Easter Teaching – it’s not too late!

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Hello, I wanted to re-post this blog post from last Easter, in which I shared how I’d used the wonderful book “The Garden, The Curtain and The Cross” to teach my children.  However, I don’t seem to be able to re-post things anymore so you’ll have to click on the link instead, please.  We really enjoyed it last year, especially making and tearing the paper “curtain.”
For another idea, hop over to “Resources” and scroll down to the Bloody Easter teaching (alternatively that link should work).
I think I’m going to try Resurrection Eggs this year, partly because my children enjoyed doing the first two with their aunt last week, and partly because the sales assistant in Oxfam managed to sell me a load of plastic eggs today…

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The Silent Treatment

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We don’t do time-outs with our children.  I’m not saying you shouldn’t, just that we don’t.

My husband and I have agreed before that a time-out would be the worst kind of (reasonable) punishment for our six-year-old daughter.  She would hate that more than anything.  She can’t bear the thought of us being upset with her and not speaking to her.  I know this because a) she finds it very hard to be alone, and b) if ever I’m quiet for a ten seconds after she’s done something wrong or annoying (either deliberately or not), she’s already badgering me to check I’m still speaking to her: ‘Mummy, Mummy I’m sorry Mummy!’

I know that a time-out is different from just sulking and not speaking to someone.  And we don’t do either of those things with our children.  Especially not the latter.  Sometimes that’s hard.  Like in moments like this:

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Sometimes you think being quiet is the best course of action – sometimes it is.  But if you’re actually punishing someone with the silent treatment, that’s not OK.  The main reason that’s not OK, is that God our Father is not like that with us.  As his children, trusting in Christ, we always have the ear of the Father.  He always hears us, and always speaks to us.  He’s never in a mood with us, he never makes us face the wall.  He does, in love, discipline us, yes, but when we come humbly to him, ‘Daddy, Daddy I’m sorry,’ we’re never turned away.

I want my children to know what God is like, so that is one reason I don’t give them the silent treatment.  But let me be clear – my children deserve the silent treatment from God, and so do I.  I don’t want them to grow up thinking that God is always listening to them because they’re so lovely and good.  I don’t want them thinking that God forgives their wrongs because that’s his job.  Maybe that’s how you feel.  That’s what the world around us tells us most of the time.  If you believe that, please look more carefully at the cross of Christ.

You’ve seen pictures of Jesus on the cross – it’s ugly and agonising.  But the real torture of the cross was not the physical suffering or the humiliating mockery.  The real torture was that the Son cried out to his Father and got no response:
‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’
For the first time in all eternity, the Father hid his face from the Son and didn’t answer.  Jesus had been afraid to go to the cross because he knew that this would happen, and he knew that being cut off from the perfect, loving, life-giving God would be unbearable.

The only way for my children to have a perfect relationship with God the Father forever is for them to understand that they deserve no relationship at all.

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But Jesus took what they deserve on the cross, standing in their place, so that if they believe in him they will never have to say the words, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’  They will never hear Jesus say, ‘Away from me, I never knew you.’ (Matt 7:22)  They will never have to spend eternity without him.

“[Jesus] got the Great Silence so we could know that God hears and answers.” (Timothy Keller, Prayer.)

If you don’t believe this – if instead you think that God is kind and good and will accept you, just as you are, then please take the time this Easter to check your facts.  Have a read of a gospel, go to a Bible-teaching church and listen, meet up with a Christian friend.  God doesn’t just pat you on the head and tell you that your sin doesn’t matter.  The truth is much more wonderful, and much more costly (for him) than that.

Easter is a time of fantastic news, of Jesus beating death for us and winning us eternal life with God. I find thinking about the cross hard – I often want to skip Good Friday and move straight onto Easter Sunday.  But the cross is really where I see how much God loves me.  That he was willing to give his perfect Son the silent treatment I deserve, so that I can be his beloved child forever.

“19 Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, 20 by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body,  22 let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings…” from Hebrews 10.

 

The controversial colouring page pictured above is a copy of a page from the book, ‘The Garden, the Curtain and the Cross‘ published by the Good Book Co., which you can read more about on my Good Reads page.

Jesus Makes a Way In – Easter Teaching

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A while ago I recommended a book, The Garden, The Curtain & The Cross – you can read about it here.  I’m going to use it this year to teach my children about Easter.  In case you might find it helpful, here is what I plan to do.  It’s not yet tried and tested, but I’ll let you know how it goes!  I do hope it’s helpful.  Again, I really recommend the book – much better than a load more chocolate for Easter – but if you don’t want to buy it I’m sure you could find corresponding stories in children’s Bibles if you wanted to.

Day 1: The Garden (Part 1)
Read p. 1-6 (up to “It was wonderful to live with God.”)
Main point:The Best thing about being in the garden was being with God, face to face.

Possible questions:
What can we see in the garden?
Who made all of these things? (older children – What is God like (since he made everything)? – good, amazing, clever, kind, beautiful.)
Who is in charge of all these things?
What was it like for Adam and Eve living in the garden?
What was the best thing about being in the garden?

Pray – praise God for making everything. Could look at Psalm 8 or 19

Songs: Who made the twinkling stars?
My God is so Big.

Craft ideas: Creation cookies (from Bake Through hte Bible – make biscuits shaped like different things God created and talk about the diversity of creation.)
Any baking/craft – talk about how we have made something so it belongs to us. Then share it with someone we love.

Day 2: The Garden (Part 2)
Read p. 1-10 (Up to ‘God said, Because of your sin, you can’t come in.’)
Main Point: The worst thing about sin is that it means we can’t be with God.

Possible questions:
What was it like living in the garden with God?
What terrible thing did Adam and Eve do? They listened to the snake (this isn’t written in the book but I think it’s what my children will say.)
Why did they do it? They didn’t want God to be in charge.
When we decide we don’t want God to be in charge, what does God call that? Sin.
What happened to Adam and Eve next?
What was life like for people outside of God’s garden?

Pray – say sorry to God that we sin, we don’t treat him as the boss, and so we don’t deserve to be with him. (Thank him that we can pray to him because Jesus has rescued us from our sin.)

Song: “God is a holy God” by Emu.

Craft ideas:
Maybe a colouring page like page 9, with “KEEP OUT – Because of your sin you can’t come in” written on it? (Will have to recruit husband or creative friend for this task!)
Or maybe make snakes out of paper plates – write on them “Shove off God, I’m in charge, No to your rules.” (Although this is less linked to the theme of the book)

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Day 3: The Curtain
Read p. 1-14 (Up to ‘It is wonderful to live with him, but because of your sin, you can’t come in.’)
Main Point: God comes to live with his people, but if they come face to face with God, they will die

Possible questions:
What’s wonderful about the temple?
What is behind the curtain?
Why is the curtain there? (older children – It’s God’s kindness to put the curtain there so that the people don’t get destroyed by his holiness.)
What pictures are on the temple curtain? (Reminds us of the Keep Out sign on page 9 that kept Adam and Eve out of Eden)

Pray: Thank God that even though we sin, he still wants to be with his people.

Song: “God is a holy God” by Emu.

Craft idea– make a big curtain out of craft paper/old wallpaper, with pictures of angels on it. (I’ll be drawing ours first and getting them to colour/paint it.)

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Day 4: The Cross
Read pages 1-24 (Up to ‘Because Jesus dies, we can go in!’)
Main Point: By taking our sin on the cross, Jesus has made a way for us to be face to face with God again.

Possible questions:
The Son had always been face to face with God in heaven, but he came to earth where things are sometimes sad and sometimes bad. Did Jesus ever sin?
Why did God’s son, Jesus, plan to die on the cross? (He took our sin)
And when Jesus took our sin from us on the cross, what happened to the curtain, God’s big Keep Out sign in the temple? (Tear the paper curtain we made. Maybe have a surprise treat on the other side?)

Pray: Thank God for sending Jesus to die even though he had never sinned, so that we can be face to face with God because our sin has been taken away from us.

Song: “God is a holy God” by Emu.

Craft idea: Although not a craft, the tearing of the “curtain” could substitute a craft. Or you could get them to think of things they do wrong/don’t do right and write them onto a cross, and then shred them/throw them in the bin to explain that Jesus took our sin from us on the cross. (NB! Please don’t let your children use a shredder without strict supervision! Maybe they could just watch you shred?)

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Day 5: The New Garden
Read the whole book.
Main Point: Because the curtain tore in two when Jesus died for our sin, we can be with God face to face. We can know him now and will be with him forever in the new garden city.

Possible questions:
After Jesus died, what happened to him?
Where does Jesus live now?
Who has Jesus invited to come and live with him in God’s wonderful place?
How has God’s ‘Keep Out’ sign been taken away?
What will be the best thing about living in God’s new heaven and new earth? (Being with God forever.)

Pray: Thank God for all the things we’ve learnt. Thank God that if we trust in Jesus we can be with him forever in the new heaven and new earth, where there will be nothing bad, and no one sad. Ask God to help us keep going, trusting him, until we get there.

Songs:
“Easter Friday” by Emu.
“Home” by City Alight (my children love this one.)
“God is a holy God” – to recap on the week.

Craft: Make an Easter card with some words from the book:

We can live with God for ever!
There will be nothing bad, and no one sad.
It will be wonderful to live with him,
And it’s all because of Jesus.

or a similar Bible verse, E.g. from Rev 21.3:

“Look! God now makes his home with the people.
And God himself will be with them and be their God.”

 

 

Sunday Morning

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These are the lyrics to a brilliant and inspiring rap written by my friend Stephen (aka Carbon).  There isn’t really a substitute for hearing it performed, but in the absence of a recording this will have to do.  I hope you enjoy it anyway!  Happy Easter.

Sunday morning, its gone dawn and
She’s upset, her tears are pouring;
She came out for the sake of mourning
And the whole of Jerusalem is talking

In a garden, with a tomb and a grave
where a man was buried and laid in
But, the body’s gone it’s moved –
a man standing there says “Why you weeping?”
Assuming he’s the gardener, she says
“Where’ve you put him? Did you move him?”

Now it’s the third day
Since he died and was taken away
He was crucified before their eyes,
hung on a cross and left to die,
Confused and they’re mystified
Is this God’s king that they call Christ?

What’s happening? What’s dawning?
This weren’t no normal morning
The One who died is walking
Risen from the dead he’s talking (x2)

This man he weren’t no gardener, tourist or random passer
It’s him that died and was laid
She knows it as he calls her name
Jesus Christ, he’s alive again
He walks and he talks – what can they say?
He’s up like a sunrise, a morning bright star
And he shows himself to his people after

Now this weren’t the ideas of a man
Or some carefully thought through plan
No, it was all part of God’s plan
He died so our sin wouldn’t stand
But we’re still guilty for all of our sin
We’re still responsible for the nails in his hands

And this is what Isaiah meant
Hundreds of years before this incident
A man being led like a lamb to the slaughter
Silent like a sheep stood before its shearers

What’s happening? What’s dawning?
This weren’t no normal morning
The One who died is walking
Risen from the dead he’s talking (x2)

Death couldn’t hold him
The grave couldn’t keep him
He rose from the dead like a man that was sleeping
Rose and visit your people when they were grieving
That’s like the sun blasting at ten in the evening
All they saw was this Lord of Glory
Dead but now breathing, talking and eating
To the degree that they thought they had seen a ghost
You said “Look at me! Touch my flesh and bones.”

So he died on the cross to deal with my sin
He’s alive and we are being made alive in him
Like a girl from the slums that got married into the royal family
You will raise us: share all life and live with him.

So death where is your sting?
Who can bring a charge against us?  Who can say a thing?
It’s God that justifies, Jesus Christ who died
Who is raised to life, at the Father’s side.

And now we can reign in him forever
As we put our hope in this house that stands all weather.

What’s happening? What’s dawning?
This weren’t no normal morning
The One who died is walking
Risen from the dead he’s talking (x2)

Trust Issues

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Easter is full of surprises

‘Don’t trust anyone.’  You often hear that in films, and you can be sure that the main character will later be betrayed by someone that they do make the mistake of trusting.  The implication of this is that you can’t actually live without trusting people.  You might think you’re not a trusting person, but you still trust some people.  If your children are at school, you trust their teachers to teach them and not to harm them.  You trust the barista in Starbucks not to poison your coffee.  And the higher the stakes, the more trustworthy a person needs to be.  If you’re jumping out of a plane, you want your pilot and whoever packed your parachute to be trained and qualified!

I’ve put my ultimate trust in one man – not just for my life, but for the lives of my children.  That man is the God-man, Jesus of Nazareth.  I am bringing my children up to put their trust in him, and to do that I have to be sure I trust him myself.  Otherwise, it’s too great a risk.

I got some good practice at this just under two years ago, when my brother had to have brain surgery to remove a benign tumour.  My brother believes in Jesus, and so Jesus promises that my brother will have eternal life with him.  Faced with the idea that my brother could die (brain surgery is brain surgery, after all), I had to decide again: do I trust this Jesus?  Do I trust him with my brother’s life?  At that time, I clung to this promise of Jesus from John’s Gospel:

‘I am the resurrection and the life.  The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die.  Do you believe this?’ John 11:25 (He said this to Martha, whose brother had just died.)

At that time of fear and uncertainty, I chose to trust Jesus.  And every day, as I teach my children the Bible and bring them up to be soldiers of Christ, I am choosing to trust Jesus.  I’m trusting that he is all that he said he is when he walked the earth.

But how can I trust him?  There’s no greater risk than risking your eternal future, and so how has Jesus earned my trust?

Let me show you:

On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, ‘Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: “The Son of Man must be delivered over to the hands of sinners, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.”’ Then they remembered his words.  Luke 20:1-8.

Friends, the tomb was empty.