesus just becomes another person who made some big claims then died. His resurrection means that we can believe in all of God's promises. Jesus did what He said He would do. And that makes Easter a reason for us to celebrate.

As you celebrate Easter this year, remember that Easter is about joy. Think about how it might have felt to be one of the disciples seeing Jesus again after His death.

The Ultimate Sacrifice

This week at Everyday Truth, we're celebrating Easter with a family devotional each day. Each one is designed to be used with your kids to take a look at a different aspect of the Easter story.

My oldest daughter made a sacrifice the other day. We had already scheduled her sister's birthday party for Sunday afternoon when we got an email saying my oldest had a soccer game at the same time. There was no changing the time on the party, and I really needed their dad and grandmother to help me out.

Instead of throwing a fit or being upset, my oldest said, "That's OK. You guys stay at the party. Granddaddy can take me." Not only was she giving up going to the party, but my oldest was giving up having one of us come to her game. And she did it without a fuss. She made a sacrifice so her sister could have something she wanted.

That's what sacrifice is. It's giving up something for someone else. Sacrifice is rarely ever easy. I know my oldest daughter would have preferred that we all go to her soccer game, but sacrifice nearly always results in something better. My oldest's sacrifice kept the peace in our family and made her sister very happy.

Easter is all about sacrifice. Jesus made the ultimate sacrifice for you and me. He chose to die on the cross so that we would no longer have to be separated from God.

Think of it this way. Take out a piece of paper and draw a picture of someone on one edge of the paper. Now, write the word "God" on the other edge. There should be almost the whole length of the paper between your person and God. That distance represents our sin -- the things we do that go against God's commands. Things like lying, saying things that aren't nice about people, not obeying our parents and stuff like that. We can never cross that distance on our own. We are stuck on one side of the paper while God is on the other.

Now, draw a cross between the person on your paper and God. The cross creates a bridge across the distance. Because Jesus chose to die, he closed the distance between us and God. He made it possible for us to have a relationship with God.

Jesus could have climbed down off that cross any time He wanted. He was, after all, the Son of God. Yet, he chose to stay on the cross and sacrifice His life so that we could be close to God. Jesus made the ultimate sacrifice -- his life -- for you and me. He loved you enough to die for you.

Do you know what the Bible tells us happened when Jesus breathed His last breath? Check out Matthew 27:51: "At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom." The curtain of the temple separated the part of the temple where the regular people could go from the part where only the priests could go. The inner part of the temple was available only to a select few. The curtain separated most of the people from God. It was a physical representation of our separation from God. Yet, when Jesus died, that curtain ripped in half, signaling the end of that separation.

As you celebrate Easter this weekend, remember that it is Jesus' death that makes it possible for us to be close to God. Without His sacrifice, we would still separated from God. Thank Him today for His sacrifice that created a bridge between us and God.

What Happens When We Screw Up?

This week at Everyday Truth, we're celebrating Easter with a family devotional each day. Each one is designed to be used with your kids to take a look at a different aspect of the Easter story.

Today, let's talk about one of my favorite figures in the Bible -- Peter. He plays a small but important role in the events leading up to Jesus' death. Peter was the disciple I would vote as Most Likely to Say the Wrong Thing. He rarely thought before he spoke and was always rushing into the things. Jesus had to save Peter from his own impulsiveness more than once.

Peter was the guy that jumped out of the boat when Jesus was walking on the water. As long as he kept his eyes on Jesus, he could walk on the water, too. But when he looked down at the water and let fear and doubt creep in, he began to sink. Jesus had to save him.

During the final meal Jesus would eat with his disciples, Peter again became the center of attention. He made some rash statements that would come back to haunt him later. Look at what happens in Luke 22:31-34:

“Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift all of you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.”

But he replied, “Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death.”

Jesus answered, “I tell you, Peter, before the rooster crows today, you will deny three times that you know me.”

Peter didn't believe that he could ever turn his back on Jesus. Yet, just hours later, after Jesus had been taken away by the Roman soldiers, Peter would be asked three times if he was one of Jesus' followers. Three times he would deny that he belonged to the group of people that followed Jesus. And then the rooster crowed.

Peter screwed up. At the moment when it was most difficult to be a follower of Jesus, Peter turned his back on Jesus. He said he didn't know Jesus.

That could have been the end of the story, but it's not. We know that Jesus was crucified and rose again three days later. We're going to look at those two big events tomorrow and the next day. For now, let's focus on what happened to Peter after Jesus rose from the dead.

Jesus appeared to his disciples several times after he rose again. One day, Jesus appeared to the disciples while they were out fishing. Look at what happens in John 21:7: "Then the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, ;It is the Lord!' As soon as Simon Peter heard him say, 'It is the Lord,' he wrapped his outer garment around him (for he had taken it off) and jumped into the water." Peter had not forgotten how much he loved Jesus. He was so excited to see Him again that he couldn't even wait for the boat to get to the shore. He jumped out to reach Jesus.

Then, Jesus did something important. He forgave Peter and gave him the task of looking after the people who would become the early church. In John 21:15-19, Jesus asks Peter three times if he loves Jesus. Peter answers yes all three times. Jesus then tells Peter to feed Jesus' sheep. Despite Peter's major screw-up, Jesus is putting Peter in charge of caring for His followers. It's a big responsibility and one that will ultimately end in Peter's death.

Why is all of this important for us? Because when we follow Jesus, it is inevitable that at some point, we will screw it up. We will not stand up for Jesus when we should or we will pretend we don't know Jesus when it would make us uncomfortable. But, just like Peter, when we screw up, Jesus is waiting to forgive us and say again to us "Follow me."

Can you think of a time when you pretended you didn't know Jesus? Maybe a time when you made a choice that you knew went against God's commands? Those are the moments when we turn our backs on Jesus. When we do that, we need to ask for forgiveness and try again. Jesus is waiting for us to acknowledge our poor choice and jump right back in to following Him. His death on the cross allows Him to offer us that forgiveness.

So, when we have our "Peter moments" when we choose to ignore Jesus, remember that Jesus is simply waiting for us to come crashing out of the boat to return to Him. And, He's always willing to forgive our screw-ups and set us back on the right path -- because He loves us.

Don't Miss the Empty Tomb

It's that time of year again when our schedule gets overbooked. I honestly think that this weekend in April is the busiest one of our year, including the holiday season.

My youngest turns 8 on Monday, so her birthday party is this weekend on top of her regularly scheduled hockey game, the AWANA carnival and an egghunt. My oldest is going on a church retreat, to another friend's birthday party and has a soccer game at the same time as my youngest's birthday party. We'll finish the weekend out with our second-to-last AWANA meeting.

I have freelance deadlines coming up and am in charge of planning and hosting the birthday party. It would be really easy to lose sight of the reason that we're celebrating this weekend and get caught up in the details.

You all know that I love to throw a good birthday party. I've made Super Mario decorations, planned games, including an obstacle course, a balloon battle and a question mark box pinata. I still have a lot of details to take care of before the party on Sunday, and I'm sure I'll be a bit stressed before it all comes together.

I'm trying not to let the details get in the way of enjoying the weekend celebrating with my daughter. It would be really easy to get so focused on the party and all the other things we have to do this weekend that I could miss the joy in the moment and the reason for celebrating -- my daughter.
As Easter nears, we don't want to get caught up in the details and the noise surrounding this celebration of Jesus' death and resurrection. What a joyful time of the year. We serve a God who defeated death and offers us life. When the women went to the tomb, it was empty because Jesus is alive. The angels told them "He is not here. He has risen, just as he said." (Matthew 28:6) That's an amazing message, and one to be celebrated.

Unfortunately, the world has commercialized Easter to the point that it's true meaning has been lost. It's easy for our kids to get caught up in coloring Easter eggs and egg hunts and completely miss the truth of Easter. Spend the next week helping your kids to focus on the reason we celebrate Easter.

  • Starting Monday, check out the blog for a family devotion that will walk your family through Easter week, focusing on the events in Jesus' life in that last week. Each day will include a fun activity to do or an easy discussion to have with your kids.
  • One of my favorite object lessons for kids during Easter are Resurrection Eggs. These are plastic eggs that have something inside each egg that tells the story of Jesus' death and resurrection. It's fun and engaging for kids. Let older kids open the eggs in order and tell you the events that go along with each object.
  • Take every opportunity in this next week to talk about Jesus' death and resurrection. While there's nothing wrong with coloring eggs and going to egg hunts (we do), make sure your kids know that those things are simply fun. The true reason that we celebrate Easter is because Jesus died on the cross and rose from the grave so that we could have a relationship with God.

Take time this next week to focus on the meaning of Easter -- Jesus. Don't get so caught up in planning for the family dinner or choosing the perfect Easter dress or even helping with your Easter services that you forget the reason for the celebration. Take time every day in the next week to spend some time focused on Jesus and celebrate the joy of Easter.