come and see

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


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Keeping up-to-date

Well, it’s been a while since we posted anything. Like most of you we have been kept busy with Christmas, school productions, end of year assemblies, summer holidays, and lots of socialising. But we have also been very blessed with the gifts of participation and enthusiasm that God has bestowed on us, and have quite a lot to share with you. The plan is to get this site properly up-to-date over the next few weeks, so keep checking back and, hopefully, you will find something to inspire and enthuse you.

We pray God’s blessing on you all as you embark on a new year of working for God’s Kingdom in your communities.

Gail & Vanessa

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Christmas Awards Ceremony

Yes, I know it’s only September, but Christmas will be here before you know it, and we have certainly already started to think about our Children’s Christmas Service. So we thought it was about time we shared with you what we did last year. This is an original work by Vanessa; feel free to use it or adapt it as you wish, but an acknowledgment of the source would be appreciated.
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The theme was a “Red Carpet Awards Ceremony”, with Vanessa as the reporter greeting the celebrities as they arrived. This enabled her to hold a clipboard which had both her words and the words of each of the participants on it. Made it so much easier all around, with no stressing about forgotten lines. There were no costumes – everyone was invited to dress as if they were going to a real awards ceremony, but we did have some Angels there as well.

I have included a note of the songs that we used between each “celebrity”, but you may well have your own favourites that you want to use.

So, without further ado, Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to:

THE GOVERNORS BAY CHRISTMAS AWARDS CEREMONY!

Song: They Came to a Christmas Party (Starshine Singers, from Jesus’ Christmas Party)

Interviewer: Good morning everyone and welcome to WWJD TV, where we are live at the Governors Bay Christmas Awards Ceremony. We hope to be able to bring you interviews with many of the Nominees as they arrive on the red carpet today. And look, here is our first celebrity arriving now!

MARY
Interviewer: Hi Mary. It must be exciting to be at the 2013 Governors Bay Christmas awards. I know you have an important part to play in Christmas. You are the mother of Jesus. Wow you must have a really amazing story to tell so please share it with us here today and for all the viewers at home…

"Mary" on the red Carpet

“Mary” on the red Carpet

Mary: Look I am just a girl who believes in God. A while back I got the fright of my life, first when an angel appeared and then when I was told I was pregnant, and I wasn’t planning that, not yet  – I hadn’t even got the wedding invitations out.

Interviewer: Crickey, an angel what was that like?

Mary: His name was Gabriel and he was big, bright and beautiful. He told me not to be afraid because I was going have God’s son.  I was pleased I was already sitting down when he said that. Can you imagine being chosen to have God’s son. But wait there’s more …. my cousin Elizabeth who hadn’t been able to get pregnant was going to have a baby too, at the same time, so I went to see her to give glory to God for our babies and, of course, swap swollen ankle stories.

Interviewer: It must have been nice to have some relaxation before the birth.

Mary: Relaxation, if only! Just after I got back from Elizabeth’s, Joseph tells me we have to go to Bethlehem and the only transport left is a donkey. I suppose it is better than having to walk the whole way.

Interviewer: Thanks for your time Mary. You really were blessed by God weren’t you.

Song: Mary’s Boy Child

 JOSEPH
Interviewer: Hi Joseph. I gotta say it must have been bad news to hear that Mary was pregnant. First because you weren’t married, and even worse than that, it wasn’t your baby. So come on tell us your Christmas story.

"Joseph" tells his story

“Joseph” tells his story

Joseph: Mary and I were sorting out the wedding – well, Mary was. She loves organising all that.  And, yeah, I was not happy when Mary told me she was pregnant because I knew it wasn’t my baby.  Nazareth is a small town and everybody knows everybody, and of course that also means everybody knows everybody’s business. I really wanted to do the right thing and stay with her, but I was thinking about breaking up.

Interviewer: I didn’t know you were going to break up. So why did you stay?

Joseph: I had a visit from an angel who told me that God was the father of Mary’s baby, and I was to name the baby Jesus. Well that settled it for me, I wasn’t going to argue with an angel  – would you? So  straight away I married Mary, but just before the baby was born we had to go Bethlehem.

Interviewer: Bethlehem that’s about 130km from Nazareth – like going from Governors Bay to Hanmer Springs. It must have been something important to go to, especially with Mary just about to give birth.

Joseph: Yeah, it was very important. The Roman Emperor ordered a census, which meant you had to go back to where your family came from. I come from the tribe of David and our home town is Bethlehem. Pregnant or not we had to go, so we packed up and went on a road trip. There are quite a lot of us now from the tribe of David, so Bethlehem was busy, but we finally got somewhere to stay. That was lucky because pretty soon after that Mary gave birth to our son. We were in with the animals mind you. Did you know I am a carpenter? I just wish I could have carried all my tools to make a cot. We had to lie our baby in a manger. A manger! .. you know, that thing they put hay in to feed the animals. Wasn’t made that well either!

Interviewer: Thanks Joseph. We can see what a special guy you are because God chose you to raise his son. And I’d like to add what a great man that son turned out to be.

Song: Away in a manger

 INNKEEPER
Interviewer: And look here comes the innkeeper whose place was where Jesus was born. Hang on, I will try get a word with him as he goes past. Hi, I’m from WWJD TV. Can you please give us a moment to hear your story?

Our Innkeeper looks back on a profitable time

Our Innkeeper looks back on a profitable time

Innkeeper: Yeah, sure. I’m Donald from The Do Duck Inn. Mention you saw me on TV tonight and you can have a 5% discount on the room rate!
Well that first Christmas it was real busy. Bethlehem was the home town for the tribe of David, so it was like a huge family reunion. I filled up every room we had – and at a full rate price too. But all these people kept knocking on the door even though I had a sign out saying there was no room in the inn.  Then a couple came to the door, and I was about to turn them away like all the others, but I saw the woman- she was pretty close to having a baby and if that happened I could charge for another person!
So I let them sleep with the animals. No way was I giving them my bed. My bed is made from beautiful exotic wood, carved by the best artists and my sheets are made from the finest Egyptian cotton. They’re weren’t royalty you know, just from that small town of Nazareth. Nothing good will ever come from Nazareth.
I remember their names too, Mary and Joseph. Mary – how common! Everyone these days is called Mary. And they had visitors all night too. How did all these people hear about the birth of the baby? Someone must have posted it on Facebook.

Interviewer: Great, thanks for that, all the best at the awards.

Song: Knock on Another Door (Starshine Singers, from A Wriggly Nativity)

 ANGELS
Interviewer: Well this lot need no introduction…..here come the angels. I love you all! I have an angel at the top of our Christmas tree at home. So how was that first Christmas for you?

The Awesome Angels!

The Awesome Angels!

Angel: What a busy time we angels had with the birth of Jesus. It was brilliant! We hadn’t been that busy… ever. I always love seeing how those people react – sometimes frightened  like this (pulls face), sometimes surprised like this (pulls face) and sometimes both like this!!! Remember Mary – she did both faces. Her and Joseph were really surprised finding out there was an unexpected baby on the way, and it was God’s son too. Gabriel was the angel who visited Mary. Pretty scary seeing Gabriel, mind you; he is really big and really shiny. I would just like to say if you ever see an angel we aren’t scary at all.

Interviewer: So some of you angels visited Mary and Joseph, the parents of Jesus. Did you scare… I mean visit… anyone else?

Angel: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Gabriel went to tell some shepherds about Jesus being born, and they were NOT happy to see him. But when a whole heap of us angels joined Gabriel and we sang the shepherds beautiful songs of praise to God, they weren’t scared anymore and took off into Bethlehem to find Jesus.Thank goodness we got the next few days off!

Interviewer: It must have such a busy and exciting time as you raced around telling everyone about God’s son, Jesus, coming here to earth. Just like you are doing again today – telling all these people about that the very first Christmas,  the day when Jesus was born.

Song: Hark! the Herald Angels Sing

 SHEPHERDS

The Shepherds: some of those sheep seem rather lively!

The Shepherds: some of those sheep seem rather lively!

Interviewer: So, hello shepherds! I am pleased to see you could get some time off work and come to the Governors Bay Christmas Awards. As you can see it is a big event here, look at all the people who have come to see the Christmas celebrities. I bet you became celebrities in Bethlehem after that first Christmas.

Chief Shepherd: Celebrities? You betcha! Everyone wanted our autographs after that night. It started out normal enough. We had eaten our tea and were settled in watching the sheep. Then this humungous angel appears! I thought I was seeing things but everyone else was freaking out too.

Interviewer: Can you remember what the angel said to you?

Shepherd: Remember? I can’t forget that night, ever. Well first he said not to be afraid – Yeah right! He said the Saviour, the Messiah, was in Bethlehem. That’s our town. And he said we will find a baby wrapped in cloths lying in a manger. Now that’s the oddest thing, because we have been waiting for the one to save us for  generations and he said we would find a baby lying amongst the animals. The animals!

Interviewer: This Christmas story sure has some exciting parts in it.

Shepherd: Hang on, it gets better. So we have one angel, right. Next thing there are so many angels in the night sky that it is as bright as day. And the coolest part is they all begin singing praises to God. It was better than a Justin Bieber, One Direction and a Selina Gomez concert all rolled into one. After that the angels disappeared, and so did we.

Interviewer: What you went to heaven too?

Shepherd: No! We raced into Bethlehem to find the baby and tell everyone about it. We haven’t stopped talking about yet either.

Interviewer: Thank you for your time. What a life changing experience for some shepherds to have.

Shepherd: Here is our agents card, we now do radio and TV interviews, giving our firsthand account of Christmas.

Song: While Shepherds watched their flocks

 THREE WISE PEOPLE
Interviewer: Oh look we have got some interesting looking characters arriving now. Let’s see why they are here at the Christmas Awards.

(Enter three Wise Persons, being led by person carrying star on a stick)

Wise Person 1: Greetings and salutations. We are accredited representatives from the Oriental Association for nocturnal observers of celestial bodies.

Wise Person 3: HUH?

Wise Person 2: We’re stargazers from the East!

Wise Person 1: Affirmative.  In accordance with our customary nocturnal activities…

Wise Person 3: HUH?

Wise Person 2: Let me do this – we are wise, not geniuses! No one will ever understand what happened if you keep talking like that.

Interviewer: Whew, Thank you

The Wise Persons (and star)

The Wise Persons (and star)

Wise Person 2: We noticed a bright star appear in the sky in such a place and formation that we realised a new King of the Jews had been born. We would have arrived sooner in Bethlehem had the maps in the GPS been updated. It wasn’t my fault, someone (secret pointing to WP3) else was in charge of navigation. Really I don’t know why she is even in the wisest of the wise club, because she’s not that clever.Interviewer: So how did you find this new baby king?

Wise Person 2: The first obvious place was to ask the current King, King Herod, but he didn’t know anything about it. Luckily the other GPS worked.

Interviewer: The other GPS, what’s that?

Wise Person 2: Glowing Prominent Star, of course.

Interviewer: Yes of course!

Wise Person 2: So we followed the star all they way to Jesus. We had brought the baby special gifts with us from the east.

Interviewer: What did you get him?

Wise Person 2: I gave gold, she gave frankincense, a very special perfume. And she gave myrrh – an oil for rubbing on dead bodies! It was a baby we were going to visit! I told you, not so bright.

Interviewer: It must have been easier going back home, the same way?

Wise Person 2: Oh no, we didn’t do that. God had warned us in a dream that King Herod was not going to worship Jesus. The King was not happy knowing there was now someone new who would take his throne, and we did not to be any part of that thank you very much!

Interviewer: No, thank you very much for your time today.

Song: We three Kings

CONCLUSION
Interviewer: I am so excited! I can’t wait to meet Jesus. I wonder when he will get here today? That might be him coming down the red carpet now…
(another person comes up and whispers to the interviewer)
What? He’s not coming? But Christmas isn’t Christmas without Jesus! It even has his name in it  – Christ-mas. What am I going to tell everyone? How will they get to meet him?
(more whispering)
God’s gift to us was Jesus, who was born on Christmas Day. Not a gift just for that  day but for everyday. If you want to hear his side of the story…ask him yourself, he would love to hear from you.

Song: Joy to the World

All of the Celebrity Guests, with Interviewer

All of the Celebrity Guests, with Interviewer


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Blurred Vision- John 9: 1-12

This week our service was about Jesus healing the man who had been blind from birth – the one in John 9 where Jesus puts mud on the man’s eyes and tells him to go and wash. We thought about how hard it can be to tell what things are when we can’t use out eyes – for example, how do you describe the colour yellow?

So our GAME was “guess the object”. We made two sets of six canvas bags and had different things in each one. Our two teams then had to work out what was in there just by touch – no cheating and pulling anything out to see what it was. We used:

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  • Sandpaper
  • Wet Wipes
  • Cotton wool balls
  • Feathers
  • Lego
  • Rice

But, of course, there are a huge variety of other tactile things you could use.

 

THE CRAFT:
For this we had cardboard glasses to be decorated. The “glasses” were already cut out, but if you have older children, or more time, you may want them to cut them out themselves. It can be a wee bit fiddly though. I have an oval hole punch which I used for the eye holes. You can download our template for these here:Glasses template

To make the glasses fit, wrap the arms around the child’s head, mark where they overlap, then cut a small, wedge-shaped slit on each arm – at the top on one arm, and the bottom on the other. When you put the glasses back on, lap the slits into each other, and the glasses will stay put.

We had glitter glue, feathers, paper stickers, foam stickers, and sticky paper to use to personalise our glasses – and don’t we all look gorgeous!
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THE MESSAGE:
(Verse 1-2) As Jesus was walking along, he saw a man who had been born blind. His disciples asked him, “Teacher, whose sin caused him to be born blind? Was it his own or his parent’s sin?”

Back in the time of Jesus, it was believed if someone did something wrong (especially really wrong) it would affect themselves, their children, their children’s children  – and so on. That also meant you could be affected by something wrong that your parents did, your grandparents did and so on as well. It went both ways in the family line.

I wonder if this blind man’s family looked at each other wondering what they’d done to cause his blindness. I wonder if they looked at themselves and felt it something they had done, and lived with the shame and guilt.

What a thought. I couldn’t bear the idea that something I could do would adversely affect Luke, or his children. What a lot of responsibility to bear  – what a cloud to live under if you believed that.

As I stand in front of you I have not lived a saintly life, and there was a time that I didn’t do what God would want me to. There are things I have done that were really wrong, sins I have committed that now lay at the foot of the cross, and not over my life – or my family’s.

Verse 3: Jesus answered, “His blindness has nothing to do with this man’s sins or his parent’s sins. He is blind so that God’s power might be seen at work in him.”
God is a miracle worker. He has the power to make a blind man see – he changed this man’s life. This blind man would be able to work now, he could find himself a wife and have a family, he would no longer be reliant on begging for his daily food. His life was radically turned around. God is a miracle worker – his power can be seen in your life. He can radically turn your life around.

Sometimes we do not see what Jesus is trying to show us. Let us take a moment and ask for Jesus to reveal something to us. Open our eyes, open our minds, open our hearts, open our Spirit to receive what God would like us to see.

Vanessa

 

 


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A Wildlife Encounter – Daniel 6: 1-23

A couple of weeks ago we were looking at the story of Daniel in the Lions Den, and we had great fun playing this game, “Daniel, the Lion, and the King” from Expert Village

 

THE MESSAGE:
Daniel is one of the people I remember clearly from the Bible Stories told in my childhood. I loved hearing about how he faced certain death: once in a fiery furnace (that’s another story) and again in the lion’s den. Don’t worry he survived both times. I remember that in both stories a King made a law that you weren’t allowed to worship or pray to God, and if you did – the punishment was death.

King Nebuchadnezzar had Daniel thrown in a fiery furnace, King Darius had Daniel thrown in a lions den. And as I said earlier, God protected him both times.

And so I came to look at the story of Daniel in the Lion’s Den thinking of how he stayed true to his faith and continued to pray to God even though he knew it would mean facing death. Prayer is the way we communicate with God. It is the way we form and grow our relationship with him and to Daniel prayer was more precious than life, even more important than life. “You will have to take my life before you take my prayer”? Is that something you could say? Could you dare to be a Daniel?

Earlier I said I remember clearly the story of Daniel in the lions’ den, but I don’t remember anything about King Darius. But this time I won’t forget him. King Darius was the new ruler of Babylon, and he wanted to keep a close eye on his empire. There was a lot of corruption as people in the King’s service were stealing from him.  King Darius wanted that to stop so he appointed people to help him. Daniel began to shine. He was wise, faithful, honest and had integrity. Here was a man that could really help King Darius run things, and so he decided to make Daniel in charge of everyone. That would be good news for Daniel, but bad news for everyone else. Daniel wouldn’t steal and they would have to stop stealing, or they would have to stop Daniel. They can’t find any fault in Daniel’s work so they look to find fault in Daniel. These men are cunning and get King Darius to pass a special 30 day law that can not be changed – a law stopping any form of prayer. This law was aimed directly at Daniel with both barrels loaded. But it had much wider ramifications. It not only affected Daniel, but every faithful Jew in Babylon could also have been charged, convicted, and put to death if they too continued to pray to God.

King Darius didn’t realise that it would be stopping Daniel from praying, which Daniel did 3 times a day. Daniel stayed true to his faith, and continued talking to God, continued praying as he had always done even with the very real threat of death in the lions den. So of course Daniel is caught and taken to the King.

Now I am just going to summarise verses14-20:
This was not King Darius’ idea. King Darius did not want to send Daniel to the Lions den. He worked hard all day to find some way to rescue Daniel. But the law he made had to be enforced. King Darius reluctantly takes Daniel to the lions and the last words he says to Daniel are these “May your God whom you are serving continually save you.” The stone gets rolled across, and King Darius places his own royal seal on the stone so no one could rescue Daniel. Then he walks away. That night King Darius doesn’t eat or sleep. First thing in the morning as soon there is light, he hurries down not knowing what he would find and calls out “Daniel, servant of the Living God, has your God whom you serve continually been able to rescue you from the lions?”

And that is what I now find very interesting about this story. Although it is called Daniel in the Lions Den, these verses are actually all about the King. Daniel and Daniel’s God sure had his attention. This makes me think about our lives  and wonder who is watching us and wondering when the Lord will show up. When He is constantly healing, working, and bringing life to us – are we paying enough attention to notice our daily blessings?  Enough for others to take notice? Are we actually recognising and praising Him for the little or large lion’s dens we face where we can show our faith in God? Is His presence in our lives making a difference in those around us?

My final note is a word that frequently and repeatedly kept popping up again and again in my message. I mean CONTINUALLY. Daniel served and prayed to God continually and others saw that. And it was through that frequent contact with God that made Daniel shine. That made others take notice: there were those who wanted him dead and then there was King Darius who wanted him to stay alive. The way others learnt about God was through Daniel’s actions and God’s action in Daniel’s life.

Just think there are people we know who may not know God, and they could be watching us to see how God affects our lives. Just imagine if we stayed in continual, regular and frequent contact with God that it becomes the most important thing in our life, more important than life. Others may want to know more about God through our actions and God’s action in our lives. I simply ask again Could you dare to be a Daniel?

Vanessa


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A Wet Walk – Matthew 14:22-33

This week we were looking at the story of Jesus walking on water – and of Peter trying to do so too.

THE GAME:
We thought a game about crossing water was a good idea, so we designated the carpet area as “water” and distributed three “stepping stones” (made out of cardboard) to each team so that they could get across. So, three “stepping stones” – but there were four people in each team!

IMG_0836This is how the game is played:

  • First person puts down a “stepping stone” and stands on it, then puts down a second one in front of that and moves forward.
  • Second person moves onto the “stones”, passing forward the last “stone” so that it can go down at the front.
  • Now first two people stand on the front “stone”, next two people stand on the middle “stone”, and the last “stone” gets passed forward to become the front one.
  • Repeat the above step until everyone has reached the other side of the “water”!

Much of the fun of this comes in making the “stepping stones” only just big enough for two people. You can adjust the number of “stepping stones” you have, depending on how many people you have in each team, but never have enough so that you can have only one person on each “stone”. So, for three or four people, have three “stones”, for 5 people have four stones, and so on. To make it more challenging – perhaps where all the players are a bit older (we had a big mix of ages) – get the last person to carry the “stepping stone” forward, squeezing past their team mates on the front “stones”.

IMG_0840THE CRAFT:
Later on in the service we made boats out of walnut shells, with toothpick masts and paper sails. On the sails we had our memory verse:

“We must keep our eyes on Jesus” (Hebrews 12:2)

The masts were held in place with Blu-Tak, and several of the children drew eyes or stick figures on the sails.

 

THE MESSAGE:
Peter walks on water

Earlier that day Jesus had preached and performed the miracle of feeding 5000 people with 5 loaves and 2 fish. I would call that “a big day in the office.” Afterwards Jesus needed some time alone with God to pray. Take note, if you have had “a big day in the office”, before your next appointment recharge your batteries and have time in prayer –  Jesus did it, and so must we.

Now back to the story, Jesus sent the disciples out on the lake to go on before him. A big storm came up, a frighteningly scary storm, and then, while all this is raging around them, they see someone walking towards the boat, and they think it’s a ghost. Now I would be like “Seriously could this night get any worse.”

Then Jesus spoke: “It’s me,” and out of all the disciples, Peter was the one who called back. “If it is you, command me to come.” Peter didn’t want to asked and be given the option to say no, he wanted to be told, and so Jesus said “Come.” Peter got out of the boat and walked on water to Jesus. He had his eyes fixed on Jesus and he was walking on water with the storm raging around him. When Peter obeyed Jesus and moved out in faith, he walked on water.

The others stayed in the safety of the boat, they had faith in the boat.
What’s your boat? When life gets stormy, where or what do you put your faith in?

Peter had to leave the safety of the boat, step out of his comfort zone, and do the impossible. Peter had his eyes fixed firmly on Jesus to the exclusion of everything that was happening around him – the wind and the waves – and he walked on water towards Jesus, to the one who had called him to come.

Jesus knew about the storm coming and yet he told the disciples to go out on the lake. In the midst of the storm, Jesus walked out to them. And Peter went to meet him – with his eyes on Jesus. But then he noticed the waves, he felt the wind and thought “what am I doing,” and when his focus shifted, he started to sink and cried out in fear. Instantly, just like that, Jesus reached out and held Peter and said “You of little faith – why did you doubt?”  And for this failure, many who have read this have given Peter a hard time.

But there is such a positive truth about this story; when we fail, when we are in the middle of a storm and call out to Jesus, instantly and immediately he is there holding our hand. We are never alone – even if it looks and feels like it.

Peter experienced a miracle – he was the only one to have walked on water. He experienced the joy of being saved by Jesus in his moment of fear. Peter shared a moment and a connection the others didn’t – they never left the boat.

Had there been no storm, none of this would have happened. Peter’s faith wouldn’t have been tested. Growth and fear go together. It is always scary to do something new. Growth requires us to take on new challenges, and it is our faith that conquers the fear and doubts. If Jesus has called you, don’t worry about sinking. Remember, keep your eyes on Jesus and call out for his hand when you need him. He will be there instantly.

 Vanessa

THE PRAYERS:

Lord, we come before You this morning, reaching for Your outstretched hand, crying “Lord, save me!”
You hear.

When we keep our eyes on you,
we know that we are safe from the storm.

We pray that the eyes of all in authority and power may become focused on You, lord, that they may work with honesty and integrity for the good of those that they lead. Lead them to know that –
when we keep our eyes on you,
we know that we are safe from the storm.

We pray for Your church in this world, and particularly in this place. Let us be lights for others, that they may be led into the light of Your grace, and come to focus their eyes on You. For,
when we keep our eyes on you,
we know that we are safe from the storm.

We pray for all who suffer, in body, mind or spirit, that they may know Your healing touch in their lives. We bring to you especially ……(name those whose suffering we wish to bring to God)
when we keep our eyes on you,
we know that we are safe from the storm.

We commend to you those who have died, and we pray for those who mourn, who seek answers to the losses they have suffered. In all that we think we have lost,
when we keep our eyes on you,
we know that we are safe from the storm.

Lord, we come before You this morning, reaching for Your outstretched hand, crying “Lord, save me!”

You hear.

Amen

Gail


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Healing at the Pool – John 5: 1-8

Recently we looked at Jesus’ healing of the lame man at the pool of Bethsaida. Instead of reading the story from the Bible ourselves, we used this clip from the the Visual Bible:

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For our craft we made “rock pools” using blue plastic plates (I found some with a wavy pattern on them) and small stones and rocks glued on the edges. Only problem we found was that the glue took a while to set, so the stones were not securely attached when the children were taking the plates home – caution was advised.

 

_____________________________________________________________________________________________________

The Message:

Let me ask you a question? Do you want a chocolate? Wow that was a quick answer. Let’s look again at what the man answered when Jesus asked him if he wanted to be well? 
(Here we showed the clip again from 0.54 to 1.13)

He had been sick for 38 years, not minutes, not days, not weeks…. 38 years. And he was there waiting to get into the bubbling pool to be healed, and had been beaten to it every single time. You would think if someone asked if he wanted to be well, it would a very quick yes, but it wasn’t. Instead he answered why he CAN’T get well. When Jesus asked this man the question he had wanted for 38 years to come true, he hadn’t listened to Jesus speaking to him. Instead he was focused on himself and not present in that moment. He said what he would have told himself time and time again so it became an automatic response.

What if Jesus was right here, right now standing in front of you and asks “do you want to be well?” “Do you want to be all God intended you to be when He made you?”

Do you hear Jesus or what you have been saying to yourself time and time again?

“But you don’t understand I have a lot on at the moment”

“But I don’t deserve it, someone else always gets your blessing, not me”

“But I like being taken care of”

“But I know this life, I don’t know what that kind of life that would be like- too scary for me to give you control”

‘But……..”

Jesus heard not his words but his heart, and gave him the answer to being well. And this man didn’t even know it was Jesus, the well-known healer, the Son of God.

Jesus told him “Rise, take up your bed and walk” He did and was healed. How many times had he struggled to do just this – and instead of listening to his excuses – this time he listened, believed, trusted and obeyed Jesus and he got the miracle of healing he had wanted.
(show clip from 1.13- to 2.08)

Once again we see that the miracle is the unexpected. How did God bring down the city walls of Jericho? Have Joshua’s army march around them. How did Jesus heal a lame man? Tell him to get up. Joshua wanted to take the city of Jericho and trusted and obeyed what God told him to do.  The lame man wanted to be well and trusted and obeyed what Jesus told him to do. And I believe it is in our trust and obedience that miracles happen.

Vanessa

 

The Prayers:

Lord, the noise of our own self-importance fills this world, deafening us to your words, blinding us to the possibilities you lay before us, and closing our minds to the miracles you want to work in our lives.

We take at face value the accepted knowledge of the world, failing to open ourselves to your infinite grace and healing gifts.

At a time when conflicts are increasing, when world neighbours turn against each other, when a decision taken in one country causes terror and grief in another, open our ears to hear your voice.

Where the world speaks words of hate and war
Let your words of peace and reconciliation be heard

Where the world speaks words of sorrow and despair
Let your words of comfort and hope be heard

Where the world speaks words of sickness and mourning
Let your words of healing and strength be heard

Where the world speaks words of selfishness and self-reliance
Let your words of love for one another be heard

Where the world speaks … let us instead listen to you, Lord,
and hear your words of grace and forgiveness in our lives every day.

Amen


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Why we don’t go on Retreats

We don’t do Retreats. Just not our thing.

In a couple of weeks three of us are going away overnight to Te Waiora House –a Christian Retreat Centre in Hororata.

But we’re not going on Retreat.

We will spend time – individually and collectively – in prayer, immersing ourselves in God’s presence, and seeking His will for us.
But we’re not going on Retreat.

We will have some time working on an outline of the services over the next few months, and planning and fine-tuning the children’s Christmas Service (because that’s not too far away!)
But we’re not going on Retreat.

We hope that this time will refresh us, and renew us to continue the work God has called us for in our community.
But we’re not going on Retreat.

Let me explain: the first time we went away on such a weekend, we set a date, then conferred with our husbands to ensure that there were no clashes and that they were happy for us to go away then. Vanessa told her husband “this is the weekend we are planning to go away on Retreat – is that okay with you?” And he said “No”!
He said “you should never Retreat, or look backwards. You should always look to the future and go forwards.”

So we don’t go on a Retreat – we go on an Advance. And we are so looking forward to the future God has planned for us!


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Joshua and the Battle of Jericho

Luke enthusiastically blowing to make the walls fall down!

Luke enthusiastically blowing to make the walls fall down!

Joshua 6: 1-27

For our telling of the story of the Battle of Jericho last week, we looked at it from the point of view of some of those involved.

We built “City Walls” from building blocks on a piece of board, and walked around this after hearing from each person. For the final “day”, after we had gone around  seven times, we banged on the board that the “City Walls” were on so that they fell down. We also made “trumpets” to be blown whilst walking around the walls, and you can find those instructions at the end of this post.

We started and ended with Joshua speaking; the other parts can be in any order.

Day 1: Joshua
Now, I know I’m new to this leading armies lark, but these are the strangest instructions I’ve ever come across for defeating a city! But still, you know what they say, “the Lord works in mysterious ways”.

So, all the fighting men, fully armed. Check.
The Ark of the Covenant carried in front of the soldiers. Check.
Seven Priest blowing trumpets in front of them. Check.  

Now remember, you men, do not give a war cry, do not raise your voices, do not say a word until the day I tell you to shout. Then shout! Once round the city, then back to camp for the night.  

Day 2: Soldier
Well, I must admit this wasn’t quite what I had in mind when I signed up to be a soldier. I was expecting lots of fighting – you know, swishing swords, clashing shields, that sort of thing, but there’s not been any sign of that recently.

Of course I knew there was going to be lots of marching – how else are we to get from one place to the next? But that’s just it – marching is for going from here to there – from point A to point B, if you like – not for going round and round in circles. Sorry, make that circle, singular.
But no, it’s “Hey ho lads – up before dawn, one quick march around the city, then that’s it for the day.”

Day 3: Jericho Citizen
So, that’s the famous Israelite army is it? A sight to strike fear into all our hearts? I don’t think so! You know, it’s only a couple of weeks ago that we heard that the whole Israelite nation had managed to cross over the River

Jordan without getting their feet wet. Rumour has it that their God dried up the river totally – and this is when it was in flood. Definitely gave us pause for thought – I mean, if they really had a God that powerful on their side, you could hardly blame a person for a bit of the old “hearts melting in fear” reaction.

But, if they really had a God that powerful on their side, why aren’t they attacking us instead of indulging in a daily stroll? No, definitely don’t think too much of their tactics. What do they think they’re going to do – walk the city into surrender?

Day 4: Child
Mum, Mum, look. It’s the soldiers again.
Why do they come so early? They woke me up!
Why are they just walking round and round the city?  

Day 5: Priest
Excuse me if I have a bit of trouble making myself understood – mouth’s a bit sore from all the trumpet blowing, don’t you know. What was that? Am I in a marching band? Ha, ha, very funny.

You must admit we make quite a sight, all dressed up in our priestly robes, leading the procession around Jericho. And not just anyone can play those Ram’s horn trumpets you know – there is quite a technique involved in getting the sound just right.

Actually, I was quite honoured when I learnt that I’d been chosen as one of the seven trumpeters. What no-one told me was we’d be playing the same tune all the way around, every single day. Now, don’t get me wrong, I like the traditional music as much as anyone else –but surely a bit of variety wouldn’t do any harm!  

Day 6: Rahab
There they go again. Another day, another march past. I just hope those Israelite spies that I helped managed to get back to their camp – and most of all I hope they keep their promise to make sure me and my family are safe from harm.

I know it might seem strange that I am siding with the very people who want to destroy the city I have lived in all my life, but I’ve heard all about that God of theirs, how powerful he is, and how much he has done for his people, and I so long to be able to receive the same blessings for myself.

I’ve got Mum & Dad here, my brothers and the sisters-in-law, and all the nephews and nieces. Surely they must be taking the city soon. I’ll just tie this scarlet cord in the window like the spies told me to, so the soldiers know which is my house.

Day 7: Joshua
Listen up men! I’m sure you must all be thinking that this is a strange way to win a city, but I think we should all have got used to the fact by now that God has his own ways of getting things done. I am proud of you all for your unquestioning obedience over the last six days – and especially pleased with you all managing to keep silence during our daily marches. You will all be pleased to know that today is the day!

Today, instead of once round Jericho, we go round seven times. You still need to keep quiet when you’re marching, and the Priests will still be blowing on their trumpets. But, at the end of our seventh time around the Priests will blow a long blast on the trumpets, and that’s the cue for you all to let rip with your voices. Shout out loud – praise the Lord with all the strength of your lungs because He has given you the city!

 

Conclusion:

The Battle of Jericho is the first battle of the Israelites during their conquest of the land of Canaan. The army was ready. They had been training to get into battle mode. They had the right fighting stuff – armour, swords, shields, bows and arrows. And this was the first battle of the campaign. There was  anticipation and there was excitement…Now let’s get ready to rumble!

It starts out normal enough – send in spies to see what the enemy is up to before going into battle. Find out where the guards were placed, whether anyone disliked the king and could help them, what weapons and armour the guards had, when the guards changed shifts, how much food, water, and other supplies the city had, and the height and width of the walls to determine how to overcome the city. I would say that is very normal battle tactics, and those tactics are still used today.

God had given specific instructions for battle to Joshua. We have just read and even been and acted out that battle. And I can’t think of any part of that battle that is normal battle tactics! When you were pretending to be a soldier all ready for battle and then had to be quiet and walk around the city you were ready to fight, what did you think?

I have spent a while thinking about this reading and realised our God is not a “normal” God. He likes to mix it up, do it different. I think we tend to put our human expectations and limitations on Him. He enters a city by walking around it for seven days so that the walls fall down with a shout. Not normal.

God likes to do the unexpected but it always takes something on our part first, – then in the Bible and now today. Faith and obedience. Joshua and his army obeyed God’s word, trusted in God’s promises, and were rewarded with the fulfilment of God’s promises to them.

If you are getting ready for battle, are fighting with something – simply ask God for instructions, have faith it will happen and obey Him. It may not be what YOU think will happen, but, hey, remember our God is not a normal God restricted by our understanding and limitations.

 

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Make a “Trumpet”

You will need:IMG_0698

Drinking straws
Baking paper
Card/advertising flyers
Sellotape
Scissors

For each “trumpet” cut the straw to about 4 or 5 cm long; cut a piece oIMG_0700f baking paper 4mm wide and 14 cm long. Fold this in half, ensuring that if the paper curls at all, the two loose ends curl towards each other. Feed the baking paper into the piece of straw so that the loose ends are just inside the end of the straw and the folded end sticks out. Bend the folded end over the end of the straw and tape it down. Now, blow through the straw from the end where the paper is taped down – the loose ends vibrating inside the straw will make a noise.

Now make a cone shape out of card, or recycle by using stiff paper advertising flyers. Push the straw into the narrow end of the cone and blow – the noise is amplified, and you have a “trumpet”!

IMG_0701

IMG_0704

 

 

 

 

 


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Elijah & the Prophets of Baal – 1 Kings 18

Last week we looked a the story of the Contest on Mount Carmel between Elijah and the Prophets of Baal. We illustrated our retelling of the story with two “altars” made out of cardboard boxes with cellophane flames. The altar for God had a hidden container into which we could pour water, before the flames were lit up from inside the box by a couple of torches being waved about.

The Story:
Well, we have been having an awful lot of rain recently, although I’m pleased to see that we actually have sun shining today. It is nice when the rain holds off for a bit – how long do you think would be good for us to go without rain? A week; a month; 2 months; a year?

How about 3 years? – would that be good? What sort of problems could that cause?

Well, I have a story about a time when there had been no rain in Israel for over 3 years. And why had there been no rain? Because the King, and most of the people, of Israel had turned away from God, worshipping false foreign gods. Most specifically they worshipped Baal, who was supposedly the god in charge of the rains. Now the prophet Elijah was sent by God to the King – King Ahab – to tell him that there would be no more rain – not even any dew on the ground – until the Lord God said so. So, three and a half years later and there has been no rain. The people have got fantastic suntans, but the food’s not growing very well, and there’s certainly no lounging around the pool – no pools!

Time for Elijah to put in another appearance:
“Hey, King Ahab. You getting thirsty yet? Are you ready to admit that there is only one true God and turn away from worshipping Baal?”

The answer was a definite NO!

“And what about you people of Israel? You can’t seem to make up your minds at all – if the Lord is God, follow him. If Baal is god, follow him. You can’t have it both ways”

The people just mumbled and looked the other way.

So Elijah proposed a contest “let’s see who is the real deal – Baal, or the Lord God. Only one of them is the true God, so lets get them to show us which one it is! This is what we’ll do. We’ll go up to the top of Mount Carmel – all the prophets of Baal, and all the prophets of the Lord God. Now how many prophets have you got? 450. Okay, and how many prophets of the Lord God are there? Oh, that’s right, I’m the last one left. I do enjoy a fair challenge!”

The prophets of Baal built an altar. They piled it high with plenty of wood, then they chose a bull as a sacrifice, killed it and put it on top of the wood. What they didn’t bring was any matches, or lighters (they didn’t have them in those days), not even any flint to strike sparks with. Remember, this was to be a show down between Baal and the real God, so they had to get their god to light the fire. Feeling very confident they called out to Baal “Light the fire! Light the fire!” All 450 of them. All at the same time. But no flames appeared.

So they threw in a bit more showmanship – shouting out; dancing and leaping about; singing; they even started cutting themselves with knives! But, still no flames.

This went on for about three hours. Round about lunchtime Elijah started ribbing them about the lack of progress. “What? Can’t he hear you? Could be he’s gone out for the day. Maybe he’s sleeping and you need to wake him up! Or perhaps he’s a bit hard of hearing – shout louder!

The 450 prophets redoubled their efforts – more noise! More dancing! More shouting! But still, no flames.

The evening came and they were all getting a bit hoarse – probably cold as well because, guess what? Still no flames!

Now it was Elijah’s turn. Just Elijah, all by himself. “People of Israel,” he said. “Come here and pay attention to me.” He took 12 stones – one for each of the 12 tribes of Israel – and repaired the altar of the Lord God, which was in ruins. He piled wood on the altar; he dug a trench around the altar; he killed his own bull and put that on top of the wood. And then…. well, he asked for water. Four large jars of it. And what did he do with the water? He had it poured all over the wood. Then he asked for four more jars and did the same with them. And then four more jars.

So there he is, with this soaking wet sacrifice on top of a soaking wet pile of wood on top of a soaking wet stone altar. Elijah lifted his arms and prayed “O Lord, God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, let it be known today that you are God in Israel, and that I am your servant and have done all these things at your command. Answer me, O Lord, so that these people will know that you are God, and turn their hearts back to you again.”

And the flames came. The fire of the Lord God burnt so fiercely that not only the sacrifice and the wood were destroyed, but the stones vapourised in the heat; the earth all around was scorched, and the water in the trench surrounding the altar evaporated.

The people fell to the ground in fear and amazement – they now knew the truth, and cried out “The Lord – he is God! The Lord – he is God!”

But what about the rain?

Elijah sent his servant to look towards the sea. And all that he could see was blue skies – far into the distance, and as far as the horizon; blue skies.

Elijah sent him back for another look. Still nothing. Seven times Elijah sent him to look towards the sea, and the seventh time the servant reported “A cloud as small as a man’s hand is rising from the sea.” And the sky grew black with clouds, the wind rose, and the Lord God sent a heavy rain on to the land of Israel, where the people had now turned away from Baal, proclaiming the Lord God to be the one true God.

 

The Message:
This was a story from the Bible I don’t remember hearing before  – and I loooove it, laugh out loud love it. I love the story of the challenge, one for God, 450 for Baal. I love how Elijah drenched  everything in water just to make it interesting, prove a point, push the limits, and how God didn’t just light the fire it was such an over-the-top bonfire the water evaporated and burnt everything to a cinder – and in my head I hear na na na na na.  I love this story it appeals to my sense of humour. And yes it is a good story but that is not why we chose to share it with you today.

So from this story – what can we learn about God? What can we learn about ourselves?

Elijah said “If the Lord is God follow him. If Baal is god, follow him. You can’t have it both ways.The first Commandment: You shall have NO other Gods but me.

Jesus said: Love the Lord God with ALL your heart, mind and soul. This is the greatest and the most important commandment.

We don’t put God first. I don’t put God first – not all the time, that’s the truth. I think I will have time to read the Bible, or have some time with him later, but the day disappears before I get to it, and that’s OK because I will do it tomorrow, really I will. Sometimes I don’t.

I have been thinking…. what is it that we are putting before God. In today’s society there is more emphasis on Jesus’s second commandment “You shall love others as you love yourself“ than on the first. You are taught to show respect, be kind to one another and to have good morals, but there is a growing resistance to having the Bible taught in schools. There is a resurgence of people looking for God in all kinds of spiritual ways – but not Jesus. And what is this new thing that at Christmas as a society we are starting to say Happy Holidays to each other instead of Merry Christmas. Why? because it refers to Christ and we don’t want to offend anyone who isn’t a Christian. It is Christmas – it has Jesus’ name in it, not to mention it celebrates the day he was born.

Where has God gone? We can’t change society or our community, we can’t change our friends, or our husband, wife, or children. Don’t look at anyone else – look up at God and then look in the mirror. That is who God wants to know and that is who he wants to change. And then, it is only through God that everything can change.

In this moment, lets stop and ask if there is anything in your life that takes precedence over God, where God doesn’t come first – you can’t have it both ways.

Elijah soaked everything in water so it would be so impossible to light a fire – it would take an act of God; it would take a miracle. There are symbols in the Bible that represent the Holy Spirit – a dove, wind, water and fire. Water and fire. Elijah was soaking the whole moment in the Holy Spirit. When you are praying for God to show himself and feeling outnumbered or alone – do an Elijah and soak that moment in the Holy Spirit, stand back and get ready for a miracle. Hey – even expect a miracle, it can get quite exciting. God likes to do the hard stuff, it shows that he is the one true God.

And so all the people turn fully towards God, not sharing him with any other worship. Then after a 3 year draught, the rain came, just like that – no. Elijah sent his servant out seven times to look for clouds. For the big bonfire moment, Elijah prayed and BOOM – action. Rain – that took time. Sometimes the miracle is BOOM just like that, sometimes it takes time, it just always happens in God’s perfect timing.

Vanessa

The Prayers:
Amidst the noise around us, the crying out in desperation for answers from today’s false gods, let us be still.

Let us lift our eyes to the Lord God and send our cries and pleas to the only one who can answer us. Let us wait in confident expectation of a miracle.

We cry to you Lord God, for those afflicted with an abundance of rain, and those afflicted with not enough. Work your miracles through us, that all may have sufficient food and safe shelter.

We cry to you Lord God, for those who suffer at the hands of their own governments – the very people who should uphold their rights and welfare. Work your miracles, that all peoples may know freedom and security.

We cry to you Lord God, for all who suffer in body, mind, or spirit. Work your miracles that they may find the healing they need, in you, and through those who are your hands in this world.

We cry to you Lord God, for those who do not know you; those who do not know that they are lost, who do not know who to cry out to. Work your miracles through us Lord, that we will shine as beacons, leading them to you.

Let us lift our eyes to the Lord God and send our cries and pleas to the only one who can answer us. Let us wait in confident expectation of a miracle.

Amen

Gail