Trust v fear

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Chapter 13 – The Warrior Leader

Activities

1. Communion

I wanted to give a bit of background to the story of Jericho. I used the family App from the gospel project which I would thoroughly recommend. The Joshua series is called “Life in the land”.

The Gospel Project for Kids Family App by LifeWay Christian Resources
https://appsto.re/gb/fdRDH.i

One of the videos in the App shows the Israelites crossing the river Jordan. At the end of each clip in the gospel project they point out the connection to the gospel. After the Israelites crossed the Jordan river they made an alter with 12 stones to remember what God has done for them.

As it happens our minister Sandy Weddell was preaching about communion that week.  He relayed the story of Gullivers travels written by Jonathan Swift and how in the book the author was criticising the church, who were caught up in endless arguing about whether the bread and wine were actually Jesus’ flesh and blood. In Gullivers travels the two kingdoms are at war with each other because they couldn’t agree about how best to eat an egg. One side said it should be eaten from the top down and the other said from the bottom up. Sandy pointed out the key for them was not about about how to eat an egg but just to enjoy the egg. He said “The key to communion is that you must meet Jesus in the breaking of bread”.

As a family we talked about communion, read the verses from Matthew and had communion together. We thanked God for everything he had taken away from us like our sin etc and for everything he has given us, especially the blessing of being in His family.

2. Hide and seek

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We went to the local park and played a variation of hide and seek called “capture the flag” I got the idea from Pinterest. See link below. The kids loved it. On the way back I told the story of the spies and how Rahab believed in God and had hidden the spies and how God was faithful to her and her family by saving them after the fall of Jericho.

http://www.getoutwiththekids.co.uk/activities/playing-things/capture-the-flag-game/

3. Veggietales battle of Jericho

A fun and silly version of the fall of Jericho

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=yDpM_j1MZG8

4. Trumpets

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We made some trumpets and talked about the story and how God was going to fight for His people. They had to trust Him and obey the instructions.

5. Tower drama

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We built a tower of cushions in the living room. Then using our trumpets we marched around the “cushion Walls” of Jericho. The first 6 times we went round very quietly and Jacob insisted we have a sleep at the end of each day. He then played Joshua and led us round the city 7 times. On the 7th time round (feeling rather dizzy) he shouted “Shout for the Lord has given us the city”. They then had great fun making as much noise as possible and jumping on the cushions.

6. Picture frame

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As usual I got this idea on Pinterest. We made a picture frame in the shape of a house with the words “As for me and my family we will serve the Lord”, Joshua 24:15

7. Meaning of names

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At the beginning of the story “The warrior leader” Sally Lloyd Jones explains that the name Joshua means “the Lord saves”. She ends the chapter by pointing out that although Gods people didn’t manage to keep their promises, God still had a plan to save His people.

We looked up on Google what all of our names meant and Esther and I made a bookmark of her name.

Poached egg house

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I got this idea from “Bake through the Bible” by Sarah Bentley Taylor and Bekah Moore and adapted it to make beans on toasts houses for those who weren’t so keen on eggs. Talked to the kids about how God promised His people a new home and that God always keeps his promises.

Thoughts

Like many households across the land ours is filled with the songs from Disneys “Frozen”. In the song “Let it go” the main character Elsa reaks havok and destruction when she unleashes her powers. In one of the lines she says “there’s so much fear…”. Although we may not set off an eternal winter when we are fearful we can, even as Christians be controlled by fear. Some of the things that we can allow to control and debilitate us are fear of the future, money, job situations, relationships, what people think of us. When we allow fear to control us this can lead to making bad choices to try and control our situations. In 2 Timothy 1:7 Paul challenges the church saying;

“God gave us his Spirit. And the Spirit doesn’t make us weak and fearful. Instead, the Spirit gives us power and love. He helps us control ourselves.”

In the story of Joshua and the Israelites defeating the city of Jericho Gods people made a choice NOT to fear but to trust and obey God. This was probably one of the highest points for Gods people as they chose to obey Gods’ commands and not to give in to fear. One thing this required, was patience. They needed to wait for Gods instructions, and obey them as strange as they seemed. The Israelites held onto the promise of Gods faithfulness to them. They had relied and depended on Him for 40 years in the wilderness. They knew they could trust Him to deliver on His promises.

It is sacrificial love in the film that overcomes fear and this is also true of our Christian lives too. In 1 John 4:17-18 the apostle John says;

“Love is fulfilled among us when in this world we are like Jesus. There is no fear in love. Instead, perfect love drives away fear”

But how do we become like Jesus, surely not by our own efforts. Sometimes we can find it hard to even be nice or show acts of kindness to our friends and family never mind our enemies. We can’t just look to Jesus as an example to follow, we need to know Him, spend time in His presence and allow Him to work through us by trusting Him in every area of our lives.

We, like Joshua and the Israelites have a choice to make each day. Do we choose to trust in our faithful God whose love never ends or do we look to our circumstances and choose to fear. In Joshua’s final speech to Gods people he reminded them of Gods faithfulness and goodness. He then challenged them saying;

“So have respect for the Lord. Serve him…. But suppose you don’t want to serve him. Then choose for yourselves right now whom you will serve. You can choose the gods your people served east of the Euphrates River. Or you can serve the gods of the Amorites. After all, you are living in their land. But as for me and my family, we will serve the Lord.” (Joshua 24:14 – 15)

God makes a way

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Chapter 11 – God makes a way

Activities

1. Impossible pie

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I remember my Mum teaching us this recipe. Basically you tell the kids to mix all the ingredients in and put the gloopy mess in the oven. While it is cooking we chatted about how sometimes all the “ingredients” in our life seem a bit impossible like getting homework done, beating your brother at sport or just even doing as your told first time. But when we hand these things over to God, He can turn our impossible into possible and make something wonderful out of our difficulties. I reminded them of the verse “God works all things for the good of those who love Christ”. (Romans 8:28)

We then ate the pie which turned out with pastry on the bottom, custard in the middle and coconut on top.

Link to recipe is http://allrecipes.com.au/recipe/3875/impossible-pie.aspx

2. Red Sea cake

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We did this “Red Sea cake” a few months ago and got a bit carried away with it. I made a sponge, cut it in two and added some blue sprinkles for the sea, buttons and marzipan for the waves, crushed digestive biscuits for the sand and jelly babies for the people. The red bits on top were dry fruit put there as we found out the Red Sea is red because of the red plankton in it. Bit indulgent really!!

3. Lego maze

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I set the kids a challenge to make a maze for a marble run using lego. Great fun and kept them busy for ages. We talked about how the Israelites were about to go on a journey. It would take them 40 years to get to the promised land. God allowed them to wander around the wilderness for this length of time because they were grumbling and he wanted to change their hearts and for them to trust Him.

4. Gloop in a bag

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We did this activity in our church toddler group. I have adapted it to make the parting of the Red Sea. Great activity for preschool and as usual the older ones wanted a go too.

I used a ziplock bag and got Esther to help me put a few spoonfuls of blue hair gel and some small beads (representing fish). I sellotaped it to the table and let her have a play with it. Feels lovely and cold, quite therapeutic really! Then I read the story of Moses and the Red Sea and made a path through the middle and used our fingers to walk through the middle of the sea like the Israelites.

5. We couldn’t do the story of Moses and Red Sea without singing the golden oldie “How did moses cross the Red Sea”.

Lyrics for How did Moses Cross the Red Sea?

How did Moses cross the Red Sea?

How did Moses cross the Red Sea?

How did Moses cross the Red Sea?

How did he get across?

Did he swim? No! No!

Did he row? No! No!

Did he jump? No! No! No! No!

Did he drive? No! No!

Did he fly? No! No!

How did he get across?

God blew with His wind, huff, huff, huff, huff.

He blew just enough, ‘nough, ‘nough, ‘nough, ‘nough’

And through the sea He made a path

That’s how he got across

Thoughts

On holiday in the summer one of my sons was walking along a wall at the side of the beach. He felt a bit wobbly and nervous as the wall got higher and asked me to hold his hand. At the high and scary points he held on tight and was cautious. At the safer part he became complacent, looked back and fell. Thankfully because I was still holding his hand he was ok. I thought of our walk with Jesus being similar. We tend to cry out in panic when things go wrong. At those times we need to hold onto Jesus and the life and hope only possible through Him. It was Jesus Himself that promised his disciples and all those that followed Him that in this world we will have trouble, but to take heart because He has overcome the world (John 16:33). The apostle Paul also challenges us to “rejoice in our suffering” (Colossians 1:24-28). Humanly speaking it can feel impossible to rejoice in suffering but as we see from the parting of the Red Sea and time and time again in the Bible and our own lives, God is faithful and nothing is impossible for Him. In fact Paul’s suffering in jail described in Colossians was the means God used to spread the gospel to others.

Sometimes though it is during the quieter times in our lives that we can become complacent. Whether things are going well or not the temptation can be to become confident in ourselves and rely on our own ability rather than Gods. In her book “Treasuring Christ” Gloria Furman describes faith as this;

“More often than not in our trials we pretend everything is okay and we dive headlong into self sufficiency. Faith rather, acknowledges the fierceness of the storm and throws us into the sea and we swim as fast as we can to where we see Jesus walking on the water”.

She goes on to say;

“There is no thing or situation that is more powerful than He is.”

Joni Erikson Tada in her latest book “A place of healing” says that when she is struggling with pain or other difficulties she doesn’t want the meek and mild Jesus illustrated in the old children’s Bibles, she says;

“I need a battlefield Jesus at my side down here in the dangerous, often messy trenches of daily life. I need Jesus the rescuer ready to wade through pain, death and hell itself to find me, grasp my hand and bring me safely through”

Wow. What great images.

Another book I read over the summer was “War and grace” by Don Stephens. One of the stories he tells is that of Donald Caskie, also known as “the Tartan Pimpernel”. As a chaplain and smuggler in the war Caskie would reach the end of his human capacity and need to depend on God. He would pray “Dear God, you think this out for me please, I am beaten”. Stephens wrote;

“As he relied on The Lord and his regular reading of the bible he experienced answers to prayer, guidance in dealing with difficult situations and on occasions unusual insights which he believed were given by God”

When we accept Jesus as our saviour and Lord, we no longer belong to ourselves we belong to Him, heart, body, mind and soul. Daily I need to submit to Him, daily I need to take up my cross and follow Him.

Cross your fingers, it’s Friday the 13th!

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Chapter 10-The great escape

Activities

The story so far!

This was a bit impromptu. I was asking the kids what the story was so far and we ended up acting out the story of Moses as a baby being rescued from the Nile and then as a young adult murdering an Egyptian and then the burning bush. A bit chaotic but kids loved it. We somehow managed to incorporate Kung fu moves into the act and my shoe fell off landed on a smoothie which fell into a box of toys. They thought it was hysterical. I of course had to clean it up!

After school snacks

I got a bit carried away with after school snack ideas! The way to a boys heart is certainly through his stomach and the kids loved these food related activities.

I let them know that a connection can be made between most of the plagues and the gods/goddesses worshipped in Egypt. God used these plagues to show Pharoah and the powerful Egyptian nation that He alone was all powerful.

Plague 1 Nile turned to blood – the god Hapi, worshipped as bringer of fertility. For this snack idea we made a fruit smoothie.
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Plague 2 Frogs – Heq was frog headed goddess of fruitfulness.
For this snack idea we made up frogs using apple, grapes, marshmallows (or cut up banana) and chocolate buttons.

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Plague 3&4 Swarm of gnats and Flies – Kepher took the form of a beetle and symbolised the daily journey of the sun a cross the sky. For thus snack idea we made cupcakes and put chocolate chips or raisins on top.

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Plague 5 – death of livestock- many Egyptian gods were depicted as animals. For this snack idea we used animal cutters to make shapes with our sandwiches.

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Plague 6- boils. For this snack idea we made up a few bowls with red and white dips i,e yoghurt, grapes, raisins and melted chocolate. The gooier the better. Stephen also had the idea to put the raisins on his arm to make it look like boils.

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Plague 7 – hailstones – Nut was believed to be the sky goddess who also protected the dead. For our snack idea we used snowballs and yoghurt raisins.

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Plague 8 – Seriphia was believed to be the protector against locusts. For this snack idea we made a locust out of marzipan, chocolate sticks and choc chips.

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Plague 9 – darkness – Re was believed to be the sun god who claimed to be the king of the gods and the father of mankind.
For this snack idea we made Oreo biscuits. See link below.
http://themamasgirls.com/mamas-homemade-oreos/
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Plague 10- death of first born. Taurt was the goddess of maternity. See below for Passover activity, lamb burgers.

(Source: Free to serve, crossway bible study)

Treasure hunt sensory box

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I made up a sensory box with lentils, dry pasta, oatmeal and rice. I added in some “treasure” which the kids had to find. Once they found everything we talked about how although these things which represented money, toys, family are all good things but we need to remember that God is more important than anything created. He is our real treasure and the only one that will never let you down.

Bug binoculars
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Esther and I made some “bugnoculours”. On our bug hunt I told her that God made everything but he made us special.

Pyramid lego challenge</strong

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Lamb burgers
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I got this idea from the book “Bake through the Bible”. We cheated a bit though and bought lamb burgers! In keeping with Bible we also ate our dinner “in haste”, as we were running a bit late for a club. I talked to the kids the following day about how the blood of the lamb protected Gods people. I reminded them that Jesus was called “the lamb of God” and it is only through Him that we can be saved from the consequences of our sin. We ended up having a chat about judgement day and that one day we will give an account for all our actions (one of them said “oh no” at that point). I went on to remind them that when we choose to follow Jesus, God “washes us white as snow” and separates us from our sins “as far as the east us from the west”. When God looks at us His children, He sees Jesus.

Precious pearl story
This book is one of my favourites. We read the story about how Jesus is like the precious pearl. The story finishes with “It costs everything to know Him. But He is worth more than anything in the world”
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Thoughts

Last Friday was the 13th June and I was reminded again what a superstitious society we live in. Through the course of a day I will often hear the phrases “cross fingers”, “touch wood” or the good old Glasgow saying “what’s for you will not go by you”. While innocently said these phrases are based on fate and luck.

As Christians we do not believe we are here by chance or that we are an accident. Each one of our existence was planned by God before time began and we are all created for a purpose – to glorify God. The Bible says in 2 Timothy 1:9

“He has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time”

In the story of Moses we see at first his faithful mother trusting God with her son. In contrast to the obedience of this ordinary slave woman stands the mighty Pharoah eager to show the world that he is powerful and in control. The Egyptians considered the Nile to be one of the most powerful gods in Egypt. Pharoah ordered the baby boys to be thrown into the Nile, committing the “troublesome Israelites” to the Nile god. Moses’ mother Jochebed, believing that God would fulfil His promises “obeyed the king but entrusted her little child to the God who made the Nile” (Free to serve, crossway bible study).

Eighty years later God would use Moses and this same river to bring freedom to His people. Each one of the plagues inflicted on the Egyptians can be connected to a god they worshipped. But the God of Moses, our God demonstrated His supremacy over all created things with each plague. While the idea of worshipping a goddess with a frog head or a sun god seems strange to us, there are a number of “gods” in our own lives in which we can sometimes place our hope. One of the ways we can work out what or who we worship is the “if only challenge”;
“If only I had more money”
“If only my children behaved”
“If only people appreciated me”
“If only I was more clever”
And the list goes on. We can look to created things to give us meaning, significance, happiness and meaning in life (Romans 1:25). While there is nothing wrong with these things or even wanting them, we cannot place our hope in them. Timothy Keller says;

“The human heart is an idol factory that takes good things like a successful career, love, material possessions, even family, and turns them into ultimate things”

So how do we place our hope in God and worship only Him? We use the word “hope” quite flippantly in every day language saying that we “hope it doesn’t rain” or “I hope things get better for you soon”. But the hope of the bible is not based on feelings or circumstances. The certain hope that we can depend on is based on faith. Biblical hope is not wishful thinking. John Piper describes hope as is “faith in the future tense”.

In Hebrews 11:1 it says;
“Faith is being sure of what you hope for and certain of what you do not see”

The ESV study bible describes faith not as blind trust or a leap in the dark but;
“Biblical faith is a confident trust in the eternal God who is all-powerful, infinitely wise, eternally trustworthy – the God who has revealed Himself through His word and in the person of Jesus Christ whose promises have proven true from generation to generation and who will ‘never leave you or forsake you’ (Hebrews 13:5)”

At times we don’t “feel” certain or even close to God and the temptation can be to place our “hope” in our circumstances changing so that the feeling of closeness to God returns. God created us to have emotions, to laugh, cry, be happy and the whole range of other emotions. But He doesn’t want us to be ruled or dependant on our emotions. He also created us to think.

The Israelites hope on that Passover night was in a lambs blood shed for them. They probably felt scared, excited, anxious and other emotions but they were obedient and did not allow these emotions to rule. Our only hope is in Jesus, the lamb of God who lived a perfect life, died a terrible death, paid the ultimate price, rose triumphant over death and who now sits at the Fathers right hand. The words of the old hymn ‘When I survey the wonderderous cross’ sums up how and why we should glorify God;

When I survey the wondrous cross
On which the Prince of glory died,
My richest gain I count but loss,
And pour contempt on all my pride.

Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast,
Save in the death of Christ my God!
All the vain things that charm me most,
I sacrifice them to His blood.

See from His head, His hands, His feet,
Sorrow and love flow mingled down!
Did e’er such love and sorrow meet,
Or thorns compose so rich a crown?

Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were a present far too small;
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all.

Dealing with disappointment

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Chapter 9 – The forgiving prince

Activities

1. “Lollipop man riddles”
I am stretching the theme here a bit but my kids have had such good fun working out the riddles from the lollipop man every day this week I thought I would share them with you. I did say to them (after googling it myself) that the difference between riddles and jokes is that a riddle helps you find things and jokes are meant to be funny. In life God wants us to search for the truth and ultimately to find Him. It says in Philippians 2:12b-13
“work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. <

While we are unable to work out the course of our lives we can find, know and trust God through Jesus who said “I am the way, the truth and the life”(John 14:6)

* What starts with T, ends with T and has T in it?
* what gets wetter the more you dry?
* what do you break before you use?
* What gets whiter the more it gets dirty?
* What belongs to you but other people use it more than you?

(Answers: Teapot, towel, egg, blackboard, your name)

2. Chocolate chip cookies tasting experiment

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Recipe

Ingredients
1 egg
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup butter or margarine
1 1/2 cup plain flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup chocolate chip cookies

Method
Mix egg, sugar and butter together
Add in flour, baking powder and salt.
Mix into a dough then add chocolate chips
Make 12 round balks and flatten on a baking tray.
Cook in medium oven, gas 5 for 12 minutes.

I put the ingredients in separate bowls, lined them up and asked the kids to taste each one separately. They were all very keen until they tasted the flour and baking powder. The experiment didn’t quite go to plan as one of them ran out of the room in tears as the flour tasted so horrible. After a considerable amount of “tasting” chocolate chips I made the point that God can use all of our circumstances, good and bad and make something good. I reminded them of what Joseph said to his brothers “what you intended for evil, God intended for good”. While we may not always understand why something is happening, we can trust in God who loves us and always works things out for our good and His glory.

(Idea from http://www.hiphomeschoolmoms.com/2013/03/lets-teach/)

3. Emotional bag carry
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We used one of the kids school bags and got some tins from the kitchen cupboard and I asked them to think of times when they had been hurt by someone and had struggled to forgive. For each example we put a tin in the bag. When we had a reasonably heavy bag I asked them to (very carefully) take a walk up and down the stairs. I helped Esther up and down the stairs and pointed out that as much as it is good to help each other in life it is really only with Jesus help that that we can forgive.

When they came back I told them the story of Corrie Ten Boom, a Christian woman who survived a Nazi concentration camp during the Holocaust, who said, “Forgiveness is to set a prisoner free, and to realize the prisoner was you.”. We then emptied the bag and the delight was apparent as Jacob ran up and down the stairs, free from his burden! In fact when I did the activity with the older boys they pointed out that they didn’t even need to even carry the bag!

When we hold onto our unforgiveness it’s like walking about carrying a big heavy bag -exhausting work as they discovered. However, when we remember what Jesus did for us on the cross it helps us to forgive others. We can then become free from the emotional baggage that weighs us down.

(Based on idea from http://www.momentsaday.com/100-kids-activities-to-build-character/)

4. Arts and crafts

The kids decorated some stones to help us remember how much God loves us. Here are some of the masterpieces.
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Thoughts

We are all proud of our children’s achievements, from the first steps to writing their names (even if it is on the wallpaper!) and the list goes on. But how do we help them deal with disappointment?

As a basketball obsessed family, my boys and hubby play and watch the game – alot! During an NBA match the other day my husband pointed out that a number of the really good players had experienced great adversity in their life and this was a driving force pushing them to succeed.

Although as a family we haven’t experienced great adversity, we have like everyone had to deal with disappointment. Recently our eldest son managed to get into the under 12 basketball team as a reserve and while this is a great achievement there was disappointment that he was not on the main team. During this time I have been challenged and encouraged by our sons character, maturity, wisdom and tenacity.

As much as we would like to orchestrate the path our children will walk in their lives, that is of course impossible. When we try to control parts of their lives we can become overwhelmed with worry, anxiety and fear. Their future, like ours is in the hands of our Heavenly Father. We can rest in that knowledge and believe in the promise Paul spoke of in Romans 8:28;
“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”

In a world of pain suffering and sin we can be swamped by fear or overwhelmed by the hurt of others or ourselves. One reaction to this is to become cynical, bitter or angry. So how then did Joseph, the precocious spoilt 17 year old overcome his terrible circumstances and become a man of wisdom, integrity and influence who forgave his brothers saying in Genesis 50:20;
“As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.”

In chapter 39 of Genesis it says three times that “The Lord was with Joseph”. Throughout the Bible there is a constant theme of Gods faithfulness to His people. In Matthew 28:20 after Jesus set out the great commission for His followers to make disciples, He promised;
And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

The majority of us will not have experienced slavery, false accusations or imprisonment. However, we may experience times of injustice, fear, temptation and pride. Joseph chose to believe and trust that God was with him. But just as important he chose to act on that belief and lived a life that pleased God.

Romans 8:37-39 says;
“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

One of the key words in this great text is the word “in”. God works in and through any circumstances in our lives. He doesn’t wait until we have overcome a problem, God works out His purpose IN the midst of them through changing our character to become more like Jesus.

In an article by Christina Fox about “Hope for the despairing heart”*. She said;
“We also have the promise that Jesus will finish what he started in us. He will not leave us unchanged. He will use every pain, every sorrow, and every tear in our lives for our good and his glory. We are not on our own in this, he promises to be our strength in weakness and will give us everything we need to live for him.”

*(http://www.desiringgod.org/blog/posts/hope-for-the-despairing-heart)

One true love!!

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Chapter 8- The girl no-one wanted

Activities

1. Magic tricks with cups
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I told the kids a bit more about the story of Jacob who tricked his brother out of his birthright and had to run away. He went to his uncle Labans’ to live and was tricked into marrying Leah before Rachel who he loved. I explained that Jacob was wrong to deceive his brother and Father, and got a taste of his own medicine when he himself was tricked. One important thing to remember is that God loves people even if they make mistakes.

2. Watched the Disney film “Enchanted”
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Apologies to any film snobs out there but I actually quite liked this, (as did the boys!!!). I chatted to them afterwards and pointed out that the world has this idea that people need to find their “one true love” to make everything ok and make them happy. But God is the only one who can really be our “one true love” and it’s in Him we have to put our hopes.

3. We sang “love is a flag flown high in the castle of my heart”.

Lyrics are:
Love is a flag flying high from the castle of my heart,
From the castle of my heart, from the castle of my heart.
Love is a flag flying high from the castle of my heart,
For the King is in residence there.

[Chorus]
So let it fly in the sky let the whole world know,
Let the whole world know, let the whole world know.
So let it fly in the sky let the whole world know,
That the King is in residence there.

[2] Faith is a flag flying high…
[3] Joy is a flag flying high…

4. Love heart biscuits
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Ingredients for cookie
300g plain flour
150g caster sugar
250g softened butter
1 large egg yolk
2 tsp vanilla essence
Pinch of salt

Method
1.Beat the butter and sugar in a bowl
2. Add the egg yolk and vanilla essence
3. Then add the flour and salt and mix together to make a dough
4. Mould the dough into a ball then put cling film round it and put in fridge for 30 minutes.
5.Heat oven to 180*C gas 5
6. Roll the dough to about 1/2cm thick on a surface covered with flour
7. Cut out 12 heart shapes.
8. Cut circles in 6 of the cookies.
9. Bake in oven for 12 minutes
10. Once cooled make up icing and spread over the 6 whole cookies. Then add a blob of jam and top with the other 6 cookies with a hole cut out.
Enjoy!!

I reminded the kids that God is our One true love and encouraged them to talk to Him.

Thoughts

One of the most moving stories I have heard was shared by a friend of mine at Bible study. Following the break up of a relationship she remembers walking along the road extremely upset and crying out to God in prayer “I just want to matter to someone”. Right at that point a bus drove past with the Alpha advert on the side saying the words “You matter”.

In the story of Jacob and Leah it is hard to imagine what Leah must be feeling. She may have always lived in the shadow of her beautiful sister Rachel and now they are married to the same man! What’s more her Dad had to trick Jacob into marrying her in the first place. Leah’s hope when we first meet her is that one day her husband will love her. She bears him son after son hoping that they will soften Jacobs heart towards her. We see her desperation in the meaning of the names she chooses. When her first son Reuben was born, she said “It is because The Lord has seen my misery. Surely my husband will love me now”(Genesis 29:32).

Long before Disney ever invented the concept, Leah believed that if only she could find that ‘One true love’ everything would be ok, that she would ‘matter’. She was looking for Jacob to fill that inner emptiness inside. Jacob, however only had eyes for Rachel.

When Leah cries out to God she uses the same name for God as Abraham, and Isaac. She knows Him as the One true God. Something changes in her after the birth of her fourth son Judah, when she says “This time I will praise The Lord”.

Timothy Keller points out in his sermon “The struggle for love” that after the birth of Judah, Leah then stops having children (Chapter 29:35). He says;
“Leah took the deepest desires and passions of her heart away from her husband Jacob and gave it to God. She was free”

Leah does go on to have more children but it was through Judah that God chose to continue the line of His people that would lead to Jesus, the ultimate and perfect bridegroom. The question posed by Keller is;
“What is the thing that you need to take the deepest adoration of your heart off so that you can get your life back?”

This is the reason why God is described as a jealous God (Exodus 20:5). He knows that anything else we give our heart to will disappoint and destroy us. He alone can satisfy our need for true love.

The trust test

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Chapter 7-  “The Present”

Activities

1. Trust game
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Andy and I stood behind the kids and asked them to fall backwards into our arms. We chatted about how they knew we would catch them because they trusted us. Even though it may have felt a bit scary the first few times, they kept on trying and trusting became easier.

I reminded them later about the game and said that God asked Abraham to trust Him at the beginning of his journey, to leave his home and go to a place where God would show him. God then promised Abraham his descendants would be more than the stars. Abraham had no children and initially tried to “fix” things himself by fathering Ishmael. Eventually though he trusted God. Now God asks Him to sacrifice his own son, the son God had promised, the son he loved. Abraham again trusted in God.

At first it can be difficult to trust in God. One thing we can be sure of is that whatever the test or trial, God will give us the grace and strength to endure.

2. Follow the leader

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We had a game of walking and doing funny moves around the living room. Jacob led and we had to follow. The idea I tried to get across was that God is a great leader and doesn’t expect you to do anything that He is not prepared to do Himself.

3. Song

We sang the song “Love The Lord your God with all your heart”. Great action song and a good reminder to put God first and love Him more than the gifts He gives us.

Thoughts

I don’t know about you but how often do we pray asking God for something with an idea about how best God can answer our prayer already in mind? This weeks chapter has been the story of God asking Abraham to sacrifice his son “whom he loved”. The concept of this is so terrible to us we cannot imagine how our loving God could possibly ask this of His friend Abraham who walked and talked with Him.

In the Crossways Bible study book on Genesis, is says the challenge for Abraham and for us is “Do we love God more than the things He has given us?” Even as Christians we can sometimes choose to depend on other things or people rather than trusting in God. We can have our own ideas of how best God can answer our prayers.

The chapter ends in the Jesus Story Bible with a powerful image of Gods love for us;
“Many years later, another Son would climb another hill carrying wood on his back. Like Isaac He would trust his Father and do what his Father asked. He wouldn’t struggle or run away.
Who was he? Gods son, His only Son – the Son he loved. The lamb of God”

When we choose to trust in God in every area of our life, we have to relinquish control. We need to allow God access to everything to do His will, His way and not ours. We can trust in Him, knowing the price He paid. In 2 Corinthians 5:7 it says “for we walk by faith and not by sight”, living all of our lives based on the confident trust in Gods promises in His word (ESV study bible).

The Bible is not a fairytale, but the Word of God and this verse does not mean we will live happily ever after. But it does mean that through Gods sacrifice of His own Son whom He loved, we can have a new found freedom. Everything we have and everything we are belongs to God. In the words of the New City Catechism “Our lives are not our own but belong body and soul to God”. He made us for His glory and we can trust Him with the things that are most precious to us. When we let that sink in we can find true freedom, resting in the arms of our Saviour.

Expect great things from God

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Chapter 6 -Son of laughter

Activities

1. Father Abraham
We couldn’t read about Abraham without singing the golden oldie “Father Abraham had many sons”

Great fun. We had a chat about what it means to be a son (or daughter) of Abraham. I said that Abrahams’ great, great, great….. Grandson would be King David and that his great, great, great…..grandson would be the king of kings – Jesus. If we choose to trust in Jesus and follow Him, we become part of Gods family and become Kings and Queens in Gods kingdom (Romans 8:17).

2. Trampoline jump.

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We were going a bit stir crazy in the house over winter so I set the kids a challenge to jump on the trampoline the same number as their ages. That didn’t take too long so they jumped the number of years old Abraham and Sarah were when they had Isaac – 90 yrs old and 99 yrs old! James then decided to add them together and then did Granny and Grandpas ages too (top secret ages). Fantastic workout.

Had a chat with them afterwards about how impossible it seemed to Abraham and Sarah to have a baby but pointed out that God always Keeps His promises and that nothing is impossible for Him.

I also told them about another time in the Bible when an older man and woman had a baby when it seemed impossible. The baby’s name was John and he would grow up to become John the Baptist who would fulfil the prophecy of the Old Testament and prepare the way for Jesus the messiah and our saviour.

In Luke 1:36 the angel had said to Mary
“And did you know that your cousin Elizabeth conceived a son, old as she is? Everyone called her barren, and here she is six months pregnant! Nothing, you see, is impossible with God.”

3. Promise pancakes
I got this idea from the book “Bake through the Bible” by Suzie Bentley.Taylor and Bekah Moore

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We made some pancakes, folded them over and put glitter sprinkles on top.

The promises can be downloaded as a printable at the goodbook.co.uk/baking.

We talked about the different promises and I pointed out that God gave some of the promises specifically to Abraham (God would make him into a great nation- Gen 12:2, he would have more descendants than the stars – Gen 15:5 and God would make him famous -Gen 2:12). Other promises in the Bible are for Gods people (“I will never leave or abandon you” Deut 31:8) and there are more promises in the New Testament for anyone who believes and trusts in Jesus (“I will give you rest when you bring your worries to me” Matt 11:28-29, “You will not die but live with me forever” John 3:16, “Nothing can separate you from my love” Romans 8:38-39 and of course many more).

4. Descendants like stars and sand picture
I got this idea from the blog whenyourise.com blog

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Thoughts

“Expect great things from God, achieve great things for God”
(William Carey, the first missionary to India)

We have recently started a rota for doing chores after dinner. This week holds the record for the number of items smashed while drying dishes! It really is easier to do things myself but in order for the kids to learn independence and be part of family living it is good for them to help out. As I was cleaning up the glass (again) I thought of how God doesn’t need us to help Him with His work on earth. He chooses to involve us because He loves us and wants to work with us as part of a loving relationship.

With one breath God breathed life into Adam, with the words “Be still” Jesus calmed the storm. He who calls that which is not into being, calls us to be a part of His great plan to restore all living things to Himself, all of which is only possible through Jesus sacrifice on the cross (Colossians 1:20). We must keep our eyes fixed on Him as our only hope.

God chooses to use us as His hands and feet, to love as He loves and to walk alongside others, guiding them to a loving relationship with Him. In Ephesians 2:8-10 it says;

“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”

We can often underestimate what God wants to do through us but these truths from Gods word say that before we were born He had in mind a purpose and prepared good works for each of us to do for His glory to build up His kingdom.

The other amazing truth is that God does not expect us to do these works alone. He has given us His Holy Spirit as a guide, comforter and help. Our part is to be like Abraham who “trusted what God said more than what his eyes could see” (Jesus story Bible).

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.