A Christmas Scavenger Hunt

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Here’s fairly simple, no-prep activity to help your children learn about or review the Bible’s account of Jesus’s birth.

In a translation your children can understand, read Matthew 1:18-25; Luke 2:1-20; and Matthew 2:1-15. If your children are very young, you might choose to read a storybook about the birth of Jesus instead of .

Then have a little Christmas scavenger hunt. You can do this all together as a group, or you can divide the children into two teams. You could also let each child individually hunt for items and see who can find them all the fastest.

Have the children look for items that relate to each of the following people and places in the Christmas story:

  • Angels
  • Mary
  • Joseph
  • Inns in Bethlehem
  • Stable
  • Shepherds
  • Wise men

There’s room for creativity with this game. They can bring you anything that relates to each part of the story. It might be an angel from one of your nativity sets, a stuffed animal lamb, some straw, a plastic donkey, or some rags to wrap around baby Jesus.

If your children can read, give them a written list of the items they need to find. Then let them see how fast they find them all.

If your children can’t read, simply tell them the first item to look for. When they bring that one to you, tell them what the next item is.

When they have found everything on the list, have them retell the Christmas story to you, using the things they have gathered as props.

If you want, finish up the hunt with some cookies and milk, a good Christmas video, or some read-aloud time together.

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The Giveaway Winner — and a Bible Story Book Review

Thank you all for the great comments you left for our giveaway back at the beginning of December! It’s so good to hear what God is teaching us all!

We neglected to let you know who the winner was, even though we have contacted her personally. The winner of our $50 gift certificate is Minnie, with comment #128 about her studies in the book of James. Congratulations, Minnie!

I’ll be back on Thursday with a children’s activity for the Christmas season. In the meantime, let me offer a short review on one of the Top 5 Bible story books in the Forster household. We loved these when our children were young. We love them all over again with our flock of grandchildren!

StepStep1Our children called them the “Step-Step books”. If you look at the picture, you’ll see why. Our children loved the Read Aloud Bible Storiesby Ella K. Lindvall, when they were little! Their appeal must have something to do with the combination of repeated words and phrases that little children enjoy, sound words like “splash” and “drip” that always make a story more interesting, and simple, uncomplicated storytelling. Some authors just seem to know how to connect with a child’s mind in a special way.

StepStep7Noah

The engaging text is perfectly paired with equally child-like illustrations that are bold and colorful and full of repetition and patterns. Our children were inspired to pull out their markers and copy many of the pictures in these books.

StepStep2Crowd

STepSTep6Angels

Combine simple, well-written text with exciting pictures, and then add good teaching, and you have a winner! While the stories in Read-Aloud Bible Stories are appealing to the young children, they’re also teaching great truths.

StepStep3WhatDidYouLearn

Each story ends with a page that asks, “What did you learn?” and then goes on to remind us of truths like, “Jesus came from God. Jesus came to grow up and take away people’s badness. Yours, too. And that’s good news.”

StepStep8CoverThere are several books in this series. Doorposts is carrying Volume 3 for a limited time, and through tomorrow, December 17, it is on sale! If you’re still looking for something special for a little person, there’s still time to get this great storybook to your house before Christmas!

(By the way, one of the other books in our Top 5 Bible story books is The Picture Bible, which is great for children of all ages — lots and lots of pictures for the young ones, and plenty of good, solid text for those who can read. We wore out a couple copies of this great book!)

See you Thursday, with something for the children!

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Why not?

121114GiftsIt’s become a bit of a joke in our family. Every year I’m admonished (by my own children) to behave myself and not buy so many presents — especially now that we’re talking about twenty-two people gathering in our little living room. It becomes a logistical challenge just fitting all the people — along with all their presents — into our shrinking space.

Every year I say I’m going to do better. I’m going to reform. I promise. You wait and see. I’m going to surprise you all.

And then it happens.

The music. The lights. The smells. The excitement.

The first advent candle flickers at the front of the sanctuary, and we start singing songs like Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus and Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence.

And there I go again.

I’m not sure I’m going to ever successfully reform.

But then why should I hold back? God didn’t.

Why should I worry about giving “too much”? God doesn’t.

“He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” (Rom. 8:32)

If God gave His only and dearly loved Son, He’s certainly not going to hold back anything else that He knows is good for us. He’s going to keep loading us with blessings. He’s going to keep pouring out His extravagant love and grace on us.

If God gave His only and dearly loved Son, why shouldn’t I give, too? Why not load those around me with blessings? What greater cause for celebration am I ever going to find?

“Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift!” (2 Cor. 9:15)

 

 

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A Giveaway!

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I enjoyed our study of Psalm 103 together so much, and I’m already looking forward to our next new study in March! In the meantime, I’ll be praying for you as you continue to study the Word. Don’t forget, if you want to go through another study, that we are rerunning the 1 John 3 study this month, posting a link for each day’s lesson on the Busy Mamas Facebook Group page

We traditionally have a giveaway at the end of each study. This gives you an opportunity to share what you’ve been learning during your time in God’s Word, and it also gives everyone a chance to win a fun prize!

For this study, we’re giving away one $50 Doorposts gift certificate! This should come in handy this time of year! To enter, answer one of these two questions (or you can answer both in separate comments for two entries).

1.  Tell us what God has been teaching you through His Word. It doesn’t need to be from our Psalm 103 study. Anyone can enter. Tell us what you’re learning in your own study, what you’re learning from the sermons at church, what you’re learning as you listen to a sermon driving down the road in the car. What is God teaching you? :-)

2. Share one way you have found to make time for Bible study while taking care of your home and children. What do you do to keep your children busy while you study? Have you figured out a way to wake up early without the children inevitably waking up early, too? :-) Share your best ideas.

This giveaway ends at midnight, Saturday, December 6, so don’t put it off. Enter right away! Maybe you’ll win and be able to make that money go even farther during Doorposts’ special Christmas sale. Check it out!

  • All the Busy Mamas Bible studies (including the hot-off-the-press edition of the Proverbs 31 study) are on sale.
  • The cool, sleek Moleskine notebooks are on sale. They’re perfect for your Bible study notes.
  • Our brand new Love Is Chart and its companion book are on sale.
  • Children’s picture Bibles, music, doll kits, word art and other great stuff are all on sale, now through December 17.

Win the $50 gift certificate and you could buy all four print editions of Busy Mamas Bible studies, four Moleskine notebooks to go with them, and still have money left over!

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Thirty (Two) Days in Psalm 103 for Busy, Busy Mamas, Day 32: What’s Next?

30DaysPs103Day32

Well, we’re done studying Psalm 103 together, but my prayer is that none of us are done praising God for all that He has done for us!

For those of you who would like some ideas for further study on your own, here are some suggestions to get you started:

  • Study another psalm, using the same methods you have learned while studying Psalm 103. Pick a short psalm and see how you do on your own. Psalm 51 would be an interesting study after studying David’s gratitude for God’s mercy and forgiveness in Psalm 103. For extra help, use the same commentaries we used when studying Psalm 103.
  • Use Blueletterbible to study the words remember and forget in the Bible. Make a list of everything we are told to remember. How many different Hebrew or Greek (in the New Testament) words are translated as remember and forget in English? Do they have different meanings? What do you want to remember, as a result of studying these words?
  • Study the word lovingkindness (KJV) in more detail. Search on the word in Blueletterbible, record the definitions, read all the verses that contain the word, read the context of verses that are part of a larger story, and compile all your notes into a summary of the word’s meaning. Be ready to be amazed.
  • Study the word forgive in the same way as described above for lovingkindness. How does this word relate to God? How does it relate to us? What all does it encompass?
  • Read one of the Gospels and pay close attention to all that Jesus did, said, and suffered as He lived on earth and died to redeem us “from destruction”. Take time to study some of the words in detail. Keep a list of your observations. Thank Jesus for doing all of this for you.
  • Read the book of Exodus and its account of Israel leaving Egypt and wandering in the wilderness. Note the many instances of God’s mercy and slowness to anger as He cares for His children. Compare the Israelite’s experience with the patience and mercy God has shown you.
  • Join the Busy Mamas Bible Study Facebook group (if you aren’t already a member) and study 1 John 3 during December. This is a study we already did online this past spring, so we won’t be posting it on the blog each day, but a link for each day’s lesson will be posted on the Facebook group page, and comments and questions can be shared with the group. This is a great study to follow Psalm 103. What does the believer do, not to earn God’s love, but in response to God’s love?
  • Tackle one of the other Busy Mamas Bible studies. Besides 1 John 3 and Psalm 103, there are five other studies available free in the archives of our blog. You can search for the studies on the blog, or you can purchase an eBook (which is handier than finding all the studies online) or a print copy of the studies on Colossians 3, Psalm 37, 1 Corinthians 13, and Proverbs 31 (and they’re all on sale right now through December 17).
  • Learn other study methods such as topical, book, and character studies, as you study godly beauty in Beauty in the HeartThis book is designed to help you learn how to study the Bible while learning what God — not our culture — says about beauty. This would be a great study to do along with daughters, junior high age and up.

We’ll start another study online in March. Like us on Facebook, stay subscribed to this blog, or sign up for Doorposts’ email newsletter, and we’ll make sure you know when the next study is about to begin!

Watch for Thursday’s post this week! We’ll be giving away a $50 gift certificate for Doorposts, just in time for your Christmas shopping!

I’ll be praying for you all! God’s Word is alive and powerful! Keep studying! :-)

 

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Thirty (One) Days in Psalm 103 for Busy, Busy Mamas, Day 31: Remembering His Blessings

30DaysPs103Day31We’ve spent a month studying this one amazing psalm. We’ve slowed down to meditate on these blessings that David urges his soul — our ours — to not forget. Many of us have realized in a new way that we really are forgiven, that we really are loved with a steadfast love that is not going to let us go. What can we do to help us not forget?

What will help keep us anchored in these truths so that we don’t slip back into beating ourselves up for past sins?

What will free us from giving in to the endless scrambling to prove our worth to a gracious God who has already counted us worthy in Christ?

What will steer us back into our faithful God’s arms when we start looking for satisfaction from people and things, instead from Him — the one who truly satisfies the deep needs of our hearts?

We don’t want to walk away from this study and forget what we’ve learned. Let’s think about this for the last few minutes of our study.

Assignment: Pray! Pray for God to plant the truths of this psalm deep in your heart, and to change the way you think and live.

Then look over the paraphrase you wrote for Day 30. What truths have stood out most to you as you’ve studied Psalm 103? What has God revealed about Himself to you that you may need help remembering? How do you want to be changed by your study of this psalm?

Write down your thoughts. Pray over them. Agree with God. You’re forgiven. You’re loved. He’s healing you. You can be satisfied — in Him.

How can we keep these thoughts in the front of our minds where they will change the way we think and live?

  • We can praydaily. Ask God to keep these truths fresh and real in your heart. Thank Him for being and doing all that Psalm 103 describes. Start out your day thanking God for His forgiveness and asking Him to help you live in that forgiveness and love.
  • We can stay in the Word. This is where God speaks to us. This is where He will continue to remind us of His forgiveness and steadfast love. Read Psalm 103 at least once a week, to keep its truths fresh in your mind and heart. Listen to it with a phone app, or ask one of the children to read it to you as you fix dinner.
  • We can meditate on God’s Word, think about it, wrestle with it, memorize it, pray it. If God’s truth is going to be in our minds where it affects our thoughts and actions, it needs to be sunk deep down into our hearts.

If you haven’t memorized all of Psalm 103, do it. I know. It can be hard to memorize. But it’s so worth it! The Gospel saturates the lines of this psalm, and the Gospel is the good news that changes hearts and frees us to live in the joy of God’s forgiveness and love. Hide these words in your heart!

  • We can make reminders for ourselves. God told His forgetful children, the Israelites to set up memorials — feast days, precious stones on the priests’ breastplates, piles of rocks in rivers, offerings — reminders of what God had done for them.

What memorial will help you not forget all His benefits? Would it help to post a simple list on the refrigerator — what God has done and what He is like, as described in Psalm 103? Maybe on a card for the dashboard of your car? Typed onto the notepad of your phone?

How about a simple piece of word art (see the link below) posted on your wall where it will remind you and others of God’s great love and forgiveness?

Are there sins from your past that you’re not forgiving yourself for, even after God has forgiven them? Would it help to write those down and turn them over to the Lord in prayer, mentally nailing them to the cross as you pray, and then burning or tearing up the list when you’ve finished?

What kind of reminder can you create?

  • Talk to your soul. Don’t just listen to it. Listen to your soul just long enough to pinpoint where it’s wrong, and then speak the truths of Scripture to yourself — and listen.

Come to this psalm when you’re overwhelmed, and tell your soul that God remembers that you are dust. He shows compassion.

Come to this psalm when you are struggling with guilt over confessed and forgiven sins. Remind your soul that God has removed your sins as far as the east is from the west.

Come to this psalm as you weather God’s loving discipline, and assure your soul that He will not always chide. He doesn’t deal with us as our sins deserve.

Come to this psalm when things look hopeless, and tell your soul that the steadfast love of God is from everlasting to everlasting for those who fear Him.

Run to this psalm when life is a mess and ask God to help you see which of His benefits you need to remember and believe.

  • Remember what God’s love cost Him. The life of His only Son was sacrificed for our sakes. Now it’s our privilege to take up our crosses and follow Him, living and rejoicing in the reality of the forgiveness He won for us on the cross.

Maybe this little piece of chalk art could help some of you remember God’s blessings, too! It’s my gift to you. :-) Thank you for joining me in this study. I’ve been so blessed to study along with you all.

For those of you who are still working your way through the lessons, I’m so glad you haven’t let the interruptions and challenges of your life discourage you from persevering. Keeping going! :-)

For those who have finished, I’ll post a list of study suggestions tomorrow, if you would like some ideas for following up on your study of Psalm 103.

Remember, if you didn’t do the Busy Mamas study on 1 John 3 with us in March, we will be posting links to those lessons in the Facebook group every morning during December. If you want to join the study, make sure you’ve joined the group on Facebook so that you can access those lessons easily (or just search on the blog for “1 John 3″, if you don’t want to dive into the Facebook scene).

After Tuesday, we will return to our once-a-week Thursday post. (This Thursday will be a giveaway for a $50 Doorposts gift certificate — just in time for the Christmas sale!)

If you recently subscribed to the blog in order to do the study with us, I hope you’ll stay with us. My desire is to encourage and equip you for the tough-but-oh-so-important job you are doing as a mother and wife!

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Thirty Days in Psalm 103 for Busy, Busy Mamas, Day 30: Catch Up Day and Optional Assignment

I would like to give you one more catch-up day, even though this is supposed to be the last day of our 30-day study. This will give you more time to work on yesterday’s assignment. Then, rather than ending our study on a Sunday, we’ll take some time tomorrow to think and pray about how we can remember and live what we’ve learned.

30DaysPs103Day32Optional assignment: 

Open Biblestudytools and search on Psalm 103. Take some time to read more from the commentaries on this psalm. Choose between Matthew Henry, John Gill’s Exposition of the Bible, and The Treasury of David. Read straight through one commentary on the entire psalm, or pick and choose verses that you would especially like to study more in the different commentaries.

Copy any passages you want to remember into your notebook or directly into the margins of your Bible.

For your children:

Challenge your children to draw a picture that illustrates some of the main truths of Psalm 103. They can combine several different verses into one drawing, or draw a series of drawing in different panels on the same page.

 

 

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Thirty Days in Psalm 103 for Busy, Busy Mamas, Day 29: Paraphrase

 

30DaysPs103Day29We’re coming to the end of our study. One of our last exercises is to take what we have learned and turn it into our own paraphrase of the psalm.

Assignment: Pray for God’s help as you seek to recall all that you have learned over the past month. Then take out your notebook and pen, and your marked Bible or handout. You may also want to go to the Doorposts blog and click on “Psalm 103 Study” in the upper menu bar. This will give you easy access to all the lessons we have completed.

Using your notes, your highlighted text, commentaries you appreciated, and the instructions and comments from the assignments, write your own paraphrase of Psalm 103. Incorporate as much of what you have learned as you can into this paraphrase. This is an assignment to help us pull together everything we’ve been learning.

Take your time. If you’re working with short time periods, this may take a few days to finish. (Maybe your husband or a friend could watch the children for you for an hour or so, so that you can really focus on putting this together, or perhaps you could reserve the children’s nap time for working on this assignment.) Don’t move on to the next lesson until you have finished. But don’t forget to do Day 30, because it’s an important one, too.

For those of you who are interested, we will be rerunning a previous study on our Facebook group all through the month of December. (Our next new study will be begin on March 1, 2015.) If you didn’t study 1 John 3 with us this past March, and you would like to study along with other women, make sure you have joined the Busy Mamas Bible Study Facebook group. Starting this Sunday evening, I will post a link to the next day’s assignment each night. You can interact with other women who are doing the same study. You will be able to post questions and comments, share prayer requests, and share helpful resources, just like we do while we are running a new study.

(This coming Monday, you will still receive an email with the last lesson of this study on Psalm 103. So you’ll have to double up, if you are starting the 1 John study on the same day. But the first lesson of 1 John shouldn’t take you too long.)

For your children:

Today is treasure hunt day!

  • Gather all your materials, or print them out now if you didn’t do that yesterday.
  • Hide your cut-out slips of paper in the appropriate places (see instructions on the printouts).
  • Then start reciting the psalm together. Stop the children when they reach a word that has been left blank in the printout of the psalm. Tell them that this a clue to direct them to a piece of paper they need to bring back to you. Give them some extra help if they have trouble figuring out where to look, based on the clue.

If you haven’t fully memorized the psalm, just read it aloud from the printout, and pause when you reach the blanks, letting the children provide the missing words.

  • Keep following the instructions that are given with the printouts until you have found all the pieces of paper, reassembled them in order, and recited the psalm one more time. Be sure to point out that the words on all those pieces of paper are descriptions of what God is and what He has done, based on Psalm 103. You could even do this as they bring each word to you during the hunt.
  • When you have finished, give the children your clue that sends them to their prize. Have fun!
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Thirty Days in Psalm 103 for Busy, Busy Mamas, Day 28: BUT

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We finished up Day 26 looking at man’s littleness compared to God’s greatness. We saw our lives summarized in two short verses of Psalm 103. We’re like grass, like a flower in the field. A wind blows over us and we’re gone.

We’re about to wrap up our study of this wonderful psalm, but we have one more word to look for in the text, and several other words to study briefly.

Assignment: Pray for understanding and a teachable heart as you study today. Then read all of Psalm 103. While you read, watch for the word but and circle every appearance of it with a red pencil or pen.

What did you find? After verses filled with the mercy and love of God, and then the almost-pathetic description of ourselves, what does David say?

But the steadfast love of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear Him, and His righteousness to children’s children, to those who keep His covenant and remember to do His commandments.”

What a glorious little word! We’re frail, short-lived, and soon forgotten, but God’s “Never Stopping, Never Giving Up, Unbreaking, Always and Forever Love” is from everlasting to everlasting. It has no beginning point. It has no end. His steadfast love has always existed, just as God has always existed.

  • Open Blueletterbible and search on Psalm 103:17. Let’s take a quick look at some words.
  • We are becoming better-acquainted with God’s steadfast love and what that means in our lives. We’ve also looked at the word fear earlier in verse 13. Let’s go further into verse 17 and look at the word righteousness. 

Open the Interlinear and click on the phrase him, and his righteousness. 

  • Notice the definitions. These are an echo of what we read in Psalm 103:6, “The Lord works righteousness and justice for all who are oppressed”. Now we see in verse 17 that God’s righteousness and justice will still be there for our children and their children. (That’s good to remember, isn’t it, as we live in the chaos of our world?)
  • Let’s move on to verse 18. God’s steadfast love is everlasting for those who keep His covenant and remember to do His commandments”. 
  • Click on the phrase to such as keep in the Interlinear for verse 18. Copy these definitions.
  • Next look at covenant. This is a big topic that merits a study all its own. We can only touch the surface here. We can see from the definitions that covenant has to do with alliances and pledges. God made covenants with man, and Jesus fulfilled man’s side of those covenants by living the perfect life that we could never live and by paying the penalty for our sins which we could never pay. When we keep His covenant, as David describes it in Psalm 103, we are not attempting to earn God’s acceptance. On the contrary, we are giving heed to the covenant in response to His great grace that saved us.
  • We respond by remembering His commandments. The theme of remembering threads its way all through Psalm 103 — forget not all his benefits, God remembers we are dust. Our sins are removed, to be remembered no more. The wind passes over the flower of the field, and its place knows it no more.

The word for remember in verse 18 is the same one that is used when David says that God remembers that we are dust. It simply means to call to mind or to recall.  But it implies action. God doesn’t just remember we’re dust. He acts on that knowledge and shows us compassion. We don’t just remember the commandments. We desire and seek to obey them, in response to God’s grace.

We are reminded, as the psalm comes to a close, that we offer our praise and obedience to our God, who has not only forgiven and healed us, redeemed and crowned us, satisfied and renewed us, but who has also “established his throne in the heavens”.

Our God reigns. He has bent down from His throne and crowned us with His steadfast love and mercy! Praise God! Let’s bend our knees in adoration and thankfulness before Him! 

Bless the LORD, O you his angels, you mighty ones who do his word, obeying the voice of his word!

Bless the LORD, all his hosts, his ministers, who do his will!

Bless the LORD, all his works, in all places of his dominion.

Bless the LORD, O my soul!

For your children:

We are going to have a treasure hunt tomorrow that is based on the memorization of Psalm 103. Use today to review and continue memorizing (if you have not finished) the entire psalm. Test yourselves. See how many of you can recite the entire psalm.

If you plan on doing the treasure hunt tomorrow, you will need to print out the materials for that hunt. You will also need a nice prize for the children. Consider a special treat to eat, or a good book or video to share together. Click on the version you have been memorizing (KJVNKJVESVNIV, or NASB) and print out the materials for the treasure hunt. The instructions are included in the printouts.

Cut the printouts as directed, and think up a good prize to have at the end of the hunt (a special treat to eat, a good video or book — something you can all do together as a family). When you have finished, you’ll be ready for a fun activity that will test everyone’s memory while reviewing what we’ve been learning.

 

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Thirty Days in Psalm 103 for Busy, Busy Mamas, Day 27: Give Thanks

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Today we’re going to pray our way through Psalm 103. David calls on his soul to bless the Lord and to not forget His many, many blessings. Let’s encourage our souls to do the same.

Assignment: Open to Psalm 103 and turn this psalm into a prayer of thanksgiving and praise, as you personalize it and pray it back to God.

I kneel down before you, Lord, with all that is within me, and praise your name!

Praise you, Lord! I want to remember all your blessings.

Thank you for forgiving all my sins.

Thank you for healing all my diseases.

Thank you for redeeming my life from the pit and crowning me with your steadfast love and mercy…

Slowly pray your way through the entire psalm. Rejoice and give thanks for the rich, rich blessings of life with our Father who abounds in steadfast love and mercy, and who has graciously not given us what we deserve. We have much to be thankful for!

For your children:

Guide your children in praying this psalm together. For young children, rephrase and personalize each verse for them, and let them repeat each one after you.

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