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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Guidance from the Holy Spirit – a service for Pentecost

When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them. (Acts 2: 1-4)

The Message for our Pentecost service this year was a very personal one. Vanessa has had some health issues recently and has at times struggled with accepting these challenges from a faith perspective. Whilst preparing for the service we looked at aspects of the Holy Spirit, and Vanessa brought us this powerful message of faith and trust. Members of the congregation took the various “parts” of the Holy Spirit and read the Bible verses.

Pentecost
Recently I have had to face I am not physically perfect and I can’t do anything about it. The term birth defect was used and it shocked me. I have an extra part in my heart which ends up short circuiting and makes my heart beat a bit quick, sometimes way too fast. A month ago I went to hospital again to get it slowed down, but what had worked in the past didn’t work this time. They finally got it sorted, but it wasn’t nice and it changed how I felt about things.

COUNSELOR:
Please help me I need a counselor to guide and help me. I don’t know what is happening to me. I am not afraid of dying because I know I will go to heaven and be with God – that’s something to look forward to really. But I don’t want to go now, not just yet. Will it be OK?
Don’t be afraid, for the Lord will go before you and will be with you. He will never leave you.(Deuteronomy 31:8)
Leave all your worries with him, because he cares for you. (1 Peter 5:7)

PRAYER PARTNER/INTERCESSOR:
Please help me I don’t know how to put this into words. I have questions I don’t know how to ask. I have feelings I don’t know how to express. How can I pray to God when I don’t know what to say?
God’s Spirit is right alongside you helping. If you don’t know how or what to pray, it doesn’t matter. He does your praying for you, making prayers out of your wordless sighs and your aching groans. He knows you far better than you know yourself, and keeps you present before God. (Romans 8:26-27)

STRENGTH:
But life is always more just one thing. There are other things going on in life besides my heart. Sometimes I want to go to bed, pull the covers over my head and pretend this isn’t happening or get in the car and drive until it all goes away.
You have the strength to face all conditions by the power that Christ gives you. (Philippians 4:13)
God is faithful to His Word and to His compassionate nature, and He can be trusted not to test you beyond your ability and strength, not to give you more than you can handle. He will provide you the way to handle this, to endure this patiently. (1 Corinthians 10:13)

PEACE:
OK I’ll be honest – Sometimes I get angry and frustrated. I want to be well; I am tired of being tired. Why did I have to have this and why now? And sometimes I start to worry about what might happen. It just goes round and round getting worse and worse especially when I wake in the middle of the night.
Don’t worry about anything. No matter what happens, tell God about everything. Talk to him, and give thanks to him. Then God’s peace will watch over your heart and your mind. He will do this because you belong to Christ Jesus. God’s peace can never be completely understood. (Philipians 4:7)

COMFORTER:
I forgot to mention I get scared. There are days when I have tears ready to fall, days when I cry. Sometimes I know why I cry, others I don’t. I get afraid.
God did not give you a spirit of fear, but one of power and of love and of calm. (2 Timothy 1:7)

GOD WITH ME:
And then I go quiet inside and feel God’s presence. Whatever this is about, or how it will turn out, it is in God’s hands, I am in God’s hands. He is a God of love
Be still, and know that I am God (Psalm 46:10)

At Easter Jesus died on the cross, and they thought he had gone. But he rose from the dead, the greatest sacrifice on our behalf, so that we could all have a personal relationship with God. Jesus was not gone.
Jesus stayed for another 40 days. And then the last thing he said, as told in Acts 1, was to wait for the promised gift of God. He then rose in the sky to be with God in heaven. This time he was gone.

The promised gift was the Holy Spirit. We heard in the reading about its arrival: all wind and fire. I have been a Christian for many years, and had a relationship with Jesus but I didn’t know the Holy Spirit – to be honest I wasn’t sure about the wind and fire. However, over the last year I have intentionally and purposefully been asking the Spirit of God into my daily life.

The main thing it has done has changed the things I knew in my head into things I have experienced in my heart. The Holy Spirit is a counselor to help and guide you; helps you pray when you can’t; gives you strength and power; gives you a peace beyond all understanding; comforts you. And the Holy Spirit brings the gift of God’s presence into every situation you face right here, right now every day – if you ask.
(Vanessa)

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A game for Pentecost

 
Bearing in mind that one of the manifestations of the Holy Spirit is wind, we decided to get the kids blowing these lovely red plastic cups around. The twist was that each cup had a part of the verse for today on it, and they then had to put it all together on a board so that it could be read out.
 
 
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Pentecost Streamers
These streamers were really quick and easy to make. I found a pack of cheap girls bangles – 16 for $3! – to use as the base, then bought flame coloured parka nylon fabric (because it wouldn’t fray) and cut it into 1cm wide strips. Fold the strips in half, thread them through the bangles and tie them off. Everyone had fun making them, and even more fun waving them around in our last song!

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Strong Foundations – The Wise and Foolish Builders

“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.” (Matthews 7:24-27)
 

Our craft to illustrate the Parable of the Wise and Foolish builders was quick and simple, but still very effective:
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Now although small, the rocks do have a bit of weight to them, so ordinary cardboard will not do for the backing. I managed to beg some offcuts of picture mounting board from a local picture framer and then chose to place a thin piece of card on top of that to make it more visually appealing.

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  • First, write your message on the card.
  • Next, use something sharp – I have a small embroidery stiletto- to make four holes in the cards (do the backing and front cards together). Make sure these holes are just inside the outline of the stones.
  • The next bit is the most tricky. Using two pieces of red ribbon (ours were 20cm long, but it depends on the size of your rocks), thread the two ends of one through two opposite holes, and the other through the other two holes – do not pull tight yet! Put the stone in place underneath the ribbon; we used glue dots to make sure it stayed in place. Then turn the card over, pull the ribbon tight, and tie all the ends together.
  • You may want to add more ribbon to use as a hanger for these little plaques.

 

We found some fantastic resources from other people to use this week – here are the links. And at the end of the page you will find the prayers which we wrote for the service. www.max7.org have a great video of the story:

 
and www.missionbibleclass.org have a fun version of “The Wise Man Built his House upon the Rock”

And from www.dramatix.org.nz we used their skit “House Building 101″

Prayers:
Jesus is the rock on which we build our faith and our life. Hold on to these rocks as we pray, just as we hold on to the presence of Jesus here with us and in our daily lives.
 
When I say: Lord, in the name of Jesus, our rock and foundation
The response is: Hear our prayer
 
And in the pauses, you are invited to add your own prayers – aloud or in your hearts.
 
Loving God, when the foundations of our world shake and crumble, we know that we can stand firm on your promises.
 
We pray for the people of Nepal. For all who have lost family, friends, and homes, and for all who are providing aid and assistance. We of all people know that the road to recovery is not easy, and the Nepalese are only just starting on that journey. We pray for them as they rebuild their lives and communities.
 
Lord, in the name of Jesus, our rock and foundation
Hear our prayer
 
We pray for all those beset by the storms of ill-health. Let Your healing Spirit work in their minds and bodies, restoring them to strength and well-being.
 
Lord, in the name of Jesus, our rock and foundation
Hear our prayer
 
We pray for the rebuilding of the Community of Faith, both here and throughout our country and the world, and for all who work to build your Church, bringing light and hope to those whose lives are built on shifting sands. Strengthen and uphold all who minister in Christ’s name.
 
Lord, in the name of Jesus, our rock and foundation
Hear our prayer
 
We pray for our own homes and families. Let your love and compassion be a guiding force in our lives and our relationships with others. Make us alive to the needs of our own community, and help us to share one another’s joys and burdens.
 
Lord, in the name of Jesus, our rock and foundation
Hear our prayer
 
When the storms of life rage, Lord keep us safe in the strength of Your Word and promises.
Amen


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The Rainbow – Living together in unity (Psalm 133:1)

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“How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!” (Psalm 133:1)

As a reminder of how we are all different, but together we make something beautiful in God’s eyes, we put together this gorgeous jigsaw picture.

Now obviously this required pre-planning. Vanessa’s husband cut out the individual wooden pieces – we went for straight sides with a groove at the bottom and a lip at the top, so they would fit together nicely, and also so that it didn’t matter if not everyone brought one back. These were delivered to each family (one per person) during the week before the service, with basic instructions to decorate them in any way they wanted and to bring them along on the Sunday. We had time during the service to share what we had done and why, and then Gail took it home to glue it all together.

We are planning to have this on display at each service and, hopefully, have a permanent position for it in the Church when it is finally rebuilt.

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We also did a skit adapted from the story “The Rainbow” (written by Anne Hope, 1978, based on an Indian legend), inviting everyone to come along in rainbow colours for the service.

The Rainbow

Narrator: Once upon atime all the colours in the world started to quarrel: each claimed that it was the best, the most important, the most useful, the favourite…..

Green: Clearly I am the most important. I am the sign of life and of hope. I was chosen for grass, trees, leaves. Without me all the animals would die. Look out over the countryside and there is green as far as the eye can see.

Blue: You only think about the earth, but about the sky and the sea? Blue is the colour of water which is the basis of life. The water in the rivers, the lakes and the sea. Blue is the colour of the sky, which gives space, peace and serenity.

Yellow: You are all so serious. I bring laughter, fun and warmth into the world. The sun is yellow, the moon is yellow and the stars are yellow. Every time you look at a sunflower the whole world starts to smile. Without me, there would be no fun.

Orange: I am the colour of health and strength. I may be scarce, but I am precious for I serve the inner need of human life. I carry all the most important vitamins. Think of carrots, pumpkins, oranges, mangoes and pawpaws. I don’t hang around all the time but when I fill the sky at sunrise or sunset my beauty is so striking that no one gives another thought to any of you.

Red (shouting): I’m the ruler of you all. Blood – Life needs blood. I am the colour of danger and bravery. I am willing to fight for the cause. I bring fire in the blood. Without me the earth would be as empty as the moon. I am the colour of passion and of love, the red rose and poppy.

Purple: I am the colour of royalty and power. Kings, chiefs and bishops, have always chosen me for I am a sign of authority and wisdom. People do not question me, they listen and obey.

Indigo (quietly): Think of me. I am the colour of silence. You hardly notice me, but without me you all become superficial. You need me for balance and contrast. You need me for prayer and inner peace, for thought and reflection.

Narrator: And so the colours went on like this, each convinced that it was the best. Their quarrelling become louder and louder. Suddenly there was a startling flash of brilliant white lightening, thunder rolled and boomed.  Rain started to pour down relentlessly. The colours all crouched down in fear, drawing close to one another for comfort.
Then rain spoke…..

Rain: You foolish colours. Fighting amongst yourselves, each trying to dominate the rest. Do you not know that God made every one of you – each for a special purpose, unique and different? Each and every one of you is loved and wanted by him. Stand up and join hands with one another. God will stretch you across the sky in a great bow of colour. This will be a reminder of his love for you all, that you can live together in peace, a promise that he is with you and a sign of hope for tomorrow.

 

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Our argumentative Rainbow!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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Who are you?

This is the message Vanessa gave on the First Sunday in Advent. Scroll down the page for details of the Advent Activity pegs we made.

I love this weekend. It is the first weekend in December which means we get to go and get a tree, decorate it, start listening to carols, and the Christmas season in our house begins. I love it that Luke is part of it all and he is putting the angel at the top of the tree for the first time ever this year. It is the anticipation of what is to come, the counting down of the days or how many sleeps to go.

Advent is the period before Christmas when we anticipate and look forward to Christmas,  the day Jesus was born. The day God gave his only Son who would ultimately enable us to have our own relationship with God.

I read and re-read the Winnie the Pooh stories many many many times while I was growing up. I really identified with Tigger and this Tigger song sums it up:

A wonderful thing is a Tigger;
A Tigger’s a wonderful thing.
Their tops are made out of rubber,
their bottoms are made out of spring.
They’re bouncy, bouncy, bouncy, bouncy,
fun, fun, fun, fun, fun,
But the most wonderful thing about Tiggers is:
I’m the only one!

Like me, have you ever identified with someone in a story, seen parts of yourself in a character you have read, or read about someone who you would like to be more like?

Here are a few people who played a part in that first advent, the time leading up to Jesus’ birth.  Let’s see if there is anyone you are drawn to.

ZECHARIAH (Luke 1: 5-23)
Zechariah was a priest, a man who studied the Bible, the way of God, and who lived a good life obeying all of God’s commands.  But something was wrong. He and his wife Elizabeth hadn’t had any children, and they were now too old for this to happen.

While he was at work in the temple one day, an angel appeared to him. The angel told him that their prayers were being answered, they were going to have a baby, a special God-given baby that would prepare the way for the Lord. Zechariah knew that God had done this very miracle before – given babies to women who were unable to conceive. There was Sarah, who had Isaac, Rebekah  who had Jacob, Rachael, who had Joseph, and Hannah, who had Samuel. All of these women were empty, and God filled them. Their painful emptiness was obvious to everyone around them…..and God filled it. You may have an emptiness that is obvious or hidden: please hear this, there is ONLY one thing that can fill that hole, and it is God.

Why had God chosen them? If something happens against all the odds or makes possible the impossible…. then it has to be a miracle. It has to be God. It must be God. It IS God.

So right now an angel is telling Zechariah it was going to happen to them too, they were going to have a baby.  And yet he doubted and questioned it “how do I know that this is going to happen? We are both too old to have children”

He didn’t believe it, couldn’t believe it, he may even have been too scared to believe it. The very thing they had prayed for had come true, and it was too much to take in. Had Zechariah prayed this prayer for so long that it just became empty words he didn’t really believe?

If you have a prayer that seems impossible, it is possible when you pray to God. Be ready to accept it when it comes true, for nothing is impossible with God (Luke 1:31-37)

ELIZABETH
Elizabeth was Zechariah’s wife and had also lived a good life obeying all of God’s commands. This tells us she knew the Bible, and had kept her faith with God. She had not gone looking at other religions for the answer to why she was unable to have children. There was a social stigma attached to their lack of children. People would have thought there was something was wrong with them and they were being punished for it. When Elizabeth became pregnant she said “now at last the Lord has helped me. He has taken away my public disgrace.”

Elizabeth was not just old but the Bible says she was very old. An angel told Mary “Remember your relative Elizabeth. It is said that she cannot have children, but she is now six months pregnant, even though she is very old. For there is nothing that God cannot do.” (Luke 1:36-37).

Soon after this, Mary went to visit her. When Elizabeth and Mary saw each other, the baby inside Elizabeth jumped for joy. For this special God-given baby was John the Baptist. And Mary was pregnant at the same time with Jesus. And the connection for advent, the time of preparing for the birth of Jesus is John the Baptist. As it says in the Bible “He will be a great man. He will be filled with the Holy Spirit from birth. He will get the Lord’s people ready for him.” (Luke 1:15-17)

How amazing it must have been for these women to share this incredible time. They were both pregnant, and both with miracle babies. Elizabeth was too old, and Mary a virgin. And here they were together, for each other, at this time. We all need someone to support us, and it is often not the same person for everything. Who supports you, who do you support?

MARY
This is something Gail wrote …

Yes, Lord.
Mary said “Yes, Lord.”
Yes – turn my life upside down.
Yes – change my certain future for the unknown.
Yes – take away the comfortable sameness of my life.
Yes, Lord.
Yes.
Yes – make me your servant.
Yes – use me to speak your word to the world.
Yes – bring your glory forth in my life.
Yes – change me forever.
Oh Yes, Lord! Yes!

Would you say yes?

JOSEPH
What’s a guy to think when his girlfriend gets pregnant to someone else? Joseph wanted to break up with Mary, he obviously didn’t believe the story about it being God’s son. That is until he was told in a dream that it was going to be alright, and he was to name the baby Jesus. The naming of a Jewish child had great significance. It is not only a statement of what it was hoped the child would be, but also where they came from. And it was Joseph who named the baby Jesus. Jesus, because he would save us from our sin.

So God is sending his only son from heaven down to earth, not as a fully grown man ready for his mission to save the world but as a newborn baby boy. A baby needing someone to provide love, food, shelter and protection who will grow into a boy. A boy who will learn the way of the world to become a man stepping out on his own who will change the world by what he says and what he does. And who is the person God chose to be the earthly father to Jesus, to adopt and raise him as though he was his own?…… Joseph.

Has God given you someone to care for? A family member:older or younger? A friend, a neighbour, an animal?

I also think Joseph is truly obedient. He obeyed when he stood by Mary, when he didn’t have to. Society would not have thought any less of him if he left Mary, but they would have thought a whole lot less of Mary. He listened to God and stayed with Mary when she was pregnant, he listened to God and took Mary and Jesus to the safety of Egypt, and he listened to God and returned to settle in Nazareth. In obeying all this, Joseph fulfilled the prophecy in Hosea 11:1 “I called my son out of Egypt.”

Zechariah, Elizabeth, Mary, Joseph ….. Who are you?

Vanessa

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Advent pegs 1Bought Advent Calendars are so commercial – and usually have nothing at all to do with the birth of Jesus! We made these Advent Activity pegs with a different activity for each day, which could be drawn at random from a bag to make things a little less predictable – especially if you reuse them another year. Supplies needed are: clothes pegs, glue or double sided sellotape, the templates for the numbers to be written on, and the activity cards – these last two are on .pdf files below.

Advent activity cards

Advent peg toppers

Advent pegs 2


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

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

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

(Gail)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Vanessa)


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Game/Puzzle for The Bread of Life

We searched and searched for a game/puzzle/object lesson for the bread of life, but could not find anything that we liked that was suitable for our particular group and meeting place, so we made one up. It’s fairly basic, but maybe of use or inspiration to someone else.

We took a picture which had on it the quote from John 6 – Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; he who comes to me shall never hunger and he who believes in me shall never thirst.” This was cut into six pieces, each of which was placed inside a toilet roll tube. We then wrapped the tubes with illustrations of the various ingredients needed to make bread – using, where possible, actual packaging from the ingredients. The packages were hidden around our worship space.

We started by talking through what was needed to make bread, and then got the children to search for the hidden “ingredients” and, once found, to make up the picture hidden inside.


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Fruit of the Spirit (2) – Patience, Kindness, Goodness

Continuing on the subject of the Fruit of the Spirit, this week we looked at Patience, Kindness and Goodness.

We started with a Fruit of the Spirit game – “Fruit in the Bowl”.IMG_0318
You will need:
Mandarins
Marker Pen
Fruit bowls (not the best glass or china one – something sturdy and reasonably unbreakable!)

Using the marker pen write the name of one of the nine Fruit of the Spirit on each of the mandarins (strangely enough the letter sizes got smaller as we got further down the list!). You will need one complete set of “Mandarins of the Spirit” for each team.
Set one fruit bowl for each team either on the floor or a chair a few feet away from the players and get them to take turns throwing the mandarins into the bowls, then see who has received the most Fruit of the Spirit! And later on you can use the fruit for your morning tea!
(A variation would be to get someone to hold each bowl and move it around whilst the mandarins are being thrown.)

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The girls team play the “Fruit in a Bowl” game

Read Vanessa’s message below, and at the end of this entry there is a link to the “Fruit of the Spirit” song on YouTube – quite a tongue twister due to its speed, but a good way to remember the nine Fruit

PATIENCE, KINDNESS, GOODNESS – FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT 2
16 June 2013

PATIENCE
Means the capacity to accept or tolerate delay, trouble or suffering without getting frustrated, fearful, angry or upset, or in the words of Elmo from Sesame Street it is waiting calmly.

It is so easy to be patient when the going is good. When the delay, trouble and suffering we are facing is bearable – we can cope OK.  When it gets tough, it is only God who can give us the patience to accept what we are going through. White knuckling it, holding on tight to keep calm, is not patience. The image of a swimming duck comes to mind– what people see is composure, when in reality there is a lot of action going on under the water, out of view, to give us that image of calm patience.

I want to share  James 5:10-11 from two translations/versions: (readings)

(Good News) My friends, remember the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. Take them as examples of patient endurance under suffering. You have heard of Job’s patience, and you know how the Lord provided for him in the end. For the Lord is full of mercy and compassion.

(Amplified) Take the old prophets as your mentors. They put up with anything, went through everything, and never once quit, all the time honouring God. You’ve heard of Job’s staying power, and you know how God brought it all together for him at the end. That’s because God cares, cares right down to the last detail.

And so this is God-given patience. In one version: patient endurance: in the other: it is to put up with anything, went through everything, never once quit, all the time honouring God. Job’s patience is explained as Job’s staying power. Even as I am trying to write this, my patience is being tested by constant interruptions.

True patience is quiet, peaceful, unwavering and strong. Patience reveals our faith in God’s timing, almighty power and love. Patience does not develop overnight. Colossians 1:11 tells us that we are strengthened by Him to “great endurance and patience,” while James 1:3-4 encourages us to know that trials are His way of perfecting our patience. It‘s a process as the fruit of patience develops from a flower, into a fruit that grows and ripens into maturity.

I think there is only one thing about patience and the lack of it – how much faith and trust we (you and me) have in God’s plans for us. Romans 8:28  tells us that “in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” The “all things” include the things that try our patience. Sometimes God puts us in difficult situations so that we can be a witness to others. Other times, He might allow a trial for strengthening our character. Whatever the reason, God is the one who knows why and He wants us to have an abundant life, made possible through us accepting Jesus as our saviour and having a personal one-on-one relationship with him

KINDNESS
If you want to find out about kindness go to the source of kindness for examples. Kindness is God giving us green pastures, quiet waters, and restoring our souls when we’re weary (Psalm 23:2-3). Kindness is God’s tender care when He gathers us under His wings, to protect us and keep us close to Him (Psalm 17:8; 36:7; 61:4; Matthew 23:37). Kindness is Jesus stopping what He was doing to help others in need (Mark 6:34; Mark 7:29; Mark 10:46-52). Kindness is the Good Shepherd rescuing us when we stray (Luke 15:3-7). And the ultimate kindness is the God given gift of salvation.

We were once foolish, disobedient, and wrong. We were slaves to passions and pleasures of all types.  But when God, our kind and loving Saviour God, stepped in, He saved us from all that. It was all His doing; we had nothing to do with it. It was not because of any good things that we had done, but because of His  own mercy that He saved us, through the Holy Spirit, who gives us new birth and new life. God poured out the Holy Spirit generously on us through Jesus Christ our Saviour so that by His grace our relationship with him is restored. (Titus 3:3-7)

Kindness is a verb, a doing word. You need to act to be kind, you need to do – or even in some cases not do –  to be kind.

How do I see kindness in the humdrum of our busy lives. It is the little things – the very many little things in a day. If you can’t think of anything that you can do to be kind to someone else or yourself (you count too), here’s a tip. Pray, ask God to give you eyes to see, ears to hear what you can do to be kind. Then – and this is important – be quiet and listen and He will answer. Sometimes when we pray we do too much talking, and not enough listening. Maybe we might be afraid of what God might say to us. But, as I said in the beginning about kindness, our God is a kind God who loves us so much, so very very much. And once God has shown, maybe right then you get an idea, maybe later, as it is all in God’s timing, it is then your choice to be kind….. or not. And the test of being kind when you are tired, when you are busy, or to someone you don’t like, is one of the hardest things of all and that is why it is a fruit of the Spirit. Because to do it at these times, we need the strength of Holy Spirit

GOODNESS
This one is the one I have really struggled with. And here are my thoughts: Feeling good and being good are not the same thing. There are things that make us feel good that are not good for us: one chocolate too many, saying something we shouldn’t, and to be honest sometimes I enjoy being naughty.

As I said feeling good is not the same as being good. And we have all fallen short, and continue to fall short of being good enough for God. Nothing we can ever do will be good enough because it is only by the grace of God and the death of Jesus for our wrongs that we then become more than good enough, we become perfect to be in God’s presence. Likewise there is nothing bad enough to keep us apart for God’s love.

Goodness is not a quality we can manufacture on our own. James 1:17 says, “Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father.”

As I said I struggled with this so I ask all of you what do think goodness is?

The seed of the spirit is meant to produce a harvest. So stop comparing, stop searching for self-improvement by doing it in your own strength, and stop trying to impress. Instead START developing what is already in your heart, because the seeds for the fruit were planted there as soon as you became a Christian and accepted Jesus into your heart.

(Vanessa)

Fruit of the Spirit song:


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The Lord’s Prayer (part 2) – a fridge magnet memory verse

(see also our other Lord’s Prayer posts: part 1 – I cannot say; part 3 – The Lord’s Prayer with props; part 4 – reveiw and recall)

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As part of our service on The Lord’s Prayer the children made small fridge magnets with a printed copy of the prayer.  The idea for this one came from The Catholic Toolbox blog, for which many thanks. This craft uses popsicle sticks, a printed Lord’s Prayer, and sticky magnetic tape (if you cannot get hold of stick magnetic tape – which comes on a roll like sellotape – use up some of those free advertising magnets that always seem to appear)

IMG_0269The Lord’s Prayer needs to be printed in quite a small font – around 9 point- to make sure it will fit within the square you make with the popsicle sticks. Take 4 of the sticks and glue two on each side edge of the printed prayer; then glue two more across the top, and two across the bottom, making a square. It is up to you (or rather, the children) how much overlap there is on the corners. Stick magnetic tape/recycled advertising magnets to the back (best to do it on the four corners), and there you have it – put it up on the fridge and it can be read every time they head there for refreshments!


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Good News to Share

A couple of years ago for Easter we introduced the Wordless Gospel to the children, and had them make their own little books.

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To refresh your memories, this is the meaning behind each colour:

  • BLACK represents sin: “There is no difference, for all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23)
    Sin is doing something wrong on purpose, or not doing something we know we should – that is, known sins and unknown sins – and we all sin – Mother Teresa, the Pope, me, you. Some days are better than others!
  • RED represents blood: Jesus’ blood was shed at Easter. What was it about?  How can Jesus dying be good news? Because he died for us and for all our sins so we could come to know God.
    “The blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from every sin.” (1 John 1:7)
  • WHITE represents our being washed clean:  “Wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.” (Psalm 51: 7)
    We become new again by His grace. We need to be cleansed to be able to be with God, and that’s a constant process – as we continue to sin, we need to continue to tell God we are sorry and ask for his forgiveness.
  • GOLD represents Heaven:  Gold – is a precious metal, but God is more precious still. God is the most precious thing we can have in our lives, and heaven is God’s house – with many rooms for all of us who believe in him and have asked him to save us through Jesus. Because heaven is where God is: it will be full of love, joy and that’s somewhere I want to be.
    “I am going to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me where I am.” (John 14: 2,3) 
  • GREEN represents growth and new life: “Grow in the grace and knowledge of our lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.” (2 Peter 3: 18)
    When we become a Christian we become new again, like a little seed that will grow into a plant. We will all be different as we grow, in the same way that a garden is full of different plants, flowers and trees. What do we need to do to grow? Pray; read the Bible to learn more; do things God would like us to do. Sometimes God needs to do a bit of pruning as we grow and develop as Christians: getting rid of our bad habits.

So the good news is that although we sin, though the death of Jesus, he makes us pure so we can be in God’s presence in heaven when that time comes – as long as we accept him.

Now the point of the Wordless Gospel is that there are no words! However, just to be different – and to make it a little easier for the younger ones to remember the message associated with each page – we added a Bible verse, which they stuck to the back of the appropriate page.

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Black, red, white, gold/yellow & green card; sticky labels printed with the Bible verses; curling or plain ribbon.

We cut our card into pieces 15cm x 10cm – this means it was just the right height to use a hole punch on.

It is best to talk to the children about the Wordless Gospel first, and then get them to put their own booklets together, attaching the Bible verses to the back of each page – some may need help attaching the right verse to the right colour page – and tying together with ribbon.