MONTHLY ARCHIVES: January 2017

The Reason for Parables

Posted on January 31, 2017 by Karah

img_9453Pause

Turn off your electronic devices and find a quiet place. Ask God to use the Scripture from this week to give you a better understanding of His kingdom.

Think about your favorite story—whether it’s a family story, novel, or the plot of a movie. Jesus often told stories as He was teaching, using imagery to point to greater truths. To discover more about why Jesus told parables, read Matthew 13:10-17 in your Bible. Focus on verses 16-17.

“For this reason I speak to them in parables, because looking they do not see, and hearing they do not listen or understand.”—Matthew 13:13

Dig deeper with these questions:

-Jesus told the disciples that they were currently seeing things the prophets had longed to see. What did He mean? Explain in your own words.

-Underline Jesus’ explanation of why He told parables. Is it confusing? Why or why not?

In simple terms, Jesus told parables to divide the crowd. He wasn’t trying to prevent people from understanding His teaching with difficult, mysterious stories. Those who acknowledged Him as Messiah would hear His teaching and understand, applying it to their lives. Those who refused to recognize Him as the Messiah would also refuse to accept His teaching, even going so far as to consciously choose not to believe.

Why is it dangerous to hear and understand God’s truth, then choose not to believe it? Explain.

Respond

Meditate on Matthew 13:10-17 and the difference between people who listen and understand and those who understand and refuse to let God’s truth change their lives. Which category describes you? Why?

If the Holy Spirit reveals a hard heart toward God’s truth, admit this to God. Ask Him to soften your heart to His truth so that you may live accordingly.

Part of being a follower of Christ is knowing His teachings and applying them to your life. In your journal or in the comments below, write two ways you will become a better listener to God’s Word.

Behind the Story

When discussing why He used parables, Jesus used the imagery of hearing and seeing (v. 13) to describe the condition of the skeptics’ hearts. They would physically look, but not “see,” meaning understand or believe. They would hear Jesus’ teaching, but not listen or understand, a figurative reference to their rejection of the truth and their willful disbelief.

Parable (n.) = An earthly story with a heavenly meaning.

The Point

Followers of Jesus accept His teaching and apply it to their lives. Those who hear Jesus’ teaching and reject Him will face judgment.


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Our Florida Adventures

Posted on January 27, 2017 by Sharon

One of the great things about our job is that we get to dream about summer all year long. We get to think of new activities, new skills, how to improve our current activities, look for incredible staff, keep in touch with our camp family and much more! One of the most exciting things we get to do is travel around and visit our camp family and tell their friends about camp. Our most recent excursion has been in Florida. We are on our last day of a two week trip. Our travels have taken us to Orlando, Jupiter, Miami, Bradenton, Tampa, Gainesville, Tallahassee and Jacksonville. We have seen lots and lots of campers and staff! We even got to see two of our camp staff get married! Seeing our camp family is encouraging and just good for the soul! We love hearing from our campers and staff about what God has been teaching them over the year and how they are applying that in their lives. It’s a good motivator to get back to camp and continue getting ready for the summer. We have lots to do but we are excited to see campers running around camp again and growing deeper in their relationship with Christ! Summer 2017, here we come!

orlando orl-chick

disney-killing-time disney-lindsey

disney jupiter

gainesville wedding

belleair     jax


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One Way

Posted on January 24, 2017 by Karah

img_2703Pause

Focus your mind and heart on the beautiful gift of salvation by listening to “Christ is Enough” (Hillsong Live, 2013).

Read Matthew 7:13-29 in your Bible. Focus on the imagery that Jesus used. In your journal, try sketching icons that represent that imagery.

“But everyone who hears these words of Mine and doesn’t act on them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. The rain fell, the rivers rose, the winds blew and pounded that house, and it collapsed. And its collapse was great!”

—Matthew 7:26-27

Ponder these questions:

-How do these images all point to the same truth? Write that point in your own words.

These images help us to understand that there is only one way to be saved, one way to a fruitful life, and only one foundation upon which we should build our lives: Jesus.

-What are some other things that people today think will save them? List a few for our culture.

-What are the consequences of trusting in something or someone else other than Jesus for salvation? Explain.

We live in a world that thinks there are many ways to God or that it would be more secure to build our lives on things like wealth, power, popularity. But in the end, the only thing that matters is Jesus.

Respond

Faith in Jesus is not just lip service. If your life doesn’t reflect a relationship with Him and you have no inward desire to obey or live to please Him, you need to check yourself. Talk and pray with your parents, pastor, or a mature Christian mentor.

Think about your friends, family members, acquaintances who are trying to find salvation and meaning in someone or something other than Jesus. Pray for them, asking God for opportunities to tell them about Jesus.

For further study on salvation, read Romans 3:23; 6:23; and 10:9-10.

Behind the Story

In Matthew 7:24-27, the adjectives “sensible” and “foolish” are used to describe a person’s spiritual and mental state, not his or her intellect. The storm in these verses symbolizes God’s judgment. The one who hears and acts on Jesus’ teachings is sensible and prepared. The one who hears and does not act is foolish and will be destroyed.

The Point

Jesus’ followers know that Jesus is the only way to enter God’s kingdom. We must make sure our lives reflect that and share this truth with others.


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Blessed to Be a Blessing

Posted on January 17, 2017 by Karah

img_9564Pause

Think about the last time someone was generous to you. As you start your devotion, thank God for this person’s generosity.

Read Matthew 7:7-12 in your Bible. As you read, underline the words or phrases that describe God’s generosity toward His children.

“If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask Him! Therefore, whatever you want others to do for you, do also the same for them—this is the Law and the Prophets.” —Matthew 7:11-12

Answer these questions:

-What did this passage teach you about God’s generosity? His trustworthiness? Explain.

-This passage points to persistent reliance on God and trust that He will meet our needs. Who is a good example of that in your life? Why?

-God desires to give His children good things, but just because we ask for something, doesn’t mean it is a good gift. The gifts God loves to give are those that will build His kingdom.

-Underline verse 12. Because disciples have experienced God’s generosity, the least we can do is treat others as we would like to be treated. How does doing so display submission to God and a desire to put His purposes before our own?

-God blesses His children so they can be a blessing to others. How can generously giving to someone open the door to the gospel? Explain.

Respond

-In your journal, list of all the ways that God has been generous to you recently and in the past. Thank Him for each one.

-Think about the needs in your church and community. Pray over each one. What steps will you take this week to help meet those needs through the means God has generously provided for you? Jot down two action points in the margin.

-Memorize Matthew 7:12. You will have many opportunities this week to interact with others. How will you put this verse into action?

For further study on generosity, read Acts 4:32-35.

Behind the Story

Matthew 7:12 is often called the Golden Rule. Many parallels to this rule appear in history, but most are stated negatively. Jesus stated the rule positively, instructing His followers to take action on behalf of others. This is not something we can or will want to do in our own power; we can never carry out this command completely in our own power. In stating the command positively, Jesus therefore underscored our need for a relationship with Him.

The Point

Knowing that God has treated us generously, we must treat others the way we would want to be treated.


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Watch Your Attitude

Posted on January 10, 2017 by Karah

img_1251Pause

Ponder this question: Do others see me as being more loving or more judgmental? Invite God to help you examine your heart as you read today’s Scripture.

Jesus addressed judgmental attitudes toward others. Well aware of the Pharisees’ hypocrisy, Jesus didn’t want His followers to follow their example. Read Matthew 7:1-6 in your Bible.

“Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and look, there’s a log in your eye? Hypocrite! First take the log out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.” —Matthew 7:4-5

Dig deeper with these questions:

-What is the difference between being judgmental and judging? Explain.

-Jesus wasn’t saying that His disciples would never have to make moral judgments or exercise discernment, but that they shouldn’t be characterized by an overly critical and fault-finding attitude. Why is it so easy to be critical or find faults?

-Jesus challenged His followers to first examine their own lives and deal with their own sin, recognizing that they were no better than anyone else. Why is that an important part of living out your faith? Explain.

Respond

-It’s easy to go through life pointing out others’ faults, but never dealing with the sin in our own lives. Today, ask God to examine your life and heart and reveal any sin that you need to confess. Repent today.

-Who are the people in your life you most often find yourself being judgmental or critical of? Write their names in your journal and pray over each relationship. Ask God to remind you of the grace He has shown you and pray that He would change your heart toward those people.

-Maybe there is someone in your life who is incredibly critical of you and always ready to point out your flaws and sins. Instead of getting angry, pray that God would empower you to love that person and respond in a way that gives all the glory and attention to Him.

-For further study, on how to respond to another Christian struggling with sin, read Matthew 18:15-17 and Galatians 6:1-4.

Behind the Story

While a harsh, critical attitude should not characterize believers, we should practice discernment. Dogs and pigs (v. 6) were both considered unclean animals in the Jewish culture and probably refer to people who were openly resistant to or active enemies of the gospel message. According to Stuart Weber, “Jesus was teaching his people to use discernment when sharing the truth with others. To persist in sharing with a resistant person wastes time and energy. It can also destroy a relationship that might prove fruitful later.”(1)

The Point

Followers of Christ are not to be characterized by judgmental attitudes or critical spirits.

 

(1)Stuart Weber, Holman New Testament Commentary: Matthew, ed. Max Anders, (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman, 2000), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, Under: “Matthew 7–The King Speaks His Heart (Part III)”.

 


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Disney Round 2!!

Posted on January 5, 2017 by kgreenwell

disney-2017

Disney ROUND 2!!!! Come hang with us!

Mark your calendars for Saturday, Jan. 14th…we’re going to Disney World again! We’ll be starting off the day at Animal Kingdom at 9am. For anyone who wants to join, you can meet us at the Tree of Life between 9:00-9:15am. We’ll spend the morning at Animal Kingdom. We will then go to Magic Kingdom for the rest of the day. We’ll meet up with anyone who would like to join us there between 2:30-2:45 at the Walt Disney and Mickey Statue in front of the Castle. We (Grace, Amanda, Katie, and Sharon) can’t wait to see you and enjoy the 2nd most amazing place with you for the day (unfortunately Scout can’t make it on this trip due to prior commitments, but he will send his love)!  If you have questions or need to get in touch with us on the day we are in the park, please email sharon.aylestock@lifeway.com.

Very Important, PLEASE READ:
We want to be clear in what our plans are for the day. We will not be supervising campers. We would love to see campers, spend time with them and go on rides with them, but we cannot be responsible for them and keeping track of them throughout the day.  If a camper is dropped off at the park, we cannot be held responsible for any injured or missing campers.  This is not an officially sponsored Camp Crestridge event. Those who come will be responsible for transportation to and from home, covering the cost of their own ticket along with meals while they are in the park. We are so excited to enjoy the park and we hope to see you there!


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What’s Your Focus?

Posted on January 4, 2017 by Karah

img_1206Pause

Ponder this quote from R.H. Mounce: “Worry is practical atheism and an affront to God.”

What things do you worry about most? List a few ideas.

Worry is a big deal in our relationship with God. Worry displays a lack of faith. Instead of trusting Him to meet those needs or work in that situation, we attempt to take control and find the answer ourselves. With that in mind, read Matthew 6:25-34 in your Bible. Focus on the promises of God outlined in these verses.

“But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you. Therefore don’t worry about tomorrow, because tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

—Matthew 6:33-34

Answer these questions:

-Jesus lovingly explained that the real problem wasn’t anxiety, it was not trusting God. What metaphors did Jesus use to demonstrate how God provides for His creation? Be specific.

-How does the way that God cares for the birds and flowers encourage you to trust Him for your needs?

-Jesus said that our focus in life should be about building His kingdom. Is this your focus? If not, what is getting in the way?

Respond

Trusting God to provide for your daily needs, may not be a stretch of faith, but trusting Him enough to give up all of your wants in order to devote your life to building His kingdom may be the bigger issue.

-Ask God to give you a greater desire for Him. Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal any desires you are allowing to get in the way of helping to build His kingdom here on earth. List what He reveals in your journal and record specific steps you’ll take to trust Him and invest in His work.

For further study on trusting God, read Proverbs 3.

Behind the Story

Jesus wasn’t telling His followers not to think about or plan for the future in this passage. We can and should plan, but Jesus did prohibit worrying about the future. Instead, He encouraged His followers to focus on the challenges of the present day.

The Point

We can focus on building God’s kingdom because we can trust that He will provide for our personal needs.


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