A Transformational Love

I have shared this on Facebook before, but I feel like it is a message worth repeating.

There are lots and lots of people in the Bible and very many of their life stories are listed for us. I have quite a few that are favorites because they teach us of the goodness of God. There’s one simple story during Jesus’ ministry that always strikes me though. And it sticks with me and warms my heart, but also convicts me.

There was a man who lived in Jericho who was despised by everyone. He was lavishly wealthy primarily because as a Hebrew tax collector for the Roman government, he stole money from his Jewish brothers and padded his own pockets. One day, Jesus was passing through Jericho and the crowds came out to see Jesus as He came into town.



Luke 19:1-9

being a short man, wanted a glimpse of Jesus but couldn’t see above the throng, so he climbed up a nearby Sycamore tree. As Jesus came through the streets, He parted the crowd and walked straight way to that tree. Ignoring the gasps and snarls of the people of the city, He told the most hated man there that He should come on down out of that tree and go home and prepare a meal, because Jesus would be dining there that evening. This flew all over the religious crowd. Jesus was scandalous in his love for broken people. He sought the ones who needed him the most. His love and lack of disdain for them chipped through their hardened hearts and changed them.

After Zaccheaus met with Jesus, he gave back all of the money he had stolen multiplied by 4. Who does that? Someone who has felt the love of God and been transformed by it! This evil, broken world will not be changed by our disdain and pious attitudes. But it will be changed by displaying the love of God in his Son Jesus through loving people who seem to least deserve it. 

Love Big Today!!!

“Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” 1 John 4:11


I don’t claim to be an expert on this subject, but I will say that, like many of you, I’ve had my fair share of opportunities to practice forgiveness.  I think for some people, perhaps, the act of forgiveness may come easier than for others, due to personalities or even personal experiences. But, I know for a fact, that forgiveness can become easier with practice.

One of the best ways to forgive (and keep on forgiving people) is to simply capture your thoughts and change them.  2 Corinthians 10:5 tells us to take every thought captive and make it obedient to Christ. And Philippians 4 says “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable,Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.”

When those conversations creep into your mind where you replay what was said and think of new ways to lash out at that person, take that thought captive, stop, and redirect your thoughts to something more positive.  When you’re lying in bed and replaying through your thoughts a time when you were mistreated in some way, stop and redirect your focus onto something else, something good.  It’s hard to feel forgiving or to act forgiving toward someone when you continuously replay their wrongs. I suspect this is an issue with a lot of marriages as well.  I know that I prefer people not hold against me the things I’ve said or done that offended them (even if it was accidentally), so why can we not be gracious enough to extend that same opportunity to them, to let go of the times we’ve been offended by them?

I recognize that there are certain sins against an individual that might require more time or even counseling to work through to a place of forgiveness. But that ought to be the goal of every Christian, so that the power of Christ can be seen by forgiveness through us.

I wrote a short Facebook post a couple of years ago discussing this topic after a celebrity was outed for some past and current sins.  It seemed to spark such a nerve with people who couldn’t understand how victims could forgive, because it seemed as if forgiving was giving the offender permission to sin.  But I believe that forgiveness is not at all a permissive or excusatory act, but, rather a choice by those offended to not be held captive by the offensive act in thought or emotion.

In my Facebook post, I said:

Condoning sin and forgiving sin are two different things. Condoning sin says, “I think what you did was ok.” Forgiving sin says, “What you did was wrong. I will let consequences/discipline/repercussions take their course for you, but I will not hold your sin against you.”  The action of forgiveness may take a little time and it often takes practice, but for the Christian it is necessary, commanded, and a banner of Christ in us.

Mark 11:25 “And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.”

Matthew 6: 14-15  “For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”

You don’t have to condone someone’s sin to forgive them and not hold it against them. Those who’ve been forgiven much should be the first to offer forgiveness. Who do you need to forgive today?

Luke 7:47 “Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven – for she loved much.  But he who is forgiven little, loves little.”


Forgive as the Lord forgave you.

Back to Basics: Scripture Memory

Teaching Children (Or Yourself!) to Memorize Scripture

by Joy Hutzler

Does the thought of memorizing scripture intimidate you, or worse, bore you? The Bible tells us over and over to memorize its words because they are living, powerful and necessary to effectively live out our faith.  If it’s so important to know God’s words and have them written on our hearts, why do we so often struggle to commit them to memory?  If I’m speaking personally, scripture memory is another discipline that I struggle with because it takes effort, time, and intentionality that I often just neglect.

red-bear-child-childhoodBut I’m a mom. And I have four children that I’ve been entrusted by God to raise up as arrows to send out to the battlefield.  I’d be a deadbeat in spiritual training if I didn’t equip them with the weapons they will need to be effective warriors for God’s kingdom. If they’re to fight off the kingdom of darkness and walk in the light, they will need the weapons of their warfare, which is the word of God.  So, since I can’t neglect teaching them the stories from the Bible or how to use and study the Bible, I also must train them to memorize it, so that the Spirit will be able to use it when they need it.

I have found that it’s actually not that difficult to memorize scripture. My children start learning to quote scripture once they start talking. It’s really not that hard…and I’m going to show you how to do it.  Afterward, I’m going to link to a few videos of some of the verses that my children have memorized.


First, you need to decide what verses you’re going to memorize. A quick search on Pinterest for scripture memory for children will produce a number of links to sites that will give you lists and often printables that you can use to guide you in this process. One of my favorite lists is this ABC set. My 2 and 5-year-old learned all of these over about a 8-9 month period by just practicing one verse at a time several mornings a week at breakfast, and reviewing the old ones once or twice a week.  Mostly now that they are a little bit older, we just memorize whatever is part of their Bible curriculum (we homeschool.) But you can use verses from Sunday School or Awana programs or look on Pinterest and find a list. My youngest two (2 and 1) listen in and participate when I’m teaching new verses, and I have been amazed to see how much they pick up just by being in the room!

b2bbf98979e4eb9a5283366f44737314Second, you need to make time to practice the verse and review old ones. This could be at mealtime, in the car, or at bedtime.  Choose a time when it will be easy to remember to practice, and when you can get your hands on the printed verse (with your Bible, or a printable, or even pulled up on your phone). After you introduce a verse, practice it a few times. On the next day, practice your new verse a couple of times and pick an old verse or two or three and review them.  Literally, all of this will take 3-5 minutes at most.  You’d be surprised, though, what kind of conversations learning new scripture will start! Be alert to opportunities to teach spiritual truths and willing to take an extra couple of minutes to do so. This is the whole reason we are memorizing the Word!

Last, you’re going to need a catchy way to remember the verse. This might not come easy for everyone, so I will link below to some CD’s that are full of scripture already put to music and that might be a big help.  When I introduce a new verse, I simply look over the verse a couple of times on my own and notice when reading it if I can put it to a rhythm that will make it easy to remember. Sometimes I make up a little tune. Sometimes I have them say the verse in a silly voice or emphasize one part of the verse over another. Doing something out of the ordinary, rather than simply reading/quoting the verse, helps it stick to the brain more easily.


So, there you have it! All you need is to figure out what verses you are going to memorize, find a time to practice, and put it to a catchy rhythm or tune. You’ll be so thrilled to see your children memorizing God’s Word, and the added bonus is that those words are settling into your heart and mind as well as theirs! It’s a win-win!

Here’s a link to my youtube channel, where I have a few videos posted of some verses we have learned. These may give you an idea of how I come up with a tune or rhythm to teach the verses.

Check out Seeds Family Worship, which is word for word scripture put to modern music.

BONUS: Scripture Lullabies are beautiful songs written from scripture, though they may not be word for word.  They are still great to have to listen to or playing in the background of your home or nursery. AND one out of ten of their CD’s is donated to a crisis pregnancy center to bless a new mom in a crisis pregnancy situation.

And finally, here is my 2 year old quoting Romans 8:28 last week.


Bible Resources for Children in Your Home (Back to Basics)

In our series on developing spiritual disciplines, I wanted to share with you some of my favorite children’s Bibles and teaching resources.

I am a sucker for children’s Bibles. However, not all are created equal. I’m no expert on all children’s biblical materials, but as a teacher and mother, I have some criteria for choosing quality resources for my children. I’m usually looking for resources from authors and sources whose views on theology I trust. I like children’s materials that are not dumbed-down, even though their audience is children. I like biblically accurate stories in a children’s Bible, not stories that have been overly shortened leaving out important theology. Beautiful illustrations are important to me, too. I have 4 children ages 8 and under, and we have a number of materials that we use or have used to teach the Bible and biblical doctrines. I am hoping that if you don’t already have some good books to teach the Bible to your children, maybe these ideas will be of help. Of course there is no substitute for the actual word of God. These are just additional resources for you.  And if you have some really good resources you’d like to share, please do so in the comments!


The Jesus Storybook Bible

The Jesus Storybook Bible is my favorite children’s Bible.  Every story shows how God is always pointing us to Jesus. It’s wonderfully illustrated, with sound theology and engaging retellings of the stories throughout the Bible. In fact, I’ve been known to read selections from this Bible in some of my adult classes, because it’s such a well-written book.


The Biggest Story: How the Snake Crusher Brings Us Back to the Garden

Affectionately called “The Snake Crusher,” this book uses brightly colored, geometric graphics as it takes the reader through ten chapters chronicling the highlights of the Bible. It ends with the Snake Crusher returning to wipe away the bad and restore the good. Isn’t that the wonderful truth of God’s word?!



The Garden the Curtain and the Cross

This is a short book with bright, lively illustrations explaining why Jesus died and came back to life. Using the phrase “Keep Out!” to describe man’s separation from God due to sin, the author beautifully explains the significance of Jesus’ death and resurrection so that man can be restored to God.


Leading Little Ones to God

This book is an “oldie” but a goody.  Using short readings, it teaches children basic biblical doctrines like the trinity, the omniscience, omnipresence and omnipotence of God, angels, sin, the Law, forgiveness of sin through Jesus, etc.  We homeschool and used this as a Bible curriculum last year, but it would be perfect for family devotionals or for dinnertime readings where parents want to disciple their children. I used it with a 4 and 7-year-old, but it could be used for children much older, as well.


The Ology- Ancient Truths Ever New

The Ology Music CD

This one I haven’t actually used yet, but have read through and find it looks to be a wonderful resource to teach Bible doctrines and basic catechism.  It has short readings, and lots of scripture paired with beautiful illustrations. This, too, would be a great book to use for parents seeking to disciple children with short lessons at meal-times or bed time. It has a partner CD you can order with children’s songs that correspond to the book to help expand understanding and remember the material.

And finally, check out Egermeier’s Bible Story Book.  I haven’t personally read this one, but a friend suggested it when she found out I was writing this post. I trust her judgment and she’s raised some amazing children, so I will definitely be checking into this one as well!

Do you have favorite Children’s Bible resources that you’ve used? Leave a comment for the rest of us! And stay tuned for a coming post about memorizing scripture with children!


But Jesus called the children to him and said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.” Luke 18:16 





by Joy Hutzler

Judges chapter 6 tells us an amazing story about a “nobody” named Gideon.  Gideon was the youngest son of a poor man in Israel. In those days, the Midianite army would sweep through Israel each harvest season and utterly destroy all the crops and livestock of the Israelites.  God’s people had resorted to hiding in caves in the mountains during this time of the year for fear of the Midianites.  After some time, the people of the Lord, who had begun worshipping other gods, grew tired of the oppression of the Midianites and cried out to God for help. One day, Gideon was hiding in a winepress, beating out some wheat to hide it from the Midianites, and an angel appeared to him with a message from the Lord.  gideon_and_angel_of_godAs a way of greeting, the angel said, “The Lord is with you, man of courage.”  Here was Gideon hiding from the Midianites, and the Lord called him a man of courage. I imagine Gideon looked around to see who the angel must have been referring to. The angel went on to give Gideon instructions about what was to come and how the Lord was going to use him to deliver the Israelites from the Midianite army. But first, God wanted Gideon to tear down the idol of the false god Baal, which was standing in the way of victory for the Israelites.  Every time he was given instructions, Gideon asked for confirmation that it was truly a message from the Lord. Gideon was afraid. He was afraid of the Midianites.  He was afraid of the men of his village.  He doesn’t sound much like a “man of courage.” But each time after he confirmed the Lord’s message, Gideon was obedient and did what the Lord had told him to do.

My husband and I are raising a son amidst his three sisters.  Trying to teach him to be strong and fearless is a task that I don’t always feel equipped for.  I often tell him when he is afraid to have courage.  I remind him that, “It isn’t courage if you aren’t afraid.”

God asked Gideon to trust him and to obey some outlandish and seemingly impossible commands.  He was afraid. I would have been, too! Gideon was given an army of 300 men to stand up against the great Midianite (and Amalekite) armies. There were more of them than could be counted. But God didn’t really need Gideon’s help. He wanted his trust and obedience. God didn’t let him down.

it-is-the-lord-your-god-you-must-follow-and-him-you-must-revere-keep-his-commands-and-obey-him-serve-him-and-hold-fast-to-him-deut-13_4Sometimes in our own lives God asks us to trust him and obey him in situations that seem far above our capabilities. We cannot even fathom at times how God could possibly work a plan to handle an overwhelming situation. We are confused why he even wants to involve us in his plan in the first place. We are afraid of the circumstances or cower at all of the “what ifs.”

God called Gideon a man of courage before he even gave him the first instruction, because God already knew who Gideon was. God already knew Gideon was afraid, but he wanted to give him a title that would help Gideon understand that God saw something about him that he couldn’t see for himself.

Maybe you don’t feel very courageous. Maybe you feel very unworthy or ill-equipped to handle a task the Lord has given you.  But this is where God loves to work!  God loves to work in all of our inadequacies because that is where HE gets the glory. That is where HE gets to shine and show his power.  If you have been given instructions from the Lord, go ahead and get confirmation, then in all of your fears, inadequacies, and uncertainties, OBEY! The Lord is with you, Woman of Courage.


So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. Isaiah 41:10


Spiritual Doulas

joy-and-sadie-newbornIf you’re like many, you may not have heard the word “doula” before. It’s a word that represents someone who helps a woman in childbirth.  Doulas have been around for thousands of years and are often described like a mid-wife, but they usually aren’t the ones actually delivering the baby.  Rather, the focus of the doula is on easing the mother’s laboring discomfort and encouraging and supporting her through the pain.

After delivering my son in a very traumatic birth experience, I decided any future births would be assisted by a doula. I just so happened to have two great friends who were doulas.  This worked out perfectly for my last two births. When my baby girls came into this world, I needed the support of someone other than my husband who, as loving and well-intentioned as he was, had no real clue as to how to help me through the absolute toughest physical moments of my life. These ladies took turns rubbing my back or my feet; speaking in soothing tones words of encouragement and affirmation; wiping my brow with a wet cloth; feeding me ice chips; dousing me in essential oils; and cheering me on until my babe was safely in my arms.

It occurred to me not long after my first doula-supported birth experience that we, as women, or really we, as human beings, need doulas for life… particularly in the hard times. One of the mental roadblocks I had to having a doula with me, specifically one who was my friend, was that I would not have any privacy. Childbirth is messy, gross, beautiful, and hard! They were going to be all up in my personal business and there would be no physical privacy. Any amount of crazy I experienced during the pains of childbirth would be fully exposed to people who knew me well.  I wouldn’t be able to hide anything.

We need that in life.  We need people who can be all up in our business, who see it all. We need people we can’t hide the crazy from.  If we can be real in front of people, then we can receive the support we need.  We need spiritual doulas who are willing to get in the mess and the pain and the hard and the beautiful of our lives.  In this way, we can be encouraged, spurred on, pushed toward the end goal, and be uplifted as we navigate this journey of life.

We need to be spiritual doulas for others.  We need to be willing to walk alongside other women in their darkest, hardest, messiest hours, so that something beautiful and blessed and sacred can come out on the other side.

“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds,” (Hebrews 10:24)

“But exhort one another daily, as long as it is called today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.”  (Hebrews 3:13)

Rejoice with those who rejoice; weep with those who weep.” (Romans 12:15)

“Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted.” (Galatians 6:1)

“Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.” (1 Thessalonians 5:11)

Who in your life is a spiritual doula for you? Is there someone who needs you to become their spiritual doula? Ask the Lord to help you answer these questions and equip you with the gifts needed to minister to others around you.

“God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them.”  (Hebrews 6:10)

That’s me on the left and the rest of these gorgeous blondes are some of my Spiritual Doulas.


Top photo of me with my 3rd child courtesy of Deidre Ruth Photography.



Night Light

 by Joy Hutzler

Image result for light bulb at night

It’s dark. I am awake and the clock is glaring a set of numbers that tells me I should really be sleeping, because I have to get up before too many more hours pass. But my mind is spinning a hundred miles a minute, and some concern is boring its way into my soul.

What is it about the middle of the night that has a way of magnifying your thoughts? Why do problems seem so much larger when it’s dark?

 I breathe a sigh of relief and frustration when the sun begins to rise- relief that the long night is over. The light of day eases my fears and concerns, but frustration creeps in because I didn’t get the rest I so desperately needed.

 In my experience, whatever it is keeping me awake in the middle of the night won’t seem so bad by tomorrow’s light. If it’s wrestling with the Lord I’m doing, I’ve learned to just submit and obey.

Last night, I was awakened by a hungry baby. As I lay trying to go back to sleep, some cares of the day before began to overwhelm me. I felt the familiar fears and nighttime overreaction coming on, and the Holy Spirit gently reminded, “Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life?” I couldn’t remember exactly where that verse came from in scripture, but I knew it was Jesus talking. When I looked it up later, I found it in both Luke 12:25 and Matthew 6:27. In these passages Jesus is reminding his followers that we can’t worry about tomorrow. If the Lord takes care of the ravens and the lilies, then he will provide what we need as well. Those words in that moment in the night were balm to my soul, and I let the peace of Jesus wash over me, which allowed me to rest again. Thinking how sufficient that verse was for me in that moment in the dark, another scripture came to mind. “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” (Psalm 119:105)

Next time you find yourself getting worked up about life in the darkest hours of the night, remember that your Father is already in your tomorrow. His hand is already working out provision, guiding your steps. Submit your cares over into his capable hands; confess and repent if needed; listen for his gentle reminders; and rest your weary head, “casting all your cares on him because he cares for you.”