2019 Week 46: Acts 10-Peter and Cornelius

Peter and Cornelius

As a family, read Acts 10. Afterwards, share the following discussion.

What happened?

Cornelius was a Roman centurion in Caesarea who, along with his family, worshiped and served God. One day, an angel came to Cornelius and told him that God was pleased with the way he honored Him and served others. He gave Cornelius instructions to send for Peter, who was in a place called Joppa.

Meanwhile in Joppa, Peter was praying on a rooftop. He fell into a trance and saw a large sheet coming down from the sky. In the sheet, there were animals of all kinds, including birds and reptiles. Peter heard the voice of the Lord telling him to get up and eat from the animals in the sheet. Because Peter, a Jew, knew that he should eat only the animals that God had called clean, he said that he could not eat any of the unclean animals. God told Peter not to call anything unclean that He had cleansed.

While Peter was thinking about the meaning of the vision, Cornelius’ men arrived. Peter heard the Holy Spirit telling him to go down and greet the men. Upon hearing what they had to say, he invited them to stay for the night. The next morning, Peter went with them to go to Cornelius’ house.

A large number of people had gathered to hear Peter speak. He told them that it was against the Jewish law to go into the house of anyone who was not a Jew, but God had told him not to call anything impure or unclean that He had made clean. Peter asked Cornelius why he had sent for him, and Cornelius explained the angel’s visit. Peter realized then exactly what God had sent him to say. God accepted people from every nation who wanted to follow Him. Peter explained to them who Jesus was and what He had come to do for them. When Cornelius and the people with him heard this, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they began to praise God. Peter gave orders for them to be baptized, and then he stayed with them to teach for a few more days.

Why is this important to us today?

Israel has always been God’s chosen people. A dedicated Jew would not associate with Gentiles at all. But God showed Peter that He doesn’t love just the Jewish people. God wants all people to come to know His Son, Jesus, no matter who they are, what they look like, or where they are from. This was a totally new way of thinking for Peter. But God opened Peter’s mind and heart and used him to open the door for the preaching of the gospel of Jesus to the Gentiles. God loves everyone, not just people who look and act like us. Like Peter, our job is to tell people about Jesus, no matter who they are!

Spend a few minutes talking about what you just read by answering these questions:

1. Peter’s message about God’s love was probably surprising to the people who gathered in Cornelius’ house to hear him speak. Who do you think might be surprised to hear that God loves them?

2. How does your treatment of others show that they are just as important to God as you are?

How can we better follow God this week?

As you go about your usual activities this week, look at the people around you. Don’t think about just your friends or family or people that you like; notice everyone. God loves every person you see just as much as He loves you. Knowing that God loves everyone the same means you should too. Every person you meet needs the salvation that Jesus Christ alone can provide. This week, challenge yourself to treat them as He would, no matter who they are or where they come from.

2019 Week 45: Acts 9- Saul’s Conversion

Saul’s Conversion

As a family, read Acts 9:1-31. Afterwards, share the following discussion.

What happened?

In the early parts of the book of Acts, Saul was a very angry man who hated everything that the apostles were doing. He began trying to harm people who followed Christ and wanted to put an end to the church that was growing so quickly. Acts 8:3 says, “But Saul began to destroy the church. Going from house to house, he dragged off both men and women and put them in prison.”

Then one day, God changed Saul forever. Saul was on a trip to Damascus to continue spreading the word that Christians would be punished, when a bright light came down from Heaven. Saul fell to the ground and heard a voice from Heaven say, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” Saul replied, “Who are you, Lord?” It was Jesus talking to Saul! He said, “Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”

The experience caused Saul to go blind. He had to be led to Damascus by his friends. It even says in Acts that he did not eat or drink anything for three entire days.

Then God sent a man named Ananias to Saul to heal him of his blindness. The Lord made it clear that Saul was going to be a man that God would use to spread the gospel to everyone! Ananias did as God told him to do, and Saul was healed immediately.

Right away, Saul started preaching that Jesus is the Son of God. No one could believe that Saul, the man who had persecuted Christians, was now preaching about Jesus. Some people did not like that at all, and they made a plan to kill Saul, but he escaped and went on to Jerusalem. There he kept preaching, and the church became bigger and stronger because of what God was doing in Saul’s life.

Why is this important to us today?

Saul had been against everything that God was for. He dedicated himself to putting an end to Christianity and the church. In spite of that, God chose to use Saul to do incredible things for Him. By changing one man’s life, God changed the world. Saul went on to write books of the Bible, witness to people in all parts of the world, and ultimately die for his faith in Jesus.

When people meet Jesus, He changes their lives. No matter how far away from God some people might seem to be, He still cares about them and wants them to know Him. No one is too far from God. Jesus came to save all people, no matter who they are or what they might have done before. Later in Saul’s life, he wrote, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation: The old has gone, the new has come!” (2 Cor. 5:17). Paul’s life was a powerful example of how Jesus can change anyone’s life.

Spend a few minutes talking about what you just read by answering these questions:

1. Imagine that your family lived in Paul’s day. What kind of conversation would you have about Paul coming to your town before his conversion? What about afterward?

2. How has your life changed as a result of knowing Christ?

How can we better follow God this week?

If God could use Saul, the worst of the worst, then He definitely wants to use you, too. Saul’s only job was to obey what God told him to do. God has plans for your life just as he did for Saul. Will you tell God, “Yes,” when He calls on you? What job has God given you to do? How can you do that job this week? If you are obedient to Him, then there is no limit to what He can do through you!

2019 Week 44: Acts 2- The Birth of the Church

The Birth of the Church

As a family, read Acts 2. Afterwards, share the following discussion.

What happened?

Acts 2 describes the way God sent His Spirit to the disciples who were gathered in an upper room. Since the days of the Old Testament prophets, God had promised that He would pour out His Spirit on His people in order to empower them to do the will of God. Well, the day foretold by the prophet Joel had come, and it had a ripple effect among the people in Jerusalem that spread across the region.

Thousands of people heard the message of Jesus in their own language and chose to believe that He is the Son of God who died for the sins of the world. God formed His church by redeeming people and calling them to do His work. The word church literally means, called out ones or a gathering of those called by God.

Jesus gave the purpose for the church in Matthew 28:19-20: Jesus came and told His disciples, I have been given all authority in Heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.

When Jesus told the disciples that He would always be with them, He was talking about the very thing that happened in this passage – the Holy Spirit came to live inside each and every follower of Christ.

Why is this important to us today?

When we receive Jesus as our Savior, we become part of His church. At that moment, God’s Holy Spirit comes to dwell in us. His Spirit empowers and guides believers, both individually and collectively, as His church. When we obey God and follow the leading of the Spirit, God propels us to do things that we would and could never do with just our own abilities. The church is made up of all believers in Christ, empowered by God through His Holy Spirit.

As part of the church, we have to remember its purpose – to tell others the good news of Jesus Christ. Our mission can be summed up in four words: love God and love people.

Spend a few minutes talking about what you just read by answering these questions:

1. From your memory, how did the disciples and the new church fulfill the mission Jesus gave them?

2. How can your family love God and love others by being part of your local church?

How can we better follow God this week?

God’s church is made up of people who love Him. You can belong to something special by choosing to get involved in your local church. What current service project can you participate in with other members of your church? Have you considered serving together on a children’s ministry team or taking a mission trip as a family? The possibilities are endless. The church is alive and active when we go out and help others.

2019 Week 43: Acts 1 – Jesus’ Ascension

Acts 1 – Jesus’ Ascension

As a family, read Acts 1:6-11 together. Afterwards, share the following discussion.

What happened?

After Jesus rose again, He appeared to his followers several times over the course of forty days. He wanted them to know that He was actually alive. During that time, they asked Him if the time had come for Him to free Israel. As a nation, they had lived under the control of other empires for hundreds of years. They knew that Jesus was more powerful that any ruler on the face of the earth. After seeing Him rise from the dead, they knew He could do anything! So they thought that maybe He would defeat Israel’s enemies and set Himself up as the King of the whole earth. But Jesus told them not to worry about that right now. Instead, He wanted them to focus on a new mission.

In Acts 1:8, Jesus told His followers that their mission was to tell people about Him. They were to start in Jerusalem and then move outside the city to the surrounding areas. But they were not to stop there. Jesus told them to carry His message to the ends of the earth. Jesus knew that was a big job, so He promised to give them His very Spirit to live inside them. The Holy Spirit would give them the strength and courage to carry out their mission.

Then, while they were standing there watching, Jesus disappeared into the sky. He returned to Heaven to be with His Father. Suddenly, two angels appeared and said, “Why are you standing here? Jesus has gone to Heaven, but He will come back some day.” It was as if they were saying, “Don’t stand around staring up into the sky. You have a job to do. Someday Jesus is coming back, and the world needs to hear about Him. So don’t waste time. Get to work!”

Why is this important to us today?

As Jesus’ followers, we too have a mission. He returned to Heaven so that we could be His witnesses. If Jesus stayed on earth, He could be in only one place at a time. But, through his Spirit, Jesus is with every believer, and through us He can reveal Himself to the whole world. But each of us has to make the choice to share Him with our friends and neighbors. We can’t just stand around and idly wait for Him to return. We have a job to do!

Spend a few minutes talking about what you just read by answering these questions:

1. How do you think the disciples felt when Jesus returned to Heaven?

2. How can your family take part in telling others about Christ in your city? In other parts of your country? In other parts of the world?

How can we better follow God this week?

It’s natural to tell others good news. When we get a new game or a new phone or get to go somewhere fun, we can’t wait to tell others about it. Well, there is no greater news than Jesus! He has forgiven us and is preparing a place for us in Heaven. He loves us, provides for us, comforts us, and guides us. He has given us everything we need, and we should share Him with others every chance we get. Pray that God will give your family courage to share Jesus with those around you. Who will you share His message with this week?

2019 Week 42: Luke 24 – Jesus’ Resurrection

Luke 24 – Jesus’ Resurrection

As a family, read Luke 24:13-34 together. Afterwards, share the following discussion.

What happened?

Two of Jesus’ followers were walking from the city of Jerusalem to a town called Emmaus. As they were walking, Jesus appeared to them – the same Jesus who died on a cross three days earlier! But God kept these two followers from recognizing that it was really Jesus who walked with them. They thought He was just a stranger.

The two men were talking about everything that had happened to Jesus. As they looked back, they felt sad because their friend and teacher had died. They felt discouraged because they thought Jesus had come to be the Savior of the world, but now He was gone. They were confused because earlier that day they had heard an astonishing report that Jesus’ body was missing from the tomb and that He was alive again. They weren’t sure what to believe.

At that point, the stranger started teaching from the Old Testament and showed them all the things that were written about Jesus hundreds of years before He was even born. He told them how everything that had just happened was really God’s plan from the very beginning. As He redirected their thoughts about Christ’s suffering and the glory that would follow,the two followers began to understand why Jesus came to die.

When they came to Emmaus, the two men invited the stranger to stay for dinner. As they sat down to eat, they recognized that it was Jesus who was with them. Suddenly, Jesus disappeared! In an instant, He was gone. The two followers got up and went back to Jerusalem to tell the disciples that Jesus was alive!

Why is this important to us today?

Jesus’ resurrection from the dead proves that He is God. That means that His sacrifice on the cross is enough for us to find forgiveness for our sins and all the wrong things we do – the things that separate us from God, who is perfect and without sin. When we place our trust in Him, we can have victory over the power of sin in our lives.

As amazing as that is, there is something else that we can take away from this passage. When bad things happen in our lives, we often lose sight of the big picture. Like the two followers, we lose hope and forget that God is in control. During hard times, we need to remember that God is always working out a bigger plan, even though we may see only a part of it. Knowing that His plan will be accomplished gives us hope to keep going.

Spend a few minutes talking about what you just read by answering these questions:

1. How did everything change for the two followers when they recognized Jesus?

2. How was God in control of Jesus’ death and resurrection?

3. What bigger picture was God working out?

How can we better follow God this week?

Talk about hard times you have gone through or may be facing even now. How have you seen part of the bigger picture in one of those times? How does knowing that God is in control help you trust Him for the outcome?

Before you finish, pray together and ask God to show you how He is working in each of your lives. Thank Him for how He has worked out details in the past.

2019 Week 41: Mark 15 – The Death of Christ

Mark 15 – The Death of Christ

As a family, read Mark 15 together. Afterwards, share the following discussion.

What happened?

Jesus had been healing, teaching, and helping people see their need for a Savior. He revealed to the people of Jerusalem and the surrounding areas that He is God, but now Jesuswas on trial!Pilate was the Roman ruler of Jerusalem. It was his job to decide whether or not Jesus was guilty of a crime deserving of death, as the Jewish leaders demanded. These leaders, so envious of Jesus’ popularity with the people, conspired to ruin His reputation by twisting Jesus’ words in order to turn people against Him.

Pilate wanted to please the crowds. So, he brought a murderer named Barabbas out of prison to see if the people would decide to release him or Jesus. But the people still wanted to crucify Jesus. He was mocked, beaten, and led to a wooden cross that He carried down the streets of Jerusalem to a place outside the city. This path became known as the “Via Dolorosa,” which means the “Way of Suffering.” Jesus and two criminals were hung on crosses for everyone to see.

After several hours, Jesus said the words that changed the world, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” You see, forgiveness was God’s plan from the beginning. Shortly after that, Jesus cried out, breathed His last breath, and died. A centurion overseeing the crucifixion had been observing everything that happened and said, “Truly, this is the Son of God!”

After this terribly sad event came to a close, Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus, leaders who had become believers in Jesus, came and took His body to be buried in a new tomb. Could this really have happened? Could Jesus, who is God, really have died? We will soon see – this is all part of God’s plan for us!

Why is this important to us today?

Jesus is God the Son, and He died for every person who ever lived. No event in the history of the world has had a greater impact on mankind than the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Are you wondering why Jesus would choose to come to earth and die for you? God’s Word gives us the answer: mankind – you and every other person in the world – has a problem called sin. Sin is anything that displeases God. Sin separates us from God and is punishable by death. But God loves us so much that He provided a payment for our sin… that payment is Jesus!

Spend a few minutes talking about what you just read by answering these questions:

1. Ask each person, “What is one thing you’ve done that is sin, deserving of God’s punishment?”

2. How does it make you feel to know that Jesus died in your place for that sin?

How can we better follow God this week?

Have you received God’s gift of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ? Have you prayed and asked God to forgive you of your sin? God is not concerned about the exact words of your prayer because He looks at your heart and wants to know that you really mean what you are saying. God wants you to believe what the Scriptures say: that Christ died for your sins, that He was buried, and that He rose again – for you. In your own words, tell God that you know you have sinned, and you believe that Jesus died in your place to pay for your sins. Ask for His forgiveness for all the wrong things you have done, and tell Him that you want to receive Jesus as your Savior. It’s the most important decision you will ever make.

Discuss if and when each family member made this decision to become a follower of Christ. Talk about the fact that when you receive Christ, God gives you His Holy Spirit to let you know that you are a child of God. The Holy Spirit guides you and helps you understand how to live a life that pleases God.

2019 Week 40: Mark 14 – Jesus’ Last Week and Last Supper

Mark 14 – Jesus’ Last Week and Last Supper

As a family, read Mark 14 together. Afterwards, share the following discussion.

What happened?

Mark 14 gives us an account of the events leading up to the trials and death of Jesus on the cross. We’re going to focus on the Last Supper. Jesus and the disciples gathered in an upper room to celebrate the Passover. Jesus said something to them that was hard to imagine: “Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me – one who is eating with me.” The disciples were deeply saddened and began to question who it could be. Jesus already knew that Judas Iscariot was the one looking for an opportunity to betray Him.

After that, Jesus tore apart a loaf of bread and passed it to His disciples. He told them, “This is my body.” Then He picked up a cup and said, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many.” He was showing them that the bread and wine from the Passover represented the Lord Himself and the sacrifice He was about to make. His body would soon be sacrificed on a cross, and His blood would be shed for all humanity. Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 11:23-26 that the ordinance of the Lord’s Supper is to be observed in remembrance of Christ’s death until He returns.

After they finished eating, Jesus told the disciples they would all “stumble … this night” because of Him. In disbelief, the disciples all said they would never disown Him – no one more passionately than Peter who denied Jesus three times before the night was over.

Why is this important to us today?

No matter how close we are to Christ, sin can still find a way to lure us away from what is right. All the disciples were going to stumble – the very ones closest to Christ! None of them could foresee a circumstance that would lead to their sinning against Him, but they all did.

It may be difficult to think that you or anyone in your family would go against God’s will, but we’re all human. Wrong thoughts, desires, and attitudes can catch us off guard if we’re not careful. As a family, it’s important to talk to each other about what’s happening in your individual lives. God designed our families to be a constant presence of loving support. Because of that, your family should be a constant source of accountability and encouragement to follow Jesus.

Spend a few minutes talking about what you just read by answering these questions together:

1. Why do you think Peter was confident that he would not betray Jesus? Why do you think he failed so soon after pledging his undying loyalty?

2. What influences either help or hinder you in taking a stand for Christ?

How can we better follow God this week?

As a family, try to come up with three “Family Watch” questions that can help keep everyone in check. Focus on attitudes that lead to wrong actions. Agree to hold one another accountable to God and His Word. Don’t be offended if someone in your family asks you about an activity or attitude that doesn’t line up with Scripture. Brainstorm ways you can help one another love and follow Jesus more this week.

2019 Week 39: Matt. 21-Jesus’ Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem and Cleansing of the Temple

Jesus’ Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem and Cleansing of the Temple

As a family, read Matthew 21 together. Afterwards, share the following discussion.

What happened?

About two million people were in the area around Jerusalem for Passover. Jesus and his disciples had been together for about three years. By this time, Jesus was really well known in the area, and many knew of His teachings and miracles. On this particular day, Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey. Many of those people who were in Jerusalem for the Passover celebration began to lay tree branches as well as their coats on the road before Him as He made His way through the streets of Jerusalem. As Jesus passed through the crowds, people shouted, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!” The word Hosanna is a Hebrew word that means, “Save us now!” The people seemed to recognize that Jesus was a special person, but their later actions show that they didn’t truly understand Who He was or what He had come to do.

Almost as quickly as the celebration started, it ended. When Jesus arrived at the temple, you would think that there would be shouts of joy. But when Jesus entered the temple area, He encountered a group of men called moneychangers. These men were “religious” leaders who took advantage of people who needed to purchase sacrifices for the Passover celebration. Jesus was so angry that the worship of God had become a business that He flipped over tables and ran the money changers out of the temple.

Jesus entered Jerusalem on this particular day to reveal Himself as the long-awaited Messiah. His triumphal entry into to Jerusalem and the cleansing of the temple were fulfillments of the Old Testament Scriptures. Over the next few days, Jesus healed many blind and crippled people, but the Jewish leaders became more jealous and afraid. They tried to find a way to have Him arrested. Many of those who had praised Him when He entered Jerusalem earlier in the week now chose to stand with those leaders who rejected Jesus. However, God was going to use everything that happened to accomplish His plan of salvation for the world.

Why is this important to us today?

The moneychangers and Jewish religious leaders didn’t really know or love God. The moneychangers used their religious leadership positions in the temple to take advantage of others and make themselves rich. Jesus reminded them that God’s house was to be a place of prayer. It’s sad to see how the Jewish leaders turned against Jesus and rejected the Messiah of their own Scriptures! Their hearts were so far away from God that they couldn’t recognize Him when He stood in front of them.

Many people today who hear that Jesus is the Son of God still choose not to believe or receive Him as their Savior. When He entered the temple, He looked around and saw clearly what was going on. Jesus can also see what’s going on in our lives. When you receive Christ, you become a temple of the Holy Spirit who gives you the ability to trust and obey God’s Word.

Spend a few minutes talking about what you just read by answering these questions together:

1. What are some things you’ve learned about Jesus by reading this passage?

2. What examples should you follow or not follow from this story?

How can we better follow God this week?

God wants us to keep our hearts clean so we can understand what He says to us from His Word, the Bible. Talk about changes that each of you should make to keep your temple – your heart – clean. How can you use your temple as a place to pray for yourself and for others?

Jesus came to provide a way for our sins to be forgiven and to give us eternal life with Him. Do you believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and only Savior of the world? Have you chosen to become a follower of Christ?

2019 Week 38: John 11-Jesus Raises Lazarus

Jesus Raises Lazarus

As a family, read John 11 together. Afterwards, share the following discussion.

What happened?

This is a very emotional and dramatic story about grief and hope. One of Jesus’ closest friends, Lazarus, was seriously ill. Mary and Martha, his sisters sent word to Jesus, “Lord, the one you love is sick.” It seemed that they had one chance to make things better. All of their hope was riding on Jesus!

But Jesus stayed where He was for a couple of days, knowing full well what would happen. When He finally arrived, Lazarus was already dead. His sisters believed that Lazarus wouldn’t have died if Jesus had come sooner. They were completely overwhelmed with grief. Then, when it seemed that all hope was gone, Jesus chose to act!

Jesus went to see the tomb where Lazarus had been buried and called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” Lazarus walked out of his tomb, wrapped in the clothes he was buried in! As you can imagine, this miracle had a great impact on those who were there. People talked about it everywhere – Jesus of Nazareth had brought a dead man back to life!

Why is this important to us today?

Mary and Martha had been right to put all of their hope in Jesus, but He didn’t do things exactly in the way they thought He would.  Jesus’ friends knew He could do miracles, but when the miracle required the impossible, they began to have doubts. Jesus is all-knowing and all-powerful. He never does anything without a purpose. Jesus chose to delay this trip in order to display His power when He raised Lazarus from the dead. There was no room for doubt; only someone with the power of God could have done this.

Do you sometimes wonder if God can really help with your particular problems? Jesus has not changed; there are no limits on what He knows or what He can do. But keep in mind that God does not work on your timeline. It would be nice to say, “God, I need this or that NOW,” and then – 3, 2, 1…POOF! – it happens. This passage teaches us to trust God, even when we have to wait for Him. He knows the ultimate plan – the one that is best for you and that brings Him glory.

Spend a few minutes talking about what you just read by answering these questions together:

1. Can you name one or more things we learned about Jesus in this chapter?

2. What did you learn about people?

3. As a family, talk about a time when you found it tough to trust God. How does the story of Lazarus help you see that situation differently?

How can we better follow God this week?

God’s plan is always better than ours, but it can be difficult to wait on Him when things get tough. The more you know about Jesus, the more you’ll trust Him. The best way to learn more about the character of God is by reading His Word every day. God never changes, so everything we read about Him in the Bible is still true today.

In what situations are you each waiting on God to act? What did you learn about Jesus today that builds your faith in Him? Will you decide to trust the Lord, no matter how bad things might look?

2019 Week 37: Matt. 14-Jesus Feeds the 5000

Jesus Feeds the 5000

As a family, read Matthew 14:13-21 together.  Afterwards, share the following discussion.

What happened?

The disciples brought the sad news to Jesus that His cousin, John the Baptist, had been killed by King Herod. Jesus asked Peter to get a boat so He and the disciples could get to a quiet place away from the crowds.  It wasn’t long before the people found where He had gone.  Rather than getting upset that His plans were disrupted, Jesus had compassion when He saw the people coming. Knowing that they were like sheep with no shepherd, He began to teach them.

Late in the day, the disciples asked Jesus to send the crowd away so they could buy food and eat.  Jesus said, “You give them something to eat.”  Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, spoke up, “There is a boy here with his lunch.  He has five small loaves of bread and two fish, but what is that among so many?”  The boy gave his little lunch to Jesus.  The people were told to sit on the grass in groups of fifty. Jesus told the disciples to find some baskets, and then He blessed the food.  He broke the loaves of bread into pieces and did the same with the fish.  The baskets were filled, and as the disciples passed the bread and fish, it multiplied until five thousand men were fed.  That doesn’t even count the women and children who also ate, and twelve baskets of food were left over!

Why is this important to us today?

This really happened! Four different men wrote the account of this miracle in the Bible.  Do you realize that Jesus has the same power today as He did when He fed over five thousand people with one boy’s lunch? Think about that.  Although it was very small, Jesus made it huge! In the same way, if we obey Jesus in small things, He will use those little things to make a huge difference in our lives and in the world around us. The disciples learned that Jesus could do anything.  He is God and He loves people. Even when He was sad and wanted some time alone, Jesus still cared for the people who crowded around Him. Jesus cares for you too, just as He did for the people who followed Him that day.

Spend a few minutes talking about what you just read by answering these questions together:

1. What was the disciples’ solution to the huge crowd of people? Why do you think Jesus had a different solution?

2. Can you think of an example where God took some small act and did something big?

How can we better follow God this week?

Like Jesus, we sometimes get bad news or just have a bad day. When that happens, we tend to get selfish with our time and energy. Brainstorm ways that you, as a family and as individuals, can show God’s love and care for the people in your neighborhood, school, and church. Which of these things can you do this week? Which things will take more planning? As a family, commit to love people like Jesus does.  Ask for His help. Don’t forget that little is much if God blesses it.

2019 Week 36: Matt. 6- Jesus Teaches How to Pray

Jesus Teaches How to Pray

As a family, read Matthew 6.  Afterwards, share the following discussion.

What happened?

Jesus was teaching His disciples how to grow in their understanding of God.  In the middle of His Sermon on the Mount, one of the disciples asked a great, but simple question:  “How do we talk to God?”  So, Jesus taught his disciples to pray something like this:

“Father in heaven, holy is your name.

Your kingdom come, and your will be done.

On earth as it is in heaven,

Give us this day our daily bread,

Forgive us our sins as we forgive those that have sinned against us,

And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from the evil one.

For yours is the kingdom, the power, and the glory, Forever. Amen.”

Now, this is the long version from both Matthew 6 and Luke 11.  But each part of the prayer is really powerful.  The first part tells God how great He is – that is worship! In the second part of the prayer, Jesus taught His disciples to simply ask God for what they needed, like daily bread.  Then, in the last part, Jesus taught them to focus on God for strength and direction so they could be obedient to God and follow Him.

Why is this important to us today?

When we pray, we talk to God. God wants us to tell Him when we’re hurt, how we feel, and ask Him for what we need. But the prayer that Jesus modeled isn’t just listing a bunch of things that we want.  Prayer is a conversation with the Lord that involves listening to Him for guidance and direction.

Talking to God allows us to see things the way He sees them.  And when we see things the way God sees them, then we will want to do what God has asked us to do.  In other words, when we talk to God, we learn what God loves, and then we want to do what God loves to do. Jesus wants us to learn to pray, just as He wanted His disciples to learn.

Spend a few minutes talking about what you just read by answering these questions together:

1. Go back and look at the parts of the Lord’s Prayer. Give an example of each part.

2. Why do you think Jesus taught the disciples to praise God at the beginning of prayer? What other examples of praising God for who He is can you think of?

3. What are ways that God speaks to us today?

How can we better follow God this week?

Take time this week before each meal to pray the Lord’s Prayer as a family. Then, think about the parts of this model prayer and put it in your own words. What praise can you give God? What needs do you currently have? In what situation do you need direction and guidance? Then, practice listening for God’s direction as you read Scripture and obey what He tells you to do. If you take this prayer challenge, you will be amazed at how God uses this prayer to help you grow as a follower of Christ!

2019 Week 35: Matt. 5-Jesus Teaching the Crowds

Jesus Teaching the Crowds

As a family, read Matthew 5:1-16.  Afterwards, share the following discussion.

What happened?

Jesus gathered his disciples on a hillside in Galilee, where Jesus was just beginning to become known as a healer and great teacher. Jesus wanted to help his disciples understand what it means to be a follower of Christ.  We call these the “beatitudes” because these are the characteristics that true disciples are to have.  Jesus said:

3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit,

for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

4 Blessed are those who mourn,

for they will be comforted.

5 Blessed are the meek,

for they will inherit the earth.

6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,

for they will be filled.

7 Blessed are the merciful,

for they will be shown mercy.

8 Blessed are the pure in heart,

for they will see God.

9 Blessed are the peacemakers,

for they will be called children of God.

10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,

for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Jesus would go on to say that His disciples are to be the salt and light of the world so that those around them can see the truth of God and follow after Jesus as new believers. By the time Jesus finished His Sermon on the Mount, many people had gathered, and they were all amazed by the words of love, truth, and life that Jesus shared.  Many people that day would give their lives to Christ and would follow Him.

Why is this important to us today?

Have you and your family ever had a family meeting?  You know, one of those meetings called by a parent to talk about a family issue that needs to be addressed.  Mom or Dad, you might tell the kids, “Ok, everyone to the dining room table!”  And here you might need to share some news or make an announcement, or you might just need to let the family know of some new rules or a new chore list that everyone is going to need to participate in.

Well, this passage shows Jesus having a family meeting of sorts. He needed the disciples to know what family they belonged to and what being in that family meant.

If we desire to be followers of Jesus, we must know what He has done for us, what He desires for us, and how He wants us to live.  Jesus’ sermon to His disciples is an incredible message that gives us a look at how we are to follow Jesus.  We have lots of people telling us how we should act and behave, but wouldn’t it be much better if we heard from God on the subject?  That is exactly what Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount is – it is a message from God that is designed to help us follow Jesus closer every day.

Spend a few minutes talking about what you just read by answering these questions together:

1. Look back over verses 3-10; discuss what you think each of these attitudes means. For example, what does it mean to be “meek” or “pure in heart”?

2. Have each family member choose one of the beatitudes that Jesus mentioned. Why is that particular attitude important for a follower of Christ?

How can we better follow God this week?

Many people are only concerned with outward appearance and popularity. But God looks at your heart attitudes.  All the things Jesus talked about in this meeting are inward qualities, not outward actions. But, as you know, heart attitudes affect your actions. Have a quick family meeting right now. Ask each person to identify a personal strength and weakness from today’s passage. Then ask God to help you strengthen the attitudes where you are weak. Remember you’re not in this alone. God has given you His Holy Spirit to help you change to be more like your Savior.

2019 Week 34: Matt. 10-Jesus Calls His Disciples

Jesus Calls His Disciples

As a family, read Matthew 10:1-14 together.  Afterwards, share the following discussion.

What happened?

After the temptation by the devil, Jesus went into cities to teach people about God and tell them what the Scriptures said.  He healed many people, and then He went off by Himself.  He climbed a mountain and He prayed.  Jesus prayed all night.  The next morning Jesus called His followers, choosing twelve of them to be His special helpers. The twelve He chose were also called Apostles. It is interesting to know how Jesus met each of the twelve.

Jesus met Andrew and his brother Simon Peter by the Sea of Galilee.  They were fishermen.  When Jesus called them, they followed Him.  Jesus called two other brothers who were fishermen. Their names were James and John. They left their fishing nets and went with Jesus.

Later Jesus saw a man named Philip. He became one of Jesus’ disciples. One of Philip’s friends, Bartholomew (sometimes called Nathanael) also became one of Jesus’ disciples.

One day Jesus saw Matthew, a tax collector. Matthew left what he was doing and became one of the disciples. Five other disciples were called. They were Thomas, Thaddeus, James the son of Alphaeus, Simon, and Judas Iscariot.

After choosing the twelve, Jesus gave them instructions to go to the Jews and heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, and cast out demons.  He also told them to give freely and trust in God’s care because things would not always be easy. He told them to get ready because they would be the ones who would share the Gospel, God’s good news about Jesus!

Why is this important to us today?

Jesus chose men from different types of families and backgrounds.  Some were educated, some were fishermen, and one was a tax collector.  Each of them wanted to serve Jesus so much that he was willing to give up his life work to help.  These men were with Jesus throughout His earthly ministry. These were the men who saw a dead girl come back to life, a blind man receive his sight, and a lame man walk.  And even more than these miracles, they saw Jesus – Who was crucified and buried – come alive again, fix them breakfast, and talk to them.  Before Jesus went back to Heaven, He said: “Go into the entire world and preach the Gospel to every person.”

If you have received Jesus as your Savior, you are a disciple, a follower of Jesus.  He counts on us to do His work on this earth until He takes us to live in Heaven with Him. Like the Apostles, we come from different kinds of families and backgrounds, but each of us has a unique job to do for Christ.

Spend a few minutes talking about what you just read by answering these questions together:

1. Why do you think Jesus chose people who were different from one another?

2. What job did He give them to do when He left?

3. How can you, too, do the work of a disciple?

How can we better follow God this week?

Jesus loved people and always looked for ways to help and comfort those who were hurting in some way. Who in your life needs your help? Do you know someone who needs a friend? Who needs to know the good news about Jesus? Spend a few minutes brainstorming ways to show the love of Jesus in each situation. As a family, decide on something that each of you will do this week that is the work of a disciple. Finish today by praying for the names you’ve mentioned.

2019 Week 33: Matt. 4-Jesus’ Baptism and Temptation

Jesus’ Baptism and Temptation

As a family, read Matthew 3-4 together. Afterwards, share the following discussion.

What happened?

Jesus started his public ministry around the time He was thirty, and He did so in a truly awesome way.  In Matthew 3, Jesus came down to the Jordan River, where John the Baptist was baptizing people and telling them about how the Messiah was going to come.  Jesus asked John to baptize Him, and after some hesitation, John agreed. As soon as Jesus was baptized, the heavens opened, and God spoke from Heaven and said, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17).  Jesus’ ministry on earth had begun!

Jesus then went into the desert to fast and pray. After forty days, the devil showed up and tempted Jesus three times with three different things.  It’s interesting that the devil didn’t try to tempt Jesus until He was weak from being so hungry and tired.  First, he told Jesus to make himself some bread out of rocks. Then he tried to convince Jesus to jump off a cliff and have the angels save him. Finally, the devil told Jesus that he would grant him all the kingdoms in the world if He would just worship him.

Each time, he offered Jesus something that would make Him feel better or show His awesome power to prove how great He is.  But every time, Jesus refused to fall into the devil’s traps.  Instead, He used Scripture to fight every temptation and to send the devil away.

Why is this important to us today?

Can you imagine going 40 days without food? Jesus must have been really tired and really, really hungry. The devil showed up at the worst time ever.  It would have been so easy for Jesus to throw in the towel and give in. But with every temptation, Jesus responded with Scripture. He knew that Scripture was more powerful than anything the devil was throwing at Him. How did Jesus know what to say? Do you remember what we read last week? Jesus had studied God’s word and memorized it as a young boy. He was able to use it to help fight off temptation from the devil when He needed it most!

By memorizing even the smallest parts of Scripture, God will allow those words to come to our minds when we need them most.  When we are tempted or when we are facing a difficult time, those Scriptures that we’ve memorized will come to our minds first.  Those Scriptures will help us just as they helped Jesus in the desert.

Spend a few minutes talking about what you just read by answering these questions together:

1. Why do you think Scripture had power over the devil?

2. When do you feel tired and weak? What temptations do you feel during those moments?

3. What verses of Scripture could be helpful for each situation mentioned?

How can we better follow God this week?

As you go through your week, try to think of some of the Scripture verses that you have memorized before.  You may not remember the reference or the entire verse word for word, and that’s okay! Just think through the verses you know already.  Maybe as a family, commit to memorizing one new verse a week for the next few weeks and see how you do.

Pray that God will help you as you fight temptation and hard times.  Ask Him to help you as you study His Word and as you try to commit some verses to heart.  Pray that He will bring those verses to your mind this week so that you can stand strong and resist whatever may come your way.

2019 Week 32: Luke 2-Jesus’ Childhood

Jesus’ Childhood

As a family, read Luke 2:41-52 together. Afterwards, share the following discussion. 

What happened?

When Jesus was twelve years old, He and his family traveled about eighty miles from their hometown in Nazareth to the city of Jerusalem to attend the Passover festival.  It probably took about three days for them to get there.  After the seven-day celebration was over, the family started home, but Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem – without His parents knowing.  Eventually, they realized He was missing.  Imagine what Mary and Joseph must have felt in that moment.  They were chosen by the Creator of the universe to raise the Son of God, and somehow, they managed to lose Him!  Needless to say, they were probably quite frazzled as they began to search for Him among their relatives and friends.  When they still couldn’t find Him, they finally returned to Jerusalem to search for Him there.

After three days of looking and retracing their steps, Mary and Joseph finally discovered Him in the temple sitting among the religious teachers, listening to them and asking questions.  Mary was upset with Him for making them so worried, but Jesus said, “Why did you need to search?  Didn’t you know that I must be in my Father’s house?”  They then returned home to Nazareth, where Jesus grew in four key areas of life.  He grew in wisdom, in stature, in favor with God, and in favor with the people around him.

Why is this important to us today?

Those who heard Jesus in the temple were amazed at His answers and His understanding of the Scriptures. Even at a young age, Jesus provided a wonderful example for all young people to follow. His priority was to know and do the will of His Father in Heaven. As He was growing up, He studied the Scriptures, was obedient to His parents, and learned a skill to support Himself.  As He grew physically, He also grew in wisdom, in His relationship with His Father, and in His relationships with the people around Him. Since this passage of Scripture is the only account that we have of Jesus’ early years, we don’t have many details of His youth. However, we do know that He lived a perfect life, because eighteen years later, His Father said, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”

Spend a few minutes talking about what you just read by answering these questions together:

1. Why do you think Jesus chose to stay behind in Jerusalem?

2. How did the time Jesus spent in the temple help Him grow?

3. How are you making God’s Word and knowing His will a priority?

How can we better follow God this week?

Invite family members to talk about how they are making their faith their own.  Does each person have a time set aside to read the Bible and pray? Does each person actively listen during the church service?  Taking notes, asking questions, reading and re-reading can help us personalize and apply all that we learn from God’s Word. Then, like Jesus, we too will grow in wisdom, in our relationship with God, and in our connections with the people around us.  What will you do differently this week in order to grow in wisdom and in your relationships with God and the people around you?

2019 Week 31: Luke 2-Jesus the Greatest Gift Ever

Jesus the Greatest Gift Ever

As a family, read Luke 2:1-20. Afterwards, share the following discussion.

What happened?

God’s people had been waiting and waiting for the Messiah, the person who would rescue them and be their king. Here in Luke chapter 2, we see the long-awaited birth of Jesus. God arranged circumstances in the lives of Mary and Joseph in order for Jesus to be born in Bethlehem, fulfilling prophecy regarding the birth of Israel’s Messiah. The Lord didn’t send hosts of angels to the highest ranks of Jerusalem to announce the Messiah’s birth; instead, angels appeared to a group of shepherds nearby. They filled the sky and proclaimed, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.”  The shepherds were so amazed by the sight that they left their sheep and ran to find the baby in the manger. They couldn’t have fully understood what was taking place, but the astonishing events of the evening caused them to praise and glorify God, telling everyone about what they had experienced.

Why is this important to us today?

The name Jesus actually means “the Lord saves!” It’s no wonder that God chose this name to give to His Son because He came to save people from their sins. When the angels proclaimed “peace on earth,” they were announcing that peace between God and mankind would now be possible through Jesus.

All of us are born with a problem called sin. God hates sin because it separates us from Him. People have tried many things all throughout history to get rid of sin. They have created false gods, tried to work hard, and attempted to do more good than bad. But God sent Jesus because there’s nothing we can do that is good enough or great enough to pay the price for our sin. Jesus is the only One who can remove our sin and create peace between God and us. Jesus, who never sinned or did anything wrong, came to pay the price for our sin. If we believe that Jesus is the solution for our sin problem, and the only solution, then we can have a relationship with God and even go to Heaven one day!

Spend a few minutes talking about what you just read by answering these questions together:

1. Why do you think it was important that Jesus came?

2. What are some of the wrong or sinful things people do?

3. How did the shepherds react to the birth of Jesus? How have you had a similar response to Jesus?

How can we better follow God this week?

In a few short months, we will celebrate Christmas.We all love getting gifts; few of us would refuse to accept something picked out just for us.  Well, over two thousand years ago, God gave us the greatest gift ever in Jesus! Have you accepted God’s gift of Jesus? Deciding to follow Jesus is the best decision you will ever make. Ask the members of your family who have accepted Jesus as their Savior to name one or two ways He has made a difference in their lives.

Who in your life needs the gift of Jesus? This week, look for an opportunity to give that person a gift. It can be a teacher, a friend, or even someone who makes fun of you. This can be a great way to tell them about Jesus or to invite them to come to church this week.

2019 Week 30: Luke 1-John the Baptist

John the Baptist

As a family read Luke 1:5-25; 57-80. Afterwards, share the following discussion.

What happened?

Zechariah was a priest who served God in the temple. He and his wife Elizabeth loved God and were faithful in serving Him. They had been married for a very long time and were getting older, but they didn’t have any children. In their culture, not having children was looked down on. In fact, people thought Elizabeth must have displeased God in some way.

God’s plan was to give them a son in their old age, but the way they learned about it was very unusual. The angel Gabriel spoke to Zechariah while he was serving in the temple. The angel told him that he and Elizabeth would have a son, and they were to name him John. He would be a miracle! God also let Zechariah and Elizabeth know that He had a very special plan for John – he would help many of God’s people come back to Him even though they had gone away. John would also let people know that the Messiah, Jesus, was coming!

Zechariah found the news very difficult to believe. After all, he and Elizabeth were old enough to be grandparents! Gabriel told Zechariah that because he didn’t believe what he had been told, he wouldn’t be able to speak until John was born; and that’s exactly what happened. Everyone who heard about John’s birth knew that the Lord had something special for John to do.

Why is this important to us today?

God had a plan for John even before he was born. God told John’s parents what that plan was, and they helped him grow up to be all that God wanted him to be. Zechariah and Elizabeth weren’t perfect; Zechariah proved that by doubting what Gabriel told him. But it was still important for John to listen to his parents. Also, it was important for Zechariah and Elizabeth to listen to the Lord and follow what He told them to do. As Zechariah and Elizabeth obeyed God, and John obeyed his parents, God’s plan for John was accomplished.

The same is true today. Parents play a huge role in helping their kids be all that God has designed them to be. Children learn how to honor the Lord as their parents demonstrate a lifestyle of love and service to God. As parents discipline and guide their kids through the ups and downs of everyday life, God’s plan for each child begins to unfold. Like John, God has a unique plan for each person. God uses parents and other godly adults to help kids discover exactly what God wants them to do in life.

Spend a few minutes talking about what you just read by answering these questions together:

1. If you had nothing to hold you back, what would you want to be when you grow up?

2. Why do you think God uses parents to help their kids be all that He wants them to be? How have you seen this to be true in your own family?

How can we better follow God this week?

Kids, God wants you to honor and obey your parents, even when it’s hard, and even though they aren’t perfect. Honoring and obeying them shows that you honor and obey God. Parents, your children will follow what you do far more than simply what you say. Your commitment to honor and obey God sets an example for our kids and provides you with wisdom in your relationship with them.

No family is perfect. Parents mess up from time to time, and kids sometimes disobey. Ask each other’s forgiveness for mistakes that have taken place this week or in the past. Take turns naming things you can do to better honor God in your parent-child relationships. Then, pray together, asking God to help each member of the family love and honor Him.

2019 Week 29: Ezra 3-Israel’s Return from Exile

Israel’s Return from Exile

As a family, read Ezra 3 together. Afterwards, share the following discussion.

What happened?

Ezra 3:11 With praise and thanks, Israel sang this song to the Lord: “He is so good! His faithful love for Israel endures forever!” Then all the people gave a great shout, praising the Lord because the foundation of the Lord’s temple had been laid.

This verse is an incredible picture of what God did in the lives of the Israelites. But to fully understand how great it is, we must first understand what happened before the temple construction began. In the first chapter of Ezra, we learn that King Cyrus of Persia was stirred by God to let the Israelites go back to the land that God had promised to them way back in the book of Exodus. (Persia is the location of modern-day Iraq, Syria, and Turkey.) Cyrus ruled all of this land. The Israelites had been exiled across Persia for 70 years without any place to call their own. But they knew that one day God would allow them to return to the land that He had promised them.

Finally, God spoke to the heart of King Cyrus, impressing him to allow Israel’s return to Jerusalem. As the Israelites returned, they began rebuilding the temple – the place where God’s presence had lived among His people. Israelites came back from all over Persia. It was like a huge family reunion. Every man over 20 years old worked on the temple. God’s people rejoiced because they were finally coming back to Jerusalem. God had not forgotten them. “His faithful love for Israel endures forever!”

Why is this important to us today?

Israel had been in captivity in Persia because of disobedience to the Lord. When God disciplines His children, there is always a lesson to be learned. God wanted Israel to turn to Him and repent from their sins. They needed faith that He would provide for them and guide them, even in the middle of a very difficult time.
They had been without a land to call their own for generations. The opportunity to go back home after so long must have flooded them with emotion. But God didn’t just send them home to do as they pleased – He gave them a job to do. The work on the temple was the first priority. It was the outward symbol of their love for God and would once again provide the place to worship Him as He had instructed. Israel was wandering and homeless as a nation for generations, but this caused them to rely more on God and to trust that He would guide them.

Spend a few minutes talking about what you just read by answering these questions together:

1. What do you think God wanted the Israelites to learn while they were in exile?

2. Any Israelite under 70 years old had never seen Jerusalem. How do you think they felt as they made their way back to a home where they had never lived?

3. In what area of your life do you feel alone or on your own right now? What lesson are you learning during this time?

How can we better follow God this week?

Perhaps the best lesson to consider this week is that God is always faithful, loving, and in control. Make a commitment to look to the Lord for guidance in each situation you face. Our biggest challenges in life are opportunities to learn to trust and rely on the Lord. He loves you and has a plan for your life. God is in control, even when life seems out of control. For what situation do you need to trust the Lord this week?

2019 Week 28: 2 Kings 25-The Israelites Lose the Temple

The Israelites Lose the Temple 

As a family, read 2 Kings 25:1-21 together. Afterwards, share the following discussion.

What happened?

The events in this week’s Scripture reading happened during one of the most discouraging times in Israel’s history.  Remember that the nation of Israel is God’s chosen people.  God would use Israel to reveal Himself and provide a Savior to all mankind.  But in today’s passage, that plan seemed impossible because Israel had been fighting against the Babylonian Empire.  In fact, the Babylonians had put Jerusalem under siege for over three years.  You see, the city of Jerusalem is completely surrounded by walls, which meant the Babylonians could not get into the city to fight the Israelites.  So, the Babylonians blocked the city from getting any food or supplies.

After three years, the city of Jerusalem was totally out of food.  King Zedekiah fled the city with all his men through a break in the city walls, leaving his city and his people in the hands of the Babylonians.  That was a despicable thing for a king to do.  But the Babylonians caught and punished the king.

And – just when you thought things were bad enough for the Israelites – it got worse!  Years later, King Nebuchadnezzar sent his captain to destroy the temple in Jerusalem, Israel’s most prized possession and location. The captain spread relics and pieces of the temple across all of the Babylonian Empire to make an example of the Israelites, preventing them from worshiping as God intended. The Israelites then found themselves without a home or place to worship. This week’s story ends here, but the big story that God is writing about the Israelites is far from over.

Why is this important to us today?

The people of Israel lost everything – their homes, their temple, their king – their entire way of life was wiped away. Surely their faith was tested, wasn’t it?  When we learn that Israel loses its most prized possession, the temple, what comes to mind? Let’s put it into today’s context.  What if our church building burned to the ground, and we couldn’t meet together anymore?  Wouldn’t that be terrible? But it was even more than that for Israel. The temple was the place where God’s presence came to meet with His people. Without the temple, the average person had no way to communicate with God. It was an important place!  As followers of Christ, we live daily in the presence of God through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. We are the temple of God!

Spend a few minutes talking about what you just read by answering these questions together:

1. Where and how do you meet with God and enjoy His presence?

2. What does having faith in God mean to you?  Does this mean that you follow God only when times are easy or also when they are tough?

3. What do you think would happen to your faith in God if you lost everything you knew and loved?  Would it be tested and strengthened, or would you become weak and not follow God?

How can we better follow God this week?

Sometimes we don’t truly appreciate what we have until it’s gone. Stop right now and talk with one another about the blessings God has given each of you.

Did anyone in your family express gratitude for living in the presence of God? How does knowing He is always with you affect your thoughts or attitude about the upcoming week?

Throughout this week, look for ways that God is blessing you. Make a commitment to thank Him each day for at least one thing He’s provided in your life. Being continually thankful will keep you mindful of His continual presence.

2019 Week 27: 1 Kings 18-Elijah and Israel at Mount Carmel

Elijah and Israel at Mount Carmel

As a family, read 1 Kings 18 together. Afterwards, share the following discussion.

What happened?

In 1 Kings 18, the nation of Israel was in the third year of a terrible famine (not much food) and drought (not much water), which had been caused by King Ahab’s decisions to do evil and worship false gods. When the Lord decided to end the famine and drought, He instructed His prophet Elijah to go see King Ahab. After he did that, God would send rain.

On the way to meet Ahab, Elijah saw Obadiah, Ahab’s official. He was looking for grass for Ahab’s animals. After some convincing, Obadiah went to tell Ahab that Elijah was there. Elijah asked the king to bring people from all over Israel, as well as the prophets of the gods Baal and Asherah, to Mount Carmel. Ahab sent word, and the people and prophets gathered there.

The people had been torn between following Baal and following the Lord God. So, Elijah issued a challenge to see whose god was the true God. Two altars would be made for sacrifices, one for Elijah and one for the prophets of Baal. However, neither altar would be lit; instead, each group would call upon their god to light the fire. The god that answered the call would prove to be the true God.

The prophets of Baal went first. They began to pray and shout and dance, calling to Baal and asking him to send fire. They did this from morning until night, but the fire never came. After trying all day, Elijah finally stopped them and took his turn. He had the people help him build an altar of wood and stone; then he dug a trench around it. He placed a bull on the altar and instructed that four large jars of water be poured over the altar. He asked them to do it again and then again. After all 12 jars had been emptied on the altar, the wood and the bull were soaked. Even the trench was filled with water. Elijah prayed, “Lord God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, let it be known this day that You are God in Israel and I am Your servant, and that I have done all these things at Your word. Hear me, O Lord, hear me, that this people may know that You are the Lord God, and that You have turned their hearts back to You again” (I Kings 18:36b-37, NKJV). God sent fire, and it burned up the wood, the stones, the bull, the ground around it, and even the water! The people fell on their faces, saying they now knew that the Lord is the true God. God then sent rain, and the drought ended.

Why is this important to us today?

The nation of Israel was stuck in the middle of two gods, two beliefs, and two paths to go down. For a while, many had chosen to simply sit and not follow in either direction. Others followed Baal and rejected God completely. The Israelites needed a clear reminder that God is real, that He is all-powerful, and that He is the only one who deserves worship. As we continue to look through the Old Testament, we’ll see more examples of the Israelites being tempted to follow things other than God.

Even today, many people struggle with who or what to follow. But we have the advantage of reading in the Bible all the examples of God’s power and might. There is only one who can tell us what is right and wrong, and that is God.

Spend a few minutes talking about what you just read by answering these questions together:

1. God showed Himself all-powerful over and over again. Why do you think the Israelites strayed away from the Lord so many times?

2. Who or what do people follow today other than the Lord? How can you avoid doing the same thing?

How can we better follow God this week?

This week, think about the experience of Elijah on Mount Carmel. When you have a choice to make, think of the Israelites and their mistake of following the wrong thing. Remember what God has already told us to do through His Word. Don’t be wishy-washy when you’re faced with right and wrong. If you know the right thing to do, do it! If you don’t know, look in the Bible and see what it says. We can trust the Word of God to help us follow Him. The Lord has given us Scripture so we will know how to live.

2019 Week 26: 1 Kings 12- The Kingdom Divides

The Kingdom Divides

As a family, read I Kings 12 together. Afterwards, share the following family discussion.

What happened?

Rehoboam became King of Israel after his father, Solomon, died.  Jeroboam had served as a project leader for Solomon. Through the prophet Ahijah, God told Jeroboam that because of Solomon’s disobedience, He would divide the kingdom after Solomon died and make Jeroboam king over ten of the twelve tribes of Israel.  When Solomon heard this, he tried to have Jeroboam killed, so Jeroboam fled to Egypt.  When Solomon died, Jeroboam returned.

Before crowning Rehoboam king, Jeroboam and some of the leaders of Israel promised Rehoboam that they would be loyal to him if he would lighten the harsh labor demands and the heavy taxes Solomon imposed on them during a massive building campaign. Rehoboam asked them for a few days to think about their request. He went to the older men who had counseled with his father and asked for their advice. They advised him to listen to the leaders and not increase the load on the people. But Rehoboam rejected their advice and asked the opinion of the young men who had grown up with him and were now his advisors. They told him to do the opposite and increase the load on the people!  When Rehoboam announced his decision, the people rejected Rehoboam as their king. Israel revolted and split into two separate nations.  Jeroboam became king over the ten northern tribes, and Rehoboam remained king over the two southern tribes.

Why is this important to us today?

Rehoboam rejected the advice of the older, wiser men.  He gave in to the pressure of his friends, and the outcome was disastrous for both Rehoboam and the entire nation of Israel. This story illustrates something very important – the people around us have a tremendous influence on our lives. Their words, attitudes, and actions can shape our lives, either in a good way or a bad way.  We should be very careful about who we let influence us.  We should be careful to choose friends who will help us make wise choices and encourage us in our relationship with God, and avoid friends who will influence us in a bad way.

Spend a few minutes talking about what you just read by answering these questions together:

Why do you think Rehoboam rejected the advice of the older, wiser men and instead followed the advice of his friends? What older and wiser people has God placed in your life? How have they influenced you to make wise decisions and to please the Lord?

How can we better follow God this week?

Take turns, allowing each family member to talk about their closest friends. Who are the biggest influences on your lives?  Are they wise, according to the Bible?  Are they people who encourage you in your relationships with God? In what way?  Talk about how you can help one another find healthy friendships and avoid unhealthy ones. Close your time together by praying for your friendships.

2019 Week 25:1 Kings 6, 8 – Solomon Builds The Temple

1 Kings 6, 8 – Solomon Builds The Temple

As a family, skim over 1 Kings 6, and read Chapter 8 together. Afterwards, share the following discussion.

What happened?

King David loved God very much.  In fact, he loved him so much that he came up with the idea to build a temple, or house of worship for God. You remember that God’s people had worshipped Him before in the desert in a tent called “the Tabernacle.” Well, David had the idea to build a permanent building in Jerusalem to honor God.

It was a great idea, but God told David that He wanted his son, Solomon, to build it instead. David’s job was to gather the building materials and plans for the temple in his last years as king.

King David finally died, and his son Solomon became king over all of Israel. He was very wise and talented. He accepted God’s instruction to build the temple. It was a huge project! Tens of thousands of Jews labored on the project, cutting huge stones from quarries, bringing expensive lumber from other nations, building the structure, and designing all the furniture and decorations. You can read the incredible details in chapters 5 and 6. Finally, after seven years of construction, the temple was completed.

A great building like this needed a “Grand Opening” ceremony. Solomon, the leaders of the tribes of Israel, and the priests led a huge parade through town. They carried the Ark of the Covenant (the wooden chest covered with gold, containing the two stone tablets inscribed with the Ten Commandments) through the streets and into the new temple. The ark was to be kept permanently in the Holy of Holies, a special room in the temple where God’s presence would reside.

The priests made sacrifices to honor God. Then, Solomon led a service and made a long speech about the importance of God’s temple. Afterward, he prayed a special prayer of dedication for the temple. The people were so excited about God’s new temple that they feasted for fourteen days in celebration!

Why is this important to us today?

The temple was an awesome building. But more amazing is that God said He would live there so that He could be close to His people. Solomon understood how big God is. He prayed, “But will God really live on earth?” Solomon knew that God didn’t need this building – He is bigger than heaven and earth! But God had chosen to meet with His people in this place.

This wasn’t the first or last time God did that. Years earlier we remember that God led His people out of Egypt and into the Promised Land. On the way through the desert, God gave His people the Tabernacle, a place He could meet with them. Now He would meet them in this temple building. The temple was a place God’s people could serve Him, bring sacrifices to Him, and worship Him.

Years later God chose a more spectacular way to meet with His people. He sent His Son Jesus to come in a human body to live on earth for 33 years (John 1). But the best was yet to come! Once Jesus died, was buried, and then rose again, He left earth for Heaven – and He sent God the Holy Spirit to live INSIDE of every Christian!

You see, it’s great to go to a building like a temple – or a church – to meet God with His people. But God doesn’t live in a building. He lives inside of YOUR life if you are a member of His family. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 6:19 that “your BODY is the temple of the Holy Spirit.”

Spend a few minutes talking about what you just read by answering these questions together:

God gave King David, Solomon, and the people different jobs regarding the building of the temple. How was each task important? Why do you think it was necessary for God’s people to have a place to meet with God? How should you treat your body, knowing that it is God’s temple?

How can we better follow God this week?

You, as a follower of Christ, are God’s temple. So,

  • Thank God this week that He lives in your life. Remember every day that He is with you, and think about how amazing that is.
  • Treat each of your Christian family members and friends as “temples” of God! Treat them with kindness and honor since God lives with them, too.
  • Be careful you are not doing anything that would dishonor your body or life, since it is where God lives.

Paul says it best in 1 Corinthians 6:20 “Glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.”

2019 Week 24: 1 Sam. 16-David Anointed King

As a family, read 1 Samuel 16 together.  Afterwards, share the following family discussion.

What happened?

But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or at his physical stature, because I have refused him.  For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

David was the youngest son of Jesse and a shepherd boy.  He spent much of his time in the fields tending to sheep. He led, fed, and protected them. At the same time, Israel had a king named Saul who had been disobedient to God. So God commissioned His prophet, Samuel, to anoint a new king for Israel.  Anointing ceremonies were how God showed that a person was being set apart to accomplish His will. In this case, God would crown David as King of Israel, a role that was to be used for the holy purposes of the Lord.

Samuel was told by God to go to Jesse’s house and anoint one of his sons, making him king.  Samuel knew Saul well and was concerned about what Saul might do if he found out what was going on. Still, Samuel did as God had told him and went to Jesse’s home in Bethlehem.

Samuel inspected each of Jesse’s sons but focused on their outward appearance. God guided Samuel as he looked over each one. Samuel inspected the height, strength, and posture of each son. But God told Samuel that He does not focus on the outward appearance; instead, He looks at the heart. Samuel rejected every son that Jesse put before him and asked if there were any other sons. Finally, David was brought from the field where he had been tending the sheep. When Samuel saw David, he knew He was the one chosen by God to lead His people.  Soon after David was anointed, Saul summoned him to serve as armor bearer. David had been set apart by God, but it would be some time before he would rule over Israel as king.

Why is this important to us today?

God had to change Samuel’s view of what a king looked like. You see, Saul was very tall and impressive to look at. In Samuel’s mind, the person who replaced Saul would have to appear “kingly.” But God was interested in whether the king followed and obeyed Him, not if he impressed the people. David, the young shepherd boy, may not have looked like a king, but he was “a man after [God’s] own heart” (Acts 13:22).

Each of us may feel insignificant at times. When you look in a mirror, you may see an ordinary person.  But when the Lord is the center of your life, extraordinary things can happen. God desires to use each of us to accomplish His will. We, like Samuel, can get caught up in the wrong things and miss what God considers to be important.

Spend a few minutes talking about what you just read by answering these questions together:

What things do you think are important to God? Do you know individuals who display these characteristics in their lives? How has God used them? Take some time to discuss how focusing on the wrong things can lead you in a wrong direction.

How can we better follow God this week?

Go back over the things you identified as being important to God. Have one family member write them down.  Which of these characteristics do you see in the members of your family? Ask for volunteers to share which characteristic they need to work on the most. Discuss what steps would help develop that area in each person’s life. As you close, ask these questions to yourself:

  • Do I spend more time focusing on my outward appearance or on the condition of my heart?
  • Who do I want to impress the most, the people around me, or the Lord?
  • What ungodly attitude have I allowed to stay in my heart?

Close in prayer, asking God to give each person in your family a heart that pleases and honors the Lord.

2019 Week 23:1 Samuel 8-10 – Israel Gets a King

1 Samuel 8-10 – Israel Gets a King

As a family, read 1 Samuel 8 and 10 together.  Afterwards, share the following family discussion.

What happened?

The nation of Israel was unique – they were God’s chosen people, God’s valued possession.  God wanted to use Israel’s faith to reveal His great love for the rest of the world.

However, in the chapters we read today, Israel was questioning how God was leading them.  The Israelites looked around at their neighbors and saw that other countries had kings leading them. They didn’t recognize that God Himself was leading them. He led them out of Egypt, out of the wilderness, and into victory against many nations that were physically stronger than Israel.  But all those nations didn’t have faith in God – instead, they submitted to human kings.

The people of Israel wanted to have a king so they could be like the nations they saw around them.  They went to Samuel, a prophet and priest, to bring their request to God. He warned Israel that living under the authority of a king wasn’t nearly as good as answering directly to God.  Human kings made mistakes and could lead them in directions that were wrong or harmful. But Israel insisted. So Samuel prayed and took Israel’s request to God.

God told Samuel something interesting: give Israel what they wanted.  So Samuel began his search for a king. But God would bring Samuel the man He desired to lead Israel. Saul was the son of a wealthy man in Israel. He was responsible for his father’s livestock. One day, his father’s donkeys were missing. Saul and some of his men went searching for them. They could not find the donkeys, but during their search they were pointed to the house of a man who had a reputation for always being right in what he said.

Saul arrived at the man’s house. That man happened to be Samuel. When Samuel met Saul, he knew that this was the man God wanted to be king of Israel. So Samuel anointed Saul as Israel’s first king. Then Samuel said to all the people, “This is the man the Lord has chosen as your king. No one in all Israel is like him!”

And all the people shouted, “Long live the king!”

Why is this important to us today?

God gave Israel what they wanted – a king.  They would go on to have many kings.  But just as God warned, some of their kings became selfish and power hungry and led them away from following God’s laws. With each bad king the people had to decide if they would follow God’s way or the king’s commands. For generations Israel struggled through good kings and bad kings, suffering the consequences of their forefathers and demanding to have their own way rather than following what God said was best for them.

The time and culture in which we live is very different from Israel in this account, but we have to make a similar decision every day – either follow God’s directions or demand our own way. God desires to be the Lord of your life, just as He did in the lives of the Israelites.  He is the only one who will never mislead you or subject you to harm. God can be trusted because He never acts out of selfishness. All of God’s commands and directions are for our good.

But like Israel, we sometimes demand our own way. When we do, God may choose to let us have what we want; but we’ll suffer the consequences of stepping outside of His will.

Spend a few minutes talking about what you just read by answering these questions together:

Why did the people ask Samuel for a king? How would God’s plan have been better for Israel? Share a time when you did what you wanted rather than follow God’s instructions. What were the consequences? How would God’s plan have been better?

How can we better follow God this week?

It’s important to encourage one another, as a family, to follow the Lord. Like Israel, you can be influenced by people around you to do what they do rather than follow what God has told you to do.

This is a great time to craft a family mission statement.  A good example of this is found in Joshua 24:15 where Israel was told by Joshua not to follow the ways of others. Joshua declared, “As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”

Take some time to talk about what serving God means to each of you. As a family, what is your “mission” for the Lord? Have one member of the family write down what you come up with and post it on the refrigerator or another prominent place in your home. It will serve as a daily reminder that your family has committed to following Jesus and His leadership – not demanding your own way.

2019 Week 22: Ruth 3-4-Ruth and Boaz

Ruth and Boaz

As a family, read Ruth 3-4.  Afterwards, share the following family discussion.

What Happened?

This is the story of a Moabite woman named Ruth who left her family, her country, and her country’s idols because she wanted to be identified with God’s land and God’s people.  She had chosen to place her trust in the God of Israel.

A wealthy, influential man named Boaz arrived from Bethlehem and greeted the workers in his barley field.  On that same day, Ruth was gleaning the leftover grain from the fields so that she and Naomi, her mother-in-law, would have food to eat.  She “happened” to select a field belonging to Boaz.

When Boaz noticed Ruth, he asked his foreman who she was. The foreman told him that Ruth was the Moabitess who came back with Naomi; she had asked permission to gather leftover grain. Boaz had heard about her kindness to Naomi and spoke graciously to Ruth, letting her know that she could continue to stay with his servant girls and gather grain throughout the harvesting season.

Upon returning home, Ruth told Naomi about Boaz’s kindness. Naomi praised Boaz for his kindness, telling Ruth that he was their close relative. A short time later, Naomi instructed Ruth to go to the threshing floor to let Boaz know that she wanted him to be her kinsman-redeemer. This term referred to a close male relative who could act on behalf of a family member in need, rescuing or delivering them from whatever trouble they were facing. Ruth did as Naomi had instructed her, and Boaz told her that he would follow God’s directions for a kinsman-redeemer and do what he could to make that happen.

Later that same day, Boaz obtained the right to redeem Naomi’s husband’s property and acquire Ruth as his wife. Boaz was willing to obey God’s instructions concerning a kinsman-redeemer, and in doing so, he obtained God’s blessing in ways he could not have imagined.  He would become the great-grandfather of David, the future king of Israel, as well as one of the ancestors of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Why is this important to us today?

The book of Ruth is an incredible story of how God rewarded a family for their faithfulness and obedience to God. Ruth and Boaz were married.  In God’s time He sent them a son named Obed.  He had a son named Jesse, and Jesse was the father of David who would become one of Israel’s greatest kings.  Through King David would come the Messiah, Jesus Christ who is the King of kings. Ruth’s faith allowed her to be of great significance in Israel’s history as well as in the history of the world. Because of her faithfulness, she was used by God to further His plan for the world – she was blessed and became a blessing to both Jews and Gentiles.

The story of Ruth is a great reminder that it is our faith that both pleases God and blesses our lives. Every day you make hundreds of decisions. Some of them, like what you eat for breakfast or what you wear, might not have a huge impact on your life. However, some of the decisions you made today were more significant. Maybe you had to decide whether you would trust God to solve a problem or take it into your own hands. Or, maybe you chose to be honest when you could have lied and stayed out of trouble. But the biggest decision you’ll ever make is to become a follower of Jesus Christ.

Spend a few minutes talking about what you just read by answering these questions together:

What decisions brought Ruth the honor of being the great-grandmother of King David and an ancestor of Jesus? In what ways was Ruth’s life changed because she decided to place her faith in the God of Israel?  What decision have you made this week that made your faith stronger? What decision could impact others to have faith in Christ? 

How can we better follow God this week?

Faith and obedience to God can change your life!  When you faithfully follow Him, your life will be blessed, and you’ll be a blessing to the people around you.  How can you better follow Jesus and faithfully obey Him this week? Take turns sharing situations in which you each need to trust God. What decisions are family members facing this week? How does your faith in Christ affect those decisions?

God sent Jesus to save a world full of sinners. This may be the perfect time for you to ask Jesus to forgive your sins and come into your life. Have you done that? If you have, remember to trust God with whatever He brings into your life.

2019 Week 21: Judges 2-God Uses Judges to Keep Israel Holy


God Uses Judges to Keep Israel Holy

As a family, read Judges 2 together.  Afterwards, share the following discussion.

What Happened?

Many generations before the time of the Judges, God made a covenant with Abraham (Genesis 12:1-3).  A covenant is an agreement between two people – in this case an agreement or promise with specific conditions between God and Israel (Deuteronomy 28:9).

What was God’s covenant to the children of Israel?  He would give them the Promised Land and would bless and protect them as they settled into this new home. God wanted His people to love and follow only Him. Therefore, He commanded that they destroy all of their meaningless false idols.

The children of Israel arrived and began to settle in the land God had promised. They were faithful to God during Joshua’s life. But when Joshua and the generation of adults who experienced the great works of God died, the next generation did not know or love God.  Instead of obeying God, they abandoned God’s rules. They made friends with nations that didn’t know the true God and worshipped their idols.

God was very angry with the Israelites for not obeying Him. He punished them by allowing the pagan countries to attack Israel and steal their possessions. When they went to battle with the surrounding countries, God did not protect them. He brought disaster on them just as He had promised.

Although the children of Israel did not love God or keep His rules, God still loved them. When the Israelites cried out to God because of their suffering, God listened to their prayers. Each time, God sent a judge (a leader) to rescue them and remind them of God’s laws.  While a judge ruled over the Israelites, God protected them; but when that judge died, the children of Israel returned to their sinful ways.

This cycle continued throughout the book of Judges.  When the children of Israel refused to obey God, He punished them. They cried out to God to help them, and then God sent a judge to rescue them.  After that, Israel enjoyed a period of peace from their enemies. However, they soon forgot God, and the cycle began again.

Why is this important to us today?

We are just like the Israelites. We have a difficult time obeying God’s rules. Disobeying God is called sin.  Just as God loved the Israelites and sent a judge to rescue them from their sin, God has a plan for you and me.  He loves us so much that He sent His Son Jesus Christ down to earth to die for our sins.  Jesus died on the cross, was buried, and rose from the grave three days later.  After His resurrection, He walked on the earth for forty more days. He then went up to Heaven where He is preparing a home for all who ask Him into their lives.  Being a follower of Jesus doesn’t mean you’ll never sin again, but it does mean that God is always with you to show you the difference between what is right and what is wrong. Following Jesus gives you a desire to follow God’s instructions.

Have you asked Jesus to be your Savior? If so, the Holy Spirit lives inside of you and will convict you when you disobey God. As a child of God, He will make you very uncomfortable when you choose sin over Him. His commands always have our best interest at heart.

Spend a few minutes talking about what you just read by answering these questions together:

Think back on today’s Bible story. Why do you think the young Israelites didn’t know or love God? Why do you think God wants us to obey His rules? Who has God put in your life to remind you of God’s commands and laws?

How can we better follow God this week?

Which commands of God are most difficult for you to obey? As a family, discuss why. Like Israel, God loves us even though we may struggle to obey Him.  How does knowing that God loves you, no matter what, help you to obey Him?

Follow these steps to protect your heart and pass your faith in Christ to the next generation:

  • Look for opportunities to tell someone this week about how Jesus came into your life.
  • Share a story about God’s protection in your life or how He provided for your family.
  • Examine your close friendships. What ungodly influence have you allowed into your life?
  • What warning from God have you ignored? What behavior is He prompting you to correct?

2019 Week 20: Joshua 1, 3-Joshua Enters the Promised Land

Joshua Enters the Promised Land

As a family, read Joshua 1:1-8; 3:9-16 together.  Afterwards, share the following discussion.

What happened?

The first several chapters of the book of Joshua tell the story after Israel’s forty years of wandering in the desert.  Moses had died, and the Lord promoted Joshua to be the new leader of Israel. God reassured Joshua that he was the man for the job and that he wouldn’t be alone. God promised to be present with Joshua just as He had been with Moses. The knowledge of God’s presence would allow Joshua to “be strong and very courageous” in the difficult days ahead. God gave Joshua simple instructions for great leadership: “Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go.” God went on to say that in order to obey His law, you must know what it says and sincerely think about what it means.

Joshua then prepared God’s people for the crossing of the Jordan River into the Promised Land.

In accordance with Joshua’s instructions, the priests led the procession of people, while carrying the Ark of the Covenant. The river was at its highest point of the year. But as God had done many times before, He made a way for Israel when it seemed impossible.  As the priests entered the Jordan with the Ark of the Covenant, the water stopped flowing, allowing them to cross on dry land.  Can you picture that? The priests stood in the middle of dry ground where, only moments before, the Jordan River had flowed! The rest of Israel then passed through the dry riverbed on their way to the Promised Land.

This again showed Israel that following God and having faith in Him resulted in His blessing being shown to them in great ways.

Why is this important to us today?

Moses was a great man, but when he died, God’s plan didn’t die with him.  God raised up Joshua as the new leader to move Israel forward into the land He promised them. The secret to Joshua’s success was his obedience to God’s instructions. Joshua needed guidance to lead so many people. It was important to keep his heart clean before the Lord in order to hear God speak. Joshua kept himself close to the Lord by reading and meditating on God’s laws. As he listened to God, Joshua helped the Israelites focus on the Lord’s strength and power, not the obstacle in front of them. In response to their faith, God proved Himself trustworthy and removed the obstacle, giving them dry ground as a path.

God has also used great men and women throughout the centuries as part of His plan for our nation. With each new generation, God raises new leaders. Who knows? Maybe someone in your family will become a “Moses” or a “Joshua” and lead our country to follow God with increased faith.

Spend a few minutes talking about what you just read by answering these questions together:

Read back over God’s instructions to Joshua (1:7-9). How would these instructions help leaders in your community, state, or country today? 

How can we better follow God this week?

God positions leaders of all ages in all kinds of places, such as your church, school, and workplace. He may want you to be a leader, right where He has already placed you. What positions of leadership has God given the members of your family? Take a minute to discuss what parts of being a leader cause you to be scared or intimidated. How would following the instructions God gave to Joshua help ease those fears? Take turns sharing how and when you will spend time reading Scripture each day. Remember, you can’t obey God’s Word if you don’t know what it says.

Pray together for each member of your family to see where God wants them to take a leadership role, and ask for God’s guidance and strength.

2019 Week 19: Numbers 12-Wrestling with God means Wandering from God

Wrestling with God means Wandering from God

As a family, read Numbers 12-14:1-9 together.  Afterwards, share the discussion below.

What happened?

God had brought Israel a long way from their captivity in Egypt.  However, Israel once again found their faith tested. Israel was at the doorstep of the land to which God had been leading them.  They had been wandering and in search of a land they could call their own.  Here in Numbers we find that Israel is at the border of the land God had promised them.

So God commanded Moses to send twelve men into the land to explore it and return with a scouting report.  When the men came back, they had both good news and bad news.  The good news was that the land was incredibly beautiful and full of great sources of food and livestock. So what was the bad news?  Well, the land God was giving to Israel was inhabited by a nation much bigger and stronger than the Israelites.

When the twelve scouts presented their findings to Moses and the rest of Israel, the people of Israel rebelled. They said, “Why is the Lord taking us to this country only to have us die in battle? Wouldn’t it be better for us to return to Egypt?”  Then they plotted among themselves, “Let’s choose a new leader and go back to Egypt!”

But two of the scouts, Caleb and Joshua, were courageous and brave because they believed God would give them what He had promised them. Caleb, Joshua, Moses, and Moses’ brother, Aaron, tried to remind the rest of the Israelites that they could defeat those in the Promised Land and that the nation should follow God by faith!  But because Israel wouldn’t listen, God would punish them with forty years of wandering in the wilderness. Israel did not have faith that God would pull them through the challenge ahead. Because of that, Israel would need to wait another generation until they would finally experience the blessings that God wanted to give them.  Even though Israel wasn’t faithful, God remained faithful.  Joshua, one of the faithful scouts, would eventually lead Israel into the Promised Land.

Why is this important to us today?

We can learn a great lesson from Israel’s failure to follow God.  The people of Israel could have experienced the great blessing that God wanted to give them, but they didn’t have enough faith in God’s power.  As a result, they didn’t believe they could defeat the bigger nation in the Promised Land.

This is a powerful reminder that to please God, we must have faith in Him.  Hebrews 11:6 tells us, “It is impossible to please God without faith.  Anyone who wants to come to him must believe that God exists and that He rewards those who sincerely seek Him” (NLT).

We should follow and obey God because we believe in Him and believe that He loves us and knows what is best for us.  Israel would learn to obey God through faith, but unfortunately it took failure and wandering in the wilderness to learn that faith in God is much better than wrestling with God.

Spend a few minutes talking about what you just read by answering the following questions together:

What are the good things in the land God wanted to give the Israelites? Why do you think the majority of the spies focused on the negative? Why do you think Caleb and Joshua were ready to take the land?

How can we better follow God this week?

As a family, take some time to talk about how important it is to have faith in God.  What can we learn from Israel’s mistake in not following God into the Promised Land? In what situation have you been focusing on the negative rather than trusting in God? How does believing that God knows what’s best for you change that attitude?

This week, commit to follow and obey God because you believe that He loves and cares for you.  And remember Israel’s lesson that it is far better to trust and follow God rather than to wrestle and wander.

2019 Week 18: Exodus 19-20-God Gives Moses the Ten Commandments

God Gives Moses the Ten Commandments

As a family, read Exodus 19:1-11, 16-19; 20:1-21 together. Afterwards, share the discussion below.

What happened?

Three months after leaving Egypt, the Israelites camped beside Mt. Sinai, where God made a covenant with Moses on behalf of Israel.  God promised to make them His “special treasure” and “a holy nation” if they would obey and keep His covenant. But before the people could receive God’s laws, they had to prepare themselves in a three-day period of purification and consecration. When Israel had prepared to hear Him speak, God descended upon the mountain in an awesome display of might and holiness. God called Moses and Aaron to the top of the mountain and spoke the first words of the Law.

The first four commands dealt with Israel’s relationship to God. He wouldn’t tolerate worship of other gods or even an image designed to represent Him.  Because God is spirit, no physical image can adequately represent Him. The name of the Lord was to be used with reverence, not disrespectfully.  And on the Sabbath (Saturday) they were to cease from work, as God did during creation, and focus on Him.

The final six commands express how Israel was to relate to one another as a community.  A society is only as strong as the families in it, so God instructed them to honor parents and remain faithful in marriage.  Israel’s treatment of each other was to be different from other communities. They were to respect one another’s life, property, and reputation.  Finally, God told His people to be content and not desire what belongs to another person.

God’s covenant with Moses to make Israel a “holy nation” meant they would be set apart from other nations and be dedicated to God’s service and purpose. The sights and sounds from the mountain made the Israelites tremble with fear, and they stood far away.  The people agreed to hear Moses but were afraid that if God spoke directly to them, they would die.  Moses, however, went near the thick, dark cloud where God was.

Why is this important to us today?

The Ten Commandments are the foundation for law and moral behavior, but these laws also serve to show our sinfulness in contrast with God’s standard of holiness. Obeying the law isn’t a means of salvation but the appropriate response to God’s grace.  Our relationship with Him, outlined in the first four commandments, must be in order before relationships with others can be the way God designed them to be. It’s interesting that the observance of the Sabbath is the only commandment not repeated in the New Testament. Commands five through ten reveal the importance God places on human relationships.  In Romans 13:8-10, these six commands are summarized in one phrase: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

Spend a few minutes talking about what you just read by answering these questions together:

Which of the Ten Commandments are laws in our country today? Why do followers of Christ worship on Sunday (the first day of the week) rather than Saturday (the Sabbath)? Why do you think God placed such importance on how people should treat one another?

How can we better follow God this week?

The relationships within your family will strengthen as each member develops a closer relationship with God. What is your heart attitude toward God?  Do you treat God’s name with respect?  As a family, what gets your time and attention on the Lord’s Day? Answering these questions will help pinpoint obstacles to closeness with God. Now, turn your focus to the last six commandments (19:12-17). How can you encourage each other to better follow these this week? How would obeying these commands make the relationships in your family stronger?

2019 Week 17: Exodus 15-16- God’s Desert Provision

God’s Desert Provision

As a family, read Exodus 15:22 – 16:31 and Philippians 4:19 together. Afterwards, share the discussion below.

What happened?

Immediately after crossing the Red Sea, Moses led the people of Israel away from Egypt.  After traveling three days in the desert without finding water, they came to a spring, but the water tasted bitter.  So the people grumbled to Moses, “What shall we drink?”  Moses prayed and the Lord told him to throw a branch into the water to make it sweet.  When everyone was refreshed, God guided Israel to an oasis where they could camp and rest before continuing on their journey.

After a month of traveling, the food supplies from Egypt were gone.  Once more, the people complained to Moses who told them that their grumbling was not against him, but against God.  The Lord spoke again to Moses and said that quail would appear in camp that night, and manna would rain from heaven every morning.  God provided food for His people, but He gave them specific instructions. They were to gather only enough manna for that day. On the sixth day they were to gather twice as much because the next day was the Sabbath, a day of rest.

Most of the people followed Moses’ instructions and had the exact amount of food they needed.  The ones who didn’t listen and tried to keep manna for the morning found maggots in the rotting leftovers.  On the Sabbath, however, the manna didn’t get maggots or stink, just as Moses had said.  Some people went out on the Sabbath looking for food, but there was none.  God reminded Moses that the people must follow His instructions and gather twice as much on the sixth day.  For forty years, God faithfully provided food for His people in the desert.

Why is this important to us today?

Israel had seen God perform miraculous feats to save them from Pharaoh. But when the next obstacle arose, the people complained to Moses instead of turning to God. If the Israelites had trusted the Lord and continued on their journey, they would have come to the oasis at Elim sooner.  The same God who delivered them from Egypt and parted the sea would provide for them in the desert. They quickly forgot how God had miraculously provided water and grumbled to Moses again – this time about food.  As Moses pointed out, all complaining is sin and is really against the Lord. God is sovereign and ultimately in control of everything that happens.  He wanted the Israelites to depend on Him to solve their problems.

Once again, God miraculously provided for His people as He brought quail and manna to cover the ground around their camp.  As the people followed God’s instructions, there was never too little or too much manna.  They learned to be dependent on God for each day’s provisions.

We, too, need to make the choice to trust God rather than worry or complain. When something doesn’t go according to our plans, we often gripe and complain before we turn to God and pray. The same God who provided for the Israelites in the desert will provide for us today. God wants us to recognize Him as the provider of everything we have or need.

Spend a few minutes talking about what you just read by answering these questions together:

Why do you think the people complained to Moses rather than prayed to God?

Why is all grumbling ultimately against God?

How can we better follow God this week?

When do you grumble, whine, or have a bad attitude? Briefly share with each other how God has provided for your family in the past.  How does God’s previous faithfulness encourage you in a present challenge or need? Pray together about the needs you have as a family and as individuals.  Make a commitment to follow God’s instructions and depend on Him for what you need.

2019 Week 16: Exodus 13-14-Israel Exits

Israel Exits

As a family, read Exodus 13-14 together.  Afterwards, share the discussion below.

What happened?

When God sent the tenth and final plague, He passed over the homes of the Israelites and protected them, but every firstborn son in Egypt died.  As a result, Pharaoh finally changed his mind and allowed the Israelites to leave. God commanded the Israelites to celebrate and remember what He had done for them.  He then led them through the wilderness toward the land He promised them.

Meanwhile, Pharaoh changed his mind about letting the Israelites go.  He pulled his army together and went after them.  When the Egyptian army got close, God put a pillar of fire between the Egyptians and the Israelites to protect His people.  The future was looking brighter for the Israelites, until they ran into another problem – the Red Sea. With a big body of water in front of them and the most powerful army in the world behind them, they knew there was no way they could escape.  All seemed hopeless.  They complained and regretted ever leaving Egypt.

But despite these challenges, Moses never wavered in his faith.  He told the people to not be afraid.  He walked into the water, picked up his staff, and raised it over the sea.  God divided the water, so the Israelites could walk through the middle of the sea on dry ground.  Moses led over a million people across the Red Sea that night.  The Egyptians tried to follow but drowned when the waters swept over them.

Why is this important to us today?

When the Israelites saw the Egyptian army approaching, they doubted God and started to complain. They felt hopeless and regretted ever leaving Egypt.  But despite the invading army and panic from his own people, Moses never wavered in his faith.  He had confidence in who God is and in all that He promised.  He believed that God could do the impossible and that brought him hope even when everyone around him felt hopeless. God honored Moses’ faithfulness by rescuing Israel that night.

God is still inviting us to put our faith in Him.  He is still calling us to believe in His ability to bring hope in the midst of a hopeless situation and to do something miraculous when it seems impossible.  No matter what we are going through – no matter how hard or hopeless or impossible things may seem – we can still trust God, believing that He is always in control and bigger than whatever we may face in life.

Spend a few minutes talking about what you just read by answering these questions together:

As a family, talk about why you think Moses remained faithful even when the entire community doubted God.  What situations do people view as hopeless today? How would following Moses’ example of unwavering faith help in those situations?

Now what? – How can we better follow God this week?

What are you struggling to trust God with right now? Maybe it’s a subject in school, a friendship, a job loss, or a sick family member. Does the situation seem hopeless? Is it causing you to fear or doubt God? Spend a few minutes talking about God’s character traits (all-powerful, merciful, faithful, etc.) How do those characteristics strengthen your faith in God to handle the situation? Spend time as a family praying for one another. Ask God to help you trust in Him, even when it is hard.

2019 Week 15: Exodus 7, 12- The Great Passover

The Great Passover

As a family, read Exodus 7:1-7  and 12:21-31.  Afterwards, share the following discussion:

What happened?

God was ready for the Israelites to leave Egypt, but Pharaoh wanted to keep them as slaves.  Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh with God’s message, “Let my people go!”  God warned Moses that Pharaoh wouldn’t listen until He punished Egypt, proving that He was the only true God.

As Moses and Aaron followed God’s instructions, nine different plagues struck Egypt.  First, the Nile River was turned to blood, and then frogs and gnats were everywhere.  Next, swarms of flies covered everything, and all the livestock in the fields died.  God even made sores break out on the people of Egypt, but Pharaoh still wouldn’t listen.  So God caused a hailstorm and locusts to destroy every plant and tree.  Then complete and total darkness covered Egypt for three days.  Through all nine plagues, God protected His people; none of the plagues struck the Israelites.

The Egyptians worshiped over eighty gods from nature.  Pharaoh was even thought to be the sun god, Ra.  Every plague God sent was directed against one of Egypt’s false gods.  The Lord was supreme ruler over all He had created.  God wanted everyone to see His power and know that He was the one true, sovereign Lord.

God told Moses there would be one final plague, and Pharaoh would finally release them.  At midnight, God would kill every firstborn son of Egypt.  Moses gave a final warning to Pharaoh, but he remained stubborn and wouldn’t obey the Lord. Moses instructed the Israelites to roast the very best lamb they had and sprinkle the blood on the doorframe, as an act of faith (Heb. 11:28).  Everyone in the family was to be completely dressed and ready to leave Egypt as they ate, expecting God’s deliverance at any moment. At midnight, a family in any house not marked with the blood of the lamb lost their firstborn son. The final plague showed that there was no match for the God of Israel.  After that, Pharaoh ordered Moses and the Israelites to leave. God’s rescue of Israel was also His judgment on Egypt (Genesis 15:13-14).

Why is this important to us today?

This passage demonstrates the contrast between those who worship the one, true God and those who look to other things as their god. We live in a society that promotes being spiritual but rejects Jesus as the Son of God. There are still people who choose to worship creation rather than the Creator. Others deny His existence at all. But God has not changed and holds all people responsible for how they respond to the knowledge of who He is.

God wants us to listen to His warnings and obey His instructions.  Just as the Israelites had to follow God’s instructions for the plague to pass over them, we have to follow God’s instructions to avoid the penalty of our sin.  Jesus is our Passover lamb.  Israel’s slavery pictures our slavery to sin with the penalty of death (Rom. 6:23).  But Jesus’ death is payment for our sin.  Asking Jesus to be your Savior, by faith, marks the “doorframe” of your heart just as their homes were marked by the lamb’s blood.

Spend a few minutes talking about what you just read by answering these questions together:

In our culture, what do people worship other than God? How did Pharaoh’s refusal to obey God affect the Egyptians? What instructions has God given to you?

How can we better follow God this week?

Do you recognize God as the sovereign Lord and supreme ruler in your life?  It’s easy to tell; you will devote your life to whatever you worship. Think back to how you spent your time last week. What does it reflect about what’s most important to you? If we claim allegiance to Jesus, then our lives should demonstrate obedience to His instructions. When you choose to disobey God’s commands, how does it affect others in your family? What specific instruction or command from God will you start obeying this week?

Have you accepted the blood of Jesus as the sacrifice for your sin?  If you have, take time now to tell your family how you received Jesus as your Savior and what difference knowing Him as your “Passover lamb” has made in your life.

2019 Week 14: Exodus 3-4-Moses’ Calling

Moses’ Calling

As a family, read Exodus 3 and 4 together.  Afterwards, share the following discussion.

What happened?

“God called to him from the midst of the bush and said, ‘Moses, Moses!'”

God spoke to Moses from a unique place – a burning bush.  He told Moses about the cruel things that were happening to His people in Egypt.  God heard their cries and wanted to rescue them from the harsh treatment of their slave masters.  So God told Moses to go to Egypt on His behalf.  He wanted Moses to speak to the Egyptian Pharaoh and ask for the release of God’s people. Moses was given the incredible opportunity to represent God and help rescue people who were being treated badly.

But Moses was intimidated by God’s request and was afraid of what might happen to him if he went to Egypt and confronted Pharaoh.  Moses asked God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and that I should bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?”  Moses had excuse after excuse for why he couldn’t obey God.  Every time Moses gave God an excuse, God gave Moses an answer to his concern.

Throughout the story God reminded Moses he wasn’t alone.  God said He would go with Moses.  God sent Moses’ brother Aaron to help communicate with Pharaoh.  God showed His power by turning Moses’ staff into a serpent, allowing Moses’ arm to be covered in leprosy, and then healing the disease.  God gave Moses everything he needed to fulfill the mission he’d been given.

Why is this important to us today?

At some point, God will call each of us to do something for Him.  It may be big, like the task He gave Moses, or it may seem small and insignificant. Either way, we have to decide how we’ll respond to God’s call. The things God asks us to do sometimes seem difficult or scary, but we are reminded by the account of Moses that God is with us and will provide us with everything we need to complete the mission.  This should encourage us to be obedient to God’s call on our lives.

Spend a few minutes talking about what you just read by answering these questions together:

What were Moses’ concerns, and how did God address each of these concerns? What would Moses have missed if he had not gone to Egypt as God asked?

How can we better follow God this week?

Think about what God has given your family to do, together and as individuals. What opportunities do you each have to serve God and help others? Have each person share his or her concerns about fulfilling God’s call. What part seems difficult or scary? Discuss these concerns and how God might help your family members accomplish the calling placed on their lives. How has God already provided something you need to fulfill the mission you’ve been given? This week, look for ways to encourage each other to be obedient to God’s call. Close your time together by praying for the concerns each family member shared.

2019 Week 13: Exodus 1-2 Moses’ Rescue

Week 13: Exodus 1-2 Moses’ Rescue

As a family, read Exodus 1-2 together. Afterwards, share the following discussion.

What happened?

God’s people, the Israelites, lived in Egypt where God provided everything they needed. The Egyptian king, called Pharaoh, became afraid of the Israelites because they had grown into lots of families with many, many people. So Pharaoh decided to do two cruel things to keep the Israelites from growing any larger. First, he made God’s people his slaves. Then he ordered the Egyptians to kill all the baby boys born to the Israelites.

Moses was born to Hebrew slaves named Amram and Jochebed. Hebrew is another name for God’s people, the Israelites. While Moses was very small, his mother was able to hide him so he was protected. But after he was three months old she couldn’t hide Moses any longer.  Jochebed put Moses in a waterproof basket and placed it in the tall reeds that grew at the edge of the river.

Pharaoh’s daughter found Moses and felt sorry for the little baby. When she heard him crying, she wanted to help him. Moses’ sister offered to get a Hebrew nurse to help take care of the baby. Who do you think she brought back? Moses’ own mother, Jochebed! The outcome was even better than they had hoped. Moses was alive, and Pharaoh’s daughter paid his family to take care of him. When Moses was older, Pharaoh’s daughter adopted him. Moses went from being the child of slaves to being a prince in the palace of Egypt and Israel’s deliverer from slavery.

Why is this important to us, today?

The Israelites were living under the rule of an evil king who didn’t know or love their God. But God was with them and kept His promise to grow them into a great nation. Pharaoh’s wicked commands couldn’t stop God’s plan.

Amram and Jochebed had grown up hearing the wonderful stories of how God had used Joseph to save their people. They had faith in God and trusted him to take care of their family. Even when she was scared, Jochebed trusted that God had a plan when she put Moses in the basket (Hebrews 11:23). Was it luck or coincidence that Pharaoh’s daughter found Moses? Of course not, it was part of God’s plan for His people and for Moses. God was faithful and proved that He could be trusted.

Does it surprise you that nothing ever surprises God? He cares about everything that happens to you, big or small. Even before you were born, God had a plan for you (Jeremiah 29:11). Things that seem like trouble to us can be part of God’s plan. God is faithful, even when we don’t know what’s going to happen. He is trustworthy. Nothing can stop God’s plans!

Spend a few minutes talking about what you just read by answering these questions together:

 

What special purpose could God have for each member of your family? What situation currently frightens you because you’re not sure what is going to happen? How does the story of Moses and his parents help you when you think about that situation?

How can we better follow God this week?

Discuss with your family what difficult things happened to you this week. How do you think God can use it to influence new people or build godly character?

His plan is what we would choose if we could see how it turns out. He wants you to trust Him with your daily problems because God knows how each situation fits into His plan for your life. As you go through this week, spend time in prayer, praising God for being faithful and trustworthy. Thank God for the family He gave you. Ask God for the courage to trust Him with every part of your life.

 

2019 Week 12: Genesis 41-45-Joseph and His Brothers

Week 12: Joseph and His Brothers

As a family, read Genesis 41-45 together. Afterwards, share the following discussion.

What happened?

We learned last week that Joseph had been unfairly thrown into prison. While there, he remained faithful to God and showed that God’s favor was on him by interpreting dreams. Sometime later, Pharaoh had two dreams that he could not understand, nor could his smartest and wisest advisors. Pharaoh’s cupbearer, who was in prison with Joseph, told Pharaoh that his dreams had been interpreted by Joseph and that he could do the same for Pharaoh. Pharaoh sent for Joseph; and as the cupbearer had said, Joseph was able to tell Pharaoh what his dreams meant. God told Joseph: there would be seven years with lots of food, followed by seven years of severe famine. Pharaoh was so impressed with how God spoke to Joseph that he made him second-in-command of all of Egypt!

Joseph organized the land to prepare for the seven years of famine by saving the extra grain. The amount of grain they were able to save was so large that Joseph stopped counting because the number was too big! But, just as God had told him, the seven years of famine came right after. The land of Egypt had more than enough food because of Joseph’s planning, and they had so much that people from other countries came to buy grain from them.

Back in Canaan, Joseph’s family felt the effects of the famine and traveled to Egypt to buy food. They were sent to Joseph and bowed before him, not recognizing him as their own brother. Joseph, however, recognized them, but did not reveal who he was. He sent his brothers back and forth several times from their homeland without revealing his identity.

Eventually, Joseph brought his brothers to him and told them who he was. God helped Joseph to forgive his brothers. He told them that God had allowed everything that happened to him so that they could live through the famine and have food. After Joseph told Pharaoh that his family had come, Pharaoh provided land for them and their herds.

Why is this important to us today?

Joseph had endured terrible treatment because of his brothers, including years of slavery and imprisonment. However, because he stayed faithful to what God wanted him to do, God blessed him. Because of his position and authority, he was able to save his family and many others.

God made good things happen from the bad things in Joseph’s life. He can do the same in our lives. We all have times when we don’t understand how anything good can come from something that has happened. We can be tempted to blame God or try to fix it ourselves. Joseph gives us a better example, though. His story reminds us to follow God even in the bad times and trust that He will use it for something good.

Spend a few minutes talking about what you just read by answering these questions together:

Take a few moments to talk about the difficult times that you’ve gone through as a family. How did you respond to God? How have you seen God make something good happen from a bad situation?

How can we better follow God this week?

Maybe you’re going through a hard time right now; maybe you’ve just come out of one. Maybe you can already see how a bad time has ultimately worked out to help you. Wherever you may be, follow Joseph’s example and choose to obey God, even when it feels as if life is unfair. What difficult or unfair situations are your family members facing? Stop now and pray for each other to honor God with your words and actions. Thank God that He is going to do (or already has done) something good even with times that have been rough.

2019 Week 11: Genesis 37, 39 – Joseph in Prison

Week 11: Genesis 37, 39 – Joseph in Prison

As a family, read Genesis 37 and 39 together.  Afterwards, share the following discussion.

What happened?

Jacob had many sons; but of all his sons, Joseph was his favorite. Joseph’s brothers were very jealous and planned to get back at Joseph.  They even came up with a plan to kill Joseph while out in the field with their sheep. When Joseph arrived at the field, his brothers shoved him into a well. Instead of letting him die in the well, the brothers decided to sell Joseph as a slave to a group of travelers who were headed for Egypt. The brothers returned to their father Jacob and told him that a wild animal had eaten Joseph.

When Joseph got to Egypt, he was sold again to Potiphar, a high-ranking official in Egypt. Potiphar saw that God was with Joseph and gave him a very special job. Joseph was put in charge of everything in Potiphar’s house, and God blessed that household greatly. God was with Joseph the entire time.

One day, Potiphar’s wife asked Joseph to do something that God would not like, and Joseph refused to sin against God. This made Potiphar’s wife very mad, and she had Potiphar throw Joseph into prison. While in prison, God never left Joseph and was very good to him. Joseph was put in charge of everything in the prison, and God made him very successful.

Why is this important to us today?

Joseph went through a lot in his life. Can you imagine your own brothers selling you as a slave, getting a really awesome job, and losing it unfairly only to be thrown into prison? The Bible is very clear that God was with Joseph the entire time.  From the bottom of a well, all the way to Egypt, God was there. From the ruler’s house to the prison cell, God was still there. He was right beside him, and He helped Joseph to be successful at whatever he did. Also, the Bible never mentions that Joseph did anything wrong. He wasn’t perfect, but he made a habit of obeying God and making decisions that would please God.

The Bible promises us that God will never leave us alone either. Even when you go through difficult situations, God is always right there beside you. When you recognize that you’re not alone, it’s easier to make decisions that please and honor God.

Spend a few minutes talking about what you just read by answering these questions together:

What decisions did Joseph make that were pleasing to God? How was God faithful to help Joseph? How has God been faithful to you and your family?

How can we better follow God this week?

This week, pay attention to the different ways God is there and faithful to you. Maybe even talk with your family about some favorite Bible verses that remind us that God is always with us everywhere we go.

What decisions will you make this week? How can you better obey God and honor Him with wise choices? As you pray together, thank God for his goodness, and ask Him to help you be obedient in return.

2019 Week 10: Genesis 32– Jacob wrestles God

Week 10: Genesis 32– Jacob wrestles God

As a family, read Genesis 32 together.  Afterwards, share the following discussion.

What happened?

 After Jacob had sent his family and all his possessions across the stream, he found himself all alone. Out of nowhere, a man came and wrestled with him till daybreak. Neither one could get the best of the other all night. Just before daybreak, the man caused Jacob’s hip to go out of joint and told Jacob to let him go. But, Jacob knew that this was no ordinary man and refused to release him until the man blessed him.The man then told Jacob that from that moment forward, his name wouldn’t be Jacob, but Israel. Why? Because he had made it through a wrestling match with God! So Jacob asked, “What’s your name?” But he already knew that he was face to face with God, which is why Jacob named that spot, Peniel (God’s face). He had seen and touched God and lived to tell the story. The man blessed Jacob and left.  As the sun came up, Jacob walked to meet his family and Esau. But Jacob’s hip was still out of joint, and it caused him to limp.

Why is this important to us, today?

Jacob wrestled with God? That is nothing short of amazing! He was crossing the river to see his brother, Esau, for the first time since stealing his birthright twenty years earlier. But before Jacob could move forward in God’s plan, he had to put the old Jacob behind him. God changed his name from Jacob (which means “deceiver”) to Israel (“one who has power with God”). The limp was a permanent reminder that he was no longer the same man who fled from Esau – he now lived for God’s purpose, not his own.

This story can be hard for us to understand because we have never wrestled with God physically. However, most of us wrestle with God on decisions that we make in our lives. Think about a time God led you to do something, but you said, “No.” Did God continue to wrestle with your heart about it?  When God places something on your heart, He does not let it go easily. When you say, “Yes” and decide to live completely for God’s purpose, your life will be changed and others will take notice.

Spend a few minutes talking about what you just read by answering these questions together:

What do you know about Jacob from earlier in Genesis? What do you know about him after God changed his name to Israel? What are the differences between the old Jacob and the new?

How can we better follow God this week?

Tell your family about something you have been wrestling with God about. This could be anything from giving your tithe to going on a mission trip. In order to receive the blessing that God wants to give us we have to be willing to give up what we want and give in to what He wants for us. How can you better live for God’s purpose this week? Spend a few minutes praying for each other. Ask God to help you surrender to Him the things you’ve discussed.

2019 Week 9: Genesis 25, 27– Jacob and Esau

Week 9: Genesis 25, 27– Jacob and Esau

As a family, read Genesis 25 and 27 together. Afterwards, share the following discussion.                                                

What happened?

Isaac and Rebekah had twin boys, Esau and Jacob. Before they were born, God told Rebekah that one would be stronger than the other and that the older one would serve the younger. When the boys arrived, the first one to come out was red and his body was like a hairy cloak. He was named Esau. After Esau was born, his brother came out with his hand holding Esau’s heel, so he was called Jacob.

As the boys grew up, Esau became a skillful hunter, and Jacob was more of a quiet man who served the family at home.  Isaac loved Esau because of his ability to hunt, but Rebekah favored Jacob.  One day Esau came in from the field, exhausted from all of his work, while Jacob was cooking stew.  Esau was so hungry that he demanded food from Jacob. So Jacob made Esau swear to sell his birthright to him.  Now, a birthright in those days was a big deal.  Because Esau was born first, he would inherit most of the family’s possessions.  But because Esau couldn’t control his appetite, he gave away his birthright to Jacob.

However, the boys didn’t have the last say in the birthright; their father had to give a blessing to the son who would receive it. So when Isaac was old and ready to give Esau the blessing, Rebekah helped Jacob deceive him. Rebekah knew Isaac’s eyesight was very bad and that Jacob was not like his brother.  She took Esau’s nicest garment and some goat hair and put them on Jacob so that the father would think that Jacob was Esau.  After all of the preparation, Jacob took some food to his father. Isaac asked Jacob who he was, and Jacob said that he was the firstborn. Isaac called him over, felt his arms, and smelled him. He was confused because he sounded like Jacob but felt and smelled like Esau. Isaac gave Jacob Esau’s blessing. Jacob left and Esau came in with some dinner for his father. He then asked for his blessing, but Isaac had already given it to Jacob!

Why is this important to us, today?

Although the people in this story loved God, they acted in ways that displeased Him and harmed their family. Isaac and Rebekah each showed favoritism to a different son. Isaac favored Esau, and Rebekah favored Jacob. When parents make children feel as if one is loved more than the others, it creates intense sibling rivalry. Jacob wasn’t willing to share his stew when his brother was hungry, and Esau was willing to give up the most important thing he had—his birthright— for a bowl of soup. He satisfied a temporary need without thinking about the long-term consequences. Then, Jacob and his mother were deceitful in how they tricked Isaac.

Favoritism, sibling rivalry, and untruthfulness can harm your family just as much as it did in Isaac’s family. Honesty is an important rule in any home. Lying breaks trust and harms your relationships. Sometimes we think deceiving isn’t lying, and it’s okay if we don’t get caught. But a half truth is always a whole lie.

Spend a few minutes talking about what you just read by answering these questions together:

What should Jacob and Esau each have done differently regarding the stew? How did each person, including the parents, act in ways that harmed their relationships? How did their actions displease the Lord?

How can we better follow God this week?

Moms and Dads, this is a great time to let your children know that you love them completely… just the way they are! The same should be true of brothers and sisters. Just like Esau and Jacob, you are probably very different from your siblings. God made you each unique. For the next few minutes, take turns pointing out the talents and positive character traits of each person in your family.

When everyone in a family knows they are loved and each wants the best for the others, it creates a strong and happy home. Finish your time together with prayer, thanking God for each person in your family.

2019 Week 8: Genesis 22 – God Always Provides

Week 8: Genesis 22 – God Always Provides

As a family, read Genesis 22 together. Afterwards, share the following discussion.

What happened?

Abraham had waited for a very long time for Sarah, his wife, to have a child. The Lord did what He had promised and gave them a son, Isaac. God also promised that through Isaac He would build a great nation, His chosen people.

God came to Abraham to test him. He told Abraham to sacrifice his Isaac on an altar. So early the next morning after cutting the wood for the burnt offering, Abraham and Isaac set out for Mount Moriah, the place God told him to go. While on the journey, Abraham believed that God would “provide a lamb for the burnt offering.”

Abraham had faith that God would intervene in order to keep His promise of making a great nation from Isaac’s descendents, even if it meant raising Isaac from the dead. So God sent an angel to stop Abraham.  Just then they saw a ram stuck in the bushes close to where they were standing. God provided the sacrifice so Abraham and Isaac could worship Him together. God saw that Abraham was willing to obey Him and not hold anything back, not even Isaac.

Why is this important to us, today?

God never intended for Isaac to die. He wanted Abraham to prove that he loved God more than he loved his son – a son that Abraham had waited for and on whom all the promises of God rested. Simply put, God was testing Abraham.

The purpose of God’s testing is always to strengthen our character and deepen our commitment to Him. Abraham strengthened his commitment to God through this extremely difficult situation. He proved that his faith was genuine, not just something he talked about.

We can talk about our faith and how we’re ready to trust God and obey His commands, but sooner or later we’re going to have to put some action behind our words. How would you respond if God told you to do something that just didn’t make sense?  Would you look to Him for strength to get through the situation or would you take matters into your own hands?

Spend a few minutes talking about what you just read by answering these questions together:

How did Abraham’s actions display trust and faith in God? How had Abraham’s previous experiences with God prepared him for this test?

How can we better follow God this week?

The Bible says in Proverbs 3:5-6, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will direct your paths.” God never promised that the Christian life would be easy, but He did promise that He is always there for you. He will never leave you. No matter how old or young you are, God wants you to trust Him for EVERYTHING. Spend a few minutes discussing how God is strengthening your faith and trust in Him.

2019 Week 7: Genesis 13 – Abram and Lot Separate

Week 7: Genesis 13 – Abram and Lot Separate

As a family, read Genesis 13:5-18 together. Afterwards, share the following discussion.

What happened?

 Abram and his nephew, Lot were both very wealthy. They had flocks of sheep and goats, herds of cattle, and many tents. Unfortunately, the land could not support both Abram and Lot with all of their flocks and herds living so close together, so fights began to break out between their workers.

Finally, Abram suggested to Lot that they separate so that there would not be conflict between their workers. Abram gave Lot the opportunity to choose which part of the land he wanted, and then Abram would leave and settle in the other part.  Lot chose for himself the whole Jordan Valley to the east, and Abram settled in Canaan.

Why is this important to us, today?

After fights broke out between Abram and Lot’s workers, Abram recognized that a real conflict was beginning to develop, so he took the initiative in solving the dispute. He gave Lot the first choice, even though Abram, being older and probably wealthier, had the right to choose first. It was a real risk for Abram because Lot could have cheated him or left him with a part of the land that would not support his flocks and herds. But that didn’t matter to Abram. What mattered most to him was a family that loved and cared for one another. He didn’t want to fight with his family.

Family peace was so important to Abram that he took the initiative in resolving the conflict. He unselfishly gave Lot first choice—even if it meant not getting what he wanted or what seemed like the best. That’s not easy to do, but when we act unselfishly and trust God for the outcome, conflicts can be avoided and we can have peace in our home.

Spend a few minutes talking about what you just read by answering these questions together:

As a family, talk about why you think fights were breaking out among Abram’s and Lot’s workers. What was Abram’s response to the conflict? How did his response show faith in God?

How can we better follow God this week?

Conflict is a reality of life. There is no avoiding it. Sometimes conflicts happen inside our homes and among our families. That is why it is so important that we learn how to work it out when a conflict begins to develop.

With whom are you having a conflict? How can you act unselfishly in the situation? Take a few moments to pray together that family peace will be a priority in your home. Pray that each of you will learn how to work it out when conflicts arise.

2019 Week 6: Genesis 12-15 – God’s Call on Abram

Week 6: Genesis 12-15 – God’s Call on Abram

As a family, read Genesis 12 together. Afterwards, share the following discussion.

What happened? 

Abram didn’t know why God was selecting him or for what purpose, but the Lord did have a purpose.  (Later in Genesis God told Abram that purpose and changed his name to Abraham, but that’s a story for another week.) God came to Abram and told him to pack up his family and everything he owned, and go to… “the land I will show you.” Abram wasn’t sure where God was telling him to go, but he was sure that he needed to follow what God told him to do. So Abram set out with all his livestock (he owned a lot of animals), his wife, Sarai, all of their servants, and his nephew, Lot.

Along the way, there were some really rocky moments. Abram and Sarai had trouble while traveling through Egypt because they tried to protect themselves by being sneaky and untruthful. The Pharaoh of Egypt even took Sarai to live in his house. But God stepped in and revealed the truth to Pharaoh so he would let her go. As the journey continued, Lot and Abram had to split up; but a war erupted in the land where Lot lived, and he was captured. So Abram and a group of his trained fighting men conducted a rescue mission to save Lot.

But the journey doesn’t stop there. During this time, Abram and Sarai wanted to have kids. In fact, in Genesis 15, God told Abram that his descendants would be like the number of stars in the night sky. Abram had prayed and Sarai had prayed, but they still had no children in their old age.

Abram finally made it to the land God had been leading them to. There, God made a covenant with Abram that He would use his family and this land to make a great nation. That nation would bring glory to God’s kingdom.

To find out more about God’s promise to Abram, read Genesis 15.

Why is this important to us, today?

God asked Abram to follow Him even when it didn’t made sense, and the journey became difficult. From the beginning, they didn’t know exactly where God was taking them. But Abram was faithful and trusted that God was in control.  Abram learned that where God guides, God provides.  Abram chose to place his faith in God, and God took responsibility for making sure he and his family were taken care of. Abram believed God when He said, “Do not be afraid, I will protect you.”

Like Abram, we may not know the outcome of everything God asks us to do, but we can trust the One Who asks us to do it.

Spend a few minutes talking about what you just read by answering these questions together:

What parts of Abram’s journey were most interesting and exciting? How was Abram faithful to God, even when it was scary and confusing?

How can we better follow God this week?

What has God directed your family to do that requires complete faith in Him? What exciting or scary things have happened on your “journey of faith”? How can you still be faithful to God, even when it is scary?

Remember that where God guides, God provides. As Abraham found, what God asks for, God provides for. God will take responsibility for what we need; we just need to follow Him.

2019 Week 5: Genesis 11 – The Tower of Babel

Week 5: Genesis 11 – The Tower of Babel

As a family, read Genesis 11:1-9 together. Afterwards, share the following discussion.

What happened?

At one time, a group of people settled in a plain in the land of Babylonia. They decided to build a city with a tower that reached high into the sky. They thought it would make them famous and keep them from being scattered all over the world. Back then, all the people of the world spoke the same language. So they could easily talk and make plans for baking bricks and other things they needed to build their great tower.

But the Lord came down to look at the city and the tower the people were building. He knew that as long as they were together, they would encourage one another to rebel against Him. So, He decided to go down and confuse the people with different languages. Since they couldn’t understand each other, they couldn’t build their city or their tower. Eventually, people who spoke the same language found one other and settled in new areas together.

Why is this important to us, today?

The people of Babylonia wanted to build their city with a massive tower that would reach to the heavens. It would be a monument to their own greatness, showing the world what they could accomplish. The people were only concerned with making a name for themselves, not honoring the name of the Lord.

God was not pleased with them.  He was disappointed in their pride, and He feared that they would continue to depend on their own skills and talents rather than depend on Him.  So God stopped their plan with a very interesting solution— He confused the language (which prevented them from communicating), and He scattered them across the world (which prevented them from cooperating and working together).

Although the people had the wrong motivation for building this tower, this story shows us something very important: there is incredible power when we communicate and work together.  In other words, when we talk regularly and make it a point to cooperate, we can accomplish a lot! It displeases God, however, when people work together to make themselves look good rather than showing how great He is.

Spend a few minutes talking about what you just read by answering these questions together:

In your own words, why do you think it was wrong for the people to build this tower?  Talk about God’s solution to this problem – how did the two things He did (confused their language and scattered them) affect the world?

How can we better follow God this week?

How can your family work together to serve and glorify God? What personal or group accomplishments cause you to be prideful? How can you use that accomplishment to honor God?

Take a few moments now to thank God for bringing you together as a family.   Pray that you will make communication and cooperation a priority in your home and that, unlike the people of Babel, you will take part in things that are good and pleasing to God!

2019 Week 4: The Flood

As a family, read the story of the Flood in Genesis 6-9. Afterwards, share the following discussion.

What happened?

In Genesis, we read that there were lots of people on the earth, but these people thought evil things and did not follow God. God’s creation had chosen to get so far away from His intended purpose that God decided to send a flood that would wipe everything away and provide a new start.  God found one man He was pleased with, and this man’s name was Noah.

Noah was a godly man who was faithful and followed God’s commands even when no one else did.  God told Noah that He was going to send a flood that would cover the whole earth. So, He gave Noah instructions on how to build an ark (a big boat) that could hold him, his family, and lots of animals. The ark would keep them safe from the flood. Noah immediately went to work on the ark, doing exactly what God asked him to do. All the people around Noah’s family laughed at them and thought they were crazy!

When Noah finished building the ark, God gave him further instructions. Noah was to bring two of every kind of animal into the ark. God said the rain would last for forty days and forty nights without stopping. Noah did as God instructed, and the animals came to him to get on the ark. “Then the Lord said to Noah, ‘Come into the ark, you and all your household, because I have seen that you are righteous before Me in this generation.'” (Genesis 7:1). Once everything was loaded, God shut the door, and it started to rain.

The rains came down, the oceans opened up, and the earth was flooded. In fact, for 150 days, the earth was completely covered with water. When Noah and his family were finally able to leave the ark, he made an altar to God and made sacrifices to Him. God was pleased with Noah, and He blessed him and his family. God then made a promise to Noah: He would never destroy the earth with a flood again. He then told Noah that a rainbow in the sky would be a sign of that promise.

Why is this important to us, today?

You may have heard the story of Noah and the ark several times. But stop to think about some of the lessons from this story. First, as God looked over the earth, He saw two types of people: those who loved and followed Him (Noah and his family) and those who rejected His love and did only what they wanted. Noah and his family loved what was good and right; everyone else loved what was wrong and evil.

Next, Noah followed and obeyed God even when it was unpopular and others criticized him.  It took 120 years to build the ark. Year after year, he worked without seeing a single drop of rain. Noah was able to be faithful to what God asked him to do because he trusted what God said.

We can see from Noah’s story that God takes sin very seriously. A few weeks ago in Family Time Week 3, we discussed that sin is doing something that displeases God. Sin harms our relationship with God; it harms others, and it even harms us.  God desires that we follow Him and that we do what pleases Him.

Spend a few minutes talking about what you just read by answering these questions together:

After learning about Noah, how do you still see two types of people in the world today: those who love what is good and those who love what is bad? Why is it better to follow what God says is right? 

How can we better follow God this week?

Think about this…we deserve to be punished for our sins just as the people on earth were in the flood. Sin is serious! But then remember, God provided Jesus as a sacrifice for our sin. He died as the payment for our sin.

When you are tempted to sin this week, stop and think about how seriously God takes your sin. Remember what He did by sending His Son to take the punishment for your sins. Ask God to help you live to please and honor Him, as Noah did.

2019 Week 3: Genesis 4 – Cain and Abel’s Sibling Rivalry

Week 3: Genesis 4 – Cain and Abel’s Sibling Rivalry

As a family, read Genesis 4 together. Afterwards, share the following discussion.

What happened?

Cain and Abel were brothers and were the first kids of Adam and Eve.  Cain was a farmer who grew fruits and vegetables, while Abel was a shepherd. “And in the process of time…Cain brought an offering of the fruit of the ground to the Lord. Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock” (Genesis 4:3-4).  The book of Hebrews tells us that by faith Abel offered God a better sacrifice than Cain did (Hebrews 11:4). God was pleased with Abel’s sacrifice, but not with Cain’s.

What was supposed to be an opportunity to worship God turned into a battle of sibling rivalry.  Cain put his desire to be better than his brother in front of the opportunity he had to worship and serve God. Cain became very jealous and angry toward Abel.  The Lord saw this and encouraged Cain to do what was right, but Cain didn’t listen to God. By allowing jealousy into his heart, Cain began to hate his brother.

Why is this important to us, today?

Abel approached His worship to the Lord with the right heart, but Cain did not.  Abel focused only on his desire to please God and do what was right.  Cain, however, focused on pleasing himself and turned his energy toward anger with God and his brother.  Because God loved Cain, He challenged him to correct his attitude and make things right. Rather than repent, Cain unwisely gave in to jealousy and anger.

What makes you angry or jealous? You can’t always avoid having these feelings, but God wants to help you correct them. Why? Because wrong attitudes and thoughts lead to sinful actions.

Spend a few minutes talking about what you just read by answering these questions together:

What were the differences between Cain and Abel?  What should Cain have done differently? Discuss ways you can each give your best, as Abel did.

How can we better follow God this week?

We, too, have the choice to either love God and give Him our best or selfishly focus on what we want.  After learning about Cain, what should you do when jealousy creeps into your heart? In what ways does God try to get your attention when your attitude is wrong? Stop now and ask God to help you see and hear how He wants to correct your attitude this week.

2019 Week 2: Genesis 3 – The Fall of Man

Week 2: Genesis 3 – The Fall of Man

As a family, read Genesis 3 together. Afterwards, share the following discussion.                                                  

What happened? 

Genesis 2:8-14 says that God created a garden—an absolutely beautiful garden.  There were rivers and gold all throughout the garden.  God placed Adam and Eve in the garden to work and take care of it.  But God said  they “must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it, you will surely die” (Genesis 2:17).

In chapter 3, Satan tried his very best to destroy what God had created by tempting Eve to disobey God.  In verse 1, he started causing Eve to doubt God’s instructions by asking, “Did God really say….?”

Satan continued to distract both Adam and Eve from the truth.  Eve fell to Satan’s incessant persuading, and “…she took some and ate it.  She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. Then the eyes of both were opened….” (Genesis 3:6-7a). Adam and Eve listened to Satan, believed his lies, and chose to disobey God’s command.

Why is this important to us, today?

Everything was perfect.  Man and woman were created to have an eternal relationship with God.  The world was pure…innocent of any and all forms of sin…and then Adam and Eve sinned. The result of their disobedience to God changed not only their lives, but the entire human race forever. Every person ever born would be a sinner whose relationship with God would have to be restored.

You were created to have a relationship with God.  When you disobey God, it hurts the closeness you have with Him. Choosing to sin is not only selfish, it breaks God’s heart. The same is true even in your family. When children lie or disobey their parents, it causes the relationship to be strained. To make things right, the child has to genuinely apologize and ask for forgiveness. Likewise, we need to ask God for forgiveness when we disobey Him.

Spend a few minutes talking about what you just read by answering these questions together:

What are ways that you sometimes disobey God?  What would help you obey God more?

How can we better follow God this week?

This week, practice these two things:

  1. Confess your sin to God as soon as you’re aware of it, and tell Him you’re sorry. He promises to always forgive when you ask (1 John 1:9).  Practice asking for forgiveness in your family.  Don’t let another day go by without apologizing (Ephesians 4:26).  Ask God to give you strength to follow Him.

  1. Celebrate God sending His Son, Jesus into the world to die for your sin on the cross. He has an incredible plan and purpose for your life. Have you accepted Jesus’ payment for your sins? If not, will you become a follower of Christ today?

2019 Week 1: Genesis 1 – In the Beginning…God Made It All

Week 1: Genesis 1 – In the Beginning…God Made It All                                  

As a family, read Genesis 1 together. Afterwards, share the following discussion.

What happened? 

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.  The earth was formless and empty, and darkness covered the deep waters. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the surface of the waters.

Then God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light.   And God saw that the light was good. Then He separated the light from the darkness.  God called the light ‘day’ and the darkness ‘night.'”   – Genesis 1:1-2

After God made day and night, He made the sky. Then He formed the oceans and land.  But He didn’t stop there…God went on to fill the beautiful earth with all kinds of plants and trees that make seeds and fruit.  God made day and night.  He made all the living creatures in the sky, the seas, and on land.  He made animals that would be wild, and He made animals for man to care for.  Yes, God even made the bugs and the creepy crawlies.

God made all of that by just speaking it into existence, and God said His creation was “good.”  But then God did something even better, He made a very special creation out of the dust of the ground.  God created a person, two people to be exact, named Adam and Eve.  He did something with Adam and Eve that made them special compared to every other created thing—He breathed into them life and made them in His own image.

When He was all done, God said His creation was “very good!”

Why is this important to us, today?

Isn’t it amazing to think that God made everything out of nothing? He created the birds, trees, oceans and sky. All you have to do is look around each day to see the beautiful world God made.  But even more incredible than that, God made you and your family. He loves His entire creation and thinks it’s “very good” and that includes you! Since God is your Creator, shouldn’t you love Him and follow Him in everything you do?

Spend a few minutes talking about what you just read by answering these questions together:

What does learning about God’s act of creation tell us about Him?  What do you think was the best part of God creating the world?

How can we better follow God this week?

This week, think about the cool things God created and thank Him for them. He made your favorite foods, the beach, and the mountains. He even created humor so you could laugh. Remember, God also made your family, as unique as it might be! God designed you to love and cherish each other.

This week look for things and think of the people that you are thankful for.  When you think about these things, thank God for making them and be in awe of the power that God must have to be able to create this world!  Take a few moments now as a family to thank God for everything He created.

2018 Week 52: How can I be more like Jesus?

Have you memorized the nine fruits of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22-23 yet? Take a moment to say them together: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. If you are a follower of Christ, then you can develop each of these godly qualities because the Holy Spirit lives inside of you. This week’s devotion will show us how to be more like Jesus by producing more spiritual fruit.

Be ready to read the following passage:
John 15:1-8
Let’s start it.

Pretend that your family has a garden. How would you go about taking care of it so that it would produce lots of food?

Let’s learn it.

On our journey through the fruit of the Spirit, you were challenged to think of your heart as a garden and of God as the gardener. Well, we have to take care of our hearts, just as your family would take care of a garden. Let’s check out what Jesus told His disciples about that in John 15:1-5 while teaching them how to be more fruitful followers.

Jesus didn’t simply tell His disciples to be patient or kind; He told them how to do it: remain close to Him. If they stayed as close to Jesus as a branch growing out of a vine, then they would grow spiritual fruit, like patience and kindness. Let’s take a closer look at what He said. Read back over these verses and have a family member make note of each time Jesus used the word “fruit.”

Did you find phrases like: no fruit, bears fruit, more fruit, and much fruit? Dead branches can’t produce grapes – can they? When a branch doesn’t get nutrition from the vine, it grows weak, stops producing fruit, and withers. Jesus was teaching his disciples that being more like Him starts by staying close to Him.

If you’re a follower of Christ, then you have spiritual fruit as evidence of the new person you’ve become in Jesus. Although you might be happy with having just a little fruit, God wants you to be even more fruitful, so He uses the difficult things in your life to build your character so that you will grow more spiritual fruit. For example, you learn patience through situations that would naturally make you impatient.

Try to imagine an apple tree that’s bursting with apples. That’s the picture of having “much fruit” in your life. Take a look at what verses 7-8 say about that. Spending time with the Lord by reading the Bible and praying gives you the spiritual nutrition needed to produce lots of big, healthy spiritual fruit. When you listen to the Holy Spirit speak to your heart and obey what He says, you show that you’re a true follower of Jesus Christ. You become more like Him!

Let’s discuss it.

  1. Which fruits of the Spirit are most evident in each of your lives?
  2. Which fruit of the Spirit has God developed in your life by allowing a challenge or difficulty of some kind?

Let’s do it.

Come up with a plan for members of your family to remain close to Jesus each day. Write down the specific steps, such as setting a time to have a daily devotion and memorizing Bible verses. Write your ideas on index cards or sticky notes and post them in a place where everyone can see them. Remember, only the Holy Spirit can produce genuine spiritual fruit, helping you to become more like Christ. As you listen to and obey the leading of the Holy Spirit, godly qualities will begin to grow in your life. Before you know it, you’ll develop more fruit … and even much fruit!

2018 Week 51: How can I do what I should do?

God doesn’t force us to say or to do the right thing, but He has given every follower of Christ the ability to have self-control through the Holy Spirit. Are you ready to look at the last fruit of the Spirit this week? Well then – let’s get started!

Be ready to read the following passages:

Let’s start it.

Which devices in your house have remote controls? Discuss what each remote allows you to control.

Let’s learn it.

The person holding the remote has the power to control that device. In a similar way, God has given you the controller to your life. You have the freedom to choose what you think, say, and do. Have you noticed how hard it is to control your thoughts, words, and behavior on your own? Well then, take a look at Romans 8:5-9.

Like a rider who controls his horse by pulling back on the reins, you can keep your whole self under control by holding back and being careful about what you say. Have you ever gotten really mad and said something that you regretted? Compare what Proverbs 17:27-28 and Proverbs 29:11 say about losing control of your temper. There are times when we need to hold back our words – especially when we’re upset.

From time to time, each of us struggles with an area of self-control. You might not lose your temper, but maybe you talk without thinking about how your words will hurt someone else. Or maybe you don’t control how much television you watch or how long you play video games. Others might try to get you to do things that you know are wrong. Sometimes you might even put off doing good things that you should do. At those times, it’s not your own willpower or strength that you need. Instead, you can choose to give “the remote control” of your life to the Holy Spirit. The spiritual fruit of self-control means you can choose to allow the Holy Spirit to control each thing that you think, say, and do.

Let’s discuss it.

  1. In what area do you need more self-control?
  2. Discuss with your family how you can choose to give the Holy Spirit control of that area this week.

Let’s do it.

You can choose to keep yourself under control by following the Holy Spirit’s leading each day. When you feel yourself start to lose control of something you think, say, or do, hand the “remote control” of your thoughts and behavior to the Holy Spirit. Then allow Him to choose how you respond. His choice will always be what is right and best for your life.

Now that we’ve learned about all nine fruits of the Spirit, try saying them together as a family. Do you remember where to find the fruit of the Spirit in the Bible? Consider highlighting Galatians 5:22-23 in your Bible as a reminder of what we’ve learned. Next week we’ll finish up by learning how the fruit of the Spirit helps us to be more like Jesus.

2018 Week 50: What should I do when I’m angry or upset?

Do you remember the eight fruits of the Spirit we’ve learned so far? See if you can say them together (Galatians 5:22-23). As you develop one fruit of the Spirit, it helps you to grow in other areas. For instance, it’s more natural to be kind if you’ve already learned to be patient. Too often, however, hurtful words shoot out of our mouths the moment that we get upset. Let’s find out what the Bible says about the fruit of gentleness.

Be ready to read the following passages:

Let’s start it.

What instructions would you give a friend who was holding a baby for the first time?

Let’s learn it.

If you’ve ever had a baby brother, sister, or cousin, then your parents probably told you to be gentle or “go easy” when you were around him or her. Did you know that Jesus wants His followers to have that same kind of calm and tender manner, too? The Apostle Paul described how he modeled gentleness while visiting the church in Thessalonica. Take a look at what he wrote in 1 Thessalonians 2:1-8.

Paul and his friends traveled from city to city, teaching members of the early church how to live for Jesus. He wanted what was best for them because he loved them. Even when Paul was treated badly, he didn’t demand his own way. Instead, his words and actions were gentle; like a mother holding a newborn baby.

Paul not only modeled the spiritual fruit of gentleness, he also encouraged other believers to follow his example. Take a look at Ephesians 4:2-3. What attitudes did Paul tell the believers in Ephesus to have with one another?

Did you notice what other spiritual qualities grow alongside gentleness? Humility, patience, love, and peace. So there’s never an excuse for a follower of Christ to be harsh or to put down another believer. Does that mean we can act however we want when a nonbeliever insults or offends us? Check out what the Apostle Peter said in 1 Peter 3:15-16 about responding to people who don’t know Jesus.

Your witness for Christ is most powerful when someone makes you angry or when things don’t go the way you want them to go. That’s when you can show the difference Jesus makes. What can we learn about solving disagreements from Proverbs 15:1?

Your Bible might have used the word “meek” instead of gentle in some of this week’s Bible passages. It’s a word Jesus used to describe Himself (Matthew 11:29). A meek person sees the world from God’s point of view, so he isn’t easily irritated or offended.

Being gentle and meek is more than being nice or just having a laid-back personality – it’s a quality that grows in your life as you listen to and obey the Holy Spirit.

Let’s discuss it.

  1. How do you usually respond to the things that cause you to be angry or upset?
  2. Based on what we’ve just learned how could you respond with gentleness the next time something like that happens?

Let’s do it.

Think about the last time you used unkind words or an impatient tone of voice when you were upset. Did it make the situation better or worse? This week, concentrate on slowing down so you can choose to respond in a calm and gentle way. Try this – take a deep breath and ask for the Holy Spirit’s help when something or someone starts to make you feel angry. Remember, the attitude you display, the words you choose, and the tone of voice you use should be evidence that Jesus is your Savior.

2018 Week 49: Am I trustworthy and dependable?

Our journey through the first six fruits of the Spirit has shown us how to grow in love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, and gentleness. Can someone in your family name the next fruit of the Spirit? Ask a family member to read Galatians 5:22 as we prepare to answer the question, “Am I trustworthy and dependable?”

Be ready to read the following passages:

  • 1 Corinthians 4:1-2
  • Psalm 86:15
  • Matthew 24:45-50
  • Lamentations 3:23
  • Luke 16:10-12
  • Let’s start it.

    What chores and responsibilities do you have at work or around the house? Who depends on you to get those things done?

    Let’s learn it.

    If you are a follower of Christ, then you are a steward – a person responsible for something that belongs to someone else. God has entrusted believers with something very valuable. Are you curious about what that is? To find out, ask a family member to read 1 Corinthians 4:1-2.

    God has given us His holy Word. It’s our job to share His message with the people around us and to faithfully carry out His plans. “Faithful” is a word we hear a lot at church, but what does it mean? Check out how Jesus explained it in Matthew 24:45-50.

    A faithful steward is loyal and dependable. He can be trusted to carry out his tasks, even when it seems that no one is watching. You see, God has not only entrusted you with the mission of sharing His Word – He has also given you other responsibilities. Think about your chores at home and your work at school or on your job. Are you trustworthy and dependable with those tasks? God tests our faithfulness in little things before He entrusts us with larger tasks. Let’s see what Jesus said about that. Who’s ready to read Luke 16:10-12?

    No one is more qualified to talk about faithfulness than Jesus. As we’ve discovered in previous devotions, each fruit of the Spirit is also a character trait of God. What do you learn about the Lord’s faithfulness from Psalm 86:15 and Lamentations 3:23?

    You can grow the spiritual fruit of faithfulness because of God’s faithfulness to you – it’s like a cup that can be filled until it overflows. He is even faithful to us when we are not faithful to Him (2 Timothy 2:13). We help God to accomplish His plans in the world by being trustworthy and dependable with His message and with the responsibilities He has given to us.

    Let’s discuss it.

    1. Look back at the tasks you wrote down in Let’s start it. Based on what we’ve just learned, what God-given responsibilities can you add to that list?
    2. Name specific ways that you can prove yourself faithful (trustworthy and dependable) with all of your responsibilities this week.

    Let’s do it.

    Have you ever wished you could do something really big for God? Then look for the smaller things He’s already entrusted to you. As you carry out those tasks in a dependable way, you prove that you can be trusted with more responsibility.

    So how would you answer today’s question? Are you trustworthy? Can people depend on you to do what you’re supposed to do? Can God? We don’t know when Jesus is coming back, but we certainly want to be found faithful when He does return. Determine to be faithful this week with each task you are given, even when no one is watching.

2018 Week 48: What makes someone a good person?

So far on our journey through Galatians 5:22-23, we’ve explored the first five fruits of the Spirit. Can you name them? We’ve learned that God’s definitions of words like love and joy are often different from ours. Well, the same thing is true of this week’s word: goodness. One of the earliest lessons we learn in life is the difference between good and bad, but the Bible has some surprising things to say about being good. This week’s devotion will help us answer the question, “What makes someone a good person?”

Be ready to read the following passages:

Let’s start it.

Discuss with your family what you think makes someone a good person

Let’s learn it.

Did members of your family have differing opinions about what makes someone a good person? If so, then you’re not alone. Some people think we’re born basically good, while others think that what happens in your life determines if you’ll do good or bad things. But what does the Bible say? Well, when a young man wanted to get to Heaven by doing good things, Jesus told him that only one Person is good – God (Matthew 19:16-17). Now let’s see what we learn about God’s goodness from Moses’ experience in Exodus 33:18-22.

God’s goodness is His absolute perfection, which is revealed through His glory. Can you imagine how powerful His glory must be that God had to protect Moses when He passed by? So, anything good cannot have any trace of evil. Does that mean you have to be perfect to be a good person? Not even the Apostle Paul thought he was a good person! Take a look at what he wrote in Romans 3:10-12, 23 and 7:18.

Bad news – not one of us can measure up to God’s standard of perfection because no one is born good or righteous. The first part of the word righteous explains this part of God’s character – He is perfect and what He does is always right. However, we are not perfect, and we do not always do what is right. Now, check out the good news in Romans 3:21-22.

If you have received Jesus as your Savior, then the goodness of God is within you, helping you to make right choices and do good things. You’re not a good person because you do good things; you can do good things because you have received the righteousness God has provided in Jesus Christ.

Let’s discuss it.

  1. Revisit your discussion about what makes someone a good person. Based on what we’ve just learned from Scripture, how has your opinion changed?
  2. How do you think the spiritual fruit of goodness is different from what the world thinks is good?

Let’s do it.

In order to receive the goodness of God, you must first understand that you have no goodness of your own. God isn’t trying to make you feel guilty or to make you feel bad by saying that you were born sinful. What’s harmful is to remain in your sin and be separated from God forever.

In 2 Corinthians 5:21 we read that “God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.” Have you accepted Jesus’ payment for your sin? If so, then you are a new creation in Christ; your life is completely changed (2 Corinthians 5:17). As a new, righteous creation in Christ, you can share God’s goodness with the people around you. How will others experience the goodness of God through your actions this week?

2018 Week 47: How is kindness different from just being nice?

Which fruit of the Spirit comes after “love, joy, peace, patience” (Galatians 5:22)? This week, we’ll look at the spiritual fruit of kindness. Being nice and being kind are a lot alike, but kindness is more than simply being polite and respectful. Are you ready to look into God’s Word to learn what He says about being kind?

Be ready to read the following passages:

Let’s start it.

As a family, come up with words that describe a nice person.

Let’s learn it.

Did you come up with lots of words? We understand the basic difference between being nice and being mean, but what about being kind? Let’s see what the Bible says about kindness. Read Ephesians 4:29-32 and 2 Timothy 2:24, and then add words from those verses to your paper.

Have you ever been encouraging, forgiving, or compassionate by accident? Probably not. Acts of genuine kindness are done on purpose. There’s a great illustration of this in the Old Testament; it’s the true account of how King David went out of his way to be kind. What promise was David asked to make in 1 Samuel 20:12-17?

King Saul’s son Jonathan was next in line for the throne of Israel. He and David were best friends even though God had chosen David to be king. After Saul and Jonathan died in battle, Jonathan’s brother became king of Israel’s Northern Kingdom, and David was anointed king of Judah – Israel’s Southern Kingdom. The war between the house of Saul and the house of David lasted a long time (2 Sam. 3:1). But when David finally became king over all Israel, he remembered his promise to show kindness to Jonathan’s family. Now let’s read the rest of the story in 2 Samuel 9:1-13.

Jonathan’s son Mephibosheth had been hidden from David. You see, anyone in Saul’s royal line to the throne could have been a threat to David’s reign. No one would have known whether or not David kept his promise to Jonathan. Although he was the king, he went to a lot of trouble to be generous, caring, and compassionate.

If David had acted from his human nature, he might have taken revenge on the house of Saul to protect his kingdom. David’s kindness towards Mephibosheth was the fruit of God’s presence in his life. What do you learn about David in 1 Samuel 16:13?

What other spiritual fruit do you recognize in this story about King David? He and Jonathan had a friendship that was rooted in godly love (1 Samuel 20:17). The fruit of kindness is so much more than just being nice; genuine kindness is done on purpose and is the result of the Holy Spirit giving you sincere love for others.

Let’s discuss it.

  1. Which words or phrases from today’s devotion describe David’s acts of kindness? What other words would you use to describe the things he did?
  2. When did someone go out of his or her way to be kind to you?

Let’s do it.

Although it’s important to be nice, the Holy Spirit prompts us to go a step further – to be kind. Is there someone you find it difficult to be kind to? Ask God to give you sincere love for that person – to see him or her the same way that He does. How can you be thoughtful, caring, or compassionate to that person? Have each family member choose at least one act of kindness to show this week.

2018 Week 46: Why is waiting sometimes a good thing?

When you practice doing something over and over, you usually learn to do it well. It’s the same with displaying a godly attitude like patience – it takes practice. This week’s devotion continues our journey through the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22-23 by exploring how to practice patience.

Be ready to read the following passages:

 

Let’s start it.

Name some things you’ve learned to do by practicing.

Let’s learn it.

We’ve all had to practice doing something, but how do you practice patience? Well, let’s stop and think about what it means to be patient. Think of phrases like: carry on, stick with it, keep trying, and wait it out. Your Bible might have used the word, long-suffering, instead of patient in Galatians 5:22. No one wants to suffer even for a short time, much less for a long time – right? Still, God says that it’s important for us to be patient.

Think back to the things you talked about in Let’s start it. Practice isn’t always fun – is it? However, long hours at the piano or on a ball field help to develop a skill that you and others can enjoy. So what does long-suffering produce in your life? Ask a family member to read Romans 5:3-5 to find the answer.

God can use the difficult things in your life to build your character. And like the other fruit of the Spirit, patience is a character trait of God, so it should also be characteristic of His followers. What does 2 Peter 3:9 and 1 Corinthians 13:4 tell us about how and why God is patient?

Godly character doesn’t happen by accident – it’s developed through perseverance, which is a big word for “don’t give up.” The best way to learn patience is to be faced again and again with situations that would naturally make you impatient. We need patience when waiting for something good to happen (James 5:7) and while going through hard times (Romans 12:12). But we also need to be patient with other people, just like God has been patient with us. Who does 1 Thessalonians 5:14 say we should be patient with?

There’s another part of having patience that we haven’t talked about yet. What should we do, according to Psalm 40:1?

When things aren’t quite the way you want them to be, wait on God to act, knowing that what He does and when He does it will be exactly right. And while you’re patiently waiting, He will mold your character to be more like His – filled with the fruit of His Spirit.

Let’s discuss it.

  1. When do you get impatient?
  2. How can you practice being patient in those situations?
  3. How has God been patient with you?

Let’s do it.

Are you waiting for something difficult to end? Or, have you been looking forward to something that seems to be taking forever to happen? God can use those things to shape your character. Godly character isn’t developed by chance, any more than you would learn ballet or baseball by accident. Patience takes practice. God may allow something into your life that seems frustrating at first; but remember, He’s giving you the opportunity to practice being patient. So don’t lose your cool when you’re faced with a difficult situation or person this week. Instead, thank God for giving you the chance to practice, practice, practice!

2018 Week 45: What should I do when I’m worried or afraid?

Love, joy, peace. Learning how God explains these words in Scripture teaches us why only His Spirit can produce them in our lives. We learned last week that we can have joy in any situation. Well, the same thing is true about peace. Let’s take the next step on our journey through the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) and discover what Jesus taught about how to have His peace when we’re worried or afraid.

Be ready to read the following passages:

Let’s start it.

What causes you to be troubled, worried, or afraid? When you feel that way, what helps to calm you down?

Let’s learn it.

Everyone gets frightened or upset from time to time, including followers of Jesus. Check out what happened in Mark 4:35-41 when Jesus’ disciples found themselves in a frightening situation. Let’s see what we can learn from their experience.

 

The disciples were in a storm at sea, and water was coming into their boat! Can you imagine how frightened they must have been? Situations come up that make us feel anxious or afraid, too. Take a look at what Jesus said about troubles in John 16:33.

Even though the world is full of all kinds of problems, Jesus promised we could find peace in Him. He is never worried or caught off guard. Just think about what Jesus was doing during that storm. He was sleeping through the whole thing! Jesus knew that He had power over the wind and the waves. We, too, can have peace in the middle of our problems – if we trust Jesus. He is more powerful than any difficulty we will ever face.

What does Philippians 4:7 tell us to do when we’re worried or afraid? Taking your fears to God shows that you trust Him to take care of you. God’s peace will guard your heart and mind against worry. It might not seem to make sense, but God makes it possible for you to be calm even before the problem is solved.

The disciples could have remained calm during the storm just knowing that Jesus was in the boat with them. They were controlled by their fear of the storm rather than by faith in the Lord. What did Jesus say in John 14:27 that would have helped at that moment? You see, God’s peace is not the absence of trouble in your life; it’s the absence of worry in your heart. Do you remember the words Jesus spoke to calm the sea? “Peace, be still!” When you take your troubles, worries, and fears to the Lord, He speaks, “Peace, be still,” into your heart.

Let’s discuss it.

How would the following words of Jesus help you the next time you’re worried, troubled, or afraid?

  • Peace, be still!
  • Take heart! I have overcome the world.
  • And the peace of God…will guard your hearts and your minds.
  • My peace I give you…do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

Let’s do it.

Nothing overwhelms Jesus. He has absolute power over everything in your life. God might bring a quick solution to a problem. If so, praise and thank Him. But He may allow it to continue – giving you the opportunity to grow your faith and develop the spiritual fruit of peace. If you’re in a “stormy” situation right now, ask God to give you a peaceful heart. Remember, only the Holy Spirit can replace worry with peace. When others notice that you’ve remained calm, tell them about Jesus – the One who commands the wind and the waves!

2018 Week 44: Are joy and happiness the same thing?

Last week we discovered that love is a choice we make, not an emotion we can’t control. Our emotions come and go – sometimes we’re happy, and at other times we’re sad. The Bible doesn’t say much about happiness, but it talks a lot about being joyful. What’s the difference? Are joy and happiness the same thing? Let’s check it out!

Be ready to read the following passages:

Let’s start it.

What caused you to be happy or sad in the past week?

Let’s learn it.

The things that happen to you and around you can make you either happy or sad for a while. Joy, however, goes beyond just feeling happy because it isn’t an emotion – it’s a fruit of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23.) Jesus compared joy to the happiest occasion imaginable. Take a look at what He said in John 16:19-24; 28.

The disciples were sad because Jesus told them He was going away. He said that their sadness would turn into joy. They didn’t completely understand, but Jesus was talking about His death and resurrection. He explained it this way – a mother holding her baby is joyful, even though giving birth caused her pain. Jesus knew that going to the Cross would be painful, but it would give His followers the joy of new life – spiritual life. After His death, the disciples would see Jesus again! And no one would be able to take their joy away because it would come from the Holy Spirit living within them.

As followers of Jesus, we too have the joy of a new life in Him. But the reasons to be joyful don’t stop there. We can rejoice simply because God has given us another day to live for Him (Psalm 118:24). Turn to James 1:2 to discover another reason to be joyful.

Seriously? How can we have joy when bad things are happening? Look back at James 1 and read verses 3-4. God uses the challenges you face to develop qualities like perseverance as you listen to and obey the guidance of the Holy Spirit. You may be in an unhappy situation, but you can rejoice that God is helping you to grow spiritually. What three words in Philippians 4:4 can help you to rejoice in any situation?

Emotions like happiness and sadness come and go, but you can always have joy “in the Lord.” Joy is a fruit of the Holy Spirit, who never leaves us – no matter what situation we’re in.

Let’s discuss it.

  1. Based on what you’ve just learned, discuss whether or not you think happiness and joy are the same thing.
  2. Talk with your family about how God can help you to be joyful in an unhappy situation.

Let’s do it.

God instructs His followers to be joyful all the time (1 Thessalonians 5:16), and His Word tells us how to do that (Philippians 4:4). You might not always be happy, but God says that you can always be joyful. As a matter of fact, we’re told that we should be joyful…no matter what. When you’re faced with a difficult situation, remember that you are “in the Lord” and look for what God wants you to learn.

Have you been a “fruitful” follower of Christ in the past week? Keep working to memorize all nine qualities from Galatians 5:22-23 until every family member can say them by heart.

2018 Week 43: What does “love” really mean?

The list of godly qualities found in Galatians 5:22-23 is like a measuring stick that shows us where we need to be more like Jesus. Only the Holy Spirit can truly produce these characteristics in the lives of Christ’s followers. This week we’ll take the first step on a journey to look at all nine character traits – and it all begins with love.

Be ready to read the following passages:

Let’s start it.

Take turns finishing the sentence: “I love….”

Let’s learn it.

Back in week 35 of Family Time we talked about how we sometimes use the word “hate” without giving it much thought. Well, the same thing is true of the word “love.” We use it to describe our feelings for everything from chocolate to members of our family to God! We use it when we want people to know how strongly we feel about something or someone. But what does it really mean? The best description of love is found in 1 Corinthians 13, which is known as the “love chapter.” Let’s read that passage together.

 

Godly love sounds a lot like the fruit of the Spirit – doesn’t it? Love is not just an emotion that comes over you. Love is a choice. Responding in love means choosing to be patient and kind, while also choosing not to be selfish or rude. It’s not always easy to be loving. But remember, responding in love starts by asking for God’s help and then following the Holy Spirit’s leading.

It’s not a coincidence that the fruit of the Spirit begins with love. Love is like rich soil that grows healthy fruit. The other eight fruits of the Spirit need genuine love in order to grow. Now check out Colossians 3:12-14 for another word picture about love. Did you catch what verse 14 said? Love is like a strong cord that holds a bundle of packages together. Love should be our first and last response, not just because we feel like it, but because we choose to speak and act in love.

There’s never been a better example of love in action than what’s described in John 3:16. Can someone in your family say that verse from memory? Either read or recite that verse now.

The first four words of John 3:16 tell us why we can be saved from our sin, “For God so loved….” His act of love wasn’t just for certain people. He loves the entire world and invites each person to become His child. It’s impossible for us to love people the way God wants us to unless we first have His love in our hearts.

Let’s discuss it.

  1. Look at the description of love in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8a again. Make a list of the things love does and the things it does not
  2. Discuss how you can live out God’s description of love this week at home, church, school, and work.

Let’s do it.

As we continue our journey through the fruit of the Spirit, begin to think of your heart as a garden and of God as the Gardener. You need to start with good, rich soil to grow healthy fruit. If you’ve accepted God’s love by receiving Jesus as your Savior, then love is the soil and the first fruit that should show up in your life. Do you love each person God brings across your path? Or, do you only act loving toward certain people? We can choose to love because God first chose to love us!

This is an excellent time to start memorizing the fruit of the Spirit if you haven’t yet. For this week, just memorize, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love….” Then as we explore each new word, add it on. Did some members of your family accept the challenge to memorize all nine character traits? If so, give them the opportunity to say them now.

2018 Week 42: What is the fruit of the Spirit?

Making a list is a good way to help you remember something. Recently, Family Time explored a few lists found in Scripture. What list of do’s and don’ts did God give to Moses? That’s right – the Ten Commandments. The last two weeks we’ve looked at lists of sinful attitudes and behaviors that belong to our old nature, and we started learning about a list of words that describe our new nature in Christ. But what exactly is the fruit of the Spirit? Let’s take a closer look.

Be ready to read the following passages:

Let’s start it.

What kind of list have you made or used lately? How did it help you?

Let’s learn it.

We all need lists from time to time, don’t we? A list for groceries or school supplies helps you to buy exactly what’s needed, and a list of chores helps you to get things done. God’s lists, however, aren’t just checklists. The lists in the Bible warn us about the dangers of sin and guide us so we can please God. Ask a family member to read the list in Galatians 5:22-23 to see which qualities God considers important.

The fruit of the Spirit sums up the character qualities that every follower of Christ should have because they are character traits that He has. Those nine words are like a measuring stick to show us which things we need to work on in order to be more like Christ.

What interesting phrase is at the end of verse 23? There is no law against acting like Jesus! Can you imagine anyone passing a law against being kind or loving? Man made laws might try to limit when and where you can pray or talk about God, but you can be a powerful witness for Christ by displaying His character wherever you are. In order to act like Jesus, we need to think like Jesus. What does 1 Corinthians 2:16 tell us about how to do that?

As a follower of Jesus, you have His mind because you have His Spirit living within you. You see, it’s impossible to act like Jesus by simply trying to be good on your own; you develop the character traits in Galatians 5:22-23 by listening to the Holy Spirit speak to your heart and then following His instructions.

Let’s discuss it.

  1. Put on your thinking caps! What examples of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control do you remember from people in the Bible?
  2. Take turns sharing ways that members of your family can show the fruit of the Spirit this week.

Let’s do it.

Why do we make lists? They help us to remember – right? Some lists are so important that they should be committed to memory – especially God’s lists. Try this – write each fruit of the Spirit on index cards or sticky notes and place them where every member of the family will see them throughout the week. Make an effort to memorize all nine qualities before next week’s family devotion time. You may find it easier to remember them by separating them into three groups of three words.

When you memorize Scripture, God can bring it back to your memory at just the right time. For instance, when someone makes you angry, the fruit of the Spirit reminds you to be patient and keep your emotions under control. Then you can respond the way that Jesus would respond. Will you demonstrate His character this week?

2018 Week 41: What is spiritual fruit and how does it grow?

Last week we talked about how to choose right over wrong. Well, the Bible is full of word pictures to help us understand which attitudes and actions are good and which ones God says are wrong. In this week’s Family Time, we’ll come across two word pictures that explain what spiritual fruit is and how it grows. Let’s get started!

Be ready to read the following passages:

Let’s start it.

As a family, talk about what is needed for fruit trees to be healthy and grow. Here’s a big hint: oranges, limes, and lemons grow best in states like Florida and California!

Let’s learn it.

Does fruit grow best in the light or in the dark? In the light, of course! Fruit trees need lots of sunshine to produce big, healthy fruit. If you live in the light of Jesus, then the Holy Spirit will help you to produce spiritual fruit that will please the Lord: what’s good, right, and true. Look back at Galatians 5:22-23 now to remind yourselves of what the Apostle Paul called the fruit of the Spirit.

Obeying God’s Word helps you to become a fruitful follower of Christ. Disobedience, however, does just the opposite. Read Ephesians 5:8-12 to see how God’s Word uses light and darkness to describe good and evil and right and wrong.

Becoming a follower of Jesus is like stepping out of the dark and into the light! We actually become “children of light.” You see, when you receive Jesus – the Light of the world – His Spirit begins to shine from within you. Think about the words Paul used to describe disobeying God: fruitless, darkness, and shameful. Christians shouldn’t take part in anything that resembles the actions of our old, sinful nature (Galatians 5:19-21).

Being ungrateful, unforgiving, or disobedient to your parents is disobedience to God. You might still slip up and sin occasionally, but those attitudes and actions shouldn’t be a habit for a child of God because we are children of light! When you choose right over wrong – as we talked about in last week’s Family Time – then you begin to produce spiritual fruit. The more you make wise choices, the more fruit you’ll grow. So let’s get growing!

Let’s discuss it.

  1. Name some attitudes and behaviors that do not show the light of Jesus. Which fruit of the Spirit is the opposite of each of those attitudes or behaviors?
  2. Which wrong attitudes and actions trip you up most often? What did you learn in this devotion that would help you to do better?

Let’s do it.

God has written His Word so that we can understand exactly what He wants us to know. He tells us that we should be “fruitful” and that spiritual fruit cannot grow in darkness. Knowing Jesus as your personal Savior puts God’s light in your heart. But living in that light each and every day is up to you. The choices you make will either be fruitful or fruitless.

Here’s a way to use God’s word picture of light and darkness to help you. Picture yourself stepping from a dark shadow into the bright sunshine. Choose to leave that thought, attitude, or behavior in the dark – where it belongs. Ask God to focus your attention on what is good, right, and true.

2018 Week 40: How does God help me to do what’s right?

This quarter, Family Time will explore how to be more like Jesus by growing spiritual fruit. When we listen to the Holy Spirit speak to our hearts and obey what He says, the “fruit of the Spirit” will grow in our lives. Choosing to obey God is always right, but it’s not always easy – is it? Even the Apostle Paul sometimes struggled between choosing good over evil. Let’s see what we can learn from Paul to help us choose right over wrong.

Be ready to read the following passages:

Let’s start it.

How can you tell the hero from the villain in one of your favorite stories?

Let’s learn it.

Many of our favorite stories lead to a clash between a hero and a villain, between good and evil. Have you ever noticed a struggle between right and wrong going on inside your own heart and mind? Galatians 5:16-23 gives a great description of the conflict between our sinful nature and the Holy Spirit, who lives inside of every Christ follower. Take time to read that passage together as a family now.

Did you notice the differences between what the Holy Spirit leads you to do versus what your sinful nature wants? Paul points out the difference between what’s right (the fruit of the Spirit) and what’s wrong (our sinful self): love versus hatred, joy versus rage, peace versus conflict, patience versus selfishness, and kindness versus jealousy. So you might wonder, “Why don’t we simply choose to do what’s right?” To find the answer, ask a family member to read Romans 7:18-23.

Choosing good over evil doesn’t come naturally to us as human beings. No matter how much you want to do the right thing, it’s a struggle to choose right over wrong time after time. Why? Because we’re all born with a sinful nature. So what should we do? Turn back to Galatians 5 in your Bibles and have someone read verses 24-25.

God gives us the power to choose what’s right! Jesus always does what’s right because He is perfect. If you have received Jesus as your Savior, then His Spirit lives inside of you – giving you the power to choose right over wrong. It won’t always be easy, but the Holy Spirit will help you if you allow Him to.

Let’s discuss it.

  1. When was the last time you had to choose between doing what was right or doing something wrong?
  2. Describe ways you can show the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) instead of your old self (vs. 19-21) this week.

Let’s do it.

All of our favorite storybook heroes pale in comparison to Jesus. He is the ultimate protector of all that is right and good. That means that Satan is the ultimate villain. Do you want some good news? Jesus defeated Satan when He paid the price for our sin on the Cross. The struggle going on inside of you between right and wrong is proof that you belong to Jesus Christ. His Spirit and your old nature are at war. You have a choice to make each day. Your words and actions will display either your old nature or your new nature as a follower of Christ.

If you have never decided to follow Jesus, then you don’t feel the conflict we’ve been talking about. Would you like to receive Jesus as your Savior right now? It’s simple really – just confess to Him that you are a sinner and choose to accept His death on the Cross as the payment for your sin. Close this week’s devotion with a time of prayer, inviting any member of the family who doesn’t know Jesus to begin following Him today!

2018 Week 39: Can I want something too much?

It’s natural to think about things that we want. Many of those things are good, and we work hard to have them. But focusing all of your thoughts and energy on what you want rather than what God has already given you will never make you truly happy. This week’s devotion explores the secret of being content and what God says about wanting something so much that it consumes your thoughts. Are you ready to get started?

Be ready to read the following passages:

Let’s start it.

What is something that you want and why?

Let’s learn it.

It’s fun to think about new things that we want – isn’t it? Sometimes, though, we can want something so much that it’s all we think about. You might even convince yourself that you won’t be satisfied until you have it. Check out Exodus 20:17 to see what God said to the Israelites about keeping their wants under control.

The Tenth Commandment warns about coveting, which is a strong desire to have something that someone else has. The things God told Israel not to covet covered every area of their lives, as well as ours. Coveting their neighbor’s house or wife meant wishing they lived in a different place or had a different family. Coveting someone’s servants, ox, or donkey is wanting that person’s possessions, lifestyle or job.

When you covet, you’re really saying to God, “What you’ve given to me isn’t enough.” Let’s take a look at Philippians 4:10-14 to learn what God-honoring attitude is the opposite of coveting.

Paul was content because He knew and trusted God, not because of what he had. Did you notice, though, that he “learned” to be content? That’s a lesson we all need to learn. Once Paul understood the secret to contentment – relying on God’s strength – he could help others to trust God, too. How did he encourage the Philippians in 4:19?

Ask a family member to read 1Timothy 6:6-10 to hear what Paul wrote to his friend Timothy about being content. God’s idea of contentment is quite different from ours. Our wants usually go way beyond food and clothes! But Paul didn’t just warn Timothy not to want money and things – instead, he instructed him to desire God, who would always be with him (Hebrews 13:5).

Contentment doesn’t come from what you have, where you live, where you work, or who your family is. Contentment comes from knowing that God is enough. Nothing or no one else can ever fill the empty space in your life that is meant for God. He’s the only one who can really make you satisfied and happy.

Let’s discuss it.

  1. Spend a few minutes talking about the things God has already given to you. How does knowing that God is your Provider help you to be more content?
  2. How have you recently wished that something about your life was more like someone else’s life? Discuss with your family how you can learn to be content in that area.

Let’s do it.

Have family members write 1 Timothy 6:6 on index cards or sticky notes to help each of you memorize Paul’s advice about godliness and contentment. Be aware this week of when your wants start to get out of control, and then quote that verse.

Remember, no one else has a life exactly like yours. Only you can live the life that God has allowed you to have. So instead of wanting what someone else has, look for ways you can serve and honor the Lord right where you are with exactly what He has given to you. God may very well give you the things you desire, but He often waits until we learn to be content with what we already have.

2018 Week 38: Why is it always best to tell the truth?

Last week we began looking at the character trait of being trustworthy by exploring how our actions line up with the Eighth Commandment, “You shall not steal.” Let’s continue with the theme of being trustworthy and learn why honesty and truthfulness are so important to God.

Be ready to read the following passages:

Let’s start it.

Has someone ever said something about you that was not true? How did it make you feel?

Let’s learn it.

Not telling the truth in a court of law can have serious consequences. A judge expects each person in the courtroom to be truthful. Well, God has given His people the responsibility of telling the truth, even when it’s difficult because you might get in trouble, or you might get someone else in trouble. As a matter of fact, God commanded the Israelites to tell the truth in every situation so that they would be a righteous nation. If you are a follower of Christ, then honesty should reflect who you are in Jesus. For the last couple of weeks, we’ve explored the idea that every sinful behavior has an opposite behavior that honors God because it displays His character. What does Exodus 20:16 tell us not to do, and what is its opposite?

Did you spot the word, “false”? Honesty and truthfulness are important because they are part of God’s character. Scripture tells us that all of God’s words are true (Psalm 119:160). In fact, God’s Word is truth (John 17:17). But wait, there’s more! What does the Bible tell us in John 1:14 and 14:6 about how truth is connected with Jesus?

Let those verses sink in for a moment. Truth comes from God because Jesus is the Truth! Since there is nothing false in Him, then no falsehood should come from His followers. Continue reading in John 14 to discover what verses 16-17 say is true of Christ’s followers.

The Spirit of truth lives inside each person who receives Jesus as Savior. Yet, we all face the temptation to be untruthful from time to time. We even tell ourselves that “little white lies” are no big deal. Or, that it’s okay to tell only part of the truth to stay out of trouble. Think of it this way though – if your words are technically true, but you’re trying to mislead someone, then you are not being completely honest; you’re being deceitful. A half-truth is a whole lie. God doesn’t put our untruthfulness on a scale from 1 to 10. He simply draws a line between truth and untruth, between honesty and dishonesty.

Before you continue, check out what the Apostle Paul wrote in Ephesians 4:22-25 about our old nature versus our new nature. Did you notice how similar verse 25 is to the Ninth Commandment in Exodus 20:16? You have a choice to make each day. Your words and actions will display either your old deceitful nature or your new righteous nature. That’s why honesty and truthfulness are so important – you were created to display the righteous and holy nature of the Lord. And He is the God of truth!

Let’s discuss it.

  1. How do you feel when someone lies to you? Why is it hard to trust that person again?
  2. According to what we learned this week, is it okay to lie if the truth would hurt someone’s feelings? What examples can you think of, and how could you handle the situation honestly?

Let’s do it.

Trust takes a long time to build, but it can be broken in an instant. Dishonest actions lead people to believe that you are not trustworthy, and dishonest words can cause people to doubt everything you say. Being dishonest goes against the nature of God, His Word, His Son, and His Spirit. Do you have a reputation for being honest and trustworthy? Being honest and trustworthy helps point people to Jesus, but claiming to follow Jesus but not being truthful is a poor testimony for God and prevents us from truly worshiping Him. If you can lie and deceive without feeling the conviction of God’s Spirit, then stop and examine whether or not the Holy Spirit lives inside of you. Whose nature will you choose to display this week?

2018 Week 37: How can I show that I’m trustworthy?

The Ten Commandments are God’s most basic rules. Two of those commands address the importance of being trustworthy. Next week we’ll take a look at being trustworthy with our words. But first, this week’s devotion will explore what God says about being trustworthy with our actions.

Be ready to read the following passages:

Let’s start it.

What are some actions that show that a person isn’t trustworthy?

Let’s learn it.

Any behavior you have to hide is usually wrong behavior. Even thieves sneak around in the darkness to hide what they’re doing because they understand that their actions are wrong. Taking something that doesn’t belong to you is stealing, and we know that stealing is wrong. Check out Exodus 20:15 to see how the Eighth Commandment addresses stealing.

We learned last week that every sinful behavior has an opposite, God-honoring behavior. What does Ephesians 4:28 suggest the opposite of stealing is?

Instead of taking what belongs to someone else, our hands should be busy working so we can share what we’ve earned with others. The book of Luke tells the true story of a man who stopped cheating people in his community after he met Jesus. Ask someone in your family to read his story in Luke 19:1-9.

Zacchaeus was a tax collector. It was his job to collect money owed to the government, but Zacchaeus was not honest. He collected more than people owed and kept the extra for himself. When Zacchaeus met Jesus, however, he stopped cheating people, paid back what he had stolen, and gave back more than he had taken.

Obeying God’s command not to steal includes more than respecting another person’s property and money. If your eyes wander to a classmate’s paper during a test, then you’re stealing his or her answers. We sometimes forget that nothing can be hidden from God. He knows everything you think and sees everything you do. Fully obeying the Eighth Commandment means being completely trustworthy with all of your actions.

Let’s discuss it.

  1. Think back to the untrustworthy actions you discussed in Let’s start it. Name an opposite, God-honoring behavior for each one.
  2. As a family, discuss what you think about the following statements:
    1. Bringing a pen home from your workplace or wasting time at work is robbing your employer.
    2. Copying another person’s homework is cheating.
    3. Taking credit for another person’s words or ideas is stealing.

Let’s do it.

Will you choose to respect other people’s money, property, time, and ideas? Remember, hard work and honesty honor God. If you are a student – work hard. If you are a parent or teenager with a job – work hard. Then be generous with the knowledge and money you’ve earned. If you find yourself trying to hide something you’ve done from your parents, your teacher, or your boss, don’t forget that nothing is hidden from God. So be careful to show that you can be trusted each and every day.

2018 Week 36: What is “faithfulness”?

Seven of the Ten Commandments instruct us not to do something. God’s negative commands (“You shall not…”), suggest that there’s something we should do. This week we’ll see how that works with the Seventh Commandment and why it’s so important for husbands and wives to be faithful to each other.

Be ready to read the following passages:

Let’s start it.

Name something you have been told not to do, and then tell your family what the opposite behavior should be.

Let’s learn it.

Every sinful behavior has an opposite, God-honoring behavior. Read the Seventh Commandment in Exodus 20:14. What command did God give to people who are married? What do you think the opposite behavior should be?

God designed romantic love to be between a husband and wife. Adultery is the sinful act of a married person showing that kind of affection to someone other than his or her spouse. God’s command for married people to not commit adultery is also a command to be a faithful husband or wife.

Being faithful in marriage mirrors the character of God. Take a look at what the following psalms say about God’s faithfulness – Psalms 117:1-2 and 145:13. God is always faithful to His people and to His promises. When a man and woman get married they promise to love, honor, and cherish each other this way. As followers of Christ, we should be faithful to our promises to each other and to Him.

We’ve been learning that Jesus had a lot to say about the Old Testament laws and the Ten Commandments when He lived on Earth. Do you remember what we learned last week about hatred? Well, just as hatred is like committing murder in the heart, even thinking about another person the way God wants husbands and wives to think about each other is committing adultery in the heart. Ask a family member to read Matthew 5:27-28 to see exactly what Jesus said.

Husbands and wives should remain faithful to their spouse with their entire being – body, mind, and heart. But what do you think Jesus did when He learned someone had been unfaithful? Stop and read John 8:1-11 to see how Jesus surprised the teachers of the Law. God wants us to stop any sin we are committing and be faithful to Him.

So why is it so important for a husband and wife to be faithful to each other? Because God created marriage to be a picture of our relationship with Him. God is faithful to us and forgives us when we are unfaithful. And He gives us the ability to forgive others and be faithful to the promises we have made.

Let’s discuss it.

  1. What promises have you made to God and to other people? How can you be faithful to those promises this week?
  2. From what you’ve learned about the fifth and seventh commandments, describe in your own words what God wants a Christian home to look like.

Let’s do it.

There’s so much more to God’s commands than “You shall not,” isn’t there? Living to please the Lord means turning away from sinful thoughts and behaviors. But it also means thinking and acting in ways that honor Him. Pay special attention this week to the things parents and teachers tell you not to do. Think about what the opposite behavior would be – then do it!

Think about how your family described a Christian home. How will you honor God this week as a child, a parent, or a spouse? Be determined to keep your promises to one

2018 Week 35: What is the opposite of love?

Most people would agree that it’s wrong to take the life of another person. But what about things like hatred and uncontrolled anger? Jesus taught His followers to love one another and to show His love to people who don’t know Him. This week we’ll take a closer look at the Sixth Commandment and learn what Jesus said about our attitudes toward other people.

Be ready to read the following passages:

Let’s start it.

Ask each family member to describe a food that they hate to eat and a food that they love to eat.

Let’s learn it.

How did your faces and voices change when you described foods you love versus ones that you hate? The same thing happens when those emotions enter our conversations about people. We often use the word “hate” without much thought. Sometimes, we use strong words that don’t really reflect our true feelings. As we’re about to learn, however, God isn’t pleased when we express hatred towards other people.

The Sixth Commandment has only four words, “You shall not murder” (Exodus 20:13), yet the Bible has so much more to say about why we should place a high value on human life. To understand why God gave this command, we need to go back to the beginning – the very beginning. Turn to Genesis 1:27 in your Bible and ask someone in your family to read that verse aloud.

Human beings are different from all other living things. God created us in His image so we could have a personal relationship with Him, the Creator. No other part of creation is as valuable to God as people. But when sin came into the world, it affected how people valued and treated one another. Check out what happened to the very first family in Genesis 4:1-12.

Cain allowed himself to be consumed with a sinful attitude – anger. The result was the murder of his brother Abel. Let’s look at what Jesus taught about the connection between anger and murder in Matthew 5:21-22.

As followers of Christ we would never think about killing someone, but keeping our anger under control is more difficult, isn’t it? Have you ever yelled at a sibling or a friend when you got mad? The words “Raca” and “fool” that Jesus talked about would be like calling someone stupid or an idiot. That kind of attitude fuels anger in your heart and can eventually become hatred if it’s left uncontrolled. Before you continue, check out what 1 John 3:15 says about that.

Wow! John says that whoever hates his brother is a murderer! God looks at the heart, and hating someone is like committing murder in your heart. You see, it’s not enough to simply follow the do’s and don’ts of the Ten Commandments; God also wants our thoughts and attitudes to reflect His character. Check out what Jesus told His disciples in John 13:34-35. Since God loves and values every person, so should we.

Let’s discuss it.

  1. What causes you to lose your temper or become angry with someone?
  2. Discuss ways that family members can learn to control strong emotions like anger, jealously, and hatred.

Let’s do it.

Uncontrolled anger and hatred are not from God, so they should never have any place in our lives. We all get mad from time to time, but we need to let God control our emotions before we speak or act out of anger. Having strong negative emotions for another person over and over again should send a warning to your heart. Ask God to help you see that person as God sees him or her. God loves and values every person because each one has been created in His image – even the ones you get angry with. Share with your family how you will show God’s love this week.

2018 Week 34: How can I honor my father and mother?

The last six commandments give God’s instructions about how people should treat one another. The first relationship most of us have is with our mother and father, so it’s no surprise that it’s the first human relationship God talks about in the Ten Commandments. This week we’ll explore what it means to honor our parents.

Be ready to read the following passages:

Let’s start it.

What are a few things you have learned from your mom and dad?

Let’s learn it.

As a baby, you didn’t know how to do anything, and then someone patiently taught you simple things like how to walk and how to use a spoon. Those people were most likely your parents. Have a family member read Exodus 20:12 to see what God says to children about how to treat their fathers and mothers.

Honoring your parents starts with being grateful for all they do and have done for you. True gratitude is more than saying, “Thank you”; it shows up in your attitude toward your parents each day. You demonstrate gratitude every time you choose to do what they’ve asked you to do. The Apostle Paul wrote to the church in Ephesus about the importance of obedience to parents. Take a look at what he said to kids in Ephesians 6:1-3.

Obeying your mom and dad is the right thing to do because God has placed you under their authority. Your parents set rules for your family because they love you and want what’s best for you. When you obey them, you are obeying God. He even promises that things will go better in your life when you respect your parents’ wishes. Obeying your parents is one way you can honor them and show your love for them.

The relationship between parents and children is a picture of the relationship God wants to have with each of us. Our heavenly Father is the perfect parent, and Jesus is His perfect Son. But we aren’t perfect – are we? God wants you to love and respect your parents, even when they make mistakes — the same way they love and forgive you when you mess up. Notice that God didn’t say to honor your parents when they are right. He simply said to honor your father and mother.

You might not have parents who love and follow Christ, but God still wants you to honor them. There may be times when as a Christian child, you have to say, “I cannot do that” if a parent tells you to lie or do something else that goes against God’s Word. Your determination to follow God, combined with a respectful and loving attitude will be a testimony for the Lord, to your parents, as well as to others.

The command to honor our parents doesn’t stop when we grow up. Check out what 1 Timothy 5:4 says about one way adults can honor their parents. As a family, it’s important to take care of the people who have taken care of us. It’s impossible to truly repay your parents and grandparents for all of their support and guidance, but following their example and helping to care for them as they get older is a sign of true faith and a grateful heart. Plus, it gives you the opportunity to show how much you love them!

Let’s discuss it.

  1. How have your parents shown love and care for you?
  2. Ask family members to name specific ways they can show gratitude, respect and care for their parents.
  3. If you were not brought up by your mother and father, how can you honor and respect the person who provided and cared for you?

Let’s do it.

Be determined this week to have an attitude toward your parents that first honors the Lord. Look for ways to thank your parents for providing for your needs. Be careful that your words and tone show respect for their authority. Gratitude, obedience, respect, and care – all of these things are part of honoring your father and your mother. How will your life honor them this week?

2018 Week 33: What do the Ten Commandments say about loving other people?

Over the last six weeks, we’ve looked at how to better love God by following His rules in the first four of the Ten Commandments. We’ve discovered how these commands help to shape the right attitude toward the Lord. This week we’ll begin our exploration of how the right attitude toward God affects our behavior toward others.

Be ready to read the following passages:

Let’s start it.

How would you want people to treat others if you were in charge of the rules at school, at church, or in your neighborhood?

Let’s learn it.

The last six commandments are God’s rules for our relationships with family, friends, neighbors, and even strangers. How well do the rules your family came up with match God’s rules? As a family, try to name the last six commandments from memory. Then read Exodus 20:12-17.

How did you do? Commandments five through ten teach us to live unselfishly as a family and as a community. Children should honor and obey their parents. Spouses should remain faithful to each other. We should respect one another’s life, property, and reputation. And finally, God instructs us to be content with what we have, being satisfied with what God has provided and not wanting what belongs to someone else.

 

Have you ever wondered why we need rules about how to treat one another? Why doesn’t everyone just do the right thing? Let’s take a minute to see what the Apostle Paul said in Romans 7:14-25 about why God gave us His law in the Ten Commandments.

God’s law shows us that we’re sinners in need of a Savior. But even after we choose to follow Christ, we can be guilty of selfishness, greed, or an unloving attitude. As you begin to grow as a Christian, there is still a battle against sin going on inside you. It’s a struggle between following your sinful nature (leading to wrong behavior) and your spiritual nature (leading to right behavior.) When you have the right attitude toward God, you become more aware of sinful thoughts and attitudes. A right relationship with Him helps you to see and treat other people with the same love and respect that He does.

Let’s discuss it.

  1. Why do you think God placed such importance on how people treat each other?
  2. Think of examples of how wrong attitudes toward God can cause wrong behavior toward each other.
  3. Look at commandments five through ten one more time. How would loving as God loves help you to keep each of these?

Let’s do it.

Which of the last six commandments is hardest for you to follow regularly? Do your words and actions honor your mom and dad? Are you determined to be truthful, no matter what the consequences are? Are you content with the things God has provided for you?

It’s not enough to simply know the right thing to do or to simply desire to do it – we need to follow through on the rules that God has given us. When you struggle to do the right thing, remember that it’s your sinful nature taking over. Turn to God – He has promised to help you. Human relationships aren’t perfect, but they will be greatly improved when you rely on God’s Word and the Holy Spirit to help you.

2018 Week 32: What’s so special about Sunday?

Do you have chores and responsibilities around the house like cleaning up your room? Your family might save bigger projects in the yard or around the house for a Saturday and attend church together on Sundays. You may even get to do fun things with friends and family on the weekends. This week, we’ll explore how to observe the Lord’s day and keep it holy.

Be ready to read the following passages:

Let’s start it.

Ask family members to describe a normal day in their lives. How is your weekday routine different from a Saturday?

Let’s learn it.

There’s no doubt that your daily routine is quite different from the daily routine of an Israelite in the Old Testament. Yet, similarities can be found in anyone’s day-to-day life. Pick a family member to read Exodus 20:8-11 and see what God has to say in the Ten Commandments about our routines.

 

God gave the Sabbath as a day of rest for His people. Each Saturday, they were to take a break from their normal routine, rest from their work, and focus on the Lord. The Sabbath was a weekly reminder of how God had provided for them. By following this pattern, they were doing the same thing God had done after creation. Check out what Genesis 2:1-3 says about that.

 

God rested on the seventh day because He had finished the work of creating the universe. God gave the seventh day a special importance and declared it to be holy. The first word of the Fourth Commandment is “Remember.” He reminded His people that in six days He made everything: the heavens, the earth, the sea, and all that is in them. Then He rested. The seventh day was to be different from the other six days. God’s people were to treat the seventh day as holy, just as God had done.

 

If the Sabbath was the last day of the week – Saturday – why do Christians gather to worship on Sunday, the first day of the week? Check out the clues in Matthew 28:1-7 before you continue. We have the best reason in the world to observe Sunday as a holy day – it was the day Jesus rose from the grave! Each Sunday is an opportunity for followers of Christ to celebrate His resurrection and reflect on what God did by sending His Son to pay the price for our sins.

 

God’s pattern from creation teaches us the importance of taking a day of physical, mental, and emotional rest from our normal routine. It is a day reserved to reflect on what God has already done and to focus our attention on Christ for the coming week.

Let’s discuss it.

  1. Describe a normal Sunday for your family. Come up with ways that members of your family can take a break from their usual routines on Sundays in order to focus on the Lord.
  2. How would it help your body, mind, and emotions to reserve Sunday as a day of rest?

Let’s do it.

Sometimes we fail to recognize how we’re following the world’s pattern rather than God’s. Sunday has become the busiest day of the week at most grocery stores and shopping centers. Many times Christians leave church and rush off to a flurry of chores and activities. Like most things, a day of rest requires sticking to a plan the other six days of the week. If we put off our chores or have too many responsibilities, we simply run out of time to get everything done. What would you have to change during the week in order to take Sunday as a day of rest?

 

This Sunday, try to plan a family meal after your morning worship service. Intentionally focus your attention on God by discussing what each person learned from the sermon or from his or her Life Group. How has God provided for your family this week? Monday’s chores and responsibilities will still come, but you will be better prepared to face them with a rested body, mind, and spirit!

2018 Week 31: What is the right way to use God’s name?

Parents choose names for their children for all kinds of reasons. They may simply like the sound of the name or the meaning that it has. Sometimes, parents name their children after another family member, special friend, or a person in the Bible. Names are important in Scripture, but no name is more significant than the name of the Lord. This week’s devotion will focus on using God’s name in the right way.

Be ready to read the following passages:

Let’s start it.

Do you know why you were given the name you have? If you were named after a particular person, discuss what led your parents to give you that name. You can also use a search engine to look up the meaning of each family member’s name. Does your name accurately represent something about you?

Let’s learn it.

Names in the Bible often represented an event at the time of the child’s birth or expressed the parents’ desire for the kind of life the child would have. But God’s name expresses His character far more than any human name ever could. That’s why the third commandment is so important. Ask a family member to read Exodus 20:7 to start our discussion on the name of God.

The command not to misuse God’s name implies that it should be used correctly – with reverence and respect. However, our society has forgotten what it means for God’s name to be precious. Even Christians sometimes casually or jokingly use phrases containing God’s name. We need to break any habit of saying the name of the Lord when we aren’t talking directly about Him or to Him.

To better understand why God’s name should be used with such respect, we need a better understanding of what His name means. There are many names for God in the Bible because His nature cannot be expressed in just one name. What do you learn about God’s name or character from the following verses – Psalm 47:2, Isaiah 9:6, Isaiah 54:5, 1 Timothy 1:17?

Wow! Is it any wonder that we should use the name of our God with such respect? His name is awesome – literally!

Let’s discuss it.

  1. How do you feel and react when God’s name is misused around you?
  2. Give examples of proper ways to use the name of the Lord.

Let’s do it.

The command not to misuse the name of the Lord should motivate followers of Christ to always use God’s name with reverence and respect. Look for opportunities this week to make God’s character known by using His name in ways that honor Him. When your words give God the credit and the glory for what is happening in your life, you honor His name. How can you show respect for His name throughout the week? Keep in mind that how we talk about God matters to Him.

2018 Week 30: What does God look like?

Back in Week 19 of Family Time, we said that worship is loving God with your entire being. The problem is that we tend to give our affection to things we can see and touch because those things seem more real. This week, we’ll learn that our invisible God is more real than any idol ever made by human hands.

Be ready to read the following passages:

Let’s start it.

Take turns describing an object in the room and have your family guess what it is. Now take turns describing the wind. Why is that more difficult?

Let’s learn it.

Trying to describe God is a lot like trying to describe the wind – neither can be seen or grasped, but each is still real. Take a quick look at the second commandment in Exodus 20:4. God commanded Israel not to make or bow down to idols. Still, the Israelites wanted to worship something they could see and touch. What happened in Exodus 32:1-4 while Moses was on Mt. Sinai receiving God’s Law?

The Israelites asked Aaron to make a god. Stop to think about that for a moment … they wanted to worship something human hands created instead of worshipping the God who created them! To make matters even worse, they gave the golden calf credit for what the Lord God Almighty had done. Do you think God was angry? You better believe He was! The answer to why He was so angry is found back in the Ten Commandments. Ask someone to read Exodus 20:5-6 to see what God said after the second commandment.

God’s jealousy for His people can be confusing at first, but it isn’t sinful – it’s righteous. He wanted Israel to protect their relationship with Him the same way a husband and wife should protect their relationship by keeping their promise to be faithful to each other. When Israel gave their love and loyalty to something else, He was jealous because their worship rightly belonged to Him. When parents turn from God and worship anything other than the Lord, their children suffer the natural consequences of not being brought up to trust and honor their Creator.

There’s another interesting part of the second commandment. God told Israel not to make an image of anything, including God Himself. Since God is spirit, He is in all places at all times and cannot be contained in an inanimate object (John 4:21.) He is too glorious and powerful to portray. Read Colossians 1:15 and Hebrews 1:3 to discover the one image God gave of Himself to the world.

If you want to know what God is like, then look at Jesus. It’s true that we don’t know today exactly what Jesus looked like. After all, there were no cameras on Earth during His lifetime. But Jesus’ outward appearance isn’t really important – it is His character and inner nature that make Him God. One day we will see Jesus in all of His glory, and fall to our knees in worship. Until then, we must guard against giving our highest love and loyalty to anything or anyone else.

Let’s discuss it.

  1. How do you think people worship idols or images in today’s world?
  2. Try to describe in your own words why it’s good that our God is too big to be contained in a gold or wooden object.
  3. Think of ways you can show that your highest love and loyalty belong to God. Share those thoughts with your family.

Let’s do it.

God created each of us with a desire to worship, but that doesn’t mean that you will automatically worship Him. Like the Israelites, we sometimes give our affections to the wrong things. Has something else become more important than God in your daily life? Do you love anyone more than you love Him? If you answered yes to either one of those questions, then that thing or person is becoming an idol in your life. Will you commit to loving God supremely this week? Your relationships with one another will improve as God moves into first place in your individual lives.

2018 Week 29: How can I know that God is real?

Many people today either doubt or outright deny that God exists. They only believe in what they can see and touch. Have you ever wondered if our invisible God is real? Well, the First Commandment reminds us that there is only one true God, and He deserves our complete and total loyalty. As a matter of fact, He commands it! Let’s take a look at how God reminded the Israelites that He is real.

Be ready to read the following passages:

Let’s start it.

What do you have to be reminded of most often? Why do you think you’re forgetful about that particular thing?

Let’s learn it.

Very few people have the ability to remember perfectly. Of course, God knows that human beings tend to be forgetful – even about the most important things. Ask a family member to read Exodus 20:1-3 and make note of what God reminded Israel in the first words of the Ten Commandments.

God reminded Israel of who He was and what He had done in the past so they would worship Him alone. You see, generations of Israelites had grown up as slaves, watching the Egyptians worship false gods. Instead of recognizing the Lord as their Creator, the people of Egypt created gods from various plants and animals. They worshiped creation instead of the Creator. How does Genesis 1:1 remind you of who God is?

All the gods of Egypt were no match for the Lord. By miraculously delivering Israel from slavery, the Lord proved that the gods of Egypt were false and the God of Israel was real. God’s people were to be different from Egypt and from other nations they would encounter as they traveled to their new home. The Lord reminded the Israelites that they served the one true God.

The First Commandment may seem simple – “have no other gods.” But Israel struggled over and over again to keep it. So from time to time the Lord would remind His people that He alone is God. One of the best examples of this is found in 1 Kings 18:16-39. Check out this incredible passage together right now.

Although Elijah was greatly outnumbered, he knew without a doubt that he served the one true God. When the power of the Lord fell on the altar, God’s people remembered Him and cried out repeatedly, “The Lord – He is God!” The God of Israel proved once again that He was (and is) real.

Today, as in the days of the Israelites, we place our faith in the invisible God. Even though we can’t see Him with our eyes or touch Him with our hands, the Lord works in the world and in our lives to remind us that He is our Creator, Provider, and Protector.

Let’s discuss it.

  1. What evidence in creation proves that God is real?
  2. How has God protected and provided for your family in the past? How did it remind you to keep Him in first place in your life?

Let’s do it.

If you read the Bible regularly and are actively involved in church, then you probably believe that God exists and still works in our world. Are your actions and attitudes consistent with what you say you believe? Do you honor God as your Creator by how you behave? Are you trusting in anything or anyone other than the Lord to provide for what you need? Having no other gods before the Lord isn’t just something you acknowledge in your thoughts. How you choose to live each day shows what you really believe.

As you go throughout your week, look for someone who has doubts that God is real. Ask the Lord to help you show His love to that person. It’s not enough to simply know that we serve the only true God – we need to share that news with the world!

2018 Week 28: What is my attitude toward God?

We said last week that the Ten Commandments are God’s rules for right and wrong behavior. Correct behavior must start with the right attitude. Before we examine the Ten Commandments one-by-one, let’s look at how the first four commands should shape our attitude toward God.

Be ready to read the following passage:

Let’s start it.

How many of the Ten Commandments can your family name from memory? Here’s a helpful tip: the first four are about our relationship with God, and the last six are about relationships with other people. Go!

Let’s learn it.

How did you do? Check your accuracy by asking one member of the family to read Exodus 20:1-7.

The first four commandments teach us how to have a proper view of God so we can have a loving relationship with Him and with other people. How you respond to those commands reveals what you really think and feel about God. Let’s take a quick attitude check based on the first four commandments.

First, do you believe there is only one God – the God of Scripture? Or do you believe there are many ways to Heaven? Do you trust God completely, or do you find trusting Him difficult because He cannot be physically seen or touched? Are you careful about how you use God’s name, or do you sometimes say His name in an irreverent or silly way? Finally, do you reserve one day a week to rest and focus on the Lord, or do you go on with your regular activities on the Lord’s Day?

What did you learn about your attitude toward the Lord based on how you answered those questions? The Lord God Almighty is the one true God. Since He alone is worthy to be worshiped, His name and His day deserve our respect. When you give the God of Scripture the highest place in your life, then you will think and behave in ways that please Him. The ultimate result will be a loving, personal relationship with the Creator of the universe!

Let’s discuss it.

  1. As a family, make a list of right and wrong attitudes toward God.
  2. Which right attitude do you need to work on the most?
  3. How can you guard your thoughts and attitude toward God?

Let’s do it.

Even as devoted followers of Christ, we sometimes let worldly things seep into our thinking. When that happens, our view of God slowly begins to change from what the Bible says. You might not notice when your attitude starts to be swayed by how people who don’t know Jesus think, so you have to intentionally guard your heart and mind. Ask God to help you recognize wrong views of Him on television, at school, or in conversations with friends. Guard your thinking by reading the truth about God each day from His Word. Remember, right behavior starts with the right attitude.

2018 Week 27: How can I know right from wrong?

Laws and rules are important because they help us know which behaviors are right and which ones are wrong. Parents and teachers set up rules for at home and in your classroom, while elected leaders pass laws for our community and country. God gave the nation of Israel a set of laws to live by – the Ten Commandments. These commands form the foundation for many of our laws today. This week we’ll begin a journey through God’s commands for right and wrong behavior. Are you ready?

 

Be ready to read the following passages:

Let’s start it.

Think about the rules in your family, school, and workplace. What behaviors are right and wrong in each place? What happens if you break the rules?

Let’s learn it.

The Ten Commandments are the most important laws and rules ever given because God Himself wrote them. He gave the Ten Commandments to His people to show them how to have loving relationships with Him and with each other. They are God’s rules for which attitudes and behaviors are right and which ones are wrong.

The first four commands explain how to have a right relationship with God. He is the only true God, so only He should be worshiped. His followers shouldn’t bow in worship to any kind of idol, not even an image designed to represent Him. The name of the Lord should be used reverently, not disrespectfully. And one day should be set aside from our weekly routine to rest from work and focus on Him.

The last six commandments teach us how to live unselfishly as a family and as a community. Children should honor their parents. Spouses should remain faithful to each other. We should respect one another’s life, property, and reputation. Finally, God instructs us to be content and not want what belongs to someone else.

You may think you know all about the Ten Commandments, but there’s so much to learn by examining them carefully. In the next several weeks, we’ll look at the commandments one-by-one, and see what the New Testament says about them as well. For instance, read what Jesus taught about murder in Matthew 5:21-22.

There’s an old saying, “If the sin is wrong, then the road to the sin is wrong.” So, since murder is wrong, then the feelings of anger and hate that lead to murder are wrong. You see, the Ten Commandments are more than a list of do’s and don’ts. They help us identify sinful thoughts and attitudes. Once we understand clearly what God says about what is wrong, we can replace it with behavior that is right.

Let’s discuss it.

  1. Which of the Ten Commandments are laws in our country today?
  2. Which of the Ten Commandments are not considered important by many people in our society?
  3. What happens in your family and community when these commands are obeyed versus when they are disobeyed?

 

Let’s do it.

God designed you to recognize Him as your Creator by worshiping Him alone and honoring His name. God also created your friends, family, and neighbors. You can have a loving relationship with Him by following His rules, which also makes it possible to have loving relationships with one another. That’s why God tells us what is right and what is wrong. His commands that say, “Do not,” keep us from behavior that would hurt us or others. When we obey what He tells us to do, our relationship with Him and our relationships with the people around us will grow stronger.

Will you listen carefully as we study each command? Start looking for wrong attitudes and actions that need to be corrected in your life. Which of God’s rules for right and wrong do you need to work on the most this week? The relationships in your family will be stronger as each of you develops a closer relationship with God.

2018 Week 26: Whom should I serve?

So far, Family Time has taught us a lot about how to love God and love people. Now we have to take what we’ve learned and put our faith into action. Are you ready to discover whom we should serve?

Be ready to read the following passages:

Let’s start it.

Talk about what you’ve learned from Family Time so far this year. How has it helped you to love God and love people more?

Let’s learn it.

Everything we’ve talked about in Family Time so far this year has led to this – serving. In week seven we learned that the Holy Spirit gives every follower of Christ at least one spiritual gift. Look at Ephesians 4:11-13 as a reminder of how to use those gifts.

One of the most practical ways we can truly love our brothers and sisters in Christ is to serve one another. Serving is as simple as sharing your God-given abilities to help another believer or to help your church. There are lots of ways to use each spiritual gift in everyday practical ways. If you have the gift of hospitality, for instance, you can take a meal to a sick friend or host a life group in your home.

But serving the family of God is more than helping one another; we also serve together in the common goal of spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ. So using the gift of hospitality to carry a meal to an unbelieving neighbor is serving – if it’s done in the name of Jesus. Being a greeter for your class, department, or at the main doors of the church is also serving. A welcoming smile can make a huge difference to visitors and members alike.

Serving the body of Christ extends beyond your local church family. An interesting thing happens when you choose to serve people in need. Check it out in Matthew 25:34-40.

When Jesus lived on Earth, He related to people with great needs. As He met their physical needs, they turned to Him for their spiritual needs as well. When we follow His example – to serve those with the greatest needs – we are actually serving Him! You see, helping people opens the door to share the Gospel of Christ. Someone once said, “They don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” Think about that … it’s difficult for hungry or cold people to focus on what you’re saying about Jesus. However, if you give them food or blankets in the name of Jesus and then tell them how much He loves them, those same people will likely listen to every word.

So what’s the answer to, “Whom should I serve?” Ultimately, we serve the Lord. You can serve Him each and every day by helping members of the body of Christ, His church, and the least in His kingdom. You can even spark the interest of those outside the body of Christ by meeting their needs in His name.

Let’s discuss it.

  1. As a family, come up with practical ways you can use your talents and abilities to serve other believers as well as your church family as a whole.
  2. How does your church help people in need? Discuss which of these programs or events your family can participate in at various times throughout the year.

Let’s do it.

There are all kinds of ways to serve your church family, help fellow believers, and help people in need. Think about the things that you are especially good at doing. If you love to sort and organize, then talk to a life group leader in children’s ministry. There’s always plenty to do there! What other ideas did members of your family come up with in Let’s discuss it that you plan to put into action?

As you read God’s Word this week, look for the Holy Spirit to guide you about where and whom you should serve. Look for ways to bless your family, neighbors, and community with your gifts and abilities. Let’s all commit to serving as Christ modeled for us to do.

2018 Week 25: How does serving others help me to follow Jesus?

Jesus set the perfect example of living each day with the humble heart of a servant – always helping people. If we say we are followers of Christ, then of course we should follow His example. Let’s find out how to serve our family, church, neighbors, and community by doing good deeds.

Be ready to read the following passages:

Let’s start it.

How has someone helped you recently? How did it make you feel?

Let’s learn it.

Placing your faith in Jesus cannot be separated from doing good things. The Gospels tell us again and again how Jesus went out of His way to help people. It doesn’t make sense for a Christian to talk about believing in Jesus and then not follow His example. James, the half brother of Jesus, understood the importance of putting faith into action. Read what he said about helping other believers in James 2:14-17.

Does saying, “Be warm” or “Be full” help a cold or hungry person? Of course not! Being Christ-like means looking for ways to help. For your faith to be healthy, you have to unselfishly act on what you believe. It might mean taking time away from something you want to do or giving something you have away. You can also help by sharing your God-given abilities to help family and friends (1 Peter 4:10).

Acting on your faith not only helps people with their physical needs, it also helps them spiritually. Doing something good in the name of Jesus stands out like a light in the darkness. Check out how Jesus used that illustration in Matthew 5:14-16.

What do you do when you want to see in a dark room? That’s right – you turn on a light. It’s the same with your faith in Jesus. Followers of Christ should shine like a bright city on a hill that can be seen from far away in the darkness. We are the light of the world! Our good deeds bring praise and honor to our heavenly Father and help unbelievers to see Jesus more clearly. That’s why we do things like collecting canned food and coats for needs in our community. Every time you choose to help in the name of Jesus, you shine His light into the world.

So you see, doing good deeds is simply finding ways to put your faith into action. Good deeds can be small, everyday things or really big one-time events. Serving your family, church, neighbors, and community is something that every follower of Christ should do. Helping someone by sharing the blessings and abilities that God has given to you honors Him and points people to His Son – Jesus.

Let’s discuss it.

  1. How can you serve members of your family through small, everyday good deeds?
  2. What big, one-time good deed would help another person in your church?
  3. How can you go out of your way this week to help people in your neighborhood or community? How can that good deed point them to Jesus?

Let’s do it.

The best place to start doing good deeds is right inside your own home. Sadly, we’re often the most selfish around the people we love the most. Be determined to help one member of your family each day this week. Before you know it, you’ll have a new habit. Who knows – you might even enjoy your time together more!

Also pay attention to the needs of people outside your home. Take time to really listen when a friend has a problem, and then look for ways to help. If someone in your church or neighborhood is sick, your family might be able to take that family a meal. Or, you could help a widow or single mother with something like yard work. Jesus helped to meet both the physical and spiritual needs of all kinds of people. As His followers, we should do the same. Remember this week – YOU are the light of the world!

 

2018 Week 24: What makes a person great?

Think about the important people in your church, school, community, and nation. Would it surprise you to know that your list is probably very different from God’s list? Today’s devotion will challenge us to think differently about what makes a person great.

Be ready to read the following passages:

Let’s start it.

Name a person you think is important, and then tell your family what makes that person so great. 

Let’s learn it.

Your list of important people likely included some well-known and powerful people. But a person isn’t great just because he or she is famous or holds an important position. Take a look at what Jesus said about greatness in Mark 10:35-45 when two brothers came to Him with a big request.

James and John were ambitious; they had a desire to rise above their fellow disciples to powerful positions in God’s kingdom. Their request shows the same attitude we saw last week when the disciples were arguing over who was the greatest. Jesus challenged how they thought about what makes a person great. He explained that to be truly great they needed to serve, not be served. Do you think that Jesus’ answer confused them? After all, the world thinks of servants as the ones who help the important people – right?

This is where God challenges us to think differently, too. We often go to God with selfish prayers, asking for things that would make us look better in the eyes of other people. We have to remember that Jesus is our example. He never let someone’s opinion stop Him from serving His Father, and He is the greatest leader the world will ever know. People in leadership positions can find their greatest success by following Jesus’ example of humble service.

Matthew wrote about this same event in his gospel, but he added an interesting detail we can learn from. Ask a family member to read the beginning of this story in Matthew 20:20-21 to find out what that detail is.

What new detail did Matthew give us? It seems that James and John’s mother shared their misguided ideas about greatness. Jesus challenged her thinking as well. Like most parents, she was proud of her children and wanted them to be successful. But to really help her sons become great men, she needed to guide them to be holy rather than just look for what would make them happy. Servants in God’s kingdom should have different ideas from the world’s ideas about what makes a person great or important.

Let’s discuss it.

  1. What ideas does our society have about greatness? How are those ideas radically different from God’s?
  2. What position, role, or achievement are you trying to reach? Discuss how your motives for that accomplishment could either honor or dishonor the Lord.
  3. What is the difference between giving your very best effort and feeling as if you have to be the best or greatest at what you do?

Let’s do it.

Now that Jesus has challenged your thinking, make a new list of truly great people in your church, school, community, and nation. Talk briefly about how members of your family can follow their example.

Having a desire to do your very best honors the Lord. However, we have to guard against the prideful desire for others to think we are great or important. No matter what position you have, following Jesus means living to serve. Close your time together by reading 1 Peter 5:6 as a prayer for the members of your family. Ask God to guard your thinking against selfish desires for greatness.

2018 Week 23: How was Jesus a servant?

For several months now, Family Time has explored ways we can love God and love people. We’ve learned that truly loving God means being committed to His Word, making prayer a part of your daily life, and worshipping Him continually. God then gives you a desire to love other people by connecting with a community of believers and sharing Jesus with nonbelievers. There is one more piece of the puzzle though. This month we’ll discover ways to live out our love for God and other people by having the heart of a servant. Let’s begin by looking at the greatest example of a servant – Jesus.

Be ready to read the following passages:

Let’s start it.

What recent achievement are you pleased with? If you can’t think of one right away, ask your family to name something you’ve accomplished. 

Let’s learn it.

There are lots of reasons to be proud of your family and of yourself. Working hard and having strong character are just a few things that we can be pleased with because they also please the Lord. There’s a big difference, however, between being satisfied with a job well done and being prideful. The sin of pride creeps in when you take credit for your accomplishments rather than recognizing how God helped you to do it. Pride causes you to think you’re better than someone else.

If anyone ever had reason to think highly of Himself, it was Jesus. He is the perfect, sinless Son of God. Yet the Bible tells us that Jesus was humble – the exact opposite of being prideful. Have a family member read Philippians 2:1-11, and make note of the ways Jesus humbled Himself when He lived on the earth.

Even though He is Lord, Jesus became a human being, knowing all the time that He would be humiliated on the Cross. Not only that, but He lived each day with the attitude of a servant. He looked out for the needs of other people – the same people He would die to rescue from sin. A great example of His servant’s heart is found in John 13:1-17. Check out what Jesus did in this passage that shocked His disciples.

People in the Bible usually walked everywhere they went, so they needed to wash their feet when they went inside. Can you imagine how dirty your feet would get if you walked down dirt roads in sandals every day? The servant with the lowest position had the job of washing the feet of whoever came into the house. No servants were present because Jesus wanted to be alone with His disciples. Instead of humbly volunteering for the job of washing feet, the disciples had been disagreeing about which one of them was the greatest (Luke 22:24)! So Jesus modeled humility as a servant and washed their feet – even the feet of those who would shortly deny and betray Him.

No one else could ever accomplish what Jesus accomplished. He paid the price for our sins on the Cross, and He did it with perfect humility. Every day that Jesus walked on Earth, He gave us an example to follow. He showed us how to live with the heart of a servant.

Let’s discuss it.

  1. Think about the accomplishment you mentioned in Let’s start it. How could that accomplishment tempt you to be prideful?
  2. We have different customs than the people in the Bible had. What tasks today would be similar to washing someone’s feet?
  3. Discuss ways that you can serve the people you spend time with each day.

Let’s do it.

Followers of Jesus should follow His example – right? Well then, we should approach each day with the heart of a servant. That means looking for ways to help others instead of focusing only on your own interests. In order to follow Jesus’ example fully, we need to be humble as well. Are you quietly competing to be greater than a sibling, a fellow student, or a co-worker? Or has someone hurt your feelings or betrayed your trust? Name one way you can serve that person this week. Close your time together by asking God to give you true humility and the willingness to serve people as Jesus did.

2018 Week 22: When should I worship?

To answer this week’s question, we need to think about what we’ve learned so far about worship. Each of us should love God with our entire being; with everything we say and do each day. Anything can be an act of worship if it’s done to honor the Lord. Wow – each, every, any, entire – those words leave nothing out! Let’s jump into this week’s devotion and see what other words God uses to describe when we should worship.

Be ready to read the following passages:

Let’s start it.

In your own words, try to define always, continually, and constantly. Look up those words afterwards to see how similar your definitions are to the dictionary meanings.

Let’s learn it.

Every word has a meaning. Since God carefully chose each word in the Bible, it’s important for us to know what those words mean. When words with the same or similar meaning show up in more than one place, then we should really pay attention. Check out Hebrews 13:15 and point out which word tells us when to praise the Lord.

Did you say, “continually” or “constantly”? We just learned that those words mean to do something again and again without stopping. But this verse tells us more than when to worship; it gives the reason why our worship should never end. “Through Jesus” the Old Testament sacrifices aren’t needed anymore! Because of His sacrifice on the Cross, we should offer praise to God over and over again each day without stopping. We should worship the Lord without any interruption.

The next word we’re going to look at is in Philippians 4:4. Read that short verse together and find the word that answers, “When?”

God didn’t use the word, “always” by mistake. There is always a reason to rejoice and praise the name of the Lord – as we learned in Hebrews 13:15. Still, when something happens that makes us feel sad, angry, or disappointed, it can pull our focus away from God. So how should we react when bad things happen? Can we really praise God in everything? Let’s look at Habakkuk 3:17-18 to see what the prophet Habakkuk did.

Can you imagine a worse situation than having no food and no way to earn money? Yet during the most difficult time of his life, Habakkuk chose to focus on his Savior. We can learn an important lesson from Habakkuk. You see, our ability to be joyful and worship the Lord isn’t connected to what happens to us. We should praise Him at all times because of who He is – not what He does or does not do.

Since He is always the same, we can always praise Him. Since Jesus’ death paid for every sin, we can honor Him every moment. Since each situation is under His control, we can devote each day to His glory. Since He has absolute power over all things, we can rejoice at all times – even in our very worst moments. Always, continually, and constantly are great words – aren’t they?

Let’s discuss it.

  1. How has this week’s devotion changed your thoughts about a situation that makes you feel sad or disappointed?
  2. Ask family members to share how they reacted during their best and worst moments from the past week. Discuss how God could be honored, praised, and worshipped in each situation.

Let’s do it.

Do you praise God when you’re happy but complain when you don’t get your way?

If we’re going to praise God continually, then we need to start and end each day with thoughts about Him. Do you give yourself time in the morning to read God’s Word, or do you rush out without setting your thoughts on Him? How many times during the week do you have a meal as a family and talk about what has happened during each person’s day? Talk for a moment about ways you can spend more time as a family to help each person focus on worshipping the Lord throughout the day – continually.

2018 Week 21: How do I worship?

Every family has different traditions – ways of doing things that are handed down from one generation to the next. Traditions in our church family are great, too. But by themselves, religious habits and activities aren’t true worship. Let’s go to God’s Word and learn how to worship Him the right way. 

Be ready to read the following passages:

Let’s start it.

What are your favorite family traditions and why? 

Let’s learn it.

Traditions can make the time you spend together as a family more enjoyable. The same thing is true in your church family. However, participating in religious activities doesn’t automatically mean you are offering worship to God. Religious habits are just empty actions if they aren’t backed up by obedience to God’s commands. That’s exactly what the Israelites did when they entered the Promised Land. Check out Jeremiah 7:22-23 to see what message God sent to His people.

Israel wrongly thought that worship was limited to the sacrifices they made at the temple. Their offerings to the Lord couldn’t be accepted as true worship because they were disobeying God’s instructions at the same time. We also sometimes confuse our church activities and religious habits with worship. Those things certainly can be worship if we’re living the way God has told us to live. The Apostle Paul said something very important about worship in Romans 12:1-2. Ask a family member to read those verses.

Did you catch that? Worship becomes an everyday activity when you choose to give what you do to God as an offering. The starting place is in your thoughts and attitudes. It’s much easier for your behavior to please God if you’ve allowed His Word to change how you think. Everything we’ve talked about today can be wrapped up in one verse. Who is ready to read 1 Corinthians 10:31? Go ahead and read that verse now.

Worshipping God isn’t limited to what we do at church. The things that make up your ordinary life can have new meaning when they are done for God’s glory. When you think about bringing glory to God with everything in your daily routine, then you’ve started to develop a lifestyle of worship.

Let’s discuss it.

  1. Name ways that your family enjoys worshipping God together at church.
  2. What everyday activities can you offer to God as worship?

Let’s do it.

Do you remember what we’ve learned so far this month about worship? Worship isn’t just singing praise songs to God or attending a church service. True worship begins by recognizing the Lord as the One and only God and loving Him with every part of who we are. Now we’ve learned how to participate in worship anywhere and at any time. Have you ever thought about the fact that anything you do can be an act of worship? By simply offering God each thought, attitude, and behavior, your life will be an offering that pleases the Lord. Decide on specific ways each member of your family can use what we’ve learned today to worship God this week.

2018 Week 20: Why should I worship God?

We learned last week that real worship is loving God with all that we are, and that it’s the most important thing we can ever do. That brings up a big question. Why should we worship the God of the Bible instead of gods we hear about in other religions?

Be ready to read the following passages:

Let’s start it.

Take turns saying one true statement and one false statement about yourself. Have the other members of the family guess which is true and which is false.

Let’s learn it.

Have you ever taken a “true or false” test? The false statements are sometimes easy to spot because they are so silly. Well, that’s exactly what God’s people – the Israelites – should have seen about giving their worship to anyone or anything other than the Lord. The first answer to the question, “Why should we worship God?” is found in the Ten Commandments. The Lord wanted the Israelites to worship Him alone as the One true God. Go to Exodus 20:2-7 in your Bibles and have a family member read what God expected of His people.

The first three commandments instructed the Israelites to stay away from the gods and idols that other nations worshipped. These so-called “gods” were not real gods at all. They were false. The Lord gave His people a purpose – to recognize Him as the One and only God. Of course that meant worshipping Him the way the only true God deserves to be worshipped and using His name only in an honorable way.

God designed us to recognize who He is so we can have a relationship with Him. Anything that turns your attention and affection away from God and His Word has become like a false god in your life. God’s instructions in the first three commandments teach us to worship Him alone and to treat His name with the respect that it deserves.

Scripture also says that God deserves to be worshipped because He is holy and has power over everything He created. Take a look at the amazing vision of worship that John saw in Revelation 4:1-11. The book of Revelation looks into the future. Even though the events haven’t happened yet, we know they are true because God put them in His Word. One day, the whole world will recognize that God is the only true God. Chapters 4 and 5 of Revelation give an awesome description of the worship that will take place around His heavenly throne when God’s people and all of creation worship Him together.

The God of the Bible is the Creator of everyone and everything that exists. No one created Him or has power over Him. God is eternal, which means that He has always been and always will be. Every other so-called “god” is false. Worshiping the Lord as the One true God is the reason we exist and is the one thing we will do forever in Heaven.

Let’s discuss it.

  1. Ask each person to make a true statement about God. What false beliefs about God have you heard?
  2. How do those true and false beliefs affect a person’s worship of the Lord?
  3. What do you think you would do if you saw God in all of His glory, as John described in Revelation 4?

Let’s do it.

God created us with the desire to worship, but if you have false beliefs, you’ll worship something or someone other than the only true God. Each person has to choose whether he or she will give the Lord the worship He deserves. Is your worship true or false? Ask God to show you if another person or activity has become like a false god in your life. Talk about ways that your family can give God the devotion He deserves. True worship is centered around the Lord God Almighty and His Son, Jesus Christ. He is the One and only God.

2018 Week 19: What is worship?

Music is usually the first thing that comes to mind when we hear the word “worship.” While it’s true that we can worship God through music, the act of worship is so much more than singing songs on Sunday morning. Let’s look at what God says in His Word about what worship really is.

Be ready to read the following passages:

Let’s start it.

How have you shown love for someone this week by doing something that pleased him or her? How has someone shown love to you?

Let’s learn it.

Moses gave the Israelites a simple definition of worship – love God. It’s a two-word command packed with the secret to living a life that pleases the Lord. Turn to Deuteronomy 6:5 in your Bibles and see how Israel was instructed to love God.

God’s chosen people were to love Him with all of their heart, soul, and strength. That meant loving Him with all that they had, with every part of their being, with everything they said, and with everything they did. What a big responsibility! If you are a follower of Christ, then you have that same responsibility. As a matter of fact, Jesus quoted Moses’ words when He was asked which commandment was the greatest. Read Matthew 22:36-40 and Mark 12:28-30 to hear exactly what Jesus said.

The most important thing you can do is to love God with your entire being. But how do you know if you truly love God? Let’s explore the four parts of your person that Jesus mentioned. Your heart and soul are your feelings and your desires. They reveal your true inner character. Giving your will to God helps you to follow His instructions instead of your feelings. God’s instructions in Scripture never change, but our feelings change all the time, don’t they?

Your mind is the center of your thinking, remembering, and processing of information. It gives you the ability to make decisions about what you will and will not do. Your strength supplies the energy to carry out those decisions. When your thoughts please God, then your actions will please Him as well.

God wants to create a desire inside of you to honor, glorify, and praise Him with your whole life – the parts that everyone sees as well as the parts of you that only He sees.

True worship shows up in how you live life each day, not just by what you say and do at church. Eagerly obeying God’s instructions without complaining or delaying is evidence of your love for God. Every moment, every decision, and every relationship should reflect how much you love God – that’s worship!

Let’s discuss it.

  1. How can you use each part of your being – heart, soul, mind, and strength – to please the Lord?
  2. Discuss how you can live out the words in your favorite praise and worship songs by what you think, say, and do this week.

 Let’s do it.

When the most important thing in your life is to love God, you’ll want to please Him. If you do your very best at school or at work because you love God, then that is worship. If you obey your parents because you love God, then that is worship, too. When you put someone else’s wants and needs ahead of your own because you love God – it is an act of worship.

But it’s impossible to truly love someone if you don’t spend time with that person. Spending time with Jesus through personal and family devotions will help you to know Him better and fall deeper in love with Him. Do you set your mind on loving and pleasing God first thing each morning? Try to put at least one verse of Scripture into your thoughts as each day begins. Consider playing praise and worship music as your family gets ready for the day. Then make every effort to live out what you have put in. Start this week to develop a lifestyle of worship.

2018 Week 18: When and where should I talk about Jesus?

So far this month we’ve learned why we should talk about Jesus, what to say about Him, how to share His story, and who to share it with. Let’s tackle two last questions this month: when and where should we share the gospel?

Be ready to read the following passages:

Let’s start it.

Take turns describing your normal daily routine. How do you respond when your routine is interrupted somehow? 

Let’s learn it.

Have you noticed that we’ve spent a lot of time reading the book of Acts this month? That’s because Acts tells us how Christians first began to tell the story of Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection. Let’s explore two more true stories of early believers who shared the gospel. Read Acts 8:26-35 to find out what God directed Philip to do.

Even though Philip didn’t know why God was sending him down that particular road, he didn’t ask, “Why?” or “When should I go?” He just went immediately. As Philip obeyed, the Holy Spirit guided him to an Ethiopian man who was a long way from home. He was passing the time in his chariot by reading from the book of Isaiah, but he didn’t understand what he was reading. God put both men in the same place at the same time so Philip could explain the good news of Jesus. If Philip hadn’t gone or waited before obeying, he might have missed a divine appointment! God sent Philip on a journey to meet just one man, but that man took the gospel message back to a whole country.

Followers of Jesus come across people every day, right where they are, who don’t know the Lord. Take a look at Acts 16:6-15 to read about another divine appointment.

Jesus directed Paul, Timothy, and Silas to the exact place He wanted them to go on this mission trip. Paul and His friends were looking for a place to pray on the Sabbath. Most likely they would have asked the Lord for opportunities to tell someone about Jesus on their trip. They could have gotten so caught up in having their prayer time that they might not have noticed this group of women. Instead, they recognized an opportunity to share the gospel right where they were. God interrupted their routine, but He also answered their prayers before they asked! Turn to 1 Peter 3:15 to read how Peter encouraged early believers to share the gospel right where they were.

Every follower of Christ has a personal testimony about faith in Christ. Believers can share Jesus every day by simply being ready to tell people who Jesus is and how they came to know Him. The people in today’s passages paid attention to the people they met along the way. The message of Jesus didn’t spread across the ancient world by accident. Jesus’ followers shared their faith with anyone, anywhere, at any time.

Let’s discuss it.

  1. Think back to the way you described your normal day in Let’s start it. How can you show the love of Christ, right where you are, every day?
  2. When has God put you in the right place at the right time to either tell someone about Jesus or to do something that showed His love?
  3. Take turns sharing your personal testimony of how you met Jesus. Make sure to include how knowing Him has changed your thoughts, attitudes, and actions.

Let’s do it.

We often ask God to give us opportunities to talk about our faith in Christ. The truth, however, is that we are surrounded by opportunities to share the love of Christ each and every day. As we’ve learned how to share Jesus this month, what person has the Holy Spirit prompted you to talk with? Brainstorm with your family how to start the conversation.

As you go out this week, look for natural opportunities to tell someone how He has changed your life. Are you willing to talk about Jesus to anyone, anywhere, and at any time? Close your devotion time by praying for your family members to recognize opportunities to share Jesus and when an opportunity comes … to take it!

2018 Week 17: Who should I tell about Jesus?

Last week we learned how exciting it is to introduce people to Jesus. But there are so many people – where should we start? The Bible gives us examples of the people that the early Christians told about Jesus. Let’s see what we can learn from Andrew and Peter, two brothers who helped to spread the Gospel of Christ.

Be ready to read the following passages:

Let’s start it.

Who is the first person you want to tell when something really good has happened? Why do you tell that particular person?

Let’s learn it.

We begin this week’s Family Time with a passage we looked at last week. Check out John 1:35-42 again to remind you who Andrew first told about Jesus.

The first thing Andrew did after meeting Jesus was to tell his brother Peter. That’s how the Gospel began to spread. Jews who believed Jesus was the Savior Israel had been waiting for started telling the people closest to them. However, God had something much bigger in mind. He wanted the Jews to share His love with more than just the people they loved and shared common interests with. Who did God send Peter to talk with in Acts 10:19-23? Why does the Acts 10:27-35 passage say this was so unusual?

God sent Peter to a group of people who were very different than he was. You see, out of all the nations on Earth God had chosen Israel to be His special people. In the Old Testament He gave them commands and laws to follow. Certain animals, people, and situations were considered unclean according to Jewish law (Leviticus 11), but the blood of Jesus shed on the Cross made it possible for both Jews and Gentiles to be clean before the Lord. By sending Peter to the Gentiles, God was showing that He loved all people and wanted to have a relationship with them too.

Andrew and Peter were faithful to share Jesus with the people they were the closest to and people who were very different than they were. In both passages we looked at this week, God used one person’s salvation to affect more people for His kingdom. Think about it. Over 3,000 people in Jerusalem received Jesus as their Savior when Peter preached on the Day of Pentecost – all because Andrew told him about Jesus. Then every person in Cornelius’ house received Jesus, and the Gospel began to spread to the Gentiles. God cares about the people who are closest to us, and He cares about people who are different from us. That means we should care about them too!

Let’s discuss it.

  1. Who first told you that Jesus loves you? Who was the first person you told?
  2. Think of people at school, work, or in your neighborhood who are very different from you. How can you show them this week that God loves them?

Let’s do it.

Just like Andrew, the best place for us to start sharing Jesus is with the people we love the most. Who in your family doesn’t yet know Jesus as their Savior? Decide right now to pray for them regularly, and then look for a time to tell them how you met Jesus and how knowing Him has changed your life.

Will you also pray for the courage to witness to someone that you don’t have as much in common with? Make an effort this week to pay attention to people that you might not have noticed before – like someone who eats lunch alone or who others don’t talk with much. God loves that person just as much as He loves you. If you don’t tell him or her about Jesus, who will?

2018 Week 16: How can I help other people meet Jesus?

Meeting Jesus is exciting and so is introducing Him to other people. The Bible tells us that Jesus’ followers brought people to meet Him. After Jesus returned to Heaven, His followers sent missionaries who were excited to spread the gospel so more people could meet Jesus. Let’s see what we can learn from their examples.

Be ready to read the following passages:

Let’s start it.

Have each family member think of a famous person; then take turns introducing him or her to the group. How would you arrange the meeting? Describe how excited you would be to meet that person in real life.

Let’s learn it.

The disciple Andrew is known for introducing people to Jesus. Let’s learn how Andrew heard about Jesus and what he did as a result. Open your Bibles to John 1:35-42, and ask a family member to read those verses.

Andrew heard and believed John the Baptist’s message that Jesus was the Christ, the Savior Israel had been waiting for. Andrew was so excited that he brought his brother Peter to meet Jesus. Later we learn that Andrew brought other people to Jesus, too (John 6:8-9; 12:20-22). Do you remember what happened when he introduced the boy with the fishes and the loaves to Jesus? Jesus turned that little lunch into a meal that fed over 5,000 people! All the people saw Jesus do something only God can do. Because Andrew brought the boy to Jesus, they both had a part in showing the crowd that Jesus truly is the Son of God. Can you imagine how excited they must have been?

We’ve already learned in Family Time that Jesus gave His followers the responsibility to go and share His story all over the world. We’ve also learned that the Apostle Paul was a great missionary, but he couldn’t have traveled far or stayed long in the places he went without the help of other Christians. Check out what Paul said about one group of believers in Philippians 4:15-19.

The Philippian church helped Paul by sending money so he could continue to share the gospel of Jesus. The Philippians didn’t help him just once – they made it a habit. In fact, they were so generous that Paul had more than enough to stay on the mission field. Even though Paul was the one who received the gift, it was really an offering to God because it went to God’s work. The Philippians were excited to help Paul introduce more people to Jesus.

Yes, the Bible is full of examples of different ways to share Jesus with people who do not know Him yet. You can bring people to Jesus by inviting them to church so they can hear God’s Word taught. You can also share Jesus by supporting missionaries or by going on mission trips. Your faith may start a chain reaction that points others to Jesus, just like what happened with John the Baptist, Andrew, and Peter. Now that’s exciting!

Let’s discuss it.

  1. Have you thought about inviting someone to a church service or church activity, but haven’t done it yet? Why did you put it off? What can you do to change that?
  2. Ask any members of your family who have been on a mission trip to tell where they went and how they helped to share Jesus with the people there.

Let’s do it.

What activities or worship services do you plan to attend this week? Come up with a plan for family members to invite and bring people with you to church services and church activities. Post your Family Share Plan where everyone can see it.

To help you save for a mission trip or to be more generous in giving to mission work, decide on something you can give up or do without for a period of time. For example, instead of eating out on the weekend or going to a movie, set that money aside for a month. Then remember to pray during your family devotion for the mission work you’re saving for. Your generosity will bless another believer and help introduce someone else to Jesus.

2018 Week 15: What should I tell people about Jesus?

Most of us want our family and friends to know Jesus too – we just don’t always know what to say. Let’s look at two of the greatest sermons in Scripture to see what Peter and Paul told people about Jesus.

Be ready to read the following passages:

Let’s start it.

Take turns telling your family about good news you heard or received this week.

Let’s learn it.

Everyone likes to share and hear good news. When Peter preached the first sermon after Jesus’ death and resurrection, he gave the crowd good news. Read Acts 2:22-24 and 36-41 together to see what Peter said to the people in Jerusalem.

Jews had come from all over to celebrate the Feast of Pentecost in Jerusalem. Even though they were religious people, they had not placed their faith in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of their sins. Peter warned the crowd that their dishonest and wicked behavior displeased God. He pleaded with them to ask the Lord to forgive them, and he promised that the Holy Spirit would help them live to please God. That day, over 3,000 people accepted Peter’s message that Jesus died and came back to life, proving that He was God’s Son and the Savior they had been waiting for. Now that’s really good news, isn’t it?

After the day of Pentecost, the story of Jesus began to spread. The Apostles and other believers shared the same message – Jesus died, was buried, and was raised from the dead for the forgiveness of sins. Before you continue, look to see what word Paul used for this message in 1 Corinthians 15:1-8. The word gospel means “good news.” After all, learning that Jesus paid the price for sin is great news!

As a missionary, Paul took long mission trips to share the message of Jesus with people in other nations who worshipped false gods. Ask a family member to read part of Paul’s sermon to the people of Athens, Greece, in Acts 17:22-34.

Since these men were not Jews, they didn’t know about the God of Israel as the crowd in Jerusalem did. So starting with creation, Paul filled them in on who God is and why He is the only One who deserved their worship and loyalty. Paul begged them to ask God’s forgiveness for their sins, because God will judge each person for either receiving or rejecting His Son. Even though some of them laughed at his message and only a few people in Athens decided to follow Jesus, Paul didn’t stop sharing it wherever he went.

When you tell friends about the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus, you are giving them good news. Our families and friends need to know that their sins can be forgiven, and they can have a relationship with God, who created them and loves them. Isn’t that the best news you can give anyone?

Let’s discuss it.

  1. How would you share the good news of Jesus with a friend who doesn’t know much about the Bible or God?
  2. Discuss ways you can start conversations about the Lord with friends.
  3. Brainstorm short phrases you can use to share your faith while waiting in line, checking out, or getting a haircut. Where else can you be a witness for the Lord?

Let’s do it.

The best news in the world is that God loves us and sent His Son, Jesus, to die for our sins. Write out John 3:16 on index cards or sticky notes and place them where family members can see them throughout the week. If you don’t already know that verse from memory, make an effort to memorize it this week. Then you’ll have the good news on the tip of your tongue, ready to share with the people you meet.

2018 Week 14: Why should I tell people about Jesus?

Jesus has a personal relationship with each of His followers, but that relationship isn’t meant to be a secret. He wants us to tell our friends and family what He is like and how we met Him. Let’s look at what the Bible says about why we should tell other people about Jesus Christ.

Be ready to read the following passages:

Let’s start it.

Take turns telling one another about a friend. How did you become friends? What is that person like? Why is he or she a good friend?

Let’s learn it.

Telling your family about a good friend is fun, isn’t it? Well, talking about Jesus brings us joy, too. As a matter of fact, Jesus gave His disciples the job of talking about Him. Look at what He told them in Matthew 28:18-20. Christ’s followers still have the responsibility to share His story so others can follow Him, too. Check out what the Apostle Paul wrote about that in 2 Corinthians 5:20.

If you have made the decision to follow Jesus, then you are one of His representatives – you speak and act for Him in your school, neighborhood, and community. You might think that most people have already heard about Jesus, but many people still don’t know that He can save them from their sin. How did Paul say in Romans 10:13-15 that people are saved from their sin?

People can’t believe what they haven’t heard. That makes sense, right? They can’t choose to follow Jesus unless someone tells them, so preachers must go and give God’s message. Paul could not imagine anything more beautiful than the person who takes the story of Jesus to other people. Have you ever considered yourself a preacher? You don’t have to stand on a stage in front of people to preach. You preach the good news of Christ every time you tell a friend that Jesus loves him and wants to be his Savior. Even before Jesus’ death and resurrection, He modeled how to preach the good news of God’s kingdom. How did He act toward people in Matthew 9:35-38?

Jesus was brokenhearted when He saw how helpless and aimless people were without Him. As His followers, we should have the same compassion for people that Jesus showed when He lived on the earth. When you leave home each day, you enter a mission field. As Christ’s followers we should use our feet to go, our mouths to tell, and our hands to help people in need so they too can meet our friend, Jesus.

Christ gave His followers the responsibility to tell His story and to be His faithful representatives on Earth until He returns. Nothing else you ever do will matter as much as helping someone to begin a personal relationship with God. That’s why friends of Jesus tell their friends about Jesus.

Let’s discuss it.

  1. Look again at the questions in Let’s start it. This time answer those same questions about your friendship with Jesus.
  2. How could your answers from question #1 help you to talk about Jesus with someone else?
  3. What opportunities does your church offer for you to share Jesus’ story and love in your community or in other countries? How can you help?

Let’s do it.

Which door does your family use most often to come and go from your house? Consider making a sign that says, “You are now entering the mission field” to hang over that door. Think about who is in your mission field, and make a list of people who don’t know Jesus as their friend. These may be people that you see every day at school or at work. They might also be the people you see often because they work in your community at a grocery store, a hair salon, or a doctor’s office. Remember, people can’t choose to know and follow Jesus unless someone tells them. How will you look for God-given openings this week to tell others about Jesus and how they can know Him as their Savior?

2018 Week 13: Who should I pray for?

We’ve talked for a few weeks about how to pray and what to pray. This week we’ll look at a few Scriptures that tell us who we should pray for.

Be ready to read the following passages:

Let’s start it.

Moving clockwise, have family members say a name as quickly as they can. It can be someone they know – like a friend or a teacher – or a person they’ve seen on television or heard about in the news. Keep going until one of you hesitates before answering.

Let’s learn it.

How did you do? It’s amazing to think of how many names we have stored in our heads, isn’t it? Did your family name friends who also believe in Jesus? Spending time with Christian friends alerts you about how to pray for them. What does James 5:16 tell us about how to pray for other believers? You can pray for a sick friend to get well or for friends going on vacation to have a safe trip. You can even pray for God to show them ways they have disobeyed Him.

For another important way to pray for Christian friends, read Paul’s personal prayer request in Ephesians 6:19-20. If Paul – the greatest missionary who ever lived – needed prayer for boldness to talk about Jesus, then so do our friends and so do we! Paul not only prayed that he would share the gospel of Jesus, he also prayed for the unbelievers who heard it. What did he pray for his unbelieving countrymen in Romans 10:1? Do you have friends who haven’t yet received Jesus’ gift of salvation? Pray for boldness to talk to them about Jesus and about how much God loves them.

Most of us are quick to pray for the people we know, but we sometimes forget to pray for the leaders of our country, schools, churches, and workplace. Did you remember to name any of these people in Let’s start it? Look at what Paul wrote to Timothy about this group of people in 1Timothy 2:1-4. It’s important to give thanks to God for the people who have authority over you and to ask God to guide them with truth.

Jesus Himself gave instructions about praying for another group of people. What four words does He use to describe them in Luke 6:27-28? Having a godly attitude toward people who hate you, curse you, and mistreat you does not come naturally. It’s easier to be kind and loving to even those people when you pray for them regularly. As you pray for people who seem to be against you, ask the Lord to help you to respond to them in a way that honors Him.

Followers of Christ have the privilege to talk with God. We also have the responsibility to pray for other people. The Apostle Paul summed it up best when he said to pray, “for everyone” (1 Timothy 2:1). Wow! Praying for all people is a big responsibility, but it’s also a great privilege. Of course, it would be impossible to pray all at one time for every person you know or have ever heard of. That’s why the Bible instructs us to pray “all the time” (1 Thessalonians 5:17). That means that we should always be in an attitude of prayer. When a friend comes to your mind, you don’t have to stop and close your eyes to pray. You can simply ask God silently from your heart to help that friend.

Let’s discuss it.

  1. Think about the names you mentioned in Let’s start it. Try to match some of their names with one of the groups we just talked about: believers, unbelievers, authorities, and those who mistreat you. How can you pray for each group?
  2. Which of these people have an immediate need for prayer because of an illness or some kind of trouble?
  3. Who makes decisions that affect you and your family? How can you pray for those leaders and authorities this week?

 

Let’s do it.

Let’s practice everything we’ve learned this month about prayer. Remember to start your family prayer time by praising God for who He is, and then thank Him for what He has done. Use 1 John 1:9 as your spiritual bar of soap to ask for God’s forgiveness. Pray again for the requests your family members have mentioned over the last few weeks. Finally, pray for the people you talked about in Let’s discuss it this week (as many of them as you can!). End your prayer in the name of Jesus, showing that you want your requests to glorify and honor His plans.

2018 Week 12: What should I ask God for?

We’re going to look again at the pattern Jesus gave His disciples for prayer. So far, Jesus’ model prayer has focused completely on God, but this week the spotlight shifts from God’s name, God’s kingdom, and God’s will to the needs of the people praying.

Be ready to read the following passages:

Let’s start it.

How has God answered some of your prayers from last week’s family prayer time? Add a thanksgiving section to your list for those things. If you could ask God for one thing, what would it be? Use this list for prayer at the end of the devotion.

Let’s learn it.

Go ahead and read Matthew 6:9-13 one more time to refresh your memory. Can anyone in your family say the Model Prayer from memory yet? Keep working on it! Did you notice what changes in verses 11-13? Jesus talked about three important areas of our lives: providing our daily needs, forgiving our sins, and rescuing us from temptation. Let’s dig into these areas a little deeper.

We all need food, water, clothing, and shelter. After that, the list of what we really need isn’t very long. Instead of worrying about how to get the things you need or how to fix your problems, God invites you to bring those things to Him in prayer. Open your Bibles to Philippians 4:6-7 and read those verses together before continuing. Sometimes we confuse what we need with what we want. It’s okay to pray for things that you want, as long as those things honor and glorify God (Family Time – Week 11). Before asking for something that you want, stop to thank Him for already providing something that you really need, like your home or the clothes you wear. Recognizing that God is the One who provides for both your needs and your wants gives you an attitude of gratitude.

Jesus also said we should ask God to rescue us from the temptation to sin. Temptation is something that you know is wrong, but it seems exciting when you think about it. Satan tries to trick us by making sin look fun, but all sin will eventually hurt you in some way. Read what Scripture promises about God’s escape plan in 1 Corinthians 10:13.

Read Matthew 6:12 again; then read Luke 11:4. What word does Luke use for “debt”? We should ask God to forgive us for sinning against Him when we fall for Satan’s tricks. In Week 4 of Family Time we learned that God always forgives us when we sincerely ask Him to (1 John 1:9). Likewise, we should forgive others – even if they don’t ask.

The Lord knows that we have all kinds of needs (and wants), and He loves when we choose to come to Him with specific requests. Jesus’ model prayer teaches us which things should be at the top of our prayer lists.

Let’s discuss it.

  1. Other than food, water, clothing, and shelter – what things qualify as “needs” in your life?
  2. Look back at the list you made in Let’s get started. What category do most of your personal requests fall into: needs, wants, temptations, or forgiveness?
  3. How has God provided for you this week, this month, or this year? Share with your family something you are extremely grateful for. Add those things to the thanksgiving section of your family prayer list.

Let’s do it.

Did you notice that Jesus said, “our” and “us” – not “me” and “mine” in His model prayer? Although prayer is a personal conversation between you and God, the New Testament shows us the importance of praying in a group. Let’s do that again this week. Get ready to close in prayer together by deciding which member of the family will pray for each request on your list.

Start by praising God’s names and qualities – as we learned in Week 10. Then thank the Lord for how He has provided, protected, and forgiven you. Remember to ask for His forgiveness for disobedient attitudes or behaviors before you present your other requests. Make an effort to practice this same pattern in your personal prayer time with God (praise, thanksgiving, forgiveness, requests).

2018 Week 11: Will God answer my prayers?

God has the right to say “Yes,” “No,” or “Wait” to anything we ask of Him because He is the Lord God Almighty. It’s hard to understand why God sometimes says “Wait” or “No” to good things – like healing someone who is sick. However, we can trust that He is able to bring something good out of even the worst situation. Let’s take a look at when God says “Yes” to our prayers.

Be ready to read the following passages:

Let’s start it.

How do you want your family to pray for you, personally? Get a piece of paper and write down one personal prayer request from each member of the family. We will pray about these requests at the end of the devotion.

Let’s learn it.

When Jesus taught His disciples to pray, He gave them a model prayer as a pattern to follow. We started looking at Jesus’ model prayer last week. Have you worked on reciting it this week? Have a family member read Matthew 6:9-13 to refresh your memory.

Today we’ll take a closer look at verse 10. Go ahead and read that verse again. We talked last week about praising God’s character traits at the beginning of our prayer time. If we believe that He is the Lord of Heaven and Earth and that His character and plan are perfect, then we should want His will to be done everywhere – including in our own lives. Look at what the Apostle John wrote in 1 John 5:14-15 about our prayer requests.

Did you catch the key to answered prayer? John encourages us to pray for things that agree with God’s will. Read what else Jesus said about prayer in John 14:13-14.

Have you heard someone end a prayer by saying, “I ask these things in Jesus’ name”? Praying in the name of Jesus declares that He is God. It shows that you choose to follow His example to glorify the heavenly Father by obeying His commands. Praying in Jesus’ name announces that you want God’s will to be done. It means that the things that are important to Jesus are important to you, too.

Prayer and Bible reading go together like two lanes on the communication road between God and us. We hear from God and learn more about Him by reading Scripture. As we obey His Word, we become more like His Son, Jesus. Then we express our concerns to Him through prayer, wanting what God wants more than any selfish desires we have. If God says “No” or “Wait” during a difficult time, remember that He can be honored as others watch how you trust Him.

Let’s discuss it.

  1. What things do you already know from Scripture about God’s character and His plan for people? Based on those things, brainstorm ways you can pray according to God’s will.
  2. Look back at the prayer requests you wrote down during Let’s start it. How does your request honor and glorify God? What do you need to change about your request in order for it to line up with God’s Word?

Let’s do it.

Concentrate your prayer time this week on things that will honor and glorify your heavenly Father. First, find out what God has already said in the Bible about what you are asking. Then, instead of asking God to change His mind, ask Him to change your heart to match His will.

Close your family devotion by practicing what we’ve learned about prayer together. Begin your prayer time by praising some of the names and qualities of God – as we learned last week. Then move on to the requests you’ve written down during this devotion. How does each request honor God so that it can be asked in Jesus’ name? Ask each family member to pray for another member’s request.

2018 Week 10: How do I talk to God?

We learned in January that the Bible is how God has made Himself known to the world and how He talks with His people. Prayer, then, is how we talk with Him. Any close friendship comes by talking with that person regularly. It’s the same with God. For the next few weeks, we’ll look at what Jesus said when He taught His disciples to pray.

Be ready to read the following passages:

Let’s start it.

Think about the friend you talk to the most. Tell your family what makes that person easy to talk with. What are your favorite topics of conversation?

Let’s learn it.

Before you read Matthew 6:5-13 together, see if any members of your family can say the Lord’s Prayer (also known as the Model Prayer) from memory. We’ll get to know this passage much better this month. Today, we’re going to explore verses 5-9.

Jesus gave His disciples two examples when He taught them how to pray. First, He told them not to follow the bad example of hypocrites – people whose actions don’t match what they say they believe. These hypocrites prayed long, loud prayers when they went to their place of worship because they wanted other people to hear them and praise them. Jesus didn’t say that it’s wrong to pray in public, but He cautioned His disciples to remember that prayer is talking with God, not a speech to get the attention of others.

Jesus then gave His disciples a right pattern to follow by praying a model prayer. The first part of the Lord’s model prayer reminds us that we’re talking with our Father in Heaven. Conversations with the Lord are different from conversations with other friends because we’re talking to the Creator of the universe! Any conversation with God should start by recognizing that He is great and that His name should be respected above every other name. This lesson from Christ teaches us the importance of taking time to praise God for who He is before we ask Him to do anything. Read Psalm 89:1-15 and look for the praiseworthy names and qualities of God in this passage.

Isn’t it amazing that the Lord God Almighty wants to talk with us as friends? Whether you pray in front of friends at church or alone in your room – prayer is between you and the one true God. He doesn’t mind if you stutter, and you don’t have to use big words. The Lord just wants you to talk with Him honestly. He already knows exactly what you need, what you think, and how you feel before you say the first word of a prayer. Even so, it’s important to pray because it helps us learn to depend on God and to trust Him.

Let’s discuss it.

  1. Why do you think Jesus taught His closest friends to pray?
  2. What did Psalm 89:1-15 teach you or remind you about God?
  3. How would praising Him for that character quality when you start to pray change how you pray?

Let’s do it.

Most of us spend more time asking God for help or for things that we want than we spend praising Him. How would you feel if your close friends only talked to you when they wanted something from you? Don’t misunderstand; God wants us to ask Him to meet our needs – as we’ll talk about later in Matthew 6. However, a healthy relationship with God is built by praying the way Jesus taught His followers to pray.

Close this week’s devotion by practicing prayers of praise together. To get started, open your Bibles to Psalm 89 and take turns praising God for the names and qualities found there. Make a special effort to talk only about God in this prayer time (for example: “I praise you, Lord, because you are faithful”). As you begin to notice His character traits throughout the Bible, you’ll be able to praise God regularly for who He is – just as Jesus taught.

2018 Week 9: What do we do when we disagree with each other?

We’ve been learning that our community of believers can be compared to our human bodies and families. God chose those illustrations because we can all identify with them. For instance, think about ways you protect your body from things that would cause pain … or the way you still love your family members even though you might disagree with them from time to time. Let’s explore what should happen when Christians disagree.

Be ready to read the following passages:

Let’s start it.

Do you remember last week’s activity? Share how you helped or encouraged someone last week.

Talk about the things members of your family have in common and the ways you are different from each other. How do the differences sometimes cause disagreements?

Let’s learn it.

The members of God’s family are as unique as the members of your human family; so He knew that disagreements would sometimes come up in your church family just as they do in your human family. God made sure we had instructions about what to do when that happens. Read Ephesians 4:1-7 together and look for the instructions in those verses.

Since believers share the same Father, Savior, and Spirit, we ought to do whatever it takes to live lovingly, peacefully, humbly, and patiently with one another. After all, God is loving, forgiving, and patient with us – right? Being patient means that you choose to complain less and control your temper more. Learning to not get annoyed or upset helps you to get along better with people who are different from you. All of those things are proof that you are growing up and becoming more mature. What does Ephesians 4:11-16 say about becoming a mature follower of Christ?

We learned last week that love for one another should be the first thing people notice about Jesus’ followers. Really loving others helps you to be patient with them, and patience changes how you speak to them. You see, how you say something is just as important as what you say. When truth is said harshly, it hurts people’s feelings; but when truth is said gently, it helps them mature as followers of Christ.

Did you notice that the Apostle Paul used the illustration of the human body for the church again? This time he specifically named Jesus as the Head of the body. Every member of the church receives instructions from the Head, just as your brain tells the rest of your body what to do. Something is wrong if your hand or your foot does whatever it wants to do, ignoring the messages from your brain! When each member of the body of Christ is doing what He has said to do, then the entire body is healthy. As a result, we learn to gently and lovingly solve our differences with other believers.

Let’s discuss it.

  1. Name ways that God has been patient, forgiving, and loving with you. How should that change how you respond to your brothers and sisters in Christ?
  2. Take turns saying the following phrases in different tones of voice. Which tones sound loving and patient? Which ways sound hurtful?
    1. Would you please pass the butter?
    2. Can you please stop doing that?
  3. What caused you to complain or lose your temper recently? How could you have handled that situation with more patience?

Let’s do it.

Think of one way that God has shown you love and forgiveness recently. Will you try to remember that thought when you start to grow impatient or annoyed with someone else? Listen to your tone of voice when a disagreement comes up at home, at school, or at work. Remind yourself of Christ’s instructions by reading the Bible every day. Will others be able to tell by your patient and kind attitude that you are a follower of Jesus?

2018 Week 8: Why should followers of Christ love one another?

So far this month we’ve learned that followers of Christ are connected in a community of faith and serve one another as the body of Christ. This week we’ll look at how members of God’s family should speak and behave.

Be ready to read the following passages:

Let’s start it.

Take turns finishing the following sentence, “God is…”

Let’s learn it.

Since the people in our church family are a group of Christ followers, it would make sense to follow His teachings in the Bible – right? Well then, let’s read what Jesus said in John 13:34-35.

Jesus was talking to His twelve disciples. Some people might think that Jesus would want His closest friends to be known for performing great miracles or for being excellent preachers, but He said that their love for one another should be what other people noticed first. It was evidence that Jesus had changed their hearts and minds. John, one of Jesus’ disciples, later wrote about why Christians are commanded to love one another. What did he say in 1 John 4:7-8 and 4:19-21?

If God is your heavenly Father, then you have His loving nature inside of you. That makes it possible to love the members of His family. The Holy Spirit gives you the ability to truly care about other people, even those who are hard to get along with. What did Paul write in Romans 12:9-18 about how to put godly love into action?

We’re usually loyal to the people we love the most and want to spend time with them. That should be just as true for your church family as it is for the family you live with. Have someone read Hebrews 10:24-25 to understand why God wants believers to spend time together. When we go to church, we get the chance to encourage one another to show the love we have received from God by being helpful, kind, and compassionate. Since God is love, those who know God should genuinely love one another. Godly love isn’t just a feeling; it can be seen by how you talk and how you act.

Let’s discuss it.

  1. How has someone shown love for you in a way that other people could see?
  2. When did another follower of Christ encourage you? How did your attitudes or feelings change as a result?
  3. Tell your family about a time you were able to share in the happiness of a friend.  Can you think of a time you cried with a friend who was hurt or extremely sad?

Let’s do it.

What do people at school and church say about you? Do they recognize that you are a Christ follower by how loving you are? You don’t have to answer this out loud, but think about anything you have said or done this week that didn’t show the love of your heavenly Father. Ask God to help you get rid of any anger or pride that’s getting in the way of really loving someone.

Wrap up by making a list of encouraging and helpful things you can do this week. Start with how family members can put God’s love into action with one another, and then talk about how you can help and encourage people in your church family. Each of you choose one thing from the list and be ready to share the results with your family next week.

2018 Week 7: How can I help?

Last week we learned that each believer is part of the body of Christ with a job to do. Did you know there are so many ways that we can help our community of believers? This week we’re going to talk about how we can make a huge difference in the lives of others if we decide to jump in and be an active part of the body of Christ.

Be ready to read the following passages:

Let’s start it.

Have each person name things that other family members are especially good at doing. Don’t be shy; now is the time to brag on each other!

Let’s learn it.

At the moment of salvation, the Holy Spirit gives every follower of Christ at least one spiritual gift. These gifts are not natural talents – they are special abilities that the Spirit of God gives us. He also gives us the skills and strength to use those gifts to do God’s work. Go ahead and open your Bibles or follow the link to Romans 12:4-8 and Ephesians 4:11-13. This is a great opportunity to learn to find passages in the Bible.

There are speaking gifts, and there are serving gifts. It’s a little easier to spot some of the speaking gifts; many of those people are often in front of others. For example, God gives us evangelists, pastors, and teachers with the ability to clearly explain what the Bible means. They help us to grow in Jesus and prepare us to serve each other in the church. Some believers with speaking gifts might not be quite as visible, like those who quietly speak encouraging words to the people around them.

The serving gifts are a little harder to see. Just think of all the people who work behind the scenes to help with your student and children’s ministries, or think of the people who make it possible for your pastor to preach each week. Others give generously to mission work and to people in need. That doesn’t mean that only people with the gift of giving should give or that only those with the gift of encouraging should ever encourage. It just means that those things are easier for them to do, so they should work hard to use their gifts as God directs them. Ask a family member to read 1 Peter 4:10-11 to discover the purpose of spiritual gifts.

Your spiritual gifts are meant to help the family of God and bring praise to Jesus Christ. Each member of the body of Christ needs the other members to fulfill his or her purpose. When the people in your church use their spiritual gifts to cheerfully minister to the other members, the body of Christ is healthy and the Lord is honored.

Let’s discuss it.

  1. As we discussed last week, different parts of the human body are connected with roles in the church (for example, mouth suggests teachers and preachers). As a family, try to match parts of the body and roles in the church with the spiritual gifts listed in today’s Bible passages (Romans 12:4-8, Ephesians 4:11-13, and 1 Peter 4:10-11).
  2. What spiritual gifts do you think members of your family have been given?

Let’s do it.

It’s very important to use your spiritual gifting in the power of the Holy Spirit. You will draw attention to yourself rather than to Jesus when you try to use your gift(s) without God’s help. Since God gave you the gift, He will also help you to use it with humility and to appreciate the spiritual gifts of others. How can you use your gifts to contribute to your community of believers this week?

2018 Week 6: What do followers of Christ have in common?

If you’ve decided to follow Christ, then it’s both wise and helpful to have friendships with people who help you to grow in your relationship with Jesus. This month we’ll explore what Scripture says about strengthening your family and your relationship with Christ by connecting with a community of believers. We’ll begin by discovering what followers of Christ have in common and how we’re all connected to one another.

Be ready to read the following passages:

 

Let’s start it.

Take turns naming a part of the human body and what job that part has. What do you think would happen if each part was injured or wasn’t working properly?

Let’s learn it.

Our relationships with fellow believers are different from our other relationships. The Bible describes our connection as believers to other believers as a family or household. It also says we are like a body with many parts, as you just shared with one another. Let’s dig into Scripture and learn more about it.

Ask a family member to read John 1:12 aloud. What phrase is used to describe Christians? You became a child of God when you chose to receive Jesus’ gift of salvation. As a member of God’s family, you are related to other believers as their spiritual brother or sister in Christ. You’ve probably even heard someone refer to your church as a “church family.” You may also have noticed that you have more in common with the people you meet at church than with the people you meet who do not know Christ. That’s because the Holy Spirit lives within every person who has received Christ Jesus. Pause and read Romans 8:14-16 before continuing. When you meet and spend time with other believers, the Holy Spirit gives you a sense of connection to many different members of God’s family.

The Apostle Paul used another illustration about the church to describe the close connection of the members of God’s family. Check out what he says about Christians in Romans 12:4-5 and 1 Corinthians 12:12-27. Followers of Christ are all parts of the body of Christ – the church. Both the church and the human body are made up of many members with important jobs. Members of a church should work together in harmony, just like the parts of your body have to work together for you to be healthy. We should care enough to help when another member isn’t doing well or is hurt in some way. What does Galatians 6:2 tell us to do?

If you are a Christ follower, then you are connected to every other person who has received Jesus. Think about that for a moment – you have spiritual brothers and sisters all over the world! Each member of the family of God and the body of Christ is needed.  In our local church, we talk about how God is working in our lives, and we worship and serve Jesus together. You are not only connected to the people in your church – they need you!

Let’s discuss it.

  1. Name some things you have in common with other followers of Christ.
  2. How has being connected with other believers in a church family helped you?
  3. Look back at the parts of the human body listed in 1 Corinthians 12:14-17. How are people in your church filling each of those roles? What role can you fill in the body of Christ?

Let’s do it.

Have you ever smashed your thumb with a hammer, closed a door on your toe, or had a terrible toothache? When one part of your body hurts, the rest of your body knows about it. Who in your church family is hurting right now? Think of ways that you can act as the hands of Jesus to help them this week.

2018 Week 5: How do I show my love for God?

This month we’ve learned that the Bible is true and trustworthy information from the heart of God. We’ve talked about how to meditate on Scripture with the guidance of the Holy Spirit and we’ve discussed ways to practice what the Bible says. It’s clear that we should build our lives on a commitment to Scripture, but today’s devotion unlocks the key reason for our obedience to God’s Word.

Be ready to read the following passage:

Let’s start it.

Ask each family member to share a favorite verse or passage of Scripture and tell why it means something special to him or to her. (Type key words into a search engine if you need help finding a verse.)

Let’s learn it.

Begin by reading Deuteronomy 6:1-9 together. Moses had just reminded the Israelites of the Ten Commandments and the other and laws God had given to His people (Deut. 5:6-21, 31). God’s law was to be in their hearts and always in their thoughts as a reminder of how He wanted them to live. Moses told them to love God completely and to show that love by honoring Him with everything they said and did.

Parents had the added responsibility to teach their children to know the Lord and to love and obey Him. Moses encouraged parents to repeat the truths of God’s Word at every opportunity so children would understand and obey His commandments. Scripture was to be taught in their day-to-day experiences at home so it would influence every part of their lives. Their love for God was shown by how well they obeyed His Word.

Your reason for obeying the Bible says a lot about you. Maybe you follow the Lord’s instructions simply because He’s God, and you always try to follow the rules. Perhaps you obey in hopes of getting the things you want from God. It’s good to recognize God’s authority, but He wants more than just your outward obedience. God wants you to obey Him because you love Him with every part of your being. It’s impossible to love God completely if you ignore His Word. As a matter of fact, truly loving the Lord with your whole heart is the best motivation for obedience.

Let’s discuss it.

  1. How does your family show love for God and His Word?
  2. Think back on the last week. What situation gave you a natural opportunity to talk about what God says in the Bible? Did you take that opportunity?
  3. How can parents teach their kids to know, love, and obey the Lord? Name ways that your parents have taught you to honor God.

Let’s do it.

Like the Israelites, we constantly need to be reminded of what God’s Word says. One of the best ways to do that is to put verses of Scripture where you can see them every day. Think of ways you can display the Bible verses you mentioned in Let’s start it so that the entire family can see them this week. You can use a verse in an art project, put it on a T-shirt, or simply write it on an index card for the refrigerator. You may even choose a special verse to display on the wall in the kitchen or family room.

Parents, will you take seriously the responsibility to teach God’s Word to your children? Kids, will you show your love for Jesus by obeying your parents and obeying Scripture? Try your best this week to honor the Lord with everything you say and do.

2018 Week 4: How can I have a closer friendship with Jesus?

Enjoying the same things as you spend time together helps you to build strong relationships with classmates and neighbors. Growing a strong friendship with Jesus is done the same way. This week we’ll explore how God’s Word brings you closer to Christ.

Be ready to read the following passages:

Let’s start it.

Tell your family about your best friend. How are you alike? What have you learned about that person by spending time with him or her?

Let’s learn it. 

The first building block to a strong friendship with God is simply to spend time with Him, learning what He is like and what pleases Him. We’ve already learned that God talks to us through His Word – the Bible. God even tells us about His Word in His Word! It’s so important that the longest chapter in the Bible has only one topic – Scripture. Pause and read Psalm 119:9-16 together to see what the psalmist said about God’s Word.

The writer of Psalm 119 had such a deep love for God’s law that he memorized it. We can’t always stop and read the Bible the exact moment we’re tempted to sin or when we need encouragement. So, the Holy Spirit brings God’s Word back to our minds – if we’ve stored it there by reading and memorizing it. Taking time to think carefully about God’s promises, warnings, and commands will help you to remember them.

The Bible is like a map that directs your thoughts and behavior to please God. Following that map leads you to enjoy the same things Jesus enjoys and dislike what He dislikes. As you put Scripture into your mind, the Holy Spirit will show you where you’re wrong and will urge you to make it right. When you sin, it’s like your heart gets dirty and needs to be washed. What does 1 John 1:8-10 say about how to clean sin from your heart?

A wonderful thing happens when you keep a clean heart. Have a family member read James 4:8 aloud to learn what that is. Did you hear that? When we come near to God by asking Him to forgive our sins, He moves closer to us!

How can you have a stronger friendship with Jesus? Meditate on God’s Word and memorize it. Use the Bible like a map to direct your thoughts and behavior to please God. When you do sin, immediately ask God to forgive you and then change that behavior. Remember to use 1 John 1:9 like a bar of soap to keep your heart clean.

Let’s discuss it.

  1. Discuss some things that God’s Word says He likes and dislikes. How can you show that you like and dislike the same things in your life this week?
  2. Take turns sharing parts of God’s Word that you’ve stored in your mind. Have someone ready to look up those passages to check your accuracy.

Let’s do it.

Did you know more verses of Scripture than you thought you knew? It’s great to be familiar with the Bible, but nothing can replace the benefits of intentionally memorizing God’s Word. Ask each member of the family to memorize at least one verse from today’s Bible readings. Older kids and parents may even choose to commit all of this week’s passages to memory. These passages will be a good reminder throughout the week to come near to God and to keep your heart clean.

Ask everyone to bow their heads and share in a silent prayer while one family member reads 1 John 1:9. Silently, ask yourself this question, “What ungodly thought, attitude, or behavior have I been guilty of this week?” Admit that sin to God right now and ask Him to forgive you. If that attitude or action hurt someone else, make sure you ask that person to forgive you, too. Just like taking a bath, you’ll feel better when your heart is clean and pure!

2018 Week 3: How can I become wise?

You probably have schoolbooks that give you information on subjects like math, science, and history. Lots of books can help to make you smart, but only God’s Word can make you wise. Having wisdom means seeing the world and your life through God’s eyes and doing as He says to do. But how can we do this?

Be ready to read the following passages:

Let’s start it.

Ask members of your family to tell about something they have learned from reading a book.

Let’s learn it.

The Old Testament tells us about a king named Solomon. He is often called the wisest man who ever lived. Many of the thoughts that God gave to Solomon are found in the book of Proverbs. Pause here and read Proverbs 1:1-7 aloud.

Proverbs is like an instruction manual for becoming wise and living to please God. It encourages us to do what is right, warns us not to do what is wrong, and teaches us to have self-control. Solomon’s father, King David, taught him to turn to God’s Word for guidance. What did David say about Scripture in Psalm 119:97-105? The Bible gives us wisdom and understanding because the One who gave it to us also created the entire world, including us. That doesn’t mean, though, that you become wise by simply opening the Bible and casually reading the words.

When you love someone, you want to hear what he or she has to say. The psalmist loved God, so he also loved God’s Word. He spent time reading God’s laws and then meditated on them by thinking about what each one meant. He went over them again and again in his thoughts. When you meditate on what God’s Word says, the Holy Spirit will help you to understand what it means.

Knowing facts about the Bible still doesn’t guarantee that you’ll be wise. True wisdom comes from choosing to obey what God says – not because you have to, but because you love what is right and hate what is wrong. When you’re not sure what to do, God uses His Word to guide you. It’s like a bright light shining on a dark path so you can see where you’re going. You can become wiser than the smartest people you know, simply by following God’s instructions. You see, there’s a difference between being “smart” and being “wise.” Information from books gives you knowledge, and we all need knowledge; but godly wisdom is knowing how to use that information in the right way every day.

Let’s discuss it.

  1. Share something you’ve learned from the Bible, and name ways you can wisely use that information in your life this week.
  2. Do you have a problem with a friend or a situation at school that you don’t know what to do about? What warning, promise, or command from the Bible guides you and helps you know what to do?

Let’s do it.

Wisdom comes from spending time in God’s Word and then following the instructions you find there. We learned today that the book of Proverbs is especially helpful when you need wisdom. How many chapters are in Proverbs?

Try reading one chapter of Proverbs each day for a month. Each chapter is packed with ideas you can put into action each day. Write down the things you learn so you can remember to use them at school, at church, and in your neighborhood. Don’t just read about wisdom this week – pray for God to make you wise. Then practice doing what He shows you!

2018 Week 2: Why is the Bible a treasure?

The Bible is no ordinary book; it is true information from the heart of God. Scripture tells us how to have a right relationship with God, how to protect ourselves against Satan, and how to have a joyful life. What could possibly be more valuable than that?

 

Be ready to read the following passages:

 Let’s start it.

Have each family member name one treasured possession and tell why it is so valuable to him or her.

Let’s learn it.

Some of the most exciting stories ever told are found in the Bible, but it is much more valuable than a history book. The words of Scripture are not just words on a page, like the words in other books, because they are God’s words. The Bible is God speaking to us! His promises, warnings, and commands are alive with power. Check out Hebrews 4:12 and Ephesians 6:17. What is the Word of God compared with in these verses? God’s Word is such a powerful weapon that Jesus used it to defeat the devil (Matthew 4:1-11). When you read and memorize Scripture, you are using the sword of the Spirit to protect yourself against the devil’s plan to trick you into believing his lies.

The more you read Scripture and go over it again in your thoughts, the better you will understand why you do the things you do. Following God’s instructions will change how you think and what you think about. Your own thoughts – which can be very foolish sometimes – are replaced by thoughts that the Holy Spirit gives to you, helping you to make wise choices that please God. Take a moment to read Psalm 19:7-11 together before continuing.

The Bible warns us that sin is dangerous because it is thinking something or doing something that God says is wrong. That’s why it is so important to read and study Scripture every day. The Holy Spirit uses God’s Word to correct us when we make wrong choices. The Holy Spirit also uses the Bible to teach us the right things to do. You can always depend on God’s Word to be right and to tell you the truth, even about yourself. As followers of Jesus, we are always happier when we choose to obey Him. The things His Word tells us not to do are things that will harm us in some way.

Let’s discuss it.

  1. See how many of God’s warnings and instructions you can remember as a family. For each one, name a way that heeding that warning or following God’s instructions is valuable or rewarding.
  2. What are some things you’ve learned about yourself from reading the Bible? How has knowing that truth been valuable by changing a wrong thought or attitude?

Let’s do it.

Think back to the precious possession you named in Let’s start it; do you treat that belonging differently than you treat your other stuff? Now that we’ve learned the value of the Bible, we see that our material stuff isn’t nearly as valuable as knowing and obeying what God has said in the Bible. What are some ways you can show how much you value God’s Word this week?

We’ve learned today that God’s Word is “alive, powerful, perfect, trustworthy, right, pure, sure, and righteous.” Write these words down on an index card or notepad to put on your refrigerator, so everyone can see them all week. When you’re trying to make a difficult choice, remember that God’s instructions are trustworthy. When you’re tempted to sin, remember that God’s instructions are always right. He knows what is best for us because He loves us completely and knows everything fully. How do we know this? Because we know the Bible is God’s Word, and the Bible tell us so!

 

2018 Week 1: Where did the Bible come from?   

The Bible is how God tells us what He is like, how much He loves us, and how we can know Him. God’s Word also tells us how to please Him with our thoughts, attitudes, and actions. The Bible is clearly a very important book, but where did it come from? 

Be ready to read the following passages:

Let’s start it.

For over 1,500 years the Holy Spirit inspired 40 different men to write down God’s instructions and the stories of His people. Set a timer for 15 seconds and see how many of those 40 writers your family can name. Go!

Let’s learn it.

Many books of the Bible are named after the men who wrote them (like Isaiah and Luke) or for the group of people they were written to (like Romans and Ephesians). The Apostle Peter tells us how the writers of the Old Testament knew what to say to the nation of Israel. Take a moment to read 2 Peter 1:20-21 before continuing. God’s Spirit rested on godly men and told them what God wanted His people to know.

The books of the Old Testament were copied onto scrolls and taught to the Jewish people year after year, yet they still didn’t understand what God was trying to teach them. Many Jews thought they would go to Heaven if they could obey exactly what Scripture said – but it was impossible for even the best person to live without sinning. What did Jesus tell them about Scripture in John 5:39-40?

They would go to Heaven by believing that Jesus is God’s Son and by trusting Him as Savior, not by trying to be good people. The Holy Spirit guided some of Jesus’ disciples to write about other things Jesus said and did, about what happened after He went back to Heaven, and about how He expects His followers to live. Ask a family member to read 2 Timothy 3:16-17 before you continue.

For hundreds of years, scribes and monks continued to copy the writings of the Old and New Testaments by hand, but there were so few copies that only priests and pastors could read them. Then, in 1456, a man named Johann Gutenberg invented a way to print whole books much faster. The book most often printed was the Scriptures. Because of its importance, this collection was known simply as “the Book” (Biblos in Greek) – and is what we know today as the Bible.

Let’s discuss it.

  1. The books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John are called “the Gospels” because they tell us about the life and teachings of Jesus. Discuss what you know about God from these four books.
  2. What have you been taught from the Bible? How has the Bible helped you to correct a wrong attitude or to better obey God?

Let’s do it.

Today, each of us can own a copy of God’s Word. You may even have instant access to the Bible on a tablet or cell phone, but knowing that we can read it any time can lessen our appreciation of it. Make a commitment as a family to treat Scripture with the importance it deserves by reading and obeying it.

First, make an appointment with God each day to read His Word and talk to Him through prayer. Ask each family member to share when they plan to have their time alone with God. Parents and younger children can set aside time together.

Next, decide what day and time each week you can have a family devotion. Choose a time when everyone can be there, and you won’t be rushed. The Bible is the most important book ever written. How will you show God this week that His Word is important to you?

How to Use Family Time

Welcome to Family Time!

Welcome to Family Time, a weekly devotional designed to help your family reflect on a story from God’s Word, pray together, and connect. These fifty-two devotions will take you through the entire Bible, from Genesis to Revelation, in one year. The idea is simple: discover together how God’s Word is relevant to your family each week. We think the spiritual results in your family alone can impact generations to come.

How to Use Family Time

We know your family is busy with work, school, ballgames, and all that life throws you, so the devotion is designed to be flexible and mobile. You can have Family Time at the dinner table, before bed, or in the car. You decide what works best for you.

Decide on a time when your family can pull together for a few minutes each week.

    1. The Family Time guide is available on the My TRBC app, in the My Time/Family Time devotion book, or as a PDF at mytrbc.mobi.
    2. Family members can take turns reading the weekly passage and devotion. Then, take time to reflect together on the discussion questions.
    3. After the devotion, talk about prayer requests as a family and spend a few moments praying for each other.
    4. Finally, don’t be intimidated by having spiritual conversations as a family.  This could easily be the most important few minutes you have all week.

 

We hope you enjoy the journey through God’s Word as a family this year.  Our prayer is that it will transform your family spiritually in ways never expected!