Helping my Child Understand Spiritual Concepts

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici /

I have a degree in religious education. I took course after course on how children learn, what concepts they can understand and when, and how to best help kids at church understand God.

That degree came YEARS before I had my own kids. And while I used my knowledge in ministry through the years, when it came time to think about teaching my own kids, I needed a refresher.

I went straight to a resource I knew I could trust. We’ve had Levels of Biblical Learning listed as a resource on our page, but I wanted to highlight it for you today.

This resource is worth printing out and looking over frequently, as your kids grow and are able to expand their knowledge. “It provides  . . . milestones related to biblical knowlege, skills and attitudes from birth through preteens. Levels of Biblical Learning gives a coordinated approach  . . . using ten concept areas: God, Jesus, the Bible, Creation, Family, Self, Church, Community & World, Holy Spirit, and Salvation.”

Parents, YOU are the primary teacher of spiritual ideas to your children, NOT the church. Take this role seriously. This is one tool to go back to through the years to help your kids stretch and learn and grow.

Take time to print out the document, grab a cup of coffee, and spend some time thinking about introducing your child to THE ONE who created them, loves them, and has a grand plan for their lives!
Click here to access and print the document: Levels of Biblical Learning (Lifeway)


Look in your mirror and learn

Image courtesy of podpad /

Parenting has been such a good journey for my soul. I am sure you would agree. Even with the difficulties associated with parenting, we are changed men and women because of our children. God has such a unique way of using them in our lives to shape and mold us to be who He wants us to be. I liken them to little mirrors. I have four mirrors who, for the most part, walk around acting and talking like me and the hubs.

Sometimes I love what I see, and other times I desperately want to look away in shame and guilt. When my older boys were little I have to admit I would look away and get frustrated with myself or with them. But now that I have grown in maturity with Christ, and added two more kiddos to our bunch, God has shown me that its OK to look into my little mirrors and NOT get disappointed. In fact He has shown me that this is one way He points out the things He desires to change in my life.

I love the passage in James where he talks about this same idea. “Do not merely listen to the word and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in the mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like.” (NIV)

See sometimes, in my little mirrors, I can see anger, pride, and selfishness. And other times I see selfless love, servant-hood, and kind words to their siblings. Yes, some of the sin is simply because they are sinners but some of it is what they have learned by watching and listening to me. Many times the things that I see my children struggle with are the exact same issues I struggle with in my own life. Coincidence? Ummm probably not.

But here is what God has taught me: Look into those little mirrors and learn. Don’t forget what you see. See, with your spiritual eyes, what God is wanting to show you. If it is a Godly quality, great! Continue to encourage that in them and be grateful to God! If it is not a Godly quality, then help your child change that behavior biblically and practically while you work on it too. At the same time be grateful to God for being gracious enough to love you and show you an area where YOU need to change.

God is faithful. He does not want us to sit and wallow in our sin. He wants to mold and shape us. Sometimes He uses our little mirrors to show us in what areas we need to change. Take advantage friends.

Lessons from an Obedient Father

Today’s post is actually an email that a friend of our family sent as a newsletter about what God is doing in his life. I asked him if it was ok if I could share it with you on our blog. With a quick reply of yes, I hope you are challenged, that you would identify with his fear and that you would pray for all that God is doing in the lives of so many because this normal guy said “yes” to God’s plan for him and his family. Send Jake some love by checking out and seeing if there are ways you can practically help this vision God has brought to fruition.

I have heard the command of Jesus reverberating through the martyrs’ voices, “Deny yourself.  Take up your cross.  Follow Me.”  – Anne Graham Lotz
This morning as I was heading to the airport I received the following text from someone I love greatly.  “I will be praying for you Jake.  Please be careful…. I don’t think like you but I do know it is what you feel you have to do; so I will pray you make the difference you want!  Love you sweetheart!”
My mother like so many others view these journeys to Africa as my desire to make a difference.  She witnesses the passion that flows through my bones while I am in the United States.  She sees the stories in the news and reads the various emails and blog posts I make.  She reads my Facebook and Twitter.  She scrolls through the pictures I post on Instagram.  It looks like I think differently from others.  It looks like sorrow, fear, or pain does not bother me.  It looks like I long to make a difference in this world and because of that I think differently from others.  This could not be farther from the truth.
My thoughts are like everyone else’s.  I would rather stay home.  I would rather spend these two weeks with my six children.  I would rather stand in the comfort of my own gym in Des Moines than stand under the scorching heat of the Saharan sun.  No one besides my wife and children will see the tears that streamed down my face while curled up in a ball last night on my bed.  No one will understand how my body begins to physically feel ill when I ponder what is in store over these next two weeks.   As I quickly hug my family good bye in the airport I can’t even look back in order to not completely lose all self control.   No one sees the awkwardness of the security guard at the Des Moines Airport as he pats me down with streams of water flowing from my eyes.  My mind realizes that as I ride up that escalator to meet this security guard that there are no guarantees that I will return from the land the Lord has called me.  I fear the loneliness and I tremble at the unknown.
The reality of my life is that I do think just like everyone else.  I have the same real fears.  I want to run from what God is asking me to do.  I don’t want to leave my family, I don’t want to leave the joys of a hot shower and 24 hour electricity.  I don’t want to leave the calls of “DADDY” from my little guy.  I don’t want to leave the non-stop college football conversations with JJ.  I don’t want to miss Justice’s last Ballard football game of the year.  I don’t want to miss two weeks of hugs from my daughters.  I don’t want to leave the security of having my wife next to me each night as I crawl into bed.
The only difference in me is the Power of Christ that lives in me.  The only difference is His Word that I hang tightly to during these moments.  The only difference is a desire to live a life of obedience to a Father who lived in obedience for me.  I recognize that Jesus pleaded with His Father in the Garden of Gethsemane to take the burden of the cross from Him but in the same breath says, “Father, let your will be done not mine.”  I see the fight for obedience that Jesus had for my life on that cross and cannot understand how I am not responsible for that same obedience.  Chances are I will never have nails driven through my hands or feet.  I will certainly never experience the weight of “ALL” sin on my shoulders.  I will probably never be beaten with thorns dug in to the side of my head.  I simply have to “Go” when God says to “Go”.   I have to be obedient as Christ was obedient for me.
I think like everyone else as I don’t want to flee comfort.  The only difference is that I understand one day that I will stand before this great God where everyone before me has fallen face down trembling in His presence.  In that moment I will have to give an account for my obedience.  Just as an earthly son I was responsible for my obedience or lack of obedience with my earthly Mother and Father I now have a responsibility to my heavenly Father to follow in absolute obedience because of the heavy price He paid for me on that cross.
I have heard the command of Jesus reverberating through the martyrs’ voices, “Deny yourself.  Take up your cross.  Follow Me.”  – Anne Graham Lotz
In Christ,
Jake Sullivan
Jake and his lovely wife Janel reside in the Midwest with their six (and soon 7!) children loving and following Jesus each day.

Guest Blogger: Jenna Wykle “Called Me Higher”

I heard this song for the first time last year on Pandora.  I ran over to my phone, hit the thumbs up and Googled the artist…All Sons and Daughters.  I played this song on repeat probably 15 times that day.  I fell in love with this song.  The title is “Called Me Higher”.  This is sort of the theme song for my season of life.  Here’s the lyrics:

I could just sit
I could just sit and wait for all your goodness
Hope to feel your presence
And I could just stay
I could just stay right where I am and hope to feel you
Hope to feel something againAnd I could hold on
I could hold on to who I am and never let You change me from the inside
And I could be safe
I could be safe here in Your arms and never leave home
Never let these walls downBut you have called me higher
You have called me deeper
And I will go where you will lead me Lord
You have called me higher
You have called me deeper
And I will go where you lead me Lord
Where you lead me
Where you lead me LordAnd I will be Yours
I will be Yours for all my life
So let Your mercy light the path before me
I have known Jesus since I was 7 years old.  I’m now 30.  God is calling me higher and deeper and I pray He will until the day I die.  I believe He’s calling all Christians to a higher and deeper relationship with Him.  Don’t hear me wrong, there is not a new truth I need to be taught a part from the Bible and there is not a new answer that needs to be found.  I’ve known this truth and this mystery since I was seven.  The truth is Jesus and the answer is the gospel.  The higher and the deeper that he’s calling me to is actually living out what my lips have been professing since I was a young child.  This calling isn’t actually a new one.  I’m just willing to listen and obey now.  And because we serve a very patient God, He is holding my hand and welcoming my obedience with no judgment of the numerous times I have told Him no.  This change in my life actually started about 10 years ago but only in the last few years have I seen, felt and believe that a life of saying yes to God is the only life worth living.
I often look at other Christians in my life and wonder if they wrestle with the same things that I do.  I say I believe in Jesus and I say I believe what the Bible says, so why don’t I live it out?   The higher and the deeper is calling me to do just that, live it out.  It’s not enough for me to just go to church on Sunday and be involved in women’s Bible studies and fill my calendar with ‘good’ things.  If I don’t ever put those times of equipping into practice, what good are they?
We have a choice. I have a choice.  As the song says, I could just stay right where I’m at waiting, hoping, longing to feel something again.  I could just hold on to the person I am today and never want to change and be stubborn and set in my ways…prideful…self absorbed…self seeking…I could stay safe.  I could never let my walls down…too afraid of the pain I might feel in having to say good-bye to a foster child never once thinking about the pain I’m relieving in their life by giving them a bed and some food and the feeling of being loved.  I could let the fear of people’s opinions drive me to say no to God and wonder if I’ll lose friendships or even our family because my life doesn’t look like theirs.  I could.  I have.  I could be like King Nebeuchadnezzar in Daniel 4 and be “at home in my palace, contented and prosperous.”
OR…I could allow God to work in me and change me from the inside.  I could allow His Spirit to move in my heart.  I could learn to obey that still small voice.  I could stop pushing that feeling away that I get inside of me when He gently shows me to step out in faith and trust.  I could actually live out the belief that this world and all that’s in it will fade away and I’m living for an eternal reward.  I could actually love people enough to care about their salvation.  I could actually fear God more than man.  After all, I say I believe this.This is the deeper and higher that I am in right now.  Obedience.
It doesn’t matter what, where, why, how God is asking you to do something.  The truth is the God of the universe created you and desires an authentic and personal relationship with YOU.  He wants to take you deeper and higher not because you are so amazing but because He is so amazing.  It’s hard for me to put into words what happens when you start living out truth.  You find purpose, you find joy, you find hope, you find fulfillment, you find satisfaction.  All the things this world tells you that you’ll find in yourself, money, cars, houses, friendships, relationships, possessions, that strangely enough leave you extremely empty.  Is this a coincidence?  No!  We are created in His image (Gen. 1:27) and we are created by Him and for Him!  Colossians 1:16, “For everything was created by Him, in heaven and on earth, the visible and the invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rules or authorites — all things have been created through Him and for Him.”  And later in the verse it says, “so that He might come to have first place in everything.
In the book “You and Me Forever“, Lisa Chan describes it this way:  “I can testify that the mission is far more appealing than the safety of the status quo.  Yes, sometimes I am tempted to pursue an “ordinary” life.  There are moments when I just want to be selfish and not think so hard about what God wants.  But it’s too late.  Once you have experienced true life, there’s no going back!
David urged us to “taste and see that the Lord is good” (Ps. 34:8), and that’s what has happened for me.
I have tasted what it’s like to live a life that is more and more surrendered to Him.  I have tasted and seen His love for others, and when He gives you that same love in your heart, it feels shallow and unfulfilling to go back to your old way of doing things.  I have a taste in my mouth for steps of faith that draw you so near to Him you don’t want to ever go back, even if He would let you.”  THIS is what I’ve experienced.  Yes, my salvation has been secure since I was seven but I’ve tasted and seen the fulfillment of a live lived in surrender and all I want is more. The things of the world will never satisfy and if you’re reading this and have lots of ‘things of the world’, I’m sure you know exactly what I mean.  People will fail, circumstances will change, life gets messy but God alone is the constant.  God alone is worth living my life for.  And if you’re like me and have known Jesus since you were little, I urge you to allow Him to do a deeper work in your life.  I urge you to surrender ALL of yourself to Him and stop being a casual Christian who is of no use in His Kingdom.  Here’s the song…
Jenna is a friend of ours. She is a follower of Christ. A Titus two woman. A wife. A work at home momma. They have three biological children, are foster parents and have adopted once before a few years back. They have recently decided to adopt three brothers from Africa. God has taken their family on a crazy and beautiful journey that only He can author. We love them and we are privileged to call them friends.

Dreaming of what to do “In Summer . . . ?”

Yes, in your best OLAF voice . . . all together now “In Summer . . . .!!!!”

Well, its summer. And are you ready? Really ready?ID-100156929

The days can pass quickly if we aren’t prepared and purposeful. This is a great opportunity to make the most of your days with kiddos at home and great weather to enjoy.

My friends at The Village Church have put together a Summer Fun Activity Book. It gives AWESOME ideas of things to do with your kids and ways to point them to Jesus through the days ahead. They have a downloadable version for anyone and everyone to access.

So, download, read and enjoy!

The Village Church (Flower Mound, TX) Summer Fun Activity Book