Put Some Zaat’ar on Your Bagel

IMG_7250.jpgI first read about Zaat’ar in a Food Network magazine – how it was supposed to be the “new-everything-bagel seasoning.” I hadn’t heard of it before, so I looked it up and discovered that you can make your own out of spices such as thyme, sumac, sesame seeds. But other sites list other herbs and spices and say that there is actually a Zaat’ar plant.

(Another fact no one can agree on is where to put the apostrophe in the word Zaat’ar.)

The fact that intrigued me the most is that Zaat’ar is considered to be the biblical hyssop.

Remember when Christ was on the cross?

A jar full of sour wine stood there, so they put a sponge full of the sour wine on a hyssop branch and held it to his mouth. (John 19:29)

Other verses say: Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. (Psalm 51:7)

Some commentators say that hyssop is an external cleansing agent. However, I discovered something fascinating in my personal research (and I truly don’t know much about this) – hyssop is medicinal for internal parasites. That seems to correlate with what the Psalmist is saying.

Anyhow back to the Zaat’ar. Rather than choosing one of the combination of spices and herbs to make my own, I ordered a bottle off Amazon. (Not sure the Israelites did that.) IMG_7251I ordered it from a company in Israel, so the jar took some time to get to my house. Total cost: $14.40 (that’s with shipping), which is high, but it has quite a bit in the jar.

You will notice on the label that the jar actually says “holy hyssop.” The jar’s list of ingredients includes: hyssop, sesame, elm-leaved sumac, lemon acid and salt.

So I mixed a little of the Zaat’ar with cream cheese and spread it on a toasted bagel. (One of the recipes also suggests tomato and onion in the mixture, which sounds good, but which I didn’t do.)

Could I just say – delicious?

What a fun way to teach kids about one of the herbs mentioned in the Bible.

Salt

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Did you know at one time Romans soldiers’ pay was considered their salt-money? Did you know that the word salary comes from the word salt? Did you know that there is a road called Via Salaria – a road originally constructed to transport salt?

Do your kids know the Bible talks about salt?

Matthew 5:13 reads: You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.

What a great discussion for the dinner table some night.

But what does it mean that we should be the salt of the earth? Bible scholars aren’t 100% sure – though a lot of meanings come through. Most think that the Lord was using the characteristics of salt to illustrate the Christian life.  At the same time, the Lord could’ve been making an overall statement about the extreme value of salt.

Let’s look at some possible ways to compare.

  1. Salt is a preservative, protecting the meat or fish against decay. Back before refrigeration, salt was highly valued because of it’s ability to preserve. We are to be a preservative and by our testimony, keep others from spiritual decay.
  2. Salt flavors and enhancing taste. Give your children unsalted crackers, pretzels, or some other food that they are used to eating with salt. What do they think of the taste? Is it better with salt? Why? Do we live in such a way, that others want what we have? 
  3. Salt purifies. What kind of life do we live? Is our desire to follow Christ and be pure and holy in our actions?
  4. Salt melts ice. In Colossians we read that our speech is to be gracious and seasoned with salt. Do we melt someone’s anger because of our own gracious response that is seasoned with salt?
  5. Salt is cleansing. Again, how do we live our lives?
  6. Salt adds value. At one time salt was payment for a job. Do we add value to those we meet?
  7. Salt sealed convenants. One of the verses a covenant of salt is 2 Chronicles 13:5 –Ought you not to know that the Lord God of Israel gave the kingship over Israel forever to David and his sons by a covenant of salt? Salt is a sign of friendship and unbroken promises.
  8. Salt is useful and is in the makeup of many products. How useful are we to a messed-up world? What can we do to be more useful?
  9. Salt creates thirst. Do we make others spiritually thirsty by the way we live?
  10. Salt is necessary for life. Without salt, we would physically die. Without the message of Christ that we have to share, people will spiritually die.

A good activity for older kids (either in a classroom or personal kids) is to have them research salt and then ask them what they think the Lord meant when He said to be salt of the earth.

(Like the first part of the verse, there is debate about the last part of the verse. Maybe the Lord was talking about the Dead Sea. That salt isn’t usable and is different from salt that preserves. Or, maybe it was a rhetorical question that was common at the time, because salt can’t lose its saltiness.)

 

10 Verses Very Young Kids Can Understand (Without Much Help)

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Preschoolers can learn Scripture. I know they can, because I’ve listened to them proudly repeat what they’ve memorized.

For this list, I chose verses that I think most four and fives (and some threes) could understand. They will need some explanation, but not much.

What ones would you add to the list?

THE GOSPEL                                                                                                                                           ***  that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried,           that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures  (1 Corinthians 15:3-4)

CREATION                                                                                                                                              *** And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day. (Genesis 1:31)

TRUST                                                                                                                                                     ***  When I am afraid,  I put my trust in you. (Psalm 56:3)

PRAISE                                                                                                                                                      *** Praise the Lord! Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good. (Psalm 106:1a)

COURAGE                                                                                                                                                *** Be strong and courageous. (Deuteronomy 31:6a)

OBEDIENCE                                                                                                                                            *** Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. (Ephesians 6:1)

KINDNESS                                                                                                                                              *** Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. (Ephesians 4:32)

THANKFULNESS                                                                                                                                                                     *** Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever! (Psalm 107:1)

GOOD ATTITUDE                                                                                                                                      ***  Do all things without grumbling or disputing, (Philippians 2:14)

*** Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. (Philippians 4:4)

FRIENDSHIP                                                                                                                                                *** A friend loves at all times. (Proverbs 17:17)

 

 

 

 

Book Review – Guarding the Treasure

519FN0AbwBL._AC_US218_Here’s a good book for an older child – mid -to late elementary.

The author, Linda Finlayson, writes a narrative including the stories of King Alfred, William Tyndall, Cameron Townsend and Jo Shetlar and how, historically, these people helped preserve God’s Word.

The book gives a glimpse of church history and an overview of how the Bible survived.   The book is written in kid-friendly language.

The book is written in story form and is factual.  Included is a glossary of not-necessarily-kid-understandable words such as: heresy,  dialect and papal bull. Also included is a detailed bibliography – not only to back up the facts, but these resources could be used for further study. Maps are also included, as is a timeline of the Bible.

This would be a great book to read together as a family. Or, if you’re a teacher, you could read a chapter each week to your class.

 

 

 

 

Marshmallows in the Bible?

IMG_9851.jpgI’ve done some rather serious posts the past couple weeks. This one is just for fun …

Marshmallows in the Bible?

Well, let’s do some research.

In the King James version of the Bible, we read:  Who cut up mallows by the bushes, and juniper roots for their meat? (Job 30:4)

In ESV there is this verse: Can that which is tasteless be eaten without salt, or is there any taste in the juice of the mallow? (Job 6:6)

I have done some research on both of these uses of the word “mallow,” and commentaries disagree. No one is quite sure of the exact plant mentioned here. But we do know from other historical records, that the mallow plant was plentiful in the area during biblical times, most often grown in marshes or swamps. So, the mallow in the Bible is most likely the common mallow plant.

Scholars have found references to it in accent Egyptian, Roman and Greek writings. At first the mallow root was used only for offerings for the gods and pharaohs. Only royalty could eat the mallow!

There is even a sort of recipe  from the ancient Egyptians – mix together the mallow sap from the plant root, honey and grain and bake into a cake.

The Romans and Greeks began to use the root for medicinal purposes – to cure sore throats and lessen pain. During the 15th and 16th centuries, the mallow root was used to cure toothaches, coughs, sore throats and indigestion.

But then something happened to the mallow root! In the 1800s, a French shop owner discovered that whipping the sap with egg whites and corn syrup turned it into a delicious sweet treat.  Get it?  The mallow plant found in marshes resulting in the marsh mallow.

For or many years, that’s how marshmallows were made – by whipping the root of the mallow plant with egg whites and corn syrup.

Somewhere during the last hundred years or so, the root of the mallow plant was replaced with gelatin.

Still – interesting story of the mallow plant  and something to share with your kids next time you’re making s’mores!

Helping a Child Make Right Choices

IMG_9442“But what if I don’t know if something is wrong?” The eight-year-old looked troubled. “Then what do I do?”

That got me thinking. How could I help children who are faced with temptation? How could I help them when they aren’t sure what to do or whether doing something is right or wrong? How could we as parents and teachers help them even when we aren’t around?

And I came up with this – something easy for the kids to remember.

Stop and walk away.

Then I take the time to pray.

Do Dad and Mom say it’s okay?

What does the Bible have to say?

Why this order?

First, I encourage them to STOP AND WALK AWAY from the situation as quickly as they can. I tell them a story of my brother who thought what his friends were doing was wrong, so he went home … just before the police showed up. I use 2 Timothy 2:22  and emphasize that the Lord tells us to flee when we see something wrong (or aren’t sure about something)- not simply slowly walk away.

IMG_9444Second, TAKE THE TIME TO PRAY. Talk the situation over with the Lord. Ask the Lord for wisdom and courage to do the right thing. (I put prayer second, because I don’t want them remaining in the situation, silently praying, and meanwhile give the situation time to escalate.) Matthew 26:41 is one verse to use for this.

Third, DO DAD AND MOM SAY IT’S OKAY?  Okay, they’ve gotten out of the situation, they’re praying about it and now I encourage them to find Dad or Mom. (A lot of times tough situations happen at school or at the park or somewhere when parents aren’t readily available.)  Proverbs 1:8 is one of many verses I use here. Any verse that talks about the wisdom of parents or obeying parents will work.

IMG_9446The illustration I use is one that makes the kids eyes widen in disbelief – but yes, this truly happened. My father-in-law grew up in the hills of Pennsylvania. When it snowed, he and his friends liked sledding down the hilly streets. One street in particular was extra high, and his friends loved playing on that one. However, at the bottom of the street was a cross street so his parents told him never, ever to sled down that hill. The bottom was too dangerous.

But one day, he decided to do it anyhow because his friends were taunting him and he didn’t want to seem like a coward.  He ignored his parents’ rules and took off. As he went down the hill, he gained speed until he was going so fast there was no chance of him stopping. And then he saw it – a semi-tractor trailer traveling on the cross street. His sled kept speeding on and he the timing was exact for him to meet the street at the same moment as the semi. He was going too fast to stop and figured that was the end of life as he knew it.  He went flying right between the front wheels and the back wheels. Whoa! Unbelievably he made it out the other side alive! But he decided that his parents knew best and when they told him to get away when his friends tempted him to go down that hill – he should’ve listened to them.

IMG_9448Fourth, WHAT DOES THE BIBLE HAVE TO SAY? Although kids will know some of what the Bible says about certain situations, they won’t know everything and often parents (or a teacher) will need to help them. At this point, when teaching this in a classroom setting, we look up various verses that talk about what’s right and wrong.

I’ve found that these four principles stick well in a child’s mind. We often review them or I’ll ask them how they used them throughout the week.

(Thanks to my model, S. and thanks to my graphic designer granddaughter Belinda, who is now a high school graduate but did these when she was in middle school. I know she’d want me to make that distinction. 🙂 )

 

 

 

Don’t Eat the Cookies!

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We’ve defined sin as disobedience to what God says in His Word.

And many kids (actually all of us) struggle with the daily temptation to sin (make the wrong choice.)

We need to teach kids (and remind ourselves) that those struggles do happen … and also teach kids ways to not give in to temptation.

Again – a definition.

Temptation is wanting to do something even though we know doing it is wrong.

Here’s what we did to teach the kids the meaning of temptation.

 One night, we gave each child two cookies on a napkin. Of course, the kids were excited!  Cookies!

 But then we told them they couldn’t eat the cookies. They couldn’t even touch them!  They couldn’t take even one little nibble or give the cookie even one little nudge.

 As the kids stared at the enticing cookies, we explained that this was temptation. They wanted to eat the cookies, but we had told them they couldn’t until we said they could. They truly wanted the treat!

 (You can try this with different ages. A sixth-grade teacher gave each member of her class a candy bar and told them they couldn’t eat it until after the lesson.)

 We didn’t make the kids wait too long – but they got the idea!

 Here are some things I like to teach kids about temptation.

IMG_9440 3.jpg*** We are tempted because the old part of us (before we knew Christ) and the new part of us  (the new creation we are in Christ) are fighting inside of us. The old part (the flesh) wants to do what’s wrong. The new part (the Spirit) wants to do what’s right. That’s why there’s a struggle.

*** Everyone is tempted. Even the Lord Jesus Christ was faced with temptation. He did not give in. He did not sin.

*** The Lord Jesus Christ counteracted Satan with Scripture. Remind kids that’s why it’s important to know Scripture. We should follow Christ’s example and quote Scripture to give us strength when tempted.

Thought: An older child (who thinks it through) might say that some temptation is good. True. We do sometimes use the word in a good way.

“I was shy, but my friend tempted me to try out for the play. I did and I loved it.”

 “I was studying for the test for hours and my sister told me I needed a break. That sounded tempting. I took the break and she was right. I needed it.”

 “The hike at camp was five miles. I hadn’t hiked that far before, but I was tempted. I’m glad I did it.”

 Explain that you’re talking about the temptation to disobey God. Even though we sometimes use the word temptation in a good way, it is usually considered to be the desire to do something wrong.

 

 

Activities to Teach the Glory of God

IMG_0230.jpgThinking through all we’ve discussed about the glory of God this week, I came up with the following points defining the glory of God in kid-friendly language.
(Your sticking points may be different.)

  1. God is wise and loving. He is our Creator and our authority.
  2. God is holy and pure (without sin).
  3. He is everything (perfect) we are not. We (because of our disobedience) can do nothing (we fall short) without Him.
  4. Christ (God in the flesh) radiates/reflects God’s glory.
  5. He invites us to trust Him and become His child. Only then do we experience His glory.

Here are some activities to solidify Romans 3:23.

*** Play a game of Things We Can’t Do.Start a fun discussion of things you can’t do. You might say something like: “I could never swim across an ocean.” Then go around the room with your class or back and forth with your personal kids and ask them to tell you what they can’t do. (I can’t jump high enough to reach the moon. I can’t eat 5,000 gallons of ice cream in five minutes. I can’t run across the country without stopping, etc.) Conclude the discussion with, “We can never reach the glory of God, His righteousness, His holiness, His goodness on our own.” Continue by explaining Romans 3:23

*** Take Josh’s suggestion (see Wednesday’s post). Josh did an object lesson with a             broken vase. That’s a great way to explain our brokenness (falling short) of God’s glory.

*** Go to Wordart.com and make a graphic showing the attributes of God. If your kids are younger, you may need to do this for them – and ask them to call out the words they want to include. Older kids could do it by themselves. You can do a small one and make copies for everyone, but if you want, they will also (for a price) convert your graphic to a poster.

*** Discuss things that radiate: the sun radiates light, a fire radiates heat, a person might radiate charm or energy. Talk about Hebrews 1:3 and how Christ is the radiance of the glory of God.

*** Teach the kids that in Greek (the language in which Paul wrote this verse), the word sin means “missing the mark.” I’ve emphasized the word disobey to explain sin, but if your kids are older or are catching on to what you’re teaching them, you could add the Greek definition.

Then do some target practice with a Nerf target set (or similar game), but make sure the target is out of reach!  (Sin is not simply missing the target by a few inches, we don’t come anywhere near it.) Talk about why they are missing the mark/target. (The target is out of reach, too far away, etc.) Emphasize that we fall short of God’s glory, no matter how much effort we put into trying.

*** Purchase a water bottle for each of the kids. Make sure you choose bottles that say “pure” or “purified” on the label. Ask the kids what that means – pure water. Ask them if they think the water is absolutely, truly, 100% pure? Why or why not?Ask: Is God 100% pure and holy? Is Christ (God in the flesh) 100% pure and holy? What difference does that make to us?

I hope this series has helped and you’ve come up with some unique ways to explain what it means to fall short of the glory of God.  (I know, I know, so MUCH I haven’t talked about on the subject, but wanted to keep to a main focus.)

Definitions from All Over

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Defining the glory of God is difficult – for a few reasons.

First, even though we (to the best of our knowledge) understand it, in some ways it is a challenge to put into words.

Second, and maybe more to the point, the glory of God encompasses so many aspects, that narrowing it down makes my mind spin.  When I asked a group of ministry friends how they would define “fall short of the glory of God” to a child, they took several directions. We could follow any one of these directions for weeks and still not cover all the wondrous facets of God’s glory.

Here is what they said.

(A big thank you to these pastors and ministry workers for answering my question – I know you’re busy and this took some time.)

By the way, what is YOUR definition?

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A baby lamb’s wool looks so white and pure until it walks through freshly fallen snow. (What we think is white and good and pure actually looks dirty next to freshly fallen snow. The glory of God is beyond what we grasp or think.)

Pastor Brad Iverson, Berwick Bible Church, Berwick, Pennsylvania.

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Hi from Russia. Here is what I might spontaneously say to a child: “Because God has never committed any sin, He is not like any person we’ve ever known. His nature is totally pure and holy, meaning that God has a special glory about Him that we imperfect humans simply can never equal.

 Rick Barry, Author editor, Russian translator. His book, The Methuselah Project, was recently published.

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We all fall short of God’s perfect purity and goodness.

Pastor Paul Henschel, Osco Community Church, Osco, Illinois

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[Imagine] God’s glory is like a beautiful, bright light made of hundreds of stars shining out from God Himself. Each star tells us something about Him: His love, forgiveness, perfection, power, knowledge. His constant presence and so much more.

 Also, Hebrews 1:3 tells us: He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high. We can look at the life of the Lord Jesus Christ and see what God is like.

Karen Apple, speaker, writer, consultant for those in kids ministry and young learners.

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In the context of falling short of the glory of God, “the glory of God” refers to His majesty, bigness, perfectness, way far superior to what we are. We are breathing piles of dirt; He is the Creator of the Universe with immense power, wisdom, authority, and perfection.

 Pastor Jeff Weddle, Rhinelander Bible Church, Rhinelander, Wisconsin

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The glory of God is everything about Him that shows us how He wants us to live.

Pastor Jason (and Allison) Holm, Faith Evangelical Free Church, Grand Falls, North Dakota

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The glory of God is His greatness, His splendor, His magnificence – all that He is. His glory is an outward display of all His amazing attributes.

(Lauri also mentioned Hebrews 1:3 – quoted above.)

Lauri Bogart, teacher in preschool ministry and also works with 4th-6thgraders during the week. She is from Glen Rock, Pennsylvania.

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For a kid, I would say something like this with respect to “the glory of God” in Romans 3:23.

 God made us so that we would reflect to the world around us what He is like, sort of like a mirror. When we sin, we’re not doing that [reflecting God] at all. In fact, we’re doing just the opposite.

 In fact, as an added bonus  … this is where I used my broken vase illustration in my sermon. I held up a glass vase as an example of who God created us to be. Then I put the vase in a bucket and threw a big rock in there, shattering the vase. On account of sin, that is who everyone of us is now. It would take an act of God to restore that vase to what it was meant to be. In the same way, it would take an act of God to transform us to be the people He created us to be. We can’t do it ourselves, no matter how hard we try.

 Pastor Josh Hess, Friendswood Baptist Church, Camby, Indiana

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Great answers and the glory of God well defined.

On Friday I will summarize the resulting definition and also include some learning activities to help us define fall short of the glory of God to our kids.

Again, thanks to all those who participated.

 

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