OUR DEVOTIONALS (K5 THROUGH 12 GRADE)
About the book "Sticky Situations: 2" and the author: Betsy Schmitt
During the fall 2014, MHAC will be starting the K5 through 8th grade classes with a short weekly Bible study through reading from the book "Sticky Situations: 2". This book is a daily devotional written by Betsy Schmitt. Here is "About the Author" written within the book:
"Betsy Schmitt lives with her husband, Don, and their three children, Allison, Dana, and Kevin, in Naperville, Illinois. The family recently added a dog, Nikki, to their ranks. She has presented all sorts of new sticky situations!
Over the years, Betsy has been involved with children in a number of different ways-as a Scout leader, classroom volunteer, book discussion leader, Sunday school teacher, and recently as assistant director for Children's Ministries at her church in Naperville. All of these experiences, combines with a great deal of input from her own children, have helped Betsy write first "Sticky Situations," and now "Sticky Situations 2."
Currently Betsy is Project Editor for Youth and Children's Products at Livingstone Corporation in Carol Stream, Illinois. A graduate of Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, Betsy has worked on many children's activity books, devotional, CD-ROMs, and kids' Bibles for a variety of Christian publishers."
Now, here is about the "Introduction" Betsy Schmitt wrote within the book:
The "Sticky Situations 2" devotional offers your family a year's worth of situations to explore and discuss together, using circumstances that elementary-aged children encounter daily in the classroom, at home, on the playground, and in church. Through these situations, you and your children will be able to discuss the different choices they might make. You'll want to talk about ways in which God's Word can guide them to make the right choice.
To make it easier for younger children to grasp Bible teachings on a particular subject, each month is devoted to a general topic. For example, January is "Love and Kindness," while February is "Treasures in Heaven." Each monthly topic is presented with a brief introduction that touches on key lessons to be learned throughout the month. A memory verse for the month also is included to help underscore the teachings on that topic. Following each daily scenario and the list of choices are discussion questions to help your family expand on the teaching.
You may use this devotional in a variety of ways. You can read the situation and have your child come up with his or her solution before reading the different choices. Or, after reading the situation, go right to the Bible verse and ask your child how that verse can help in making the right choice.
Talk about the situations with your children. If they have experienced a similar situation, ask how they handled it. What choice did each child make? Did it agree with what the Bible said? Discuss the choices. Some of the choices are obviously humorous, but others may require more thought. Ask why one choice is better than another. Work through the different choices and the consequences of each choice.
Above all, pray with your child following each discussion. Maybe a situation has hit close to home. Pray together for guidance and strength to handle the situation in God's way. Or maybe a situation flags a potential problem area for your child, and you can pray for protection from that problem.
The more you are able to personalize the devotions for your child, the more effective they will be. God bless you and your family as you use each day's material as a springboard for discussing your own sticky situations."
About the book "Jesus Calling" and the author: Sarah Young
During the fall 2014, MHAC will be starting the high school class with a short weekly Bible study through reading from the book "Jesus Calling". This book is a daily devotional written by Sarah Young. Here is the "Introduction" written within the book:
"I first experienced the Presence of God in a setting of exquisite beauty. I was living and studying at a Christian community in a tiny Alpine village in France. This was a branch of L'Abri, an international ministry that began in Switzerland through Francis and Edith Schaeffer's work. During my stay at L'Abri I was free to explore the fairyland-like environment all around me. It was late winter, and the noonday sun was warm enough for sunbathing, but the depth of the snow kept it from melting. Brilliant sunlight reflecting from pure whit snow was cleansing my mind of the darkness that had held it captive for years.
Every day I climbed up a steep hill to attain a view that delighted my soul. As I stood at the top. I would loose myself in a panorama of unbroken beauty. Below me was the village that had become my home. Viewed from this height, the village was dominated by a high-steepled church. Turning 180 degrees, I could see Lake Geneva far below me, shouting greetings in refracted sunbeams. When I looked up, I saw icy tips of Alpine mountains encircling me. I would turn round and round, absorbing as much as I could with my two eyes and finite mind.
The daughter of a college professor, i had been encouraged to read widely and think for myself. I had majored in philosophy at Wellesley College and had almost completed my master's degree at Tufts University. A few months earlier my brother had asked me to read Schaffer's Escape from Reason. To my great surprise and delight, that small book had answered questions I'd long before dismissed as unanswerable. It was the intellectual integrity of Francis Schaeffer's teaching that had drawn me to that pristine place. Though the quest that had taken me there was a search for thruth, it was God's glorious creation that helped me open my heart to Him.
One night I found myself leaving the warmth of our cozy chalet to walk alone in the snowy mountains. I went into a deeply wooded area, feeling vulnerable and awed by cold, moonlit beauty. The air was crisp and dry, piercing to inhale. Suddenly I felt as if a warm mist enveloped me. I became aware of a lovely Presence, and my involuntary response was to wisper, "Sweet Jesus". This utterance was totally uncharacteristic of me, and I was shocked to hear myself speaking so tenderly to Jesus. As I pondered this brief communication, I realized it was the response of a converted heart; at that moment I knew I belonged to Him. This was far more than the intellectual answers for which I'd been searching. This was a relationship with the creator of the universe.
The following year, back in the United States, I had another encounter with the Presence of Jesus. I was grieving the loss of a serious dating relationship and wondering whether being a Christian made much difference in the quality of my life.
At that time I was working as a technical writer in Virginia. My boss sent me to Atlanta to attend a conference. I accepted this assignment dutifully and checked into the hotel without enthusiasm. Alone in my room, I felt waves of desolation wash over me. So I began walking the streets of Atlanta aimlessly, trying to escape my solitude. I glanced at some books in an outdoor stall and was drawn to Beyond Ourselves by Catherine Marshall. That night as I read the book, I no longer felt alone. I knelt beside the bed in that sterile room and felt an overwhelming Presence of peace and love come over me. I knew that Jesus was with me and that He sympathized with my heartache. This was unquestionably the same "Sweet Jesus" I had met in the Alps.
During the next sixteen years I lived what many people might consider an exemplary Christian life. I went to Covenant Theological Seminary in St. Louis, where I earned a master's degree in counseling and biblical studies. While there, I met my husband, Steve, a third-generation missionary to Japan. After graduation, we spent two four-year terms in Japan doing church-planting work. We had a baby girl during our first term and a baby boy during our furlough in the United States. After our second term we returned to the U.S. for three years. We lived in Atlanta, where Steve worked with a local Japaneese church and I earned a further degree in counseling at Georgia State University.
As a part of my training, I worked at a Christian counseling center in the Atlanta area. I cherished my experiences of helping deeply wounded women find healing in Christ. I was also thankful for my kind, loving husband and our two delightful children, who were the main joys of my life. However, not once during those sixteen years did I vividly experience the Presence of Jesus.
So in the summer of 1990, I began a new quest. It started with delving into a devotional book, The Secret of the Abiding Presence by Andrew Murray. The theme of this book is that God's presence is meant to be a Christian's continual experience. Murray emphasized the importance of spending time alone with God in quiet, uninterrupted communion.
I began reading the book at a very unstructured time in my life. We were waiting for our Australian visas to be approved so that we could begin a church among Japaneese people living in Melbourne. I had quit my job to prepare for the move overseas, so I was adjusting to the loss of my fulfilling work as a counselor. In the midst of those momentous changes, I began seeking God's Presence in earnest. My days started alone with God, equipped with Bible, devotional book, prayer journal, pen, and coffee. As I waited in His Presence, God began to reveal Himself to me. An hour or two alone with Him seemed too brief.
The uncertainties I face at that time deepened my increasing closeness to God. My husband and I had no idea how long it would take to receive permanent residency visas, so the waiting period seemed to stretch indefinitely into the future. During that period I had four surgeries, including two for melanoma. A Bible verse that comforted me during this difficult time of waiting also acompained me on the seemingly endless flight to Australia: "You will go put in joy and be led forth in peace" (Isaiah 55:12).
We settled in Australia and began our dual ministries. I supported Steve in planting the first-ever Japaneese church in Melbourne, but my main ministry focus was counseling Australian women, some of whom were coming out of terrible abuse and spiritual bondage.
Our combined ministries subjected our family to intense spiritual warfare, and I prayed for protection every morning. One morning as I prayed, I visualized God protecting each of us. I pictured first our daughter, then our son, and then Steve encircled by God's protecting Presence, which looked like golden light. When I prayed for myself, I was suddenly enveloped in bright light and sudden peace. I lost all sense of time as I experienced God's Presence in this powerful way. I had not sought the experience, but I received it gratefully and was strengthened by it.
Only two or three days later, a counseling client who was an incest survivor began remembering experiences of satanic ritual abuse. This form of Satan worship involves subjecting victims (who are often young children) to incredibly evil, degrading tortures. My courageous client and I walked together into the darkness of her memories. But God had prepared me for stepping into deep darkness by first bathing me in His glorious light. I realized that experiences of God's Presence were not only for my benefit but were also preparation for helping others.
During that same year (1992), I began reading God Calling, a devotional book written by two anonymous "listeners." These women practiced waiting quietly in God's Presence, pencils and paper in hand, recording the messages they received from Him. The messages are written in first person, with "I" designating God. While I was living in Japan, someone had mailed this book to me from the U.S. I had not read it at that time, but I had held onto the book through two international moves. Six or seven years later, this little paperback became a treasure to me. It dovetailed remarkable well with my longing to live in Jesus' Presence.
The following year, I began to wonder if I, too, could receive messages during my times of communing with God. I had been writing in prayer journals for years, but that was one-way communication: I did all the talking. I knew that God communicated with me through the Bible, but I yearned for more. Increasingly, I wanted to hear what God had to say to me personally on a given day. I decided to listen to God with a pen in hand, writing down whatever I believed He was saying. I felt awkward the first time I tried this, but I received a message. It was short, biblical, and appropriate. It addressed topics that were current in my life: trust, fear, and closeness to God. I responded by writing in my prayer journal.
My journaling had changed from monologue to dialogue. Soon, messages began to flow more freely, and I bought a special notebook to record these words. This new way of communicating with God became the high point of my day. I knew these words were not inspired as Scripture is, but they were helping me grow closer to God.
I have continued to receive personal messages from God as I meditate on Him. The more difficult my life circumstances, the more I need these encouraging directives from my Creator. Sitting quietly in God's Presence is just as important as the writings I glean from these meditative times. In fact, some days I simply sit with Him for a while and write nothing. During these times of focusing on God, I may experience "fulness of joy" in His Presence (Psalm 16:11 NKJV), or I may simple enjoy His gentle company and receive His Peace. During the years that I have been listening to God with pen in hand, I have found themes of His Peace becoming more prominent in my writing. I'm sure this tendency reflects, in part, my personal need. However, when I get to know people, I find that most of them also desire the balm of Jesus' Peace.
A life changing verse has been "Be still, and know that I am God" (Psalm 46:10). Alternative readings for "Be still" are "Relax," "Let Go," and "Cease Striving" (NASB). This is an enticing invitation from God to lay down our cares and seek His Presence. I believe that God yearns for these quiet moments with us even more than we do. I also believe that He still speaks to those who listen to Him (John 10:27), and I continually depend on the Holy Spirit's help in this. As J. I. Packer writes in his book Your Father Loves You, "God guides our minds as we think things out in His presence."
This practice of listening to God has increased my intimacy with Him more than any other spiritual discipline, so I want to share some of the messages I have received. In many parts of the world, Christians seem to be searching for a deeper experience of Jesus' Presence and Peace. The messages that follow address that felt need. The Bible is, of course, the only innerant Word of God; my writings must be consistent with that unchangable standard. I have written them like Jesus' point of view; i.e., the first person singular (I, Me, Mine) always refers to Christ. "You" refers to you, the reader, so the perspective is that of Jesus speaking to you.
I have included Scripture references after each daily reading. As I listened to God, Bible verses or fragments of verses often came to mind. I have interwoven these into my messages. Words from the Scripture (some paraphrased, some quoted) are indicated in italics. Some of the references document verses used in this way. Other references are less obvious; I included them to provide additional depth for the reader. Certain Bible verses figure rather heavily in my writing. This is because God often uses these passages to strengthen and encourage me, raising my sights from my "light and momentary troubles" (2 Corinthians 4:17) to His eternal perspective.
Themes of thankfulness and trust recurred often during my listening times. These themes are quite prevalent in the Bible, and they are essential if we are to enjoy Jesus' Presence and Peace.
These messages are meant to be read slowly, preferable in a quiet place. I invite you to keep a journal to record any thoughts or impressions you receive as you wait in His Presence. Remeber that Jesus is Emmanuel, God with us. May He bless you with His Presence and Peace in ever-increasing measure."