Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Laying down your life

We had a cliff hanger today, Genesis 22:1-10:

1 Some time later God tested Abraham. He said to him, "Abraham!" "Here I am," he replied.
2 Then God said, "Take your son, your only son, Isaac, whom you love, and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains I will tell you about." 3 Early the next morning Abraham got up and saddled his donkey. He took with him two of his servants and his son Isaac. When he had cut enough wood for the burnt offering, he set out for the place God had told him about. 4 On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place in the distance. 5 He said to his servants, "Stay here with the donkey while I and the boy go over there. We will worship and then we will come back to you."

6 Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and placed it on his son Isaac, and he himself carried the fire and the knife. As the two of them went on together, 7 Isaac spoke up and said to his father Abraham, "Father?" "Yes, my son?" Abraham replied. "The fire and wood are here," Isaac said, "but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?"

8 Abraham answered, "God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son." And the two of them went on together. 9 When they reached the place God had told him about, Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood on it. He bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. 10 Then he reached out his hand and took the knife to slay his son.

Why the cliff hanger? Why not finish the story and let it resolve?

This is a story my girls know well, they've heard it before. I wanted them to really put themselves in Isaac's shoes, to sense what it would really be like to lay down their lives. So we did. After studying the passage, we acted it out--I was Abraham, they were all Isaac. We gathered sticks from the yard (and prop closet). We "camped out" in a changing room and looked at the stars, remembering God's promise to Abraham. We stopped for a snack and a story about the sacrifice Abraham made earlier and what a burnt offering sacrifice was. Although our journey didn't take three days, we ended in the sanctuary, with each of them taking a turn laying down on the pile of sticks, imagining what Isaac might have thought and felt.

I think they got it. Isaac didn't know the outcome as going to be what it was. But what he did know was that his dad loved him and trusted God. And when those two things were in conflict, he chose God.

That's a tough choice. Abraham didn't always make the right choice, but he had enough experience with God to know that really, making the right choice the first time is the right thing to do. Even if it seems hard or to lead to something opposite of what God has promised you.

Laying down your life it a big thing to ask of a kid...but it's exactly what God asked of Isaac.

Wow. That's a big "ask" for an adult, let alone a kid.

But that's what God does. He calls kids to big things.

Am I ready for that as a parent?

And in a cool twist, this week's memory verse comes from the passage we used the first week, 1 John 3:16:

This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for one another.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

God's timing

"The Lord was gracious to Sarah, just as he had said he would be. He did for Sarah what he had promised to do. Sarah became pregnant. She had a son by Abraham when he was old. He was born at the exact time God had promised him. Abraham gave the name Isaac to the son Sarah had by him. When his son Isaac was eight days old, Abraham circumcised him. He did it exactly as God had commanded him. Abraham was 100 years old when his son Isaac was born to him. Sarah said, "God has given laughter to me. Everyone who hears about this will laugh with me." She continued, "Who would have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse children? But I've had a son by him when he is old." Genesis 21:1-7

This is the passage we studied tonight. We focused on God's promises and when they are fulfilled. I love seeing the girls look forward to digging in! And as usual, the lesson was as much for me as for them. Though God's timing seemed strange (especially to Sarah), it was EXACTLY when God had planned to fulfill his plan. Gotta love that!

I debated cutting out the verse about circumcision (yes, I had to figure out a way to explain it to six 2-4th grade girls!), but left it in. Gotta teach it all! But it does make for a delicate conversation, that's for sure :)

I'm definitely praying over next week already--the sacrifice of Isaac. That's a tough one to approach from the child's point of view, but a powerful opportunity to talk about laying down your life and Christ's substitutionary sacrifice.

thanks for this opportunity, Lord, and that your timing is always perfect. Help me to believe like Abraham and not laugh like Sarah.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

"Is anything too hard for the Lord?"

This week in Logos we started our adventure through the Bible, of meeting children that God has called to do big things. First up: Isaac.

It's going to take us a month to talk about Isaac, but it's an important build up. This week we did two "plays": Genesis 15:1-6 and Genesis 18:1-15. We're using the NIrV, as it's a good reading level for the students. To make the plays, I made minor changes of assigning narrators and characters to various roles (I split up the narration to have enough roles for everyone to have one). The room we're in has an entire wall of costumes, and the girls love getting dressed up and acting out the stories. Afterwards, we did a simple compare/contrast between Abram's response and Sarah's response to God's promise, and they easily understood that Abraham's response was more pleasing to God.

We had fun with their memory verse--I had written "Is anything too hard for the LORD? Genesis 18:14" in white crayon on white paper. The girls painted over it lightly with black paint and wiped off the excess, so it seemed like "magic" (though they all understood where it came from). It looked like a night sky background, and was a very simple craft.

One of the things that amazes me about this bunch of girls is their faith. Of COURSE there is nothing too hard for the Lord! He's God, after all! I'm not sure where that confident faith goes. Despite seeing God move mightily, somehow it's easier to recall the times when God did not step in. So I pray for preservation of faith, and for opportunities to witness God's mighty hand in action.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Children of God

On Wednesday nights, I'm helping with an after school church program across the street. My kids get off the bus, eat a snack, and head over for recreation, worship, Bible study, then dinner. It's done by 7, which gives a good amount of time for homework, baths, and getting ready for the next day.

The overarching theme of the program is "We are all Children of God." I've been stewing for a while on a series of children's Bible lessons on the important tasks God entrusts kids with, so it's a perfect match! So I'm teaching the 2-4th grade girls class. It's an awesome group! There are eight of them, and they are all attentive and engaged. It's the perfect size for a pilot group; neither too big nor too small.

For the first lesson, we looked at 1 John 3:1-10, 16-19. I printed out the passage, and they used some basic inductive methods to find key ideas. From this, we made a list of what Children of God are like...and how we should treat each other. They loved "drawing" on the paper and highlighting specific words--like they drew hearts every time the word "love" was used. I don't think any of them had ever used a strategy like that, but it made the themes of the passage very clear, even to a group of 8-10 year olds. I asked them what they thought the most important verse was (that we should use for a memory verse), and they surprised me. They chose 1 John 3:18: Dear children, don't just talk about love. Put your love into action. Then it will truly be love.

So that was their challenge this week: to put love in action. We talked about ways to do it; I don't know if it stuck or not, but I'm glad to get to plant some seeds.

Thanks for this opportunity, Lord. Help my students to know your love and learn how to put it into action--to not just be hearers of the word, but doers also.