Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Showing Kids Why Easter Matters

Leslie Basham: Barbara Rainey wants to help families get ready for Resurrection Sunday.

Barbara Rainey: Kids naturally look forward to things. They count down the days to their birthday. They count down the days to Christmas. Why shouldn’t they be counting down the days to Easter?

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Wednesday, February 19.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: Well, up here in Michigan where we record Revive Our Hearts and where our national ministry is located, it’s the middle of February, and we’re still buried under what we call the “permacloud”—gray skies here and snow and cold and frost. Things have not yet begun to thaw, but we’re already beginning to think about the upcoming Easter season, the passion week of Christ, the Resurrection Sunday, the season that many of us celebrate leading up to Resurrection Sunday. Some call it the Lenten Season.

Just forty days of remembering Christ and focusing on who He is and why He came and what He came to do. That season starts on Wednesday, March 5. There’s nothing sacred about that day. It's just a good marker day to start preparing our hearts to focus on the Passion Week of Christ, the Holy Week, and Resurrection Sunday.

Here to help us prepare to do that is my friend who’s been with us this week in the studio, Barbara Rainey. Barbara, thank you so much for your heart for the message of Easter and the resurrection. I know a lot of our listeners, especially those with children, families, have really been encouraged by some of the resources you’ve made available to help us do this in a really biblical way. So thanks for being back with us today.

Barbara: Well, you’re welcome. It’s a delight.

Nancy: Barbara Rainey is no stranger to our Revive Our Hearts audience. She’s been a guest numerous times on the broadcast and has talked a lot about a number of different books and resources she’s written.

She and her friend Susan Yates, who’s also been on this program, have written a book about dealing with the empty nest. She and her husband Dennis Rainey are the co-founders of FamilyLife, which is a ministry that’s very close to my heart because they were the ones who first had the vision to launch what became Revive Our Hearts. So in many ways, the Lord has partnered us over the years as ministries, as friends.

Barbara, I’m thinking back to the first time I think that I met you and Dennis. I was dealing with some difficult issues in my own life. I didn’t know who I could talk to about them, and Dennis had written a book that God had used in my life in a real way to encouraged me. I wanted to talk through some of these issues that I was grappling with in some of my relationships, and You and Dennis made yourselves available and encouraged and prayed for me and spoke into my life back in the early 90s. I’m sitting here thinking about what a meaningful gift that was, and I just want to say, “Thank you, again, for what you mean to me, to this ministry, and to so many in the body of Christ. Thank you for joining us here on Revive Our Hearts this week.”

Barbara: It’s been a privilege to partner all these years. It’s fun to see what God has done through you and in your ministry and through us over these years. It’s really been a privilege.

Nancy: The heart of both our ministries, FamilyLife and Revive Our Hearts, is the same—to get people into the Word, to Christ who is our life, our salvation, our healing, our strength, our bread, our water—our everything.

One of the things I so appreciate about you, Barbara, is your love for God’s Word. You’re a Bible student. I’ve seen your marked up, big weight-lifter version Bible. You love taking notes; you love studying God’s Word; you love teaching it to others, and you love teaching it in the context of family.

You have six children, soon to be twenty grandchildren, and you’ve spent a lot of years now thinking about ways to give your children and your grandchildren an appetite and a hunger for God’s Word.

Barbara: Yes. What I’m getting to do—and I say “getting” because it’s a real privilege, it’s a gift actually to me—is God is allowing me to create some resources and some tools and some products that are the kinds of things that I wish I’d had when I was parenting full time.

I was busy. I had a desire to teach my children from the Bible, but other than reading Bible storybooks, I really didn’t have a clue of what else to do. I didn’t know how to take them to the Bible. I didn’t know how to graduate from the Bible stories that you read through the time they’re about five or six, but then what do you do after they’re five or six? There wasn’t much available. I didn’t know how to find it. I didn’t know where to look for it.

So now in these empty-nest years, I’m spending a lot of my time writing and creating resources that moms and dads can use in their home, primarily around the holidays, because I think holidays are natural teaching moments. I think our children intuitively know that there’s something important going on when we celebrate Christmas and when we celebrate Thanksgiving and when Easter is approaching. They know they’re something important, but they obviously don’t know it is.

It’s a great time for us as moms and dads to take that teachable moment and that openness and receptiveness that our children are displaying and put some truth in there. It's a time to give them some truth that helps them understand more than they would otherwise. So I’m really having a great time doing this.

Nancy: You’ve come alongside families to just be a help. These are great resources. You can look at many of these resources and see descriptions of them and how to order them by going to ReviveOurHearts.com and we’ll link you to those different resources.

We’re focusing in this discussion on Easter, which is coming up. You’re particularly passionate, as Scripture is and as we all should be, about the Easter holiday, the Holy Day, Resurrection Sunday is probably the best term to use for it. And yet, it seems that every time God has something really meaningful for us in terms of some aspect of our faith that we celebrate, it seems like the world or the devil or somebody, I don’t know who, co-opts it, hijacks it, and turns it into something utterly different than what it was intended to be.

Barbara: I agree.

Nancy: And isn’t that true of Easter as much as maybe any holiday?

Barbara: I think it’s probably more true of Easter because Easter is the most important Christian holiday. It’s the pinnacle of our faith. It’s the high point of all that we believe and all that we worship. If it weren’t for Easter, if Easter wasn’t true, if Christ didn’t rise from the dead, the rest of it would be meaningless.

Nancy: We’d be dead in our sins.

Barbara: Yes. And yet we spend inordinate amounts of time and money and energy celebrating Christmas, and we spend very little time, energy, and money—not that those things make it—but by comparison, we spend very little energy and attention on Easter. So I totally agree with you. I think Easter is overlooked. I think it’s neglected. I think it’s cast aside. I think it’s trivialized with bunnies and chicks and chocolate eggs and that kind of thing.

Nancy: Let me just ask you, as a mom, a grandmom now, for parents who are serious about their faith and want to disciple their children in God’s ways, Christian families: Do you think it’s okay to do those things, to talk about the Easter bunny, to have Easter egg hunts? How do you view that now as a mom?

Barbara: Well, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with it, but I think it’s a distraction. If you want to have an Easter egg hunt, have an Easter egg hunt with Resurrection Eggs and teach your children the story of Christ and why He had to suffer and die and rise again on the third day.

Nancy: And for those who aren’t familiar with that, that’s one of the first resources you developed twenty years ago. If you go to ReviveOurHearts.com, we’ll link you to the source where you can find those Resurrection Eggs. (Or call 1–800–358–6329.)

Barbara: So, again, it’s not that those things are inherently evil or wrong, but they’re a distraction from the true focus of what we should be thinking about and talking about in Holy Week and on Easter Sunday, Resurrection Day.

Nancy: I find that it’s so helpful to prepare our hearts, whether you’re an adult or doing this with children.

Barbara: Absolutely.

Nancy: If all of a sudden Good Friday is on us, it’s Easter weekend, we didn’t prepare our hearts for this, then we just miss it so easily. We don’t get the most out of it.

Barbara: Yes, totally.

Nancy: So that’s why many times in the Scripture when God gave His people holy days, it was not just one day. It was a week or a season of preparing. There would be fast days, there would be feast days, there would be symbols of their faith. Sometimes they would build these booths to remind them of when they were in the wilderness and were pilgrims traveling in the wilderness. There were visual ways of remembering their faith and pointing to Christ.

That’s one of the things you’ve tried to do in this wonderful resource you’ve developed called The Messiah Mystery. It’s taking six weeks—some would call this the Lenten season—leading up to Easter, with your family or Sunday School class, or a group of children in your neighborhood.

Barbara: That’s right.

Nancy: To focus on how the Old Testament prepared the way and gave us clues that the Messiah would come, what He would be like, and what He would do. I know one of those clues has to do with the whole observance of the Passover, which we first read about in the book of Exodus.

Now, if you’re doing this Messiah Mystery, one of the weeks that’s going to be a focus is the Passover. What are we going to learn? What are we going to experience?

Barbara: That’s right. Well, the story of the Passover is in week three. Each of these six lessons, each of these six experiences that you do with your family has a practical, fun, hands-on task for kids to do.

The one for Passover is especially fun because as you read the story of the Passover experience that the Israelites had in the land of Egypt, when God told them to go out, they had to kill the lamb. Then they had to paint the blood on the doorposts over the top of their house so the angel of death would pass over. So you get a bowl of water, or if you’re really brave, you can get washable paint (washable red paint, of course) and go out and paint over your doorway.

Help your children experience for just a moment what that would have been like, to be sure we had to paint over our door so that we would be passed over. Help them understand what that meant, because there were plenty of other children who died that night because they didn’t have the blood over the doorway.

Why did God want blood over the doorway? What is the meaning of that? Why is that important to the whole story of Christ? And what does that have to do with Easter week?

As you read the story of the Passover and all it’s associated with, there are questions in that lesson for you to answer. The answers are written in teensy font so your kids can have the experience of discovering the answers using the little magnifier glass that comes with the book. So many of the families who have tried this and used it have said that the kids absolutely love that part. They love getting the magnifier glass and being the one to discover the clue that’s printed in such tiny font that you can’t read.

So it makes it interesting for your kids to go out and paint the doorframe of your house and for them to get the magnifying glass and find the clues. It’s not just mom or dad or mom and dad teaching truth to the kids, but it’s a way to involve them in the process so that the truth then becomes more cemented in their souls, and they engage with it and participate with it, and it becomes more real.

Nancy: And we’re getting them into the Word

Barbara: Which I love.

Nancy: In ways that makes them realize that the Word of God is alive, it’s powerful, it’s true, and all connected. It’s one great big redemptive story.

Barbara: That’s right.

Nancy: I’m looking at that third week in this resource, The Messiah Mystery, and here’s the conclusion. This is what you would read to your family on that week. It says: “Even in a hard-to-understand story" (that’s the story of the Passover because we don’t do the lambs and the blood), we learn in this lesson why we don’t have to today because Jesus is the Lamb who was slain for us.

Barbara: Yes, that’s right.

Nancy: But it says:

Even in a hard-to-understand story, God is showing more of what must happen for us to be brought back to Him. The blood of the lamb on the doorways of each Hebrew house was meant to be a vivid reminder that a life had to be sacrificed to save the people. This week, take time to thank God in your heart that the sacrifice of the Lamb of Jesus’ blood makes it possible for death to pass over us.

So we’re taking our children—and our own hearts—from that Old Testament Exodus story, bridging over to the new covenant in the New Testament and making this an act of worship that we have a Lamb who has been killed for us so we don’t have to keep killing lambs, but we can be freed from our sin.

Barbara: That’s right.

Nancy: Then there’s a family prayer the family can pray together. Families can, of course, just read what’s there—there’s questions, there’s answers, there’s clues, there’s hands-on activities. But I imagine sometimes for families there’s more discussion that comes out of this.

Barbara: I hope so. My prayer is that there would be a lot of on-going discussion even after the lesson is finished, that maybe two days later one of the kids would say, “Now, let me ask a question about this . . .” So I hope it will spark a lot of thinking and a lot of on-going discussion from week to week.

Nancy: Of course, as a parent, you always want to be praying that God would capture the hearts of your children, that He’ll open their eyes by His Holy Spirit. You can’t save your children. You can’t make them love Jesus. But you can be praying that God will tenderize their hearts, open their hearts.

I’ve watched my friends’ children as the light starts to go on, as the Holy Spirit draws them, as they start asking questions and making connections. It’s amazing how early and how young some of that can happen when the parents are creating this climate in the home of getting into God’s Word, of talking about it, reading it, studying it, engaging.

This is what the Jewish families did around the Passover They would ask questions. The children would ask questions. The father would be prepared to answer. And you’ve given a resource here that could help parents do that very thing in these weeks leading up to Resurrection Sunday.

Now, I’m sitting here looking at this Messiah Mystery set or kit, I don’t know what you call it. This whole resource is quite something you’ve put together. There’s not only this journal, which is a beautiful clothbound—well, it just doesn’t look like any ordinary book. It’s very engaging. It’s very tactile, for those of us who love to touch things. It’s got the magnifying glass. It’s got these little clue booklets.

Barbara: We sort of wanted it to have a little bit of an Indiana Jones feel. So the cloth-covered book is intended to have an old feel because we’re going back to the Old Testament, and we’re going on this discovery journey. We want kids to feel like they’re actually on a hunt, some kind of a detective hunt. So all of the elements of this resource are designed to have that of old-world feel that enhances the experience of going back into the Old Testament.

Nancy: There’s a poster that comes with it. You can unfold it, and there are forty strips. One for each day of the Lenten series.

Barbara: Yes, that’s right. You take the forty strips and make a paper chain. Then each day of Lent, each of the forty days, you tear one strip off and apply it to the poster. All of the strips are numbered, and the poster is numbered.

At the end there’s an image that comes up as you put all these pieces together. The reason that we did the poster is because kids naturally look forward to things. They count down the days to their birthday. They count down the days to Christmas. Why shouldn’t they be counting down the days to Easter? I think we should. I think we should have as much anticipation for Easter and celebrating the Resurrection as we do for anticipating our birthdays, counting down the days till school’s out, counting down the days till Christmas. Let’s count down the days till Easter.

So we created this poster and this paper chain so that families can count the days until Easter. When you apply the strip to the poster, in the end an image emerges that answers the "Messiah Mystery." I’m not going to tell you what the image is, but there’s even a secret clue hidden in the poster that you have to put the whole poster together before you can find the very last secret clue with your magnifying glass, too. You have to have your magnifying glass, too.

Nancy: What a great resource for families. The Lenten series starts in about three weeks from now or so, forty days leading up to Easter. We want to make this resource available to our listeners. We want to get you and your family, your children and grandchildren, into the Word of God, focusing on Jesus, preparing your heart for Resurrection Sunday, observing in a meaningful way the Passion Week of Christ, the death, the burial, and the resurrection of Christ.

So Barbara has done the hard work. She’s done the creative work. She and her team have put this resource together, and we’re so grateful to be able to offer it through Revive Our Hearts.

If you’d like to have this for your family or perhaps as a gift to your grown children and grandchildren for them to celebrate and observe the Lenten season, it’s available by going to our website, saying you’d like to make a gift of $20 or more to the ministry of Revive Our Hearts. As our way of thanking you for that support, we’ll send you this Messiah Mystery kit.

Go to our website. You can see more of a description about it, read more about it, see pictures of it.

If you’d rather call to make your donation, you can do that by calling 1–800–569–5959. Let them know you’d like to give a gift to Revive Our Hearts of $20 or more, and be sure and let them know that you want The Messiah Mystery resource or kit, and we’ll get that out to you just as soon as possible so you can be ready to use it during the Lenten season.

Now Barbara, you are so creative, and you just have so many ideas and wonderful resources. On our website we’ll have more pictures and descriptions of some of these resources and how people can order them, but I just want to mention and have you describe a little bit for us this other Passion Week, Holy Week, resource that I’m looking at here. It’s a Behold the Lamb Wreath?

Barbara: Yes.

Nancy: Tell us about this. I’m looking at it, but our listeners are just listening.

Barbara: I know.

Nancy: Describe what it is and then listeners can go to www.ReviveOurHearts.com and can learn more about it and how to order it there.  (Or call FamilyLife at 1–800–358–6329.)

Barbara: Well, Behold the Lamb is a way to celebrate Christ during Holy Week, leading up to Resurrection Sunday. It comes with a little fabric pouch and inside the pouch are eight cards. It’s a very quick way to engage with your family about Holy Week that doesn’t take very much time at all. The first card you read on Palm Sunday.

Each of these cards teach about the “I AM” statements that Jesus made about Himself in the book of John. So on Palm Sunday, you read the story about where Jesus claimed that He was the Messiah. He said, “I am the Messiah,” to the woman at the well in John chapter 4.

And then on Monday you read the story about where Jesus said, “I am the light of the world.”

And you read about where He said, “I am the bread of life; I am the way, the truth and the life; I am the resurrection.” And so each day

Nancy: And they’re short. It takes, what, five minutes to read this maybe?

Barbara: Well, the kids are still in school during Holy Week, so you can’t do much. I’m picturing a family over breakfast. It won’t take more than two or three minutes to read these. They’re very short. So you can deposit a little bit of truth during Holy Week before your kids go off to school.

Or you might do them in the evening when they come home, but the point is to, again, set aside some time during holy week to focus on Christ and what He did for us in that last week of His life. And even though it’s not a holiday when everyone is off like we are for Christmas, we can still be intentional with our families, and we can read these.

Dennis and I did these ourselves at Easter last year. It’s a metal wreath. It’s designed like a card holder. So it’s got these loops that you can stick cards or photographs in. The way that it’s designed is, you can set it on a counter. Or, as I did, I unscrewed the stand from it and put the wreath portion of it on my front door. In the center of the wreath it says “I AM,” which is the name of God. Then each card finishes that statement and then fills in the blank with who Jesus claimed to be in the book of John—I am the Messiah; I am the bread of Life; I am the light of the world; I am the true vine; I am the Good Shepherd.

So each day you focus on one of those I AM statements that Jesus made about Himself, and then the last one, of course, is I AM the resurrection and the life, and that goes up on Resurrection Sunday.

I left my metal wire wreath with each of those cards in it on my front door until the middle of June. I just loved having a statement on the front of my house that said, “We who live in this house believe in Christ. We believe in the I AM. We believe in the One who is eternal.”

And with rain and wind and storms, only one of the cards flew off once or twice. I just went out and picked it up and put it back in there. It was surprisingly durable. I loved celebrating that all of Holy Week and through Resurrection Sunday, but then leaving it up as a testimony to anybody who came to my front door, be it a UPS delivery person or a friend or guest coming to our house for dinner. It was a wonderful way to continue to make a statement of our faith beyond Resurrection Sunday.

Nancy: And what a wonderful way also to be making a declaration of your faith to your children, and creating a climate, an environment that’s conducive to their coming to know and love Jesus themselves.

I just think, if we categorize our faith so it’s something we do on Sunday mornings or just occasionally but it’s not part of the fabric, the warp and woof of our lives, why should our children grow up thinking they really, really need Jesus or they want Him to be a part of their everyday life?

Barbara: Exactly.

Nancy: But here we’re talking about putting something visible in your home, something that you can do for a few minutes each day during Holy Week as Easter approaches, but that you can leave in your home, to be reminding your children: This is who Christ is. This is why He came.

You can’t make your children believe in Jesus, but you sure can create a climate that’s conducive to their realizing how wonderful He is, how necessary He is, who He is, and why He came.

Barbara: That’s right.

Nancy: Scripture is passionate about doing that. I’m thinking about that passage in Deuteronomy 6 that says, “Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart.” First it’s got to be in the parent’s heart.

Barbara: That’s right.

Nancy: You can’t pass on to your children what’s not in your own heart. And then “You shall teach them diligently to your children and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise.” It’s like all the time.

Barbara: Yes.

Nancy: Talk about these things. Talk about the Lord. Talk about the gospel. “You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts on your house and on your gates” and maybe by hanging this wreath on your front door.

Barbara: Exactly.

Nancy: Or wherever in your living area.

Again, there’s more about this resource. This is not an infomercial. The goal is not for us to sell product. We’re making these things available through your ministry and ours as reasonably as we can. The goal is to get Christ and His Word and His ways into the hearts of adults and children and families. So this resource, if you go to ReviveOurHearts.com and there’s a link that will tell you how you can get this Behold the Lamb series.

Again, you’re saying, “It’s February and Easter’s not until April. Why are we talking about this now?” Well, we’re talking about it now because there’s a chance for you to order it, to have it in your home, to learn how to use it. It’s very simple, very useable, and you can purchase that, this Behold the Lamb resource, the wreath, and the cards that go with it. Go to ReviveOurHearts.com, and we’ll tell you how to purchase that.

Barbara, thank you, thank you. The time has gone quickly. Where did it go?

Barbara: It has.

Nancy: There’s lots more we could talk about, but I just want to thank you for your heart for Jesus, for His Word, and for families and for all that you’re doing to create these resources that can make Him more precious to us and more real in our lives and in our families’ lives. Thank you so much for your work on this and for sharing about these tools with our listeners.

Barbara: Well, it really is a great privilege, and it really is because of what He did for me that I want to do this. I want to make Christ known. So I’m grateful.

Leslie: That’s Barbara Rainey, talking with Nancy Leigh DeMoss about making the Lenten season more meaningful.

To get more information about The Messiah Mystery or the other resources you just heard about, visit www.ReviveOurHearts.com, or call 1–800–569–5959.

Well, it might be hard to believe, but sometimes Jesus shows how much He cares by sending you into a storm. Tomorrow Paul David Tripp shows you why. Please be back for Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss is an outreach of Life Action Ministries. 

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