How to fear God and love children

Does it really matter what children do in Sunday School?

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This week we’re celebrating 500 years since the Reformation in Europe – a time when big changes occurred in the church in order to get vernacular Bibles into the hands of people who’d never understood the Bible before.  They’d been going to church all their lives without understanding a word of what was said, and they’d hoped they were good enough because they’d tried to follow the rules the church had set out for them, and they’d picked up on some Bible themes from the stained glass windows.  Their actions gave them a Christian appearance, regardless of any understanding of the gospel.  This is a very brief and inadequate description but this isn’t actually a post about the Reformation.

I’ve been thinking about children’s work in churches (although most of what I will write also applies to teaching our children at home).  I’ve noticed that sometimes the way children’s work is done bears some resemblance to this pre-Reformation religion.  Sometimes children’s work is done more for appearances than for any actual spiritual benefit.  Children hear a story and/or do an activity, and probably come away with tangible evidence, e.g. a craft.  But this is mostly done to show others that the children are participating in the church service, and they’re learning Christian stuff.

These children come out of creche or Sunday school with a lovely craft, but with no relationship with God.  They have learnt some Christian morals, but they have no knowledge of the Word of God.  They have been shown role models, but they haven’t encountered the gracious God of the Bible.  (I think the role model topic might be another blog post in itself.)

Why does this happen? Maybe it’s because it’s the easy option.  But I can also think of two beliefs behind this way of doing things:

  1. Christian children are nice and well behaved.  Therefore, it’s good if children come to church every week, because we all want nice and well behaved children in our community, don’t we?
  2. Children can’t really get to know the living God who’s revealed himself to us through his Word.  After all, they’re only little.  They can’t even tie their shoelaces!  How can they be expected to understand doctrine? Let’s be realistic.

I guess there are many ways I could argue against these two points.  As usual, I’ll come back to Deuteronomy 6.  You need to read the whole chapter really but here’s one extract:

Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.[a] Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. 

The Lord has always commanded his people to teach their children about him, so that they’ll know who they are and what the Lord has done for his people.  For us New Covenant believers, we don’t just need to teach them about a rescue from slavery in Egypt, but also (and ultimately) about our rescue from slavery to sin, through our Saviour Jesus Christ.  And a Saviour is what we all need:

“And if we are careful to obey all this law before the Lord our God, as he has commanded us, that will be our righteousness.” (Deut 6 v25)

Like the Israelites, we are unable to keep the law, and so we need a righteousness from God that is by faith from first to last. (Romans 1:17).  We desperately need Christ’s righteousness, and to stop trying to rely on our own good behaviour.  So why on earth would we think that what children really need most is to be well behaved?

And why would we think that they can’t have a relationship with the Lord?  In order to think that, you need to ignore all of the commands God gives to teach children his word (e.g. Psalm 74:5-6) plus what Jesus commanded about letting children come to him, plus just common sense.  Does a child know his/her mum and dad?  Do they know their siblings, their grandma, their neighbour?  Do they know their Sunday school teacher?  So why can’t they know Jesus?  Is he not real? Knowing the Lord is what they were made for.  Of course I know that their understanding of things will be different to ours (although don’t forget Jesus told us to learn from them (Matthew 18:3), but teach a group of children for a period of time and you’ll see some of them relating to their God.  Hopefully this relationship will lead to good behaviour (that’s certainly what I’m praying for my children!), but good behaviour without a changed heart is just a veneer.  Let our creche not be a Pharisee factory, because I’m quite sure Jesus wasn’t impressed by the Pharisees.

If you’re teaching creche or Sunday School, your responsibility is not to churn out well-mannered children who can tell you who Moses and Jonah are: it’s to faithfully teach God’s word to them, and to pray for their souls.  Don’t underestimate that responsibility.  These people are made in God’s image, and their precious.  If we fear God, we should teach his word with reverence to him.  And if your church isn’t doing this, then I would urge you to remedy that, even if it means you have to take charge of it (I know, as if you haven’t got enough to do).

Can I just say that I help run the creche in my church, and we do want the children to behave well, plus they do crafts, so I hope it’s clear that I’m not saying those things aren’t good.  But they’re really not the point of us all being there.  If we really believe in the power of God to speak to us by his Spirit through His word, regarding his Son our Saviour, then we’ll believe that for our children, too.  I hope you can see how this links to what I wrote at the top about the Reformation. Let’s do children’s work the great Reformers would be pleased to see.  We have the Bible in their language, so let’s not just show the kids some pictures and send them away thinking that all they need to do is try their best to be good.

And if you read this and feel encouraged that the children’s work in your church is good, maybe you could encourage the leaders this week, and thank them for faithfully doing the Lord’s work.

 

This reminds me of a post I wrote a long time ago called Hearts Not Garments.  

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…

The Christmas Alphabet

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I know it’s very much still Autumnal November, but I’m just planning ahead.

I’ve got an idea for a Christmas card craft, and in order to do it I needed a Christmas Alphabet.  I could have just Googled this, but I wanted to make it up myself (no-one knows why).  Speaking of Alphabets, I highly recommend you listen to the Bible Alphabet song from Emu’s J is for Jesus CD.  (“H is for heaven, where I-I am going,” need I-I say more?)

I don’t know if this could be helpful to you in any way?  Perhaps you could do one a day during advent?  I know that the alphabet is 26 letters long, not 24, but some of them could be squashed together.  For example, you’ll notice that Q is a bit, well, not quite tenuous but perhaps uninspiring.   Sometimes I was spoilt for choice, so I put a few ideas down and have underlined the one I’ve used here.

You might also notice that there is a lot of repetition, which (aside from maybe being inevitable) was deliberate.  Children like repetition, and it helps them learn.  I was actually amazed by how much you can get out of Luke Chapter 2 alone.  I mostly used Isaiah 9; Matthew 1-2; Luke 2; John 1.

So without further ado, here you go – an early Christmas present from me (no expense spared):

Angels:  But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Luke 2:10

Bethlehem: But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.’ Micah 5:2

Christ: Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is Christ, the Lord. Luke 2.11

David’s Town: Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. Luke 2:11 (See also: Does not Scripture say that the Messiah will come from David’s descendants and from Bethlehem, the town where David lived?’ Luke 7:42; “He will reign on David’s throne’ Isaiah 9:7)

Everlasting Father: “For to us a child is born… And he will be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” Isaiah 9:6

Favour: Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favour rests.’ Luke 2:14

Glory/Grace/Gold/Gift/Good news/Grace: We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. John 1:14

Holy/Heavenly Host/Hope: Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
‘Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace to those on whom his favour rests.’ Luke 2:13-14

Immanuel:  All this took place to fulfil what the Lord had said through the prophet: ‘The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel’ (which means ‘God with us’). Matthew 1:22-23

Joy/Jesus: But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Luke 2:10

King: ‘Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.’ Matthew 2:2

Love/Life/Light:
The people walking in darkness
have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of deep darkness
a light has dawned. Isaiah 9:2

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Messiah/Manger This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: his mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. Matthew 1:18

Noel/Nativity/News: But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Luke 2:10

One & Only Son: We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. John 1:14

Prince of Peace:  For to us a child is born… And he will be called
Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” Isaiah 9:6

Quiet/Quirinius: This was the first census that took place while[a] Quirinius was governor of Syria.)  And everyone went to their own town to register. Luke 2:2-3 (You could talk about the sovereignty of God, and the fact that these events happened in real history.) If you’re not keen on this, you could do “Quiet” and talk about how quietly God’s rescuing King came.

Rejoice/Revelation/Righteousness/Reigns The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told. Luke 2:20 (also “When they saw the star, they were overjoyed” Matthew 2:10)
(or Revelation: No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and[b] is in the closest relationship with the Father, has made him known. John 1:18)

Saviour:  Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. Luke 2.11

Truth: The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. John 1:14

Unto Us a child is born “Unto to us a child is born,
to us a son is given…” Isaiah 9:6

Virgin: All this took place to fulfil what the Lord had said through the prophet: ‘The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel’ (which means ‘God with us’). Matthew 1:22-23

Wonderful/Worship: When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshipped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. (Matthew 2:10-11)

X: Gloria in Excelsis Deo:
‘Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace to those on whom his favour rests.’ Luke 2:14

Yahweh: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. John 1:1

Zeal: Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end…
The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this. Isaiah 9:7

As ever, your comments are really welcome.  Plus, if you think this is helpful please do share it with others. Happy Autumn everybody!

Reasons to be Cheerful, Part 3

“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” Galatians 5.1.

I don’t know if you’ve ever thought this, but I find it susprising that after reminding people that they are free, Paul’s instruction to them is to stand firm.  Not, “run around, then, and do a dance of freedom.”  Sometimes that is totally appropriate, of course, but Paul is writing to people who are being told that if they really want eternal life they need to be circumcised.  So in the face of that, the Galatian believers needed to stand firm in the freedom they’d been given in Christ.

As I wrote last week, I am so grateful for the likes of John Wycliffe and William Tyndale, who put God’s word into English so that common folk like me could read it for ourselves.  And the best thing about this is that it means we can know the true gospel, straight from God’s word.  I want to celebrate the Reformation with my children because if it weren’t for those brave men and women, many of whom gave their lives or their livelihoods, we would still be relying on priests and icons to tell us about God.

The Bible in my tongue means true freedom, the gospel of grace that has saved me from hell and brought me into a relationship with the Mighty God, my Heavenly Father.

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no-one can boast.” Ephesians 2.8-9.

It is by grace, through faith in Christ, to God’s glory.

I don’t need to confess my sins to a priest, because Jesus is my Great High Priest. (1 Timothy 2.5).

I don’t need to do good works in order to be saved, because Jesus has done all the work for me. (See Ephesians 2.8-9 above.).

I don’t need to pray for the dead, because the Lord is just and will judge everyone fairly (Hebrews 9.27-28.), and Jesus paid the price in full for those who trust in him.

It’s not just that I don’t need to do these things, but that by doing them I take away from Christ, as if he didn’t do enough: “Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God.” 1 Peter 3.18

I can’t be saved by baptism, or pilgrimage, or charity, or taking communion – only by faith in Christ. (Romans 1.17 and Galatians 3.11 are just two examples.)

So in light of all that, I thought I’d let you know what we’ll be doing to celebrate.  I’m using the book pictured above, which – as the title suggests – has a different character from church history for each letter of the alphabet.  I’ve chosen six of these*, and between now and Monday we will look at one per day (we’ll just read their page from the book and thank God for them). We’ll do Luther last because I have a separate book about him (the little lights one) and it means we can dress up and pretend to nail something to the door, plus eat worm sweets and learn about his trial at Worms.


I drew a map (I’m not good at drawing but who cares really?), so that when we learn about a reformer we can cut out their head (so to speak) and stick it on the map.  This will hopefully make it more fun and help the children remember it.

At some point, probably Sunday or Monday (31st is officially Reformation Day), we will do this craft to help them learn the “five solas” which are five phrases that help to sum up the Reformation.  (I don’t think I’d heard of these before, thanks Rebecca Croft!). Here is a picture of the craft.  If only I were good with technology I could let you download it, but if you have a compass and protractor you could make it yourself.  A photocopier may help, depending on the size of your brood.  (I will see if I can upload it but am away now until Saturday so it may be too late by then, sorry.)


So the children will colour it in and then put one on top of the other, stick butterfly pin in the middle and hey presto:

Imagine it coloured in, with a butterfly pin, and not wonky.

So there you have it, I hope this is helpful and has inspired you to get excited about the Reformation (not just Ian Dury and the Blockheads).
*we’ll be looking at Lady Jane Gray, Zwingli, Ridley, Knox, Calvin and Luther.

True – Part Two

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Do you ever try to have a conversation with a friend while your children are present?  You start telling a story, and then you have to jump up to change someone’s pants or stop the baby chewing that wellie, or to break up a fight over a balloon, and an hour later you’re still only half way through.  I’m always impressed by parents’ determination to make it to the end of their story, come what may.  This level of perseverance is great training for something, I’m sure.

Well back in July I started to tell you something about Christian books for children, and then I got distracted by the school holidays, night feeds, reading a book about beauty, pureeing carrot, settling my child into nursery, inheriting a toddler group, cleaning up sick, that sort of thing, and here we are in October.  I never did finish what I was trying to say and now I feel it may be an anticlimax.  That’s the thing about the interruptions – they really pile the pressure on for the punchline of your story.

So really all I wanted to say was that children’s books do vary in their helpfulness.  I’m sometimes surprised by the choices people make, especially when they have so few words to play around with.  For example, we have a board book about the parable of the lost son.  It’s mostly a great book: colourful; clear; simple.  I like the fact it includes the older son, as sometimes children’s versions do omit important details (like the part where Jonah has a tantrum under a vine).  But look at this page – I’ll let you figure out which bit I wasn’t so keen on:

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This is a story about the Father’s heart for the lost.  Jesus said in Luke 15:20, that “while [the son] was still a long way off”, the Father ran to his son.  So why, oh why, did the good people who made this book, decide to write that he was nearly home?  Before I was saved by God’s astonishing grace, was I nearly with the Father?  No, I was still a long way off.

You might think I’m being pedantic.  Fair enough, you don’t need to analyse every board book you have.  But it’s good to have your eyes open.  We had quite an unhelpful book about the rich fool, which ended with, ‘this is why we should share.’ I can’t show you a picture of that because I binned it.  Children are so naturally legalistic*, I don’t want to feed that by strapping a moral lesson onto the end of a parable.  The rich fool teaches us to be rich towards God, which yes will no doubt end up in us sharing, but that’s not the main thing I want the children to take away from the story.

So, can I just encourage you to have a little read of a book before you buy it for your child or read it to them?  Someone recently gave us a book by Carine Mackenzie called Joseph’s Coat, which is incredibly concise so great for little ones.  (And it doesn’t end with, “so share your corn.”)  We’ve also got some lovely Susie Poole board books.  My favourite is Always Near Me, which is based on Psalm 139.  These would perhaps be good gifts for a toddler group or something.  I’ve just ordered a book about Christmas from Tenofthose.com which looks great but I can’t tell you about it properly because it hasn’t arrived yet.  (I ordered with it some books on Martin Luther so that we can celebrate Reformation Day on 31st October, but it turns out I’m not the only Tenofthose customer to have that bright idea, so they are waiting for more stock to come in.)

If I figure out what to do about Reformation Day, and I don’t get too distracted by space hopper incidents or butternut squash, I’ll tell you all about it.

Meanwhile, I would recommend the Beginner’s Bible (Good Book Co.), the Beginner’s Bible for toddlers, and the Jesus Storybook Bible.  We have the Beginner’s Bible bath book, which is the story of creation and is waterproof.  It’s also good for babies who like to chew books.  Hope this is helpful.  Any questions?

*By legalistic I mean that children love to be rewarded for good behaviour, and so they would like to be really good and have God love them for it.  When actually they are sinners in need of God’s grace and mercy.  (By the way, we grown-ups are like that too.)

True – Part One

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A weird thing happened to me yesterday – two different people got  in touch with me to ask me to recommend Christian books for babies.  That’s never happened before, and it got me thinking.  It’s worth asking people for recommendations on children’s Christian books and music, because let’s face facts – there is quite a range available.  And by range, I mean some stuff is spot on, and some stuff is ambiguous, and some stuff isn’t good.

Does it matter? Let’s take music to start with.  I grew up in a family where we learnt the words to (secular) songs, and I find it impossible to consider a song without thinking about the words  (I’ve since learnt that this is not universal).  I’ve spent hours trying to figure out lyrics, listening with headphones (my mum was best at this) – and by the way hasn’t Google just taken the fun out of all of that?  But I digress.  So, I was raised to think that lyrics do matter.  Now I am married to a worship leader who chooses songs for our church to sing, and who also writes songs (in his spare time, ha ha ha ha HA!).  So he also thinks that song words matter.  If we’re singing to God to praise him and to encourage each other, shouldn’t we be singing stuff that’s true?  And by true I mean true.

So let’s honour our children by remembering it matters what they listen to and sing along to.  Children are sponges (some more than others, as I’ve discovered), and will quickly learn the words to songs even if they have no concept of what they mean.  So we should really be explaining things to them for a start, and also making sure we’re teaching them good stuff – dare I say it, sound doctrine.

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Not quite ready for some music!

Here are two examples.  I don’t want to point fingers but I think it’s helpful to use examples.  Both of these songs are written by people who have written some great stuff, so I’m not saying anything about them as people, but I have comments about these specific songs.  Firstly, one from Hillsong kids:

It’s not a secret,
It’s not fairytale,
It’s not made up
,

Jonah was in the whale,
For three whole days,
123!

The greatest treasure,
The word God’s people wrote,
It’s in the bible,
Where Noah built a boat,
And it rained and rained,

The rainbow’s in the sky,
To show God’s promises are true,
The rainbow’s in the sky to show the world,
He’s the only way,
For your everyday.

OK.  Firstly, Jonah has very little to do with Noah or rainbows.  Why put him in the song?  It’s confusing.

Secondly, the rainbow is in the sky to remind us that God will remember his promise not to flood the whole earth again, which is quite specific:
1I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth. 14 Whenever I bring clouds over the earth and the rainbow appears in the clouds, 15 I will remember my covenant between me and you and all living creatures of every kind. Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life. Genesis 9.
I suppose it does remind us that God’s faithful to that promise (and other promises), but I find the chorus a bit ambiguous.  I’m not pinning all of my hopes on God because of a rainbow, but rather because of the resurrection.

And thirdly, “he’s the only way, for your everyday” (not sure if you mean every day or everyday, but that’s a different issue*) – Jesus is the only way to the Father.  That’s a wonderful promise.  I feel like “for your every day” is quite a vague (and disappointing) ending to this sentence.  But OK, the song is about the rainbow (not John 14:6**), however the rainbow doesn’t really show me that God is the only way… does it?  If it does I can’t see how, and not sure my children will figure it out either.

So all in all, I wouldn’t ban my kids from listening to this but I would want to talk to them about it, and to be honest I would just put something else on which is clearer and doesn’t mix up Bible stories.  And again, Hillsong have written many good songs and I’m grateful to them and to God for that.  Please don’t take this as an attack on them.

My other example is shorter.  There’s a great CD called “Mr Cow” by Julia Plaut which has many good songs on it.  However, the ten commandments one has the refrain “these ten rules are all you need” (in fact, that’s the name of the song).  Well… if you mean they’re all you need except for the fact you can’t keep them and therefore you’re desperately lost and need a saviour, then yes I agree.  But since my children are naturally legalistic (being human and all), I don’t want to affirm that by letting them think that ten rules are all they need.  In contrast, Randall Goodgame’s Ten Commandments song is spot on:
“The ten commandments, no-one can keep them all,
The ten commandments, not even on our best behaviour…
The ten commandments, that’s why we need a saviour.” (from Sing the Bible 2).
I’d rather my children learnt this truth than that they actually learnt the ten commandments (which they will also do, from the song.)

So I hope I’m helping you to see that it really does matter what we teach our kids through music.  Maybe this was obvious already?  But when I’ve said stuff like this to friends they sometimes haven’t even thought about the words, so I hope it was worth mentioning.

Well I haven’t even got onto books yet.  Perhaps we should make this a two parter….

(To be continued)

*Don’t get me started on everyday and every day!  But I genuinely don’t know which they mean and that’s not their fault – I don’t have the official lyrics.

**Incidentally, if you want a good song about John 14:6 then Colin Buchanan’s is great (hoo cha hoo cha hoo cha cha).  Does anyone know a good one about rainbows?

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.)

curtain

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?)

curtain torn

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.”