A Review of “The Shepherd’s Treasure”

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Over the past few years, Stephane and I had heard about Elf on the Shelf, mostly through Facebook. It looked like a neat idea, but we chose not to participate. Then in November 2016, Stephane became aware of The Shepherd’s Treasure, which was being branded as an alternative to Elf on the Shelf. We thought, why not give it a try? The package arrived in the mail late in November and our first task was to name our Shepherd – we went with the name David. The kids also got to enjoy the book that came with the package. One highlight for the kids was that each page had a hidden verse on it – they loved trying to spot that hidden verse.

 

Our official journey began on December 1st. We had already briefed the kids that when they woke up in the morning, they would be searching for the shepherd. Each day had a certain theme, and it was always based upon a bible verse. Here is how the website explains how it all works: “Your Shepherd travels in search of Jesus each night while your kids sleep. After bedtime, find creative and fun ways for your Shepherd to continue his journey….On Christmas morning, your Shepherd will find Baby Jesus! Place your Shepherd and Baby Jesus together somewhere extra special. Your children will find their Shepherd kneeling before the greatest Treasure of all time: Jesus!”

 

So…..25 days after it all started, the journey culminates on Christmas morning when the shepherd finds baby Jesus. One of the things we really liked about Shepherds Treasure is that you can make it your own. While the creators of Shepherds Treasure give you instructions and guidance, you put as much into it as you want. Steph and I chose to keep things fairly simple. We never felt like we had the time or energy to go all out, but even in keeping it simple, the kids really enjoyed it.

 

We only ever missed 2 days (sleeping in both times) but you won’t have that problem if you hide your shepherd the night before instead of doing in the morning, before the kids get up like we often did. The best part of Shepherd’s Treasure is that it is focused on Christ and is saturated with Scripture. We tried to use each day’s Scripture verse as an opportunity to talk about Christ. By all means, be creative and make it fun for your kids, but don’t forget the true meaning of Christmas. There is a great need for parents to explain the importance of the gospel and the incarnation of Christ. The Bible verses used in this activity are a good starting point, but they must be reinforced over and over again. Shepherds Treasure was not designed to replace daily times of family worship, but it is a fun activity that your kids will enjoy and it can serve as a supplement to your times of family worship.

 

I would recommend giving The Shepherd’s Treasure a try. If you are interested, it’s a good idea to purchase your kit sooner rather than later, as it seems to go in and out of stock pretty quickly.  

Committing to Family Worship

As a pastor, I have discovered that just the thought of “family worship” or “family devotions” can be overwhelming to Christian parents. Perhaps one of the reasons for this is because parents think they need to duplicate the Sunday morning worship service.  The reality is that family worship doesn’t have to be complicated.

Quite simply, family worship is the family coming together to worship God. The Puritans were big on this and called the family a “little church” of sorts. They believed that the worship of God should be a regular activity, not just something that happened on Sunday. Over the past few years, we have tried to make family worship part of our daily routine. Our three kids are still pretty young so it can be a challenge, but it has also been a great blessing to our family. I can almost guarantee you that if you start doing family worship, it will have a unifying effect on your family and will draw you closer to the Lord.

There are many ways of doing family worship, but there are a few key elements that I would like to highlight for you. Husbands and fathers, as head of the family (Ephesians 5:23, 1 Corinthians 11:3) take the initiative to call the family together for worship. Begin by reading a portion of Scripture. It doesn’t have to be long, but I would encourage you to work through a book of the Bible. One day you can read half a chapter or a chapter, and then next day you can pick it up where you left off. After reading a portion of Scripture, ask the kids a few questions that pertain to the reading. Help them understand what God is saying through His Word. Don’t think you need to preach a sermon every time you have family worship, but it is your responsibility to expose your children to the word of God (Ephesians 6:4). Also, there are plenty of good devotional books that can be of help to you.

Next, grab a hymnal or a church songbook or listen to a worship cd and sing a couple praise songs to the Lord. Most kids love to sing so compliance will not be an issue here. Finally, finish off your time of worship in prayer. Offer God your praises, petitions, and thanksgivings together as a family. In these two things (praise and prayer), you are responding to God’s revelation, goodness, and mercy. If you are not already practicing family worship, I would encourage you to start. Our family worship times usually only last 10-15 minutes so it doesn’t have to be long. The important thing is to get started and to allow the Lord to direct you.

If you are a couple without any kids, then it goes without saying that you can still have times of family worship. You just have more freedom to worship in a manner that suits you. I would say the same thing to grandparents. Your kids may have left many years ago, but that shouldn’t stop you and your spouse from studying God’s Word and worshipping together. When you visit the grandkids, do what you can to teach them the Bible (Deuteronomy 6:7) and to model a life of worship. Remember that you have an important role to play in this.

As my wife reminded me this morning, we as parents don’t have a problem understanding the importance of feeding our kids each and every day. We know they need nourishment in order to grow and develop and be sustained. But the same is true of our spiritual food. Jesus said, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4). If you want your kids to truly “live” then be sure and nourish them with the life giving manna of God’s Word. One day, they will thank you (Proverbs 31:27-28) for this.

 

Bible Verses to Teach Your Children

Fellow parents, if you haven’t made a practice of this already, it may be a good time to start encouraging your children to memorize Bible verses. Our twin daughters are now three and a half so I started to compile a short list of Bible verses they could memorize. Of course, the possibilities are endless when it comes to Scripture memorization, but here are a few verses that came to mind.

 

1. “I have hidden your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.” Psalm 119:11

 

2. “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. Honor your father and mother….that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.” Ephesians 6:1-3

 

3. “Let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.” James 1:19-20

 

4. “Hear, my son, your father’s instruction, and forsake not your mother’s teaching.” Proverbs 1:8 (see also Proverbs 4:23 and 23:22)

 

5. “For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.” Hebrews 12:11 (Maybe this one would be good for the teen years)

 

6. “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” Colossians 3:17

 

7. “Jesus said, I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” John 14:6

 

8. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9

 

Perhaps you could memorize some of these verses along with your kids. It certainly won’t hurt if you don’t already know them by heart. But always remember the responsibility that God has entrusted to you to train up your children in the ways of the Lord. “And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise” (Deuteronomy 6:6-7).

 

More than anything as parents, we want to instill in our kids a love of Scripture and a desire to know Him through His Word. Of course, there is a Holy Spirit component, which we must not forget, but there is also need for parents to be intentional about exposing their children to the Scriptures. If you think of it, pray for Steph and I because this is as much for us as for anyone. And if you would like us to pray for you, be sure and drop me a note. I would love to pray for you in this regard.

A Prayer For Our Son

This Sunday (July 14th) our son John will be dedicated to the Lord. Although my wife and I did this long before he was born, Sunday will be more of a public proclamation in front of our church family. Steph and I have the God-given responsibility of raising this child, but there is also an element of resignation on our part where we give John back to the Lord. In essence we are saying, “He is yours God – use him for the glory of your name.” This is our prayer – the prayer we have been praying for the past year and will continue to pray as John continues to grow and develop.

Precious Jesus,

Thank you for blessing us with our little man, John. When he was born, I was so overwhelmed with emotion that I cried. What a wonderful blessing John has been to our family! As we prepare for his formal dedication service on Sunday, we want to commit him to you. He is yours. Use him as you see fit. Bring him to a saving knowledge of the Jesus, even at a young age. May he come to understand and glory in the gospel of Jesus Christ and may you raise him up to be a great man of God.

May John love you with all his heart, soul, mind and strength. Give him a good mind that is exercised in the things of God. Give him a heart that longs hard after you. Give him a mouth that proclaims your grace and goodness wherever you send him. Give him the courage to stand for truth – Your Truth – in a world that is constantly shifting and embracing evil at an alarming rate. Give John the strength to persevere and remain steadfast for Christ. Give him a love for Thy Word and give him wisdom beyond his years. Bless him with a wonderful wife who shares the same love for Christ. And give them children of their own to dedicate back to you.

What a gift you have given us in our son John! May you now give us the grace we need to “bring him up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4). Stephane and I can’t do this apart from your grace and wisdom. And when he is all grown up, help us to let go of him. Following Jesus is risky and dangerous and you may send him somewhere we don’t think is “safe.” But we give him to you – he is dedicated to your service, wherever and whatever you may call him to. Fill John with your Spirit. Guide him all his days. Empower him with your grace.

In Jesus name, Amen.

What is Family Worship?

As a pastor, I have discovered that just the thought of “family worship” or “family devotions” can be overwhelming to Christian parents. Perhaps one of the reasons for this is because parents think they need to duplicate the Sunday morning worship service.  The reality is that family worship doesn’t have to be complicated.

Quite simply, family worship is the family coming together to worship God. The Puritans were big on this and called the family a “little church” of sorts. They believed that the worship of God should be a regular activity, not just something that happened on Sunday. Over the past few years, we have tried to make family worship part of our daily routine. Our three kids are still pretty young so it can be a challenge, but it has also been a great blessing to our family. I can almost guarantee you that if you start doing family worship, it will have a unifying effect on your family and will draw you closer to the Lord.

There are many ways of doing family worship, but there are a few key elements that I would like to highlight for you. Husbands and fathers, as head of the family (Ephesians 5:23, 1 Corinthians 11:3) take the initiative to call the family together for worship. Begin by reading a portion of Scripture. It doesn’t have to be long, but I would encourage you to work through a book of the Bible. One day you can read half a chapter or a chapter, and then next day you can pick it up where you left off. After reading a portion of Scripture, ask the kids a few questions that pertain to the reading. Help them understand what God is saying through His Word. Don’t think you need to preach a sermon every time you have family worship, but it is your responsibility to expose your children to the word of God (Ephesians 6:4).

Next, grab a hymnal or a church songbook and sing a couple worship songs. Most kids love to sing so compliance will not be an issue here. Finally, finish off your time of worship in prayer. Offer God your praises, petitions, and thanksgivings together as a family in prayer. In these two things (praise and prayer), you are responding to God’s revelation, goodness, and mercy. If you are not already practicing family worship, I would encourage you to start. Our family worship times usually only last 10-15 minutes so it doesn’t have to be long. The important thing is to get started and to allow the Lord to direct you.

If you are a couple without any kids, then it goes without saying that you can still have times of family worship. You just have more freedom to worship in a manner that suits you. I would say the same thing to grandparents. Your kids may have left many years ago, but that shouldn’t stop you and your spouse from studying God’s Word and worshipping together. When you visit the grandkids, do what you can to teach them the Bible (Deuteronomy 6:7) and to model a life of worship. Lastly, for those of you who are single, find another person to worship together with on a regular basis through one to one meetings. I would suggest a similar format – studying God’s Word – dialogue – prayer, and even praise if you are so inclined.

I have come back to this quote from Paul Tripp again and again, “God designed our spiritual lives to be a community project.” Whether it is our immediate family, our church family, or the global family of God, God has placed us together. We grow together, we worship together, we rejoice together, and we weep together. What a brilliant plan! But it only works if we come together for the glory of God.

A Letter to My Daughters

Over the last month or so, Elizabeth and Anna have had to play second fiddle to their baby brother, John. This is nothing new as most older siblings (especially toddlers) have a hard time adjusting when the new baby comes home from the hospital. My parents can vouch for the fact that I had an especially hard time when I met my baby sister Denae for the first time. So on the occasion of their 2nd birthday, I thought I would write them a letter, to let them know how much I appreciate them.

Happy Birthday Anna and Elizabeth!

It’s so hard to believe you girls are two years old today. The past two years have flown by and now you are big girls. Your Mom and I are so proud of you and thank God every day for you. I can’t begin to describe all the things you have taught me. When you were born, I didn’t know much of anything about parenting and being a Dad, but somehow, we got through it – thanks be to God!

One of the surprises for me is how much fun it is being a Dad. Sure, you can be demanding and can stretch my patience level, but overall, you girls are a delight.  Please forgive me for all the ways I have failed you as a father. For all the times I have been angry with you when I should have been more patient, I apologize. Being a father has shown me (even more so than before) what a dirty rotten sinner I am. I am grateful for a heavenly Father who, through His Son, forgives me and cleanses me. Remember that while your earthly father will let you down, your Father in heaven will never leave you nor forsake you. Trust Him with your life.

Your Mother and I pray for both of you every day. Our prayer is that you would one day become women of faith who love and serve God wholeheartedly. We don’t pray that you would have “safe” and “comfortable” lives so much as we pray that you would follow God’s will wherever that takes you. Following Jesus is costly we know that your lives might not match up to the world’s standard of success.

I look forward to all the special times we will have together. Other parents have warned us that you will grow up all too quickly. Before we know it, you will be grown up and having kids of your own. Ok, maybe I’m getting ahead of myself.

I do realize that this letter will be hard for you to understand, but maybe you will come back to it later and it will be meaningful to you. Please know that I love you very much and look forward to celebrating many more birthdays with you.

Daddy

A Challenge To Fathers

Two years ago I don’t think I could have envisioned what a joy it is to be a Father. Yes, it is hard and even frustrating at times, but children are an incredible blessing and Steph and I praise God every day for entrusting us with Elizabeth and Anna. As you might have expected, I’ve learned a lot about what it means to be a Father. Perhaps the most important lesson for me concerns responsibility – that we are responsible (along with our wives) to train our children in the ways of the Lord.

 

The Bible teaches, “Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised, and his greatness is unsearchable. One generation shall commend your works to another, and shall declare your mighty acts” (Psalm 145:3-4). In the family, it is critically important for Fathers to provide spiritual leadership and do this very thing – commend the works of God to their children.  Our children need to know that there is a God who is mighty to save. They need to know that God sent His Son Jesus Christ to redeem all who put their faith and trust in Him.  Our children need to know that their sins can be forgiven when they repent and turn to Christ.

 

Let me challenge you Christian Fathers – are you training up your children in the way they should go (Proverbs 22:6)?  Are you bringing them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4)?  Are you using every opportunity to teach them about the greatness of God and the saving power of Jesus (Deuteronomy 6:7)?  One day I will stand before God and give an account for how I raised my children, and you will too.  Will we be able to say that we did everything we could to pass on what God entrusted to us?  Or will we be forced to say we failed to deliver this most important message?

 

The best thing that parents can do for their children is to expose them to the Scriptures and then pray for the seed of God’s Word takes root in the child’s heart. Many Christian parents think that this is only done in our churches.  And yes, our children should be taught in church, but the home is the best place to teach your children about Christ. Think of how much time your children spend at home as compared to church.  Think about the value of spending just 15 minutes a day reading the Bible to your children.  I know you love your children and therefore, I want to challenge you to make time to teach them about Christ.

 

As I said before, it is a great joy and a delight to be a Father. But it’s also a tremendous responsibility. Not only do you have to make sure there is bread on the table, but you also have to make sure your children are receiving the spiritual nourishment they so desperately need. Father’s, let’s make sure we don’t short our children in this regard.

 

Happy Father’s Day!