Teaching kids to use their talents for good

When I was in elementary and middle school, I was small. I couldn’t keep up with the stronger kids in the popular sports like football and basketball. I was pushed around and bullied by the bigger kids.

Then I discovered a unique talent – juggling. While in fifth grade, my friend Tim taught me how to juggle three balls. I was fascinated by the process and challenge of juggling. I practiced every night after school for about two weeks and finally figured out how to juggle. But I didn’t stop at three. With the help of library books, other jugglers that I met along the way, and lots of practice, I worked my way up to five, six, and seven objects within a few more years.

Then came the high school variety show. I was still one of those “geek” kids who was never in the popular crowd. But my friends talked me into performing my juggling in front of my entire high school for this talent night. So I pulled out the machete juggling and the six-foot ladder balance. The crowd went nuts. I had finally discovered something that (1) I was good at and (2) brought joy to other people.

Frederick Buechner said, “The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”

Juggling is an activity that makes me feel alive in a different way than most things – like I was made to do it. And that activity is something different for every person.

But it doesn’t stop there. God gave us each different gifts and talents so that we can shine His light, share His love, bring peace where there is pain, bring goodness and joy to others….all to the glory of His name.

“Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.” – 1 Peter 4:10, NIV

You see, we all have different gifts and strengths, which means we NEED one another. Your strengths fill in for my weaknesses and vice versa. That is why community is so important. In community, we are an unstoppable force of strengths for the greater good of the world.

Research has shown that there is a direct correlation between the use of people’s strengths in their jobs and the overall success of the organizations those people work for. In other words, the best organizations are the ones where most of the people use most of their gifts, talents, and strengths most of the time (see the Gallup C12 engagement survey).

So how can we teach and encourage kids to discover and use their talents for the greater good?

  1. Teach them about calling and vocation. Have discussions about how talents are God-given and that we can develop them through continued work and practice. Check out Visions of Vocation by Steven Garber and Kingdom Calling by Amy Sherman for more on these topics.
  2. Give children every opportunity you can to explore all the different kinds of subjects, activities, arts, and sports in the world. And do so in a way that allows children to freely choose the things they want to pursue in life. When we put the “toys” in front of them, they will pick their favorites and discover their passions and talents.
  3. Consider donating time and/or money to organizations that provide children with opportunities they would otherwise not have. Not all kids have the same amount of opportunities, so we as adults need to be aware of this discrepancy and do everything in our power to offer all children the opportunities to explore different activities in this world.
  4. Teach them about community and how we need one another in this life. Our strengths and talents fill in the gaps of weaknesses and challenges in others (and vice versa). When we come together in groups, teams, and communities, we become unstoppable forces.
  5. Lead kids in service projects. Kids love to serve. They want to serve. When they serve their communities for the greater good, they realize that they have gifts and talents to offer the world. Talk about how God gave us these gifts so that we can help others and bring glory to God.

Song of Solomon Memory Verse

Whether you understand the Song of Solomon as a love poem between two humans or an allegory of love between humans and God (or both, which I think is an acceptable hermeneutic here), this verse communicates the overwhelming power of love. #mvotwyear

Did God the Father Abandon Jesus on the Cross?

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

guest post by Russell Joyner

Why would Jesus say something that sounds so discouraging? In Jewish tradition, in a moment of great distress, one should pray.  When all looks hopeless, pray. When you can’t think of what to pray, then recite one of the pre-approved inspired prayers.

In first century Israel, In the middle of the afternoon, around three PM, Jews would stop for prayer.  Somebody was supposed to call together at least ten Jewish men (constituting a minyun / quorum), then lead out in a Hebrew prayer, preferably one memorized from Scripture.  Those who knew the prayer were supposed to corporately join in out loud.

Matthew 27:46 tells us “At about the ninth hour, Jesus cried out in a loud voice…” The ninth hour after sunrise is the time to offer the afternoon prayer.  Nobody else took the leadership to select one of the psalms to pray. So Jesus took the lead, and started the prayer. When 1st century Hebrews started reciting Scripture, they did not use the number references like we do (chapter and verse numbers).  The opening phrase also served as the title of the prayer. Jesus was inviting those standing around the foot of the cross to join him in one of the most dynamic petitions for deliverance ever written, very likely penned by King David himself.

Psalm 22 is a classic example of a “Prayer of Lament” (along with about two dozen in the Book of Psalms).  The Biblical lament expresses a desperate situation, but the whole point is to confess that the situation can be changed by the LORD.  The lament psalms raise a cry out of the depths, fully believing that God has the power to lift a person up, around or through the pit & to set the believer’s feet firmly upon the rock.  Therefore, these Biblical laments are ultimately expressions of praise; admitting circumstances are at their worst, yet praising God for his faithful presence & deliverance. Things may look bad, but my God is sufficient for me. In each case, the complaining lament is shown to be invalid as a truth statement within the prayer itself.  

Psalm 13:1   How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me?

Psalm 13:5-6   But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation.  I will sing to the LORD, for he has been good to me.

Psalm 74:1   Why have you rejected us forever, O God? Why does your anger smolder against the sheep of your pasture?

Psalm 74:12   But you, O God, are my king from of old; you bring salvation upon the earth.

While the complaint truly springs from genuine human anguish, once the individual looks at the lamentable circumstances through God’s eyes, the logical fallacy becomes clear.

Psalm 22 opens up with this address & complaint: “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from me, so far from the words of my groaning? O my God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer, by night, & am not silent.”

Some have taken that statement at face value, to conclude that God the Father did in fact forsake Jesus.  I must go wherever the evidence leads me, and the evidence leads me to say “NO”!

The evidence:

  1. The ultimate message of Psalm 22 was trust in Yahweh’s covenant faithfulness: God will deliver.
  2. The way God has revealed himself consistently throughout Scripture:
    • Immanuel literally means, “God With Us”
    • The name Yahweh can be translated, “I Am Faithfully Present”
    • Deuteronomy 31:6 – “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”
    • Psalm 94:14 – “I will not forsake my inheritance.”
  3. The opening lines of psalms were used as titles, therefore, mention of title invokes the whole prayer.
  4. Psalm 22:24 itself tells us  “For He has not despised or disdained the suffering of the afflicted one; he has not hidden his face from him, but has listened to his cry for help.”   The initial complaint is corrected by the forthtelling prophecy.
  5. New Testament confirmation:
    • Matthew 27 quotes four times from Psalm 22; Matthew understood the whole represented by the part.
    • “When he offered up prayers & petitions w/loud cries & tears to the one who could save him, He was heard” (Hebrews 5:7).

Jesus gave his life willingly.  He knew the ultimate message of Psalm 22 was trust in Yahweh’s faithfulness.  He also recognized the lament psalm for what it was: a prayer of praise in the midst of lamentable circumstances.  Not a hopeless lamentation.

The evidence & example of Christ leads us to be more willing to express ourselves to God openly without white-washing our problems.  The prayer closet is the place to freely and firmly make your complaint and appeal. When we are at our wit’s end, Psalm 22 can guide us in taking our problems to the LORD.  Don’t despair!

APPLICATION: Do not build your view of God on your feelings, but upon the WORD of God….The BIBLE.  The true & living God has revealed himself to us in the Scripture, that we might know him & obey him.

Activity: A Hunt for the Real Meaning of Easter

Here’s a simple and fun Easter egg hunt activity that involves all ages. You can use this at home, at church, or any other Easter event.

  1. Using plastic Easter eggs, have the adults hide the eggs for the children – the more people you get involved the better, as you’ll see why in the next steps….
  2. Do NOT fill the eggs with candy. Instead, have each adult take one or more eggs and fill each one with a slip of paper with a Bible verse on it. Ideally, the Bible verses can be about the resurrection of Jesus (here is a link to a starter list of 15 verses you can use). It is best if each adult takes the time to look up and write out each verse by hand.
  3. Set the children loose to find the eggs.
  4. After all the eggs are found, have people forms intergenerational groups of 5-8 people each.
  5. Have the children read the verses out loud to the adults in the group and give time for the groups to discuss the verses together.
  6. Allow time for the group to pray together as well.
  7. Finally, have plenty of candy available for the children at the end, so they can still fill their baskets and bellies with the sweets!