Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Pay Attention to Your Giving

"Are we poor?" Twisting around in the front seat to check out the expression on my son's face, I asked, "Are you serious?" Never one to abandon his position, Nick rattled off his evidence, "We live with Aunt Jo and Uncle Ralph, we can't afford new clothes, not good ones, anyway, and anytime I need money for school, you get mad!" The move back home, the career change, the sacrifices necessary to save for a downpayment, all at the same time, changed our family's spending habits. Nick made a valiant effort to process the changes using his seven-year-old worldview, and came to the obvious conclusion: we were now poor. Makes me smile to this day. Nick doesn't remember asking the question, but he remembers that every Sunday we placed a check in the church offering basket.

A child's sense of what matters and his attitudes about money and stuff and God are formed day by day, every day. From the tenderest of ages, our children soak up their world by studying people--all people, all the time--people at home, people at church, people at school, people in public, people on television. Too often the messages teach them they don't have enough, they need more.

What are you teaching your kids about money, about spending, about saving, about giving, about stewardship of God's monetary blessings? Pay attention to your giving. Your children do. Jesus does, too.

1 As Jesus looked up, he saw some rich people putting their gifts into the Temple money box. 2 Then he saw a poor widow putting two small copper coins into the box. 3 He said, “I tell you the truth, this poor widow gave more than all those rich people. 4 They gave only what they did not need. This woman is very poor, but she gave all she had to live on.” Luke 21:1-4 NCV

This lesson calls for: play money, one piece per child, a large, clear coin-filled jar, and a church offering basket within easy reach.

(As the kids arrive at the front of the church, hand each a piece of play money while asking questions. You will get some cute answers.)

This is play money.
Do you have any real money?
How do you get real money?
Where does money come from?

Here is a story about money.
Jesus went to church. He watched the people giving money to God. Jesus kept His eye on a rich man who put in lots of money. Will one of you play the rich man? (Choose a big boy.) Al, you are the rich man. Put your hand in the jar, and get as much money as you can hold. Get lots. Now put all those coins in the basket. Good job.

Jesus also spotted a poor woman who put in only one cent. (Hold up a penny.) What is this? (A penny) Is this much money? (No) The poor woman only had one cent. It was all of her money. She put her last cent in the basket for God. Will one of you play the poor woman? (Choose a little girl.) Anna, here is the poor woman’s money. Now put the penny in the basket. Good job.

The poor woman had no money left. She could not buy bread or any food to eat. Why did she want to give all her money to God? Was she silly? No. Did she worry? No. The poor woman gave everything to God, because God always gave everything to her. She trusted God to give her food. Somehow He always did.

God gives everything to us, too. Can you name some things God gave you? Raise your hand if you have a mom. Raise your other hand if you have a dad. You all do! God gave you all moms and dads! Do your moms and dads drive a car? God gave you all cars. How about food? Did any of you eat breakfast this morning? Waffles? Oh, my, what a yummy breakfast. God gave you moms and dads, houses, cars, food, even toys and games and clothes. That is so much! God is good!

(God bless Cameron, who spoke up.) “My dad and mom don’t have any money to buy me what I want.” (Or you can start this topic by asking, “Do you sometimes want something, and your mom or dad say, ‘No, we don’t have money for that?’”) Cameron, here is what you need to think about when that happens. Dads and moms get all this money from God. First they give some money back to God because they want to thank Him. Second, they use some money to pay for a house. Do you boys and girls get to live in the house? Third, they use some money to pay for a car. Do you children get to ride in the car? Fourth, they use some money to buy clothes for you boys and girls. Moms and dads buy you clothes again and again, because you grow! They also use some money to buy food to feed your hungry tummies.

Moms and dads must be careful with the money God gives them. They try to be smart when they spend money. They try not to waste money, because money is a big gift from God. Are any toys and games at your house, Cameron? Not all the toys and games you like, but that is not a bad thing.

Here in our church, we all give money to God, too. We pass this basket around, and people put in some money for God. Does Jesus take a peek at us when we give money at church like He did in our story today? Yes, He always sees us.

Remember the rich man and the poor woman? Jesus said one of them gave more. Raise your hand if you think the rich man gave more. Raise your hand if you think the poor woman gave more. The rich man had a lot of money left over. He didn’t care about the money he gave to God. He didn’t even need it. Jesus said the poor woman gave more, because she gave all!

Bow heads, close eyes, fold hands. Let’s talk to God to thank Him.
Dear God, You give us everything. Thank you! Please help us not to want too much. In Jesus name we ask, amen.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Easter Eye Witnesses

Sorry for posting in reverse order, but that's how my memory works. I love the account in John of the two men on the road to Emmaus because they witnessed the risen Lord. Jesus was not just a good man who lived long ago, not just a prophet, and certainly not a myth. He is alive. He is the risen Son of God. Hallelujah!

These Easter bible lockets can take some time, depending on how you decide to finish off the necklaces. You can use 36 inches of yarn and tie 3 or 4 square knots and that will look fine. Or get fancy by making the size adjustable with sliding Chinese button knots. Here is the link to learn how to close your necklaces with sliding Chinese button knots:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=85Au8vFvc2s. 
Use 0.5 - 1.0 mm cord to fit the lockets' opening. If you do these knots, be sure to get real satin rattail cord--yarn won't work. It comes in lots of colors or my favorite, rainbow!

The lockets are really small, 11 mm by 13mm, so print a page of the Jesus pictures really, really tiny! 

This Jesus picture is a painting by Akiane Kramarik and is copyrighted, but people have shared it freely on the internet. Go to www.akianeart.com to purchase your own download, see more of her amazing art, and learn her amazing story.

Happy Easter! I want to tell you my favorite Easter story today. 

On the very first Easter day, these two guys were so bummed out about Jesus dying on the cross, they decided to leave town. They were walking away from Jerusalem on the road to Emmaus. Suddenly there was another man walking with them! It was Jesus, but Jesus used His amazing power to make it so they could not recognize Him. He said, "Can I walk along with you two?" They said, "Sure." Jesus said, "You guys seemed really bummed out, what's wrong?" They said, "Haven't you heard? Jesus of Nazareth was crucified dead and buried. We really thought Jesus was the Messiah that would save us, but now He's dead."

So Jesus started teaching the men everything in the bible about the Messiah. How the bible says that the Messiah would have to suffer and die. The whole bible is about the Messiah, about Jesus. 

Pretty soon they arrived where the two men were going. Jesus would have kept going, but the men said, "why don't you stay the night here and have supper with us?" So Jesus said okay. When they sat down to supper, Jesus took the bread and blessed it. That was when Jesus allowed the men to suddenly recognize who He was. They said, "Jesus! It's You! You're alive!" Then Jesus suddenly disappeared! The men were so happy and excited, they ran all the way back to Jerusalem and started telling people that Jesus of Nazareth was alive.

I have two reasons why I love this Easter story. First it teaches me that the whole bible is about Jesus. From page one all the way to page 1,255 in my bible. Second, it teaches me that if anyone invites Jesus to be with them, Jesus says yes. To every person, every time! All you have to do is invite Jesus to be in your life. He'll always say yes!

I have an Easter gift for each of you that will help you remember that the whole bible is about Jesus. This is a necklace with a bible locket. The bible opens and inside is a picture of... who do you think? (jesus) Who? (Jesus) I can't hear you! (JESUS!)

Now bow heads, close eyes, fold hands. Let's pray to God.

Dear God,
Thank you for Jesus and for telling us all about Him in Your bible.
Thank you that Jesus was willing to die to save us.
And thank you for raising Him back to life.
Help us all to invite Jesus into our lives. We know He will always say yes.
We pray in Jesus name, Amen.

Mother's Day

Here is a Mother's Day children's sermon that moms will appreciate. The gift is for mom, and not a single child complained. They understood...

Today I'm going to teach you three things. First I will teach you about
candles, then about mothers, then about Jesus.

(Hold up an unlit candle.) What is this? (a candle) (as you light candle) Is it easy or hard to put out a candle's flame? (easy) How can you put out a candle? (fire extinguisher, blow it, spit on fingers and pinch, use "one of those things":) i.e. a snuffer) Right, it is very easy to put out a candle's flame. Let's blow out our candle now (they blow, what fun!)

Today is Mother's Day. Now I know you all love your mothers, right? Raise your hand if you love your mom (raise both your hands high). Our moms take care of us, help us with homework, fix meals, read to us, what else? (clean the house-moms clean everything!) (fix our bathroom-some moms can be plumbers!) They teach us, take care of us when we get sick, and some moms go to work too! Our moms do everything! They are strong and busy and fun.

But sometimes... sometimes... moms get tired, don't they? (nods) Sometimes moms get headaches, or they get sick, or they just don't feel good, right? (nods) And sometimes moms have tears, don't they? (nods) They can be happy tears, like at a wedding. But sometimes our moms are just very sad and they cry, right? (nods) Then what do we do? Hmm...

Well, I learned something in the bible about Jesus. When Jesus was dying on the cross, He still showed how He cared for His mother. He told His disciple, John, to take care of His mother when He went to heaven. Jesus really cared about His mother.

I learned something else in the bible about Jesus. The bible says Jesus would never snuff out a smoldering wick. This part that we light is the wick. (show them on the candle where it is). It is easy to put it out, but Jesus would never do that. Jesus is careful and gentle with the candle's flame. The candle's flame is like a person's light. We say let your light shine, right?

When someone is feeling tired, or sick, or sad, their light is almost out. Jesus is always gentle with a person who is tired. He is gentle when people are sick. And Jesus is very gentle when someone is sad.

That's what we can do when mom is tired. Be gentle with her. When mom is sick, we can give her a gentle hug or gentle words. When she is sad, a gentle gift can help. I want to give you each a gift for you to give to your mothers. It is a brand new candle just like the one we lit here today. Sometimes a candle with a gentle, soft smell helps moms feel better.

(Make sure everybody gets one.) Bow your heads, close your eyes, fold your hands. Let's thank God for our mothers.

Dear God,
Thank you for our moms. Help us to care for them like Jesus cared for His mother. Help us to be gentle with our mothers. In Jesus name we pray,Amen.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

The End or the Beginning?

Here is a quick one to pull together. You just need a pack of black balloons and a pack of brightly colored ones. Then some string or ribbon to tie two together (one of each) for each child. Bring them to church in a big black trash bag, so they can't guess their suprise!

The End Or The Beginning?

Pop quiz! Who is God's Son? (jesus) Who? (Jesus) What did you say? (JESUS!) Boy, you kids are really learning a lot about Jesus!

Remember last time, Jesus was in Capernaum and he helped all the people? Well, someone in the crown in Capernaum got an idea. He said, "Hey, Jesus, I have a good idea! Why don't you stay here in Capernaum forever and be our preacher at our church?!" Then someone else said, "I like that idea! Stay here Jesus, be our preacher." Then pretty soon everyone was saying what a good idea that was. "Jesus, stay here with us. Jesus, stay and be our preacher."

What did Jesus say? If you think Jesus said yes, raise your hand (three hands sneak up). If you think Jesus said no, raise your hand (three hands go up, one is a duplicate!) Okay, if you're not sure what Jesus said, raise both hands (this is fun, and everyone raises both hands, big laugh)! Well, the Bible tells us that Jesus said, (pause for dramatic effect)... He said, "I have to leave." (they are disappointed!) "BECAUSE God wants me to preach His good news to ALL people, not just here in Capernaum."

So, the people of Capernaum were sad, but they understood. Jesus was sad, too because he would miss the people of Capernaum. They loved Him, and He loved them. But also, Jesus was excited to be starting His first big preaching trip to ALL God's people. He wanted to meet them all. And He wanted to help them all. And He wanted to teach them all about God's good news.

And that's the good news! Jesus is for ALL people!

Did you notice that this story is about ending, but also about beginning? Jesus had to end His visit in Capernaum, and He had to begin preaching in other towns and cities. Did you know everytime we have an ending, we also get a beginning? Endings can be sad, right? But beginning can be fun, exciting, happy, joyful, running, jumping, laughing, clapping, GREAT!

When Kindergarten ends, you get to begin first grade!
When Spring ends, we get to begin to enjoy Summer!
When a Christian dies, it is the end of their life here on earth, and people are sad. But it is the beginning of their forever-life in heaven with Jesus, and that is the best new beginning anybody can ever get!

I have something to help you remember. These two balloons are tied together. What color is this one? (black) What color is the other one? (yellow) Which color is a sad color? (black) Which color is a happy color? (yellow) The black balloon is the ending, it is sad. The yellow balloon is the beginning, and it is happy. They are tied together because whenever we have an ending, we also get a new beginning. Just like Jesus got to begin His first big preaching trip to ALL God's people.

Bow heads, close eyes, fold hands.

Dear God, 
Thank you for sending Jesus to be for ALL people, even us. 
Thank you for endings, even though we get sad.
Thank you for beginnings, and help us to be glad.
In Jesus' name, 

Jesus is the Christ

Leave yourself plenty of time to trim the plastic canvas and to thread the cord. Each one took me ten minutes. I used the 3" pre-cut crosses but trimmed them to be similar to the shape of the pattern which I modified.  Here is the link: http://www.thriftyfun.com/tf56057668.tip.html 

Also, I didn't use ribbon, but the metalic cord from the craft shop in various colors.

Jesus is the Christ

Well, we started talking about Jesus quite a few Sundays ago. 
Of course at Christmastime, we heard again all about the amazing birth of Jesus. Angels told Mary and Joseph and the shepherds about God's wonderful plan for the birth of His Son, Jesus.

Remember John the Baptist? What a goofy guy! What was goofy about John the Baptist? (they may or may not remember) What did John wear? (camel skins) What did John eat? (locusts and honey) Where did John live? (in the wilderness) Yep, goofy! But he taught people about Jesus. He said the Messiah was finally here. When he baptized Jesus, God spoke to Jesus from Heaven and said, "You are my Son. I am very happy with You."

Remember the devil testing Jesus? He tried to make Jesus doubt that He was really God's son. The devil said to Jesus, "IF you are really the Son of God, turn this stone to bread." But could he fool Jesus? (head shake) No, Jesus believed God.

Remember the people at the synagogue in Nazareth? (they're not sure) Remember the BAD IDEA? (this they remember) While Jesus was preaching to them, they loved His words. But then someone got the BAD IDEA that Jesus was no one special. And the BAD IDEA spread to the others, and soon they were all trying to push Jesus off a cliff! But what did Jesus do? Did He get mad at them? No, did He blast them with His awesome power? No, He miraculously walked right through them!

Jesus IS someone special, isn't He? Who is Jesus? (the Son of God) Right!

So after all that, Jesus left Nazareth and walked to Capernaum. Can you say Capernaum? (let a three year old try, you'll be amazed) The next Sabbath day, he preached to the people of Capernaum in their synagogue. But we'll just call it church, like we say today. 

During church a man with an evil spirit in him said the most amazing thing! The evil spirit in the man said, (use a scary voice) "Jesus, I know who You are. You are God's Holy Son, leave us alone!" Do you think Jesus obeyed the evil spirit? (heads shake) No, Jesus commanded the evil spirit to BE QUIET and come out of the man. And what do you think that evil spirit did? (see if they can guess) It did exactly what Jesus ordered! It did not speak another word, and it came out of that poor man! Everyone at church was AMAZED!

After church, Jesus went to Peter's house, and Peter's mother-in-law was very sick-very, very sick. Peter asked Jesus to help her. What do you think Jesus did? (helped her) Of course He did! He healed her so perfectly that she got up and fixed lunch for them! (wide-eyed amazement)

Well, you know how news gets around, right? (nods) Pretty soon everybody in Capernaum heard about Jesus whooping the evil spirit and healing Peter's mother-in-law. 

At sundown, when they were finally allowed to, everyone came to Jesus. They brought all their loved ones who had evil spirits, or who were sick. And what do you think Jesus did? (helped them) 

How many did Jesus help? (they have no idea, but may guess. if they guess, say, are you sure?) Here's a clue: Jesus spent the whole night, from sundown to dawn, helping them. What do you think? Did he help ten of them? (no, more) How about 100? (yes, probably) Well, Luke tells us Jesus helped them ALL! Everyone in town! 

Why? What do we already know about Jesus? (he is good, he loves us, he has power) You kids are really learning a lot about Jesus! He is good. He loves all of us. He has amazing power. 

Here is a cross for each of you to remember Jesus. Why does a cross remind us of Jesus? (Jesus died on a cross) That's right. Who is the Son of God? (jesus) Who? (Jesus) Can't hear you! (JESUS!)

Bow heads, close eyes, fold hands.

Dear God our Father,
You are the Father of Jesus too. 
Some people don't believe it, like the people in Nazareth. 
Some people do believe, like the people in Capernaum. 
Please help us to always believe in Jesus, Your Son.
In His name we pray, 

A Bad Idea

A heart almost as beautiful as the heart of Jesus: this is a good little craft, if you like origami. Use the 6" by 6" squares in a cool and brightly colored design. Follow this link for instructions:  http://www.origami-fun.com/origami-heart.html

Continuing in the fourth chapter of Luke, Jesus has some trouble with the hometown crowd. They revile Him, accuse Him, and finally, caught up in their mass, ignorant frenzy, they are driven to attempt His murder. These are people He grew up with: the families of His boyhood playmates, the friends and customers of Joseph and Mary.  

Jesus, the best preacher ever, had had them in the palm of His hand. They were amazed at the beauty and authority of His words. Then came the bad idea. That is how every sin begins, with one bad idea. And ideas, good or bad, tend to sweep through crowds.

A Bad Idea

When Jesus got done whooping the devil in the wilderness, he went to his hometown. It was called Nazareth. That's where Jesus grew up, in Nazareth. He went to church like He ALWAYS did. They called it synagogue back then, but let's just call it church like we say today, okay? Jesus went to church to preach. 

The people of Nazareth were so excited to have Jesus back home. Jesus was the best preacher ever. He preached from the book of Isaiah in the Bible. It was this part:

"The Spirit of the Lord is in me. This is because God chose me to tell the Good News to the poor." (Luke 4:18 ICB see link at left) 

Then Jesus said, "This is happening right here and now!" What did Jesus mean, "This is happening right here and now?" What was happening right here and now? (they have no idea) The people of Nazareth understood what Jesus meant. When He said, "God chose me" Jesus meant HE was the Messiah Isaiah was writing about!  

But then something happened. Someone in the church got an idea. It was a BAD idea! The person said, "Wait a minute! This is only Jesus. We knew him when he was a small boy. He grew up in our town. Jesus is NOBODY SPECIAL!" (they are shocked) Then a few more people started saying the same thing, "Jesus is nobody special!" Pretty soon all the people in the church got the same bad idea. They were so mad at Jesus for saying He was God's Messiah.

The people were so mad, they started pushing Jesus right out the door of the church. Then they were pushing Him all the way out of town, right to the edge of a cliff! They wanted to push Jesus off the cliff and kill Him! What do you think Jesus did then? (they don't know) Do you think He blasted them with His awesome power? (they don't know) Maybe He sent plagues to Nazareth just like God sent plagues to Egypt long ago. Remember? God sent flies, frogs, blood, death, it was just awful. Do you think Jesus did that? No, He did not do any of those things. Jesus did not even get mad at them. He just walked right through them, and there was nothing they could do about it. Jesus walked through them and went on His way.

(Choose the oldest boy) OK Garrett, you pretend to be Jesus. Stand on the edge of the step with your back to the people. Everybody else come around and try to push Garrett off the step when I say so. Garrett, try your best to walk through them, okay? Ready, set, push! (Garrett tries to stay up, but goes down in the end with a great stage fall!) If Garrett couldn't get through a small group of kids, HOW did Jesus get through a big crowd of angry grown-ups? Jesus really has awesome power, doesn't He!

And He has awesome love. Jesus grew up in Nazareth, and He knew those people, and He loved those people, and He loves all of you, too. Jesus would never hurt anyone. 

I have a reminder for you. This heart will remind you of Jesus and His awesome love. Who loves you more than anybody? (jesus) Who? (Jesus) I can't hear you! (JESUS!) Yes, He sure does.

Bow heads, close eyes, fold hands.

Dear God,
The love of Jesus is wonderful.
He loves us even when we get a bad idea, even when we do something naughty.
He doesn't get mad.
Please make our bad ideas go away.
Please give us good ideas.
Please help us be good for Jesus.
In His name we pray,

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Temptation In a Fishbowl

  • What’s happening in this picture? (kitten reaching for fish in fishbowl)
  • What will happen next? (kitten spilling fishbowl, getting fish, eating fish)
  • Is the fish in trouble in this picture? (yes)
  • Why is the fish in trouble? (fish is in danger from kitten, he will spill out or get eaten and die)
  • The fish is in danger, but who is in trouble? Who is being bad? (kitten)
  • What will happen to the kitten for being bad? (punishment, time-out, etc.)
  • Do you know who can help the kitten be good? (they don’t know)

If this happened in a Harry Potter movie, could Harry or Ron or Hermione help? Maybe Hermione could wave her wand and say, “leviosa” and make the fishbowl float up to the ceiling where the kitten can’t reach. That would help the fish, but the kitten would still WANT to eat the fish. Hermione might be able to help the fish, but she can’t help the kitten. The kitten is still TEMPTED to be naughty.

If this happened in a Fantastic Four movie, could Thing help? Maybe Thing could clobber the kitten, and scare the kitten away. That would help the fish, but the kitten would still WANT to come back later to get the fish. Thing might be able to help the fish, but he can’t help the kitten. The kitten is still TEMPTED to be naughty.
That poor kitten! He WANTS that fish, doesn’t he? He WANTS to be naughty and catch the fish. He WANTS to be naughty and eat the fish. 

Who can help the kitten? Who can make the kitten want to be GOOD instead of naughty? When the devil TEMPTS us to be naughty, who can help US to be good? Jesus! Who? JESUS! Louder! JESUS!!!
Jesus can help us be good, because Jesus already beat the devil. Here is what happened: 
(abbreviated from Luke 4: 1-13, The Message)

The Spirit led Jesus into the wild.
For forty wilderness days and nights he was tested by the Devil.
Jesus ate nothing during those days, and he was hungry.
The Devil gave the first test saying: "Since you're God's Son, command this stone to turn into a loaf of bread."
Jesus answered by quoting Deuteronomy saying: "It takes more than bread to really live."
For the second test the Devil said, "Worship me and all the kingdoms of the earth are yours.”
Jesus refused, again with Deuteronomy, saying: "Worship only the Lord your God."
For the third test the Devil said, "If you are God's Son, jump off the top of the Temple. It's written, isn't it, that 'God has placed you in the care of angels to protect you'"
"Yes," said Jesus, "and it's also written, 'Don't you dare tempt the Lord your God.'"
 That completed the testing. The Devil retreated temporarily, lying in wait for another opportunity.

See, Jesus beats the devil EVERY time. And when YOU feel like being naughty, Jesus can change your mind. Just ask Him. WOW! How can Jesus DO that?!
Simple, Jesus has AWESOME power, REAL power—not movie power like Thing or Harry Potter and his friends. Jesus has REAL power, and He will use it for YOU, and you, and you, and all of us! All we have to do is ask!
Here is a badge for each of you. It says POWERED BY JESUS. So when you feel like being naughty, remember to pray and ask Jesus to help you with His amazing power to be good. Let’s ask right now. Bow heads, close eyes, fold hands.
Lord, nothing is impossible for You.
We want to be good, but sometimes we feel like being naughty.
Thank you for loving us and helping us.
Please make us good. You’re the only one who can.