Finding What We Seek…

“One thing I ask from the LORD, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the LORD and to seek him in his temple.” -Psalm 27:4

There is the old testament story about a woman named Hannah.
Hannah did not have any children of her own and she desperately wanted a child. So after one of the Jewish celebrations, Hannah goes to the temple and fervently prays to God to give her a child. She prays and weeps and is in deep anguish over this heartfelt need to be a mother. As she is praying and weeping, the priest Eli sees Hannah there, and he thinks she is drunk because her lips are moving but no words are coming out. So Eli goes and confronts her and even tells her to throw away her wine.

Imagine that for a second, this woman is crying out to God in one of her lowest moments and she can’t even catch a break without having Eli confront her in judgement. Hannah doesn’t lash out though, she just tells the priest why she is there and that she is not drunk. Hannah outlines her heartache and even says “I am very discouraged and I am pouring out my heart to the Lord.” (NLT translation).
The priest responds by saying, “May the God of Israel grant you the request that you asked of Him.”

Scriptures then tell us that Hannah goes home and is at peace and starts eating AGAIN. Let’s stop for a minute and recognize that in Hannah’s distress she had stopped eating and was so discouraged in her heart.

Have you ever been there?
Have you ever been so heavily burdened that you lose all appetite and thoughts of self-care?

One such moment comes to my mind in my life. My Wife had just tragically lost her mother in a horrible accident and for the next couple of days in the midst of our mourning we couldn’t eat and we barely slept. It was gut wrenching sadness and heartbreaking pain. Scripture tells us that there is a time for everything (Ecclesiastes 3)…and in our lives, most of us have experienced those times of mourning. I believe Hannah felt a certain kind of mourning in her life as well and that is why we are made to understand in 1 Samuel 1:9-28 that Hannah was not eating…or probably sleeping. Her heart was so heavy and burdened with this deep longing and sadness for a child.

In the Seeking – We Find.
Hannah sought out God in this dark moment of her life.
She knelt before God and didn’t care if anyone else was watching, and as she poured out her heart to God, and He was there listening.

Praying for Women to Hunger for God · TWR Women Of Hope


It had nothing to do with a priest answering Hannah’s pleas…although Eli certainly did that. There wasn’t some sort of mystical words that Eli spoke that eased her heart. Rather, it was Hannah’s faith in the God that she prayed to that allowed her to find peace again. There was a certainty that filled that place where her mourning had been. Faith blossomed while her mourning decayed and faded away.

There is a truth of us in this.
David certainly found it when he wrote this:
One thing I ask from the LORD, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the LORD and to seek him in his temple.” -Psalm 27:4

When we seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, ALL these things will be given to us (Matthew 6:33). But it starts with our seeking.
Are we willing to search God and know Him? To truly know Him?! Not know of Him. Or about Him. But to truly KNOW Him?

What does it look like in our modern day to “dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life”? Let me give you a hint: it’s not just about going to church, but that’s a great start. It is about allowing God to dwell in your life every moment of every day. To literally breathe Him in and out in your actions, thoughts and words. So much so that your old self-induced life fades away to be replaced with a self-less holy one that reflects Christ completely.

Then, when we are heavy burdened, when we face daunting days of uncertainty (that can seem be insurmountable at times) we can seek God. We can know Him, and we can get up from our places of prayer and be rejuvenated in life by His spiritual nourishment, provision and love.

Questions to Ponder today:
What is currently weighing on your heart?
Have you prayed about these things to God?
These prayers can be spoken out loud or silently. They can be written down or thought in your mind as you go about your day. But one thing that truly helps is that you verbalize your burdens to the Lord. Even though He already knows them, speak them to Him.
Lastly do you trust that God is not only listening to your prayers, but that He is in your life and is a participant in it?

May we find what we seek today…and may we be seeking God as well purposely strive to dwell in the House of the Lord forever.

-Amen.

Something more for us to ponder today.
To God be the glory.

“Re-filling The Well.”

The best way to cheer yourself up is to try to cheer somebody else up.” – Mark Twain

To those today questioning your self-worth…you are important and loved.
To the person seeking hope in what seems to be a hopeless dark mass of despair, God’s light will shine and guide you through this.
To the person who has been beaten down by the world, has zero confidence left and wonders if they matter at all – well, guess what – YOU DO!

Why do we need to hear words of encouragement and comfort?
That is probably a dumb question, isn’t it?
We want, no that’s not a strong enough word, we all need a sense of belonging, acceptance, love and knowledge that who and what we do matters.

So let me ask you, when was the last time someone affirmed that in you?
When was the last time you felt that deep warmth of belonging?
I’m not just talking about your workplace or career, I’m talking about every facet of your life. Do you have a well of encouragement from yourself and others to draw from? If not, just like water in a desert, it can evaporate and run dry. We need to constantly draw from this well of assurance and encouragement. That’s why God provides to us companionship and friendship. We cannot go about our lives on our own. We cannot live vicariously through episodes we binge watch on Netflix. We need other humans and their interaction in our lives to help us draw from this well again and again.

This isn’t to say that we become an attention sponge or needy in our attempts to self-congratulate ourselves, but rather we find a healthy medium of friendships that challenge us, drive us forward and offers to us a safe space where we can refill our minds, bodies and souls.

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I am sorry if this sounds like an episode of Dr Phil, but the truth of the matter is far too many of us are running on empty when it comes to deep accountability, encouragement and human connection. We were made for fellowship with God and that of other human beings. We need to be encouraged and to encourage others – thereby refilling that well over and over again. -This is humanity…this is where we live and breathe and where we exist…we may want to dissect ourselves and separate it all out in neat little compartments, but at the end of the day humanity is us and we are humanity.

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Questions:
Who can you encourage today?
What will you say to them? What will you do for them?
How can you brighten someone’s day? It is not something mystical, but what we find when we encourage is that we too are drawing from that well…we too are replenished and renewed. Encouragement, love and a sense of community is infectious and our world needs more of it.

Be encouraged today…“He who began a good work in you will carry it on into completion.” Philippians 1:6

Go and refill the well.
Something more to ponder today.

The Death Of The Sacred

I have a confession to make.
Well, it’s really not much of a confession, more of a revealing of my nature.
Here goes, I love technology.
I love how it makes things convenient for me. My schedules are synced to my computer and my phone, I can create presentations from most of my mobile devices (of which I have multiple devices), and I can take striking photos and create beautiful banners that look like art…all because of technology.

The Dangers
Despite the fact that I love technology, I have become more and more aware that I can become too dependent upon it for everything. My car even tells me where to go these days, so rarely do I acknowledge or recognize the direction in which I am going – my mobile GPS does it all…well, except drive (but I can’t wait until it can!…Okay, I digress).

Despite all of these technological advances in our age, I truly feel like we run the risk of losing the ancient and the sacred. What do I mean by this?
Our attention spans have grown shorter since the introduction of cellular devices. You don’t believe me? Can you go an entire hour without looking at your phone, either to check for new status updates on social media or to see if that special someone has texted you? It is becoming increasingly difficult even for me to divorce myself from the tech all around me and I fear I am losing the sacred even in my own life.

Related image


How about you?

Can you put your phone down?
Can you close your laptop, tablet, other devices without feeling the ‘itch” to check it again?

What do I mean by ‘Sacred’?
If you were to study the spiritual disciplines, these things that I consider ‘sacred’ would be:
Meditation
Prayer
Fasting

Image result for Holy
Solitude and Practicing Presence

Study
Simplicity
Solitude
Submission
Service
Confession
Worship
Guidance
Celebration (In God’s Presence)
(Source: Renovare )

It is very difficult to do any of these sacred things when our attention spans have grown short and shorter. For some of you reading this right now, you might even get hung up on the word ‘sacred’, because some of you perhaps have an issue with the practice of anything liturgical or what some might consider “high Church”…needless to say we can become so distracted that the sacred has died in our age, or is in its death throws as we speak.

Perhaps the next question should be:
How do we revive the sacred in our lives“?
Here are my suggestions to help you with this process, but as a caveat to this, each person is different, and if you find that something works better than something else, do what helps you to revive the sacred in your life.

1) Make a list
Make a list of all the distractions in your life.
This will help you recognize the things that prevent you from entering into those sacred moments. Remember, that the elements are not the desired goal, but rather the fellowship with our Father in Heaven should be our desire. It is in the moments of the sacred that we encounter the Divine.

2) De-clutter a space.
After you have acknowledge and listed the things that distract, find a specific space to de-clutter and prepare. No space is holy, it is our attitudes and focus that allows us to tune into the presence of God. So, if a closet is the space you choose, the so be it. God’s presence isn’t fixed in specific locations, because the Holy Spirit resides in His people. The space we de-clutter is for us, that we might focus and prepared to receive and listen.

3) Sit in Silence (Try not to fall asleep)
I saw this partly in jest, because I have, at times, placed myself in silence and have struggled with slumber. Other times, your body is telling you to get more sleep, and perhaps we need to listen to that. A time of silence can help us enter into the sacred, although I openly acknowledge (as an extrovert) that this practice is much hard for me. Perhaps you will find it easier…if you do, please enlighten me by commenting below.

4) Converse with God.
You don’t need special words, or a litany of things to bring Him…have an honest conversation. After all, He knows you better than you know yourself – He made you, so He understands your intricacies and nuances. He is aware of your situations and the things you struggle with. Be honest, because you can’t fool God – He already knows. What this conversation does is opens our lives before Him as we acknowledge elements of it verbally.

5) Begin with one of the above mentioned disciplines…study, read and apply:
The last one will take patience.
This isn’t an instant gratification, fast food type of habit.
You must acclimate yourself.
This will take discipline and acknowledgment that it will not occur over night, but rather gradually as you apply yourself to this task.

The sacred is not dead…yet.
Don’t let it perish because of our distractions – at least in this generation.
Perhaps we have to eliminate the distractions in order for us to return to the sacred. Perhaps it is within our own busy minds that this war needs to be waged. Where ever the distractions lay, confront them and carve out those intentional moments in which we might encounter the Divine.

Something more to ponder today.


Silence is a Killer…A Devotional Pondering.

“Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.” 1 Thessalonians 5:11

Let’s face it, we all encounter difficult days…some more difficult than others.
There are days that we can manage on our own, and then there are days when we are completely floored by the problems that come our way.  The pressures may seem impossible to overcome, and sometimes that may be true…

I know what you’re thinking, “that doesn’t sound very encouraging to me”…let me finish:
The pressures may seem impossible to overcome, and sometimes that may be true…but we were never meant to handle it all on our own.

In the Apostle Paul’s day, the new believers in Thessalonica were encountering all kinds of trouble.  Thessalonica was the largest city in Macedonia which boasted over 200,000 people.  This city was known for being a military and commercial port city.  So within this large city in Macedonia, these young Christians were encountering all sorts of trouble – even persecution and death because of their new-found declarations of faith.  In the midst of their living testimonies, they longed for the day of Christ’s return.  What does that mean?  They lived in fear every single day, and couldn’t wait for Christ to come back.   And so these young Christians lived expectant lives while encouraging each other onward.

The persecution in Thessalonica must have been fierce for the Apostle Paul to remind them that they needed one another and they ought to continue (“just as you are doing”) to encourage one another.

Let’s put this into perspective:
We might not be facing certain death for our faith, instead we might be struggling to pay rent, finding funds to feed our families, enduring a tough problem at work or at home…all of these situations are arduous and, at times they keep us up at night.
The killer is silence. 
What do I mean?
We think no other Christian is struggling, and if they are it must mean that their faith isn’t strong enough.  This could not be further from the truth.
We have this idea that we shouldn’t let other Christians know how discouraged we really are, because we don’t want them to think less of us.  Because we don’t want others to talk.  Because we fear judgment of others.  Because we believe in the perfect Christian life that really doesn’t exist…because we’ve bought the lie that to be a Christian means we don’t struggle with these things anymore.

And so, silence is a killer.
No one knows.
We don’t share.
And our hurts go unchecked, unnoticed, and unaddressed.

Dear Christian,
How can we encourage one another if we aren’t being honest with each other?
How can we carry each other’s burdens if we allow silence to slowly kill our souls?
We cannot continue to buy the lie that everything is fine when we face times of trial and we keep it private.  (Some will laugh at this and say, but church is full of hypocrites and gossipers…then find REAL believers in whom you can confide!)

Healing can begin with out this kind of encouragement, but long is the process and deep the scars.  When we have others who will journey beside us, and encourage us, we will find added strength, hope, abundance and encouragement.

Don’t let silence kill you.

Messy Church – Weekend VBS…”I Am’s of Jesus”

So we did a weekend of Messy Church recently, that consisted of 2 hour segments on the topic of the “I Am’s” of Jesus.  I would recommend along with leaders at the stations, you have a time keeper to keep the stations and children moving.   These Messy Church plans can be adapted and adjusted to meet your church’s needs and the demographics of your congregation.  I will also add that you invite your older members and adults to participate and perhaps even become a child in a way to help the children stay engaged.  (This can be a challenge, but it is very effective when done correctly)

 Friday:

7:30pm-9:00pm

Theme: “I am the vine”

Scripture Verse – John 15:1-11

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned.If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.

“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. 10 If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. 11 I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.



The Fruit of the Spirit Song                                   5 Minutes
Welcome
Read Scripture
Instruct Kids and Teachers


Stations:

1) Bobbing for apples                                                                                   20 minutes
Items Needed:  1 Large basin or feeding trough
4-10 bags of apples depending on the size.
Lots of water

Instructions:
This station is pretty self-explanatory, tell the kids this is a timed activity.
Kids are to put their hands behind their backs and, using only their teeth, pick an apple out of the basin.  Use your phone/stop watch to time the kids to determine who has the fastest time in retrieving an apple.  Have the kids try this a few times (of course replace “used” or gross apples with new ones), make sure everyone gets a chance to try this activity.

After everyone has taken a turn ask these questions:

Ask:
What was the object of this game?
Did you think bobbing for apples was hard or easy?
Who here likes apples?
What kind of apple is your favorite?  (types of apples include: Granny Smiths, Gala, Fuji, Honey Crisp, McIntosh, Golden Delicious…just to name a few)

Say:  Apples are an amazing fruit that grows on trees.
Each apple grows from a tiny seed that can be found inside of these apples.
Apple trees grow from these seeds and can take up to 3 years to grow and produce new apples.
Apple Trees needs pruning from time to time in order for better fruit to develop.

Ask:  What would happen on an apple farm if an apple tree didn’t produce apples?
(answer:  it would be cut down and a new tree would be planted in its place)

Matthew 15 verse 4 says, “Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.”

God wants us to love Him and always keep His word in our hearts.  If we do this, we will be able to witness to others through the way that we live our lives.  And this is what it means to bear fruit!

Ask:  What are ways that we can show God’s love towards others?

-At this time send the kids to the next station-


2) Vine Bracelet Craft                                                                                                 20 Minutes
the trick is using something called a braiding disc, or braiding loom. It’s just a round piece of cardboard with some slots in it, but it makes bracelet-weaving a lot easier compared to the bracelet-making method described in most books .
Ready? First up, you’ll need to gather your materials.

Materials Needed:
Friendship Bracelet (The whole kits are available at Michaels and other craft stores)

All you need is:

  • 7 strands of yarn, each 2 feet long
  • 1 piece of cardboard, e.g. breakfast cereal box
  • pair of scissors

Step 2: Make the Starting Knot

Line up the ends of your 7 strands of yarn, then tie a simple overhand knot like this. Make it so that there’s about 1″ (2cm) of loose ends poking out of the knot.

Step 3: Put the Yarn on the Braiding Disc

Poke the knotted end of the yarn bundle through the hole in the center of the braiding disc, like this:

Then clip one piece of yarn into each slot, except the top slot. Your braiding disc should look like this:

Step 4: Braid Your Friendship Bracelet

Braiding your bracelet with the disc is really easy. There are just two steps to learn and repeat.

Step A:

Hold the disc so that the empty slot is at the top. Un-clip whichever yarn is in the bottom-right slot and clip it in to the top slot, like this:

Step B:

Now the bottom right slot will be empty. So, rotate the whole disc so that the empty slot is at the top again, like this:

Now, just keep repeating Step A, Step B, Step A, Step B etc, and your bracelet will grow. It seems a bit like magic the first time but it really works!

As you continue, you’ll see your bracelet growing down through the hole in the center of your braiding disc, like this:

Step 5: Un-clip from Braiding Disc

Once the bracelet is long enough to go around your wrist, in-clip it from the braiding disc. It should look something like this:

(I used a bit too much yarn on this one, so the loose ends are quite long.)

Step 6: Tie Finishing Knots

Tie an overhand knot (just like in step 2) right at the point where the braiding ends. Then tie another overhand knot about 2/3″ (1.5cm) away. Trim the loose ends. The end of your bracelet should now look like this:

After the craft, or during SAY:
What would happen if one of these threads were taken out?
What would happen if one of these threads wasn’t included in the braid?
Would you notice?   (Of course you would!)
Each thread is just as important as the next, without each piece doing its part in this bracelet, it cannot become what we want it to be.

Think about how God sees us.
He loves each and every one of us.
We are all different, with many different gifts and abilities.
A part from one another, we are all unique and beautiful…but what happens when we put all of us together like these threads?  What happens when we all agree, and we have this thing called “Unity”?  Is that a good thing?

Say:  Just like these threads, when put together, we are so much stronger than when we are a part.  Today in our scripture verse, God tells us that He is the vine and we are the branches.  This means that with God all things are possible, and when we are connected to Him, we are so much stronger!  He wants for us to be connected to Him.

Ask:  How can we stay connected with God?
(Praying, Reading the Bible, going to Church, hanging out with other Christians…)

So today, as a reminder of how we are to be connected with God, think about this every time you look at this bracelet or as you wear it.  Remember that God loves you and has connect us together in an amazing way!


Note: add some dish soap to tempera paint to make it washable…It’ll save you in the long run (we found out the hard way!)

3) Vine Stomping Painting:                                                                         20 Minutes

Items Needed:  Large Basin – enough for 1 or 2 kids to stand in.
Large Bottles of Paint – Purple, Green, Blue…etc
1 -2 large water basins for washing feet afterwards
Paper towels
Long roll of butcher block paper or construction sheet paper

Instructions:
                       *this will get messy!**
One or two at a time (depending on the size of the basins of paint) have the kids take off their shoes and socks and place them to the side neat and tidy so they don’t lose them afterwards.
Roll out the butcher block paper ahead of time onto the floor – long enough so that every child can get their feet onto the long paper.  Once the kids get into the paint basin, have them stomp down (but not so hard that they splatter paint out the basin, just enough for them to feel the paint between their toes).  Once their feet are adequately covered in paint, have the kids carefully (CAREFULLY!!) Step out of the basin and right onto the Butcher block paper.  Have them create grapes on the vine by only using their feet as the paint brush.

Ensure every child gets a chance to do this creative activity, once they have completed the painting, have each child wash their feet off in the other water basin and dry them with paper towels, perhaps have an extra adult help them in and out of the basins (both the paint and water basins)…to avoid anyone from slipping and falling.

Following the painting activity, have the kids sit down for just a few moments and ask these questions:

Ask:   So what was your favorite part of this painting activity?
What was your least favorite part?
Who likes getting messy here?
Who can’t stand getting messy?

Say:  So let me ask you about grapes, does anyone like to eat grapes or drink grape juice?
Did you know that a long time ago in order to make grape juice and wine people had to get into large basins like these and stomp the grapes with their feet until they made the grape juice?  It must have been a sticky job, but in Jesus’ day grapes were used a lot.

The bible verse that we are learning about today is all about the vine and grapes…Jesus used this idea with those he spoke to in order for them to understand how important a life with God should be.  Jesus said “I am the vine and you are the branches”

Ask:  does that sound like they are connected?
How are the grapes connected to the vine?
(Branches from the vine connect the grapes, without these branches there will not be any fruit)
How do we stay connected to Jesus?
What do we do to stay close to Him?


4) Outdoor activity                                                                                                     20 Minutes
Blob Tag:

  1. Outdoor or Indoor. This game is a normal game of tag with an added twist. When “it” tags someone, the person becomes part of “it.” Then the two of them must run hand in hand and catch their next victim who will join them. Last one caught by the “Blob” is the winner!  The purpose of this game is to get everyone connected. We are the branches and Jesus is the Vine. If we stay in Him, we’ll bear much fruit! Even though the winner is the last one standing, the intentions behind this game is to show that God wants us to be connected to His son always.

5) Devotional & Music                                                                                 5-10 Minutes
(If time permits)  Song:  Fruit of the Spirit Video
Item Needed:  Lamp and extension cord
Ask
:  So what did you learn tonight?
Who is the Vine?
Who is the Branches?
What was your favorite Messy Church activity tonight? 

Say:
I am sure that you all know the song, “This Little Light of Mine.” I want you to help me sing that song this evening. While we sing it, I’m going to hold this light up and let it shine all around. (Start to sing the song, but stop when you notice that the light isn’t shining.) I wonder what is wrong, my light isn’t shining. (Someone will probably notice that it isn’t plugged in.) Oh, here’s the problem, my light isn’t plugged in.

Now that we are plugged in, let’s try it again. (Sing) Oh, that was much better. The lamp was shining brightly, wasn’t it? It’s pretty hard for a light to shine when it isn’t connected to the power source, isn’t it? Well, actually, it isn’t just hard — it’s impossible!

In our Messy Church lesson today, Jesus told his disciples a story to teach them the importance of staying connected to him. Of course Jesus didn’t use a lamp to tell his story, because electricity hadn’t even been invented yet. Instead, Jesus used an example that his disciples would understand. He used the example of a vine. You know what a vine is, don’t you? It is a plant with a lot of branches growing out from it. The branches have fruit on them. If it is a grapevine, the branches should have grapes on them.

Have you ever seen a branch that has been broken off of a tree or a vine? What happens to it? That’s right, it withers up and dies. Can it ever have any fruit on it again? No, it isn’t any good for anything — except fire wood.

Jesus said, “I am the vine and you are the branches. If you remain in me, you will have much fruit, but apart from me, you can do nothing.” Jesus wants us to produce a lot of fruit. Good fruit like being kind, generous, and faithful. Most of all, he wants us to love others as he has loved us.

Can we do that on our own? No way. Just as the lamp must be plugged in before its light can shine, and just as the branches must be connected to the vine before they can produce fruit, you and I must stay connected to Jesus to produce the good fruit that God expects of us.

Close in Prayer



Saturday AM

10am- 12:15pm

Theme: “I am the Good Shepherd”

Scripture Verse – John 10:7-11
7 Therefore Jesus said again, “Very truly I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. 8 All who have come before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep have not listened to them. 9 I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved.[a] They will come in and go out, and find pasture. 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.  11 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.

Introduction and Instruction:                                                                     5minutes
Read the scripture with the children.
Say:  Today we are going to learn about Jesus the Good Shepherd and how we are to be His sheep who listen to Him and follow Him.

Dismiss to the first station together:


Stations:

1) Sheep Collage craft                            20 minutes
Lead the kids through this simple of craft of creating sheep.
Help kids to cut out the sheep body outline, place cotton balls on the body, attach popsickle sticks to legs for support, and ensure all of the kids complete this project.

As you are creating the craft (or after) 

Say:  What kind of sound does a sheep make?
What kind of food do sheep eat?
Are sheep very smart animals?  (The answer is no, they will often eat grass and wander around and often get lost if they aren’t watched closely).
What sort of things do sheep produce?   (Wool – clothing, coats, socks…, and meat).

Say:  Our scripture today tells us that the sheep hear Jesus’ voice and they will follow him, but they will not listen to the thief or the robber…why do you think that is?

Jesus can be trusted to lead us, because he loves us…just like the shepherd loves his sheep, to the point that he will lay down his life for them…Jesus did just that for us didn’t he?  He died on the cross to save us from sin.  As we go to the next station, I want you to think about Jesus who is the good shepherd who leads us.


2) Sheep cookies to frost & decorate                                                                    20minutes
Bring kids to the cookie table but encourage them not to eat or grab anything yet.
In this station we ended up using squares of graham crackers, cookie frosting, edible fondant eyes, and marshmallows to complete the ‘Sheep’ cookie creations.  The other option is to make sugar cookies and create their designs with frosting, icing and other food decorating items.

Say:  We just finished creating our own sheep by putting wool on it and you talked about Jesus being the good shepherd.  What makes Jesus the good shepherd and not just the “okayist” shepherd?   (He loves us, he died for us, He’s God’s one and only Son)…

Ask:  What is your favorite flavored cookie?  (Chocolate Chip, Sugar cookie, Gingerbread, shortbread, oatmeal raisin etc.)
What makes that cookie flavor your favorite?

 

 

Read:  2 Corinthians 2:15 says; “For we are to God a sweet smell of Christ, in them that are saved, and in them that perish…”

This world needs more of the sweetness of Christ!
Ask: Do you know who can share this sweetness of Christ with others?  Answer: You can!  We all can!  Say:  When we share our things with others – the sweetness of Christ.  When we tell others about Jesus – it is the sweetness of Christ.  When we love other people even if they don’t love us back – that is the sweetness of Christ.

So as a reminder of how we are to be this sweetness of Christ for other people, we are going to decorate these sheep cookies with frosting and sprinkles…let’s get messy and creative!


3) Pin the wool tail on the sheep game                                                  20Minutes
Directions:  Just like pin the tail on the donkey, we are going to pin the wool on the sheep.
Say:  We need help to put the wool on the sheep, but of course, we have to do it blindfolded.
This can be a tricky game to play, but let’s give it a shot.   (make sure you blindfold the kids tight enough so they cannot see, then spin them around a few times before allowing them to seek out the sheep with the wool in hand.


4) Outdoor activity
Barbarian Capture the flag:
                                                          25 Minutes

 

  1. Overview:

Teams of 4 are competing against each other to get the other teams’ gold and to capture other team’s’ players, and put them in your jail.

Set-up/Boundaries:

Using two ropes, or red surveyor’s tape, divide the field into 4 sections. Each section has one prison area, which is marked off with either ducttape or surveyor’s tape. Each section also has a “gold depot” which is marked using hula-hoops or tape. Each team has their own color, which is a flag strip tucked into the front of each player’s pants. Every team gets an equal amount of “gold” to start the game, which is white socks, gold socks, and 1 gray work sock.

Start of Game:

When whistle blows, teams begin the attack. Another team can only catch you if you are in their section; likewise, you can only catch others in your own section (if you are “green” and you run into the “red” section, then you run across to the “yellow section, red can no longer capture you, but yellow now can). When you capture another team member, take their flag and report to the middle of the field to the scorekeeper, then return flag to the person in your prison.

In addition to capturing opposing team players, you are also trying to get their “gold”, without getting caught. You can only take 1 gold piece at a time, and if you are caught inside an opposition section, you must return gold to that team (no throwing gold into your own section).

What Happens When Caught:

Having your flag removed by another team player inside their section gets you caught. When this happens, you report to their prison area and can only get out of prison if a teammate tags you out, without getting caught themselves. If your teammate gets caught trying to free you, they must join you in the jail area. Once you successfully get tagged out, you and your teammate get a free passage back to your section. NOTE (the game coordinator may call “jailbreak” and free everyone in jail in all the sections at any given time, usually when there is a lop-sided number of players in prison).

How the Game is Won:

The game is won by accumulating points for every prisoner your teammates catch, and for each piece of “gold” left at the end of the game. You can run out of gold during the course of the game, but still get points by capturing prisoners and trying to grab other gold from enemy sections. The team with the most accumulated total points at the end is the winner.

Score Keeping:

White Socks- 3000 points each

Gold Socks- 5000 points each

Gray Socks- 10,000 points each

Prisoners- 1000 each player
Supplies Needed:

Large, open playing area

2 Ropes (100+ feet each is ideal)

4 different colored flags, one for each section

White, yellow, gray socks

Bean bag fill for each sock

Scorers pad and pen

Duct tape and/or hula-hoops

Red surveyors or caution tape

  1. The purpose of this game is to reveal the intentions behind the thief’s motives – all he wants is to steal what belongs to God. This is a great way to show that. I think the youth will enjoy this a lot.

5) Build a sheep pen                                                                                      10 Minutes
Minute to win it block game – build the tallest “sheep pen” as quickly as possible within the 60 second time constraint.  The person with the fastest time and tallest sheep pen wins a prize.


6) Devotional / Music                                                                      10-15 Minutes
Ask:  So what did we learn today?
Who is the good shepherd?
Who are the sheep?
Why is it important to listen to Jesus and follow Him?

BIBLE VERSE:  “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” John 10:11 NIV

Talk about shepherds and sheep. Explain to the children how sheep are not very bright, and they need a shepherd to take care of them, to bring them to green grass and pure water to drink. A good shepherd makes sure the sheep are happy and safe.

1. What will a good shepherd do for his or her sheep?

  1. Jesus tells us that He is our Good Shepherd. What does this mean to you?

Today our Bible story is from the book of John. Jesus is talking about Heaven with the Pharisees and how He is the only way to get to Heaven. Jesus decided to use an example to help them understand. He compared Himself to a good shepherd and all of us to sheep. However, the Pharisees probably still didn’t understand. Let’s read the story, and find out what Jesus is saying to us.

Read John 10:11-15 (The Good Shepherd and His Sheep)

Discussion Questions:

  1. What does a shepherd take care of? (Sheep.)
  2. Does a good shepherd lay down (or give) his life for the sheep? (Yes.)
  3. What do you think this means? (The good shepherd would risk his or her own life to protect the sheep.)
  4. What does a hired hand do when he or she sees the wolf coming? (Runs the other way leaving the sheep behind.)
  5. What happens to a flock of sheep if there is no shepherd? (They may be attacked by a wolf and get scattered.)
  6. In our Bible story, does the good shepherd know his sheep? (Yes.)
  7. Do the sheep know the good shepherd? (Yes.)
  8. How are we like sheep? (Allow for answers.)
  9. Do we have a good shepherd? (Yes.) Who is our Good Shepherd? (Jesus.)Close in a song (optional) and a word of prayer.
    If we end early, a video will be put on for the kids to enjoy, or we will play the above outdoor game again.


Saturday Evening PM

7:00pm-9pm

Theme: “I Am the Light of the world”

Scripture Verse – John 8:12
When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

Introduction & Instruction time:                                                                5 Min

Reiterate the weekend theme again, ask what the children have learned by recapping the sessions.
Then introduce today’s theme and sing a song or two (optional).



Stations:

1) Stained glass mosaic craft                                                                      20 Min
Using a card stock frame, kids are to layer the bright tissue paper across the middle of the frame using glue or tape in order to make the faux stained glass.  Encourage the children to use as many colors as possible or if there are some really creative/artistic students, have them design a dove, cross or other symbol within their stained glass frame.

As the craft is taking place engage the students in this conversation piece:
Ask: What is your favorite color in this stained glass craft and why?
Which would you rather experience, complete darkness or a sunny day?
Is anyone scared of the dark?
What scares you about the darkness?
Why does having a night light or flashlight help?
(See where you are going, safety at night…)

Say:  When stained glass was first put into churches, it was during a time when most people couldn’t read and only rich people owned books because they were very expensive.  So people would come to church and look up at these amazing stained glass windows, and it wasn’t only that they were beautiful to look at, but each window told a story.  There were shapes and colors that made up the image of Jesus on the cross…and then next to it would be another window with Jesus standing at the open tomb…and all of these windows could be seen because the light was shining through them.

In our scripture verse today, Jesus tells the listeners, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.
Jesus was telling the listener and even us today that the true light of Heaven comes only through Him…when we choose to follow Jesus, and when we choose to let His light shine in our lives, we have His eternal light in us that will never be extinguished.  His light will guide us each step of the way.  So as you look at your stained glass creation, may it remind you of the Light of Jesus, and may it help you to walk in His light!


2) Star creation craft                                                                                    20 Min
Kids will glue/tape popsicle sticks together to make a star:
After securely gluing or taping the sticks into a star shape, kids will paint, bedazzle and design their stars.  Glow in the dark tape will also be available, but use this sparingly.
Ask the kids to name different stars and constellations.
(Star example:  Northern Star, Sirius, Vega… Constellation Names:  Milky Way, Andromeda, Aries, Aquarius…etc.)

We purchased glow in the dark tape from Amazon for $7 and it was a HUGE hit with the kids, and reinforced the Messy Church theme

Ask:  Can somebody tell me how many stars are in the sky?
Answer:  In the Milky Way alone there are over 250 Billion Stars…
Say:  That’s like saying how many grains of sand is on a sandy beach or on the ocean floor.  That is a really, really HUGE number!  

It is amazing to think that God created the Heavens and the Earth and He created all of the stars including the 250 Billion Stars just in the Milky Way Galaxy!!  And even with so many amazing things in our universe, God shines His light on us because we are extremely special to Him!  Out in space there are places that are very, very dark, but we are in a place in the Universe that is just right for creation and for all kinds of life.  We have a great big fire ball in the sky called what?  (Answer:  the Sun) that is out in the day time, and a moon at night.

Also the stars in the sky have been used for thousands of years to give travelers and explorers direction on this earth.  Isn’t this an amazing thing that God has created?  May this star that you just created remind you of the light of God and the fact that He guides us with His light.  Also may we recognize just how big our universe is and how much God comes to our tiny corner of the world and shines for us.  Because He loves us!


3) Game: The Light of the World                                                                            25 Min

Scripture : Matthew 5:14

YOU WILL NEED: A bag with slips of paper that tell something to do. Samples are on the last

page.

Choose a volunteer—This volunteer will reach in the bag and pull out a slip of paper. The slip of

paper will instruct the student what to do. This student will be the “Light,” showing everyone else what to do. The “Light” may not speak (unless the instructions say so) but should lead everyone in accomplishing what is written. Once you, as the station leader, sees that the instructions have been followed, tell everyone to give him a hand, then point to someone else and say, “Be the Light.”  They’ll come forward and thus the game continues. If a student doesn’t want to lead, don’t make them, but let everyone who wants to go have that opportunity.

After the game:
Ask:

What was hard about being the Light?

What was fun about being the Light?

Did anyone feel embarrassed about being the Light?

Was anyone concerned about looking silly or foolish?

Read Matthew 5:14 – “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden.”

 

How does this verse remind you of our game? (Both of them talk about the light; everyone

can see a city on a mountain, and everyone could see us doing the instructions.)

What does Jesus mean when He says, “You are the light”? (That we should live in such a

way that our lives are like a light that guides other people to God; and shine, or show them, His

life and love.

When you’re at school, why is it sometimes hard to be a light? (I don’t always want to do the

right thing; some people think you’re weird if you’re a Christian; I might be embarrassed? I’m

afraid I would look silly; my friends want to do wrong things.)

SAY: It can be hard to be a light. But when we shine Jesus’ love to our friends, we’re doing the

best thing we can, which is showing someone about Jesus. By being a light Jesus isn’t asking

you to do silly things, like what we did in our game. Jesus wants you to bring hope, courage,

and joy to people. He wants you to follow God’s Word and tell everyone that Jesus saves us.
SAY: It’s both easy and fun to tell other people about Jesus. It’s as simple as saying, “Jesus

loves you,” or “Jesus will take care of you.” You can shine Jesus’ light to anyone you know

by your words and by how you live.

Other Questions

How can you shine your light so others can see Jesus in you?

What do you think would be some things people do on a playground or in sports

that show they are following the light? What are things people might do when

they are living in darkness?

What would happen if you stood up for someone being picked on in the

playground? How would that person feel? How would the bully feel? How would

you feel? How would Jesus feel?

What would stop you from telling a friend, “Jesus will take care of you,” the next

time they are afraid or upset? How do you think they might respond?

When you see someone at school get hurt, do you ever think about praying for

them? When you hear someone at school say a cuss word, do you ever think

about asking them not to use that kind of language around you?

Is there anything in your life that you do that Jesus wouldn’t like? Does that feel

like darkness? Who can tell more about how it feels when you feel guilty for

something? How can Jesus’ light that guides you help?


5) Camp Fire and S’Mores time.                                                                               15 – 25 Min


6) Devotional/ Music                                                                                                 10 -15 Min

Around the camp fire have the kids sit around the pavilion tables.
Ask:  What was your favorite part of the tonight’s Messy Church?
Theme:             Reflecting the light of Christ
Song:  This little light of mine..
Object: A mirror and a flashlight

Read Scripture: There was a man who was sent from God; his name was John. He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all men might believe. He himself was not the light: he came only as a witness to the light. The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world. John 1: 6-9 (NIV)

Say:  Have you ever sat outside on a bright sunny day and used a mirror to reflect the sun’s light? If one of you will take this flashlight and shine it on me I will show you what I mean. You see, as the light shines on me, I hold up my mirror and I can reflect the light to shine on you. I am not the light, I am just letting my mirror reflect the light to shine on you.

Say:  If I am going to reflect the light on you, there are a couple of things that are very important: I must keep my mirror facing toward the light. If I turn away from the light, I cannot reflect the light.  I must make sure that nothing comes between the light and me. If that happens, I cannot reflect the light.  The Bible tells us that “There was a man who was sent from God; his name was John. He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all men might believe. He himself was not the light: he came only as a witness to the light. The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world.” Who do you think the true light is that the Bible said was coming into the world? That is right! It was Jesus. Jesus is the light of the world.  In our focus verse today, Jesus even declared to the listeners “I am the Light of the world…”

So, if we accept Jesus as our light then you and I need to be like John. The Bible says that we are to let our light shine, but we need to remember that “Our Light” is Jesus. We are not the light, we are just mirrors that reflect His light.  If we are going to reflect the light of Jesus, we must remember a couple of things:

We must keep our faces turned toward Jesus.

We must not let anything come between us and Jesus.

When we remember those two things, we will reflect His light to the entire world.

Pray: (something to this effect)  Dear Jesus, we want to reflect your light in the world. Help us to keep our faces turned toward you and help us to keep anything from coming between us and you. Amen.



Sunday

10:30am-12:00pm

Theme: “I Am the way”

Scripture Verse – John 14:6

Intro to today’s Messy Church (DYS or Assigned Officers will lead this) 5 Min
Say:
Hey everybody!
Today we are going to begin our Messy Church with a scripture verse of John 14:6
Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
Suggested Themed Music Videos you could play at the beginning:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ueMQV2Ax-MM

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xbCkzx9jJaE

 

So in just a few minutes we are going to begin by heading to our first station, but first I want us to say our scripture verse together out loud, let’s read it together:
Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

Are you ready for Messy Church today?
Let’s open with a word of prayer and then we will go off to our first station.
Pray and Dismiss

Stations:


1) Needle compass activity                                                                                       20 Min
Science experiment – https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=36&v=QiSp6pGe0w0

Items Needed:
Bowl
Needle
Magnet
Pitcher of Water
Cork
Actual Compass

Directions:
Pour the water into the bowl.
Then rub the needle on the magnet about 10 -15 times
Place the small cork piece into the water, then place the needle on top of the floating cork.

As you do this, explain to the children that the needle, having picked up some of the magnetic attraction from the magnet is now starting to face magnetic north.  So it spins until it points north and south.   Tell the kids:  Now, the Bible is a lot like this in our lives too.  When we read about Jesus and what He did while on earth we begin to know more about God, and when we begin to know more about God, we begin to live for Him and we start to point others toward Him through our Godly examples.

Ask:  What does it looks to live for God?
(get some of the kids to answer).

Why does it matter if we live for God or we don’t live for God?

ReadThen Jesus went to work on his disciples. “Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You’re not in the driver’s seat; I am. Don’t run from suffering; embrace it. Follow me and I’ll show you how. Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to finding yourself, your true self. What kind of deal is it to get everything you want but lose yourself? What could you ever trade your soul for? (Matthew 16:24-26 Message Version)

Jesus wants us to point others to God while we follow Him.
If we don’t listen and we don’t care about other people, they may not see God through our lives.  So today, I pray that God will give you a love for others in your heart.  Let God lead you, and may your words and your actions point others to God.

Let the kids take turns in re-trying this experiment while comparing it to the compass to make sure it is pointing to magnetic North.


2)outdoor game                                                                                             25 Min
Blind fold obstacle course: 

  1. Create an obstacle course (a playground works GREAT) and get your students or leaders to go in pairs. One from each pair is blindfolded, and the other will lead him or her through the obstacle course by using only their voice.
  2. The purpose of this game is to help the person who’s blindfolded navigate the course by only hearing the voice that’s directing them
  3. We’ll need two large trash cans, two long tables, and four chairs at the field near Ramsdale

Game Recap:
Circle up the kids and ask them about the game –
Ask:
How did you feel when you were blindfolded?
Did you trust the person who was leading you through the obstacle course?
How many things did you run into?
Does it help to have someone there who is looking out for you and helping you?
How confident are you that you could have made it through the obstacle course on your own?

Say:
Sometimes life is a lot like this obstacle course.
We often do not know how things are going to go in the future, or even in the next hour.  We have to trust that God knows what He is doing.  Trusting God can seem like a scary thing at times, especially when we have some big decisions to make in life.  But do you know what?  God promises to never leave us or forsake us.  So sometimes, during this obstacle course we may have doubted the person who was leading us, and maybe we even tripped or ran into something because they didn’t lead us very well…But God isn’t like that.  He loves us very much and He will lead us through the good and the bad times.  So as we think about Jesus being the way, truth and life today, remember the God leads us and wants what is best for our lives.


3) Devotional / Music (20 Minutes)                                                         20 Min

Questions:
What was your favorite station today?
Which station did you not like and why?
Can anyone tell me what our theme for today has been?
Recap Scripture Verse (or if time allows, have one or a few of the kids stand and read it for the group)

John 14:6 “Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

(Suggested Text or can be adapted)

Object: A map and a portable GPS (Even a phone with a map app on the screen)

There was a time when a person going on a trip wouldn’t think of beginning their journey without a road map. (Hold up the map for the children to see.) The map was very helpful to the traveler in finding the way to where they were going. Today we seldom ever use a road map. Do you know why? Most of us who own a car also have a GPS in our car. (Hold up the GPS.) How does the GPS work? When you are ready to go somewhere, you type in the address where you want to go and the GPS connects to a satellite up above the earth and computes the path to your destination. As soon as you start driving, a map appears on the screen and a voice from the GPS gives you turn by turn directions. “Turn right on Main Street in one mile, turn right in one half mile, turn right in 150 feet, turn right.” What happens if you miss your turn? The GPS says, “Recalculating” and immediately computes a new route to get you back on the right path to your destination.

When we are trying to follow Jesus in our daily life, it would be nice to have a GPS to lead us in the right direction, wouldn’t it? It would be nice to have something to keep us on the right path and keep us from getting lost…something that would help us get back on the right track when we made a wrong decision.

That is the way Jesus’ disciples must have felt when Jesus told them that he was going to leave them. Jesus said to them, “I am going to prepare a place for you and when everything is ready, I will come and get you so that you will always be with me. You know the way to where I am going.”

One of the disciples whose name was Thomas answered Jesus, “No, we don’t, Lord. We don’t even know where you are going, so how can we know the way?”

Jesus answered him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.”

Another disciple named Philip joined in, “Lord, show us the Father and we will be satisfied.”

“Philip,” Jesus answered, “Have you been with me all this time and you still don’t know who I am? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father! So why are you asking me to show you the Father? Just believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me. Anyone who believes in me will do the same things I have done.”

That was all the disciples needed to know to get them on the right path to the Father.

So, how do you and I find our way to the place where Jesus has gone to be with the Father? We have not seen Jesus as Thomas and Philip had, but we can follow the teachings that he has given to us in the Bible — God’s Holy Word. That is our GPS and it will keep us on the right path!

Prayer:
Heavenly Father, we thank you for sending your Son to provide the way to eternal life. Thank you for your Holy Word which will keep us on the right path in our journey through life. In Jesus’ name we pray, amen.

 

rotations should be 20mins + each

4 Ways We Get Christianity Wrong

First of all let me set the record straight, if we aren’t following Christ and desiring to be like Him in every way, then we really shouldn’t call ourselves Christians.  That’s a bold statement, but it’s true.  We can’t understand who this Jesus guy is, unless we actually read and study His life.   What did He teach?  What did He do?  With whom did He associate with, and who did Jesus heal?  When we study who Jesus was and is, we begin to see the kind of life that we are also called to live – if we are to follow Him.

Today, I would like to focus on just 4 Ways We Get Christianity Wrong.
It should be noted that there are more ways to get this wrong, but for the sake of time, lets cover just four.

  1.   Emotionalism:  crying
    I used to despise altar calls.  (There, I’ve said it, phew what a weight off of my chest)
    Why did I despise altar calls?  It wasn’t because I was running away from the Holy Spirit, but rather I was running away from what I felt was manipulation.  That sounds rather bold, and perhaps you will disagree with me, but isn’t there an element of the rehearsed, “I’m going to pull on your heart strings” emotionalism that can sometimes be present in altar calls?  Some denominations have basically built their entire church on “feeling”.But let me ask you, what happens to those who just don’t “feel” it?  Are they just not in touch with the Holy Spirit?  I would add that some have walked away from the faith because of these kinds of emotionalism doctrines thinking to themselves, “I must not be good enough, or emotionally vulnerable enough, because I just don’t feel the way the rest of the church feels.”

    Don’t get me wrong, when the Holy Spirit falls upon His people (and He does) we know it, but it isn’t always tied up in our emotions and tear ducts.  Altar calls certainly have their place, but when it is not genuine, but rather stats driven…then it’s merely manipulation, and I don’t think that’s truly God-honoring.  Don’t manipulate people into coming to an altar when there isn’t even an altar in their hearts yet for Him.  That desire comes from knowing Him through the fellowship of other believers – also known as discipleship.

    I am also not discouraging the use of the altar, it can be a wonderful, glorious place to receive Christ and to rededicate ones life, but it has been mistreated, overused and used to manipulate others as well.  Use it wisely!

  2. me2It’s All About ME!
    The problem with an individualistic society is the loss of “others”.  No, we do not lose the sense of others around us, but rather the desire to help others, or to see the needs of others before our own.   Jesus indicated to His disciples that if they were to be great, they had to first serve others.  Our world teaches us through our own experiences, and we rely on these self-experiences to get us through life…but what if we’re missing the experience to serve others?  Couldn’t serving others actually teach us more about ourselves as well as how God sees all of us?The problem with modern Christianity and Church is the need to find a place to be “fed”, but we never seek to feed others.  If we find the first, but neglect the latter – we have missed the entire point of Christianity.  Too often we see out churches to entertain us, to meet our needs, and to watch our children…but isn’t there more to going to church?  Isn’t there more involved in being a Christian?

    We get Christianity wrong when we internalize God’s blessing, but never make the effort to externalize it for others.

  3. The Christian Fast-Food Menu Order plate
    Another component to the individualistic society that we live in is to use the Bible as a fast-food menu.  By that I mean we can sometimes pick and choose the statements and teachings in the Bible that matches our lifestyle choices so that we feel less guilt, when all along we know that the Holy Spirit is speaking to us…and at times convicting us.  We can all be guilty of this, and it can be easy to gloss over portions of scripture that don’t necessarily mesh with what we’ve chosen to put into our lives.Jesus consolidated the Ten Commandments into to very important truths:
    1. Love God (Heart, Mind, Soul, Body)
    2. And love Others.
    When we do those two things and actually practice them in our lives the truth of the rest of scripture becomes real in our lives.  By that I mean, we are more in tune with the Holy Spirit and more willing to listen to His calling.
  4. Commitment Is Vacant
    commitmentWe live in a very fast-paced world.
    We literally have the world in the palms of our hands with smart devices that are linked to almost every place in the world.  Isn’t it funny that we can spend 5-10 hours a day scrolling on our phones, but when it comes time to go to Bible Study or that group you said you would go to – we can’t seem to find the time.

    This isn’t a guilt trip – this is simply the truth.
    We might make excuses like, “Well, they really won’t miss me.”  or “It’s just not for me.” or even, “That study is BORING!”…but what we miss out when we don’t commit is human connection with other Christians brothers and sisters in Christ.  We are all imperfect and faulty…some ARE boring…some ARE not really geared for you…but the connection with other Christ-followers is vital!

    Yes, we all have families.
    Yes, we all have busy schedules – and time is a precious commodity, but if you can spend 5 hours + on Facebook, you can spend 5 minutes a day doing devotions or praying to the Lord.  For some of you who have that commitment, I applaud you – keep going!  Some of us need to get into some spiritual shape…and we need to actually commit.

These are just 4 Ways We Get Christianity Wrong…for what it’s worth.
Blessings on you!

If It’s Not Broke…Then Break It.

There is a problem with our self-reliance.
Independence is a great thing, but are we independent from God?
Do we only require God’s help when it gets tough and we use God like a panic button?
The problem with self-reliance isn’t about having too much control, it’s about the willful choice of not surrendering.

what?
But isn’t surrendering a sign of weakness?

Not when it comes to surrendering to God.
He desires it.
Longs for it.
Yet, so few of us ACTUALLY surrender ourselves completely to Him.

Did you know that only reason Christianity spread so far and wide in the Acts church is because they were shattered and scattered?   Act chapter 8 records the shattering of the church as Saul persecutes Christ-followers.  Before he becomes Paul, he plays this vital role of breaking… broken

Without the breaking we don’t have a gospel message that goes far and wide.
Still today, without the breaking, I fear our witness becomes far too comfortable and contained…so much so that Satan doesn’t have to worry about us anymore.

Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t long for the breaking…no one ever truly longs for such a time, but sometimes it is needed.

Could there be a need of breaking in your life right now?
Have you become comfortable in your faith or church or current state of life right now?
God desires our full surrender, and unfortunately, sometimes the only way for us to become fully committed and surrendered to Him is to be broken…to be shattered again.

What needs to be broken in your life in order for you to grow spiritually again?
What must you surrender to God in order to truly live for Him?
My fear in this time and era of the Church is that there are far too many Christians comfortably numb to the moving of the Holy Spirit.  I am afraid that many churches and Christians in the Western world are asleep and unaware of what God longs to do.

We have to WAKE UP.
We have to be shattered and broken again.
Without this, I am unsure if any of us will truly know the freedom of living by faith in God’s grace…because we haven’t invested or stepped beyond what we are comfortable with.  Did you catch that?

What WE are comfortable with.
There is no inclusion of His presence in that statement.
It’s all about what WE feel, and what WE want, and what WE can get from it…
broken2
God,
SHATTER me again.
Lord,
BREAK me.

May it be our desire to be fully surrendered.
Not in our own time and convenience.
Not because we have nothing better to do, or we “freed up” some time in our schedules.
BUT, because it’s what God desires from us.
FULL and COMPLETE Surrender.

Father,
Break us again.

AMEN.

Lenten Messy Church – Temptation

Key Verses:  Matthew 4:1-11, 26:36-45, 69-75

The Theme is – How to be Strong, Prayer & Lenten/Easter

We all face temptations in life, but how and where do we find the inner strength to say ‘no’ to what is harmful and instead choose what is best?  How do we decide what is dangerous, especially if something looks ‘right’?

Christians believe that God’s words in the Bible can help us know the right path to take and that God promises through Jesus to make us strong enough to choose the way.  Jesus faced temptation about the best way to rescue the world during his 40 days in the desert.  He also prayed in the garden of Gathsemane in a moment of true temptation and sorrow, just before he suffered an illegal trial, beating, humiliation and death on the cross – all for the purpose of our salvation.  Jesus used God’s words from the Bible to help him know the right thing to do.  Peter, at the same time faced the temptation of denying Jesus, just as Jesus had predicted.  How would we fair when the pressure mounted?

Activities:  Each Station should last 10 minutes.
(Items Needed) 
Station 1
Items needed:  Large Jenga Blocks (or small ones if you can’t find the larger versions)
Station 2 Items needed:  Construction paper, sand, glue, cotton balls, markers, sticks
Station 3 Items needed:  Pre-make cupcakes stacked and ready, get some colored frosting or add food dye to vanilla frosting for extra colors.  Add sprinkles and other toppings.
Station 4 Items needed:  Large puzzle (with perhaps large sized pieces)
Station 5 Items needed:  strips of construction paper of the following colors –
Red = Sorry
Yellow = Thanks
Pink = Please
Blue = Other People
Green = Our Community
Purple = Our World
And a strip of paper for each participant with the scripture passage printed on it.
Tape, Markers, pencils, crayons.


IMG_4724 

Station 1 –  Build a Tower (10 Minutes)
Use Giant Jenga Blocks, to construct the tallest tower that they can in 7 minutes or less (give time at the end to discuss the questions below).
Scripture Verse:  “Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple.  “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down…” Matthew 4:5-6

Talk About:  How do you decide what is risky to do and what is safe?
(Say) Jesus was tempted by Satan before His ministry began and one of the temptations, Satan took Jesus to Jerusalem and stood on the highest place (probably the top of a tower) and he told Jesus to throw himself off.  What do you think Jesus did?  Answer:  He resisted the devil and told him “Do not put the Lord your God to the test
It is important to know what is risky and what is safe in life, and it is also very important to resist temptations when they come.  God will give you the strength if you ask Him for His help!


Station 2 – Sand Art:  (10 Minutes)
Create a collage of a desert scene involving sand, glue, small cotton balls for stones and IMG_4729maybe some dead twigs if you can find enough for your groups.
Scripture Verse“The Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil.  After fasting for forty days and forty nights, he was hungry” (Matthew 4:1,2)

Talk About:  What gives you strength to survive hard times?
When is life like a dry desert?  Is it always easy to pray?  When is it hard to pray?
(Say) Even in the desert times of our lives, God promises to never leave us or forsake us.  It might be hard to believe sometimes, but it’s true.  When we call out to God, He hears us and He is very near.  So where are some places that we can pray?  Do we have to be on our knees to pray?


Station 3 – Cup Cake Decoration table: (10 Minutes)
IMG_4717
Decorate cup cakes with various colors of frosting and sprinkles (the more toppings the better)
Leader Ask:  “what temptations do you find hard to resist?”
Say – just like these tasty looking cupcakes that we are lathering on frosting, temptations can often appeal to us.  We might hear one of our parents tell us not to eat that cookie, but we feel the temptation and maybe sometimes we act on that temptation by taking the cookie we were told not to take.

Ask:  Jesus was led into the desert where he was tempted by the devil, do you think Jesus gave into those temptations?  (No).
How can we avoid the traps of temptation?  Who do you think will give us the strength to resist temptation in our Life?  (God)  IMG_4716
Scripture Verse:  “Jesus said to him (the devil), “Away from me, Satan!  For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’ Matthew 4:7


 

 

Station 4 – Puzzle Table: (10 Minutes)
IMG_4745 1
Have a large piece puzzle (something that might be accomplished in under 10 minutes) out for the group to put together.  As the puzzle is being put together Ask:  How do you know which puzzle pieces fit in the right place on this puzzle?  What happens when they don’t fit?  How would you go about rescuing the world from the mess it sometimes gets itself into?  Jesus went to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray.  He took His disciples with Him.  He was about to put the world back together again.  Because of sin, the world was broken like this puzzle, and no one else could save us except for Jesus.  But he struggled with this life and death decision, because it would mean that He would have to ACTUALLY suffer and die.  So all night long Jesus prayed to the Father to help Him with these important pieces of the puzzle of sin.
Scripture Verse: “Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, “Sit here while I go over there and pray”…and He began to be sorrowful and troubled.”  Matthew 26:36-37

Ask: Why did you think it was so hard for Jesus?
Do you think any other puzzle piece  (besides Jesus) would have fit into this story of Salvation for the world?
Say:  John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the World that He gave His one and only Son (Jesus) that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.”  (The puzzle is complete!!)

 



Station 5 – “Prayer Chains”:  (10 Minutes)  IMG_4743
Create prayer chains with multi-colored strips of paper.
Red = Sorry
Yellow = Thanks
Pink = Please
Blue = Other People
Green = Our Community
Purple = Our World

Write or draw your prayers on the corresponding colored paper strips, then add them together using tape to make a prayer chain that each person will take home with them.

Leader:  While the prayer chains are being created, ask – “Who do you want to ask God to give strength to at the moment?  Are there times when you need that strength in your own life?

Say:  Peter was very afraid when Jesus was arrested.  People came up to him on that night and kept asking him if he was one of the disciples of Jesus…and because Peter was really afraid and lacked the courage, he denied even knowing Jesus.

Ask:  Are there times when we are afraid to admit that we are followers of Jesus too?  How does God giving strength help us through difficult moments in life?  Do you believe that God hears our prayers?  Are there special words that we are required to use in order to get God’s attention?  (No!)

Say:  God knows what we need before we ask Him, but He wants us to talk to Him.  We can talk to Him about our troubles and fears as well as asking Him to help with the troubles and fears of other people we know, like our parents, grandparents, cousins, neighbors, school friends, teachers and so on.  God hears us when we pray to Him!

Scripture Verse:  “Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.” Philippians 4:6-7 (Message Version)

(Include this passage on a piece of paper for every person to attach to their prayer chain).
IMG_4713

 

 

 

 


Devotions:   (5-10 minutes) 
Recap the Scripture passages and the theme of temptation and God’s strength helping us overcome the lures of temptation.  Close with a chorus (we did “The Joy of the Lord is my strength”)

Lenten Perspectives Day 5b – Featuring Cadet Justin Steckbauer

Where did the human race come from?  Did we evolve out of space dust and starlight?  Or were we designed for a specific purpose?  That is the ultimate question.  But even if we were to say evolution is true, which is a stretch, where did the material for the universe come from?  A big bang can’t explode from nothing.  That doesn’t make sense.  So it’s logical to believe then, that the best explanation for our universe, our planet, and ourselves, is that an intelligent creative eternal being made the universe, and made us.

Therefore, God does exist.  But who is God?  I believe God has revealed himself through something we call, “The Bible.” The Bible has been criticized a great deal, many say it’s just a book full of stories, it’s just myths, it has contradictions, all of these attacks are levied, and Christians are criticized, and are said to be bigoted and hypocritical.

But is this really true?  I believe that we can trust the Bible.  In fact the biblical documents we have today have been trusted by billions of people through history that believed God really came to Earth, as the person of Jesus Christ.  Thousands of archaeological discoveries have been made by using the Bible.  And the Bible matches with history, we see countries like Syria, Babylon, and the Roman empire, real civilizations interacting with biblical history.  The truth is we can trust the Bible.

And if we’ve been hurt by Christians who have not lived up to the standard of Christ, we should remember, that we are not called to follow other Christians, we’re called to follow Jesus Christ alone.  I’d encourage you today, as you eat your meal, think about these things.  Think about how everything in the universe fits together so well, that the food on your plates is designed just right to nourish your body.  And remember that the hands that serve this food say without a doubt that they do so because Jesus has saved them, and they feel called to serve others.

Jesus Christ, the God-man come to Earth, came on a rescue mission to save all of us from sin.  Sin are those things in our lives that separate us from God: things that cause us pain, that hurt our relationships, things we’ve done wrong, things like selfishness, self-seeking, and pride.  Jesus came to save us from all of that.

And he saved me from all of that.  At one point in my life I had lost all hope.  I was addicted to drugs for years, and my family had given up on me.  My soul had turned grey, and everything seemed dark, and hopeless in my life.  I had given up on ever having a better life, on ever being ok again.  Can you relate?  But then someone told me about one name, the name, Jesus Christ.  There is power in that name.  And I went on my knees and cried out, “Jesus help me, Jesus save me.”  And He swept into my life, changed me internally into a new person, and put me to work for his kingdom.

Seek Him in your life.  Fall on your knees and cry out to Him.  Now is the time of salvation.  Keep this in your mind: When you are at the bottom, cry out to Jesus: Cry out Jesus save me! Jesus help me!  He will answer.  Trust in Him. Reaffirm your trust in Him.  Make certain He is the center of your life.  He is our real, living Savior.

Justin

 

-Justin Steckbauer is a first year Cadet in the Central Territory USA.

Lenten Perspectives Day 5a – Featuring Cadet Aaron Johnson

As we enter into the Lenten season, let us remember that Jesus is no longer in the tomb. On the third day He was raised from the dead, defeating the dark forces of sin and death. As we contemplate the sacrifice of Christ, we should also ponder our willingness to sacrifice for Him. God calls us out of the world and into the life He has planned for us, knowing our daily struggles. In 2 Corinthians 12:9-10, we hear Jesus state to Paul concerning a personal struggle, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”  As believers our joy is not grounded in our circumstances. We know, beyond a shadow of a doubt that Christ has won the victory and our earthly home is not our forever home, but at times it seems impossible for us to sacrifice everything in order for us to follow Jesus wholeheartedly. These are the times we need to remember that it is not by anything that we have done that we are saved, but by God’s grace and mercy. Each day we should count it a blessing that we have been called apart from the rest of the world to be a living sacrifice for Jesus Christ. The act of submitting to the will of God, just as Jesus submitted to the will of His Father, is the reason we were created. God desires a relationship with us, giving strength to face each obstacles in God’s power.

Today, take time to listen to the Holy Spirit’s calling on your life. Is there something in which you need to relinquish control? Ask God to grant you His power to sacrifice the things in your life which do not lead to a closer relationship with Jesus Christ. In the end, you may find that giving up the things which you so greedily hold on to, was the easiest thing you’ve ever done in light of Christ’s sacrifice for His children.

Aaron Johnson

 

Cadet Aaron Johnson is a second year Cadet in the Central Territory USA.

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