Newsletters 1 - 5.
My earliest Newsletters (dating from 2002) seem to have been lost from this Blog. As they contain some of my most popular teaching ideas, I an therefore reproducing them here.
Who is Maurice Sweetsur?
Object Lesson (O.L.) 1 - Growing to be like Christ (Fruit in bottle).
O.L. 2 - Faith (A water experiment).
Who is Maurice Sweetsur?
Since I started sharing object lessons with Children's workers, I have had many requests for information about myself and my ministry. Therefore, I decided to write a brief testimony which, I hope, will answer your questions.
I was born and brought up in Stoke-on Trent in England, but spent all my working life as a Research Chemist in Ayr, Scotland. I hold a PhD degree in Food Science from Strathclyde University (Glasgow). I am the author or co-author of over 60 scientific papers.
For most of my life I was an atheist, but then in 1980 I had a dramatic personal encounter with the Lord Jesus Christ and was gloriously saved. I have been endeavouring to follow Him since.
I fellowshipped at an A.O.G. church in Prestwick, Ayrshire, and my Christian service included leading a Crusader (non-denominational children's youth movement) group, weekly "door to door" evangelism, and being Editor (and main contributor) to my church's magazine. Many of the articles that I wrote for this magazine were subsequently republished in the National Christian outreach newspapers "Challenge", "New Life", and "The Challenger". These articles were mainly on Evangelism, The Authority of the Bible and especially on Creation and Evolution.
In 1993 I took early retirement from my job in Ayr and emigrated with my wife Margo and son Paul to New Zealand. I now fellowship at another A.O.G. church in Papakura, Auckland.
On arriving in New Zealand I was amazed and thrilled to discover that "ordinary" Christians are allowed to teach Bible lessons (usually 30 minutes per week) in State Primary schools. I now spend most of my time preparing for and taking these classes, averaging about 12 per week.
In 1998 I began to develop "fun-filled" special lessons for children using ventriloquism, Gospel illusions, puppets, balloon modelling and stories. Under the name 'Uncle Maurice', I now take these lessons to various groups throughout Auckland and beyond, e.g. Sunday schools, Family services, Kids clubs, Holiday programmes, School 'break-up' Assemblies, Uniform organisations, Church camps etc. More recently, I have been offering four training workshops to groups in the Auckland area on Object lessons, Illusions, Storytelling and Balloon modelling.
I am committed to reaching and discipling children for Christ, and to help equip Children's workers for their ministry - hence these Newsletters. My prayer is that you will frind something here to benefit your ministry.
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“Uncle Maurice”–Teaching Bible truths to children in a fun-filled way.
Ventriloquism - Amazing illusions - Hilarious stories - Balloon modelling - Puppets - Children participation.
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Object Lesson (O.L.) 1 - Growing to be like Christ (Fruit in bottle).
This takes a long time to prepare, but is well worth the effort.
While a fruit ( a lemon or orange is ideal ) is still very small and attached to its tree, place a narrow-necked bottle over it and tie to branch. Leave in place until the fruit has fully grown inside the bottle. Remove bottle containing the fruit and show to your class.
Ask "How did I get this fruit inside the bottle?" A few children may work it out, but most won't. Explain how you did it, stating that the tiny fruit had all the potential to grow into a large fruit, but that it needed food to grow. This food (sap) was all provided by the tree. Use this as an analogy for the newly born-again (or baby) Christian who has all that is needed to become the person God wants them to be, but needs to grow. Our food is God's Word (plus prayer and fellowship etc.).
Ask "What would have happened to the baby fruit if I had cut the twig attaching it to the branch while it was still small?" Answer. It would not have grown. In fact it would have withered away and died. Again use the analogy of the baby Christian who does not feed on God's Word.
O.L. 2 - Faith (A water experiment).
Explain that faith is believing in something that you cannot see. State that although you cannot see God (or Jesus) because He is a Spirit, you can still know that He is real. Explain that something else you cannot see, but is real is the air. State that you are now going to prove that the air in the room is real.
Pour water into a glass until it is almost full. Place a piece of cardboard, cut to slightly larger than the top of the glass, shiny side down, over the top. (An old breakfast cereal box is an ideal source of suitable cardboard). Hold cardboard in place, and invert glass. Take away your hand from the cardboard. Explain that gravity is still at work trying to make the water fall on the floor, but that the air - which we cannot see - is stronger than gravity and is keeping the cardboard in place.
Invite a few of the children to put their faith in the air - which they cannot see- and walk under the glass. As they are doing so, reinforce the truth that they are trusting in something that they cannot see.
If you wish, you could conclude this illustration as follows.
State that you are now looking for someone with GREAT faith. Choose a volunteer. State that you are now going to hold the glass of water over their head as before and tip it upside down, but this time you are not going to use any cardboard! Say you wouldn't want them to get too wet if things went wrong, so you will pour some of the water out of the glass. Pour out water until about 2 or 3 cm. remains. State that you still don't like the idea of wetting their hair - if things did go wrong - so you will hold a cup between the glass and their hair. Pour the water out of the glass and into the cup. Act surprised that the water came out of the glass. State that you have worked out the problem. You weren't really using faith, because real faith in Jesus is trusting in Him alone. Therefore, real faith in the air is trusting in the air alone. Therefore you are now going to invert the cup (now containing the water ) over the volunteer's head, but with nothing in between. Do this. The water will not come out of the cup, because you had previously placed a SPONGE in the bottom!
O.L. 3. Why does God allow suffering? (Invisible ink).
O.L. 4. Filled with the Holy Spirit (Baking soda).
O.L. 5. Staying in the centre of God's will (Cork floating on water).
O.L. 3. Why does God allow suffering?
Take a large piece of white paper, and write across it in LEMON JUICE the word "Jesus" - i.e. in "invisible ink."
State that many people ask questions like "Why does a good God allow suffering?" Give a few examples of suffering. Say that there is no simple answer to this, but that you are going to show the class one reason why God may allow problems and hardships to come into our lives. God is interested in what we do, but He is more interested in what we are i.e. our character. God can use our problems to develop our character.
Use your own words for your particular class, but you could go along the lines suggested below.
"God has a wonderful plan to change you into someone far better. If none of us ever had any troubles, not many of us would give God a second thought, and we would never change. God sometimes allows suffering in our lives and uses it - as He helps us to overcome our problems - to change us. The Bible says "Suffering helps us to endure. And endurance builds character" Romans 5.3,4. ( C.E.V. ).
HOLD UP THE "BLANK" PAPER AT THIS POINT. I am going to have an imaginary conversation with this paper. "Nice to see you paper, but I am now going to put you over a flame"
LIGHT A CANDLE. EXPLAIN THAT THE FLAME STANDS FOR TROUBLES OR PROBLEMS.
Paper - " I don't like the sound of that. I might get too hot. I might even get burnt".
"I do like you paper, but I have a wonderful plan to change you into something better, and I have to place you over the flame to make this happen."
BEGIN TO MOVE THE PAPER OVER THE FLAME, FOLLOWING THE WORD "JESUS" WHICH YOU SHOULD JUST BE ABLE TO SEE. BROWN WRITING WILL START TO APPEAR. Continue your dialogue while still moving the paper.
"How are you feeling now paper?"
Paper - "Stop it. I am getting far too hot."
"I haven't finished my plan for you yet. I must complete the job. I know this is tough for you, but I won't let you burn."
COMPLETE THE HEATING OF THE PAPER. AS YOU HOLD THE PAPER TO SHOW THE CLASS THE WORD "JESUS" CONCLUDE YOUR TEACHING.
"This is what God's plan is for you. To build your character, and make you to be like Jesus. Often He uses our problems and difficulties to bring this about.
O.L. 4. Filled with the Holy Spirit.Place some Baking soda in a glass - the narrower the better. Add a littlefood colouring for a more visual effect. Pour in Vinegar, to represent theHoly Spirit. Stir. The solution should froth over the top of the glass. i.e.a picture of us being filled to overflowing with the Spirit.
O.L. 5. Staying in the centre of God's will.
This object lesson is better suited to smaller groups.Fill a glass three quarters full with water. Place a cork - representing theBeliever without the Spirit - in the water. The cork will naturally keepmoving to the side of the glass, i.e. away from the centre (of God's will).Now, fill the glass to overflowing with water, to represent the fullness ofthe Spirit. The cork will now float in the centre of the glass.
O.L. 6. Defeating Giants (Optical illusion with two cards).
O.L. 7. God's protection (Coin is blown into dish).
O.L. 8. Receiving Jesus (Gifts have to be received).
O.L. 6. Defeating Giants.
I usually use this Object lesson after telling the story of David and Goliath.
Summarise the story by saying " David was able to overcome the Giant because he realised that God was on his side. If you are trusting in Jesus, then God is also on your side and will help you defeat any Giants in your life." A Giant is any problem you have which seems too big for you.
Give a list of possible "Giants." e.g. Other People - Bullies etc. Bad habits - Lying, stealing, swearing, fighting etc. Fears - The dark, nightmares, dying, flying, spiders, snakes, dogs etc.
Produce two prepared "curved shapes". These are like two fat bananas. (See diagram above). These can be made of cardboard or paper and cut to any suitable size. It is more effective to use different colours. You will note that the cards are actually the same size, but if one is held above the other. it will appear to be smaller. On the first card, write the word "Giant" On the second card, write the word “Me" on one side and "Me + God" on the other side.
Hold card 2, showing "Me" above card 1, showing "Giant." State. " If you compare yourself with your Giant, the Giant will always appear to be bigger, and you will think that you won't be able to defeat it." Pull the cards apart, and turn card 2 over to show " Me + God" State "Remember that if you are trusting in Jesus, it is not just you against the Giant, but you plus God against it." Bring the cards back together again, but this time hold card 2 below card 1. State that " No matter how big your Giant is, when you compare it to God, you will always find that God is far bigger, and that He is able to help you defeat it - just like David defeated Goliath.
I usually conclude by repeating the "changing cards" process to emphasize the point.
O.L. 7. God's protection.
This is an illustration that can be used alongside any story of God's protection, and you can get a number of children to participate. All you need is a fairly small coin and a dish.
Explain that the coin stands for you, and the dish stands for God's protection. State that God's protection is only a prayer (or a breath ) away. You are now going to demonstrate how the coin can be transported into the dish using only your breath.
Place the coin on the edge of a table, and the dish about 15 cm. away. Blow a short sharp breath just over the top of the coin. (Have a few practices beforehand). Your breath should lift up the coin, and deposit it in the dish. As time permits, allow a few of the children to attempt the feat. The secret is to ensure that you blow horizontally, just over the top of the coin.
O.L. 8. Receiving Jesus.
This is an illustration that I use following teaching on John 3.16. All you need is a small gift. I usually make a balloon animal (as the gift) while I am talking about it.
State that John 3.16 talks about a giver (God), a gift (Jesus) and a receiver (Us). No matter how wonderful any gift is, it will not do you any good unless you receive it. I have a gift here (produce or begin to make your gift), but unless you receive it, it is no good to you at all.
Some of you may say "I don't want your gift" Well, if you don't want it, you won't get it, because I will not force you to take it.
Some of you may say "I don't believe it. It's too good to be true. Teacher must be tricking us." Well, if you don't believe it, you can't receive it.
Some of you may say " I will think about it" There is nothing wrong in thinking about the gift, but all the time you are thinking about it, it is not yours and it is not doing you any good.
Some of you may say. " I will have to earn the gift. I will have to sit up straight, be really quiet and still, and then perhaps "teacher" will notice me and give me the gift because I deserve it." Well, I like you behaving that way, but that's not the way to get the gift because it can never be earned.
But one of you may simply say to himself / herself " Yes, I want that gift," and get up, walk out to the front, take hold of the gift, and it will be theirs.
It is exactly the same with God's gift of Jesus Christ to the world - and the Eternal Life He brings with him.
Some people say to God "I don't want your gift of Jesus. I want to live my own life, go my own way, do my own thing." Much as God still loves them (they are still part of the world) He won't force His gift of Jesus on anyone. We must choose to receive Him.
Some people say. "I don't believe in the gift. I don't believe in Jesus. I don't even believe in God." Well, if you don't believe, you can't receive.
Some people say. "I will think about the gift. Perhaps when I am older I might receive God's gift." There is nothing wrong with thinking about the gift, but the problem is many people never make up their minds, and so always miss out on what God wants to give them.
Some people ( in fact most people ) think they have to earn God's gift. They say. " I will have to be very good. I will not have to do anything bad. I will have to go to Church or Sunday school every week. I will have to say my prayers and read my Bible every day. Then, perhaps, God will be really pleased with me and give me His gift of Jesus." These are good things to do, but you can never earn God's gift.
But some people say "Yes, I want to receive Jesus into my life," and do so by faith - by simply asking God for His gift of Jesus, and believing that they receive Him.
At this point, you will probably still be holding your gift - unless there is someone very smart in your group who has taken you at your word and received it already! You will probably have to keep prompting until someone comes out and receives it. You could say:-
"Well, it is still here."
"I wonder who will be first to believe me. All you have to do is take it."
"You won't get it by thinking about it, or by sitting up straight, but someone could come out and receive it."
When someone receives your gift, state that they didn't deserve it or earn it, but they got it because they were the first to believe that all they had to do was take it.
Conclude by stating that unfortunately you only had one gift, but the good news is that there is enough of God's gift of Jesus for everyone. There is no need for anyone to miss out.
If appropriate, you could then lead your group in a prayer to receive Jesus.
O.L. 9. Which way? (Octagon illusion).
O.L. 10. Walking on water. (Floating pin).
O.L. 11. We are special. (Rope illusion).
O.L. 9. Which way?
All you need for this illustration is a square piece of cardboard - ideally about 30 cm x 30 cm. On one side of the cardboard draw a large horizontal arrow. On the other side of the cardboard draw a large vertical arrow.
Hold the cardboard in front of yourself, with your left hand grasping the top left hand corner, and your right hand grasping the bottom right hand corner. Practice twisting the card over. The secret is to keep your hands still, and let the card make all the movements. Now, change your hand positions. Grasp the bottom left hand corner with your left hand, and the top right hand corner with your right hand. Twist the card over a few times as before. You will note that - depending on where your hands are placed - you can make the arrow appear to either stay pointing in the same direction, or to keep changing directions as the card is twisted.
You are now ready to illustrate any story which involves a change of direction (or repentance), e.g. Jonah, Zacchaeus or Saul. I often use this method to share my testimony as follows, changing the direction of the arrow at the appropriate places:-
Once I always went my own way ( <- -="" .="" about="" all="" and="" but="" change="" christ.="" could="" did="" direction="" even="" get="" god="" going="" good="" he="" heard="" i="" jesus="" me="" my="" need="" news="" nobody="" not="" nstead="" of="" own="" round="" said="" says="" start="" the="" then="" thing="" to="" turn="" us="" way="" what="" you="" your=""> ). Instead of living a life centred around yourself ( <- -="" around="" centre="" life="" me="" need="" to="" you="" your=""> )." For a little while, I wasn’t sure what to do. Whether to continue going my way ( <- -="" and="" around="" going="" jesus="" or="" start="" to="" turn="" way=""> ). But then I decided that the best thing I could do was to turn and start going Jesus' way ( -> ), because I saw that His way was the best way ( -> ). For the last 20 years I have been going His way ( -> ), His way ( -> ), His way ( -> ) all the time.
Having tried out your square piece of cardboard a few times, you may wish to try out your story with an Octagon (eight sides). This is essentially the same as for the square, but it has the advantage that - by grasping the shape at two opposite corners - you are also able to make the arrow point vertically upwards or downwards.( With a little practice, you should soon become proficient ).You could then conclude your story as follows :-
Going Jesus' way (-> ) is the best way, because His way ( -> ) leads you Upwards towards God. His way ( -> ) leads you Upwards. But does your way ( <- -="" away="" best="" can="" do="" downwards="" from="" go="" god.="" god="" his="" is="" lead="" leads="" no="" so="" the="" thing="" to="" towards="" way="" you="" your=""> ), His way ( -> ), His way (-> ) all the time.->->->->
O.L. 10. Walking on water.
One of the amazing miracles that Jesus did was walking on water. We all know that one of the natural laws of the Universe is that objects heavier than water sink. However Jesus overcame this natural law, and I am now also going to overcome this law by floating a pin on this water. You all know that a pin is much heavier than water and usually sinks to the bottom. But today I am going to make it float! Proceed to gently lower a pin onto water in a glass, and watch it float. Because water actually forms a thin film at it's surface with the air, this flotation can really be done - provided you have a steady hand and the film isn't broken. And, of course, ensure that nobody knocks the glass during the procedure!
If your hand isn't too steady, you can still float the pin by placing it on a paper tissue, and lowering that onto the water. After a few seconds, the paper will have absorbed enough water to make it sink, leaving the pin floating alone.
O.L. 11. We are special.
Please refer to the diagram above to see how to operate this rope illusion.
Cut three pieces of string or (better) rope to the following lengths:-
1.23 cm. (Red in diagram)
2. 37 cm. (Blue)
3. 55 cm. (Black)
For clarity, the ropes are different colours in the diagram, but for your actual lesson will be the same colour.
Hold the ropes in your left hand as per Fig. A., with the BACK of your hand facing the children. "With the aid of these three ropes I am going to show you how God really sees you - And how He sees you is far more important than how you or other people see you.
Some of you may see yourself like this short rope (Hold up Rope 1). You may say "I'm not very special, I'm not very important. I don't get good marks at school, and I'm not good at running, music or anything."
Some of you may see yourself like this middle sized rope (Hold up Rope 2). You may say "I get good marks at school, and I'm good at Soccer or Netball etc., but I don't think I am really THAT important."
Hold up Rope 3. "This long rope stands for the people that most others think are very important. Give a few people as examples (applicable to your own country or locality) e.g. Presidents, Sports personalities, Film stars etc.
Actually God doesn't see us that way at all (little, middle or very important).
With the aid of these ropes, I will now show you how He really sees you.
Manipulate your ropes as shown in Figs. B,C,D and E. Remember to keep the back of your hand towards the children. Essentially, what you are doing is looping the long rope (3) through the short rope (1). With practice, this should only take a few seconds.
Fig. B. Bring the bottom of Rope 3 across the other ropes.
Fig. C. Bring the bottom of Rope 1 up to the top, and hold it next to your thumb.
Fig. D. Bring the bottom of Ropes 2 and 3 up to the top, and hold on the right of your hand.
Fig. E. Grasp the three ends on your right (i.e. the two ends of Rope 3, and what was the bottom of Rope 2), pull horizontally, then release.
The three ropes - from your perspective - should now be as in Fig. E. From the Children's perspective, they will appear to now be three ropes of equal length.
"God does not have favourites. He sees us as all different, but all equally important, all equally special - just as these three ropes are now all the same size."
You could then re-emphasise your points by adjusting the lengths of the ropes by pulling on each end of Rope 3, and making a few remarks e.g. "You may not be as clever as the President, but you are just as important as he is to God." Conclude by restoring the "original" ropes, either by pulling them apart, or by screwing them up and throwing them in the air.
O.L. 12. Straight and crooked roads (Tearing strips of paper).
O.L. 13. God's guidance (A balloon guidance system).
Story - A soldier gives up his life for his friends.
Teaching on John 3.16.
O.L. 12. Straight and crooked roads.
All you need for this illustration are a few sheets of newspaper.
Some newspapers are printed "with the grain", and some "against the grain." This means that if you hold a piece of newspaper vertically, and begin to tear strips from top to bottom, they will either come out very straight, or very ragged (despite your best efforts), depending on the way the grain is running.
Find two different newspapers which tear in opposite ways - this should be easy enough. You now have two sets of papers, which will look pretty much the same, but one tears straight, and one tears crooked. You are now ready to begin your lesson.
Proverbs 3.6. says "In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight."
We are all on a path through life, either a straight path which leads to God, or a crooked path which does not. Choose about eight volunteers. Give one half the first set of newspaper sheets, and the other half the second. Ask them to tear the sheets into strips from top to bottom as straight as they can. One set of volunteers will end up with straight strips of paper, and the other half with a big mess! You can then conclude with teaching on "straight" and "crooked" roads as appropriate.
O.L. 13. God's guidance.
"We are all on a journey through life, and God has given us two things to help us - His Word, the Bible and the Holy Spirit. If, however, we try and travel through life on our own - without calling on God to Guide us - we will make mistakes, and go off in directions that are not part of God’s plan for us."
Produce an ordinary (round) balloon. Blow it up, but do not tie it. Choose a volunteer to be your target. Have him/her stand about 6 meters away. " This balloon represents a person trying to go through life on their own. Most people do want to go the right way. Their intentions are good. Therefore I am starting off by pointing the balloon at the target, but let's see what will happen when I let go!" It will almost certainly miss the target. Repeat a few times. You may be able to obtain "Rocket" balloons. These are long, and buzz as they travel through the air. Children love them, but they will still miss their targets!
"What this balloon needs is a Guidance system - something to help it hit its target. I have one right here. Produce a 6 or 7 meter piece of string, and thread one end through a drinking straw. Have a second volunteer stand just behind the target, holding the other end. Blow up your balloon and tape it under the straw (See diagram above). Let the balloon go, and watch it hit its target. "That balloon kept right on target, because it had something to guide it. In the same way, we will stay on target in our journey through life - If we let the Bible and the Holy Spirit guide us."
Following on from Object Lesson No.8 - Receiving Jesus (Newsletter 4), I thought that I would share some of the teachings that I have given at Children's groups concerning this wonderful verse.
Story - A soldier gives up his life for his friends.
This story is taken from the film "Bridge over the river Quay." I cannot vouch for the detailsbeing 100% accurate, but you will get the overall picture.During World war ll, some British soldiers were taken captive by the Japanese, and made to work very hard building a railway track through thejungle in Burma.One day, the Japanese guards discovered that an axe was missing from thestoreroom. Naturally, they thought that one of the British soldiers musthave stolen it. The camp Commander lined all the British soldiers up, andasked for the man who had stolen the axe to step forward, because they weregoing to take him away and shoot him. Nobody moved."Very well" the Commander said. "I will give you one last chance. If thesoldier who stole the axe doesn't step forward right now, I will choose onesoldier at random and shoot him instead. Then, if the guilty soldier stilldoesn't own up, I will keep on shooting other men until he does so. Will thesoldier who stole the axe step forward now." A soldier took one stepforward. He was taken away and shot.Sometime later, the guards checked on the storeroom again. To their surprisethey found that all the axes were present! They had made a mistake the firsttime they had counted. Nobody had stolen an axe.That British soldier had not stolen an axe. In fact, he had done nothingwrong. What he did do was give up his life so that his friends might live.What do you think the other British soldiers thought of their friend whenthey found out he had given his life that they might live? If, in someway, they could have communicated with him, what do you think they wouldhave said? I think they would have said something like this. "Words cannotexpress how grateful I am to you. You gave your life for me. Now I am goingto give my life over to you. Wherever you want me to go, I will go. Whateveryou want me to do, I will do." I think that would have been the naturalresponse.What a wonderful act it was for that soldier to give up his life for hisfriends. But do you know that Jesus gave up his life for you BEFORE you wereHis friends (Romans 5.8). What is your response to Jesus? Do you say "sowhat" or " who cares." I know what my response was. As soon as I realisedthat Jesus had died for me, I said to him " Words cannot express howgrateful I am to you. You gave your life for me. Now I am going to give mylife over to you. Wherever you want me to go, I will go. Whatever you want meto do I will do."
Teaching on John 3.16.
I often introduce this scripture by showing the word GOSPEL down the left of a card, explaining what it means - Good news about Jesus Christ, and then uncovering the rest of the card to show the verse in full, as shown below.
God so loved the world that he gave his
One and only
Son that whoever believes in him shall not
Perish, but have
Life. John 3.16.