Days of Elijah

Close-up of fire and flames on a black background (Huge file)

Summertime. People in most other occupations are scheduling time off, looking forward to some downtime, preparing for vacations, but for those of us in children’s ministry, we are ramping up for Vacation Bible School, summer camps, park or outdoor ministry and other summer events.
These can be times of great joy as we work to fulfill the Great Commission as best we know how, using our God-given talents, and following where the Spirit is leading us.
Seeing the fruit of our labors when a child really “gets” the Bible point through a lesson or experience we have expended great effort on, being there as a child comes to Christ, helping a child take the next step on the road to salvation, building relationship with kids, parents and volunteers – these are some of the things that lift our spirits and make us want to do the happy dance!
I have found that whenever I have a “mountain peak” experience like that, soon afterward will come a time of slogging through the valley.
It reminds me of Elijah, who, in 1st Kings 18:1- 40, confronted King Ahab and the 450 prophets of Baal in a dramatic showdown on Mt. Carmel, in a literal mountaintop experience where God sent down fire from heaven at Elijah’s request.
In the very next chapter, Queen Jezebel threatens him and Elijah runs away and hides and begs God to take his life, in utter depression.
Have you had this experience of feeling on top of the world, only to end up sad and depressed by others’ actions or words?
It’s common knowledge that we can be given positive words many, many times, but the negative words are the ones that we most focus on. You may have just rocked out an amazing VBS that changed the lives of many children and had wonderful positive comments from parents and kids, and then have someone drag you down by an ugly comment or critical judgement couched as “helpful criticism”. You may be reaching out to the kids in your community in ways you never could before, only to have a negative person accuse you of not paying enough attention to “our kids” at “our church”.
Whatever it is, it is helpful to know it’s coming. Satan’s tactics are the same now as they were in Elijah’s day – make you want to run and hide, feel defeated and depressed.
Just like Elijah, though, it’s good to know that God will not leave us alone in our despair. He gives us a time of rest and strengthens us, then sends us forward into the ministry to which he has called us.
He also lets us know that we’re not the only ones. Elijah needed to know that God had 7,000 other Israelites ready to stand for God with him. Sometimes God helps us see that we’re not standing alone by other ministry leaders or volunteers coming alongside us, or through the greater kidmin community in online groups who give us words of support and encouragement when we need it.
So take a deep breath as you come off the mountaintop, remember the tactics of the enemy, get some rest, stay in the Word, and remember you are not alone!

A Review of The ICB – The International Children’s Bible

On the cover this Bible states that it is “the translation that children can read and understand.” In the preface, it says that this is the “first translation of the Holy Scriptures prepared specifically for children.” This Bible is supposed to be on a grade 3 reading level. This is great news for those of us endeavoring to teach God’s Word in an effective, understandable way to young kids.

The publishers (Tommy Nelson) have worked diligently to make sure that things like ancient customs, figures of speech, connotations, and idiomatic expressions have been simplified for a child’s clear understanding. For instance, in Genesis 1:1, it says “In the beginning God created the sky and the earth.” We are used to hearing it as “the heavens and the earth”, but a more concrete thinker might wonder “Heavens? I thought there was only one heaven?”   The Lord’s prayer in Matthew 6 comes out as “Our Father in heaven, we pray that your name will always be kept holy. We pray that your kingdom will come. We pray that what you want will be done, here on earth as it is in heaven. Give us the food we need for each day. Forgive the sins we have done, just as we have forgiven those who did wrong to us. And do not cause us to be tested, but save us from the Evil one.”

The ICB has many helps for the young Bible reader. It has key verse highlights to help kids read and learn key passages of Scripture. These are literally highlighted in the text. In the front of the book is a topical index for these key verses, so kids can find verses on things like friendship, guidance, the Holy Spirit, etc. There is also a dictionary in the back of the Bible for words, terms, and names with which children may not be familiar. These same words are emboldened in the text, so that you know it’s in the dictionary if you need the definition. There is a section, also in the back, called “Where Do I Find It?” This tells where to find Scriptures about Daniel, or creation, for instance, giving the reference.   Next, there is a section called “What God Promises About..” Children can see the promises of God clearly laid out by topic. Wisdom, Salvation, My Happiness, are a few of the headings. Finally, there is a section called “Memory Verses for My Life.”, which is exactly like it sounds – a list of verses that are easy to memorize and great for learning.

The ICB has really nice graphics. There are a number of maps in the back, showing Abraham’s Journey, the Desert Wanderings, Jesus’ Last Week in Jerusalem, and Palestine in Jesus’ Life. There are vibrant illustrations interspersed throughout the whole book. These are lively, modern looking, clean-lined pictures with vivid colors that kids will be drawn to.

I do think the publishers of the ICB have accomplished what they set out to do, which is to make not a storybook or paraphrase, but a real translation of God’s word for young readers. It would make a great resource for a Sunday school classroom. It would also be a wonderful gift for a young child, especially if you sit down and read it with them!