It’s time to get outside in God’s beautiful world!

“You are the Lord, you alone. You have made heaven, the heaven of heavens, with all their host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them; and you preserve all of them; and the host of heaven worships you.
Nehemiah 9:6

I love all the seasons, but especially the warmer ones.  I am looking forward to spending lots of time outside.  As you experience the beauty of God’s creation during this season, please remember to share with your children that it IS God’s creation.  Lead them to praise Him. Make up songs about it.  Here’s one suggestion:

https://youtu.be/AbWgeJOMQ4U

Hopefully you will get to take a family trip this summer, maybe to the beach to get sand between your toes. To The Sea by Callie Grant is a book about a day at the beach that young children will enjoy.  The pictures by Jeremy Tugeau make you almost able to smell the sea air. (The author’s mission is to encourage and equip parents to effectively teach their kids about God and His creation, even at a very young age.) (Check out some of her other books on this site here.) In the book the sand castle is washed away by the sea, but the boy builds one on a rock and it stands safe. Play in the sand and tell this parable from Matthew 7:24-29.

Even if you can’t get away this summer, take advantage of every opportunity around you to enjoy God’s beautiful world with your children.  Jesus used visuals from nature as he taught.
Read Matthew 6:25-33 and be ready to share His teachings the next time you are outside observing birds or looking at flowers.

Hike, explore, play in the sand. Start collecting things from nature – moss, feathers, shells, rocks, leaves, seeds, an abandoned bird’s nest or wasp nest.  Make a nature box full of items you can enjoy all year.  And don’t forget to point out that all God’s creation praise Him!

All your works praise you, LORD; your faithful people extol you.
Psalm 145:10

Nature Box
Nature Box

Side Note: Deuteronomy 6:6-7 says to speak of God and His word as we go.  Everything doesn’t have to be related to a Bible verse, but as you discover things on your nature walk you could say, “Think of the wonders of God” (Job 37:14) or “all God’s works praise Him” (Psalm 145:10)

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Teaching Young Children the Message of Hope in the Book of Zechariah


I just taught one of the hardest Bible lessons I have ever taught to preschoolers! I have to brag on those 3 and 4 year olds who sat quietly and listened intently –  they now know things about God’s Word that many adults never study 🙂  The lesson is from Zechariah 1-14 about the 8 visions that God gave the prophet.

Zechariah was sent by God to encourage the people of Israel as they began to rebuild the city of Jerusalem after returning from 70 years of captivity.  They were facing adversity as they attempted this difficult task.  Zechariah had 8 visions which were special messages from God to bring encouragement to continue their work.

Visuals are so helpful to interest the children in a story.  I put 8 objects, representing each of the visions, into my purple bag I use each week for visuals. As we began our story time, the children were very intrigued by my bag which was obviously much fuller than usual.   I pulled one object out at a time as I talked about each vision and its message of hope to the people of Israel.  The children were such great listeners that after the lesson, they were able to tell me about the visions as I pointed to each object! Oh the power of visuals 🙂

Screenshot 2014-09-14 17.02.171.   A man on a horse (1:7-17)
Meaning:  A messenger bringing the message that God still loves Israel and will restore their land

url2.  A dear antler to represent the 4 horns (1:18-21)
Meaning:  God will defeat 4 enemies of Israel – Assyria, Egypt, Babylon, Persia

images-13.  A rope to represent a surveyor who was measuring the city (2:1-13)
Meaning:  Jerusalem will measure larger and safer than before it was destroyed

etwog424.  A Bible character figure to represent Joshua the high priest  whose filthy clothes were exchanged for clean (3:1-10)
Meaning:  God will send the Great High Priest, the King of Kings, to cleanse us from our sins.

images5.  A candle holder to represent the golden lamp stand which was used in the Temple for worship (4:1-14)
Meaning:  The Temple will be rebuilt and God will dwell among them.

Scroll6.  A scroll made out of paper and sticks – the flying scroll (5:1-4)
Meaning: Those who were disobeying God’s law and stopping God’s work would be punished

Screenshot 2014-09-14 17.08.437.  A small basket with a lid to represent the woman in basket (5:5-11)
Meaning: Sin will be carried away

Carthaginian_chariot8.  A horse-drawn chariot to represent the 4 chariots (6:1-8)
Meaning:   God will overcome evil in the 4 corners of the world and bring rest

If you notice, all the visions spoke of hope.  The main take-away or actual life application was that God always gives us hope in our difficult times.  At this point we talked about some difficult things that we might face and that God gives us hope in the midst of them.Jesus riding on a donkey into Jerusalem

My final visual was a picture of Jesus.  The ultimate hope for us all was predicted by Zechariah (this book has more predictions of Christ than any of the other minor prophets). In Zephaniah 9:9, Zechariah predicted 500 years before it happened, that Jesus would come riding on a donkey into the very town the returning exiles were rebuilding at the time.  God sent Jesus to us all to take away sin and give hope!!!

If you are struggling with discouragement, read Zechariah. It is full of verses to give you hope.  Here are two of our favorite verses from the book that brought much encourage to us during some difficult times:

Zech. 4:6  Then he said to me, “This is what the Lord says to Zerubbabel: It is not by force nor by strength, but by my Spirit, says the Lord Almighty.

 Zech. 9:12 Return to the stronghold, You prisoners of hope. Even today I declare That I will restore double to you. 

 

For background info on Zechariah check out these sites:

http://www.insight.org/resources/bible/zechariah.html

http://www.easyenglish.info/bible-commentary/zechariah-lbw.htm

 

Here’s a great pattern for making a booklet of the 8 visions:

http://www.ellenjmchenry.com/homeschool-freedownloads/bible-games/documents/ZechariahBooklet.pdf

 

(Appreciation goes to http://www.gospelproject.com/kids/ for challenging us to go deeper in God’s Word with our children)

 

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How to Tell a Bible Story

Children learn best when they hear and see what is being taught.  Read the Bible story ahead of time and be ready to tell it in your own words with much enthusiasm, acting it out as much as possible.  Use visuals to illustrate the Bible story.  Then try to end with a practical application for their lives and a verse to memorize.  A song is always good to help remember the teaching as well; put the verse or something in the story to a familiar tune.

Here’s a suggestion for telling 1 Samuel 16:1-13, the story of the shepherd boy David being anointed as king.

Story:

Tell about Samuel looking for a new king as you walk around searching & looking at each child.  Before you start telling the story, give one child a stuffed lamb.  When you come to that child say that David was just a kind, young boy watching sheep when Samuel found him.

Samuel had looked at all of David’s older brothers who were much stronger, but God told Samuel that the Lord doesn’t make decisions the way people do by outward appearance; the Lord looks at a person’s thoughts and intentions.

God helped Samuel know that David was the chosen king, not because of what he looked like on the outside, but because of what he was like on the inside.  Samuel then anointed David with oil.  Anointing with oil was a way of showing that a person was set apart to be used by God.

Visual: Ahead of time, draw David on the front of a piece of construction paper.  Then draw the crown and scenery if you like on the back (hold paper to light to make sure you draw the crown in the right place).  Tape David to a plate (don’t show the back of paper)  Anoint David with oil using a cotton ball to apply oil.  The crown magically appears when the paper is covered in oil. Say that God saw more than what Samuel saw when he looked at David; God saw that David had a good heart to be the new king.

 

Practical application: David was chosen and anointed to be king because he had a good heart.  Emphasis that our actions are more important than our appearance.  God has something special for each of us to do just as He had for David to do.  We must keep our hearts kind and good so we can do what God wants us to do.

Memory verse: 1 Samuel 16:7 … man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.

 

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