Tuesday, December 2, 2008

25 Days of Christmas Devotionals-Day 2

This evening we did our second devotional for our 25 Days of Christmas countdown.

I started off with the word "Christmas", and explained to the kids that we are sort of spelling it out-last night we started with 'Christ' and learned about how our families, lives and hearts need to be centered on Christ, and tonight we were going to learn about the "M", which (for us this year) stands for "Making Memories". This got Gwen (7), and Jenna (6) competing over who could spell Christmas out loud correctly with no help. I drew a bunch of hangman type blanks on a page and they called out letters until it was spelled out-and it dawned on me that they hadn't seen it in print yet when Gwen exclaimed-"It starts with Christ!" (Duh I should have thought about SHOWING them the spelling last night. But oh well.)

I took each of the letters from Christmas and wrote them down the side of a page and informed the kids that we were going to make a family acrostic poem out of the word. (I had to explain to the little ones what it was and was pretty surprised because I thought they already knew.) My kids came up with this:

Christ, caring
Reverence, repentance
Ice cream(?), imagination, icing
Savior, star
Mass (of sheep), Mary, mistletoe
Abundance, ask (for forgiveness and everything under the sun)

Yeah, the odder ones were usually Jenna's. She's a silly little thing sometimes.

I read the kids Psalm 78:1-4:
"1 O my people, hear my teaching;
listen to the words of my mouth.
2 I will open my mouth in parables,
I will utter hidden things, things from of old-
3 what we have heard and known,
what our fathers have told us.
4 We will not hide them from their children;
we will tell the next generation
the praiseworthy deeds of the LORD,
his power, and the wonders he has done."

I told the kids that I am telling them about 'the praiseworthy deeds of His love', and that someday when they are parents, they will be responsible for telling THEIR kids about His love, and explained to them that this is what it means when it says we ill 'utter things from old, what we have heard and known, what our fathers have told us.' I told them that we can make nice family memories while we learn about Jesus and God as a family.

*Then I asked each child to tell me about one thing they like to do with our family that is a fun memory. (i.e. Gwen said she loves baking cookies with me during the holidays.)

I went on to the gospel, and read about 20 verses from where we left off last night. Tonight's lesson was "Zechariah Doubts God".

I read them Luke 1:5-25:
"5In the time of Herod king of Judea there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly division of Abijah; his wife Elizabeth was also a descendant of Aaron.
6Both of them were upright in the sight of God, observing all the Lord's commandments and regulations blamelessly.
7But they had no children, because Elizabeth was barren; and they were both well along in years.
8Once when Zechariah's division was on duty and he was serving as priest before God, 9he was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to go into the temple of the Lord and burn incense.
10And when the time for the burning of incense came, all the assembled worshipers were praying outside.

11Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right side of the altar of incense.
12When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and was gripped with fear.
13But the angel said to him: "Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to give him the name John.
14He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth,
15for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even from birth.
16Many of the people of Israel will he bring back to the Lord their God.
17And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord."

18Zechariah asked the angel, "How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years."

19The angel answered, "I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news.
20And now you will be silent and not able to speak until the day this happens, because you did not believe my words, which will come true at their proper time."

21Meanwhile, the people were waiting for Zechariah and wondering why he stayed so long in the temple.
22When he came out, he could not speak to them. They realized he had seen a vision in the temple, for he kept making signs to them but remained unable to speak.

23When his time of service was completed, he returned home. 24After this his wife Elizabeth became pregnant and for five months remained in seclusion. 25"The Lord has done this for me," she said. "In these days he has shown his favor and taken away my disgrace among the people."

I read this to them from my Bible, and then told them the story in simpler terms so they could better understand it. I explained to them that Zechariah didn't believe the messenger from God so he was struck dumb and couldn't speak. I asked them: should they believe God or not believe God? (Of course, as little kids, they were shocked that someone wouldn't believe God and answered with a resounding "We should believe Him!") I told them about Zechariah's doubtful, unbelieving reaction, and Elizabeth's joyous, thankful reaction and asked how their reactions differed. I asked them if they knew who the baby was that would be born named John (Jenna "John the bap-thist!") and who did he baptize? (resounding chorus: "Jesus!")

I told the kids that we were going to play a game! This game was kind of like Simon Says, but it was called "Zechariah, God Says"-Zechariah didn't listen to God, and everyone should listen to God, so we were going to practice listening by playing this game. I let my 12 year old be the caller, and anyone who did something when "God didn't say" would get one strike-3 strikes and you're out! We went into my living room and moved the coffee table out of the way and played our game for probably about 20 minutes or so-the kids had a BLAST! (my favorite was "God says to go hug and kiss your mommy!!!" After which I was attacked by all the giggling kids and hugged and kissed until I thought I was going to fall over on my living room carpet and be mauled lol.) Christian made it really fun for us (I played with them.) The last commandment was "Zechariah, God says go to the dining room so we can end our session in prayer before bedtime." We all headed into the dining room, got into a circle and held hands, and I had Christian pray for us (each child will get a turn on various days). He told God thank you for our devotional and that we had a lot of fun doing it, and he asked that we would be equally blessed the next night when we do our next devotional. He thanked Him for all of the wonderful things we have, and asked him to watch over those less forunate than us. I sent the girls upstairs to brush their teeth and get ready for bed.

I'm so happy with tonight's devotional! The kids had a lot of fun and I think they really learned. I hope that He will send me ideas to keep it fun for my family so they don't get bored.

Monday, December 1, 2008

25 Days of Christmas Devotionals-Day 1

This evening, after dinner, I started something new with my kids (ages 12, 7, 6, and 4.) it's a 25 day Bible study, kind of a devotional for the 25 day countdown to Christmas. I started by teaching them about establishing Christ as the center of our holiday season, of our family, and of our hearts.

I read them Epehsians 2:19-22:
"19Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God's people and members of God's household,
20built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone.
21In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord.
22And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit."

I told them that before Jesus came, people called the Israelites worshipped God, but most nonIsraelites did not (Ok I know Ruth did but she was a rare exception.) I told them that the nonIsraelites were called Gentiles. I let them know that after Jesus came, everyone was welcome to worship the God of the Israelites. I told them that we need to be a dwelling for God, he needs to be in our hearts, and a focus for our family, and we need to tell othrs about His love. Then I asked them how we could plant God in our hearts. I told them that some of the ways we do this are to read our Bible and to pray, and to love other people.

Then I moved on to a couple of prophecies about Jesus. I explained that over 400 years before Jesus came, the Bible told us He would be coming. I read them Isaiah 7:14:
"Therefore the Lord himself will give you (plural) a sign. The virgin will be
with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel
." I let them know that Immanuel means "God with us." (I love teaching them about various names used in the Bible to describe Jesus and God, and hope to do a name study with them eventually.) I told them that God sending this baby was his way of showing us his love.

I read them Isaiah 9:6(NIV):
"For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace."

I asked them if they knew who that child was, and asked if any of them could remember any of the names used to describe Jesus.

I went on to the New Testament and read them Luke 1:1-4:
"1Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled mong us,
2just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word.
3Therefore, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, it seemed good also to me to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus,
4so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught."

and John 1:1-7
"1In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
2He was with God in the beginning.
3Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.
4In him was life, and that life was the light of men.
5The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not overcome it."
6There came a man who was sent from God; his name was John.
7He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all men might believe."

I explained to them that John and Luke were writing these passages to proclaim that the Gospel is the Truth, and that back then a lot of people didn't believe that Jesus was God. I told them that sometimes it's hard to believe things if you haven't seen them with your own two eyes, and Jesus' disciples, who did see these things, were eager to spread the good news about God and Jesus. I told them a little bit about John the Baptist, and that he baptized a lot of people, including Jesus himself. I aso told them that John 1:5 is one of my favorite verses, and that no matter how dark our lives may seem, the darkness cannot overcome the light unless we let it.

Then I asked them:
*Why were Luke and John so excited to spread the news of God?
(Jenna(6), and Gwen(7) excitedly exclaim "Because they love Jesus and want other people to know about Him!") Great job girls!

We discussed that people back then thought the story of Jesus was not true, so the people writing the Bible felt the need to proclaim it as truth. Then we discussed truth and dishonesty:
*Is it important to tell the truth?
*How do people feel when lies are told?
*Do you think the stories about Jesus were true? (I only asked this because they are little and sometimes I think they think this stuff is fairy tales instead of real stuff.)

We ended our talk with how we could center our holiday season around Jesus and caring for others rather than being greedy and wanting everything for ourselves.

It was a little wild (the kids aren't used to doing devotional type stuff with me yet) but i'm hoping as they get used to it, it might be a little lesss rowdy. All in all I was really pleased with our family's learning experience tonight.