come and see

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


Leave a comment

The Road Cones of Faith

IMG_1033
 
The reading from Ephesians 6:10-18 is the one about the Armour of God. We have spoken on this reading before, but this time we were particularly inspired by a picture from Desert Island Church. Do check out their website – I particularly like some of the cartoons, but that may be my English sense of humour!

Anyway, with that bit of inspiration, some borrowed builders clothing, and some small helpers, we came up with our own version of “The Road Cones of Faith”
 
 

The Message
armor(We started with the reading from Ephesians)
Well, I don’t know about you, but after listening to that reading I have a feeling that we are all dressed incorrectly. I mean, shouldn’t we all be looking a bit like this!

But is this really about what we should wear? Well, of course not. It is about equipping ourselves for battle – not a battle with each other or other nations or countries, but a battle of the Spirit; the battle between good and evil, right and wrong – the battle between God and Satan that has been happening right from the beginning of time.

We are in a battle for our souls. Jesus came so that we have life through him. Satan lost big time when Jesus died on the cross for us, but Satan keeps on fighting and is still causing problems for God’s people. Satan is sneaky. He wants nothing more than to take us away from God, and he will use every trick that he can to do so. Like a great warrior we need to put on our armour, and because our enemy is a spirit, God has given us spiritual armour.

Now, the writer of the letter to the Ephesians, this morning’s reading, was Paul, and he was likening the equipment needed for this Spiritual battle to things that would have been familiar to the people he was writing to – that is, the armour worn by the Roman soldiers of the time.

"Road Cones of Faith" from Desert Island Church (http://www.desertislandchurch.co.uk/visual_aids_01a_road_cones_of_faith.htm)

“Road Cones of Faith” from Desert Island Church (http://www.desertislandchurch.co.uk/visual_aids_01a_road_cones_of_faith.htm)

Well I personally haven’t seen any Roman soldiers around here lately, so how about we illustrate this reading with some things that are probably a lot more familiar to we Cantabrians nowadays? That’s right Builder’s safety gear. And to make it a bit more interesting, I need a volunteer to model how it is used.

So let’s put on the builder’s Personal Protective Equipment of God!

The tool belt of truth (v14)
“Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist”
The tool belt is used to keep everything together that is needed on the job. When confronted with something that needs fixing our builder doesn’t have to go off to find the equipment he needs, it is right there at hand. When we keep God’s truth with us – in our hearts and minds, and living it in our daily lives – we won’t get confused about what is real and what are lies from the enemy. And the way that we know what the truth is, is by listening to, and reading and learning, God’s word.

The reflective jacket of righteousness (v14)
“with the breastplate of righteousness in place”

Righteousness means being right with God.
The reflective jacket is used so that our builder can easily be seen. If he wanted to hide he would need to take it off – I don’t know, maybe he didn’t really want to climb that scaffolding, so he was hoping his foreman wouldn’t see him.
We know that God sees us always. This is a reminder to us to guard our hearts and attitudes so that we are always right with God and not ashamed to be seen by Him.

Gospel steel toe-capped boots (v15)
“with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace”

It’s much easier to walk with a good pair of shoes or boots on. Be ready to go wherever, and to whoever, God sends you, to tell the good news of God’s amazing love for us.

The road cones of faith (v16)
“take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one”

Well, road cones might not be much good against flaming arrows, but there aren’t that many of those around Christchurch either. There are a lot of cars though, and the road cones will ward them off from around the areas our builder is working so he’s not going to get knocked over. Road cones don’t have a lot of material compared to cars, but the builder trusts that they will do their job and keep him safe. In the same way, faith in God is trusting in Him even when you do not understand why some bad things happen. Faith means believing in God and His plan for us, even when we cannot see where the road we are on is taking us. Satan will try to plant seeds of doubt and fear in our hearts and minds, but those seeds of doubt can never take root if we have faith in Jesus. When we choose to believe God, and not Satan’s lies, the road cones of faith block the doubts that Satan drives at us.

The hard hat of salvation (v17)
“Take the helmet of salvation”

The purpose of the hard hat is, of course to protect the head from injury. Satan tries to injure our minds, discouraging us by pointing to our failures, our sins, our unresolved problems – whatever seems negative in our lives – in order to make us lose confidence in the love and care of God.
But we have the knowledge that, by God’s Grace and the sacrifice of Jesus, we are saved. We are God’s children. Satan has already lost, and nothing can ever take you away from God. And that knowledge protects us from the blows that Satan directs against our security and assurance in Christ.

The saw of the Spirit(v17)
“and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”

A sword can attack or defend. A saw can be used to cut things down, but also to ready material for building. God’s Holy Word is a powerful tool against Satan. It can cut Satan’s lies to pieces. And God’s Word builds us up, and readies us for building His kingdom in this world.
The words of the Bible are our saws.

Let me finish with the last few verses of the reading, taken this time from The Message translation:

“Be prepared. You’re up against far more than you can handle on your own. Take all the help you can get, every weapon God has issued, so that when it’s all over but the shouting you’ll still be on your feet. Truth, righteousness, peace, faith, and salvation are more than words. Learn how to apply them. You’ll need them throughout your life. God’s Word is an indispensable weapon. In the same way, prayer is essential in this ongoing warfare. Pray hard and long. Pray for your brothers and sisters. Keep your eyes open. Keep each other’s spirits up so that no one falls behind or drops out.”

(Gail)

Advertisements


Leave a comment

Gardening Tips – The Parable of the Mustard Seed

Then Jesus asked, “What is the kingdom of God like? What shall I compare it to? 19 It is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his garden. It grew and became a tree, and the birds perched in its branches.” (Luke 13:18-19)

IMG_0976
With this Parable in mind, we thought it would be a good idea to have a quiz to see whether people could match the seed to the final result. You could use any plants or foods in season, but we used an apple, a tomato, pumpkin, a bread roll (used yeast as the “seed”), and pictures of a sunflower and the Mustard tree. Make up a set of cards for each team, each card with a different seed taped to it, and see whether they are able to match the seed to the correct item. Well done to our teams who got them all correct!
 
IMG_0975
For something to take home we got everyone to plant some mustard & cress seeds. Sprinkle the mustard and cress seeds evenly over a double thickness of kitchen paper, damp but not wet, laid on a plate or a shallow plastic dish Make sure the paper doesn’t dry out. Now as there will really be nothing to show for this work on the day, do prepare an example at least three or four days ahead.
Of course the big advantage with this “craft” is that it can be eaten – just snip the greens off just above the paper once they reach 4cm tall.

 

The Message:
8_cell-1This is what 8 cells looks like. It is called a blastocyst and is so small you can only see it with a microscope. It is alive and could be anything. Any guesses?
Mike and I saw one once, it was Luke.
We all start out very very small, each one of us just a few cells, that became a few more, then more, then more, to become who we are today, much bigger than when we first began.
Luke needed certain things to grow into the healthy boy he is today. He has needed the right food, a safe place to live and he has also needed love and guidance.

Mustard seed
fb0d3-mustard-seed-plant
This is a mustard seed and with the right conditions, it will grow into a large tree. It needs the right food, with the right amount of water and sunlight.

Parables are stories Jesus told that use everyday things to help us understand something spiritual. Jesus used the example of the growth of a small mustard seed into a large tree as a way to describe the kingdom of God.

When Jesus started out in his ministry, there was just him. As he walked along the shore he saw two fishermen: Peter and his brother Andrew. Jesus said to them “Come follow me” and they did. Then Jesus invited James and John, and kept adding others until there were 12 of them. Things had started to grow. Jesus and his 12 disciples travelled around, and as Jesus taught and healed people, he gained a great following. After Jesus died, it was thought that Christianity would die out as well. But Jesus, the son of God, rose from the dead, and Christianity has spread throughout the world. A small beginning of one to 12 to so many many more.

Each one of us is a part of God’s kingdom, and as we tell others about Jesus and live our lives in a way that people would want to know about Jesus, we are also growing the Kingdom of God.

Growth is not constant. Some seeds can take much longer to germinate, they might look as they are doing nothing but deep inside things are changing. This can be the same for people. Sometimes we have periods of sunshine, and at other times it can feel like it is cold and raining and it’s a bit harder to keep going. Just like a plant, we need both sunshine and rain to grow.

And we need pruning to bear more fruit. God wants us to let go of bad habits so that we can be more like him.
God has given us a free will to choose what we want to do. He wants us to want him, like he wants us. He wants us to love him, as he loves us. He wants us to know him, as he knows us. So whether you choose to grow your faith or not, is your choice. Whether you have faith and trust that God is doing the best of you in the periods of rain or pruning, when he challenges you, it’s your choice.

Like a mustard seed we need certain conditions to grow our faith. We need to be open, to love and trust God. We need to do what God asks. And as our faith grows, the kingdom of God will as well.

Vanessa


Leave a comment

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!

11004745_10203711209563223_397766972_n 11008936_10203711209043210_1561766014_n

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

 

 


Leave a comment

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:

IMG_0843

  • 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!
IMG_0846 IMG_0847 IMG_0849

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

 

 


Leave a comment

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


Leave a comment

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


Leave a comment

Healing at the Pool – John 5: 1-8

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

_____________________________________________________________________________________________________

IMG_0717

 

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

 

_____________________________________________________________________________________________________

The Message:

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

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

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

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

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

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

“But I like being taken care of”

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

‘But……..”

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

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

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

Vanessa

 

The Prayers:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Amen


Leave a comment

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.

 

__________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Make a “Trumpet”

You will need:IMG_0698

Drinking straws
Baking paper
Card/advertising flyers
Sellotape
Scissors

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

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

IMG_0701

IMG_0704

 

 

 

 

 


Leave a comment

Elijah & the Prophets of Baal – 1 Kings 18

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

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

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

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

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

The answer was a definite NO!

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

The people just mumbled and looked the other way.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But what about the rain?

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Vanessa

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Amen

Gail


Leave a comment

Mansions

The service at the beginning of this month was inspired by the following quote from C S Lewis:
“Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on; you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts and does not seem to make any sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of – throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace.”

Readings we used were from Jeremiah 29:11 ““For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” And Ephesians 3:20 “With God’s power working in us, God can do much much more than anything we can ask or imagine.”

IMG_0599IMG_0598For a game we used a sets of cards which, when put together properly, showed a picture of a house, giving one set each to small groups of 3 or 4 people. The twist here is that we didn’t give them a guide picture, but left them to put it together as well as they could manage, using this to reinforce the theme that what is being built in us is more than we can ask or imagine. The cards we used are an old set that I have had in my household for many years, but it would be easy enough to make your own version by printing off pictures of houses and cutting them into squares.

Vanessa started her message by reading the quote from C S Lewis, and then continued:
“Imagine yourself as a living house.”
In the Bible our body is talked about as a temple. 1 Corinthians 3:16: “Do you not know that your body is a temple of God and that God’s Spirit lives within you?”

That’s right we have our very own builder, the Holy Spirit, living in us 24/7, every hour of every day. When we become Christians, we accept and realise there are parts of us that are not right with God – as C S Lewis put it “the leaky roof and drains.”  My building jobs: the works in progress or the things on the to-do list will be different to yours. What God is hammering out with me at the moment, will be different to you. That’s because I am special …… and so are you. The important thing is to accept and embrace that we are a building site that gets a bit messy, uncertain, and certainly painful. And also please remember that we are the building, a living house, a temple – NOT the project manager or the architect.

Life is challenging – that’s life. Christians don’t have it easy. Change can be hard.  Letting go of things we are familiar and comfortable with, even if these things hurt us, can be scary. The only thing I know stronger than fear is faith. Have faith in God. He loves you and His plans for you are for good. And to quote C S Lewis again: “I would rather be what God chose to make than the most glorious creature that I could think of. For to have been thought about, born in God’s thought and then made by God is the dearest, grandest and most precious thing in all thinking.”

But wait – there’s more. Our God is an amazing overflowing God. “I came so you could have life in all its abundance.” (John 10:10) “Jesus told the men to cast their net on the other side of the boat and it overflowed.” (John 21:1-14).

And so in closing let’s once again hear and dwell on these words from Ephesians 3:20  “With God’s power working in us, God can do much much more than anything we can ask or imagine.”
The Amplified Bible version says “God is able to do superabundantly, far over and above all that we dare, ask or think, infinitely beyond our highest prayers, desires, thoughts, hopes or dreams.”