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).

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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/

Finding the gospel in Narnia – “The Lion the Witch and the wardrobe”

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Finding the gospel in Narnia – “The Lion, the witch and the wardrobe”

Each week in our Bible class (young people aged 11-18) we have been looking at how we find the gospel in Narnia using clips from “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe”.  We watched the clip together, played gameps and has a short devotion. The young people also split into the groups for discussion questions. In each clip we explored one of the truths in the Bible about who Jesus said He is. The series was written by Myself, Kirsty Dawson and Miriam Rana.

Week 1. Lucy enters the wardrobe

Gospel theme: Jesus said “I am the light of the world”
Psalm 119:105,(Gods word is lamp to our feet),
John 8:12 (Jesus is the light)
John 1:5(light has overcome darkness)

NEED
Bible, Pass the bomb game,  paper and pens for light/dark questions,  “Lion, witch and wardrobe” DVD. Bible verses cut up in envelopes (see below)

Play game
Using the game “pass the bomb” ask for words associated with light then next turn darkness. Today we are going to talk about Jesus being the light of the world.

Watch clip then split into small groups for questions and discussion Clip -Lucy enters the wardrobe http://youtu.be/JMYU5vSaal8

Short talk and game
Explain that we are going to look at Jesus being the light of world. Split into 3 groups and bible verses below printed out and cut into individual words and put in envelopes. Challenge the groups to arrange bible verses into correct order. Alternatively for an older group you can just read verses out.

Verse 1 Unscramble verse – Psalm 119:105 -“Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path”

Remember the walk in the woods at the weekend away? It was good having a flashlight to light our path in the dark wood. In the verse we just read it says The bible is like a lamp to our feet, lighting up the path, guiding us which way to go in life. It helps us find the way to real fulfilment and meaning in life. The bible is different from other history books. It is Gods living word. The gospel (good news about Jesus) is the power of God for salvation if you believe.(Romans 1:16).

God sent His Holy Spirit to help us understand the truths from the Bible. Throughout the whole bible, everything points to Jesus.

2. Unscramble verse John 8:12 “Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” In the clip from “the lion the witch and the wardrobe”, Lucy goes through the wardrobe which is narrow and when she gets into Narnia she heads down the path towards the light of the lamppost.

All of the Bible points towards Jesus and how much God loves us. Christians can be accused of being narrow minded or having too many rules. However, being a christian is not about following rules or being good. It is about following Jesus, the light of the world and allowing Him to transform our lives to become more like Him. If we choose the difficult path of following Jesus, like Lucy, we will find a new freedom and a whole new world open up to us.

3. Unscramble verse John 1:5 class=”>The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” This means that Jesus has overcome all the powers of darkness and evil in this world. When we choose to follow Jesus, the Holy Spirit lives in us guiding us, helping us to understand the bible truths and helping us to overcome problems in our lives like fear, anger, unforgiveness and other things that take away our joy and stop us being close to God.

Questions for discussion

1. What do you like about lucy? (Adventurous, kind, forgiving, innocent, brave, truthful, curious)(she has a childlike faith not immature or silly or weak but having childlike faith means being courageous, speaking the truth, being loving and kind, and most importantly trusting in God who made us, loves us and knows what’s best for us)

2. What do you think of when you hear the word darkness (fear, evil, bad things, alone, despair etc) and light (happiness, fun, confidence, hope, etc)

3. What does Jesus mean when He says He is the light of the world?

Creative prayer

Glo sticks  with bible verse attached Matthew 5:16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

When we love Jesus, we want serve Him and to talk about Him with others. Like a light in a dark place we want to shine for Jesus. Pray for opportunities to share Jesus light with others.

Week 2: Turkish Delight temptation (written by Kirsty Dawson)

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Gospel theme ..I AM the Bread of Life.. (John 6:41-51)

Watch Video clip: Edmund meets queen and is tempted by Turkish delight to betray his brother and sisters.

Play game: m&s relay
Split into 2 groups, each team given 2 colours to find, have a race to move m&ms from one bowl to another. Don’t eat any until end of game!

Short talk:
The Bible tells us that we are all tempted (even Jesus was). Edmund was tempted by Turkish delight, we might have been tempted by the m&ms! We might be tempted by money or designer clothes or a new phone or new Xbox game etc. Being tempted alone isn’t a sin but if we give into temptation it can lead to sin. For Edmund, temptation led to him to betray his brother and sisters to the evil queen Jadus. Another reason Edmund was quick to betray his brother and sisters was that he was angry at them.

Ephesians 4:26-27 says Be angry, but do not sin; do not let the sun go down in your anger and do not make room for the devil.

Like Edmund we can be deceived into sinning especially when we are angry.

John 8:34-36 says Everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin. The slave does not have a permanent place in the household but the son has a place there forever . So if the son makes you free you will be free indeed.

Sin can be addictive but Jesus has made a way for us to be free of sin. There is a new way through what Jesus did for us on the cross.

In John 6:48-51 Jesus says: (read out full thing).

“I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.” 

Sin leads to death but believing in Jesus and what he has done for us frees us from sin and leads to life.

Discussion questions:

1.) Why did Edmond want the Turkish Delight?
(because of greed/ lust/ after he took one bite he wanted more because it was addictive)

2.) Could he have stopped himself/resisted the temptation?
(yes – queen didn’t force him to eat it, she offered and he took it of his own free will. After one taste it was even harder to resist because his lust/ greed grew stronger/addictive but he still could have stopped)

3.) What do people get tempted by today in the world? And what do you get tempted by personally (IF anyone wants to share) ?

4.) What does the Bible say about temptation?

Resist temptation, obey God’s commandments,

God won’t let you be tempted greater than what you can bear – (1corinthians10:13)

God will not tempt you – it is Satan who tempts you to sin (James 1:13)

Pray against temptation (Luke 22:40, Matthew 6:13)

Jesus was tempted (Luke 4)

Jesus can help you because he himself suffered with temptation (Hebrews 2:18)

Temptation is inevitable in this world – don’t be surprised 1 (Peter 4:12)

Might ask groups to look up two or 3 of these verses during discussion time – Im sure there are loads more points that could be made in this question.

5.)What does God give us to help us resist temptation?

guidance in his word, the example of Jesus, his holy spirit in us convicting us of sin, fruits of the spirit to help us

Creative prayer

Have a box of Turkish delight and offer them to young people. Get them to think about temptations they face. When we are tempted to do something we shouldn’t it is usually because it makes us feel good. Quite often we give into temptation even if the consequences are bad. Knowing God is the only way to be truly happy. He gives us His Holy Spirit to help us overcome temptations and become more like Jesus. Say a prayer to ask for help to overcome temptation.

Week 3 – Aslan is on the move

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Gospel theme “I AM the door for the Sheep” (John 10:7-9)

Show clip – Beavers house “Aslan is on the move”
http://youtu.be/VqZmTfVH-G4 (clip quite short, you could show a bit more)

Game:

Giant Jenga (vague connection to beavers building dams)

Short talk

How important is a name? We all have one. I joke with my children as I quite often get Jacob and James mixed up. So much so that sometimes they get muddled too. When people forget our name it feels like we are not important to them. We hope that our family and friends remember our names and sometimes give us nick names that reflect our character or something funny about us. We maybe don’t expect everyone in school, church to remember our names but it feels good if they do. We would not really expect celebrities or people that we see on tv/at concerts etc to remember our name even if we meet them a couple of times. My dad once met the queen and made her laugh by telling her a story about lobsters. This was his claim to fame for a long time. In the story we are learning today, one of the main points Jesus is making is that God knows each of us and is calling us by name to come to Him.

As we have just seen in the clip, the children have just made the decision to remain in Narnia to help rescue Mr Tumnus and ultimately save their brother Edmund. They had to make a decision to find Aslan who was their only hope. Let’s find out who our only hope is.

Read John 10:7-10
“So Jesus again said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”

Drama
(Gatekeeper, gate, sheep and thieves and robbers)
I got the young people to act this story out. The gatekeeper (God) stood one end of the room and the sheep (us) the other. In the middle, between 2 chairs someone stood as the gate(Jesus). I had other young people representing the thieves and robbers (they held signs saying “money”, “success”, “fame” etc.)

In the Bible verses Jesus tells a story of a Gatekeeper looking after his sheep, knowing them by name, guiding them and protecting them as he takes them to new pastures. (I asked the gatekeeper to call his sheep by name)

Jesus is the gate to God – the only way to God. We have to go through the gate (or door) to see God and be saved from our sins. Just like Aslan was the only hope for Narnia, Jesus is our only hope.

What about the thieves and robbers? What do they represent? They represent the lies told by the world and the devil about what can make us happy. Beauty, success, money, sex and fame. While there is nothing wrong with these things, the devil is very sneaky and tempts us to think of these things (which are created things) as more important than our Heavenly Father and creator God. God made all things and wants us to enjoy his creation but the devil hates us and twists Gods truth claiming that “things” will make us happy. (I asked the thieves to say “follow me” but encouraged the sheep to listen to the shepherd).

When we choose to follow Jesus we know His voice. The Holy Spirit lives in us guiding us in which way to go. (The sheep goes through the gate and hugs/high 5s the shepherd). I explained that although we still get tempted and do wrong when we are Christians, the difference now is that we have God the Father as our shepherd walking with us guiding us.It also says that He leads his sheep out of the sheep pen. Jesus doesn’t want us to stay where we are in our spiritual walk. He wants us to explore and live life to the full. With Him!

Discussion Questions

1. What does “Aslan is on the move” mean?
(The plan to save Narnia has started. For us it means God is a faithful God and although His people through history and now keep going our own way and forgetting Him, He never gives up. God had a plan to save us and bring us back into his loving arms. Jesus came to bring Gods kingdom on earth. Sin, evil, and even death itself no longer have powers over us.)

2. What does it mean that Jesus is the gate?
(Jesus is the only way to God, he protects and guides us)

3. What dangers can we fall into if we don’t trust in Jesus?
(We live for ourselves, become selfish, tempted by the worlds lies, become hurt and disappointed. Only way to real joy and peace is through a trusting relationship with Jesus.

4. How do we know God loves us?
(He sent His son to rescue us. He knows our names, He keeps His promises. He is faithful even when we turn our backs on Him)

Creative Prayer

As you play giant Jenga, each time you complete a level give them a word from the verse “I have come that they might have life and have it abundantly”.(John10:10). Get them to blutac onto each completed Jenga layer (last word first so that it reads the right way) and then all read it out at the end before a volunteer knocks it over. (Hopefully not like us, at the same point as someone opens the door to the sanctuary while the minister is saying a prayer!!)

Or play a normal game of Jenga and for each piece played on the top say a prayer of thanks.

Week 4 – Gods Gifts (written by Miriam Rana)

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Gospel theme John 15:5
“I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.”

Scene: Santa gives the children gifts.

Play game:

Would You Rather…
kiss a dog or a cat on the mouth?
eat cow eyeballs or monkey lips?
die by a fire or by a drowning?
win free tickets to a professional football game or baseball game?
live without TV for one year or be homeless for one month?
have a phone or a TV in your room?
keep your siblings or be an only child?
win a million pounds all at once today or get £1000 a week for the rest of your life?
lose both arms or both legs?
work during the summer or stay at home all day?
OR
Explain that you are going to call out a category, and everyone must group themselves according to their favorite in that category For instance, if you call out, “Pizza,” then everyone would group themselves according to the different types of pizza available. Other favorites include color, fast-food-restaurant, movie, song, TV show, band, teacher at school, etc.

Through our game we discovered we are all different. I have four children, all made with the same genes and all very different. Niamh the oldest is a thinker (good thing/bad thing?), maya is a doer (braver but sometimes doesn’t think first). Then I have two twins who are completely different! Obviously one being a boy the other a girl a different but layla is a sneaky monster and adam can be a bit excitable.
We are all unique and have different opinions, skills, humour. If we were all the same society wouldn’t function propery.

How are Lucy, Susan, Edmond and Peter different, why do you think they got those specific gifts?

Father Christmas said that the gifts were “tools not toys”. They were to be used to fulfil their calling. God sends His Holy Spirit to His children (Christians) for the very same reason. 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.”

God made us different as we all have a job to do but he’s not left us to do it alone.
What is a spiritual gift? 1 Corinthians 12:7-11

“To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills.”

The main purpose of Spiritual gifts is to glorify God and build up the church. They are not something to bring us glory to make people like us or to get something we want.

Just like different personalities are needed to make the world go round different gifts are given to different people to do Gods work on earth.

In a game of football there are many positions eg…… (kids fill in.)
Who is the most important player in a game…..debate follows… there is no player that is more important you need all positions to make a team strong. I striker will help defend and a defender wouldn’t not strike if the opportunity was there.
Everyone has a part to play to make the team score goals defend and ultimately win the game.

Back to the verse at the start John 15:5 says
“I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.”

If we, the branches are to produce fruit (love, joy, peace etc) we need to be connected with the vine (God). We are not to be Christians just for ourselves and in order to get to heaven, but through His Holy Spirit God helps us to achieve His purposes on earth.

Questions
1. Why do you think Father Christmas in Narnia gave the children these gifts?
2. Do you think they may have bn scared of using their gifts?
3. What/ who is the main gift God gives all his children?
4. Do you think that God has gifted you in anyway and can you think of any ways you can use that gift to produce fruit/do Gods work?
5. Like a tree, do you feel that your gifts can grow and change shape as your relationship with God grows?

Week 5: Peter’s first Battle (written by Kirsty Dawson)

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Watch Narnia clip together – Peter’s first battle

Game – Service Charades
Spilt them up into 2s or 3s or 4s give each team a slip of paper with scenario to act out. Others guess what they are doing.

Scenarios are:
Dinner ladies serving lunch
Soldiers serving in a war
Butler serving drinks
Tennis players practicing their service
Self service checkout at Morrisons

At end ask what was the common theme?

Talk:
in the Narnia clip, Aslan allows Peter to fight the battle with the wolf to give him the opportunity to grow in courage maturity and leadership. God does the same for us to prepare us for service in his kingdom.

Personal battle – tell young people of a personal (not too personal) battle you have experienced.

There is still a battle between good and evil going on but we know that victory has already been achieved through what Jesus did on the cross. He was sent to die to pay the price for our sins because God loves us. John 14:6 says Jesus is the way, the truth and the life.

When we have Christ in us He can break down strongholds 2 Corinthians 10:4-5 says:
“The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”

Battles between God’s good and perfect will and our own sinful nature are constantly going on. Often we have to make a choice – be obedient to God or go our own way. If we could see into the future we would choose Gods way every time!

We will have to go through battles in life but we can have the confidence of Christ in us. We know that God will be with us whatever we have to face and he can help us. He can give us wisdom to know what is right and strength to do what is right.
And God can use the hardest times of our lives and make good come out of them. Romans 8:28 says:
“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

We can choose to do what God wants and serve him and others by fighting for what’s right. It helps if we try to keep our focus on Jesus and follow his example of serving God and serving others. Mark 10:42-45 says:
“Jesus called them together and said, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many”.”

No matter what, because of what Christ did for us on the cross, we can be forgiven and set free from sin and death. God calls us to fight for what’s right, Serve God and serve others in love.

Split into groups for discussion.

Discussion questions:

1.) how do think Peter felt before the battle?

(not really any correct answers here but possible ones might be – afraid but his love for his sisters was greater than his fear, encouraged by the fact that Aslan believed in him, had courage because he had the sword)

2.) what battles have we faced/ are we facing?

(or just what kind of battles do people in general face if the young people don’t what to share – e.g. Illness, accidents, relationships breaking down, bankruptcy, losing job etc etc or trying to do what’s right but being tempted to do what is wrong)

3.) What does it mean to serve?
(lots of different meanings – discuss – a Christian definition could be: to help, aid or do work for God with a willing heart)

4.) do you find it easy to serve others? Are some people easier to serve than others?

5.) what does the bible say about serving God and serving others?

(look up 1Peter 4:9-11 together – Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.

Week 6 – Aslans deal

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Bible theme

Jesus says “I am the good shepherd” John 10:14-16  says “I am the good shepherd; I know my own sheep, and they know me, just as my Father knows me and I know the Father. So I sacrifice my life for the sheep.”

Game – toilet roll ball throw

Scrunch up toilet roll into small ball shapes and say to the young people that each ball represents a sin. Split them into two teams facing one another and have a line of chairs between them to separate them. The aim of the game is to get the toilet roll balls away from your side and onto the others. Give them 2 minutes. Exhausting work for teenagers!

Short talk

Do object lesson experiment coffee filter, highlighter and lemon juice. Aslan says there is no need to speak of Edmonds earlier behaviour. He has been forgiven. Isaiah 43v18 says “forget the former things do not dwell on the past” is in verse 25 God explains ‘I even I am he who blots out your transgressions and remembers your sins no more”

Edmonds betrayal, like our sin cannot be ignored. Romans 6:23 says “the wages of sin is death”. As with everything in life there are consequences for our actions. The world would be an even worse place if there were never any consequences for sinful behaviour. Imagine murderers allowed to be free, thieves allowed to roam freely from shop to shop helping themselves to anything. Life would be full of fear. We need to have justice to feel safer in the world. God is a just God. He cannot even look at sin. He gave the 10 commandments to show people the best way to live their lives but He knew no-one could keep all of the commandments all the time. But God loves us so much He sent Jesus who chose to die for us rather than have us be separated from Him for eternity.

Edmond keeps his eyes on Aslan while Queen Jadus is talking. Hebrews 12:3 says;

“Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed—that exhilarating finish in and with God—he could put up with anything along the way: Cross, shame, whatever. And now he’s there, in the place of honor, right alongside God. When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that long litany of hostility he plowed through. That will shoot adrenaline into your souls!”

Jesus said “I AM the Good Shepherd” (John 10:14-16): Just like a shepherd takes care of sheep, Jesus takes care of us. He will do anything to save His sheep, even die for them. And that’s what He had to do so that we might have life to the full in a loving relationship with God. At the end of the scene when Queen Jadus questions Aslans commitment to the deal he gives an almighty roar. Though the devil would love nothing more than to destroy God and his people, he cannot. He is merely a tool that ultimately serves Gods purposes. In Philippians 2:5-11 it says “every knee will bow, every tongue confess that Jesus is Lord”. It’s important to remember when we feel under attack that Jesus has defeated death and evil.

Questions

1. What are some of the ways we try and get rid if our sins. (Good works, thinking we are “not that bad”)
2. How do the Ten Commandments help us recognise our sin and need to be saved.(nobody. An ever be perfect and obey all the commandments. We need a saviour)
3. Is there anything you fear? (Perfect love, which is Jesus casts our fear1 1 John 4:17 “There is no room in love for fear. Well-formed love banishes fear. Since fear is crippling, a fearful life—fear of death, fear of judgment—is one not yet fully formed in love.”
4. What can help us cast out or get rid of fear (prayer, trust in God, keep our eyes fixed on Jesus)
5. Why are we to “fix our eyes on Jesus”? (Takes our eyes off of ourselves and our problems and onto Jesus and trusting in Him)
6. What are some good things about Jesus being our “good shepherd”? (He loves us so much He was prepared to die for us, guides us, warns us and corrects us)

Week 7 – The stone table (written by Miriam Rana)

Gospel theme- (John 11:25-26)
“I AM the Resurrection and the Life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this.”

Scene: stone table- death and resurrection

Game:(depending on space available) version of Tig where you die then come back to life again.
OR Animal version of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John

Short talk

In the video Aslan gave himself up to the queen to pay off Edmunds debt. The queen thought she had won the battle for control of Narnia. But Aslan wasn’t guilty resulting in the breaking of the stone table and Aslan being resurrected.

The author intended this part of the book/film to represent Gods sacrifice for us. We were given laws to follow. These are our rules for living but we are sinners and break these rules constantly.

Has anyone ever broken the Ten Commandments? Lied, coveted, stole (if they say no – don’t believe you because you just admitted you’re a liar) In that case do we deserve a place in heaven? How many sin tallies would you have after your name?
But God had a plan. God came to earth as Jesus to pay for our sins. To clean our tally marks.

Mark 15:33,34
“At noon, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon and at three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice ‘Eloi Eloi lema sabachthani?’ (Which means my god my god why have you forsaken me?)”

When Jesus died on that cross the devil thought he had won but that wasn’t the end of the story. When God came back to life he defeated death and paid the price for our sin. He has won the battle for us.

What does this mean?
God is alive and if we believe in his sacrifice and believe He is the son of God we are alive too. When we ask for forgiveness for our sins hold over us is smashed! The devil has lost his power over us. Death has lost its power over us.

John 10:9,10
“I am the gate, whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy, I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”

How do we know this happened?
Firstly after Jesus was resurrected he was seen by over 500 people. This wasn’t a rumor or a secret, this was FACT.

Secondly Jesus’ death was foretold in the Old Testament and Jesus himself told his disciples what was going to happen but still when Jesus died the disciples where gutted and afraid. They hadn’t listened, but after seeing God resurrected their certainty was so strong they were killed for telling people of Jesus’ sacrifice for us! You would HAVE to be certain…no?

Romans 5:8
“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this; while we were still sinners, Christ died for us”

There was a part in the film where Aslan told the children of a deeper magic;
“When a willing victim who has committed no treachery was killed in a traitors stead, the table would crack and death itself would start working backwards.”

In the Bible 1 Corinthians 15:54-55 says;
“When this happens, then at last this Scripture will come true—“Death is swallowed up in victory.” O death, where then your victory? Where then your sting? For sin—the sting that causes death—will all be gone; and the law, which reveals our sins, will no longer be our judge.”

What does it mean to be free from bondage of sin? It doesn’t mean we won’t sin again but it does mean that the power of sin cannot control us any longer.

Example: when you have hurt someone you can apologise but you can still feel controlled by guilt, which will affect lots if areas of your life and your behaviour. For example you may try and earn forgiveness, feel depressed or get angry. God wants us to be set free from guilt and shame. We can ask God to set us free from the power sin has over our lives.

We can also be free from the fear of death. Although physically we will die, if we choose to follow Jesus in this life our souls will live with Him eternally.

Questions
1. Why didn’t Aslan fight back?

2. If God forgives our sin does that mean we can do what we like? Why not? Why did God give us the 10 commandments?

3. What would have happened if jesus had not died for our sin?

4. How does Jesus death and life prove he was the son of God?

5. What does the Bible mean “where oh death is your sting”?

Week 8: I have overcome the world (written by Kirsty Dawson)

Bible Verses:
John 16:33
1 John 5:4-5
Ephesians 6:10-17

Video Clip: Peter’s second battle

Game:
two teams make a suit of armour out of newspapers, best attempt wins

Talk:
Over the last few weeks you have been looking at Aslan giving his life and his resurrection in Narnia and talking about how Jesus came to this world to die for our sins and last week you talked about how Jesus rose again after three days and what that all means. This week we are going to look more at what Jesus dying for our sins and being resurrected can mean for us if we choose to believe and follow him. Three weeks ago we looked at Peter’s first battle and now we have seen him battle the White Witch in this weeks clip. We will talk a little bit more about the battle that is still going on in the world between good and evil and learn about the things God gives us to equip us for this battle.

In John 16:33 Jesus says;
“I have told you all this so you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart because I have overcome the world.”

These words are amongst the last the Jesus said to his disciples before he died. He warns them about the future. He tells them where, when and why he is going – to prepare them and make sure they know he will still be with them.

We don’t need to look far to see evidence of trouble in the world – any newspaper you open, as soon as you turn on the news we learn of more war, more disasters, more crime etc etc.
We don’t need to look far in our own personal lives to find trouble. Everyone experiences difficulties in life. Whether it’s pain, hurt, betrayal, disappointment, fear, sickness etc etc – no one has a perfect life. Even those who seem like they have it all like celebrities. Everyone has things in their private life that are difficult and sooner or later everyone experiences trouble – again just look at newspapers/magazines.

Jesus says there will be trouble but he also says ‘take heart’ which means be confident or have courage – because I have overcome the world.

We are not alone, Jesus is with us. Jesus chose to come to this broken, troubled world and die on the cross for our sins. He rose again 3 days later to prove that he can overcome ANYTHING. He overcame sin, death and evil and what he did means we can have eternal life with him if we believe.

As we’ve talked about before God tells us that we will have trouble so don’t be surprised when you do. But through our trouble we can hold onto the promise that Jesus loves us and will never leave us. God can give us the strength to face whatever we need to face. Ultimately what we face here in this world only lasts a little while – Jesus died so that , if we believe, we can go to heaven where there will be no more suffering or pain.

1 John 5:4-5 says
“For every child of God defeats this evil world, and we achieve this victory through our faith. And who can win this battle against the world? Only those who believe that Jesus is the Son of God.”

Being a child of God or a Christian means believing that Jesus is the son of God, believing that he died for your sins and rose again, repenting and accepting Jesus as you saviour and following him. If we are Chrsitians we are overcomers like Jesus and we are victorious in battle because we believe Jesus has already won.

Ephesians 6:10-17 tells us the things that God has given Christians to help in the battle. (read out all verses 10-17) The battle we are in is to share the gospel with as many people as possible before the end of this world and to persevere as Christians – don’t give up. Ephesians 6:12 tells us that this battle is not against flesh and blood but against evil forces in spiritual world. Lets look at what Ephesians tell us about all the pieces of armour that God gives us to protect us from Satan and fight in this battle.

Belt of truth
Satan is the father of lies and he tries to decieve us into believing lies about God, ourselves and others but if we know and hold onto God’s truth and live by this we will be protected from Satan’s lies.

Breastplate of Righteousness
Christians are righteous because Jesus paid the price on the cross for our sins. We don’t need to be slaves to sin anymore, although we may be tempted. If we do sin we can repent. Jesus dies so we can be clothes in garments of salvation and robes of righteousness. If we live in the righteousness Jesus has given us we are protected.

Shoes of peace that comes from the good news (gospel)
soldiers sleep with their boots on because they never know when the enemy might strike. We also need to be ready with our shoes of peace of the good news – be ready to share the gospel and be protected by the peace the gospel brings us.

Shield of Faith (to extinguish the fiery arrows of the devil)
Satan will try to make Christians believe that they are not a child of God. He will accuse you and condemn you with every sin you’ve every committed or been tempted by. This is why we need our shield of faith. We hold it up and stand firm in our belief in the gospel/ our salvation and God’s promises.

Helmet of Salvation
Christians are spiritually protected by their salvation. Remember that Jesus is king, if we are believers we are children of God and a new creation. Remember Satan is your enemy! He will make you question your salvation – wear it proudly and remind yourself of it and that nothing can take it away.

Sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God.
This is the only part of the armour which is a weapon (rather than just protection/ defence)
Don’t stop reading/studying/believing and following the word of God – The Bible. If you do you won’t have a weapon again Satan – you will be putting your sword down. To stop learning more about God by reading your Bible is like surrendering. Don’t give up!!

Discussion Questions:

1.What troubles do we face/is the world facing?
(just go over this quickly to spark off some discussion – we already did a very similar question in study 5…)

2.How does all this trouble in the world make you feel?

3.What does ‘take heart’ mean? What’s your own definition?
(be confident, have courage, be brave, stand firm, you can do this! Be determined, don’t freak out etc)

4.Can you remember the 6 parts of the armour of God?
(look up Ephesians 6:14-17 together to check if you got them all right)

5.What part of the body is not covered by the armour? Why do you think this is?
(your back – because we don’t turn our back on our enemy – running away is not an option! Ephesians 6:14 says ‘stand firm…’)

Week 9 A Royal inheritance

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Scene: kings and Queens of narnia

Games: Stepping stones race.
Give each young person 2 sheets of newspaper and they have to try and get across the room without touching the floor, using only the newspaper sheets.

Gospel theme:
Revelation 1:8. “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.”

Short talk
Does anyone know what the words Alpha and Omega means? Beginning and end of Greek alphabet? When we think of beginning and end we tend to think of start and finish in terms of time i.e. a day, a project or homework assignment or a game of sports. God is not restricted by time. There never was a time He was not.

Alpha = beginning.
John 1:1 says;
“In the beginning was The word and the word was with God and the word was God.”
Jesus is the word and he was there at the beginning of creation. Everything that is originates ultimately in him. And everything will somehow end with him. From everlasting to everlasting, he is God (Psalm 90:2).
Before even creation itself, God planned to send Jesus as saviour for the world.

Omega = end
Everything comes from and belongs to Him.
“In him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28).

I’m sure like me you have at times used prayers to Jesus the same way we would use a vending machine. In times of trouble we can sometimes pray and expect God to give us what we want. We give God the solution to our plans or our troubles and can view God as a bit of a personal assistant?

But Jesus is not a means to an end, He is the end. A relationship with God through Jesus is the whole point of life. When we submit to Him and His will, only then will he give us “the desires of our hearts”.

Being a Christian is not always easy, in fact as we heard last week, Jesus said “In this world you will have trouble” (John16:33)

Being a christian IS however, an adventure. One that you don’t have to live alone. The Holy Spirit lives in us to help us become more and more like Jesus.

Jesus is not just the beginning or the end of all things He is the beginning AND the end. Jesus is our “all in all”, our everything, our only hope and the only One we can fully trust. He gave up everything for us so that We could spend eternity with Him.

The children in Narnia received crowns and were named as kings and queens of Narnia. Did you notice how happy Edmond looked, free from guilt and shame?
In the Bible Romans 8:15-17
“For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.”

Before we become Christians we are helpless (dead) in our sin. Our hearts are like dirty rags covered in guilt and shame (hold a dirty rag near your heart). When we become Christians we choose to follow Jesus by asking for forgiveness and allowing God to turn our lives around.

Forgiveness is like taking a bath, We take a bath to get rid of all the dirt (throw rag away)
But God doesn’t stop there, he clothes us with Jesus righteousness (put on purple blanket). What does that mean? Righteousness is like putting on clothes of right living. We can’t do this in our own strength. We need Jesus strength like a robe around us. He also puts a crown on our heads and sandals on our feet and equips us to do the work He prepared for us before the beginning of time.

At the end of the clip Mr Tumnis says to Lucy that “Aslan is not a tame Lion” and she replies “but he is good”. Just like Aslan is not tame Jesus cannot be controlled or manipulated. We need to trust Him and place our hopes in Him and believe that like Aslan “He is good”.

We sing a song in church called “blessed be your name”. Some of the words are;

“Blessed be Your name
When the sun’s shining down on me
When the world’s ‘all as it should be’
Blessed be Your name

Blessed be Your name
On the road marked with suffering
Though there’s pain in the offering
Blessed be Your name

Every blessing You pour out
I’ll turn back to praise
When the darkness closes in, Lord
Still I will say
Blessed be the name of the Lord

You give and take away
You give and take away
My heart will choose to say
Lord, blessed be Your name”

God is good, nothing can change that. When our circumstances are good we can praise God. When things go wrong – God is still good and when we trust in Jesus we can choose to say “blessed be the name of The Lord”.

Questions
1. What does it mean that Jesus is the beginning AND end? (Jesus is our “all in all”, our everything, our only hope and the only One we can fully trust. He gave up everything for us so that We could spend eternity with Him.)

2. What do you think the frozen statues represent? What does it mean when Aslan broke the spell and brought them back to life?
(We were dead in our sin but through Christ we can have new life)

3. What circumstances have you chosen to praise God? (Give a personal example if you like)

4. What did you like most about the film?

5. Which character are you most like?

6. What have you learned about Jesus through Narnia?

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.

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.