Fun is a part of how God has made us “to be”.
Through fun and play, we renew friendships, care for our minds and souls, and experience a side of our Creator God who laughs and enjoys what He has given to us… life, creation, and people.
Here are three ways you can experience God’s presence by having fun this summer without spending a penny.
Find Your Inner Child
Kids experience the world and learn through play. So, grab some toys, play make believe, or go out and run through the sprinkler.
As we “grow up”, childish fiction becomes somewhat immature. We become realists, jaded, and scarred by being bullied, fighting our own skeletons when it comes to what other people think about us, and being told that some things are “just for kids”. Through these hurts, we build walls of protection around our heart, mind, and soul.
That’s not “growing up” - it’s insecurity.
But, Jesus talks about how even our faith must become childlike (Matthew 18:2-4). Simple. Secure not in ourselves, but in what God has done for us in Jesus.
When we become secure in that God made us to be childlike when it comes to experiencing His never-ending love for us, we can relax. The bullies are silenced by Jesus’ promises. The skeletons are buried in Jesus’ grave. And other people’s opinions are unarmed with the words, “I have called you by name. You are mine” (Isaiah 43:1).
It may sound juvenile, but finding your inner child by finding some toys around the house, imagining life happening in a fantasy world, or just giggling in your front yard might just be what you need to re-engage your inner playful side that God created and you might have stuffed it down and away.
Best of all - it probably won’t cost you anything!
Take an Unproductive Walk
We say, “God made me”. We don’t always live like we believe it.
If God made our bodies (which He does), then God gives us the responsibility to care for them (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).
So, go take a walk… wherever you want! Around the block. Explore the city. To the grocery store (instead of driving!). You don’t need an agenda. You don’t need anything to talk about. Just be together… and walk. You might end up laughing because it’s so un-American to be together without a plan, agenda, or reason. I mean, it’s so “unproductive”. And yet, God does His best work out of nothing (Genesis 1, Psalm 139).
Even if you walk in familiar places, you may notice new or different things when you're taking an unproductive walk.
Better yet - find somebody to go join you on the walk!
The only thing a walk might cost you is the lemonade or iced tea you’ll enjoy when you get home.
Oh... and leave your phone at home.
Draw a Picture and Share It
I think the older we get the more self-conscious we are about what we produce. Whether it’s a project at work, a meal that we cook, or the words that we choose to use in our conversations - our minds often overthink everything. Anxiety increases which leaves us drained and exhausted.
So, let’s try reversing our self-conscious thoughts!
Find a friend or someone else in your family and share a bible verse together. “Jesus wept” is totally fine. Then, grab some paper and markers, pencils, crayons… whatever you can find - and draw a picture of whatever the passage makes you think about using your non-dominant hand. Then, exchange the picture and guess what each other drew.
You’re engaging God’s Word (one of the places God promises to be present!) and if you’re so-not-a-Picasso, like me, you’ll share some good laughs!
Do you have a favorite way to experience God’s presence through fun and play without spending a penny? Drop me an email and let me know!
After 244 years, many of us continue the traditions of celebrating with food, friends, and fireworks to acknowledge the signing of the Declaration of Independence signaling our country’s freedom from King George III and British rule. I know that my family will be celebrating the 4th of July weekend with a cookout, hanging out with friends, and enjoying all of the colorful fireworks around us.
It is good and honorable to celebrate our nation's freedom. Our country (and every country) is a place and system that God is present in and works through. Indeed, we are citizens of our world, today.
As Christians, we value freedom and are able to express it in many ways. There aren't that many ways we can go wrong with celebrating freedom. And that’s a really great thing! Indeed, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free” (Galatians 5:1).
However, national freedom (while important) is distinct from our spiritual freedom.
Let me explain (in brevity... this is not a complete explanation and I know there is so much more to this than a paragraph in a blog post. I'd love to talk more, if you'd like!).
National freedom is partially (perhaps, mostly) rooted in a love for a specific civic system. Typically, it’s because the system either benefits us or it seems to advance an agenda that we share with others. As a nation, the two seemingly most prominent (but not only) civic systems have historically been democracy and capitalism - though this ebbs and flows from time to time. Most conflicts that we experience on a wide social scale (and we certainly have them) can probably be linked to one of these two “loves”. Just study the events that have happened throughout US History and you'll see what I'm talking about.
Spiritual freedom is the freedom that the Apostle Paul is talking about in Galatians 5:1, is altogether different. It’s not rooted in a love for a specific civic system, rather, spiritual freedom is centered on a love of a specific person: Jesus Christ. Jesus is the One who sets us free from all which eternally holds us back from being the people God has created us to be. Our past sin can be forgiven (even while we don’t forget it). There is grace in our guilt and shame. There is respite from our grief. Ultimately, it’s because of the freedom that Jesus gives to the world and more specifically, to all people, we have “strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow” (Great is Thy Faithfulness, Verse 1).
As a naturalized citizen of the United States myself, both national freedom and spiritual freedom are very important to me. I believe they can coexist - but that doesn't mean that they are equal.
National freedom is not bad or inherently sinful in and of itself. It's just different than spiritual freedom.
The challenge for us as Christians is to distinguish between them. From Jesus being wrapped in American flags to prominent voices echoing that America is the “City on a Hill” (Matthew 5:14) throughout our media waves - it’s easy to understand and reasonable that Christians today are challenged in distinguishing between national and spiritual freedom. For sure, they are separate and distinct from each other. And, they are certainly not equal.
Here are two key distinctions:
National freedom tends to lead us toward greater individual autonomy. We are our own people with individual freedoms and rights - which I believe is to be true... and spiritually dangerous. It's not bad. . . just different than spiritual freedom.
Spiritual freedom invites deeper dependence on God.
National freedom often wins by fighting for or against ideals, issues, platforms, and systems. While important, what we tend to become emboldened for and passionate about are more or less ideas and models than real people. It's not bad. . . just different than spiritual freedom.
Spiritual freedom wins by fighting for people’s relationship with God, others, and the world around them.
This is what Jesus followers believe that has already done for us on the cross… Jesus fought the war for our hearts against our greatest enemies - the judgement of our sin, the threat of eternal death and punishment, and the root and author of all deception - the devil. And, Jesus won.
You are God’s treasure. You are so valuable that while we didn’t even know we were slaves to ourselves, our judgement, and others - Jesus died for us (Romans 5:8).
Earlier I said that national and spiritual freedom are not equal. The Bible points us to Jesus, not any one particular nation or civic system. And while it may be difficult to separate the two - especially in a climate where church and country seems so intertwined, we must remember this one thing:
Jesus followers love God more than their country. Compared to God, there is no equal. Indeed, the Apostle Paul says that all things are garbage (literally, poop) compared to Jesus and the freedom we have in and through Him (Philippians 3:8).
Anything and anyone that has equality with God becomes a covert idol that captures your heart and is relentless in requiring your loyalty to pay it back with everything you have.
God doesn't require or demand repayment or your loyalty at all. You're free! And if Jesus set you free, you are free, indeed! (John 8:36).
And what happens when we prioritize and celebrate God’s freedom over any one nation's freedom?
I’m taking a few weeks away from the blog to rest and plan the next season.
My next blog will be July 23.
Meet Pastor Tim
Tim Bayer has served as Our Savior's Lead Pastor since September 2019. He also serves as an Adjunct Instructor at Concordia University - Irvine, a National Leadership Facilitator and Resource, and a Community Mental Health First Aid Instructor. Tim studied sociology, psychology, and theology prior to earning his M.Div at Concordia Seminary - St. Louis. He has also is a candidate for an Ed.D (ABD) in Transformational Leadership. He is married to Beth and they have three young children. Together, they enjoy exploring the outdoors, experiencing culture, and pizza and movie nights.