come and see

John 1:46 “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” Nathanael asked.“Come and see,” answered Philip.


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God – Here and Now (Malachi 3:6)

I heard a term the other day “Change fatigue.” It is the inability to cope with constant change which goes against the common saying “the only constant in life is change.” Change fatigue is becoming more prevalent in Christchurch as we continue to live post-quake. An example is the constant changes to roading with detours and road blocks that seem to last forever, or appear and disappear overnight. I have tried to be clever and beat the system by taking the long way round to avoid roadworks only to encounter bigger ones, and then find out the one I avoided had been finished. Changes in where we live as we have repairs, or feel our lives are on hold as we wait for outcomes so that any change can then eventually happen. There is such a blanket of uncertainty over so much of our lives, more so now than ever before.

Personally I have changed a lot in my 44 years. Of course I have, I am no longer a new born baby, toddler or teenager. I am a middle-aged woman with some grey hair and even more wrinkles. I am a wife and mother. I have had many experiences that have formed me to be who I am today – some good, some bad, some menial and some profound.  And the process is not complete, I will continue to change over the next year, the next 10 years – right up to the day I die.

And God – has He aged? Has He changed?  “I am the Lord, and I do not change”(Malachi 3:6)

When my father died, I couldn’t find God. I prayed, but the God I knew wasn’t there….. why would God leave me in my time of raw grief? Or had I changed?  And here is something I read at that time called “Footsteps”:

FOOTSTEPS…..
One night a man had a dream. He dreamed he was walking along the beach with the Lord. Across the sky flashed scenes from his life. For each scene, he noticed two sets of footprints in the sand: one belonging to him, and the other to the Lord. When the last scene of his life flashed before him, he looked back at the footprints in the sand.

He noticed that many times along the path of his life there was only one set of footprints. He also noticed that it happened at the very lowest and saddest times in his life. This really bothered him and he questioned the Lord about it.

“Lord, You said that once I decided to follow you, You’d walk with me all the way. But I have noticed that during the most troublesome times in my life, there is only one set of footprints. I don’t understand why when I needed you most you would leave me.”

The Lord replied, “My son, My precious child, I love you and I would never leave you. During your times of trial and suffering, when you see only one set of footprints, it was then that I carried you.”

I had never been in this place before… I just needed to learn to be carried. Our relationship changed and as a result is now different.

These changes are given to us so that we can grow spiritual.
So we learn to have the confidence and courage to lay our burdens with God so He can give us rest -and that does mean putting them down and not going back to pick them up.
So that as our patience is tested, we learn how to wait in God’s timing.
So by loving the difficult people in our lives, loving the unpleasant parts of ourselves we can experience more of God’s love for ourselves and those around us.

The challenge you are having now (because I know we are all facing something – that’s life) is about us changing to be more like God, more like Jesus, and the Holy Spirit is the one who shows us what needs to be done, and gives us the strength and peace to do it.

Sometimes we learn these lessons quickly, sometimes it takes a bit longer, sometimes we think we passed it, only to find out we have a whole other level to master. And yes, that is life – it changes constantly.

In the midst of change and uncertainly, we can trust in God who never changes. Situations in our lives often change, but God’s promise never changes. Our feelings and emotions can change, sometimes quickly, but God never changes.

The only constant in life is God, and He is here and now. In this present moment, and every present moment. In the calm and the storm, in the noise and the quiet, in the crowd and in your solitude. He is here, he is now. He is in our present moment and our future. Your choice is if you want to be with Him.

Vanessa

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Jesus is the Reason – an All-Age Christmas Worship Service

Jesus is the reason

Well, Christmas is fast approaching and you may well be going into panic mode – what can we do for the Children’s Christmas Service?? Given below is the whole of one of our previous All-Age Christmas Worship services. Feel free to copy, adapt, or otherwise tweak it for your own use.

(Note: The Leader’s words are in plain text and the responses are in bold.)

WELCOME

CALL TO WORSHIP: 

(Preparation for this section: Have a Christmas Tree without any decorations on it, and with lights arranged on the tree but not switched on. 

Have a basket of ornaments – enough for the number of children you expect so that each one gets to put a decoration on the tree. During the Call to Worship, after each response ask a group of children to come forward, take a decoration, and put it on the tree)

We have a lovely tree here but there is something missing – can anyone tell me what it is?
that’s it decorations and lights.

Like Mary we ponder the wonder of God acting through us
FOR THE 12 DAYS OF CHRISTMAS AND FOREVER
(First group of children put decorations on tree)

Like Joseph we obey what God was spoken
FOR THE 12 DAYS OF CHRISTMAS AND FOREVER
(Next group of children put decorations on tree)

Like the manger we cradle the light God has given
FOR THE 12 DAYS OF CHRISTMAS AND FOREVER
(Next group of children put decorations on tree)

Like the angel on the hillside, we announce Jesus is born
FOR THE 12 DAYS OF CHRISTMAS AND FOREVER
(Next group of children put decorations on tree)

Like the multitudes of angles we praise God with great joy
FOR THE 12 DAYS OF CHRISTMAS AND FOREVER
(Next group of children put decorations on tree)

Like the sheperds we gather eagerly around the baby
FOR THE 12 DAYS OF CHRISTMAS AND FOREVER
(Next group of children put decorations on tree)

Like the stars we shine with the brilliance of good news
FOR THE 12 DAYS OF CHRISTMAS AND FOREVER
(Next group of children put decorations on tree)

Like the people of Bethlehem we hear what God has done
FOR THE 12 DAYS OF CHRISTMAS AND FOREVER
(Next group of children put decorations on tree)

We are called to celebrate the gift of God – his son Jesus Christ
FOR THE 12 DAYS OF CHRISTMAS AND FOREVER
(Next group of children put decorations on tree)

(Once the tree is decorated, turn on the lights, saying:)
Thank you for all your help. You know, we are like this Christmas tree and when we have Jesus in our lives he lights us up.

(For this next part you need a narrator, and 5 or 6 helpers)
It is getting very close to Christmas, only 5 sleeps to go! Christmas can mean different things to different people. Maybe it is some of these things for you:

It is about having the best tree in the whole world
(All helpers stand and point at the Christmas tree)

It is about presents
(All rub hands together and say YEAH)

It is thinking the Christmas story starts
(One helper to read first few lines of “Twas the night before Christmas” )

It is about Christmas crackers and Christmas cards
(Helpers snap crackers and pass cards to each other)

It is listening to the Queens message
(One helper to put on a crown)

It is about having too much good food and good wine, then falling asleep
(Helpers pretend to eat, drink, then sleep)

It is about having paid leave
(A helper waves a handful of monopoly money)

It is about Santa with flying sleighs and reindeers
(Two helpers put on Santa hats)

Me, I think Christmas is about something very different indeed. I have a friend who knows a great story about Christmas. Let me get her and she can tell you all about it.

(Here either the Narrator gets dressed as angel, or you can bring in another person to do this part. You also need large signs to hold up with pictures of an Angel, an Inn, Sheep, and a Star, and a further sign with “Jesus” written on it.
You will also need five boxes wrapped in Christmas paper arranged at the front. On the back of each of the boxes– not visible to the congregation –  is one of the letters needed to spell JESUS)

Hello. I hear you want me to tell you a story about Christmas. Well yes, I know a TRUE story about Christmas, and I know it is true because I was there, but I will need you to help me tell it.
The front half of this side, up to say here, when I say ANGEL you say HALLELUJAH  and to help you remember that (helper one) will hold this ANGEL up.

The back half of this side, when I say INNKEEPER you say WHAT IS IT NOW and to help you remember that (helper two) will hold this INN up.

The front half on this side, up to say here, when I say SHEPHERDS you say BAAAA and to help you remember that (helper three) will hold this SHEEP up.

And the back half, when I say WISE MEN you say FOLLOW THAT STAR and to help you remember that (helper four) will hold this STAR up.

BUT, when I say WHAT WAS THE REASON, you ALL say JESUS IS THE REASON, and to help you remember that (helper five) will hold this up (SIGN WITH “JESUS” on it)

Right lets give it a go:
ANGEL (Hallelujah)
INNKEEPER (What is it now!)
SHEPHERDS (BAAAA)
WISE MEN (Follow that star!)
WHAT WAS THE REASON?  (Jesus is the reason!)

Great – let’s start

MARY TO BETHLEHEM
A long time ago, about two thousand years or so, there was a woman named Mary who was engaged to be married to a man called Joseph. One day an ANGEL (HALLELUJAH) came to Mary and told her that she was going to have a baby. When she told Joseph, he was a bit freaked out about it all because he knew it wasn’t his baby as they weren’t even married. So an ANGEL (HALLELUJAH) came to Joseph and told him it was alright, because it was God who caused Mary to be pregnant and they were to name him Jesus. So Joseph and Mary got married and waited excitedly for the day when the baby would be born. Just before the baby was due to arrive, Joseph and a very pregnant Mary had to travel to Bethlehem for a census. This was when the rulers wanted to count everybody. Mary was pretty lucky because she got to ride all the way on a donkey.

What was the reason an Angel spoke to Mary and Joseph: JESUS IS THE REASON

Song: Clippety-clop, clippety-clop, trotting to Bethlehem

JESUS BORN
Joseph, Mary and the donkey finally arrived in Bethlehem. They found that it was really crowded because a lot of people had come to be counted for the census. All the inns were full and the INNKEEPERS (WHAT IS IT NOW) were very busy. They tried all day to find somewhere to stay but with no luck. It was getting dark. Mary was tired. Joseph was tired and the donkey was tired. Knock, Knock on the last door. A flustered INNKEEPER (WHAT IS IT NOW) answered the door. He told them THERE WAS NO ROOM IN THE INN, then he saw how tired and how very pregnant Mary was and he said that they could sleep in the stable. That night, amongst all the animals in the stable, Mary had her baby and laid him in the manger. And they named him Jesus, just as the ANGEL (HALLELUJAH) had told them to.

What was the reason the Innkeeper let them sleep in the stable: JESUS IS THE REASON

Song:  Away in a Manger

SHEPHERDS
While all this was happening in Bethlehem, there were some SHEPHERDS (BAAAA) out in the fields looking after their sheep. Suddenly they were scared out of their wits. There were bright lights in the sky, and some really really good singing. It was ANGELS (HALLELUJAH). They told the SHEPHERDS (BAAAA) not to be afraid. They had come to bring them great news. “Today in Bethlehem a saviour has been born. He is Christ the Lord and is lying in a manger wrapped in swaddling clothes.” They sang praises to God and then they disappeared.
Well the SHEPHERDS (BAAAA) were really excited. This sort of thing had never happened to any of them before.  They immediately leapt up and ran to find the baby. They found the inn, and asked the INNKEEPER (WHAT IS IT NOW) where the baby was. He told them that Mary and Joseph were out in the stable. So they went in and found baby Jesus lying in the manger. The SHEPHERDS (BAAAA) then left and told everyone in Bethlehem what had happened that night.

What was the reason the SHEPHERDS went to Bethlehem? JESUS IS THE REASON

Song: While Shepherds watched

WISE MEN
Far far away some really really really smart guys – lets call them the WISE MEN (FOLLOW THAT STAR) – had seen something rather amazing. They had spotted a special star shining in the East and thought “Hmmm, this star means a king has been born. We’d better go and find him.” So the WISE MEN (FOLLOW THAT STAR) packed up their camels, followed the star and made their way to Bethlehem. When the WISE MEN (FOLLOW THAT STAR) found the Inn, they asked the INNKEEPER (WHAT IS IT NOW) where the baby was. He directed them to the stable and there they found the baby Jesus. The WISE MEN (FOLLOW THAT STAR) gave Jesus three gifts. Gold because Jesus is a king, Frankincense because that means Jesus is a priest, and Myrrh because Jesus was going to grow up and die on the cross for each one of us .

What was the reason the WISE MEN went to Bethlehem? JESUS IS THE REASON

Song:  We Three Kings

And that’s the TRUE story of Christmas with Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus, and the ANGELS (HALLELUJAH), and the INNKEEPER (WHAT IS IT NOW), and the SHEPHERDS (BAAA) and the WISE MEN (FOLLOW THAT STAR).

(At this point turn the “present boxes” around to spell JESUS)

Christmas is about the best present we have ever been given, Jesus. It is about having his presence in our lives every day not just Christmas day. Mary and Joseph became a family with the birth of Jesus in their lives, just as we become part of God’s family with the birth of Jesus in our lives. Jesus is the real reason for the season, of Christmas.

PRAYERS

SONG:  Carol our Christmas (a New Zealand Christmas Carol)

COLLECTION – including donations for the City Mission

PRAYER OF BLESSING

NOTICES

SONG: Joy to the World

DISMISSAL WITH BENEDICTION BLESSING


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I am the Way, the Truth and the Life – John 14: 6

We had a fun game this week on the theme of “I am the Way”. You know those maze type pictures where you have to choose which of several strings/paths/fishing lines actually lead to the desired object at the end of the maze? Well, we did it life size! Although there appeared to be five strings to follow, there were actually two really long pieces of string, and one not so long. The two longer strings wound round and through the rows of chairs, but ultimately just led back to the start. Only one string actually led anywhere – and that was to a Bible.

John 14:6 game
IMG_0536 IMG_0537And to help the kids to remember the verse we got them to make these wall plaques. We used an old map book, card to stick the maps to, and either paper fasteners (as shown) or stickers to decorate when finished. They then wrote on the front in marker pen “Jesus said: I am the way, the truth and the life.” John 14:6

(Gail)

This Week’s Message:
I am the Way, the Truth and the Life
First of all I decide where I do want to go?- what’s my destination?  Let’s say town. How do I get to town? I have to know the way. I could use a GPS that gives me directions all the way and if I get it wrong, it recalculates and redirects me back to the way to my destination, into town.

What about life – where do I want to go? What’s my destination? Let’s say heaven? How do I get to heaven? I have to know the way. I could use a GPS but it doesn’t know the way. Any ideas?…. The Bible is our GPS it also redirects me if I get it wrong and start going the wrong way.

“As long as you believe in God and try to be a good person, your religion doesn’t matter.”  “There are different paths up the same mountain, but they all lead to the same peak.”
Have you heard that before? – it is a common thought, politically correct, tolerant … and wrong.

Jesus said to his disciples (on the last night He had with them) “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life, no-one comes to the Father except through me.” The very next day He would be betrayed and then die. Jesus was preparing them for what He knew lay ahead – but what they had absolutely no idea of what was about to happen. As Jesus began speaking, after the Last Supper, it led to questions from His disciples as they tried to understand what He was saying. Jesus said “You know the way to the place where I am going.” The disciples were confused about where He was going, and how they could follow. Thomas asked “How can we know the way?” and it was to this question that Jesus answered “I am the way, the truth and the life, no-one comes to the Father except through me.”

THE WAY
Jesus is the only way to be able to have a relationship with God and the only way to heaven.

Thomas asked an age-old question, asked since the beginning of time “How can we know the way?”  There have been many ways offered as an answer to the question of life and how to fulfill it. However these gave a false hope that if you did them they would work and complete you.

Bill Subritzky worded them like this:
Greece said …..Be wise, know yourself
Rome said…….Be strong, discipline yourself
Judaism said …Be holy, conform yourself
Epicureanism says…..Be sensuous, enjoy yourself
Education says ….Be resourceful, expand yourself
Materialism says….Buy things and please yourself
Pride says….Be superior, promote yourself

Yet none of these ways has brought about ultimate fulfillment or time with God, now or forever. How do we fill the void, the emptiness we feel sometimes? Honestly sometimes I retract and shut myself down, sometimes I reach for the biscuit tin, a cup of tea, or later in the day maybe a glass of wine. And yet who I should be reaching for at these times is Jesus – the only way we can fill any void or emptiness or any depth or darkness we experience.

THE TRUTH
Luke was telling me something recently and at the end of his story said “and Mummy it is real,” I said “yes dear” Then he said with seriousness and emphasis (get the hands on the hips) “BUT MUMMY IT IS REAL” I thought about it carefully and asked “are you telling me the truth” to which he responded with a sigh “YES”. And yes, the truth is real.

Jesus is the only truth, the only real truth. In fact, Jesus said He came to fulfill the laws and prophets written in the Old Testament. He is not just some of the truth but the entire truth. There is a modern saying that we all have our own truth and that is what is important. What this means is that our experiences, what we have seen and done, our feelings and what we believe is important. And it is, but it is not the truth – it is our life and our way of looking at life. There is only one real truth and it is Jesus.

THE LIFE
Jesus had just been telling His disciples about His death, and now He was claiming to be the source of all life. In John 10: 17-18 Jesus declared that He was going to lay down His life for His sheep, and then take it back again. He spoke of His authority over life and death as being given to Him by God, the Father. In John 14: 19 He gave the promise that “because I live, you also will live.” Jesus because He is perfect (which none of us is or ever will be). Because Jesus is free from all sin, all the things that keep us separated from God, we can come to know God ourselves through Jesus. What a privilege and honour to have our vey own relationship with God – the God who created this world and who loved us so much He gave his only son, Jesus to provide a way back to Him and a way to have a forever spiritual life together with Him in heaven.

Jesus was trying to prepare the disciples so that they would be able to face the dark days ahead and carry on the mission of declaring the gospel to the world. Of course we know from The Bible that they still didn’t understand, and it took several visits from the risen Lord to shake them out of their disbelief. Once they understood the truth of His words, they became changed people, and the world has never been the same. Just like today – once we understand the truth of his words, we will become changed people and the world will never be the same again.

(Vanessa)