This Challenge teaches how bitterness, unforgiveness, hatred and resentment create a trap for us and how forgiveness and turning things over to God (especially when we are having a hard time forgiving in our own power) gets us free from the trap. It uses Chinese finger traps to illustrate the point.
- Genesis 37-50 (Particularly Genesis 50 when Joseph forgives his brothers)
- Colossians 3:13
- Finger traps – 1 per person with several extras in case they break (they are notoriously poorly made – You can order them through anyone you like, but they are cheaply available through Oriental Trading. Order early, because it may take a few weeks for them to arrive. Approximately $10 for 72, plus shipping and handling. The link to Oriental Trading: http://www.orientaltrading.com/ui/search/processRequest.do?Ntt=finger+trap&x=0&y=0&requestURI=searchMain&Ntk=all&Ntx=mode%2Bmatchallpartial&N=0)
- Challenge Card (The file for printing is called, “JJ – Let Go, Let God, Get Free – Challenge Card (CHALLENGE),” and it can be found on the Lesson and Material Downloads page at www.teachingthem.com. This can be printed in black and white on regular paper. There are two Challenge Cards per page.)
- Ziplock bags – any size – 1 per group
- Print out the Challenge Card document.
- Cut the Challenge Card document in half (each half is identical), and put one in each Ziplock bag (one per group).
- Put enough finger traps into each Ziplock bag for each person to have one (and maybe a few extras).
- Practice the script.
Use the following script (or modify to suit your needs):
- “We’re going to do a group Challenge today.”
- “It’s called, “Let Go, Let God, Get Free!” and it’s part of the Joseph’s Journey Series.”
- “First, I’ll need to divide you into groups.” (Divide the participants into the number of groups for which you have prepared kits.)
- “Each group will have a Ziplock bag with a Challenge Card.”
- “When I tell you to go, open your Ziplock bags, and read the Challenge Card.” (Allow them to read the Challenge Card.)
- “Colossians 3:13 says, ‘Put up with each other. Forgive the things you are holding against one another. Forgive, just as the Lord forgave you.’” (NIRV)
- “This challenge is about how bitterness, resentment, hatred and unforgiveness become a trap for us.”
- “How many of you have ever seen a Chinese finger trap before?” (Acknowledge responses.)
- “Let’s say that this finger trap (hold up a finger trap for everyone to see) is bitterness, resentment, hatred or unforgiveness.”
- “When you are feeling these emotions toward someone, it’s like putting your fingers in the trap.” (Demonstrate for them.)
- “Sometimes you want to get free from these emotions, but you can’t.” (Pull your fingers apart. The finger trap should tighten up on them and prevent your fingers from getting free.)
- “You might even want to forgive that person, but the trap of bitterness, resentment, hatred or unforgiveness won’t let you go.” (Demonstrate trying to pull your fingers out again.)
- “These are times when it may not be possible for you to forgive that person. It’s just too hard.”
- “So, here’s what you should do.”
- “First, LET GO! – This means, stop trying so hard to do what you can’t do on your own.”
- “Next, LET GOD! – This means, let God do what you can’t do. Pray to Him, and tell Him what you are struggling with. Ask Him to give you His love and His forgiveness for that person.”
- “Finally, GET FREE! – It’s like a miracle! When you stop trying so hard and let God do what you can’t do, you get free! The bitterness, resentment, hatred or unforgiveness will disappear as God replaces it with His love and His forgiveness.”
- “Let me show you what I mean with this finger trap.” (As you demonstrate, say the three steps out loud. First show them that trying in your own power just makes the trap tighter. Then, LET GO! – Push your fingers together so that they meet in the middle of the trap. LET GOD! – Ask someone else to hold the finger trap (they are representing God), while you carefully and slowly pull your fingers out. GET FREE! – Show the group that your fingers are free from the trap of bitterness, resentment, hatred and unforgiveness.)
- “See how it works?”
- “When I can’t do it myself, I stop trying and just pray that God will change my heart for me. Then I get free!”
- “So what are the three steps again?” (Let the group tell you several times what the three steps are in order – LET GO! LET GOD! GET FREE!)
- “Want to try it on your own?” (Pass out the finger traps and let them play with them. Try to get them to go through the three steps and say them out loud several times.)
- (When you are finished, have them answer the Debrief Questions below (also on their Challenge Cards). The Rhyme Time is to help them recognize that God can help them forgive.)
- Why is it important to forgive people when they hurt you?
- Why is it so hard to forgive people sometimes?
- Do you think these three steps will work for you? Why or why not?
Jesus helps me to forgive; Holding a grudge is no way to live!
Children, Teens, Adults
This object lesson teaches about the danger of holding a grudge (i.e., choosing not to forgive someone). It uses an illustration from Where the Red Fern Grows, a great book about a boy and his hunting dogs, by Wilson Rawls. In the book, the boy learns about an unethical hunter, who traps raccoons by using a weakness in their nature. The lesson compares the trapper to Satan and the trapper’s methods to Satan’s way of trapping us with our own bitterness.
- 2-3 foot log
- Drill with a large bit (like the kind used for drilling doorknob holes into doors) and a small bit (the same diameter as your pegs or pins)
- 3-4 pegs or pins (about 5” long each)
- 2” ball of aluminum foil
- (A diagram of this build is in the file called, “JJ – Holding a Grudge – Diagram (OBJ LESSON)” and it can be found on the Lesson and Material Downloads page at www.teachingthem.com.)
- ALTERNATIVE: If you don’t want to build the trap, you could just show the diagram as an illustration.
- Drill a large hole into the side of the log – large and deep enough for someone to stick his/her hand in and grab a 2” ball of aluminum foil.
- Hammer pegs or pins into the hole at a 45 degree angle so that the volunteer can get their hand in and comfortably grab the ball of foil but so that he/she will not be able to remove their hand while still clutching the foil.
- Sand down the rough spots to protect your volunteer from splinters.
- Put the aluminum foil ball into the hole.
- These materials will make a trapping device to illustrate how Satan tricks us into holding onto something worthless even though we can’t get free from the trap while we hold it. A volunteer will put his/her hand into the hole and grab the aluminum foil ball. The simple solution would be to let go of the ball and get free, but sometimes we want what the ball represents too much.
- Practice the script.
Use the following script (or modify to suit your needs):
- “There’s a great book by Wilson Rawls, called Where the Red Fern Grows. It’s about a young boy and his hunting dogs.”
- “At one point in the story, the boy finds evidence of an unethical hunter.”
- “The hunter would trap raccoons by using a weakness in their nature.”
- “He would take a fallen log like this one.” (Gesture to log.)
- “And he would drill a hole in the top, like this one.” (Gesture to hole.)
- “Then, he would hammer nails through the wood into the hole at a 45 degree angle, like these.” (Gesture to pegs.)
- “Finally, he would drop something shiny into the hole like this.” (Drop in aluminum ball. Ask for a volunteer to come up and pretend to be a raccoon.)
- “My volunteer will represent a raccoon that the hunter is trying to trap.”
- “Raccoons LOVE shiny things!”
- “They can’t resist them.”
- “So, when a raccoon sees something shiny, he reaches for it.”
- “The raccoon would put his hand into the hole in the log and grab the aluminum foil ball.” (Have volunteer reach into the trap and make a fist around the aluminum ball.)
- “But while he had his fist around the ball, his hand was too big to pull his hand out of the hole.”
- “He would struggle and pull for hours, but he wouldn’t let go of the ball.” (Have volunteer pretend to struggle to pull fist out of the hole. He/she can’t let go of the ball in order to get free.)
- “Even when he saw the hunter coming, he wanted the shiny thing so much that he wouldn’t let go to save his life.”
- “So, that’s how the hunter traps the raccoon. Now, let’s make a comparison to how Satan traps people.”
- “Let’s pretend that this trap is really a trap called unforgiveness.”
- “My volunteer will represent each of us, and in this comparison, we are like the raccoon in the story.”
- “The trap is a trap of not forgiving someone when they hurt you or disappoint you or forget about you or mistreat you.”
- “The shiny ball is called a ‘grudge.’”
- “A grudge is a bad feeling you have against someone.”
- “It can be anger, bitterness or resentment. It’s a bad feeling, but it feels good.”
- “It feels justified and right sometimes to be mad at someone.”
- “Do you ever feel that way?” (Acknowledge responses.)
- “I do. It’s not good to feel that way, but sometimes we are tempted to.”
- “When you hold the grudge, it’s very satisfying.”
- “We spend lots of time thinking about how badly the other person treated us and how good it would feel to get even with them.”
- “We feel like we SHOULD be mad at them. If we don’t stay mad at them, then they will get away with the bad thing that they did without having to pay for it.”
- “We want them to be punished for the bad thing that they did.”
- “But here’s the problem…the grudge looks shiny and feels good to hold, but it’s really just GARBAGE!”
- “There’s no real value in it. Even if you got it out of the trap, it wouldn’t make your life better.”
- “It wouldn’t fix any of your problems.”
- “It wouldn’t even make you feel better, because it doesn’t do what it promises.”
- “You think getting even makes you feel better, but it actually makes you feel worse.”
- “And the whole time you are holding a grudge, Satan is using it to destroy you.”
- “Satan is like the trapper who comes to kill the raccoon.” (Have volunteer struggle to pull the grudge out of the trap as you pretend to be a trapper coming to get him/her. Look menacing, but don’t scare your audience if they are young.)
- “You can try to get free, but it’s not possible while you are holding onto the grudge.”
- “Satan will use the grudge to steal your life – your joy and happiness – from you.”
- “As long as you hold the grudge, you will be unhappy – I guarantee it.”
- “The only good solution is to let go of the grudge.”
- “Open your hand, and release it.” (Demonstrate with volunteer.)
- “This is called forgiveness.”
- “It’s letting go of your right to get even with the other person.”
- “It doesn’t mean that you have to like the person or have a relationship with him or her, but it does mean that you can’t wish bad things about them anymore.”
- “When you forgive, you let go of the grudge and get free from the trap.”
- “When you let go of the grudge, you show that you are trusting God to take care of the situation and do what He thinks is best.”
- “Only God is wise enough to know what needs to be done in your situation.”
- “When you trust God to handle bad situations, your happiness and joy will return.”
- “So, here’s how it works again…” (Have volunteer reach back in and grab the grudge but then demonstrate the next three steps with you.)
- “Step 1 – Let go (of the grudge).” (Have volunteer let go of the grudge but keep his/her hand in the trap.)
- “Step 2 – Let God (take care of things).” (Have volunteer look up to God and maybe raise his/her other hand to demonstrate giving the grudge to God.)
- “Step 3 – Get Free (from the trap of unforgiveness)!” (Have volunteer pull their hand from the trap and put both hands in the air to show that he/she is free.)
- “Let’s say the three steps together – Let God, Let God, Get Free!” (Have the entire group say this several times so that they get it.)
- “So, don’t let Satan trap you into holding a grudge.” (Thank and dismiss volunteer. You can use the Rhyme Time below to reinforce the message of this lesson. The Scriptures at the top are provided in case you want to tell the story as context for the lesson.)
Jesus helps me to forgive,
Holding a grudge is no way to live.
For summer camp this year, I’ve written ten Challenges (Bible activities for small groups and a leader to do together – sometimes in competition with other groups) and some large group lessons on the story of Joseph. They are all located on the Lesson and Material Downloads page (see the link at the top of the screen), and you can find them alphabetically in the list. They all start with the letters “JJ” for “Joseph’s Journey.”
Hope you can find some lessons that will be useful for you!
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The Bible has a lot to say about repentance. In your groups, read through the following Scriptures, and then discuss the questions below.
o Psalm 51:1-17 (Create in me a pure heart)
o Proverbs 1:23 (Wisdom’s rebuke)
o Jeremiah 15:19 (If you repent, I will restore you)
o Jeremiah 17:7-8 (If that nation repents, I will relent)
o Ezekiel 18:30-32 (Repent and live!)
o 2 Corinthians 7:8-11 (Godly sorry brings repentance)
o Revelation 2:4-5 (You have forsaken your first love)
1. How would you define repentance?
2. In what ways do you think repentance before you know Christ compares to repentance after you know Christ? (How are they the same; how are they different?)
3. What are the benefits of repentance?
4. What are the consequences of not repenting? (Read Psalm 32 if you need some help.)
5. How often should we repent?
After your discussion, take a few moments individually to sit quietly and ask the Holy Spirit to show you any areas in which you need to repent. Take this opportunity to confess and repent in those areas as you pray.
This object lesson teaches that we should not try to cover up our sin but instead recognize that it has been covered by the blood of Jesus.
- Psalm 32:1-5; 103:12
- 1 John 1:7
- Foot air pump (like you use to pump up a bicycle tire)
- Two large balloons (the same color)
- Permanent marker with a wide tip
- Piece of red felt or other fabric (at least 12”x12”)
- Piece of dark blue felt or other fabric (at least 12”x12”)
- Tape (duct tape is preferable)
- Straight pin or push pin
- Set up the table at the front of the teaching area. Try to elevate it so that it will be above the eye level of your participants.
- Place the tablecloth over the table so that it hangs down to the floor and prevents participants from seeing what is happening behind it.
- Write the word, “SIN,” on one of the balloons (while deflated) in bold letters so that participants will be able to read it when you hold it up.
- Put the other balloon on the nozzle of the air pump. You may want to tape it on to make sure that it doesn’t fly off when it gets some air in it.
- Hide the air pump on the floor behind the table so that it cannot be seen.
- Tuck the balloon that is attached to the nozzle underneath the tablecloth. If you can get it to stay in the middle of the table, that’s great. If not, you may need to tape the hose to the table. Make sure that participants won’t be able to see the bulge caused by the air pump nozzle and balloon.
- Lay the pieces of fabric and the 2nd balloon close by for use during the lesson.
- Practice the lesson so that you are sure the participants won’t be able to see what you are doing behind the table. (NOTE: if your air pump makes noise when you pump it, you might need to pump more slowly or oil the parts.)
Use the following script (or modify to suit your needs):
- “All of us sin sometimes, right?” (Look for agreement. If you don’t get agreement, you can have a volunteer read Romans 3:23.)
- “God is not surprised when we sin. He wants us to quickly admit it and start obeying Him again.”
- “Unfortunately, what a lot of us do is we hide our sin from the people we love and even from God sometimes.”
- “King David in the Old Testament was very close to God most of his life, but even he tried to hide his sin sometimes.” (Ask volunteer to read Psalm 32:1-5.)
- “David had done something very bad. He had stolen something from a friend and then had his friend killed to hide what he had done.”
- “For a long time after he did this terrible thing, he tried to hide it.”
- “But then, a good friend of David’s – the prophet Nathan – came to David and told him that he knew AND GOD KNEW what David had done.”
- “When David heard this from his good friend, He confessed his sin and asked for forgiveness. Then he wrote this Psalm.”
- “Notice that he says, ‘When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night, your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer.’”
- “David was saying that he was miserable the entire time he tried to hide his sin.”
- “He was being eaten up on the inside even though he tried to pretend that everything was okay on the outside.”
- “You see, many times when we sin, we are so afraid of what will happen if people find out that we try to hide it.”
- “Sometimes we say that we hide the bad things we do and that it is like trying to ‘sweep them under a rug.’”
- “Have you heard this expression before?” (Look for responses. If they haven’t heard it, explain that sweeping sins under the rug means that we try to hide them where people can’t see them – like sweeping dirt under a rug instead of really cleaning it up.)
- “Let’s say that this balloon (show the balloon that isn’t attached to the foot pump) represents our sin.”
- “When we are afraid of the punishment or consequences of our sin, we might try to ‘sweep them under the rug’ so that no one will be able to see our dirt, our filth.” (Lay the balloon on the table at about the same spot where the hidden balloon is. Then cover it with your ‘rug,’ which will be your dark blue piece of fabric.)
- “But you know what happens when we try to hide our sins, to sweep them under the rug?” (Listen for responses.)
- “They GROW!” (As you say this, begin to secretly pump air into the hidden balloon, letting it get bigger and bigger.)
- “Sins are like mushrooms. They grow best in the dark.”
- “When we hide our sins, Satan will tempt us to sin more.”
- “He will try to get us to lie about our sins and to do even bigger sins to hide what we’ve already done – like when David killed his friend just so that he wouldn’t have to admit that he stole something from him.” (Keep pumping until the balloon is an impressive size under the dark fabric.)
- “In darkness, our sins get bigger and bigger until they are impossible to hide.”
- “Then, they start to show even though we’ve done our best to cover them up.” (Pump balloon a few more times, until it lifts the cover so high that the balloon is clearly visible to everyone in the room.)
- “But you know what? God doesn’t want us to hide our sins. He wants us to confess them.”
- “In our Bibles, God tells us that he doesn’t want our sins covered up – He wants them covered!”
- “You see, Adam and Eve tried to cover up their sin by wearing fig leaves, and the ancient Hebrews tried to cover up their sin by sprinkling animal blood over the box (the Arc of the Covenant) that held God’s law.”
- “But neither of these were good ways to cover sin.”
- “Fig leaves are itchy, and animal blood only covered up the Hebrews’ sin for a short time.”
- “So, God provided a better way to cover our sins. He sent His son Jesus.”
- “When Jesus died on the cross, His perfect blood (perfect because Jesus never sinned) covered our sins for ever!” (Cover the dark blue fabric with the red fabric.)
- “In fact, the blood of Jesus does more than just cover our sins; it cleans them.” (Have volunteer read 1 John 1:7.)
- “So, it’s much better than just covering our sins.” (Have volunteer read Psalm 103:12.)
- “How far do you think the east is from the west?” (Listen to responses.)
- “It’s pretty far, since the east and the west will never meet.”
- “The blood of Jesus first covers our sins, and then Jesus removes them completely.” (Use the pin to pop the balloon through the fabric.)
- “Now we can understand what David says in his psalm.” (Have a volunteer read Psalm 32:1-2.)
- “We are blessed when our sins are covered by the blood of Christ.”
- “So don’t try to cover up your sins; if you believe that Jesus is your Savior, then He has already covered them with His blood, removed them as far as the east is from the west and forgiven them so that they won’t count against you.”
This game teaches that we have God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense (G.R.A.C.E.), but we have to keep returning to God every time we sin in order to keep the relationship strong. If we don’t, we wander further and further from God.
• Copies of the Grace or Guilt Gameboard (See the file, “God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense – Gameboard.ppt” on the “Lesson and Material Downloads” page.)
• Copies of “Grace Cards” (included at the end of this lesson text) – You will need a set for every group of six.
• A copy of the “Debrief Questions” at the end of this lesson. You will need one printout per group.
• Something to act as game pieces. You can use coins, torn pieces of paper, poker chips… You will need enough for all the children to have one.
• Dice (one per group)
• Optional – Prizes for the winners.
• Print the “Grace or Guilt – Gameboard,” and tape the two pages end-to-end. You will need one gameboard for each group of up to six children.
• Print out a copy of the “Grace Cards” at the end of the lesson, and cut them out. Place them face down beside the gameboard.
• Print out a copy of the Debrief Question (one per group).
• Practice the script
Use the following script (or modify to suit your needs):
• “We’re going to play a game to help us understand how sin takes us away from God and the many blessings He wants us to have.”
• “It’s called, ‘God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense.”
• “First, I’ll need to divide you into small groups.” (Divide children into small groups of no more than six each. Then, hand out the gameboards and game pieces.)
• “Here’s the way this game is played.
o First, you will all roll the die (singular for dice) to see who goes first. The highest role wins and goes first. The next-highest roll goes second and so on. If you get a tie, those people should re-roll until someone rolls a higher number.
o Players should put their game pieces on the paths that match their playing order. For example, Path 1 for the first player, Path 2 for the second, and so on.
o Next, you will roll the die to see how many spaces to move your game piece.
o Each player starts in the “God’s Riches” space.
o At the end of every turn, you will draw a card.
o The card has a letter (or letters) on it.
o You want to collect all the letters in the word, “GRACE.”
o It’s okay if you have extra letters, but you need to have at least one of each of the letters on your cards.
o If you get the right letters to spell, “GRACE,” you can return to the “God’s Riches” space.
o You should put any cards you used to spell “GRACE” in a discard pile. If the group draws all the card in the draw pile, the discard pile will be shuffled and used as the new draw pile.
o The game ends when someone rolls a number that forces them to move more spaces than are left on the path.
o The winner of the game is the person who is closest to “God’s Riches.”
o In the event of a tie, you can let the tied players roll again to see who is the closest to “God’s Riches” after the roll.”
• “Does anyone have questions about how you will play?” (Answer questions. Then, let them get started. When they are done, award a prize for the winners if you like, and hand out a copy of the Debrief Questions on the next page. Give groups ten minutes to discuss the debrief questions, and then talk with the entire group about their answers.)
o Why is the game called, “God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense?
o What are “God’s Riches?”
o What does “Christ’s Expense” mean?
o How is this game like our Christian walk?
o Read Proverbs 4:14-15. What do you think the spaces represented?
o Read Proverbs 4:26-27. What do you think it means?
o Grace allows us to return to God after we have sinned, but what do we actually need to do to return to Him?