Sunday, December 16, 2012

Things I Don't Understand

There are many things that I do not understand. Here are just a few of those things:

CDs: I don't understand CDs. When I look at them, I can't see any songs in there, but when I put one in my CD player, I hear beautiful music. I don't understand it, but I know it works!

I don't understand how He did it, but God put a song in my heart. In times when I am sad, there is a song to comfort me; and when I am happy, there is a song to praise Him. I don't know how He did it, but God put a song in my heart!

Telephones: I don't understand how I can pick up a telephone and talk to someone hundreds or thousands of miles away and they can talk to me. Oh, I know about telephone lines, fiber optics, and cell phone towers, but I still don't understand how it works -- but I know it does!

I don't understand how I can talk to God in Heaven and He can talk to me. I can tell Him what is on my mind and he listens patiently -- then He speaks to my heart and gives me the assurance that I need. I don't understand prayer, but I know it works.

Medicine: I don't understand how medicine works. When I take a pill, how does it know where to go and what to do when it gets there? I don't know how it works, but I know it does!

I don't understand how God can heal the deepest hurt and pain in our lives. He knows exactly what we need in every situation. I don't know how He does it, but He does!

I don't understand how I can push some buttons on a calculator and it will give me the correct answer to any problem. I don't understand it, but if I push the right buttons, I get the right answer every time!

I don't understand how God has the right answer to all of the problems of my life. I don't understand it, but I know He does!

Flashlights: I know this seems pretty simple, but I don't understand flashlights. I know there is a bulb and batteries and a switch to turn it off and on, but I still don't understand why it works -- but I know it does!

I don't understand how, but I know that in the darkest days of my life, God is my light. I don't know how He does it, but He lights every path I take!

Remote Controls:
I don't understand how I can sit in my easy chair and control my TV or DVR from all the way across the room. I can change channels, adjust the volume, pause, fast-forward, or rewind. I don't understand it, but I am in complete control!

I don't understand how God can sit on His throne in Heaven and control everything here on earth. I certainly don't understand the events that have happened this week! I don't understand why someone would go into a school and kill innocent people -- people that he didn't even know. I don't understand it, but I know that even in this terrible situation, God is in control!

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Psalm 46:1

Thank you, God, that I don't have to understand your ways. I only have to trust you know that you are in control.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree

I have seen a lot of Christmases, but there is one that stands out in my memory above all the others. Our family had made plans to go visit my grandmother for Christmas.  Since money was a little short, my parents decided that it would be wasteful to purchase a tree since we would not even be at home for Christmas.  I wasn't too happy with that plan, but as a sixth-grader, my opinion didn't count for much.

In those days, every classroom at school had a Christmas tree.  This was not an artificial tree, but a real, honest-to-goodness, full-sized tree.  We children were allowed to decorate the tree, mostly with decorations which we made ourselves, and lots and lots of silver icicles.   In our eyes, it was a thing of beauty!

On the last day of school before the holidays my teacher, Mrs. Stewart, stood up in front of the class and asked, "Is there anyone who doesn't have a Christmas tree?" Like a shot, my hand went up!  Mrs. Stewart looked around the room, and since mine was the only hand raised, she announced that I could have the class Christmas tree if I wanted it.  IF I WANTED IT?   OF COURSE I WANTED IT!

That afternoon when school was dismissed, I collected my tree, and since we only lived three blocks from the school, I walked home dragging my tree behind me. I walked along, waving proudly at passing cars and other students who were walking home from school.

My mother met me at the front door.  "What in the world is that?" she asked.

"It's our Christmas tree!" I replied, my face beaming with pride.  "Mrs. Stewart asked if there was anyone who didn't have a Christmas tree and when I raised my hand, she said I could have it."

"Oh my goodness," mother exclaimed.  "What will people think?  I'll tell you what they will think.  They will think we are so poor that we can't even afford a Christmas tree!  I have never been so embarrassed in all my life."

Through the years my family has had many good laughs over that Christmas.  I never understood why my mother should have been embarrassed, but there is one thing for sure,  we had a Christmas tree every year from that day on -- even if we were going to grandmother's house.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Coming Soon!

Whether we are in a theater or watching movies in the comfort of our living room on a DVD, we are almost certain to be bombarded with previews of coming attractions.  These short clips of movies that will be "Coming soon to a theater near you!" always show just enough of the movie to pique our interest without giving away the entire plot of the movie. The Christmas holidays is the time when the movie industry traditionally introduces what they hope will be the biggest hits of the year.

For us, as Christians, the phrase "Coming Soon" has a much greater significance.  We are looking forward to Christ's return!  Jesus told us that he would come again, but he didn't tell us everything.  He just told us enough so that we would know that it would be a glorious event that we wouldn't want to miss.  Neither did Jesus tell us exactly when he would be coming.  In fact, he said, "No one knows the day or the hour, not even the angels in heaven. Only the Father knows."

So, we are looking forward to his return, but if we don't know when it is going to happen.  What should we do?  Well, just like the movie previews  say, "Coming Soon to a theater near you" without saying exactly when, we have to be watching so that we will be ready when the movie comes to town. In fact, that is exactly what Jesus told us. "Be ready, because you have no idea when the Son of Man is going to show up."

What should we be doing to make sure we are ready for Jesus when he returns? We should be doing the things that Jesus wants us to be doing -- loving one another, caring for the sick, feeding the hungry, and helping the poor. If we are doing those things, we will be ready when he comes.  I hope he's "Coming Soon!"

Monday, November 12, 2012

Satisfaction Survey

I recently had to go to the Department of Public Safety to renew my driver's license.  When I received my new license in the mail, there was a card enclosed which requested that I go online and submit a customer satisfaction survey.  "Please use the link below to help us create a faster, easier friendlier driver license experience" the card said. This experience caused me to stop and think about the experience people have when they visit our church. Perhaps our "visitor cards" should include a brief customer satisfaction survey with statements to which the visitor could provide feedback about their experience.  Imagine that you are a first-time visitor at your church and complete the following survey.

Our church wants to provide an atmosphere in which all worshipers will feel welcome, have a meaningful  encounter with God, and grow in their relationship with Jesus Christ.  You can help us to know how well we are meeting our goal by completing the following survey.

When I arrived, I was greeted warmly and made to feel welcome.


The Sunday School class I attended provided meaningful Bible study.


The worship service led me straight to the throne of God.


The music in the worship service provided a good mixture of styles.


The pastor's message was Biblical and inspiring.


I found what I was looking for at your church.


I will definitely attend your church again.


I would definitely recommend your church to my friends.


How well would your church do in this survey?  If the answer is, "Not as well as it should." The question to ask yourself is, "What can I do to make it better?"

After writing this post, I found an interesting article by Thom S. Ranier entitled "Eight Terrible Church Visits" which tells about experiences of "mystery guests" who were paid to attend churches and then write a review of their experiences.  You might find it interesting reading. 

Saturday, November 03, 2012

Things I'm Thankful For

November is the month when we stop to give thanks for all of our blessings.  On Facebook, Twitter, and blogs , I see that many people are observing "Thirty Days of Giving Thanks." Each day during the month, they post one thing for which they are thankful.  What a great way to observe the season.

When I was teaching school, I taught the children a song entitled "Things I'm Thankful For." As we sang the song, I walked around the room with a hand-held microphone.  It wasn't connected to anything, but that didn't matter.  When we came to the refrain, we sang, "I'm thankful for..." and I held the microphone up to one of the children who would name something for which they were thankful.  I don't know about the children, but I loved it!  I was always touched by the way the children responded, naming so many things that we often take for granted!  That song always comes to my mind whenever someone asks, "What are you thankful for?" 

There are many things I am thankful for,
I can find them near and far.
There are many things I am thankful for,
Let me tell you what they are.

I'm thankful for...

    Each new day,
    for time to work and time to play
I'm thankful for....

     Our daily bread. a nice warm bed
    and a roof overhead

I'm thankful for...

    Family and friends who through the years
    have stood beside me in laughter and tears

I'm thankful for...

    Pastors and teachers in church and school
    Who teach us to live by God's golden rule

I'm thankful for...

    The sunshine and I'll be thankful for the rain
    whenever God chooses to send it again

I'm thankful for...

    Freedom to worship and freedom to pray
    and for those who serve to keep it that way

I'm thankful for...

    So many things today
    But most of all, I'd have to say
I'm thankful for...

    God, the Father, and for Jesus his son
    for it is through him that the vict'ry is won

No matter how you do it, make every day this month one when you "Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name."
Psalm 100:4   

Friday, October 26, 2012

Frequently Asked Questions Part 2

Recently I wrote a sermon about Jesus being asked, "Which is the most important  commandment?"  Jesus responded by giving not only the most important commandment, but the second most important commandment as well. It reminded me of a recent post on this blog about the most frequently asked question I receive at Sermons4Kids. The most frequently asked question is, "Do we have permission to reprint the sermons and activities from the Sermons4Kids web site?"  Now that you know the answer to that question, it seems appropriate that I now deal with the second most frequently asked question.

The second most frequently asked question received at Sermons4Kids is, "Do you have a sermon about _____?"  You can fill in the blank with any subject you might imagine.  Whenever I receive such a question, the first thing I do is to go to our Site Search Tool.  You will find this valuable tool in the left column of all main pages on the web site.  Every Monday morning our entire web site is indexed to insure that the most recent sermons will be included in the search results.  So, if someone writes and asks if I have a sermon about communion, I type communion in the search box, click the search button and a page opens showing that we have six sermons about communion!

It is very helpful to know something about how a search engine works. If you use our site search tool to search for the word love, it will yield a list of 356 documents!  Not very helpful, is it?  If you search for "love your neighbor" with the phrase in quotation marks, it will find only those pages with that exact phrase.  The results will yield 12 documents.  Now, that's more like it!  Looking for a sermon for Mother's Day? Search for mother's day without quotation marks and you will find 495 documents because it will find every sermon that has the word mother or the word day.  Search for "Mother's Day" in quotation marks and you will find 7 documents.

To help you know how to get the best results from your searches, we have a Search Tips page on our web site.  It will give you many suggestions on how to make your searches more productive.  Oh, by the way, these tips will work on Google, Yahoo, Bing or just about any search tool. I hope after reading this post you will visit our web site and try our "Site Search" tool. Play with it! Type in "John 3:16" and see how many sermons you find.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

It's What's Inside that Counts

Ray Cassle
My friend, Ray Cassle, was a rock collector and lapidary. Out behind his house he had a shop where he worked on the rocks he had gathered on his many rock hunting expeditions. What a mess! Rocks piled everywhere!  I wouldn't make a very good rock collector. If I saw a rock on the ground like many of the rocks found in Ray's shop, I wouldn't even stop to pick it up.  Ray knew that you can't judge a rock by what it looks like on the outside.  He knew that a skilled lapidary can take what appears to be an ordinary rock, cut away the rough and rugged exterior, and polish it into a thing of extraordinary beauty,

Ray was a lot like his rocks.  On the surface, he was a little rough. He was outspoken and at times his tone could be a little gruff, but inside there was a heart of gold.  Even in his manner of dress Ray was a bit unpolished.  His idea of "dressing up" was a pair of Wrangler jeans, suspenders, a pocket t-shirt, and a bandana tied loosely around his neck.  Not exactly sartorial splendor from the pages of "Dress for Success," but that was his style.

Ray had a heart for children.  He served on the Sermons4Kids Board of Directors from its beginning and he always had the attitude that no task was too big if God was in it.  He also had a heart for missions and spent money out of his own pocket to support a mission effort in Mexico.  He collected toys and personally took them to Mexico to insure that the children of the mission had a Merry Christmas.

Most people, if they had passed Ray on the street, wouldn't have given him a second look.  They would never have recognized that beneath that rough exterior was a heart filled with love.  God saw what they did not see.  He didn't see Ray for what he was, he saw him for what he could become.  We should know that "The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart." (1 Samuel 16:7)

As a lapidary, Ray cut, formed, tumbled, and polished many very ordinary-looking rocks until they were a thing of beauty and that is what God did with Ray.  "I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus." (Philippians 1:6)

In memory of Ray Cassle.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Frequently Asked Questions

By far, the most frequently asked question I receive is, "Do we have permission to reproduce your lessons for use in our church?"  The answer is, "Yes,"  Any material on our web site which bears our Copyright © Sermons4Kids, Inc.notice may be used for ministry purposes as long as there is no charge for their use.  That includes sermons, puzzles, activities, and PowerPoint presentations.  The copyright notice should remain intact on any Sermons4Kids materials reproduced.  This permission extends to use in churches, schools, home schools, and other non-profit organizations.

What about coloring pages?  Can they be reproduced?  Sermons4Kids does not own the copyright to any coloring pages. We have been granted permission by the copyright owners to provide these coloring pages for use with our lessons. Coloring pages may be reproduced for classes in your church or other non-profit, but cannot be sold or distributed to others by any means. Neither can they be reproduced for inclusion in other media such as coloring books, church newsletters, or web sites.

Most of the images like the one used with this post which I use to represent the subject our sermons are provided by with permission of Dream Maker Software.  You will find their copyright notice at the bottom of the page along with a link to their web site.  Permission is not granted to download those graphics or save them to your computer.  They may be printed as an integral part of a sermon for your personal use.

That covers the single most asked question I receive.  If you ever have a question,  please feel free to ask, but it might save us both a little time if you would first check our FAQ Page.

Monday, October 01, 2012

Well Done, Thou Good and Faithful Servant

In 2002, I received an email from a man living in Mexico City asking if I would be interested in having my weekly children's sermons translated into Spanish.  I was thrilled by his offer.  The plan was that I would send sermons to him by email and he would translate them and send them back. I sent him two sermons to get us started and he translated them and sent them back to me.  I then began sending him my weekly sermons, but I never received another translation back from him.

Since I had set up a Spanish page on the web site, I didn't want to let it die, so I began using an online language translator called Babelfish.  That worked pretty well, or at least I thought it did, until I wrote a sermon entitled "Kids Pay Taxes Too."  The online translator rendered the word "kids" as "cabritos."  If you know Spanish, you know that a cabrito is a young goat!

"I don't know who is translating your sermons," a woman wrote, "but it is obvious that they don't know Spanish!  You need help."

"Are you volunteering to help me?" I responded.

"Yes, I will help you" she answered.

"The rest," as they say, "is history." Zulma M. Corchado de Gavalda has been translating our lessons into Spanish every week since October 2002.  Several years ago Zulma suggested that we start a sermon of the week mailing list in Spanish like we offer in English.  There are now over 13,000 subscribers receiving our weekly Spanish sermons by email each week.

Happy 10th Anniversary, Zulma.  Words can never adequately express my gratitude to you for the service you provide to the Sermons4Kids ministry, but I have no doubt that one day you will hear our Lord say, "Well done, Zulma, thou good and faithful servant."

Oh, by the way, would you please translate this post into Spanish for me?  I would like to send it to our Spanish mailing list.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

"Why Can't the English?"

In the early days of Sermons4Kids I gave little thought to language.  I assumed that my audience lived in the USA and spoke English just like me, my neighbors, and the members of my local church.  As the years have passed, God has greatly expanded the reach of our ministry.  Last year there were over three million visitors to our web site from more than 200 different countries around the world.  Our Sermon of the Week email mailing list is approaching 75,000.  This has resulted in some enlightening experiences for me!

Recently our lesson was based on Exodus 16 about God providing manna in the wilderness for the children of Israel.  The object used to launch the message was called "Monkey Bread." I even provided a simple recipe made from canned biscuits.  Here are some of the comments I received from our friends in the United Kingdom:

"What are canned biscuits?"

"What you call biscuits, we call scones."

"What we call biscuits, you call cookies."

"Do you mean scones or biscuits?"

"What people in the U.S. call a can, we call a tin."

"Why would anyone put scones in a tin can?"

"How much butter is 'a stick of butter?'"

Oh my! What I thought was a simple lesson to teach children about manna in the wilderness turned out to be a lesson in "English" for me.

Most of our lessons include a coloring page.  In the UK, they think it should be a colouring page.  A few weeks ago our lesson was about "Playing Favorites."  The word "favorite" was used in the word search puzzle.  I was reminded by a friend from "across the pond" that he had to explain to his children that "favorite" should actually be "favourite."

It all reminds me of that song, "Why Can't the English?" from "My Fair Lady."

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Feet of Clay

Several years ago, I wrote a children's sermon entitled "A Miraculous Turn Around."  The lesson was based on Luke 7:11-16 where Jesus encountered a large crowd that was mourning a young man's death.  Jesus approached the boy's mother and said, "Don't Cry." Then he said to the dead boy, "Get up!"  The young man rose and returned to his mother.

At the time I wrote this lesson, Lance Armstrong was at the pinnacle of his cycling career.  He had overcome cancer and had won the Tour de France a record seven times.  That is a record that is not likely to ever be broken.  He was certainly a prime example of "A Miraculous Turn Around."

Even if you don't follow bicycle racing, you know what has happened since that time.  He has been accused by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency of cheating through the use of steroids and performance-enhancing drugs.  Armstrong denies cheating, but refuses to fight the charge stating that he has cleared hundreds of tests and has never tested positive for any banned substance.  He has been stripped of his seven Tour de France titles and has been banned from professional cycling.

To many people Lance Armstrong is still a hero, but to many he is a disgraced cheater.  I don't know which is correct, but I do know that his story teaches us that it we must avoid the worship of idols.  It has been demonstrated time and time again that the idols we worship tend to have "Feet of Clay."  (Daniel 2:31-33)

Saturday, September 08, 2012

A New Direction

I don't remember when I started this Blog.  It was really just an experiment to see what it was like.  Of course the fact that it was free made that more appealing.  Not having anything creative to say, I began posting sermons that were already appearing on our Sermons4Kids web site.  I only updated it about once or twice a year!  Not much of an incentive for anyone to follow our blog.  Well, I still don't know what direction we will take, but we either need to change what we are doing or abandon ship, so if you have any ideas, let me know.  You can offer feedback through the contact page on the web site.

Social media is all the rage these days.  Sermons4Kids has a Facebook page, a Twitter page, and a YouTube page, but I'm not too sure I do much better with those than I do with this Blog.  I had a meeting last week with the College Minister at my church and enlisted his help in finding an intern. We are looking for someone with technical savvy and a heart for ministry to help us in managing our Social Media.  I pray that the Lord will send just the right person to fill that job just like he sent someone to translate our lessons into Spanish and someone to create group activities to enhance our Sermons4Kids lessons.  God is good at finding people!

Stay tuned and we will see where this Blog takes us.