“Love Your Enemies”

Have you taught your kids “The Golden Rule”?

You know, that famous one-liner that says, “Treat others the way you want to be treated.”

It’s definitely easier said than done! Most kids can quote this well-known aphorism, but most have a hard time applying it within conflict. In fact, many adults even struggle to treat others with the love Jesus calls us to, when they have been wronged themselves. We are in need of some practical advice. How can we treat others the right way?

We invite you into a deeper understanding of the words of Jesus: “Treat others the way God has treated you.” That is, let our behavior toward others be dependent on and reflective of God’s behavior toward us, which is ultimately the way we want others to treat us.

The way kids see it:

“She hit me, so I hit her back!”

“He stole my puzzle first—that’s why I took his book!”

“I’m eating her Cheerios because she always eats mine!”

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In the age of Batman and Ironman—a culture that emphasizes fairness, earning what you’re worth, and exercising a sort of vigilante vengeance—it is only natural to children that they should avenge themselves when wronged. In fact, there is a degree to which this intuitive sense of justice is healthy and necessary. Wrong-doing should be acknowledged and behaviors corrected. However, there is more to it than simply punishing the wrongdoer. We can invite kids to strive to make things good instead of simply making things even.

In Exclusion and Embrace, Miroslav Volf explains, “The trouble with revenge… is that it enslaves us.” When we treat others based on how they have treated us, we are letting them control us. This is reacting. Our actions toward them are completely controlled by their actions toward us. Volf says that we can become “shaped in the mirror image of” people who are unkind to us.

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Responding, on the other hand, is a process of taking the time to formulate a response based on information outside the other person. Knowing that God ultimately promises to remove all that has gone wrong with the world, we know there is hope for things to be made right again. Volf says that, knowing God’s promise that one day everything will be made right again, we are freed to see people the way God sees them, and treat them with the love and kindness God shows us. We can invite our kids into the same type of response—instead of choosing to react in anger, they can choose to join God’s plan to make everything in the world good again.

There is freedom in this! When we refuse to do what is expected—that is, to retaliate—we choose a different, better path. When I choose to respond lovingly to someone who has been unkind to me, I am empowered to choose God’s path—instead of following the path my offender has chosen for me.

Jesus was the best example of this; as Volf writes, “… Christ, the victim who refused to be defined by the perpetrator, forgives… the enemy.” One time, some soldiers and religious leaders approached Jesus, holding weapons. They already didn’t get along with Jesus, because he had disagreed with them in public many times (Luke 5:27-32; 6:1-11; 14:1-14; 20:1-8; 20:20-26), plus since they were carrying weapons it was clear they wanted to harm Jesus! Jesus’ friend Peter tried to protect him, cutting off someone’s ear in the crowd, but Jesus told Peter he didn’t want to fight, and healed the injured man. When Jesus was beaten and hung on a cross to die, Jesus prays for the people who hurt him. The Bible says God has a never-stopping, always and forever love for people. This is the example we are invited to follow when we make it our goal to treat others as God has treated us.

In this lies a compelling opportunity for our children: Choose God’s path instead of the wrongdoer’s path—treat others the way God has treated you! This requires that kids learn to be in charge of themselves. We do not mean that kids need to be in perfect control of their body—after all, kids are still learning fine motor skills and self-control as a normal stage in their development. Rather, we invite kids to intentionally choose how they react in different situations, knowing that God longs for the situation to be transformed into something good—for both them and the other people involved! We can help kids name the emotion they are feeling, think of a way God has been kind to them, and choose a similar response to how God has treated them.

Let’s invite kids to be agents of change, treating others the way God has treated them. Remind kids that bullies and mean girls are not in charge of them. Each person is in charge of him or herself. And as Christians, we choose to let God be in charge of us. In the Bible, the apostle Paul encourages us to let God’s love and peace control us, and to “overcome evil with good.”

Not only does this path free us from being controlled by another person, but it also breaks the cycle of sin, bringing God’s redemptive love into a situation. When a person treats me poorly, so I treat them poorly back—or if I even treat a third person poorly because the person who offended me put me in a grumpy mood—this simply spreads negativity.

We can invite kids to see everyday situations in a different way:

“She hit me, so I told her, ‘That hurts my body and I don’t like it. I don’t want you to feel hurt either. Let’s keep each other safe!’”

“He stole my puzzle—so I asked if we could share it and do teamwork together!”

“She ate my Cheerios, so I asked if she was hungry, then told her about the snacks she could have.”

Don’t give unkind people the satisfaction of reacting exactly the way they think you will—instead, be intentional about showing God’s love to them. This frees you from their control, breaks the cycle of badness, and even gives them a glimpse of the power of God’s love—which truly “covers a multitude of sins.” Good really can defeat evil—and not by punching it and throwing it in a prison cell—but by overcoming it with the greatest Love that has ever been known.

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God is Love

Hello Church family!

Valentine’s Day is just around the corner, and—naturally—it has us thinking about love. The greatest love of all—the love of our God—is so worth celebrating! This week, we invite you to take some time to remind your kids that love is more than red hearts, paper cards, and pink cupcakes. Use the ideas below to teach your kiddos that God’s love is powerful and enduring and greater than anything—and that we can share it with others!

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Memorize some Bible verses about God’s love. Some toddlers can memorize “God is love,” while your fourth and fifth graders might take up the challenge of memorizing the entire “love chapter” (1 Corinthians 13)!

  • “Love each other as I have loved you.” (John 15:12)
  • “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:35)
  • “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” (1 John 3:1)
  • “And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them.” (1 John 4:16)
  • “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.” (1 Corinthians 13:4-8)
  • “…God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.” (1 John 4:8-12)

Explore some Bible stories that illustrate God’s love.

  • Matthew 6:25-34 | God will take care of you—he gives birds and plants the things they need—and He loves you even more than them! He doesn’t want you to worry—He will give you everything you need.
  • Luke 19:1-10 | Nobody liked Zacchaeus, but Jesus saw him and wanted to hang out at his house! God loves everyone.
  • Luke 10:25-37 | Jesus told a story about a man who was hurt and needed help. Some people walked by him without helping him, but one man helped him get up and found him a place to stay and helped him heal. Jesus said that is how we should love other people!

Exercise your creativity! Below are a few ideas for art projects that reinforce the message of God’s love.

Love others with God’s love. Talk about ways to share God’s love with others this Valentine’s Day and the whole year long!

  • Write notes of encouragement. Path Through the Narrow Gate provides some printable notes from parents to their kids, reminding them of biblical truths of God’s love and how we can show that love to others. Print these for free, or make some of your own!
  • Bake a treat and give it to a neighbor.
  • Share toys with other children.
  • Give a hug to a friend who is sad or hurt.

We hope you have a meaningful and rewarding season of exploring God’s love with your kids-and a happy Valentine’s Day!

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God the Redeemer {Unit 4}

The next five weeks will take us through Moses’ life, where we learn that Yahweh is a God who rescues and redeems!

Big Picture Question: What is God’s plan? God’s plan is to rescue His people from captivity.

Key Passage: “Moses was faithful as a servant in all God’s household… But Christ was faithful as a Son over His household. And we are that household if we hold on to the courage and the confidence of our hope.” (Hebrews 3:5-6)

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Moses Was Born and Called • Exodus 1:8-2:10, 23-25; 3:1-4:20| God rescued Moses to deliver His people from captivity.

Moses was chosen by God to help deliver God’s people out of Egypt. When God’s people cried out to God, He responded and miraculously rescued them from physical captivity. Jesus was a greater Deliverer because He rescued God’s people from captivity to sin. The Exodus points back to Joseph bringing His family into Egypt and forward to Jesus rescuing God’s people from sin.

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The Plagues, the Passover, and the Crossing of the Red Sea • Exodus 5-14 | God proved to the Egyptians that He is the one true God.

God used miraculous plagues to show Pharaoh and the Egyptian people that He alone is God and graciously spared the Israelites from the final plague when they trusted in Him and put the blood of a lamb around their doors. God spared Israel by the blood of a lamb, but Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. God’s salvation of His people is always by grace through faith and we need Jesus to trust and obey God.

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The Wilderness Test Exodus 15:22-17:7 | God provided for the physical needs of His people.

God provided food and water for His people as they wandered in the wilderness. When Israel became hungry and thirsty, they grumbled about Moses and God, and God graciously provided for them even though they did not deserve it. In the same way that God provided for Israel’s physical need, God provides for the spiritual need of people through Jesus. God is gracious and He freely gives what we need – including Jesus – not because of anything we have done, but because of God’s goodness alone.

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The Golden Calf • Exodus 32:1-35; 34:1-9 | It’s always best to obey God.

Moses went up Mt. Sinai to talk with God for 40 days. During that time, the people rebelled against the one true God and asked Aaron to make a golden calf to be their god. When God became angry, Moses interceded on their behalf. As Moses interceded for Israel that day, Jesus intercedes for all God’s people today.

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The Ten Commandments: Love God • Exodus 19:1-20:11; 31:18 | God gave us rules because He knows what’s best for us, and He will help us trust Him.

The first four of the Ten Commandments were given by God through Moses to teach His people how to love and worship Him. God loves us and His plan is the best way to live, but we cannot obey God on our own. And that’s the point of the law – to show us of our need for another way to be right with God; a way found only in Jesus. God is holy and wants us to be holy as well—we can be holy because of Jesus.

For more resources and ideas of how to continue these conversations at home, check out these Big Picture Cards for Families.

What’s the point of Church?

Your elementary student learned yesterday about the importance of coming to church! The bottom line your child learned is that friends worship together. This is a commitment that is slowly being lost in our culture, and we’d love for you to continue to talk to your kids about the importance of regularly coming to church! Below, you will find answers to questions your kids might ask and ideas to help church be a positive experience.  Enjoy!

Where does it say in the Bible that we should go to church every Sunday? Hebrews 10:24-25 gives us good advice. The writer says: 24 Let us consider how we can stir up one another to love. Let us help one another to do good works. 25 Let us not give up meeting together. Some are in the habit of doing this. Instead, let us cheer each other up with words of hope. Let us do it all the more as you see the day coming when Christ will return.” We weren’t meant to live our lives alone. God created us for community. Community can only happen if you see each other often! God wants us to connect with other people who want to live for Him, and the best way to do that is by gathering together frequently- such as every Sunday!

What is the point of going to church? First, going to church gives us the opportunity to remember and think about God’s love for us. We forget things really easily, but going to church is a great reminder to help us remember how great God’s love is- especially seen in Jesus! Going to church is also a great opportunity to learn more about who God is and what matters to Him. The Bible is packed full of information, and learning about God with friends makes it more fun! Going to church is also a great time to be given instruction and reminders about what we should be doing with our lives. Think of an athlete. They train and work hard for the race. Going to church on Sunday is one way that a Christian can train to work hard for the things God desires throughout the week.

What if I your kids don’t feel like going? On a day when your kids don’t feel like going to church, encourage them to go! Set your kids up to have a good time at church. Eat a fun breakfast, pray out loud on your way to church, ask God to teach every person in the family something new about Him, and don’t forget to smile and show your kids that you also want to go to church!

As your wrap up, ask your kids “What do you like most about church?” If they need some help coming up with ideas, help them remember that church is a place where they get to see friends. They get to sing at church, they play all kinds of crazy games, they talk and learn about God together, and they learn about how their lives fit into God’s Big Story.

Then, ask your kids, “What gets in the way of going to church?” Maybe it’s hard to get to church because life is so crazy busy. Maybe you have to work around a sport team’s practice schedule. Or maybe you have the kind of family situation where you can’t come every week. As a family, brainstorm things you can do to help you come to church every Sunday. This might include adding in a fun element on your way to church, praying for an desire to go to church, or challenging each person in your family to remember one thing and share it out loud on the way home!

Want to hear what Ken Wytsma has to say about the importance of church? Watch this short Redux video! Then check out the Redux website for more answers to questions you might have!

Antioch Kids: Elementary!

God told the Israelites that He would provide for them in the desert—He did. God told Joshua that the wall of Jericho would fall if the people marched around it for seven days—it did. God told Mary that she would have a baby boy—she did.

Jesus said He would die and rise again three days later—He did!

Honesty is important because it builds trust. Honesty is choosing to be truthful in whatever you say and do. What God says is true; He has shown us that time and time again. And that’s one of the reasons we know we can trust God.

But the same should be true in our own lives. If we want other people to trust us, we need to live honest lives. When we tell the truth and we follow through with our promises, other people learn to trust us. But when we cover up who we are, what we’ve done, or we constantly break our promises, then the people around us stop trusting us. They begin to wonder if, in the Moment of Truth, can you be trusted?

The monthly memory verse is: “An honest person has respect for the Lord,” Proverbs 14:2a, NIrV. Living a life of honesty shows that we respect God and the people we care about. We can find a way to be truthful and still careful of the feelings of those we care about.

In Week One’s Bible story, Jacob’s sons lie to him about what’s happened to Joseph (Genesis 37:17-36; 45:25-28). They broke their father’s heart by telling him Joseph had been attacked by animals. Our Bottom Line is: When you are not truthful, you can hurt the people you care about. Regardless of our reasons for lying, someone eventually gets hurt.

In our Week Two Bible story, we meet Gehazi, Elisha’s trusted servant (2 Kings 5, NIrV). When Gehazi lies about accepting gifts, he can no longer be trusted and suffers a great loss. Our Bottom Line is: When you are not truthful, you lose trust. Honesty is also about consistently speaking and living truthfully and acting on what we say.

In Week Three’s Bible story, Zacchaeus was a thief and considered a traitor to his people (Luke 19:1-10). When he decided to follow Jesus, Zacchaeus worked hard to earn his community’s trust. Our Bottom Line is: When you are truthful and make things right, you build trust. When we admit we have not been truthful, we can earn back other’s trust.

In Week Four, Judas betrays his Teacher and Friend for thirty pieces of silver (Matthew 26:14-16, 20-25, 45-50; 27:1-5). Judas spent every day with the Truth but still chose dishonesty. Our Bottom Line is: You can lie so much that it’s hard to remember what’s true. So often in our lives, one lie leads to another as we have to cover up the stories we told before.

Week Five is Easter! In this week’s Bible story, we’re examining some of the amazing things Jesus said and the most amazing thing He did (John 3:3, 16; 14:1-6, 28-29; John 18-20). Jesus made some incredible statements about Himself that even some of His followers had trouble believing. But our Bottom Line is: When Jesus came back from the dead, it proved that what He said was true. When we have doubts about God, we can remember He kept the biggest promise of all.

Living an honest life may sometimes be hard. It might mean admitting when we’ve done something wrong or made an embarrassing mistake. It might mean passing up a chance to sneak an extra turn and win the game while your friend isn’t looking. Or it may be as simple as following through on the things we have promised. Whatever the circumstances, this month look for ways to be honest so that others can trust you.

By Daniel Scott ©2013 The reThink Group. All rights reserved. http://www.ThinkOrange.com *Used by permission.

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Do your kids like stories?

If your kids like to read, we have a great, FREE resource for you!

Each month we interview, research, gather pictures, and write a short story about a kids that lives in another part of our world! Each story is told in a kid appropriate manner which explains what life is like, gives ways to pray, and has suggestions of ways to get involved. They can be read on your computer, on a smart phone, on a tablet, or can be printed as well!

Currently, we have 25 stories, or “Kid Close-Up’s” available for you and your family to enjoy! There is a preview at the bottom of this post!

Here are the two most recent Kid Close-Ups:

  1. Meet Abubakarr!
    Meet Abubakarr, or “Abu” for short! He is a ten year boy living in Bo Town, Sierra Leone. Imagine living with his entire family in mud huts, searching for “bushmeat”, and making musical instruments out of gourds!
  2. Meet Irmak!
    Meet Irmak, a ten year old girl who lives in Izmir, Turkey. Imagine living on the 5th floor of an apartment overlooking the Mediterranean Sea, having water delivered by motorcycle, and hearing the Muslim call to pray 5 times a day!

To access all of them, click here!

Enjoy!

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What is my Elementary child learning?

We are excited about the month of January at Antioch Kids! All month long, your kids will be learning about DETERMINATION, which is deciding it’s worth it to finish what you’ve started.

The monthly memory verse is: Let us keep on running the race marked out for us,” Hebrew 12:1b, NIrV. When God asks us to do something, He’s often guiding us step-by-step in a certain direction that we may not even see or realize. Our determination to be the one who follows God leads us closer to the good things He has in store for us!

In Week One’s Bible story, God tells Noah to build an ark (Genesis 6:5-22). It took him years, but Noah was determined to make the wise choice and follow God no matter how long it took! Our Bottom Line is: Be the one who keeps doing what’s right. Since we trust that God is in control, we are motivated to keep doing what we know is the right thing.

In Week Two, our Bible story tells when God met Moses at the burning bush(Exodus 3:1-12). Moses gained the determination he needed to lead God’s people out of slavery because he trusted our powerful God. So when He asks us to do something, we can know He will give us the strength to see it through and be with us through the journey. Our Bottom Line is: Be the one who does what God says because He’s AWE-some.

In Week Three, our Bible story shows how Ruth is determined to stick by Naomi during the very hardest times (Book of Ruth). Ruth didn’t want Naomi to feel alone and overwhelmed with how her life turned out. Our Bottom Line is: Be the one who sticks by someone in need. Sometimes when we decide to help someone, it gets harder than we expected it would. But we should be determined to help however long and in whatever way is needed.

In Week Four, Colossians 3:23-24 helps us understand the principle of work. As we work, we can be determined to finish the job right, and with a good attitude, because we know we’re always serving God. This week our Bottom Line is: Be the one who works hard, because God sees your heart. God pays attention to all the work that we do, even the smallest things. And it really pleases Him when we do those things with a good attitude!

When you put your faith in God, He’ll give you the strength you need to keep doing what you should do—even when it’s hard and even when others give up. Because when you have the determination to finish what you’ve started, you won’t miss out on the good things God has in store for you.

Below are weekly devo’s for you and your kids to do together. Read them on an iPad, print them out, or pick them up on Sunday morning! Hope they spark some great conversations between you and your kids. Enjoy!

By Jessica McKee ©2012 The reThink Group. All rights reserved. http://www.ThinkOrange.com *Used by permission.

Thanksgiving Fun!

With Thanksgiving right around the corner, we wanted to give you three ideas to make the day fun as well as meaningful! Below you will find 3 simple ideas that will help you and your family give thought to what you are thankful for, and also make great memories, as you eagerly await the feast to finish cooking!

1. Birdie Thanks!

What you need: A badminton shuttlecock (or a sock filled with beans) and a permanent marker.

What you do: Decorate the shuttlecock to look like a turkey. Draw a beak, a wattle and two eyes. Then, let the person with the closest birthday begin with the birdie. This person gets to choose who to throw the birdie to first.  As the person catches it, he names something he’s thankful for, then tosses it to another family member.

2. I’m thankful FOUR…

What you need: Colored paper, scissors and markers

What you do: Begin by cutting out large 4’s from the colored paper. Give each family member a “4”, and ask her to fill the paper with things she is thankful “for” (or 4). Let each person tell the group what they are thankful for, then keep the “4’s” and read them again next year leading up to Thanksgiving!

3. Turkey Hunt!

What you need: Index Cards, glue, and picture of turkey (below).

What you do: Find 12-15 index cards. Paste the picture of the turkey on each card. Then, have everyone leave the room except for the “hider”. The “hider” hides the cards around the room. Then, invite the “hunters” back into the room to find the hidden turkeys. As each turkey is found, it is brought back to the leader who keeps track of who found each turkey by writing the “hunter’s” name on the back of each card. When all the turkey’s have been found, the hunter with the most turkey’s is the winner and becomes the “hider” for the next round.

A Theology of Thanksgiving… for kids!

Did you know that thankfulness is a learned behavior?

For some kids, it comes easier than others. But nonetheless, it is a learned behavior that is instilled by repetition and awareness.

As the Thanksgiving season approaches, we want to give your kids the opportunity to practice being thankful. It is easy to be thankful for ice cream, puppies and days off from school. But we want to help instill a theology of thankfulness that extends to even the hard stuff like family problems, sickness, and social struggles.

1 Thessalonians 5:18 says “In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” Notice that it does not say “Give thanks for everything that you like” or “Give thanks for everything that is easy”. Instead, it simply says that we must give thanks for everything.

Buy why?

The writer of Psalm 106:1 will help us answer this question. This verse says, “Praise the Lord! Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! His mercy endures forever.” Pop Quiz: Why does the writer say we should give thanks?

  1. Because dinner was delicious.
  2. Because today was fun.
  3. Because the Lord is good.

The psalmist says to give thanks because the Lord is forever good! Because of this, we should be able to offer thanks to God regardless of our circumstances.

This gets increasingly more difficult if we don’t know our God well. The Bible is packed with descriptions of God! But where would be a good place to start to get to know Him better? Psalm 103 tells us a lot about our God. Start with these 22 verses and, as a family, make a list of everything the chapter says about God.  Pick three things from the chapter and thank God for being a God who can be described in such a marvelous way! Then, come back to the list tomorrow and pick three more. Continue until you have made it through your list… and, if you dare, start again from the top. After all, it is proven that kid’s learn by repetition!

As a family, get in the habit of thanking God for who He is!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Becoming Thankful

Quick! Think back… When was the last time you said “thank you”? Was it this morning? Yesterday? Maybe your kids brought down their dirty laundry. Maybe your husband picked up eggs on the way home from work.  But more importantly, when was the last time you said “thank you” to God?

Maybe you thank Him for the weather and the food… But God has given you and I so much, I can’t help but ask the question… have we really thanked Him for it? Do we even realize how much there is to be thankful for?

With Thanksgiving right around the corner, we want your family to have lots of easy-to-use activities that will help you have thankful hearts. A wise man once said, “One of the main reasons that we lose our enthusiasm in life is because we become ungrateful..we let what was once a miracle become common to us. We get so accustomed to His goodness it becomes a routine.” (Joel Osteen)

The six activities listed below will help a family refuel their once thankful hearts. The activities are easy and ready to use. Simply click on each link for instructions and a suggested conversation!

1. Make a Book!
Make a book out of construction paper and fill with reasons you are thankful for someone special.

2. Gratitude Alphabet
Get in the habit of thanking God for everything and everyone with this challenge.

3. Attitude of Gratitude!
Make a list of things you want to thank God for to train your mind to be thankful.

4. Paper Chain Game!
This craft will help your kids give thanks for the many things God has given.

5. Journal of Thanks!
Decorate a blank journal and record all the things you are thankful for at meals.

6. Thank You!
Play a game to get in the habit of having thankful hearts.

If you have more activities that have worked well to develop attitudes of thankfulness in your family, please tell us about them in the comments! And of course, happy almost-Thanksgiving!