Stairway to heaven

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Week 5 – A giant stairway to heaven

Activities (We got a bit carried away with the tower theme this week!)

Moonsand tower

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I found a great, easy way to make your own moonsand from Pinterest. Mix 8 cups of flour with 1 cup baby oil. It really works. They had loads of fun but very messy afterwards.

Minecraft tower

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In an attempt to include my 11year old I interrupted his killing of zombies on minecraft and asked if he would like to make a Minecraft Tower of Babel. He graciously obliged and was quite proud of his creation, which was unfinished because the people of babel were unable to complete theirs.

Choc crispy cake tower

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This may not look too appetising but was very tasty. We melted some butter, chocolate and marshmallows in a pan. Mixed in some rice crispies. Then we popped the mixture into ice cube trays and put in the fridge. YUM!

Mega block tower
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Pancake charades

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James came up with this idea. It combines pass the parcel, cherades and eating pancakes. First we made pancakes and put them on a plate in the middle of the table. James suggested we pass an orange around the table while the music played. When the music stopped the person had to act out a cherade. Whoever guessed right got a pancake. The idea being the winner is the one with the highest pancake tower.

During a couple of these activities I asked the kids if they thought there was anything wrong with building a tower. They all said yes. I then had great opportunity to talk to them about how God made us in His image and since God is creative, He wants us to be creative and use the gifts He has given to us. The problem with the people who built the tower of Babel was not the actual building but their attitude. It says in the Bible that they “wanted to make a name for themselves”. God wants us to use our gifts and be creative not to make us look good but to bring Him glory.

Missionary books
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I have been collecting these books over the years. They are simply written stories about missionaries who have made a difference. Just like in the time of Babel God wanted people to scatter all over the earth, in Mark 16:15-16 Jesus said to His disciples “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.”.

*www.desiringGod.com

Thoughts

A trip to the dentist is never a dull experience with the kids. At this weeks visit Jacob was singing in the waiting room at the top of his voice “people change but God don’t change at all. NOOOOOOONOOOOOOO”, Esther was singing twinkle twinkle little teeth, until the moment she needed to open her mouth which remained firmly shut in the dentist chair, James was in shorts and tshirt (mid winter at the moment) as I had forgotten he had an afterschool club and Stephen looked very embarrassed to be connected with us. Although this was more of a comical moment there are lots of times when I do really worry about what people think of me.

Like most people, I like to be liked. But my true identity is not based on what others think of me, what kind of parent I am or how many “good works” I do. My identity can only be found in Christ. It says in 2 Corinthians 5:17

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”

The people of Babel became too comfortable and confident in their own abilities and tried to make a name for themselves. They wanted to use their gifts for their own glory instead of for Gods glory. God made us to be creative. We are after all made in His image. We are made to build, to learn and to explore. But mostly we are made to worship. Not ourselves or our creations but worship our creator and Heavenly Father. He is the only One that can fill the God shaped hole in our lives.

John Piper describes the two sins the people of Babel committed as the love of praise and the love of security. He explained that God’s will for human beings is not that we find our joy in being praised, but that we find our joy in knowing and praising Him.*

When I worry about what other people think of me I try to remember who I am in Christ, what He has done for me and how much He loves me. This is one of the many ways to lift my eyes heavenwards, taking the focus away from a “poor wee me” attitude to a “thank you Jesus” attitude. But it is so much more than that. As we grow in Christ we become more like Him. Paul says in Philippians 2:5-11;

“You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. Though he was God,he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges;he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross. Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honour and gave him the name above all other names, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,to the glory of God the Father.”

God hangs up His bow

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Jesus story Bible -Chapter 4 “The new beginning”

Activities

1. Rainbow crayons
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This was an idea from one of the mums at toddlers (Thank-you Lesley). Collect any broken pieces of crayon and place in a silicon baking tray. Mine happened to be heart shaped, just in time for valentines day! Place in oven at medium heat for 15 minutes. Amazing results but leaves the house a bit smelly.

After they were made I gave the kids one each and said that just like our lives can be “broken” by sin and hurt and selfishness, God makes us a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17) and works all thing out for the good of those who love Him (Romans 8:28).

2. Bows and arrows
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We went for a walk at the local park and found some sticks. I had brought elastic from my very neglected sewing box and impressed the kids by making up some bows and arrows. At some point in the day I reminded them of the bible story of Noah and Gods plan to defeat sin, hurt and sadness once and for all by sending His son to become sin for us so that He would take the punishment we deserve.

3. Long walk/short walk
I asked the kids what they thought it meant that “Noah walked with God”. We chatted about how you can get all different types of walks. Sometimes we can walk for fun or adventure. Other times we walk the same route every day. And other times we can get lost on a walk or fall and hurt ourselves. In our walk with God He never gets tired or weary (Isaiah 40:28).He patiently guides and encourages us to follow Him. God is interested in every part of our lives and wants us to talk with Him and share our experiences with Him. He is also our guide in times when we get lost or go our own way and helps us back on our feet when we fall. Whether things are good or bad for us, God wants to and promises He will walk with us.

Thoughts
There are certain patterns emerging in my personality. Some of which I am happy with, some I would like to change and some are just down right embarrassing. Recently I spent about an hour negotiating in a mobile phone shop for a new contract. I was very excited at the prospect of getting a new phone. However, when it came to cancelling the contract with my previous provider I was informed I had another year to go on my contract and would have it pay a hefty penalty to leave. Any feelings of disappointment were masked significantly by total humiliation. Once again I had embarrassed myself.

In the story of Noah, just like Adam and Eve, people had once again forgotten to walk with God. There is a pattern throughout history of Gods blessings, followed by mankinds desire to go our own way followed by consequences for sin and each time God provides a way out through forgiveness and a new start. This is a pattern throughout the whole Bible.

God didn’t only rescue Noah from the flood, He gave him a promise and a hope. “The Jesus story Bible” describes how Gods plan for our salvation started before the beginning of time;

“Gods strong anger against hate, sadness and death would come down once more – but not on His people or His world. No, Gods war bow was not pointing down at His people it was pointing up at the heart of heaven”

Noah was on the ark for a long time. He was totally dependant on God and while he may have had doubts and fears he chose to trust in God. Sometimes we don’t “feel” Gods presence, even when we pray, read our Bible and worship Him. Our hope as Christians is not based on how we feel but in God Himself and His unfailing love only found through Jesus. We trust in His promises in His word.

At church on Sunday we sang the golden oldy “My hope is built on nothing less”;

“My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness;
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly lean on Jesus’ name.
On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand.”

Sometimes we can all get caught up with our own agendas, thinking we know best and forget to walk with God. Noah did walk with God, but like us he also made mistakes. God however always remains faithful and provides a way out for His people.

How can we ever question the love and purposes of God when we see that from the beginning of time Gods plan was to save us through the sacrifice of His own son?

What’s your fruit of happiness?

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Jesus story book – chapter 3 “the terrible lie”

Activities

1. Toilet roll “sin” challenge
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We split the room in 2 using drumsticks! Jacob went on one side and Esther on the other. I then scrunched up bits of toilet roll and said each one represents a sin. Every time we thought of a sin I gave them one of the balls. I then gave them the challenge to get rid of their sin (scrunched up loo roll balls) by throwing them to the other side. Even with mums help Esther and Jacob still ended up with balls on their side. I then chatted to them about it not being possible to get rid of our own sin. However, there was a way of getting rid of it. I gathered all the balls up an said when Jesus died and rose again for us He beat the power of sin. We then went to the toilet and flushed all the balls away, much to their delight. I explained that even when we follow Jesus we still sin but Gods Holy Spirit lives in us helping us to become more like Jesus. The other thing I added was the promise in the Bible that when we say sorry for our sins, God forgives us but also forgets them as if they’ve been flushed away!

(I must add a plumbing warning to this activity. One of my friends tried it and at the crucial bit of flushing the ‘sins’ away, the toilet got a bit blocked. Thankfully a bit of prodding helped. Maybe for the purpose of this exercise you could limit the number of ‘sins’)

2. Silly snack idea (from Pinterest)

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3. Impossible jump

This was by far my most favorite activity. We made a line with a piece of string at the far end of the carpet and set the challenge to jump over it (feet had to start at the lower end of carpet). J quickly pointed out it was impossible. I said that it was a bit like us trying to make our own way to God by leading a good life. No matter how hard we try we can never do it. I then said because of Jesus, God was able to step over the line as our sins no longer separated us from Him if we choose to follow Him. I then stepped over the piece of string and for the next 5 min the kids took it in turns to take a run and jump into my arms from the other room. After a while I collapsed on a heap on the couch. I was able to say to them that although we all get tired and worn out and need to sleep, God never does  He never slumbers or sleeps (Psalm 121:4) And always welcomes us into His loving arms.

4. Apple experiment

I asked J to take a bite out of an apple and asked how it tasted, good was the response. I suggested we leave the apple for a week and see what happens to it. As you see below it went very brown and unappealing. I compared this to sin saying at first sin can be attractive and we can enjoy it but after a while it begins to destroy us And makes us feel dirty and bad inside. However, I emphasised that this was the end and we ceremoniously dropped it in the bin. I explained that when we chose to be a follower of Jesus, the Holy Spirit lives inside us and makes our hearts clean again. Although as Christians we will still sin, Gods Holy Spirit helps us become more like Jesus.

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5. Dominoes

We tried to set up dominoes in different shapes and letters and then knock them down. While I was putting each domino up I compared them to sins. Sometimes we can get away with sins by not getting caught or convince ourselves it wasn’t that serious. However, one sin often leads to another and eventually sin destroys our lives, bringing hurt, pain etc.

We then had a look at some clips on youtube of massive domino tracks. Great fun. Couldn’t help myself but point out how sin doesn’t just effect us but hurts others too.

6. Let’s dance

It’s a bit cold here in Glasgow at the moment so nothing beats a dance around the room to some kids worship song or any music really. I recommend Rizers, Go fish and Colin Buchanan (warning re Colin Buchanan – you do start singing the songs in an Ozzy accent!)
I suggested to J that he do some silly actions and I would copy him. Exhausting work but definitely warmed us up! I pointed out to J at the end that sometimes we can copy others in our attitudes and behaviour and that the Bible says the best way to live is by following Jesus.

(NOTE I adapted some of these ideas from the following sources
http://www.churchleaders.com/children/childrens-ministry-how-tos/160571-6-ideas-for-teaching-kids-about-sin.html?p=2

Thoughts

At a ladies bible study recently we are looking at Hosea and while the children are not quite ready for the book itself, it served as a reminder to me of how faithful our God is. Peoples’ ultimate sin of rejecting God started in the garden of Eden when Adam and Eve believed the lie and thought they could find happiness apart from Him. Throughout the whole of the Bible and history people have sought personal happiness and we like the Israelites often seek fulfilment through created things rather than our creator. Despite our rebellion and Gods hate for sin He remains faithful. In the garden of Eden, in Hosea and throughout Gods word He promises that he will make a way for us to be His again.

Last week when the boys returned to school and E was at granny’s I sat for most of the day playing lego!! My main purpose was to find in the vast metropolis of lego pieces one complete set for J who is 6 and blessed with lots of hand me down lego. Several times I was tempted to give up and felt guilty about wasting my time. While sitting there it occurred to me that what I was doing was a very small parallel to what God does for us on a daily basis as His mercies are new every morning (Lamentations 3:23-24).

Firstly, just as in Creation God brings order out of chaos. In Genesis one God creates everything perfectly and describes it as “good”. Satan then comes with his lies and brings chaos, disaster and separation from God our main source of true happiness. Jesus says in John 10:8-10 says “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly”.

The second parallel I thought of while rummaging through lego was the verse Matthew 7:11 “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!”. My efforts to find missing pieces of lego of course pale into insignificance compared to our Heavenly Father who never sleeps or slumbers, does not give up and continually works things out for the good of those who trust in Him (Psalm121:4).

Lastly I remembered life is not about what God wants to give me or any of His children. Both of these promises above are not dependent on our circumstances and not promises for material prosperity or even health. They are promises that God Himself will walk with us through life, whatever it brings. In Him alone will we find true joy. Yes, I was making up a lego set for J who was delighted when he received the gift. Ultimately though I wanted him to love me more than the lego.

Starstruck!

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The Jesus story Bible, chapter 2 “the beginning, a perfect home”.

Activities to reinforce the creation and the glory of God;
1. We made light/dark shortbread and talked about how powerful God is. While we need to find and use ingredients to make thing like shortbread, God can make something out of nothing. He spoke words and brought life into being.

2. We played “around the world game” and pointed out God created the world and whole universe. Although he is very powerful a d wonderful, He loves us and is interested in every part of our lives. He wants us to share our lives with Him. That’s what we were created for, to have a loving relationship with Him. Just like Adam and Eve had in the beginning.

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3. Scavenger hunt for things God made. (I got some ideas from Pinterest)

Songs
1. He’s got the whole world in His hand. http://youtu.be/zeNYGBGkhW8
2. If I were a butterfly. (I always forget which animals go in which order so I have copied the words below) http://www.butterflysong.com/images/images_BFS/Butterfly.Song.Chords.Lyrics.If.I.Were.a.Butterfly.pdf
3. All heaven declares the glory of the risen Lord http://youtu.be/IVjL9UXcJ4s

Thoughts
Recently one of my friends and her husband met an American christian blogger who we both follow on twitter. When I got over the excitement of it all I realised I was a bit starstruck knowing that my friends had met with him. I remembered something John Piper had said in a sermon, that he would have days where he would hang around his church and meet people. I had imagined meeting him and being overwhelmed by his “celebrity status”. My focus then shifted to Jesus and the knowledge of who He is. That he is the Son of the one true living God, the promised one, hope for all people, my saviour. He is the One we are all learning and talking about when we read blogs, sermons, worship. So, why do I not get Starstruck about Him more often? I have endless opportunities to meet with and communicate with my Saviour and friend.
Unlike any blogger, author, preacher or worship leader, Jesus knows me, warts and all, loves me. He chose to die on a cross, be separated from His Father in heaven- For Me! He is the author and perfect or of my faith (Hebrews 12) Psalm 19:1 says”The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.” My prayer is the same as the psalmist in v 14; “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.” God doesn’t need me to love and worship Him. He IS love and He wants to pour out that love on me. Just because He can.

Praying for the secret children in North Korea

Prayer for persecuted church -week 1

Prayer for secret children in North Korea

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1. Globe game (use giant inflatable globe) Tell us a fact about a country or find a country beginning with a,b,c…..

2. Read from book “windows on the world” about the legend of the God king in North Korea.

After world war 2 Korea was split into 2 countries north and South Korea.
Kim il sung became leader of North Korea and made it a communist state.
There were lots of Christians in the country at that time but he wanted people to worship him so he pulled down churches and killed lots of Christians and other people that didn’t agree with him.
(Altogether 3million Koreans died)
He built a big statue if himself, put posters of him around the country and made people wear a badge with a picture of him on it.
His grandson is now the ruler and while he is very rich many of the people in North Korea are starving.
School teachers ask children if their parents read from a black book at home? If they say yes there have been times when the parents have never been seen again.
Q: what do you the black book is? Bible- it us an offence to have one and you can be shot on the spot if you are found with one.
Q: What bible story does this remind you of?

3. Act out Daniel chapter 3 (I use the gospel story bible)
Team babylon – king Nebuchadnezzar (crown), statue, officials( notebooks and mobile phones), musicians (instruments), people, soldiers (helmet),
Team God – shadrack, meshack, abednigo, other man (halo)

4. Prayer cards for ” wandering swallows” (secret children in North Korea)
Open doors is a missionary organisation who help adults and children who are part if the persecuted church.
Q: what is persecution?
Read prayer card for Jong-cheol, write a prayer on the back and remember to keep praying for secret believers in North Korea.
http://www.opendoorsuk.org/secretchildren

5. Quiz yes/no
a. North Korea is next to china? (Yes)
b. the legend of a “god king” was about a bear being made into a man (no it was a woman)
c. You can believe whatever you want in North Korea? (No)
d.You can be shot dead if you are found with a bible? (Yes)
e. Kim il sung had 3 million of his own people killed after the war? (Yes)
f. Kim Jongan (current leader) loves basketball? (Yes)
g. There are still many secret believers in North Korea? (Yes)
h. Everyone has enough to eat in North Korea (No, many people are starving)
I. Many people in North Korea have never heard if Jesus? (Yes)
j. We should pray for The secret children in North Korea? (Yes Luke 10:27 “Love your neighbour as yourself”

The story and the song

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The Jesus Story Bible chapter 1- Story and the Song

Activities

1. Making Music
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We made a kazoo and used it to sing along to “Make a joyful noise to the Lord” by the Rizers (see below for link) and chatted about how Gods love for us can make us want to sing for joy.

Instructions for kazoo:
Put some greaseproof paper around the top of kichen roll holder and secure with an elastic band. Make a hole near the top of the kitchen roll. Decorate and hum or sing into it for a great noise.

2. Other instrument ideas are:
Guitar – Elastic bands around an old tissue box
Rice shaker – put rice inside a used kitchen roll. Cover both sides with greaseproof paper and secure with Sellotape and/or elastic bands. Decorate if you like.

3. Breaking the rules, basketball.
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As the story suggests I emphasised to the kids that the Bible is not a book of rules. We did however have a chat about how there are rules in the Bible and they help us to live the way God wants us to live and that He knows what’s best for us because He made us.

My sons love basketball and I took the opprtunity while they were playing one day to suggest that they play without rules for a while. Up until then there had been a few arguments about rules and cheating. They played for about 2 minutes without rules and then got fed up. We chatted afterwards about the need first and foremost to love and enjoy the game and that we need rules to make the most of the game. Similarly in life we need to love God first “with all our hearts, soul and mind” (Deuteronomy 6:5) and the rules set out in the Bible help us to live for Him rather than ourselves.

Songs

I lift my eyes up Brian Doerksen

Make a joyful noise
Song Tracks: http://www.worshiphousekids.com/31926/

Thoughts

One of my favourite psalms and worship song is “I lift my eyes up” (Psalm 121) by Brian Doerksen. In times of discouragement and difficulty I have found it helpful to look up at the beauty and magnificence of the sky, knowing that God, my God placed it there for His glory and that whatever is going on down here on earth He is in control. The first chapter of the Jesus story Bible starts with a paraphrase of Psalm 19 “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.”.

I recently read of a woman who survived Aushwitz. In her journal she had recorded that although her body was fevered and her surroundings atrocious she was able to catch a glimpse of the sky and found hope in knowing God was her strength despite her circumstances. I am reminded of one of John Pipers famous quotes “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him”.

An image that springs to mind as I write this is of one of my friends at a toddler group who has a 2 month old baby. As she was talking to me earlier this week I couldn’t help but be distracted by her baby boy gazing up at her with the biggest smile, fixing his eyes on her with complete adoration, dependance and trust. This is how God wants us to be with Him. Hebrews 12:1,2 Paul tells us to;
“throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.”

The rest of chapter 1 emphasises that the Bible is not a book of rules or a book of heroes but a story of how God loves His children and comes to rescue them.