Christmas Adventure box

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I was looking on line for devotional ideas for advent and came across this which I would thoroughly recommend. It’s  sitehttp://christmasadventurebox.blogspot.co.uk/. I have adapted their ideas to use with my children for Advent

DAY 1 – advent calenders

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For the first day I introduced the box unwrapped and looking quite plain (mostly because I forgot to buy Christmas paper). I said to the kids that Jesus the king of the world chose not to come as a mighty king or warrior born in a palace. He chose to come as an ordinary baby. This box looks a bit ordinary and boring with no fancy paper but inside is something very exciting. Just like we need to look inside the box to see what’s inside we need to be like Jesus’ friends who a few years later said “come and see” Jesus the messiah. We then opened the box and gave out advent calenders.

Day 2 – John 3:16

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We read John 3:16 from the adventure bible. I then read the verse out replacing “the world” with my name (i.e “for God so loved Davina…”) in the verse and got the kids to do the same. Lovely and very special moments.

Day 3 – Luke 1:5-25 – The birth of John the Baptist foretold.

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Talked with the kids about prophecy and how God spoke to Zechariah telling him what his plan was for the future. We got some pens and paper and tried to guess how many pressies we would get for Christmas. I explained there is a big difference between guessing and prophecy. Only God knows what will happen in the future.

Day 4 Luke 1:26-38 – Nothing is impossible with God

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I read the verses from Luke and emphasised “Nothing is impossible for God”. I then asked them if they thought I could cut this paper and climb through it. Of course they said that I couldn’t. A few snips and cuts later I made a hole big enough to climb through. They then took it in turns to say the verse “nothing is impossible for God” and climbed through as well. See link on Pinterest for instructions.

http://flamecreativekids.blogspot.co.uk/2013/07/nothing-is-impossible-to-god-paper.html

Day 5 Luke 1:39 -45 Mary visits Elizabeth

We read the verses and watched the story of Mary and Elizabeth from “the gospel project” App for families.

I asked the kids to tell me how many impossible things happened in this one part of the story (Mary becomes pregnant through the Holy Spirit, Elizabeth pregnant in old age and Joseph’s heart is mended)

Day 6 Luke 1:46 – 56 Mary’s song

We read Mary’s song of praise and I explained that although she may have been scared she chose to praise and trusted in God. We had a dance and sing to a praise song by the Rizers.

http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=FUR1ufexry0

Day 7 Luke 1:57-80 – The birth of John the Baptist and Zechariah’s prophecy

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John the Baptist was a prophet and prepared the way for Jesus. Explained that his arrival and mission was also prophecied in Isaiah 40:3

“A voice of one calling: “In the wilderness prepare the way for the LORD; make straight in the desert a highway for our God”

One of the things the Bible says about John the baptist was that he lived in the dessert and ate locusts and wild honey. We weren’t quite brave enough to eat insects but made a locust from marzipan and chocolate sticks.

Day 8 Luke 2:1-5 census M & Ms

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We read the verse and I explained that the evil emperor Ceaser was so vain he wanted to count the people to record how important he was. In the middle of all the chaos God chose to send His son the true King of heaven and Earth. For us! I explained a census was the way people were counted by being put into family groups. I handed out a packet of  M & Ms’ each (which was the cause if much celebration at the breakfast table!) and got them to split up into colour groups. They were then allowed to eat the colour with the highest number.

Day 9 Luke 2:1-7 the birth of Jesus baby craft

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We read the verses and made a small nativity scene using biscuits, jelly babies, icing and sprinkles.

Day 10 Luke 2:8- 20 Angels announce the birth of Jesus

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We had great fun with this one. I explained to the kids that sometimes Angels can be described as being a bit like fairies but in reality they are mighty warriors who make up the Armies of Heaven. I got the kids to dress up as angel warriors, found some baddy looking toys and used nerf guns for a bit of target practice.

Day 11 Luke 2:15-20 Shepherds

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Explained to the kids how amazing it was that God chose Sheperds who were seen as the lowest in society to be the first to hear that Jesus was born.

I used an idea from the book “Bake through the Bible” by Suzie Bentley-Taylor and Bekah Moore, to make star shaped mince and jam pies.

Day 12 Luke 2:21-24 Jesus presented at temple

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Bit of a stretch to fit the Theme here but made the kids invites to a film night showing the “Nativity” at a local Community Church. Great night where we thoroughly enjoyed being with Gods people in His house.

Day 13 Luke 2:25- 40 Prophecy of Simeon and Anna

We read out the verses then we each thought of something we wanted to thank God for and said a prayer of thanks.

Day 14 Matthew 2:1-12 Visitors from the East

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We made some gifts for the teachers. Link to instructions from Pinterest below.

http://rootsandwingsco.blogspot.co.uk/2009/02/day-11-valentine-countdown-paper-hearts.html

Day 15 Matthew 2:13-18 The escape to Egypt

We read the verses and played a Hide and seek game and spoke about how God had protected Mary, Joseph and Jesus from evil plans to destroy him.

Day 16 Matthew 2:19- the return to Nazareth

We read the verses and then talked about how Joseph had been obedient to Gods instructions. We had a quick game of Simon Says.

Day 17 Luke 2:41-51 Jesus speaks to teachers

Mary and Joseph were worried they couldn’t find Jesus but he explained He was safe in His Fathers house. We used a couple of toys and took it in turns to hide them in the living room and the others had to find them. Message really was that although we don’t always know where thing are or how things are going to work out – God is in control as our loving Father.

Day 18 Luke 3:1-20 John the baptist prepares the way

John had lots of followers and perched the good news of a messiah coming to save the world. We are also to be witnesses for Jesus and spread the Good news.

We went to the local shopping centre with the church and sang some Christmas Carols.

Day 19 Luke 3:21-22 Jesus is baptised.

I explained that this was the start of Jesus ministry. He would then go into the wilderness to pray for 40 days and nights where he would be tempted by the Devil. He used the Word of God to overcome these temptations. We can also do this in our lives.

Day 20 Luke 3:23-38 Ancestry of Jesus

We talked about how David was Jesus’ great great great….. Grandad and how we call this list of people a genealogy. I had uploaded an app to make your own family tree and we had fun filling in everyone’s names.  Details of the Family tree website below.

http://www.myheritage.com/site-266412251/brown

DAY 21 John 1:1-13 in the beginning was the word

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We made Christingles and talked about Jesus being light if the world. Instructions for making Christingles below.

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Day 22 John 1:14- 18 word became flesh – Immanuel (God with us – WOW)

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We chatted how Jesus was both fully man and fully God and how amazing it was that he left the glories of heaven to live with us as one of us so that He could save us. He must love us so much.

We made some heart shaped biscuits and we read Psalm 89:1-4

Day 23 John 1:29-34 Isaiah 53

Jesus the lamb – I know this will sound strange but I managed to find some Easter Eggs in the cupboard (still in date) and gave them each one explaining this was reason Jesus was born – to die and take away the sins of the world so that we could have a relationship with God.

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Day 24 Christmas Eve.

I wrapped up a nativity scene and let the kids play with the characters. we read the story of “the tale of the three trees”. You can watch a clips if the story on YouTube using this link;

MERRY CHRISTMAS

Finding the gospel in “The paper dolls” by Julia Donaldson

Paper Dolls by Julia Donaldson

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This is a beautiful story about a little girl and her mum who make some paper dolls and go on an adventure. When the paper dolls are dramatically chopped up by a boy the book gives hope that they still live on in the memory of the little girl and when she grows up she then passes on the legacy of paper dolls to her daughter.

As well as being a great story to read (with bits to sing too!) it made me think of our family legacy and what we pass on to our children. The most wonderful gift my parents gave me was telling me the gospel and introducing me to Jesus. Not just using words but also through the action of love.

Activities

    1. Making paper dolls.
    Meet the family. We cut out and coloured a paper doll for each member of the family.

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2. Clay pots

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I followed this link from Pinterest to make some air dried clay and made a pot. I explained to the kids how it says in the Bible that Jesus is the potter and we are the clay. The more we allow Him to mould and shape us into the people He wants us to be, the more we become like Jesus.

http://www.growingajeweledrose.com/2013/03/clay-recipe.html

3. Legacy
Sometimes I get caught up in the every day hum drum of washing, cooking, getting the kids to school routine and can to be honest feel a bit of a failure for not keeping on top of things or for shouting at the kids.  When I started to think about legacy I thought of some of the positive things I would like and hope the kids to remember about growing up. Some of the things that came to mind were cuddles, Walks in the woods, love of birds, and the great outdoors.

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4. Missionary books

We we have collected some of this series of books about famous Christians. All of my children have enjoyed reading or listening to them. It has been a great way of introducing the idea of mission and the amazing legacy these men and women left when they chose to live their lives telling other people about Jesus.

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5. DVD – The adventures of Toby – Crunch time.

http://www.wingclips.com/movie-clips/the-adventures-of-toby-crunch-time/full-movie

This is a great short film about a boy called Toby who learns that his the thing he desires most is not his greatest treasure – Jesus is. Really good lesson on building character with Jesus.

Thoughts

There are a few words to describe me but sporty is probably not one of them. However, as you will see from this short clip, with my hubby’s expert tuition I appear to have a great golf swing (what the clip doesn’t show is the many times before that where I missed the ball altogether).

5ad0d29b175e0d452e589595cd749c46.mp4

Andy said that each time you swing your golf club you are aiming to have the same swing technique. Apparently the reason you have different types of golf clubs is so that you can assess which one is best for each shot. Your club may change but your swing technique remains the same. Anyway this got me thinking about the gospel and how it is central to everything we do and to who we are as Christians.

Earlier this year a wonderful man in our church family who was a faithful servant of God lost his lengthy battle with cancer. He was a man of integrity who loved Jesus and loved his family. I remember our minister Sandy explaining what the word integrity meant. He said the word comes from the Greek word “integra” meaning “without cracks” and explained the process of clay jar being formed into shape. Before firing in the oven or furnace as it was then, the pots would all look the same. However, once they had been through the fire the potter would hold them up to the light and the ones that had impurities would have cracks. Held up to the light of Gods perfection all of us have impurities. We can’t fix ourselves.

I am challenged daily about living a life of integrity, especially in the way i live at home. I need to remind myself that character shows up not when we are at the front of the church or in the limelight or even with friends. C.S Lewis describes integrity as “doing the right thing, even when no one is watching.” Our character shows up in the many small choices we make each day. When things are going well but particularly when we face the fiery trials of life, when no one is there to see the good or the not so good things we do or think.

Whether we are missionaries in a foreign land, working 9-5 or looking after our children our true identity can only be found “in Christ”. Whether baby christians or those who have known Jesus for years we need to hold to the promise that we belong in Him not because of anything we have done or will do but because, only because of what Jesus did for us on the cross.

As Christians God does not look at us and see our failures or shortcomings or even our achievements and accomplishments but as Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5:21 “He [God] made Him [Jesus Christ] who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” God looks at us and sees Jesus. Amazing!

Finding the gospel in Frozen – Bible lessons from the disney film Frozen.

This is a 6 week series that I did with the scripture Union group in school aged 9-11 years old.

Week 1. Fear will be your enemy

Watch clip of accident and trolls prophecy (5 min)

Talk
One of the things the king troll says is;
“The heart is not so easily changed but the head can be persuaded.
Your power will only grow, there is beauty in it but also great danger. You must learn to control it. Fear will be your enemy”.

It’s important to remember that Elsa’s powers themselves were not bad but could be used for good. God has made each and every one of us with special gifts, talents and abilities. We are created in the image of God who is wonderfully creative, loving and kind. However, He also hates sin because He knows it will lead to us hurting each other and ourselves and worse still it separates us from Him.

Q1. What is stopping Elsa from living her life outside of the castle or being closer with her sister Anna? – Fear/Being Scared of hurting someone, especially someone she cares about.

Q2. What are some signs of a frozen heart? – fearful, unhappy, sad, no hope

Q3.What are some of the things we can be afraid of? Use own examples

Q4. How can fear stop us from enjoying life? – Being scared to try something new, not letting people get to know you.

Just like in the film Frozen the Bible warns against fear. BUT unlike the film God doesn’t expect us to overcome our fears alone.

Tell the story of David in the Bible who was very talented and gifted, chosen by God to be king. When his enemies attacked and his friends turned against him, he could have chosen to be fearful and to have run away but instead he said;

“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. (Psalm 23:4)”

David talks about God being “The good shepherd” who looks after his sheep, cares for them, provides for them, protects them and guides them. God does the same for us.

Arts and crafts– make troll pancakes – decorate with chocolate icing, marshmallows, sweets and sprinkles.

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Week 2 Selfish v giving love – what is real love?

Show clip of “love is an open door”

Q: What is true love?
One of the lines that Anna sings is “Say goodbye to pain of the past”. People will always let us down or hurt us. Just like Anna put all her hope and trust in Hans we can sometimes look to a person to fill a God shaped hole in our hearts. When we let God be at the centre of our hearts and be our true love THEN He can help us to beome more like Jesus. It’s only then that we can really have true unselfish love in our hearts.

Read 1 Corinthians 13:4-7
“Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance”

Hans didn’t turn out to be a very good “true love” and even tried to kill Anna and her sister. Both Hans and Anna’s idea of true love was not right. She thought he would solve all her problems and heal her hurts and Hans just wanted a kingdom for himself. Both of their attitudes were about “me and what I can get”.

But Gods idea of true love is all about the other person and what you can give. We know that God is LOVE because he loves us so much that He sent His Son to die for us so that we could be free to love Him and others.

John 15:13 “There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends”
We could paraphrase this verse to read, “No one has a greater love than that which he or she would willingly die for their friend.”

There are lots of stories of soldiers who threw themselves on hand grenades to save their fellow soldiers lives but didn‘t live to tell about it. Those whom they saved retell this most selfless act.

This in itself is amazing but Jesus lay down His life for people who hated Him and hurt Him. He offers forgiveness for everyone as a free gift.

(Optional extra – read story of John Harper and the Titanic)

Arts and crafts – Love heart hangers

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The link I used with instructions of how to make is: http://pinterest.com/pin/357895501611848957/

Week 3 – Let it go

We found out last week what it meant to have a “one true love” and that Jesus is our only True love who will never let us down. This week we are going to listen and watch Elsa sing the song “Let it go” and look at another type of Disney saying to be “true to yourself” and see if this is always a good idea.

Watch the clip

Q: What does it mean to be “true to yourself”? (Answers probably be yourself and don’t worry about what others think, be true to your feelings no matter what the consequences)

While there is truth in the fact God made us perfectly and we should be ourselves, the Bible also says we are to put others needs before our own and NOT always think of ourselves first.

In the film when Elsa is eventually “true to herself” and “lets it all go” she wreaks havoc on the world and leaves shattered relationships in her wake. The fallout from her actions is devastating.

“No right, no wrong, no rules for me” is the sin that isolates the princess and freezes her kingdom. She is still trapped by fear.

Q: Does fear come from God? – No, Love comes from God. There is no fear in God.

Read:
2 Timothy 1:7
“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”

1 John 4:18 (Easy-to-Read Version)
“18 Where God’s love is, there is no fear because God’s perfect love takes away fear. It is his punishment that makes a person fear. So his love is not made perfect in the one who has fear.”

It’s only after sacrificial love saves her from the effects of the curse that the princess is free to redirect her passion and power – not in “turning away” and “slamming the door” and expressing herself – but in channelling her powers for the good of her people.

If there is a moral to Frozen, it’s that “letting it go” is self-centred and damaging. We need our special gifts and talents to be shaped by Jesus, to live our lives as a sacrifice for Him, no longer living for ourselves but living for Jesus.

Arts and crafts – paper snowflakes

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Link to templates for snowflakes is http://pinterest.com/pin/295056213062884147/

Week 4. Olaf – Summer song- Be careful what you wish for

Q: If you could wish for anything what would it be?

Sometimes the things we wish for are good things but sometimes they are not good for us. God has the best plan for our lives and we can find out what that is when we walk with him and talk with him and learn more about him every day.

Read Ephesians 3v 14-21
“When I think of all this, I fall to my knees and pray to the Father,the Creator of everything in heaven and on earth. I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God. Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. Glory to him in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations forever and ever! Amen.”

Take this light (show them a torch with batteries taken out). This is like our lives before we become Christians but look what happens when we let Jesus be in charge of our lives and live in us and with us every day (put batteries in). Gods Holy Spirit comes and lives in us.

Being a Christian is not about being good enough or trying really hard it is about having a relationship with Jesus and allowing Him to take charge of our lives. Just like it says in the Bible verse we read, God makes us strong when we let Jesus “make His home in our hearts and we trust Him.” This He offers as a free gift.

In v 20 it says “God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think”

Olaf wanted to experience summer but didn’t realise he would melt. He ended up being a hero and helping to save Anna and also was gifted with his own personal flurry. Just like Olaf needed a miracle to stay alive, in real life when we trust in God He achieves in us more than we can ever imagine. BUT not always as we expect.

Arts and crafts – marshmallow Olaf – used cocktail sticks, marshmallows, tic-tacs,matchmakers and chocolate drops to make Olaf.

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Pinterest link is http://pinterest.com/pin/295056213063338015/

Week 5. Are we perfect or are we all fixer uppers?

Watch the clip of song Fixer Upper.

Read:

Romans 3:10-12
“None is righteous (or perfect), no, not one”

Romans 3v23
“For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard”.

No matter how hard we try we can never be as good as God. Imagine that the hole in the centre of this cardboard is Gods standards of goodness and each time I do something good and unselfish I make it through the hole (I had cut hole in cardboard box big enough to fit a paper plane).  Just like the paper planes we sometimes hit the mark and do right but most of the time we miss the mark and we sin by thinking of ourselves first and being selfish.  Sometimes we need to know the bad news so that we can really appreciate the good news. Lets look at what the good news is!

Q: What did the song say was the only way to fix a fixer upper? – True Love

Read Romans 5:8
“But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

Jesus is the only one who did everything right and for the right reasons. He is the only person ever to live that didn’t need to be fixed up as He lived a perfect life.
Why did he live the perfect life? So that he could die the perfect death and pay the price for our sins and mistakes so we can once again be close to God as a lovingly heavenly Father.

Jesus show us true love by dying on the cross for us. He is able to heal our hearts and help all of us who are fixer uppers.

Arts and Crafts – Make and decorate paper aeroplanes and have some target practice.

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Week 6. Love can thaw a frozen heart.

Show clip of Anna saving Elsa’s life https://youtu.be/b2xn0jDmiTw

Anna has the opportunity to live but sacrifices herself because of the love she has for her sister. This love was strong enough to melt a frozen heart.

Q: Do you believe that love is more than just a feeling?
We can sometimes get caught up in our feeling and if something feels right it must be right but true love is expressed in self-sacrifice, putting other people’s needs before our own.

The main example of this in all of history was Jesus’ willingness to give His life for the world. The only way to change and really experience joy, peace and true happiness in life is through looking at Jesus not looking to ourselves.

I used the magic paper plane demo to reinforce that the only way to heaven us through Jesus. (Link is http://pinterest.com/pin/295056213063513014/)

At the end of the movie, Anna sacrificed herself to save her sister Elsa (an act of true love itself).

Q: How did Jesus show us true love? – He chose to die for us, when he didn’t have to so that we could have life, real life. And that starts as soon as we become Christians. We don’t follow Jesus just to get to heaven but because He gives us a new life right now and the more we get to know Him the more like Him we become.

Q: Do you ever feel like nobody cares?
When we feel like we are all alone and nobody cares or understands us we can hold onto the promises in God’s word that tell us;

*We are precious children of God, *loved by Him, *made for a purpose and He also promises us that *He will always be with us and never leave us.

Q: How was Elsa able to gain control of her powers and unfreeze Arendelle? – Through the power of love.

1 John 4:18
“There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. We love because he first loved us”

Have an Easter egg hunt – We hid some eggs around the garden with a leaflet attached explaining the true meaning of Easter.

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Useful resources and articles

http://www.thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/trevinwax/2014/02/17/missing-the-point-of-frozens-let-it-go/

www.http://pinterest.com/pin/295056213062516298/

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)

Owl babies

Owl babies “worry” story sack

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Activities

Worries give away

“Cast all your anxieties on Him for He cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7)
At the start of the new term there are usually few anxieties starting nursery and school. One of the mums at Bible study had a great idea that before her daughter goes into school they talk about her worries. Her daughter then hands over all of her worries which she puts in her pocket promising to flush them down the toilet. Our ever wise group leader suggested we could also say that we can give our worries to Jesus. This along with a few songs (see below) and lots of cajoling has been a great idea and has encouraged my daughter to chat about feelings as well as giving her something tangible to do.

Owl baby picture

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Fairly self explanatory really. We used a bit of glue to stick down some grass, leaves, twigs and feathers then got a sponge and painted the owls, stars, beaks and feet (forgot about wings). While she was painting we talked about how the owl babies were worried about their mum not coming back. Lastly we added the googly eyes. The different sizes for older, middle and younger owl was Esther’s “unique” idea!

Books

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Story of Jesus calming the storm (most children’s bible books have this story. I like Nick Butterworth’s version, “A mouse’s tale” written from a mouse’s perspective. Great for preschool. We added in a bit of noise and action using a rainmaker when telling the story.

Bird feeders

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I read out the verse from Matthew 6:25-26 (See below) to all the kids and reminded them Jesus told his followers not to worry, that He was interested in every part of their lives and would provide for all their needs.

We then made some bird feeders. I used the recipe from RSPB for the big feeder and we also made some shapes and put a hole at the top to put string through to hang up. We wanted to share the love for birds around so gave some away to granny and neighbours.

Kids songs

DVDs

http://www.wingclips.com/movie-clips/the-adventures-of-toby-monsters-and-me/full-movie

“The adventures of Toby – Monsters and me”
This is a great animation featuring Toby who is frightened to go to bed after watching a scary movie. He meets up with Jesus who gives him a special gun that fires words, but not any words. They fire verses from the word of God. Great!

Verses to “preach” to yourself when anxious;

“For this reason I say to you, do not be anxious for your life, as to what you shall eat, or what you shall drink; nor for your body, as to what you shall put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they?” (Matthew 6:25-26)

Cast all your anxieties on him, for he cares about you. (1 Peter 5:7)

When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. (Psalm 56:3)

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. (Philippians 4:6)

We know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)

Thoughts

One of my Dads favourite jokes about worry is; “There once was a man who just couldn’t stop worrying. One day he met his friend Bill who said he didn’t worry about anything. ‘How do you do that?’ he asked. ‘Well’ said Bill, ‘I pay someone to worry for me’. The man replied ‘That’s fantastic, how much does that cost?’. Bill replied ‘It costs £1,000 per week.’. The man was taken aback and asked ‘How on earth can you afford that Bill?’ to which Bill responded ‘I can’t, but I let him worry about that!’

My 3 year old has just started nursery and their first topic was based on the book “Owl babies” by Martin Waddell. The story is about 3 baby owls who are anxious about their mother who has gone away. As I was scrolling Pinterest for ideas on the theme I came across some bible related activities on anxiety that gave me some ideas for a story sack.

One of my recent challenges has been how to “pray the scriptures” and at a bible study recently we were looking at Psalm 3 written by David who is running for his life as his son Absolom has made a claim for the throne. He is scared, downcast and disheartened. BUT like the other psalms of David he chooses to trust in God.

The bible is full of people who worried. A couple of weeks ago I was visiting a church where the pastor was talking about Hagar in Genesis 16 and how God not only hears prayers, He also intervenes. Often, like with Hagar He throws us back into the midst of difficulty with renewed strength and the knowledge that He is with us. The pastor pointed out that David describes God in Psalm 23 as his Good Shepherd, leading him beside still waters and restoring his soul. Importantly David also recognises that “the valley of the shadow of death” is not actually the wrong route. Jesus Himself promised us that in this world we will have trouble. But rather than leaving us hopeless He encourages us to take heart because He has overcome the world (John 16:33). In the midst of our trouble, He is there.

Remember who the real enemy is!

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Chapter 12 – Ten ways to be perfect

Activities

Jesus came as a ransom

We have just finished reading through Jessica Thompsons devotion book “exploring grace together”. One of the days she explores Mark 10:45 describing how Jesus came to earth to be a servant. He gave so that he could give his life as a “ransom for many”. She then goes on to explain that a ransom is what you pay to get a prisoner free – and you are actually the prisoner, to sin and death. Jesus came to set you free from always thinking of yourself.

The kids were struggling a bit to get the concept of a ransom so I said for them to imagine I was the baddy and I took Stephen prisoner and pretended to tie him up. I said they could only get him back if they gave me a box of cereal. Thankfully they gave over the cereal and I untied Stephen and allowed him to return to them. I explained that sin has a real hold on us. Things like unforgiveness, selfishness and jealousy can make us prisoners. The only way we can be free of sins hold on us is through Jesus who paid the price to make us free. And there’s more. Through His Holy Spirit we can resist temptation and change to become more and more like Jesus.

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Follow the instructions ice lollies

We used the idea from “Bake through the bible”. The idea is that you have to follow the instructions to freeze each part of the ice lolly or it becomes one big mess. We used cranberry juice, orange juice and kiwi fruit mashed up and then sieved to get rid of pips, with a bit of water. I asked kids what would happen if we hadn’t followed the instructions and left time for each fruit section to freeze. All agreed it would look a bit yucky. I asked them what instructions God gave to the Israelites. I then asked how did Jesus summarise the 10 commandment and show us the best way to live – love God with all your heart and love others as much as you love yourselves.

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Board games and Wii “just dance”

We played some board games and played on the wii  “just dance” game. We chatted about the importance of following the instructions so that we can enjoy the game better. Similarly God made us with a special purpose in mind, to love and worship Him and to love others as we would love ourselves (Matthew 22:37-40). When we follow the instructions of the One who made us we can live much more fulfilled lives.

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Song for kids

10 commandment boogie by Go Fish

Thoughts

I am a big fan of “The Hunger Games” and one of my favourite quotes is from the second book when the heroine Katniss is feeling exposed, vulnerable and doesn’t know who to trust. She aims her arrow at one of the other competitors who challenges her to “remember who the enemy is”.

The Israelites who had only just witnessed Gods amazing power and sovereignty over Pharoah, the mighty Egyptian empire and their gods, went from singing Gods praises to cries of panic and fear then grumbling and ungratefulness saying they were better off in Egypt. They had forgotten, they were no longer slaves but free! But the real enemy for them was not Pharoah or the Egyptians. The real enemy was within their hearts and their dependence on themselves. They believed the age old lie that they didn’t really need to trust in God but could rely on their own abilities to save themselves.

I was challenged recently by a youtube clip by Paul Tripps about parenting. (http://youtu.be/h8rVIRzmPUk)

In it he remind us that we are parenting sinners. He says;

“Every child that comes into the world believes two very destructive lies”. He outlines them as;

1. Autonomy – “I am an Independant human being”, “I have the right to live my life how I want to”, “I will rule my own life”

2. Self sufficiency – “I have everything I need inside myself to do what I want to do”

These attitudes, Tripp warns if they continue to believe them will destroy them.

Nobody really likes to think of themselves as “needy” or dependant but it is only God who is self sufficient. We are made for community, with one purpose to love God and worship only Him.

A friend of mine at a recent conference was admiring a photo poster displayed in the wall. She pointed out the word “Zolo” at the top and wondered what it meant. after a sneaky giggle I said “I think it says 2010”. She was missing the point of the poster!

Just like the Israelites, sometimes we can miss the point. We are free! We can sometimes forget that Jesus paid the price for our sins so that we can live blameless before God. We can forget that “he who began a good work in you will carry on to completion (Philippians 1:6). We forget that “every good and perfect gift comes from him” (James 1:17).

The point of this freedom is of course not to give us a comfortable life where we always get what we want. Just like Gods purpose for the Israelites the reason God blesses us is so that we can be a blessing to others.

Singer and songwriters Keith and Kristyn Getty have written a great song called “By faith”. In it is one of the greatest challenges for us today as a church.

“By faith the church was called to go
In the power of the Spirit to the lost
To deliver captives and to preach good news
In every corner of the earth”

I have also recently descovered Radio free Babylon and “coffee with Jesus” cartoon strips. Heres one to finish off, entitled “Needy”.

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.