come and see

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


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Jonah

We just had to have a prop for the story of Jonah, so invited this whale to join us. And “thank you” to Sally for her placard – a timely reminder that God cares for all his creation.
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Telling the Story
Now although the Book of Jonah is only 4 chapters, it is still a bit long to read out in one go at a service, so we paraphrased it in a poem:

When God looked down on Nineveh town
He saw their wicked ways and He said, with a frown,
“They really must repent – I’ll send them a warning.
Jonah, my prophet, you can leave in the morning.”
Well Jonah made haste, and he left the next day,
Moving very fast – but he went the other way!
Visiting Nineveh wasn’t on his wish-list,
so he boarded a boat and headed for Tarshish.

A storm came up and the winds grew stronger –
the sailors said the boat wouldn’t last much longer.
Why did this happen – whose fault could it be?
Jonah took the blame and said “throw me in the sea.”
They threw him in the water and again set sail
But Jonah didn’t drown – he was swallowed by a whale!
Three days and nights he was in the whale’s belly,
Then was vomited out – boy! he was smelly!

This time Jonah headed in the right direction,
Taking to the Ninevites God’s message of correction
“Forty days is all you’ve got, then Nineveh is finished”
The people said “we’ll change our ways – we don’t want to perish”
The King himself heard Jonah’s words and made a proclamation
“Dress in sackcloth; eat no food; maybe that will spare this nation.
If we turn away from wicked ways God may be forgiving.”
And God, whose mercy knows no bounds, let them go on living.
(by Gail Weaver)

The Craft
IMG_1183We made this clothes peg fishes craft, and if you look closely you will see that Jonah is hiding just inside the fish’s belly. It is really simple – clothes pegs, pictures of big fish/whales, and small pictures of Jonah. Cut all the way through the fish’s body; glue the two halves to the peg – one to the top half, one to the bottom; glue Jonah on the back of the peg, but where he will be seen when the mouth is opened.

 

 

The Message
One of the books in the Old Testament part of the Bible is Jonah. The more I looked into the story of Jonah the more I giggled. He was a prophet – someone given the words of God to speak, but he didn’t want to. The hero, Jonah doesn’t want to obey God, and when he finally does he gets upset that God saved the people of Nineveh. How backwards is that! A whole book in the Bible talks about a man of God who doesn’t want to do what God has told him to – and even does the complete opposite. So I thought to myself, why would there be a whole book dedicated to someone who got stroppy with God?

God says go, Jonah says no, and heads in the opposite direction. Every step he took was a step further away from Nineveh. In the Bible it says Jonah ran away from God. Can we ever hide from our all-seeing all-knowing God? He see it all: the good, and the bad. He sees it all.

While still on the run Jonah was on a ship when a raging storm comes up, and Jonah is fast asleep. Everyone else is afraid and they wake Jonah up. He tells them in v12 “Pick me up and throw me into the sea, and it will become calm. I know that it is my fault that this great storm has come upon you.” The other sailors ask God for his forgiveness before throwing Jonah overboard to what they thought would be his death, but then the raging sea grew calm. Jonah must have thought this would be end of his life too, and then he couldn’t go to Nineveh. The perfect excuse not to do God’s calling – die!

But God really wanted Jonah to go to Nineveh, and so he sends another form of transport to get him there- a whale, which swallows him whole. God can even see Jonah in the stomach of a whale that was swimming in the sea. That truly is an all-seeing God with X-ray vision. We learn there is nowhere we can hide from God. In that smelly darkness, Jonah finally prays to God saying sorry for running away, and he will go and do what he was asked to. And so it says “and the Lord commanded the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land.” Yuk, Yuk, Yuk. The Bible has some really amazing stories in it doesn’t it.

So Jonah goes to Nineveh telling the people “Forty more days and Nineveh will be overthrown.” And then Jonah went away to watch would happen to the city. This was no great sermon, just 8 words. But the spirit of God is in those words. And all the people, including the king, turn from the wrong they were doing – just as God hoped they would. Jonah should be happy with such great results, but he isn’t. He didn’t want the people of Nineveh to be saved and despite his best efforts to do it badly, the people heard God in those words. God wanted to save them, even if Jonah didn’t want him to. God’s grace goes out to everyone, not just the ones we want it to.
Do we, like Jonah, want to keep God’s love from those we don’t like?
Do we hope for our enemies to get what’s coming to them?
For those who we don’t like and are doing well, do we hope that they might fail and lose it all?
Do we judge others harshly when we should be forgiving them?

As Jesus said in Matthew “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,” Give them love not hate.

Sometimes we don’t exactly rush out to answer God’s call either. Sometimes because we don’t believe it, sometimes because we don’t recognise it and, as in case of Jonah, sometimes because we do.

We have all been called by God. The call may be moving in a new direction, it may be doing something new or stop doing something old. Your journey with God is as unique as you are. And I truly believe that whatever God has called you to, God will go with you every step of your new journey. It’s your choice — you can do it God’s way or Jonah’s way.
(Vanessa)

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A Helping Hand – Luke 10: 25-37

When we looked at the Parable of the Good Samaritan a couple of weeks ago, we thought bandaging people up might be a good game. Well, large quantities of bandages can be a bit hard to get hold of, so we settled for toilet paper. We made it into a bit of a competition too, to see which team could cover their victim patient up most thoroughly in the shortest time. I think the idea is pretty self-explanatory, so go ahead and have fun. Thanks to our “volunteers” for submitting themselves to this!

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The Prayers:
Loving God,
When we talk of our neighbours we think of those who live next door to us.

But when you talk of neighbour you extend our neighbourhood,
to the whole world,to all kinds of people –
the young and the old, the good and the bad.
All those who come from other places,
and from backgrounds different to our own.

Today as we gather here and pray for your blessing on our families and our neighbourhood of St Cuthbert’s Parish, we also think of our brothers and sisters from all over the world thinking especially of your teachings of acceptance and love as you help us to live lives free of prejudice.

Rowena

The Message:
Luke 10: 25-37
A teacher of the Law came up and tried to trap Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to receive eternal life?”
Jesus answered him, “What do the Scriptures say? How do you interpret them?”
The man answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind’; and ‘Love your neighbour as you love yourself.’”
“You are right,” Jesus replied; “do this and you will live.”
But the teacher of the Law wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “Who is my neighbour?”
Jesus answered, “There was once a man who was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho when robbers attacked him, stripped him, and beat him up, leaving him half dead.
 It so happened that a priest was going down that road; but when he saw the man, he walked on by on the other side. In the same way a Levite also came there, went over and looked at the man, and then walked on by on the other side. But a Samaritan who was traveling that way came upon the man, and when he saw him, his heart was filled with pity. He went over to him, poured oil and wine on his wounds and bandaged them; then he put the man on his own animal and took him to an inn, where he took care of him. The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Take care of him,’ he told the innkeeper, ‘and when I come back this way, I will pay you whatever else you spend on him.’”
And Jesus concluded, “In your opinion, which one of these three acted like a neighbour toward the man attacked by the robbers?”
The teacher of the Law answered, “The one who was kind to him.”
Jesus replied, “You go, then, and do the same.”

As I was looking into different commentaries on this well known parable, I acknowledge the Bible Org for much of the following insight:

Jesus was getting a reputation of having the answers to the big questions, and sometimes he gave answers that were not expected, just as in this reading. A lawyer thought he would go up against Jesus with two questions, but it didn’t go quite as he had planned.

Jesus answers the first question with a question. To “What must I do to receive eternal life” Jesus asks him “What does the Law say?” The Jewish lawyer cleverly sums up the 10 commandments into two: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind’; and ‘Love your neighbour as you love yourself.’” Jesus wanted him to see what he knew. Jesus does not condemn anyone for what they do not understand. He condemns  for what they understand, but do not do.

But the lawyer keeps on going, wanting to justify himself, and asks “Who is my neighbour.” He wasn’t asking who lived next door. He was asking, “Who do I have the responsibility to care for?” as well as “Who can I avoid caring about?” In the next verse Jesus replied  – the Greek word used here means to “take up”; Jesus had been thrown a challenge and Jesus took him up on it. And so here comes the parable of the Good Samaritan.

The road between Jerusalem and Jericho was very steep and it was dangerous because of the many places for robbers to hide. In fact the name for the road was the Way of Blood. So this is a very believable story for those listening. Although Jesus does not identify the man going down to Jericho, since this was a Jewish audience they more than likely imagined a Jewish person. The man is robbed,wounded and left for dead.

And now onto the Priest and the Levite. A Levite is someone from the tribe of Levi and they held special positions and responsibilities in the temples. In the culture of that time, anyone who touched a dead person would be unclean. The Priest and Levite could have used the excuse that they didn’t want to touch the man because he might have been dead, and that would have kept them from serving God in the temple. BUT, the Priest and Levite were going “down the road.” Jerusalem, where the temple was, is on a hill. They were leaving Jerusalem and going home. They had just been to worship God but did not stop to help the wounded man. They understood about love but they did not show any love. Their refusal to love their neighbour casts doubt on their love for God.  1 John 4:20 “If we say we love God, but hate others, we are liars. For we cannot love God, whom we have not seen, if we do not love others, whom we have seen.”

And now to the Samaritan. Samaritans were seen as an inferior mixed race in the Jewish mind. The listeners would have thought he would pass by too, but look at his actions – he showed compassion. While the Jewish Priest and Levite passed by on the other side of the road, the Samaritan doesn’t. He moved towards the injured man. You must move toward someone in order to love, in order to build relationships. It doesn’t just happen and it isn’t convenient. The Samaritan is moving toward someone who would despise him and may not do the same if the situation were reversed.

When you feel like you want a relationship, maybe even a better or deeper relationship with someone, perhaps it is because you are waiting for something to happen. You are waiting for them to move toward you. Perhaps you need to take the initiative and move toward them. You can’t build relationships unless you do. The Samaritan stopped and took care of his wounds (oil and wine were the traveling first aid kit of the day). He put him on his own donkey and the Samaritan walked. He took the wounded man to an inn. He took the time to take care of him. In our society we are all so busy, that do we take time to reach out and help someone else. Even something small.

He also gave money to the innkeeper to take care of him, and put no limit on how much he would spend to see that the wounded man was taken care of. Remember that this is a Samaritan in enemy territory. He has just told one of his enemies (a Jewish landlord), “Here is my credit card. Do whatever you need to do to take care of him.” Talk about trust and vulnerability!!! This is also significant because both trust and vulnerability are also essential for loving others.

Which of these “proved to be a neighbour?” The obvious answer is that the Samaritan proved to be the “neighbour” to the wounded man. But the lawyer couldn’t even bring himself to say the word Samaritan, so he answered, “The one who showed mercy toward him.”

What did the man ask? “Who is my neighbour?” He was asking who and how much do I have to do to love. Love does not ask how far do I have to go. Love asks, “What can I do?”

And Jesus replied, “You go, then, and do the same.”

Vanessa

 

 


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Missing Pieces

“Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Doesn’t she light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.’ In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” (Luke 15:8-10)

We are doing a series of services on Parables that Jesus told and started with the story of the Lost Coin. In our reading and research we discovered theories that this might relate to the headdress of coins that respectable Jewish women would have had at that time, and decided to use this as the basis for our craft. We played a visual game with pictures of everyday things, and asked what was missing. Yes, they were all rather obvious, but it was fun to do. Click on the title below the picture for the .pdf file with all four pictures in it.
What's Missing

What’s Missing

After the Bible reading we used this retelling of the story from the point of view of the woman, which was written by Gail.

The Story
“Let me tell you a story.
Now you all know that I am married. My husband is not wealthy, but he is a considerate man and takes good care of me and the children.

My father wasn’t wealthy either, but he provided me with a fair dowry, enabling me to have my headband of silver coins – only 10, which is the minimum for a respectable woman – but as I said, he wasn’t wealthy.

Last Thursday was a bad day. I got up at the usual time, got dressed and went to put on my veil and headdress. But there was something wrong – there were only 9 coins there – one had come loose somehow! Well I searched through my clothes chest, but couldn’t find it there. Then I looked all over the floor, but still couldn’t see it.

I’m sure you can guess that I was by now panicking. My husband is a reasonable man, but even he would have had several words to say at the loss of such a thing – not to mention how people would look at me if I went around with a 9-coin headdress!

Well, after a while (and a few tears, I must confess) I took a deep breath and decided that I had to deal with this in a methodical way.

Firstly I went through my clothes chest again – took everything out and shook it, then felt in all the corners. No luck there, so it must be on the floor somewhere. I’d only put fresh straw down a couple of days before, but never mind that – it all had to be swept up. I lit a lamp so that I could see better, then I started in the far corner and swept out each area separately, shook out all the straw by hand and then replaced it. Two hours it took me – but I found my coin! It had rolled under the table. Must have been when I was clearing up after the meal the night before.

Well, I’m sure you can guess how happy – and relieved – I was! In fact I was so pleased I called my neighbours, Anna and Naomi, in to celebrate with me. That was a time of great rejoicing.”

 

The Craft
Coin Headdress 1For our craft we made “crown” headdresses and attached 10 silver coins to each one:

  • Take two strips of card and staple them at right angles to each other at either end (see picture). If you prefer you could make the shape a circle, which would just need one long strip of card.
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  • We used self-adhesive book cover to decorate the card; leave it as a roll, then cut a thin piece of the end through all the thicknesses to make long strips, which are then wrapped around the “crown”.
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  • The thread for hanging the coins off can either be attached as you wrap the shiny strips around, which will make it stick in place, or tied around afterwards. The second method is less fiddly, so a bit better for younger children.
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  • We used a round punch to make coins out of silver card. If you can’t get silver card – or it is a bit too expensive – you could use the self-adhesive book cover on both sides of thin card instead, and then punch out the circles.
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  • Use a normal hole punch to make a small hole in each coin, and then hang ten from each “crown”

 

 

The Message
Isn’t it terrible to lose something – not like a rubber band, but something important, a treasure. I know what I do, you go back to the last place you remember having it …. so then why do I end up looking in the silliest places in the hope of finding it? I mean are my glasses really going to be in the freezer?

Do you know what is worse? Losing someone. I lost Luke once. It’s OK I found him!. Heart rate up, trying to stay calm wanting to panic, trying not to cry – just talking about it brings back how I felt.
I have also been lost. It’s OK I was found— similar feelings to be honest.

Jesus wanted to tell us about being lost and found, not in the way we think of, but about being lost and found to God.

The start of Luke 15 in the Amplified Bible goes like this: “Now the tax collectors and the notorious and especially wicked sinners were all coming near to Jesus to listen to Him.”

That’s right, the really naughty people sought out Jesus to hear what he had to say, and the church leaders were not happy about this, complaining that Jesus accepts, welcomes, and even eats with, these people.

So he told them a parable, which is a simple everyday story with a moral or spiritual lesson. The reading we had today was that parable.

The lesson Jesus was trying to teach to those he spoke to then and to us today, was that God and the angels rejoice and celebrate when one person who is lost is found. When one person who has been doing wrong, realises this and seeks God to do better.

Jesus thought those he was talking to just didn’t get it, so he also told them about the lost sheep – when a shepherd has 100 sheep and one is lost so the shepherd goes out and finds it, then celebrates with this friends and neighbours over finding his one lost sheep.
AND he also told them about the lost son – when a son asks his father for his share of the estate, leaves his family and spends it all, ending up looking after pigs and even eating some of their food, before returning home empty and empty-handed. The father welcomes him home with arms wide open saying “My son was lost and now is found” and then throws a big party to celebrate.

Lost coin; maybe the ladies will get that one. Lost sheep; maybe the men will get that one. Lost son; maybe parents and children will get that one.

When did we get lost? It all started back at the very beginning with Adam and Eve when they ate from the tree God had told them not to. Right back to that first act of disobedience followed by the first feelings of guilt and shame. And that evening when God came into the garden he called out to them “Where are you?”

And God has been calling that out to us ever since.

Let me tell you a true story about how God can find the lost….
His name was John. When he started work he joined with his Dad working on boats. When his Dad retired, he had lined him up another job, working on the land, but John had sea salt in his blood and carried on sailing the seven seas. However, things start to go pretty bad for John. He was captured and forced to join the Navy and he hated it. John gets the chance to change ships and so goes to work on another ship. A slave ship – trading goods for slaves, and slaves for goods. But the crew on this new ship don’t like John and leave him with a slave dealer who treats him like a slave. John was lost, a free man, but treated like a slave in Africa.

But he is found and rescued by a sea captain who had been asked by John’s father to look out for him and bring him home. On the way they encounter a terrific storm, the ship begins to sink, and at that moment John calls out to God to save him. And his life is changed. The ship moves again, the cargo shifts blocking up the gaping hole and the ship drifts to safety.

Later John becomes an Anglican priest having a direct impact on Thomas Scott who set up CMS -Church Missionary Society and William Wilbourforce, a politician whom John encouraged to stay in parliament and serve God where he was. William Wilberforce was instrumental in getting a law passed that ended slavery.

During his time as a priest John Newton wrote many hymns, including one where it tells of being lost and found. Saved by God’s Amazing Grace.

(Vanessa)


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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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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”!

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IMG_0704

 

 

 

 

 


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Extreme Makeover – the God Edition

Extreme MakeoverVanessa recently read in the Enjoying Everyday Life magazine from Joyce Meyer Ministries (March/April 2014 edition), an article entitled Getting Unstuck – learn to shake off the past and claim your new beginning. It starts with the sentence “Have you ever noticed all the people throughout the Bible that God gave a fresh start?” and that got us thinking about some of the fresh starts and “makeovers” we hear about in the Bible, giving us the springboard for this skit which we did last week. There are two speaking parts, with three more people needed to sit there and be talked about. The first is Moses, so try to get someone quite a bit older, second is Ruth, so a female, and the third is Paul. It is quite fun to not let anyone (even the participants) know who the “candidates” are -see if they can work it out from the hosts’ chat

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First Host:
Thank you for joining us today for Extreme Makeover – the God Edition. Can we have our first candidate come up please. So you think God can still do something with you. Well I see here you have already had quite a life. When you were born your mother left you in the bushes where you were found by the Royal princess, and you were raised in the Egyptian palace alongside the Royal prince. Awesome. What an incredible start to life. Then you stuffed things up – big time. You saw an Egyptian beating a slave so you killed the Egyptian and buried him in the sand. When you knew you had been seem you ran away into the desert and settled with the Midianites. You have already had quite a life. Not sure how much time you have left, to be honest. I don’t know if there is really anything I can do with you. Sorry….

Second Host:
Well, you know what they say – where there’s life there’s hope. And at least he is still alive – just about. However, you know that other saying “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks”? Well, I don’t think that’s true in this case. In fact, I foresee quite a few new tricks up his sleeves in the near future. I think he could also be responsible for a significant increase in the numbers of certain species in the area – although that may not make him particularly popular with the local council! And if you want someone who will bring people together with a common purpose and goal, he’s definitely your man. I know he doesn’t look like he’s got much influence, but he’s going to be responsible for a significant change in the emigration policy of the country he lives in. And I definitely foresee travel in his future – in fact, quite a long journey. Sandcastles may be involved, although I don’t think he’s likely to be dipping his toes in the sea. He better have a good meal before he sets off though, as it might be only bread and water on the journey. Thank you for participating, Moses. You can return to your seat, and can we have our second candidate, please.

First Host:
You are from Moab – I can tell just by looking at you. You lot are not liked at all really. That is bad news; I don’t know what I can do with that. And you are a widow. And have no children. I don’t know who would want to marry you. Well this is really a challenge so, over to you …

Second Host:
Well, I can see there are a lot of negatives about her, but, you know, she is very loyal – just look how much she’s done for that moaning Minnie she lives with! There’s not many young widows who’d be willing to move to another country to look after their Mother-in-law, let alone end up doing manual labour to get the food they need to survive! I think you’ll find that she’s actually much admired for al that by the people off the town she now lives in. And look at how much she’s stepped out of her comfort zone – I mean, some of those suggestions of Mum-in-law were a bit close to the edge of acceptable behaviour, but this brave young lady was willing to follow through on those ideas, and I’m certain it will pay off for her. Yes, all in all, I think there’s a great future ahead for her: a happy marriage; elevation in social status; lots of friends – lots of children! I think you’ll find that she’ll be the matriarch of a great family – a Royal family even. You know, Kings, and people even more influential than that further down the line. Thank you for participating, Ruth. You can return to your seat, and can we have our third candidate, please.

First Host:
Here is a really big challenge. I can’t see what God could do with you because you are already very successful and respected. Actually, I would even say you are a man of great influence.

Second Host:
Yes, but he’s a bit prejudiced isn’t he? Got very fixed ideas about what you should and shouldn’t believe – and certainly seems to be in favour of extreme punishments for those that don’t think like he does. Mind you, I think he’s misguided more than anything else. Maybe a little holiday would help him see things more clearly – you know, get the scales to drop from his eyes. I hear Damascus Donkey Tours do a good deal. I know you think he’s the bees knees now, but with a change in focus he has the potential to influence half the know world. Get his passions engaged in the right way and the words will just pour out of him. He’s a great one for writing, you know, and I think that there’s a very real possibility that the things he writes will still be being read, and influencing people’s lives, hundreds of years from now. I’m not saying things will be easy for him from now on in. He’ll definitely be going on some long journeys – on some more willingly than on others – and some of the transport safety ratings might be a bit suspect. He might well have to rely on the charity of others for food and accommodation, and even resort to his old occupation of making camping equipment at times. But yes, you are right, he is a man of great influence – and will continue to be so for a very long time. Thank you for participating – sorry, is it Saul or Paul? You can return to your seat.

Conclusion:
Would you like a change in your life. Maybe even an extreme makeover? All things are possible with God. He has done it before – He can do it again. We have picked only three out of the bible, but there are so many more people that God has transformed, both in the Bible and right up to the present day. Moses – the man who was abandoned by his mother, killed an Egyptian and ran away to the desert. Moses – the man who God used to bring the Israelites out of Egyptian slavery and who God gave the 10 commandments to. Ruth – a foreign woman from a place not like by many, and the fact that she was a widow and childless didn’t make her a catch either. But Ruth loved God and that made a difference. Ruth married Boaz, and they had a son, Obed, who had a son, Jesse, who had a son, David – the same one who killed Goliath and became King. And further down the family line there was Jesus. And Paul, a man who was very successful and respected for persecuting Christians, became persecuted himself for being a Christian. He wrote much of the New Testament and guided the early Christian church. You are not too young or too old, too shy or too loud, you don’t have too much history or not enough scars from life. You are a child of God. The same God who paints the sunrise and sunset has plans for us bigger and better than we could even imagine. It won’t be easy, but it will be worth it —– if you are willing.

Written jointly by Vanessa & Gail


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God the Potter – Isaiah 64:8

You, Lord, are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand. Isaiah 64:8

IMG_0643

Busy making play-doh – look at those colours!

We used this verse as our basis for the Extreme Makeover – the God Edition service. And what better way to illustrate that than to make play-doh. Am I the only person in the world that thinks play-doh is horrible stuff? Well, I was certainly in the minority on Sunday when everyone else enthusiastically joined in with making it.

For our prayer activity we asked everyone to make something out of the play-doh to represent what they wanted to bring to God in prayer. Those who wished to were able to speak about their creations. After the service, the kids got to take the play-doh home in jam jars.

This is the recipe we used for the play-doh:

Ingredients
2 cups flour
1/2 cup salt
2 tablespoons cooking oilIMG_06452 tablespoons cream of tartar
2 cups boiling water1 teaspoon food colouring

Mix all dry ingredients, add oil and boiling water with food colouring, mix well.

 

 

 

And Sharon Kirby has written a beautiful poem on the theme of God the potter – God is shaping me – which we used as part of our prayers.