Pennsylvania Mountains and the Glory of God


 We’ve talked about teaching kids that sin is disobedience to God.

We’ve talked about teaching kids that disobedience has consequences.

We’ve talked about everyone being disobedient (no exceptions). Only the Lord Jesus Christ is perfect because He is God in the flesh.

As it says in Romans 3:23 – For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.

 Ok. I was thinking about this verse because often teachers/parents handle the first part of the verse well, but then jump over the last part.

We teach that all have disobeyed God. We even make lists and ask kids if those on the lists disobey God: “Your brother? Dad? Mom” Grandma? Barista at the coffee shop? The pastor? The mayor?” This kind of interactive teaching is great because we emphasize the all of the verse.

But then we often go from that discussion right over to Romans 6:23 and talk about how the Lord Jesus is perfect and so He died for our disobedience because of His mercy and grace.

All this is true.  All this should be taught to kids.

But what happened to fall short of the glory of God?  Those words are there. We encourage kids to memorize the words. We repeat the words.

But what is the glory of God?

What exactly are we falling short of? (Ok, poor grammar, but you know what I mean.)

How do we define it?

Well, the definition can be elusive and difficult to clarify.

Difficult like defining Pennsylvania mountains.

When our kids were preschoolers, Ken and I planned a family road trip back East to see his family. As we drove, Ken told the kids that Grandpa and Grandma lived in the mountains. But as children of the Prairie State, they had no idea what “lived in the mountains” meant.

“What’s a mountain?” the three-year-old asked, puzzled.

“A mountain is …” For the next several minutes I was entertained listening to Ken attempt to explain a mountain to two preschoolers who had no context. (All the time realizing I couldn’t have done it with any more clarity.) In fact, Ken describing the mountain was so funny, that the incident became a catchphrase in our family. Whenever we couldn’t find the words to explain something, we would say, “like explaining a Pennsylvania mountain to a preschooler.” Ken even used it in his messages at times.

How would you do that? How would you explain a mountain (without using pictures) to someone who has no context?

I kind of think defining the glory of God is like that. We know what it means, but it is difficult to put that knowing into words especially on the level of a child who has no context.

So I studied. I wrote down some thoughts.

And I asked others what they thought.  On Wednesday, I’ll post their answers – from across the US (and even Russia).  Check back!

Meanwhile …

How would you define the glory of God? I invite you to comment with your definitions.


All three posts this week are on defining “the glory of God,” as in Romans 3:23:       For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. Please stay with me! I will not be linking all three posts to Facebook, but you can check back or subscribe to the blog by clicking on the “follow” button below. 







Wool, Weaving and Wisdom

A couple hours in an old mill taught us a lot about the Bible.

Another field trip idea to have fun while teaching.

Because. This.

Sometimes when I need a break from writing, I grab my camera, get in the car and set out to discover my extended neighborhood.

A few days ago, I ended up in an unexplored (at least to me) suburb – Oak Brook.

An enchanting mill sits on the banks of Salt Creek, nestled in a tree-shaded park. The mill wasn’t running that morning, but upstairs, both the spinning lady and weaving lady were happy to have someone to whom they could demonstrate their talents. And they were talented! (One was sitting on bench, her long skirt spread around her, surrounded by 1800 furniture, texting on her smart phone. Authentic.)

The basket of wool on the floor is a lot different-looking than a plaid wool jacket.

The first lady took me through the detailed steps of making thread out of wool. (The other explained the loom.)

Once home, I looked up wool and weaving in the Bible and found several verses that the demonstrations helped me understand. I got an entire lesson in biblical spinning and weaving! Amazing what we can find when we look for it. And amazing what we can teach our kids, simply by walking through an historic building!

(The Bible has a lot more verses about wool and weaving than these, but I chose these because I thought they would be easiest for a child to understand. Also, if the mill was working – which it usually is – the grinding process would give even more understanding to God’s Word.)

A spinner works hard carding the wool – getting out all imperfections and flaws – in the Bible wool (and snow) is a picture of sinless purity.


***  Judges 6:37 Behold, I am laying a fleece of wool on the threshing floor. If there is dew on the fleece alone, and it is dry on all the ground, then I shall know that you will save Israel by my hand, as you have said.

 Gideon lays down fleece of wool to test God. The basket in the picture has wool fleece – giving kids a good idea of what this looked like.

*** Proverbs 31:13She seeks wool and flax,and works with willing hands.

 As I watched the lady prepare and then spin the wool, I saw the effort needed to make even one strand of yarn. Of course, I have seen people spin before, but this was a step-by-step demonstration. She also had a spinning wheel for flax. How can you tell the difference? One way is a container of water is needed for the flax spinning to keep the flax moisturized for easy manipulation.

*** Isaiah 1:18Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord:
though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.

I memorized this verse when I was young because I learned it as a song at camp. White as snow made sense, but become like wool, not so much. But this is a picture of carded wool, wool in which the imperfections have been combed away. In the Bible, snow and wool represent sinless purity.

*** Revelation 1:14The hairs of his head were white, like white wool, like snow. His eyes were like a flame of fire.

 We often think of a plaid jacket or suit when we think of wool. So a picture of hair like white wool seems a little out of context. But again, when we picture the raw, combed wool, we get a sense of what this looks like. In this verse, wool is part of the description that represents the glory of Christ.

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Two illustrations in this picture – first we see the shuttle – an instrument a weaver pulls back and forth to guide the threads forming the woven pattern. Second, we see the weaver’s roll talked about in Isaiah.


*** Exodus 35:35 – He has filled them with skill to do every sort of work done by an engraver or by a designer or by an embroiderer in blue and purple and scarlet yarns and fine twined linen, or by a weaver—by any sort of workman or skilled designer.

Kids may wonder how they got different colors of thread in the days of the Old Testament. The place I visited had a chart showing some of the natural coloring weavers used.DSC_0996

*** Job 7:6 –My days are swifter than a weaver’s shuttle and come to their end without hope.

This verse is about the shortness of life – not something kids think about or understand, but this is an interesting picture. The brown tool in the picture is a weaver’s shuttle – the piece that draws the thread through the loom. Good weavers can manipulate it quickly … and complete the piece of fabric.

*** Isaiah 38:18b – … like a weaver I have rolled up my life; he cuts me off from the loom.

(See the roll in the previous picture.) Hezekiah was writing of his sickness, recovery and relationship with God. He uses the picture of a loom and how, when the weaver’s task is completed, he cuts the string that holds the wool/flax to the beams.

This was just one quick walk through a small historic building and yet, as you can see, there were several objects that helped illustrate and gave understanding to God’s Word.

A Gem of an Idea for Summer

DSC_0979 2A couple weeks ago I did a post on ways to teach the Bible to your kids this summer.

Here’s an example – a day trip I took with a friend that helped me have a better understanding of God’s Word – the Lazzadro Museum of Lapidary Art.

A lot of kids were at the museum the day we were there, excitedly looking at the different stones.  The security guard said they also have thousands of school classes come through each year – so I know this is a subject in which many kids are interested.

Lapidary  is the art of cutting, polishing and engraving stones. If you don’t have a lapidary museum near you, check out a natural history museum or even art galleries. (Last year we visited an exhibition on the University of Wisconsin campus in Madison.) If you have no museums or exhibits in your area, why not visit a jewelry store? If the store isn’t busy, the clerk might be willing to show your child samples of any jewelry in stock that represent the gems on your list.

What does this teach us?

The Bible talks a lot about jewels. Probably the two passages that are most well known include Exodus 28,  the description of the breastplate and in Revelation 21, describing the foundation of the New Jerusalem.

Both lists have twelve stones. The stones on the breastplate represent the twelve tribes. Some scholars think the foundational stones also represent the tribes, however, there are several major differences so that doesn’t really add up. In fact, scholars have applied a lot of meaning to the stones and none of them truly work. Others say, maybe the Lord created it the way He did for the beauty alone …

… because the description of the foundation of the New Jerusalem sounds breathtakingly beautiful, but I never thought about the details. Have you?

My friend and I had our list of jewels from the breastplate and foundation and walking through the museum, looking for the stones and checking them off the list was fun – even for us as adults.  What a great project for you and your kids!

  1. Make a check list  (or have your child make a list) of the stones listed in the passages below.
  2. Explain the passages to your child.
  3. Go on a treasure hunt! (Truly a treasure hunt!) See how many your kids can find. (They probably will not find all of them.)
  4. Look up on the web or in a book, pictures of the stones you didn’t find.
  5. Ask your child to draw a picture of the breastplate or the foundation using the colors of the stones.
  6. Have fun!

(Obviously this activity would be easier with personal kids rather than an entire class, however, you could do it in your ministry. You could purchase a selection of “jewels ” at Oriental Trading Company and talk about them – or you could show photos of the real jewels.)

(Know that some of the names of these stones have slightly changed over the year so what we are seeing might not be the exact look of the stones talked about in the Bible – but close.)

Exodus 28 15: “You shall make a breastpiece of judgment, in skilled work. In the style of the ephod you shall make it—of gold, blue and purple and scarlet yarns, and fine twined linen shall you make it. 16 It shall be square and doubled, a span its length and a span its breadth. 17 You shall set in it four rows of stones. A row of sardius, topaz, and carbuncle shall be the first row; 18 and the second row an emerald, a sapphire, and a diamond; 19 and the third row a jacinth, an agate, and an amethyst; 20 and the fourth row a beryl, an onyx, and a jasper. They shall be set in gold filigree. 21 There shall be twelve stones with their names according to the names of the sons of Israel.

Revelation 21: The foundations of the wall of the city were adorned with every kind of jewel. The first was jasper, the second sapphire, the third agate, the fourth emerald, 20 the fifth onyx, the sixth carnelian, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth chrysoprase, the eleventh jacinth, the twelfth amethyst.

Here’s some pictures I took.

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A Kid-Word for Consequences

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Photo by Lukas on


We’ve explained the definition of sin to the kids. Now, we can go a step further and teach them that sin has consequences.

Thanks to Deb del Villar for writing this post and sharing her experience teaching preschoolers … and in doing so, finding a great definition for the consequences of sin.

What a difference a word can make! Recently this became abundantly clear as I served in our children’s summer program.

I was helping with the preschoolers. I wanted to emphasize the importance of obeying the rules. So, on the first day, while going over the three classroom behavior rules, I asked how many of them played sports. Almost all of the 14 preschoolers raised their hands. Next, I showed them a yellow and a red penalty flag that I had in my pocket.

They knew about penalties!

I spoke firmly and said they did not want me to take them out of my pocket because someone had disobeyed. They did not want a penalty. This is serious business. Their eyes got big and several exclaimed at once, “We do not want a penalty!” As our time progressed throughout the week, there were instances the yellow flag moved a little more out of my pocket, but for the most part, they obeyed because they did not want a penalty.

Without fail each day, one or more of them would point that out, “You didn’t have to take out the flag. We did it! We didn’t get a penalty.” The others would excitedly chime in, cheering and smiling widely.

Having worked with preschoolers most of my adult life, I was amazed at how they responded to the flags. Yet, even more astonishing was how quickly they comprehended the word, penalty. Obviously their coaches stressed that word along with the consequences to the team if they got one. These kids did not want a penalty! So much so, that they celebrated when they made it through the day without one.

That got me to thinking about how we explain salvation to children. Using words they understand is so important. So often we say “the wages of sin is death,” and kind of leave it at that, which is confusing to a child. But explaining that when we disobey God there is a penalty, they understand. So many kids play sports where they’ve been taught to obey if they don’t want the penalty flag.

What a great way to clarify the gospel.

Start with the definition of sin and continue by explaining that sin has a penalty.

This next part is also vital to our explanation. Unlike a game, everyone disobeys God and everyone receives the penalty. Review some of the sins that we talked about in the previous post that are prevalent in a child’s life. Then we need to explain that it’s not just kids who disobey, but adults too: parents, teachers, neighbors, and even the pastor. You could talk about a time you disobeyed – if it’s kid appropriate such as “I complained about the weather this morning because of our plans to go to the zoo. I wasn’t very thankful for the day God gave us, was I?”

A good verse to begin teaching is Romans 3:23: For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.

 That’s our penalty – falling short of God’s glory (which we’ll talk about and illustrate in an upcoming post).



Explaining Sin to a Child

IMG_9742.jpgI know that many of you have thought through how to explain the gospel to kids. These posts are to help those who struggle explaining salvation or to affirm what you’re already doing. In no way are we suggesting these are the only definitions.  Share your own ideas in the comments.

For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23)

The first thing we need to do (when presenting the gospel to kids) is define sin. So often a parent or teacher will start talking about the yuckiness of sin without once stopping to define what it is.

When our son was a toddler, he thought sin was something you sat on.. Well, sort of. He loved his Sit and Spin, but always called it his Sit and Sin. (Remember those discs kids sat on and spun around until they were crazy-dizzy?) He mispronounced it so often, we all started calling it the Sit and Sin. That’s about as clear a definition as many kids have.

A word that most kids do understand, however, is disobey. So a good way to introduce sin is by saying using the word disobey.

Sin is saying, thinking or doing anything that disobeys what God tells us in His Word, the Bible.

But wait a minute! That brings up another problem. That’s a great definition and is similar to the definition found in many curriculums – but … we still need to do more explaining! If we’re talking about kids who know nothing about God’s Word, they won’t know what His Word tells us about disobedience.

We have to tell them and show them what God’s Word says.

We can start with the basics.  When you ask a group of younger kids what wrong things their friends do, pushing seems to be one of the first responses. Older kids, especially girls, will add “being mean.”

Here are five sins that seem to have top billing in a child’s life

#Not being kind … which includes pushing and being mean!  (Ephesians 4:32) Kids have a fairly good sense of what kindness is all about.

#Lying. (Colossians 3:9a) Many kids don’t know lying is wrong because they hear their parents lie all the time – whether it’s hearing dad make an excuse for not attending church so he can go golfing, or hearing mom lie to her boss about being sick.  Kids also experience parents making up stories to get their kids to do something. “If you aren’t good, Santa won’t bring you any presents.” Or, “We won’t be able to go until you clean your room,” but the child and parent both know they’ll leave anyhow.

Another thing that happens with kids is they tell fantastical stories about events. They truly aren’t trying to lie, they haven’t been taught the difference between making up a wild story just for fun and lying to get out of something. We need to explain the difference.

#Stealing. (Ephesians 4:28a) Stealing is another sin that kids don’t always understand. A young couple brought their “delinquent” five-year-old in to see my dad (their pastor) because their child had taken some candy from the store. They were sure he was headed for a life of crime. In talking with the child, my dad discovered he had no idea he wasn’t allowed to take the candy. He encouraged the parents to explain why stealing was wrong. Once parents and son had their talk, he was fine and that was the end of his “shoplifting career.”

#Obedience to parents. (Ephesians 6:1) Obedience is not only doing what you’re parents ask you to do, but doing it with a great attitude.

Obediance also means not talking back to the parents. (That’s a big problem for some kids.)

#Using acceptable language. (Colossians 4:6) Even little kids today use the Lord’s name inappropriately (and yes, they often pick up the habit from their parents). We can gently explain to them what words are not okay. (In a parent/child situation – you can tell the child that they can say the word to you once and you will tell them if it is right or wrong. If it is wrong, you don’t want them to say it again.)

Unacceptable language also includes not calling people names, gossiping and saying something untrue about someone else.

Include other explanations as needed, but start with the basics. Give the kids a good understanding of right behavior.

Explain that all of us have done (and do) these things. That is why we fall short (are separated from God). (We’ll talk more about that in another post.)

Who is God? (Scavenger Hunt!)

I am writing these posts as much for myself as I am my readers, because I have been thinking about how to explain the gospel to kids for a long time. I work with several children who come to us with no church background and my focus is explaining salvation so they understand. I often struggle to find the right words. That’s one of the reasons I am writing this out in such detail. The other is to maybe give some helpful ideas to those who are in the same situation.

Again, I know that many parents do a great job teaching kids about the Bible – as ministry leaders, we give backup and support. But even kids in solid Christian families need to be taught the basics by their parents. Reminds me of the three-year-old who asked her dad a question. Her dad answered, “You know, like it says in John 3:16.” The mom laughed. “She doesn’t know John 3:16 yet. She’s three.”  Yes, even John 3:16 needs to be taught to little kids! We weren’t born knowing it!

The first thing to do is introduce the kids to God. Obviously there are a lot of characteristics of God we could talk about here.  (And I will be including the four omni words in the near future.) But our goal here is to explain the gospel, so we will continue talking about specific definitions.

God is Creator. (Most curriculums start with that base.) He made the stars and the trees, the frogs and the bees, the cows and chimpanzee. And God made you and me and everyone else in the room, in our town, and in the world. Because He made us, He is our authority (He is in charge). And because He is the One who made us, He best knows how we should live.

The first verse in the Bible tells us: In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. (Genesis 1:1)  (I think it’s important to always show the kids the verse we’re talking about from the Bible, so they know we aren’t making up the words.)

Whether you’re working with personal kids or kids in your ministry, a creation scavenger hunt can be fun. (Yes, this might be easier with your own kids, but see if there’s some way you can do it with a class.) After all, it’s summer – a good time for taking a walk.

Digital Picture Scavenger Hunt (You can probably find something for most days, but if you live in an area that has no oceans or lakes, you may have trouble with the water pictures.  Go ahead and check past vacation pictures or find a picture on the web.)

After you find a picture for each day, have your child make a collage or display them in some other way. As your child works, sing a creation song. If you don’t know one, also has several creation songs you can teach to the kids.

Day One – God created light – vs 1:3  (I’ve heard teachers say, God created darkness and light, but light is the absence of darkness. The darkness was already there. See vs. 2.) This will probably be your most difficult picture to find because finding a pic with just darkness and light and no sun, moon, plants, etc. might be a challenge!

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Day Two – God separated the sky and water. (vs. 6)  A good way to explain this is that He made the air for us to breathe.


Day Three – God gathered the water so that dry land appeared. (vs.10, 11) God also created plants and trees. dsc03899

Day Four – God created lights in the sky to separate the day and night and to serve as signs to mark the seasons. (vs. 14)


Day five – God created birds and creatures of the sea. (vs. 20)


Day 6 – God created animals and people. (vs. 24-26)



Day seven – God rested.(2:2)


Emphasize to your kids that God is all-powerful Creator.

He can do no wrong. He is perfect.

He created us, therefore He best knows how we should live. (That’s why listening to and obeying His Word, the Bible, is so important.)

Have fun with the scavenger hunt and teach your kids at the same time!

Kids – An Unreached People Group


Did you ever think of the kids in your ministry as an unreached people group?

That’s exactly whom many of them are.

Children come into the world knowing nothing about God or His Word. Children of believing parents who attend church regularly, begin to hear the words of the Bible from the time they are little. But children whose parents don’t attend church, often hear the word “God” only as a swear word. God is no different from any other word in their minds.

They walk into our ministries.

And we have the overwhelming responsibility of teaching them.

Unfortunately, we sometimes don’t think about the lack of knowledge in our audience.

Even when our explanation is correct, the words and concepts we use might as well be written in the original Greek considering how much the kids understand them.

Think about this presentation of the gospel to a child who has never, ever heard God’s Word.

We’ve all sinned. (What’s that?)

So we need a Savior. (Who’s that?)

God (Who is God?)

Sent His Son (???)

To earth (From where?)

To die for our sins so we don’t have to die. (Seriously? I don’t have to die? That’s cool.)

He took the punishment (Yuck, I don’t like punishment) for our sins so we don’t have to be punished! (Again, cool! I won’t ever be punished again?)

You will be forgiven. (What’s that and for what?)

You will then have eternal life (And that means?)

In heaven. You want to go to heaven, don’t you? (Tonight?)

Or – You will go to heaven when you die. (I thought you just said I wouldn’t die.)

 These might seem absurd, but a five-year-old has no context to support what we’re saying.

We need to choose our words carefully and think about what we’re saying.

Can it be misinterpreted? Are we clear in our explanations? What are they hearing?

In a sense, we are Bible translators for the kids in our lives.

We need to:

  1. Start with basic words and concepts, teaching them in a kid-friendly way. (This doesn’t mean we can’t teach them the big words, but our definitions need to be understandable.)
  2. Ask kids to explain the words/concepts to you. We can teach definitions, but we need to know that they’re getting it!
  3. Explain customs and culture. The Israelites could not stop their trek through the wilderness to eat at the local McDonalds or stay in a comfy hotel. (Yes, YOU know that, but do the kids?) Joseph and Mary had to walk to Bethlehem (or maybe they had a donkey, we don’t know). Peter fished in the Sea of Galilee … Peter died a long time ago, but the Sea of Galilee is still there!  (Letting kids know those places are still there is important too!) The people in Bible times were people just like us. Sometimes they were angry, sometimes sad, sometimes they celebrated, and, like us, they regularly met together to learn about God.

For the next few weeks, the blog will focus on how to teach some of the basic concepts of the gospel.

(Don’t forget – you can subscribe to my blog (and put a smile on my face! Either sign up for email notifications or for the complete post to come to you via email.)

Have a Teachable (Think Bible) Roadtrip

green leafed trees
Photo by Drew Rae on


A lot of people are going a lot of places.

In fact, TSA said that Friday, June 29th, might have been the busiest day EVER at airports. People are heading out of town.

Is your family going somewhere? Either flying or by car? Getting away is surprising, fun, and can be full of adventure.

But let’s not forget the Lord as we walk out the door.

Here’s some ways to have a teachable trip this summer.

***Choose four or five verses to learn together. Psalm 148 is a good chapter about creation (as you drive by cornfields, mountains, and lakes). Even little kids can easily understand most of the words and you can apply the verses to the cool sites you are seeing.

***Gather audio books to listen to as a family. Many church libraries have a good             audio selection of CDs such as Odyssey.  Or, if you have a car DVD player, stock up on family-friendly DVDs. Again, check out your church library.  If your church library doesn’t have a selection, ask around. Family and friends may have some you could borrow. (However, limit the time spent listening and watching and enjoy good family conversation.)

***Pay attention to explanations in museums or other tourist spots. Are they biblical in what they’re saying or are they promoting something ungodly? Use this as an opportunity to discuss the truth with your kids. If you see something misleading, ask the kids what the problem is and see if they can figure it out.

***Attend church – but if your kids are older and knowledgeable, don’t necessarily choose a church just like yours. Allow your kids to be exposed to a church that might not agree with your beliefs. Discuss this with your kids afterwards. What did they think about the message? Was everything the pastor said found in the Bible? What was good, what wasn’t so good? I remember taking our young teens to a church on vacation one year in which the pastor began his sermon by saying, “I have no idea what these verses mean, but I have to preach on them (because of a required denominational schedule), so I’m doing the best I can.” Both our kids picked up on it … and they both knew what the passage meant – it wasn’t that difficult.

***Read guests books in visitors’ centers. First of all, it’s fun to see who visited from your state or town. Second, it’s interesting to read the comments. I remember standing in a visitors’ center, overlooking an exquisite mountain. Just about every other comment mentioned God’s creation. We let the kids add our own family’s comments.

***Relate interesting wildlife, fantastic scenery, etc. back to God. This doesn’t need to be a sermon, just a quiet comment,  When you see that bear cub at Yellowstone or the field of wildflowers – “Wow! God’s creation is spectacular, isn’t it?”

***Serve as a family at a Christian camp or conference grounds. Often places are looking for camp nurses, maintenance staff, etc. Usually kids can stay with their parents and have great experiences swimming, horseback riding, hiking, etc. and hearing some great speakers.

***Ask a question of the day.

  1. Whom do you most want to meet in heaven? (Tell them you know they want to meet the Lord, but ask: Who is second on your list?)
  2. What Bible character would you have most like to be?
  3. What’s the biggest question you have about the Bible? (Then make sure you answer it.)

This is not a complete list of how to have a teachable road trip, but I hope it gives you some ideas to incorporate into your family vacation.

Have a great time!

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