Today’s guest blog is from our very own Youth Leader and Schools Worker: Tim Barker!

 

This week for the Teens, I put together a party bag and did a round robin to drop them off. This Party bag contained what seems initially to be a bunch of different items for a good night, but I had ulterior motives, each item had been chosen remind them of who God is, and what he wants for us.

Shopping List:

Popcorn – Sweet and salted

Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. John 6:35

I don’t know if you have ever had popcorn in the cinema and about half way through the film you put your hand in the bucket to realise it is only the kernels in the bottom. You have just eaten and entire large popcorn to yourself and you still want more. Not only that but the salty snack has made you thirsty and it’s a type of thirst that doesn’t seem to be satiated by the sweetest of drinks.
With the popcorn you may eat your fill, but you will find yourself wanting more soon enough, and you will be thirsty from the salt and sugar.

Prior to this verse Jesus had done some miracles, and had made food, people were clamouring for more of this however Jesus is amazing at the old 1, 2,  switcheroo. Instead of what they want, he gives them what they need. instead of the free all you can eat buffet of popcorn… he tells them about the bread of life (and in the process reveals his true identity!). Jesus tells the hangers on you will never go hungry, you will never be thirsty. He isn’t talking about earthly bread or water, this is heavenly, spiritual bread that gives life, that fills that hunger for something more, some deeper relationship, that no amount of popcorn will full fill. it is water that quenches the very soul of your being, and it is ours if we taste and drink, approach and believe in him.

Puzzle –Made of rubber (in case thrown or needed to wipe out mistakes)

As you read over what I have written to you, you’ll be able to see for yourselves into the mystery of Christ. None of our ancestors understood this. Only in our time has it been made clear by God’s Spirit through his holy apostles and prophets of this new order. The mystery is that people who have never heard of God and those who have heard of him all their lives (what I’ve been calling outsiders and insiders) stand on the same ground before God. They get the same offer, same help, same promises in Christ Jesus. The Message is accessible and welcoming to everyone, across the board. Ephesians 3:4-6 (msg)

I love puzzles, I love trying to think logically through the steps needed, I even like untangling necklaces and Christmas lights. The aim of the puzzle is to remind people of the mystery that is a grace that is freely given to all, no matter who they are. The puzzle is made of rubber and like the grace given, can rub out our mistakes. Once you understand that mystery yourself you want to show and explain to others about what you have discovered.
Paul also goes on in his letter to describe how he was a novice, least qualified to explain this mystery to others, but God equipped him, I love the message version and the way it writes Paul saying “and so here I am, preaching and writing about things that are way over my head” We don’t do life on our own, we do it with God, he equips us for the task he has set out for us.

Mug – White plain Mug

 In a large house there are articles not only of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay; some are for special purposes and some for common use. Those who cleanse themselves from the latter will be instruments for special purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work. 2 Timothy 2 20-21

A plain white mug, the most versatile of kitchen crockery, it can be used for many things, Coffee, Tea, Hot Chocolate (more on that in a min), measuring rice or other dried good, Mug cakes, cuppa soup, Noodles, Jelly mould, (wouldn’t recommend mixing those) and at the end of its life when battered and a little cracked a plant pot. But It can also be a receptacle for orange or banana peels, sweet wrappers, tissues or in the case of some a culture medium for growing penicillin. The Plain white mug has great potential to be either everyday use, or for special occasions. Just as with God, you are a vessel set apart (for special purposes), you have the potential for great things and awful things, “cleanse” yourself and be Gold and Silver set apart for God’s work, or remain as you are and continue to be an “item of common use”. The message puts it like this “Become the kind of container God can use to present any and every kind of gift to his guests for their blessing.”

Hot Chocolate and Marshmallow – (optional whip cream)

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. 2 Corinthians 1:3-4

Is there anything more comforting (baring some allergy or dietary complaint) than a sumptuous Hot Chocolate with Marshmallows and whipped cream Aside from it knocking on the door of a bajillion calories of comfort, best of all you can share with other, you can share that comfort with others by simply making them a hot chocolate.
However, this kind of comfort is short lived, if it goes cold it is not as appealing, and a sticky sickly feeling from the marshmallow, and you’re left with that over indulged sense that follows any kind of binge.
We learn from Paul, there is a comfort and compassion that is unsurpassed. We are loved and saved by the God of all comfort and we are encouraged to go and share that comfort with others. During these trying and troubling times, it is great to know we have this endless comfort to snuggle into (until the cup overfloweth!) but also that we should share it with others.
To continue the metaphor, be a vessel (mug) set apart, and filled with the hot chocolate of God’s comfort that you can share with others, cream, marshmallows, flake and sprinkles too if needed.

Bubbles – Joy joy joy!

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. – Romans 15:13

Have you seen a child’s face light up when someone is blowing bubbles, it is this massive expression of joy and excitement! Within seconds of talking about Bubbles, the youth members on zoom were blowing them and giggling with each other. I will often use bubbles to turn the table if one of the children have had a bump, or are upset for some reason, they work a treat and always result in a smile when accompanied by and Oscar worthy “pop” performance.
The take away from this passage is that we have a God of hope who can fill us with joy and peace, he is the source of joy, and through this we will over flow with Hope. The thing about overflowing, is it tends to spill everywhere, the aim of this over flow as with the comfort is to let it flow to others, tell them where your Joy and hope comes from. The Power of the Holy spirit isn’t a finite resource of which there is only “enough to go around” … No! Our God is immeasurable and abundant and gives more than we could ever imagine.
The key part is that we trust in him, not on our own understanding, but in him as the joy and peace flow into your life, don’t questions it let the hope come.

Flute – Noise machine

Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth!
Serve the LORD with gladness!
Come into his presence with singing!

Know that the LORD, he is God!
It is he who made us, and we are his;[a]
we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.

Enter his gates with thanksgiving,
and his courts with praise!
Give thanks to him; bless his name!

For the LORD is good;
his steadfast love endures forever,
and his faithfulness to all generations.
– Psalm 100

A plastic flute in the hands of a child (or as I found out on Tuesday, youth leaders) is a noise indeed, but there is a smile that comes from that noise, the joy of making a tune, however discordant.
At the moment I feel really self-conscious worshipping, it may be something to do with the camera watching my every move, the sound desk slowly capturing every note (some of them are even the right ones) my guitar makes, and the thought that I will have to listen back to this and be critical over my own performance as I edit the video, it has made something that is wonderful rather cringe for me. So, when I get two minutes in the house (normally the kitchen whilst cooking or doing the dishes) I take the chance to listen to some worship and sing out, making a joyful noise to the lord.

Psalm 100 is lush and finishes on a note with a promise.
For the LORD is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations.
All generation includes us, with each page of the Bible we see God being faithful to his people, that didn’t stop once the last book of the Bible was written, it didn’t stop when Jesus died. God is still faithful to his people today. So, sing a song, blow your plastic flute, bang on the pots and pans, clap your hands, shout for joy. God loves you is faithful and worthy of praise in the form of joyful noises!

(I claim no responsibility for ear drums harmed in the carrying out of the last instructions.)